Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Don't Want it All!

This past school year has been the most challenging one I have had in a long time.  So much so, that in November I went on a leave of absence.  Then by January of this year, I resigned from my beloved position as an elementary reading specialist and literacy coach.  Sweet readers, this was my dream job! I had spent almost five years in my small private school, had an amazing supportive administrative team, an incredible group of teachers, the freedom to develop and write my own RTI curriculum, the sweetest kids with whom to work, AND, my classroom was just down the hall from where my two youngest sons were.  We saw each other in the hallway several times a day and I was blessed to get numerous hugs and kisses each and every day.

So what went wrong? Why did I give it all up? Did I have terrible working conditions?  Am I wealthy, or even comfortable financially?  The answer to this a resounding "no!". This is why I gave it all up~

Graduation Day May 2012
 In a nutshell, God called me home to take care of, to nurture, to minister to my family.

See, I can not do it all, and at this point in my life I do not want it all. And I'm not afraid to admit it. I admire women who can keep an immaculate or even a reasonably clean home, cook healthy meals, work all day, take care of their own children, and work half the night preparing for the next day, blogging, etc.  If you are a teacher, you know that the work never stops.  Your brain is always on. There is always something to do.  And if you are like me, you don't settle for doing something the same way twice.  How can you?  Each year you have a new batch of kids who are unique and deserve the best that I can give.  So, although I don't always recreate the proverbial wheel, I always tweak and customize my units and activities each year. 

I have a somewhat unique situation.  I really have two families.  My oldest is almost twenty and my youngest two are 6 and 7 years old.  Way back in the 1990's, I did it all.  I taught 130 middle school kids a day, did after school enrichment, led department meetings after school, took graduate classes at night, worked on curriculum in the summer, and was a single mother. I'm a self-professed work-alcoholic and perfectionist.  I tried so hard to be the perfect mother and perfect professional.  The county in which I taught was intense pressure... test scores, test data, (repeat 10 times).  In spite of it all, I loved my job, I loved being a mom, and my heart was always calling me to be home... to attend my son's class parties, to volunteer in the classroom, to go on field trips, and to not be so mentally drained at the end of the day.

So now, I am starting all over again with two little ones.  And that tugging at my heart did not stop.  After much praying, much thought, much discussion with my husband, we decided that it was God's will that I be home.  I had to be home... I had to give it all up to gain it all. My family is my purpose... I know that some will cringe a that, but it is really what I feel I'm called to do.  Yes, God called me to teach and I am passionate about my career. But I'm even more passionate about this beautiful family that He has blessed me with.

What about money and logistics?  That is a tough one... we are not rich and as I mentioned earlier are not even financially comfortable.  Each day can be a struggle, but God always provides.  Here's something else...

  • I do not live in nor do I desire to have a huge, or even medium size, fancy house.  My humble, little cozy house is one that we love.
  • I do not need a new car... well, I do, but my mini-van is hanging in there, barely, but for today, it runs. 
  • I'm beyond needing cute, trendy clothes and jewelry... we buy ours at the thrift shop and my sons receive hand-me-downs from my sister.
  • I don't really need the monthly hair appointments, manicures, and pedicures.  Do I miss them?  Yes!!!!
  • We don't take many vacations and when we do it is to spend time with family in Ocean City, MD.  We are blessed that we can stay with family and not have to pay outrageous prices for hotels, condos, or beach houses.
  • I don't have a Smart phone, iPad, or new computer.  What I have is adequate enough.
I could go on... but I won't.  Please, please, do not take offense to what I have written. This is what works for me and my family.  For us, it just isn't worth it for me to work to pay for the above-mentioned material things.  I would rather be home taking care of my family and being mentally and emotionally strong for them. My calling is to take care of the "nest" and make life as stable, fun, and loving as I possibly can for my kids and for my husband. And, do a little creating for my kids and for my TpT store! And continue to tutor.  So, look for lots of new primary resources in the coming months!

But, I need to simplify... I need time to breathe... I need time to cherish the time with my children, with my husband.  To be in the moment as much as I can.

I'm headed into uncharted territory... I will be homeschooling (or as is probably more correct, "doing public school at home", as I will be using a cyber school) my six year old next year.  Depending on God's provision, my seven year old may attend public school for the first time ever in the fall.

Am I scared?  Absolutely I am.  I don't have this all figured out... I don't know exactly how we will make it work.  But, I know one thing... I am exactly where I am supposed to be doing exactly what I was meant and created to do.

And I know that through it all, God will provide.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Blogiversary! Sale and a BOGO!

Let's Celebrate!

 Big Birthday Cake
   May is a memorable month for me. Twenty-four years ago,I graduated from college... twenty years ago, I celebrated my first Mother's Day, my sister's birthday is in early May, and May 24 is not only my mother's birthday, but it marks my one year blogiversary!

Yes, one year ago today, I wrote my first blog entry with trembling hands and with not much expectation.I had no idea what I was doing and the learning curve was steep.  My goal a year ago was to reach 500 followers.  Although, I have not yet reached that goal, I have made many friends, been inspired by so many of you, have learned from you, and have become a better teacher. I sincerely thank you all for following this little blog and for your support!

There are many changes on the horizon.  We are moving to a new house, I have resigned from reading specialist position permanently, my blog will be getting a fresh makeover next month, and I will be homeschooling my youngest son next year!  Whew! 

When I started this blog, my intention and goal was to share interesting and inspiring content to teachers and parents.  Look for many new posts in the coming months as I start my homeschooling adventures. Since my sons are a rising firstie and second grader, I will still be creating many primary resources to share with you.

I thought long and hard as to what kind of celebration to have.  I decided not to do a giveaway because only one person or a handful of my loyal, sweet followers would win.  So, I decided to host a 20% off sale in my TpT store AND have a BOGO sale to show you my most heartfelt thanks to you for supporting me this past year.  

Click the picture below to visit my TpT store.

The sale begins now and runs through Sunday.  Make sure you send me an email with your user name and the item you would like for free by 10:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, 5/27! 

Have a fabulous holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Summer Reading Journal~ FREEBIE!

Hello there friends!  This is Renee from Fantastic First Grade Froggies.  I am so excited to be a guest blogger here today.  I am currently a first grade teacher, but have taught grades 1st through 3rd.  Reading plays a big part of each and every day in my classroom.  With summer fast approaching, I always worry about the "summer slide."  That is teacher lingo for a child who regresses with their reading.  It is so easy to get caught up with the laziness of summer, less structure and routine, etc.  But, it is so important to take 15 or so minutes a day and read.  I always bring in a stack of books that I plan to read over the summer and show my kids.  I also show them my journal that I write about books that I read.  I thought it would be fun to make a kid version.  Click the picture below to get your free copy.

I hope you find this helpful for your students in preventing the "summer slide."  Enjoy your summer and be sure to hop on over to Fantastic First Grade Froggies for some more teaching fun.

Thank you so much, Renee, for guest blogging for me today!  Make sure you stop by her blog and show her some love!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Moore Relief Effort Bundle

I'm popping in very fast tonight to let those of you affected by the deadly OK tornado know that my prayers are with you! As part of the Teacher's Notebook community, it is with pleasure that I am participating in their Moore Relief Effort Bundle.  Over $600 in products have been donated by shop owners so far!  Click the picture below to learn more!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Remembering our Forces: A FREEBIE for You!

Today is Armed Forces Day and although it is not a federal holiday like Memorial Day, it is still a day to pause, reflect, and thank the men and women who serve our country.

In honor of these holidays, I have a FREEBIE for you today! 

This little packet includes patriotic-themed writing stationery and an information sheet about Armed Forces Day and "dog tags". Just click the picture above to download your freebies from Google Drive.  All of these printables are from my informational reading packet "Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?" available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

In other news, I want to remind you that you still have one more day to grab my Initial Blends activity packet that is available on Educents for just $3.30

This 160 page bundle features word work for initial blends and student-made posters, all done in a fun, fruity smoothie design.  This is available in my store for $7 so you are receiving 50% off!  It will never be offered at this price again.  Go grab your deal!  You can purchase and download from Educents by clicking the picture above.

Lots of changes are brewing on the horizon... it's all good, very good!  After I finish my on-line class, I will share some of my exciting news with you!

Have a blessed weekend... the end of the year is almost here.  Hang in there! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Are You A Carrot, An Egg, Or a Cup of Coffee?

Whether you are a mom to your own children, your students, or fur babies, (or all three!) I hope you had a relaxing and special Mother's Day.Yesterday, my sister and I hosted a dessert party for my mother. We were surrounded by our children, our husbands, and three precious dachshunds, lots of goodies, love, and laughter.  My mother is a pretty incredible, resilient, inspiring, and strong woman. I admire her faith, her selflessness, her abounding energy, and her heart.
L-R: My niece, my sister in back, me, my mom
 Every year, my mother gives me a Mother's Day card. Inside the card she gave me yesterday, was this thought-provoking narrative. Her priest had shared it at Mass and she was so touched that she went home, did a little research, and printed a copy for my sister and me. I sobbed through the second half of reading this. We are all struggling with something... we all have pain, suffering, loss, heartache, trauma, and messes in our lives.  Without going into detail, Mother's Day is hard for me... God used the words from this story to minister to me today and to remind me that He is my strength, my rock, my song. Whether you are a man or a woman, may you be blessed with this little story as well.  I choose to be coffee, and not just because I have a slight addiction to my java!
An Analogy - A carrot, an egg and a cup of coffee...

You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.......

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as though just as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil.

In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they were soft.

The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

Which are you?" she asked her daughter.

"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, ...
but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?
Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

You might want to reflect on those people who mean something to you; Those who have touched your life in one way or another; Those who make you smile when you really need it; Those who make you see the brighter side of things when you are really down; Those whose friendship you appreciate; Those who are so meaningful in your life.

May your reflection on this strengthen you and  - May we all be COFFEE!

~author unknown
Coffee and Cream


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thank You, Thank You SALE!

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
~Carl Jung

This quote says it all, doesn't it? I'm just so touched by the incredible hearts that teachers have for their students.  My two youngest sons are blessed to have incredible teachers that love on them not only only through their gentle guidance, inspiring activities, and endless patience, but their hugs, encouragement, and telling them, "I love you."

And you, my dear readers, whether you are a parent, whether you work in a school or at home, you are a teacher, you are valued, you are loved, you are appreciated, and you are gifted with an incredible opportunity to bless and nurture young minds and spirits.

Thank you for all that you do... thank you for hanging in there when it gets tough... thank you for sharing your expertise and your encouragement.

Today, I am busy tutoring and working on my Memorial Day informational packet.  Oh, and I will be doing a little shopping as well!
Please join my friends and I as we celebrate YOU and offer amazing sales today and tomorrow.  It's time to stock up on your favorite educational printables!  All of my items are 28% off when you use coupon code TAD13.   Click the button below to browse around my store.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

So Much to Celebrate!

Cinco De Mayo GirlGirl with a Maraca

Today kicks off a fun week of celebrating!  In spite of whatever we may be dealing with, struggling with, praying for, or hoping for, celebrating the little things in life is what gets us through the tough stuff!  First, today is Cinco de Mayo!  WOOT!  I can hear Chipotle calling my name for a celebration dinner!

One year ago today, I listed my very first product on Teacher's Pay Teachers.  I still remember how nervous I was as I posted this item for all the world to see and really had no expectations that I would sell anything.  Prior to that day, I had been blessed by the many teacher-authors who offered professional and creative educational resources for free and/or at amazingly affordable prices.  I had just created an opinion/persuasive writing mini-unit for a teacher at my school, and I wanted to share, to give back.  Never, ever, ever in my wildest dreams did I think that this product would be my number one best seller!  Never did I think that I would be blessed to meet so many supportive, helpful, and talented bloggers and teacher-authors that I now call friends. Never did I anticipate that one person let alone thousands would actually pay for something I created.

To my customers:  Please, please know how much I appreciate you... your sweet feedback is what has kept me going when I felt like saying "forget this- I'm no good at this creating lessons, units, packets, etc."  Your purchases have enabled my family to keep our "boat afloat" since the fall when I had to resign from my teaching position.  Your comments on my blog and Facebook page have "made my day" with your encouraging words, your fabulous ideas, and your friendship.  I could go on and on, but I have rambled entirely too much already!

As a small, but heartfelt token of my appreciation, I am participating in the Teacher's Pay Teachers Teacher Appreciation sale!

ALL of my literacy and speech therapy items will be discounted by 28% May 7-8 when you use coupon code TAD13.
 If you cannot wait until the sale starts on Tuesday, no worries!  All of my items are on sale at my Teacher's Notebook store starting NOW!  Just click the button below to grab items discounted by a whopping 35%!  All of my items are discounted 25% and TN automatically deducts an additional 10%.


So, to my colleagues, my readers (that's YOU!), my sons' teachers, parents everywhere (a child's first and most powerful teacher), I am grateful for you and I have been blessed by you!  Your job is a self-less one that you joyfully commit your life, heart and soul to


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Seasonal Saturday: Mother's Day Emergent Reader

Welcome to another Seasonal Saturday!

Today I feature Andrea from

Andrea and I have worked together several times within the last year, and I am excited to feature one of her literacy resources today!  Just a little about Andrea:  she is a reading specialist (like me!) with over sixteen years classroom experience. She has her Master's degree in Reading and is from one of my favorite states, Virginia!

Just in time for Mother's Day, Andrea's Someone Special Mother's Day Emergent Reader  makes a great activity for small groups, reading intervention, in a literacy center, or when working individually with a student.

Highlights of this Packet Includes:
  • (13) pages for grades kindergarten to grade two
  • Printable book and picture cards for book
  • I really appreciate that she titled this "someone special" and that students have an opportunity to name the person who is their "mother"Andrea is sensitive to the fact that not all children are living with their biological mothers.
  • Cute, cute graphics from one of our favorites, The 3AM Teacher  

Click here to check out this packet and to browse through Andrea's Teachers Pay Teacher's store!

 **If you are interested in submitting a literacy or picture book seasonal item for me to feature, please complete the form here on Google Drive. I am now accepting submissions for spring, May, Children's Book Week, and Memorial Day.

Before I go enjoy this beautiful day, make sure you check out the MEGA sale on Teacher's Notebook.  ALL of my printables are 35% off!  Click the banner below!

And be sure to enter this amazing giveaway in honor of Teacher Appreciation week!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

S'more Word Work! FREEBIE for You!

It seems as though I have been working on my latest literacy packet for years now.  I'm in the middle of proofreading and polishing it, but I got a little side tracked with the on-line class I'm taking, getting ready to move, and life in general. But, it's all good~ especially when there is chocolate involved!!


 So, in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a sneak preview of my "S'more Dolch Phrases" literacy packet that should be available soon.  It contains word work activities for the last (50)phrases.  If you are interested in the first (100) Dolch phrases, check out my Peeps In A Basket.

This (30) page packet includes literacy centers, word recognition, writing, phrase building and more- all with a fun s'more theme!

Graphics courtesy of:  Scrappin Doodles, Lettering Delights, Ms. Fultz's Corner, My Cute Graphics.  Font:  A Cupcake for the Teacher

The FREEBIE that I have for you is a "Roll and Say" activity that I designed for use with a student that I tutor.  However, you may use it in a word work center, in a small group, or send home for extra practice.  It contains two pages of phrases.  The student(s) roll a die and say the phrase that corresponds with the number rolled.  You can extend the learning to more than just recognition by having the student use the word in a sentence about camping, s'mores, etc.  There is a recording sheet as well for students to write a phrase and use in a sentence.

You can grab this FREEBIE from Google Drive by clicking the picture below:

Teaching students to read sight words within the context of phrases cannot be overstated.  I like to guide students, especially my struggling readers in kindergarten and first grade, to learn the word in isolation, then in a phrase, and finally within a sentence.  We know the importance of direct instruction, teaching sight words in isolation, but the word we teach should always be placed back within a text, first at the sentence level and then within a text/book.  In addition, teaching students to read in phrases fosters what good, fluent readers do:  they read in phrases and not word-by-word.

If you use this little activity, please let me know your feedback!  It will be part of my S'more Phrases packet that I hope and pray I get listed by the weekend! 


Freebie Fridays

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