Saturday, December 1, 2018

Three Ways to Manage Holiday (or any day) Stress

Mom2MomEd Blog: 3 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress
The holidays are fast approaching, and already I'm starting to feel holiday specific stress creep into my daily life.

How about you?

My to-do list is growing.
My budget is straining.
Old family tensions are, sadly, rearing their ugly heads.
Travel plans need to be finalized.
Gifts need to be bought.

I truly love winter and the associated holidays, but I also find this time of year to be trying and stressful. This year, I'm trying something new. I'm using three methods to help control my stress levels going into Thanksgiving and Christmas.

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Lately, I've been tired. Exhausted even. And, the more tired I feel, the more stressed out I get. It occurred to me recently that I'm not drinking enough water. I pound back coffee all day, but hardly ever reach for a glass of H2O.

Last week, I started making it a point to begin my day with a tall glass of plain water, to have another at midday, and yet another while I'm preparing dinner. I may not necessarily hit the daily recommended 6 to 8 glass per day, but I'm getting a lot more than I had been.

And, I'm feeling a big difference! When I'm hydrated, I have more energy. When I have more energy, I can get more done. And, when I can get more done, I'm a lot less stressed!

2. Stretch!
Along with not being well hydrated, I've also felt tight in my shoulders and joints. That tightness gets worse as I get stressed out which in turn increases my stress and then increases the tightness. It's a vicious cycle.

So, after I drink my big glass of morning water, I stretch. I just do a few simple moves--reaching to the floor, stretching overhead, flexing my feet and hands, and stretching and rolling my neck. It takes hardly any time at all, and it makes me feel so much better!

A good stretch at bedtime--or when I feel stressed or tired--also helps me to sleep better, and sleep is essential!

3. Manage my sleep habits
You can't function well without enough sleep and lack of sleep directly impacts your stress levels! When I'm tired, I'm cranky. I'm stressed. I'm frazzled. Everything seems so much harder! I've been working on my sleep habits for a long time, and a few specific bedtime habits are starting to stick and I've noticed the payoffs with better quality, deeper sleep. That, in turn, has led to more energy and a better attitude during the day.

The biggest game changers for my sleep habits include:
  • Using an eye mask
  • Using light blocking curtains
  • Putting my phone across the room
  • Using an air filtration system next to my bed
The eye mask and light blocking curtains have helped to create a cocoon like feel in my bedroom and allow me to limit bits of light that I might not be fully aware of but that keep me from sleeping deeply regardless.

And, we all know what a sleep-drain having your phone near the bed can be!

The air filter provides both cleaner air and a steady, noise canceling hum.

These habits are particularly important for managing my stress during the holidays, but they also are useful all year long.

What habits help you to manage your holiday stress levels? Any tips you've found to be tried and true? Or, what have you tried that has been an utter failure?

Here are some of the products I like best for improving my hydration, for stretching, and for getting a better night's sleep:

If you buy the air filter, you can get replacement filters on a subscription basis from Amazon! It's so easy to just set up the subscription schedule and forget about it. No need to remember to replace the filters or put it on your calendar since they are delivered directly to your door on a schedule you choose. Because I have three dogs and a cat, I change my filters every other month, but if you have no pets, you could replace yours far less frequently.

This post includes affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may result in a small commission to us at no extra cost to you.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A teachers perspective on safety drills

Mom2MomEd: A Teacher's Perspective on Safety Drills
Back to school is upon us and a lot of parents are worried about safety -- there have been far too many school shootings (one is too many) in recent years, and thus safety concerns are very real.

When I was a kid, we worried about a rabid dog, a swarm of bees, possibly a homeless person wandering onto campus.

We heard the fire drill, and happily marched to our assigned spots on the blacktop.
We stood quietly until all was clear and then returned to our classrooms without a second thought. It doesn't matter how I feel about guns...these shootings are happening now and they're not going to go away tonight. 

As a teacher, I typically know when our drills are going to occur. I mentally plan how to work our day around the time it will take for us to line up, walk out, and then return to class. Only we don't get straight to work. No way--I teach Kindergarten! My students need to process. After a drill, they are loud, so very loud. Drills are out of the norm, so far out of the norm. 

We have a process. We line up, I grab my safety vest, walkie-talkie and class binder. Someone grabs the class turtle. Yes, we plan to rescue our turtle! We walk quickly to the blacktop and face the trees. I quickly count the children and then hold up my green binder as a sign that we're all here. Then, we wait. Sometimes, the drill is over quickly, and sometimes it takes a bit longer. When the drill is over, we about-face and return to class.

I hear a lot of questions:
"Ms. McKenzie was that a drill?"
"Is there a fire?"
"How come you didn't tell us there was a drill?"

I answer the questions the best that I can, and I talk about why we need to practice--it's important to know what to do in case we ever have a real emergency.

Yet...sometimes we don't have fire drills. 

Sometimes we have lock down drills.

These can be to prevent smoke and other airborne toxins from coming into our classroom. We lock our doors, close our blinds, and carefully place rugs in the gaps under our doors. Then, we wait, quietly going about business as usual. 

It's confusing. Why are we doing this?

We talk about it and we process. We come up with reasons why this is important. We laugh that we have to whisper, and sometimes we just sit close to each other and wait.

Other times, we practice for an active shooter. The kids don't know this, of course, but I do. 

During these drills, we lock our doors, close our blinds, push tables and chairs in front of our doors. 

Then, all 26 of us cram into two itty-bitty kindergarten bathrooms that smell like pee. I tell my students not to talk--these are 5, 6, and 7 year olds. Not talking while smashed together in a tiny space? Yeah right! 

I stand in front of them. There is nothing more powerful than a mama protecting her cubs, and for eight hours a day these are my cubs.

I am ready.

Then, we process. 
They are in Kindergarten. 
They don't need to know exactly why we are doing this.

My young charges understand that bad things happen, but they don't need to worry about this happening to them.

Every once in a while, a child will chime in and say, "My mom told me people shoot kids in schools."

My heart sinks. Yes, kids have been shot in schools. I'm wracking my brain about how to talk about this. I refuse to lie, but I'm not also willing to tell the truth. Ugh, I pull things out of my hat, like, "Remember how we practice for fires? Well we also need to make sure we know what to do if someone who doesn't belong on our campus tries to come to our class."

Did it tell them enough to answer their questions, but not enough to scare them?

I spend the rest of the work time watching them.

Is there anyone who seems emotional? Scared? Maybe needs a hug? Do I need to do another processing session to make sure that they are all OK? How can I make this better for them?

As a parent, I know you send your child every day to school, hoping they are safe and well cared for. I know you don't want to picture your child standing in a bathroom with 24 other students not making a sound. It's really a awful thing to have to do. But, we do it. We do it not because we think it's fun to scare kids and make them do uncomfortable things. 

We do it because knowing what to do gives them a fighting chance.
Because we know that if they are all together in one space we can better protect them.
Because, unfortunately, we have too.

Rest assured parents...when your child is practicing these drills that no one wants to have, in front of them stands a teacher. A teacher who will protect those kids like they are their own. A teacher who in his/her mind is thinking, "I dare you to try to come in here."

A teacher who cares.

I've heard some mumbling among my friends and fellow parents lately about concerns about these drills. Some have suggested space age type pods that keep children safe, jugs of rocks to throw at intruders, and so on. Please don't assume that we want to do this. Teachers aren't the enemy. Honestly I'm not really even sure what is. I just know that my job is to keep these kids safe and I'm going to do it in any way possible. If that helps you sleep even a tiny bit better at night, you're welcome.

How do you talk to your kids about these types of safety drills? Do other teachers have tips on how to address children's concerns? How do you ensure that everyone feels safe?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Keeping the Balance: Parenting and Teaching

Keeping the Balance: Parenting and Teaching
Whoa, life has sure been flying by fast! 

It's been a while since our last post.

Guess what? We're still here! We're not dead. At least not yet. 

It's the end of the school year, almost summer, and the weather has warmed up in the Northern Hemisphere. I've been spring cleaning, reorganizing, and trying to catch up on all of the things I've been procrastinating.

I've also been drinking too much coffee, eating too many sweets, and staying up way too late. Can you relate? Anyone?

Parents know how crazy the end of the school year is with kids. Teachers understand how crazy the end of the school year is with wrapping it all up and sending their students off with hopes for success.

But, what happens when you are a teacher and a parent? Well, you pretty much go straight into auto-pilot, pack some seriously crappy lunches the last few weeks of school, eat too many convenience foods, and let your kids stay up a little too late just to avoid the battle. Your kids may or may not take baths on a regular basis.

Your students will never know the crazy you feel.

You go into work each day with a smile on your face, and you say, "Good Morning."  You show patience and love all day long. You respond to calls of "Ms. McKenzie!" as lovingly as possible. You try to cram in a bunch of memories that you want to make before you send these little guys off onto their own into the world of "big kid" classes. You stay late in your classroom because you want it just so for the next day. You send emails to parents late at night because you want them to know you are available and care. You print worksheets out on your own printer because you can't stop thinking about the one student that just needs a little more time.

You drive home, and you are exhausted. You've been patient and kind and loving all day. Your own kids are the ones who get the tired mommy. The "I'm out of patience. Just please, go clean your room" mommy.  The "I can't do another art project or I may poke my eye out with a paintbrush" mommy.

It sucks.

How do you do both and do both well? 
How do I make sure my own kids get the best of me too? 

I'm only in my second year back to work after staying home with my kids. I often miss the days of staying in our pj's and doing art, going for nature walks, holding hands, snuggling, and cooking together. I had to remind myself this weekend that those days are gone whether I work or not. My kids are both in school all day. I can't keep them home to myself any longer. While the days of no where to be are gone, the days of big kids are here. 

Those days are pretty darn cool. 

My kids can now pour themselves a glass of milk, make their own beds, get a snack, turn on the TV, and do a million other things that only big kids can do. They still love to snuggle, read with me, cook with me, and go for walks. Only now, they get it. I can tell them that I'm tired or need a minute and they get it. They don't just take from me anymore, they now give too. They rub my feet for me; my daughter brushes my hair and brings me a glass of water. They're big kids, and they are pretty darn cool. 

Honestly, I've been really emotional this week with the year ending. My daughter starts Kindergarten next year, and my son will be in second grade. 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing about the stress of finding the right Kindergarten?

I also have 24 more little hearts that I love like my own. I have to say goodbye to them in just two short weeks. I worry about them just like I worry about my kids. Did I teach them enough? Did they feel safe and loved today? Did they have enough to eat at lunch? Am I giving them my best and showing them how to give theirs?

Did I do enough?

Is it ever enough? Aren't we always second guessing ourselves? Isn't that a sign of a self reflective parent and teacher? I don't really know. I do know that I love my job as a mommy, and I love my job as a teacher, and I'm doing my best to make sure all of the children in my life know that they are loved and cherished. So, I'm going to say that just may be good enough.

Our pencils are tiny.
Our erasers are flat.
Our glue is all empty.
Our folders are fat.
Our crayons are all broken.
Our rugs are rolled neat.
Memories last forever.
Our year is complete!

Moms who are also teachers can you relate to any of this? Do you have any tips for other working moms on how to feel like you're giving your best to your family and your students?
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How to tidy your house 5 items at a time

Mom2MomEd Blog: The 5 item rule for a tidier house
As moms, Mckenzie and I know all too well how easy it is to feel overwhelmed all too frequently. And, when you feel that way, what typically happens to your house? 

It starts to look--and feel--like a wreck, right?

That's been the case at my house a lot over the last year and a half as we've dealt with my uncle being ill and passing away, as well as dealing with my own health issues (some resolved, some ongoing). When you are sad, depressed, tired, or feeling sick, it's easy to ignore your home.

Dishes pile up and go unwashed.
Floors remain unmopped and unvacuumed.
Windows stay  smudged and grimy.
Counters are cluttered.
And, on and on...

The worse the state of the house gets, the harder it feels to even begin tackling it all, right?


I've tried a number of home management and cleaning plans and systems over the years, and I have to say that many of them are completely overwhelming! They have zones and systems and steps and methods that just add up to a lot of rules and mental clutter for me. 

I need something more straight forward, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed to the point that I just can't focus and keep track of a system or method or rules. 

One day, when facing my daunting full sink of dishes, I came up with a single rule that has revolutionized my cleaning and tidying style. My house may not be perfectly clean and tidy and organized all the time with this method, but my MIND feels less cluttered and that mental boost goes a long way!

All you need to do is select ONE room or area of your house to focus on and then every single time you go into that room or near that area, you put away, clean, or organized five items. 

That's it! That's the entire process! 


For us, that one area is almost always our kitchen. Every single time my son or I walk into the kitchen we take care of five items--and often, that leads to us getting even more done as often the hardest part of cleaning, organizing, and tidying when you feel overwhelmed is simply getting started, right?

At our house, in the kitchen this might look like:

  • loading five dishes into the dishwasher
  • cleaning the stove, counter, front of the microwave, fridge handles, and top of the fish tank (it lives in the kitchen)
  • sorting and organizing five plastic ware containers (matching tops and lids, for example)
  • tidying all of the items on one shelf of the fridge (more than five items to organize there!)
  • finding five unused gadgets to purge into our donations bin

By consistently doing this every time we go into our kitchen, the kitchen rarely returns to an overwhelming mess. 

Is our kitchen perfect all the time with this method? Hardly, but it is mentally a huge improvement and this method is MANAGEABLE for us.

Give it a try and tell us how it works for you! You don't have to tackle your kitchen or even the same room every time you apply the five items rule. The key is that you simply get started by selecting a small area to clean, organize, and tidy and then tackle it five items or tasks at a time every single time you go near it. 

How do you manage overwhelm and keep your home tidy?
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Monday, February 5, 2018

Grocery Haul: Mini-Costco trip

Grocery Haul: Mini-Costco trip
I don't know about you, but I kind of love grocery haul blog posts and videos! It's a small thing, but I enjoy seeing what and how others eat and the different prices of groceries across the United States (or even other countries!).

We've never shared a grocery haul on Mom2MomEd before, so we hope you'll indulge us for a moment!

For this trip, I went to Costco for a few staples, as well as a few treats for the family of a police officer that frequently stops in at the hospital where I work. I also picked up a little Galentine's (Valentine's Day for your female friends) treat for a friend.

My son and I are working on tightening up our family budget in order to prepare for some big savings goals, to crush debt, and to work towards financial freedom. As a result, we are spending February meal planning and eating out of our cupboards, fridge, and freezer rather than making our usual grocery store trips. Our goals include using up as much as possible with as little waste as possible, to create a more comprehensive list of recipes and menus that we enjoy on a regular basis, and to maximize our money. Thus, my most recent Costco trip was quite small compared to my normal Costco grocery hauls!

So, without further ado, here is my mini-Costco grocery haul:

  • Ziploc 4-pack of gallon sized freezer bags (152 bags total) -- $14.49 
  • Turkey breast lunch meat (1.58lbs) -- $10.41
  • Godiva chocolate hearts (14.6oz) -- $8.59
  • Kirkland Asian snack mix (2.5lbs) -- $9.99
  • Kirkland chocolate covered mango slices (19.4oz) -- $9.69
  • Kirkland organic ground beef (4lbs) -- $19.99

The Ziploc baggies will be used primarily for storing chopped up banana chunks in the freezer for smoothies, but I also use them to carry dog food when traveling, to carry my toiletries through airport security, and so on. In truth, it will take us an exceptionally long time to go through all of these baggies--probably a few years!).

The turkey breast is a lunch staple for us. No explanation there...

The Godiva chocolates will go in a Galentine's Day package for one of my closest friends--she LOVES Godiva!

The Kirkland Asian snack mix and the chocolate covered mango, however, were totally unplanned splurge purchases which defeats the purpose of my grocery shopping goals. However, they also are both snacks that we like and will consume completely, so the only waste will be the packaging. My mom also really likes both of these snacks and thus I'll pack up a bit of each for a trip we'll be taking to Southern California in a few weeks. 

And, the organic ground beef--well, it's expensive stuff compared to regular ol' ground beef! I swear, it's worth the price! We don't eat a lot of beef at our house, I grew up with a mom who bought ground turkey instead of beef. I ate turkey sloppy Joe's, turkey burgers, turkey meat balls, and so on. For years, I followed in my mom's turkey buying footsteps. Then, however, a few friends started telling me how much better organic, grass fed ground beef tastes. Then, a vlogger I follow on YouTube (The Former Mrs. Jones) did a Costco haul video proclaiming how much she loves the flavor of this beef. We decided to give it a try and now it's our go-to whenever we make tacos or other dishes that require ground meat.

  • Grape tomatoes (2lbs) -- $5.99
  • Kirkland quinoa salad (1.55lbs) -- $7.73
  • Bananas (Weight? Maybe 3.5lbs) -- $1.39
  • Organic baby carrots (5lbs) -- $5.49

These items were all on my Costco grocery list. We use the tomatoes in a whole bunch of ways, including just eating them as is, and we dice a bunch of them up to cook into taco meat. 

The bananas will primarily be used in smoothies and banana bread (see above regarding the Ziploc baggies...). The carrots will be eaten as is, used in soups, and so on; however, our dogs happen to LOVE baby carrots as snacks! In fact, one of them begs for them and she FrEaKs OuT if you say the word "carrot"!

The quinoa salad, well, it's simply delicious! I'm not a big quinoa fan, but this salad is refreshing and tasty. It is chock full of tomato, cucumber, cilantro, and other yummy goodness! I especially love a bowlful with a dollop of hummus on the top. 

  • Tree Top fruit snacks (80 pouches) -- $11.79
  • Clif Kid Organic Z Bars (36 bars) -- $17.49
  • Pocky sticks (1lb 9oz) -- $8.99

These three items were all purchased as a contribution to the gift for a local police officer's family as I mentioned above. I did pull out about 20 of the fruit snacks for my family, and the rest went into the gift package. 

What do your grocery hauls look like? Do you enjoy this type of post? If you have a Costco membership, what's the best thing you've ever bought there?

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