Monday, March 31, 2014

Where Was the Love? 6 of My All-Time Worst Blog Posts

I've been tinkering around here since December 15, 2008. This makes my 201st blog post. To celebrate, I'll share six of  my worst blog posts ever, one for each year My Ideal Reality has been alive and kickin'. When the idea to host this little party popped into my brain, I thought I'd go with posts that had the fewest pages views. But, in the early years so many posts had ZERO page views, I had to redefine my goal.

Instead, I decided to choose one of the lowest-performing posts from each year.

And, as some extra icing on the cake, I'm also sharing the two posts that, for whatever wacky reasons, have had the highest page view count to date.


6 of my all-time worst blog posts

What in the World? 

Baa Baa Black Sheep, Or the Downside of "Being Mari" (Personal Commandment No. 1) (2010)
This puppy has 927 page view to date. I think most are from overseas fans. ?????

Keurig Vs. Cuisinart (2011)
This post has 208 page views to date.

Thanks for reading! Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Blog Writing Process and a Little Spring Break Action

Some of you may have noticed that I've gotten into the groove of posting something new each Monday. As part of the regular posting goal, I try to plan topics ahead of time. I sit down with a blank monthly calendar printed from here or here and jot down my topics. Usually, I'll have a blank calendar of the following month close by in case my brainstorming session gets out of control. I slide the calendars (printed double-sided to save a sheet of paper) into a plastic pocket protector and create my own dry erase board. That way, if I change my mind about a topic or want to switch things up, it's no sweat. Right now, I have topics through April. My next goal is to find a day each week where I spend a few hours several crafting drafts at once.

On a completely different note, the peeps went back to school today after a 10-day spring break. When I jotted down "Spring Break" on my blog calendar, I had in my head that our time together would be packed with memory-making excitement (Ideal Reality). I was like Julie on The Love Boat, dreaming up activities to amaze my little loves. I even created a Note in Evernote just to track my marvelous ideas.

Real Reality: The week wasn't all that excitement packed. For the most part, they just wanted to play on the computer. Yay. As for memories, both girls definitely remember the day I got lost in Kansas City's Union Station labyrinth of a parking garage. That was fun. Not really what I had in mind. We did manage to get in a few activities, including much-needed hair cuts, a viewing of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, picnics on the living room floor, attending Theatre For Young America's production of Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, a rare breakfast out at our favorite diner, Kate's Kitchen, a tour of the Shatto Milk Company and a trip to The Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium for "Dinosaurs at Dusk: The Origins of Flight." We brought Spring Break to a close with a sleepover in the basement. Overall, not a bad haul.

How about you? Any awesome - or not so awesome - spring break plans?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Leprechaun Traps are a Thing?

For starters, let me say straight out that what I'm about to type will sound beyond ridiculous to some of you. But, one of my biggest parenting struggles comes with trying to keep up with what I consider over-the-top celebrations of every. single. holiday. I use the term holiday very loosely here because I'm talking about such days as the 100th Day of School, Valentine's Day, and now, St. Patrick's Day. When did parents decide their children needed extravagant displays and trinkety gifts for these fun, but relatively minor, events?

Case in point: grade school Valentine's parties. I have twin daughters in separate 1st grade classes. Ruthie's teacher said her students would decorate sacks in class for their Valentine's. Perfect. But Audrey's teacher kept sending e-mails about crafting "optional" Valentine's boxes at home. I didn't think much about it (because I'm clueless). After all, when I was in school, we decorated shoe boxes, and it was all good. In lieu of a shoe box, Audrey decided to deck out a gift bag with Valentiny bling.

When I arrived for the party, I quickly realized that "optional" was code for "everyone's doing this." With the exception of my daughter and one other kid, every single classmate had a tricked out Valentine's box. And I'm not talking construction paper-laden shoe boxes. I'm talking a life-size re-creation of Olaf from Frozen, an authentic-looking soldier complete with camo and Disney princesses. No jokes. I politely asked the teacher about this phenomenon, and she said she received tons of parent e-mails about creating the boxes, adding that this was the first time in her 15 years of teaching she had witnessed anything like this. (As a side note, my daughter was a happy as a clam with her bag. She couldn't figure out why anyone would want to carry a big 'ol box around. Love that girl. Takes after her mama.)

And then here comes St. Paddy's Day. I was thinking a little corned beef and cabbage for dinner, possibly some wearing of the green, and we'd call it good. But just the other night I found out that families trick out St. Patrick's Day, too. WHAT? The girls started talking about Leprechaun Traps and how one girl got "gold" chocolate coins and a boy caught a squirrel. (I didn't ask.). So, I did what I always do when I find I'm out of the loop: I went online. Holy Mother of Four Leaf Clovers! Turns out, Leprechaun Traps are a thing!

So we built one. Actually, it's a house, not a trap. The girls didn't want to build a trap. Here it is in all it's glory. As you can tell, we are minimalists, as in "we're not taking time to wrap green construction paper around anything. It features an oatmeal-container tower with a trap door, a Reynolds Wrap ladder and bridge, a snowy mountain range with a path (cardboard slats decorated with strip of glue covered in green sugar sprinkles), and a garden (three plastic fruit cup containers.)

Leprechaun Traps are a Thing?

While researching, I did come across a few ways to mess with the girls, which is always fun. Before I picked them up from school the other day, I put green food coloring in the toilet.They couldn't believe a leprechaun peed in our house! The next morning, I put a few drops in their milk. They were almost too scared to drink it!

And we've exchanged written communications with the little dude.
Leprechaun Traps are a Thing?
From the leprechaun
Leprechaun Traps are a Thing?
From Audrey to the leprechaun
Leprechaun Traps are a Thing?
From Ruth to the leprechaun

Even though he stole the coins the girls put out for him, our leprechaun left a little present behind ... Leprechaun poop (green M&Ms)! It was a hit! If you knew our house, you'd understand.

Even though I still think these celebrations get way out of hand, I will admit that I had fun with this one.

Now ... where's my Guinness?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 10, 2014

When One Door Closes ...

If You Come In, You Will Have a Bad Day. Danger.
These signs are taped to my daughters' bedroom door.
Translation: If you come in, you will have a bad day. Danger.
Some of you know that I used to be a classroom teacher. I loved teaching middle school Language Arts, but I loved teaching striving readers even more. One of the best jobs I've ever had was teaching middle school remedial reading in Pennsylvania. I looked forward to going to work every day.

When we decided to return to KC, my Ideal Reality included finding a spot-on replacement for that position. By the time we had settled into our KC lives and I began my job search, the economic recession had settled into everyone's lives, and it drastically altered the landscape of education. My Real Reality = very few permanent teaching jobs. So, I worked as a long-term sub for more than a year, thinking that building new connections and a reputation as a quality educator would lead to something permanent. But when I heard someone refer to me as "The Baby Sub," (the endearing term for the go-to person for teachers taking maternity leave), my hope faltered.

I continued my job search and landed a spot in a charter school. I stayed a year. The demands of the position and the general working environment strained me and my family, and I made the decision to walk away. I also decided to hold off looking for another teaching position right away. Instead, I returned to my writing and editing roots in a freelance capacity. Still, I hung onto all of my teaching supplies and materials, waiting for the day when I was ready to jump back into the classroom. I thought numerous times about purging my teaching closets, but could never quite bring myself to do it.

Until this past weekend.

I hosted a "fire" sale consisting of most of my teaching supplies, classroom library novels and lesson plans.What I didn't sell I either tossed or donated.

It's all gone. Poof. One door closed.

And now, I'm trying to find the open door. (You know the saying, "When one door closes, another door opens," right?) Instead of waiting for one to open, I'm trying to make it happen by expanding my freelance services. It's tough. I hate putting myself out there, marketing myself, dealing with rejection, constantly figuring out how to create my own opportunities, pushing  myself. I just want something to come to me. I want it to be easy. I want someone to hand me the next opportunity (on a silver platter would be a total bonus). That's my Ideal Reality.

My Real Reality is that I must continuing taking risks, learning lessons, educating myself and making things happen. Whatever those "things"  may be.

How about you? What challenges are you facing? Or, what exciting opportunities have you created? Or stumbled upon? Please share.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing  ... Keep It Real.

Monday, March 3, 2014

8 Must-Read Children’s Books

8 Must-Read Children's Books
I’ve been a reader all my life. I believe in the power of books: the knowledge they can offer, the perspectives they share, the doors they can open. 

Learning to read and then reading to learn are life skills. As a parent and certified reading specialist, my goal is to help kiddos discover, love and appreciate this power. Below are 8 must-read children’s books. They are wonderfully written and often funny, but they also portray powerful messages and amazing illustrations

Share one with your family today!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Artichoke Boy by Scott Mickelson

Except If by Jim Averbeck

Nonsense! by Sally Kahler Phillips

You’re Weird! by Kevin Luthardt

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter

What are some of your favorite children’s books? Please share!

Wherever you are, whatever your doing … Keep It Real.