Archive of ‘Just For Fun’ category

Back to School Freezer Batch Cooking – Whole30 and Paleo!

Most teachers I’ve met are born planners and organizers. That is exactly how I would describe myself as well. This past summer, I dove head first into the world of Whole30 (an anti-inflammatory way of eating that centers on healthy, lean meats, vegetables, fruit, and some nuts and healthy fats – basically, no dairy or grain). I LOVED how it made me feel: strong and healthy. More than that, I loved how I DIDN’T feel anymore – no more bloating, GI discomfort, headaches, feeling sluggish. Even mosquito bites didn’t bother me as much any more, as if to say my body was healing and better able to fight.

I wanted to be able to continue eating Whole30 (W30) throughout the school year. However, as you know, time is a precious commodity, and W30 does require a lot of cooking. Armed with my favorite kitchen appliance – my Instant Pot – I spent a good amount of time this summer batch cooking and freezing for the fall. When I made dinner for the family, I’d double it and freeze half. By the end of the summer, you can see below what I amassed. These recipes include W30 as well as paleo items, as I am now in W30 maintenance and slowly adding in items that are permitted in paleo (i.e. honey) but not in W30.

In this picture you see:

  • 4 sweet potatoes slightly cooked, peeled, and diced to be added to hash – W30
  • Golden Chicken – paleo
  • Banana Porridge (Against All Grain Cookbook) – paleo
  • Salmon Cakes – W30
  • Tikka Masala – W30
  • Kalua Pig – W30
  • Texas Brisket – W30
  • Mint Chip Ice Cream (Against All Grain Cookbook) – paleo
  • Chicken Zucchini Poppers – W30
  • Frozen banana slices with almond butter – paleo
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread – paleo
  • Chocolate Chip cookies – paleo
  • Pulled chicken – W30
  • Stuffed Pepper mix – W30
  • 2 giant bags of frozen veggies from Costco

My first stop to prepare for this endeavor was Costco. There I was able to purchase bulk meat at a discount. Next, I treated myself to a jar of minced garlic to save me a step. I purchased a giant bag of almond meal from Amazon for the paleo recipes.

Not pictured here are the things I will make weekly, including:

  • Keto overnight oats
  • W30 Egg breakfast
  • A dozen hard boiled eggs
  • Paleo cereal

In addition, I have purchased a lot of snacks to keep in my desk, listed below:

  • Dried apple rings
  • Roasted Plantain chips
  • Rx Bars (Chocolate Sea Salt and Blueberry are my faves!)
  • Larabars
  • Fruit and veggie pouches
  • Unsalted Mixed Nuts

In the fall, I plan to warm up these items fairly quickly either by thawing them in the fridge the night before, or throwing them directly in the Instant Pot to sauté and warm up.

If you enjoy following my food journey, you can find me on Instagram! I am MightyKeka

Did you do any food prep this summer? I’d love any tips or tricks you can share!

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On To A New Adventure!

It is with mixed emotions and a heavy heart that I close the door to my classroom this week. I have decided to embark on a new adventure with a new school district. In the fall, I will be a Literacy Coach for another suburban, low income, small school district near Milwaukee. I will specialize in supporting teachers in closing the 5th to 6th grade reading gap. It sounds exciting and terrifying all at once! Am I ready for this? I’ve never been a coach before. I’ll soon find out!

To prepare for my new role as literacy coach, I will be reading the following resources this summer.

 

My main goal for the first few weeks is going to be watching, listening, and learning, as well as encouraging and supporting teachers. While I am extremely saddened to leave my school district ‘home’ of 10 years, I’m also very excited to meet new teachers and make new friends. I’ll also be shifting my perspective from working with 6-12th grade adolescents to now elementary students. It will definitely be an adventure!

A Valentine’s Tradition

Now that we’re a family of 3, I’m always thinking of fun new traditions to start and enjoy for decades to come. As I was passing through the dollar section of Target (aka a Mom’s Vacation), I came across these adorable felt envelopes. At a dollar a pop, I just had to snatch them up! They are very large and can fit quite a bit of goodies, including books. In the same section, there were also some felt hearts, which inspired me to personalize the envelopes (I created the felt letters myself). The extra one is for our puppies, Rocket and Ruffy, and yes they got some treats, too!

This was Elaine’s first Valentine’s day eating solids, but that didn’t mean I wanted her to have all of the traditional teeth-rotting sugary sweets of sticky candy and chocolate. I settled upon a book and some fun, special treats that we don’t get very often. She went straight for the Lucky Charms, and picked out all of the marshmallows (just like her mommy, sheesh!)

At 1.5 years old, I’m sure she was pretty confused by this new tradition. Nevertheless, she loved opening her envelope and getting presents, so that is a win! My sweet husband filled my envelope with various chocolates that he knows I love and a thoughtful card. I filled his with chocolate and beef jerky.

Can’t wait to bring out these envelopes again next year to continue our tradition!

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February Site Wide Sale!

Pssst…. did you know that TpT is having a site wide sale today and tomorrow (2/7 – 2/8)? Time to shop! I know I’ve had a few things on my wish list waiting for this sale!

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Classroom Laughs

I have this awesome whiteboard stop sign that I place outside of my classroom door. I try to greet my students each day / hour with a funny pun. It’s turned into a truly remarkable experience for everyone this year. My students will let me know if the joke isn’t funny, and this often turns into a teachable moment where I can share with them a finer point of the English language, or a colloquialism.

What’s great about middle school students is that many are finally starting to understand sarcasm and double meanings, along with symbolism and metaphor. I get to watch their brains develop right before me! It’s an incredible honor. When they truly get a joke and laugh, it’s a gift for both of us.

This experience has brought many new students to my door – students who aren’t even ‘mine’ – just to say hi, thanks for the joke, or share a joke that they’d like to see on the board. Many colleagues stop by and let me know that they miss the joke-of-the-day when I am too busy to make it happen. I love this new tradition! Here are my faves so far this school year (I’ll try to add more throughout the year):

(c) Kristen Dembroski img_3136 img_3215 img_3269 img_3351 img_3638 img_3754

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Summer Bucket List 2016

As any teacher will tell you with a wide, genuine smile and a sparkle in their eye, summers are the best part of our profession (well no, students are the BEST part, but summer is a close second!).

Though I always look forward to summers, I was a little nervous going into this one. I mean, I have a 1-year-old now. This is new, unchartered territory for me. And thinking back to last summer with my newborn – that was scary. I was struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression, I had just moved into a new house, I felt socially isolated, exhausted, and I was plagued with all the new parent fears. I was scared to leave the house with my baby because it always took me 1-2 hours to get out the door, I was pumping, and I was afraid to leave the comfort of our safe, climate-controlled house with a baby. I was a wreck!

This summer was SO different. And it was honestly the best summer of my life! I feel like I am finally getting into a groove as a mom (which means life is about to throw me a curve ball, right?). I am not afraid to leave the house with my daughter. In fact, I insist we leave the house at least once a day, even if it is just to go to the post office. Anything can be an adventure!

To help ease the transition into summer, I made a bucket list. It was important to me to set goals for things we could do together, and things that I needed to do for myself. Of course, as I expected, the list was very ambitious and I wasn’t able to complete everything. The silver lining here is that I now have items to earmark for next summer!

We did have SO much fun. I loved seeing the world through her eyes, taking in all of the new places and textures and people. I learned that my daughter LOVES the water, and would swim daily if she could. However, she HATED the beach! All the sand was a total disaster, and she was miserable. I wish we had gotten to the animal farm, because she is obsessed with animals. When she sees any creature, from dog to goat to raccoon, this strange shriek of pure joy comes out of her – an alien sound I never hear otherwise.

I loved learning about my daughter this summer and making it my mission to help expose her to new experiences. I became her ‘summer school teacher.’ And all those naps and cuddles? BLISS. I felt like I had won the lottery every day.

I also set personal and professional goals for myself. I needed to keep my mind sharp, and I always need to be working toward goals. I didn’t manage to learn as much about AIMSWeb as I had hoped, but I have made it my mission for this first week back to school, our In-service and Professional Development days, to seek out the information I need for the school year.

I hope you had a wonderful, relaxing, purposeful summer, and that you are recharged and ready to hit the ground running this week for back to school! As a teacher, I am grateful for the summer time to re-center myself, thwart burnout, and be the best version of myself that I can for my students each year.

Summer Bucket List 2016 (c) Kristen Dembroski

This template was designed by My Love for Words

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Surviving The Color Run with a baby/toddler/stroller

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Yesterday morning, we completed The Color Run as a family. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and this meant bringing along our 1-year-old baby/toddler (I’m not sure what to call her!). I thought I might share our experience, in case it might help others. I have completed (and LOVED!) The Color Run before, so I knew what to expect going in. It was a new experience with a baby, however, but I felt prepared.

Even though The Color Run peeps say the coloring is safe, I still didn’t want to expose my daughter to it. What can I say, I’m a paranoid First Time Mom. I was worried about it getting into her lungs and her eyes, so I knew I wanted to protect her as best I could. I asked around, and some people suggested goggles, face masks, hats, the whole 9 yards. I couldn’t imagine my daughter tolerating all that, nor did I want to deal with it, so I went the simpler (read: cheaper and lazier) route. I invested in a stroller rain cover similar to this one.

I did bring our Tula baby carrier, but it was much too hot to wear her for 5K (in cooler weather, I totally would have just worn her and saved quite a bit of hassle). We brought the stroller and kept the Tula in a garbage bag in the storage area (I couldn’t bear to see it ruined by color staining! But I wanted it just in case). As it turns out, I was actually able to avoid each of the color stations by going around them. I simply met up with my family on the other side. And as far as getting colored myself? I opted not to, because I wanted to be able to hold and comfort my daughter if she needed it, and I wanted to stay ‘clean.’

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this taking all the fun out of it? Why bother doing a Color Run if you’re just going to skate through and come out lily-white on the other side? Well, I did actually have a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing my family members get messy and silly, and my daughter enjoyed looking at all the fun colors, bubbles, and clouds of color dust. The excitement is palpable, so much fun music, smiling faces, and lots of high fives! It’s a great atmosphere, and truly is the happiest 5k on the planet.

I know many other moms give their babies the true Color Run experience and have no problems, but I know that’s just not my personality, and I’m okay with that. You do you, and feel free to use the info in this blog post to make the best decisions for you and your family.

You should be aware that a very real hazard, much more dangerous than the color dye itself, was the loud volume of the event. In the start up line, there were booming speakers that made my daughter scream. And at the end, the after party was a loud, bumping base full of Zumba fun. I love loud music, and it was really fun, but it is also very dangerous for such young ears. I would say to do your best to avoid areas with large speakers.

A few other tips I have.

  1. I brought extra towels (to cover our car seats), changes of clothes and shoes, and garbage bags to put all the dirty stuff in afterwards.
  2. Bring your cell phone or camera, for sure! If you are really concerned, you can put it in a clear baggie to protect it from dust. But you won’t wanna miss these pictures!
  3. At the finish line, there are people with leaf blowers at a “blow station.” If you got dust on your stroller (and yourself for that matter), this is a great opportunity to remedy that. Also, we’ve found that blowing off the color is MUCH more effective than rinsing it with water, which just serves to spread it around.
  4. Bring water. Make sure you have a cold sippy for your baby. I also brought a frozen lunch bag with cold milk and fruits.
  5. Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, etc. And if your baby is too young for sunscreen, try a muslin blanket and stroller clips (I like these)
  6. If you have color treated hair, or really blonde hair like me and my daughter, the coloring might temporarily dye your hair. Hats are a great multipurpose solution.
  7. Laundry wasn’t a big deal for our clothes, but light colored shoes and anything made of terry cloth did pose a problem. Blow off, pre-treat, bleach, and sun dry.
  8. Drop a pin in Google Maps when you park your car so you can easily find it again!
  9. Dance, sing, have fun, and make memories!

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Instagram Reading Bulletin Board

At the beginning of the semester, I decided that I needed a reading bulletin board to celebrate catching my students reading. I wanted to fill my room with positive images of students filling their hearts and their brains. The initial blank board looked like this:

Instagram Reading Bulletin Board (c) Kristen Dembroski

The hashtag at the top reads #wmsreads. Note: This was never posted on actual social media – this is for my classroom use only.

I added about 2 – 3 photos each week. The students REALLY looked forward to seeing their pictures appear on the wall! I began by catching candids, but after a while, students came up with their own ideas and asked to pose for pictures. By the end, students were taking their own pictures and submitting them to me for approval and printing.

All in all, it was a very fun activity, and it helped spread a positive message about reading being ‘cool’ 😉

Here is the final product. And wouldn’t you know, the very DAY that I finish the board, Instagram went and changed their logo on me? Oh well, I like this one and I will keep it up for a long time!

Instagram Reading Bulletin Board (c) Kristen Dembroski

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The Compliment Train

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I was very excited to introduce this new bulletin board in my room. Each of my 126 students got their own spot on the train, and I provided post-its and a set of guidelines.

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It took only 4 DAYS to fill the train. Kids were flocking to my room to fill it out, including students I don’t even have in class! They were thrilled. I especially loved watching the more shy or quiet students meander by and slyly try to check out their spot, and then watch their face light up when they realize someone left them a compliment. It was the highlight of my year!

Below are some of my favorite entries on the train:

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Obviously we need to work on your/you’re, but what a fun tradition! I plan to leave it up for 2 weeks, then let them take home their post-its. Then we will clear the board and start all over again!

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How Becoming Deaf for 2 Weeks Completely Changed My Perspective

And I was only deaf in one of my ears! 2 weeks ago, a nasty sinus and ear infection turned into a ruptured ear drum, which – if you aren’t aware firsthand – is incredibly painful. Teachers, take care of yourself if you are ill, and have so much sympathy for our littles when they complain of ear pain. It is horrendous!

My ruptured eardrum left me deaf in my right ear for 2 weeks. In fact, my hearing isn’t back to 100% yet, but it started slowly improving yesterday. Your first thought might be, as mine would have been a month ago, “Well, at least she could hear out of her one good ear!” This is an uninformed way of thinking and does not completely capture the impossible challenge of carrying on with life with partial deafness. I can’t emphasize this enough – being deaf in 50% of my ears reduced my ability to communicate by 80%. 

My students needed constant reminders that I was not functioning at 100%. They quickly forgot and got frustrated when I couldn't understand or respond to them.

My students needed constant reminders that I was not functioning at 100%. They quickly forgot and got frustrated when I couldn’t understand or respond to them.

Prior to this experience, I had heard of disabilities such as audio processing disorder, and I never fully understood it. I still may not fully understand it, but I have gained much more respect and understanding for the struggles associated with processing information aurally. Below is a list of everyday experiences that were altered for me during my short-term disability.

  1. I could not judge the direction of sound.
    This is huge. People / students would be calling my name, but I couldn’t tell where to look. Students would be talking out of turn, but I didn’t know who to discipline. Sounds were coming from various rooms of my house, but I didn’t know which. This will drive you insane. I felt like a chicken, constantly jerking my head in every direction erratically trying to identify the source of a sound. I can see how this would lead to attention deficit issues.
  2. I could not judge volume
    Without two working ears, it is difficult to judge volume. This included my own volume (no more private conversations, and having to repeat yourself if you were too quiet), and the volume of my students (I couldn’t tell when we were getting out of control, so I often lost control of my students.). I had to rely on others to give me constant feedback on volume.
  3. I needed to make eye contact. 
    To have a simple conversation, it was necessary to look the speaker in the eye. This allowed me to focus on them (while attempting to ignore the surrounding environment) and to try to read their lips. Unfortunately, young students quickly forget your needs, and they often talk to you from feet away without looking at you. And I believe several got frustrated when they thought I was ignoring them when, in reality, I had no idea they were speaking to me.
  4. I could not separate specific sounds from the ambient sounds.
    When I would go to pick up my daughter at daycare, and the workers were trying to talk to me about her day, all I could hear was a sea of babies crying. I couldn’t pick out what the daycare worker was saying to me. You can imagine how this went in my classroom. During work time, a student would ask me a question, but all I could hear was a sea of everyone’s conversations. As I told my class, it sounded like the Peanut’s mom, “Waaahmp Waaaaahmp.” Impossible.
  5. I felt completely lonely and isolated.
    One-on-one in a quiet room, I could easily have a conversation with one person. However, this is not life. I went to lunch with my coworkers, and I missed key words and therefore could not follow the conversation. It was like playing Madlibs where every 5th word was deleted. I mostly just nodded and smiled, but had no idea. I went to a birthday party and tried to hold a conversation with several people – nope. I don’t want to be that person who is constantly asking, “What? Can you say that again?” I know that is annoying. So I suffered in silence.
  6. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
    Along with feeling isolated and alone, you also quickly realize that you missing out on so many whispers and inside jokes and subtle conversations. Everyone is smiling or laughing, and you’re not sure why. You are on the outside looking in.
  7. I no longer watched TV or listened to the radio.
    I know Close Captioning exists, but after a long hard day of teaching, that can be pretty taxing on a brain that isn’t used to it. It wasn’t worth it to me, so I just sat in silence. Pretty sad!
  8. I couldn’t hear my alarm clock or my baby cry at night.
    If I accidentally rolled over and buried my good ear in my pillow, I was COMPLETELY deaf. I couldn’t hear the baby monitor or my phone alerts. As you can imagine, this was very problematic!
  9. I felt like I had short-term ADD.
    When you spend all of your energy deciphering the words people are saying instead of trying to comprehend them, this is very similar to how our young readers spend all of their energy decoding words on the page instead of trying to comprehend the message. What you get is a fragmented sense of the meaning of things. My brain couldn’t handle the overload, and it felt very fragmented. I found myself focusing on minutia instead of the big picture. It was very frustrating!
  10. I was completely exhausted every night. 
    Enough said.

It’s worth repeating. Partial deafness, for me, meant a full-on assault to my brain and my ability to function and comprehend. Life was incredibly taxing. I have a new appreciation and understanding for our students who are hard of hearing, deaf, or who struggle with audio processing disorder.

In the future, if I had a student with any of these concerns, I would alter my behaviors in the following ways: always make eye contact, provide written instructions, keep the classroom environment quiet and focused, re-voice student questions and comments, allow them to work in small groups / pairs in a separate quiet environment, provide extra time and frequently check for understanding, provide a quiet place for socializing during lunch or recess if they would like, and generally offer as much patience and compassion as I can muster.

 

Here I am at the ENT after being told my ear has healed and I should get my hearing back within 2 weeks!

Here I am at the ENT after being told my ear has healed and I should get my hearing back within 2 weeks!

I would love to hear your feedback if you or anyone you know have ever experienced partial or temporary hearing loss.

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