Loss in Life – Your Platform or Your Prison

Will a loss in life be a blessing or a curse? Your platform or your prison?

My heart is a little overwhelmed right now.  Yours might be too.  What do you do with a loss in life?  Especially when it is a loss of life?  In the past month, hurricanes have devastated thousands of lives.  Two close friends of mine are going through separations.  Children are living with cancer. And just last night, 59 innocent people died as they did something they loved to do…listen to country music.   These losses are unexpected, heart breaking, and life-changing.

Quite honestly, I can’t imagine what so many people are going through.  Words can’t describe.

My losses in life have not been that intense or tragic.  And knowing that, I have an almost guilty feeling that my loss is just the perceived loss of a dream to have my own child.  Seems relatively small.

And more than that, I feel almost embarrassed that I lost years of my life thinking I was a victim because I wasn’t married with a family.  I thought the rest of the world moved on without me.

I know I’m not alone on this.  You or someone you know may struggle with being single, not having kids, being divorced, being overweight, or some other life circumstance that causes them to see themselves as a victim.Continue reading →

Dairy-Free, Nut-Free Chia Pudding Bowl

Dairy-Free, Tree Nut-Free Chia Pudding Bowl

Anyone else love food?  Food that tastes good and feels good?  This creamy & dreamy chia pudding bowl is just that, and you can build it to fit your tastes and health choices!  If you can eat tree nuts (I can’t), you can sub the coconut milk for almond milk, or use granola that has nuts, or just add nuts to the layers.  The sky is the limit (kind of).  This bowl suits us because we are dairy-free (my husband) and nut-free (me). Note: peanuts are a legume, so I do use peanuts in this.

This deliciousness can also be a great fit for your lifestyle.  If you’re an on-the-go person, pour a little pudding in small containers so they’re ready for you on your way out the door.  You can layer on some sliced bananas and sprinkle some granola on it, and bam!  You’re on your way.  You can eat it in the car (is that illegal?), when you get to work, or stick it in the fridge as a snack later.Continue reading →

Your Life Has Purpose Even If…

“Your life is valuable and full of purpose even if you don’t have kids.”  Those were the words from my friend, Lauren, after I expressed my conflicting feelings of having kids of my own at the age of 40.  It was a gentle sentence slap to my insecurity and fears.  You may be familiar with that convicting feeling.

The Old Insecurity

Lauren’s words shed a light on what was going on deep inside of me.  For years, I thought that I was less worthy of love.  Less valued because I wasn’t married.  I felt like being married was going to get me into this club where I could hang out with other marrieds and talk about married life and be valued.  I thought I was missing out.

A few years ago, I realized God designed me with unique gifts, and I was wasting them with the insecurity and the feeling of being a victim.  He worked on me, and I redesigned my life.  I became secure in knowing I was worthy and valuable, and I looked for a husband that I deserved.  Thankfully, I ended up marrying a wonderful, Godly man knowing I was worthy and valuable with or without him.  Lesson learned, right? Or not.

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Work From Home -VIP Kid Review & How To

Teaching English abroad is an old concept, but VIP Kid, an innovative company in China, has created a way to teach English online!  You now can teach English online to sweet kids in China from the comfort of your home.  Or if you’re like me and travel a lot, you can teach from the comfort of your hotel!  The beauty of it is that you can make it work with your schedule and your needs while still earning good money.

It’s really a job for almost anyone.  Are you a college graduate wanting to travel?  Maybe you’re a stay at home mom who wants to make extra money? Or you could be a teacher making extra money on the weekends and over the summer.  I promise that I doubted the goodness of this when I stumbled upon it four months ago, but alas, I was proven otherwise.

Let me tell why you should do it and then I’ll tell you how you can do it.Continue reading →

How To Encourage Your Husband – A Lesson From Fixer Upper

Let’s just get this straight: little boys get to wear superhero capes and pjs, and grown men want to.  Isn’t that why there is a new superhero blockbuster every summer?!  My church’s current series is on heroes, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of a hero.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking how the men in our lives want to be, can be, and are everyday heroes.  How much do we, as women, let them be?  How can we encourage them to be?  To be men of strength.  Men of courage.  Men of love. Heroes.

If you consider what it is to be an everyday hero – men to be strong, courageous, and loving – we need them.  Perhaps if there were more of them, the world may have less abandoned children and abused women.  Or simply men who are confident that God made them to be every day heroes for every day people.

Back to the question: how can we encourage them to be that?  As we are sinners saved by grace, there is hope that we can.  There are also women who are leading by example.  One of them is Joanna Gaines.

Joanna is well-known for the hit show Fixer Upper that she and her husband, Chip, star in.  But although the show is about redeeming old houses and transforming them to their glory, I learned a different lesson from her.  Continue reading →

5 Things To Do Now To Help Your Child Read

Parent Tips From a Teacher - 5 Things To Do To Help Your Child Read BetterDo you have a child or tween reading below grade-level?  Or they might struggle just a tad in reading more than any other subject? As a literacy specialist with over 10 years teaching children to read and now helping other teachers teach children, there are some easy strategies you can do at home.

First, you know that reading changes their future…right?!

The first few years of their life, your child is learning to read.  And then the next 70+ years of their life, they will read to learn. 

That’s kind of a big deal.

According to the Responsive Classroom, research says no matter the student’s background, parent involvement is more likely to predict student success in school.  That means YOU can do things NOW to help your child read successfully.  Responsive Classroom

Even if your child is struggling, let me set your mind at ease.  The major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” (As stated by Robert Sternberg, the present-day expert on intelligence, Mindset by Carol Dweck. )  That means they can do it.  And you can too.

In all the years I have taught reading to students ranging from K-8th grade, I have counseled many parents on things they can do at home – purposeful engagement.  I offer these nuggets to you so you can help your child be successful in school and in life.

These tips will only work if you actually implement them with consistency.  Doing one or two for two weeks isn’t going to make a major difference.  Doing one or two of these daily and/or weekly for three months plus, will.

  1. Read, read, and read.

This might sound obvious and even boring, but it’s the most important factor.  When I was learning Spanish, my instructor said he had three things he wanted us to do to improve our Spanish.  Read in Spanish, read in Spanish, and read in Spanish.  I was a little disappointed at these tips, but they were true for Spanish, and they are true for English.  The reason professional athletes become professionals is because they practice over and over and over again.

So make sure your child practices reading.  Reading at least 20 minutes each night is ideal.

Since struggling readers most likely will fight you on this, you might want to start slowly.  It’s like putting a frog in pot of water and turning the temperature up slowly.  That might be a bad analogy, but you will remember it.

Strategy 1 – Set a timer for 5 or 6 minutes as they read.  Place the timer right next to them.  They find comfort in knowing it’s just for a few minutes, it makes them feel slightly in control, and it makes them feel like they accomplished their task.  Do that for a week.  Add 2-3 minutes each week.

Strategy 2 – Vary what they read.  Fiction one night, a silly joke book the next, a planet book, then a picture book, then a chapter from a book, etc.  Use technology to download books, articles, or find poems and jokes.

  1. Read to your child, even up to the age of 10 (or older if you want).

They need to hear language being used correctly and pronounced correctly.  You are exposing them to vocabulary, grammar, and the habit of reading.  Read a poem, a short story, a picture book, or a long chapter book.  Whatever floats your boat.  Just read to them.

Strategy – Discuss what you liked or didn’t like about what you read and ask them for their opinion.

  1.  They should read to you.

By doing so, they will develop fluency – expression and voice.  As they read, don’t correct them every time they make a mistake.  Would you learn a new skill if every other second someone was correcting you?  No!  (Think about how much you don’t like your spouse correcting you!)  Allow them to grow as readers.  They are learning.

Strategy – Focus on one thing you want them to practice as they read.  Pausing at punctuation, using their voice to reflect expression, using their voice for bold print words or italicized words, or chunking words together.  Focus on one thing.

  1. Read the same text again. And then again. 

Each time children read the same thing, it allows them to practice the words and become more fluent with it.  You can ask them to read and memorize a fun poem, a short picture book, or a repeating line in a book you read together.  This helps them become more confident and develop fluency and voice.  They can do this at almost any age.  (You might read it aloud to them when they’re younger.)

Strategy – Close Reading.  This is reading each time with a purpose.  Set a purpose for the 2nd or 3rd time reading. Examples:

First Time – tell me the gist (or big idea) of the story/text

Second Time – look for new vocabulary words and define them (non-fiction); tell me about the character (fiction); draw a picture of a scene or something you learned in the book; act like the character as you read it

Third Time – How did the character change in the story (fiction)?  What caused the events that later happened (fiction or non-fiction)?  Who does this information help and why (non-fiction)?

  1. Ask them to write about what they read.

If reading is peanut butter, writing is the jelly.  You get me?

Your child needs to write EVERY DAY in class and at home about what they read.  It is not – write a story about what you did this weekend.  No.

Writing suggestions:  Write a summary of the text you just read; summarize the beginning, middle, and end of the story you just read; say if you agree with how the main character responded to the problem in the story; list five facts about what you just read; define three new words you learned from your reading; explain how the information you read helps you be a better student or scientist or friend or whatever.

Are you understanding the words coming out of my mouth?  🙂

Writing is imperative.   They must develop the skill of articulating and communicating their comprehension and their thoughts.  For all the parents that have advanced readers, this is a GREAT strategy to challenge them.

And please – they must practice writing sentences so they don’t live in a world of LOL and OMG.

Parents – You can make these five things as fancy as you want (Like have them act out the poem they memorize, give them a costume, take pictures, create a reading scrapbook, buy them a fancy journal or a giant pencil because those are fun and who doesn’t like a giant pencil?) or as simple as you want (composition book at the dinner table).

Whatever!!  Just make sure they are doing these things.

And let’s be honest.  Many students spend more than 30 minutes a night playing baseball, video games, gymnastics, or watching a screen.

If your child is struggling in reading, you will be a better parent if you make sure they give 30 minutes to reading.

Do it now before they reach 7th grade!  I know.  I taught 7th & 8th graders for years.  They turn into zombies.  Not really.  But close.

Good luck, parents.  You can do it.

(Please comment or contact me if you want more ideas on how to support your child with reading.  I’d love to hear from you!)

How Video Games Made Me a Better Parent & Teacher

Tips & questions to help with the video gamer in your home!For most of my adult, teaching life, I have strongly opposed video games.  They are violent.  They keep children sedentary.  They foster insensitivity.  Anyone with me in this fight?

But what if I told you that video games could be helping your child become a better person?  What if I told you that video games might even help you become a better parent or teacher?

Three years ago, I got a step-son who lives for fast internet and all-night playing.  Since knowing Drew, I have slid in comments here and there about the negative effects of video games.  I think I assumed my comments would trigger his hormonal, irrational mind into thinking – Wow.  She is so smart. (This didn’t happen.)

Recently, though, as an ELA teacher teaching persuasive writing, I was trying to find a topic that my students cared about and had different points of view.

I read on Tim Elmore’s blog that statistics show that 41% of Gen Z spends 3 or more hours a day on a screen for non-schoolwork related activities. (Source: http://www.growingleaders.com )

That’s a lot of screen time, much of which is on video games.

So I decided to write a “letter” asking the principal to allow video games in school.  (Imagine the roar of the crowd as I say this.) This is how you gain points with students and get them to buy-in to what you’re selling.

I was shocked with what I learned.  I not only discovered that kids could learn “soft skills” valued in the workplace, but I discovered how I could be a better parent to Drew and be a better teacher.

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How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Times

Have you heard the quote that the only thing you can be certain of is uncertainty?  You are either coming out of it, heading into it, or know someone who is in the middle of it.  Is it your health?  Your child’s health?  Your job?  Your marriage?  Your singleness?  Whatever it is I know you can relate to the lesson I got last weekend with my husband…

As we left our car in the parking lot, I made the comment “I have no idea where to start”.  There were no less than three trails in addition to the one on the other side of the street.  My husband, exasperated by the situation, reminded me that he didn’t either.  He had suggested that I look at the map earlier.

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Do You Ever Struggle Finding Your Self-Worth?

Know God. Know Yourself. Know Love.

Do you remember middle school?  Gaw!  It’s like the breeding ground for low self-worth!  You compare yourself, for better or for worse, with all the other girls.  You begin to find your worthiness  in popularity, cheer teams, grades, boys’ attention, and friends.  Don’t EVEN get me started on what our current tweens and teens have to go thru with social media and body appearance.

I wonder, though, how different middle school is from the adult world.  Isn’t the break room a small version of the cafeteria?  Don’t we gossip as we fill up our coffee?  Don’t we think we’re better or worse than our neighbors because we do or don’t have a certain education or house?

In middle school, our worth might have come in the form of being athletic, intellectual, beautiful, or a great personality.  Maybe you thought you were more worthy because you could cheer or calculate numbers or had a crown on your head.

Fast-forward to adult years:  We left the cheer team and joined the church team.  Now we think we’re more worthy because of our job status or social media likes or 1000 other things.  We still struggle to find our worth in the world around us.Continue reading →

7 Smart Things to Do to Find A Husband – Your Forever Love

Find your forever love

Dating is a funny concept.  The 13 year-old girls I used to teach always told stories about the boys they were “dating”.  Dating?  Really?  I’m pretty sure your mother would shut down your phone if she found out you texted anything – remotelysuggestive.  Ba-bye.

And then you experience the college dating scene.

As you date in college, though, you’re most likely both poor and eating Ramen, and most of the time you’re still figuring out what you want “to do with your life”.  Or you’re so focused on your career path, you don’t want to be distracted by dating.  ‘Cuz who’s got time for that?

Move on to your 20s, post-college time and for many women, especially Christian women, you hope to marry in the next decade.  Surely the good Lord can provide you a husband by then.  It’s not really asking a lot.  You graduated.  You have a somewhat steady job.Continue reading →