Friday, coffee & exciting news…

Good morning. I’m sitting here on my couch with my coffee and a fat cat. This is something that happens literally every day of the year. But today is a bit different. Today, I am sharing some fun news. I announced earlier this week that I have signed a contract for book #3. And you know what they say about the 3rd time? Oh boy is this one a charm! You guyssssssss! Seriously, I know when authors are promoting their books they say “I can’t wait for you to read this one!”, and, “I know you’ll love my new book!”. But, SERIOUSLY, all of that and more comes to mind when I think about the book that is currently in the editing process. Here’s a bit of background…

WHEN DID I WRITE IT? I have had several ideas floating around in my mind for book #3, and a few times I even started writing. But I usually feel a spark of some sort, a desire to continue writing, an inability to stop writing if it feels “right” – and it hadn’t… yet. This winter has been nuts. Not necessarily a ton of snow, but frigid temperatures that closed school for an entire week and ice storm after ice storm – to the tune of 12 days off of school. During one of our days at home, something on Facebook caught my attention. I thought for a moment about how cute a children’s book would be on that topic, and before I knew it, I had 6 pages written! The subject is close to my heart and the storyline presented itself quite easily.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT? I will be introducing my main character soon. I can tell you that he has many endearing qualities: adorable, smart, mischievous and a tad stubborn. I am also absolutely certain that he will win your heart.

IS THIS BOOK ANYTHING LIKE YOUR FIRST TWO BOOKS? Crazy enough, no. It’s very different. Which makes it even more special. Like a Mama, an author doesn’t have a “favorite” – or at least won’t admit to it. Each book has qualities that that draw people to it, stories that others can relate to, quotes that bring a smile. This book is especially unique when considering its illustrations. This is a work in progress and something I am extremely proud of – I will share the very second I can do so!

WHEN WILL THIS BOOK BE READY? GAH!!! This is the hard part. Once my text is complete and I sign off out of the editing phase, I move into the layout portion. During this time, we will determine how the page spreads will look, how the text and images will be displayed – the fonts, the background, etc…. it’s a bunch of creative decisions that are necessary to format the completed project. Then we head to designing the front and back covers, and printing and shipping and promotions. I am hoping that by late August/early September you can have this book in your hands!

I will be finished teaching in May. My first year back in the classroom after being home for 20 years raising our family was all that you would have expected it to be: terrifying at first, exhausting as I found a balance and continued the rest of my life’s activities, and more rewarding than I will ever be able to explain. Now that summer approaches, I will be able to switch gears and put my author hat back on. Throughout the year, I continued making author presentations at schools of Fridays, so that author hat was never really that far away! Completing this first year of teaching has helped me to organize all of my curriculum and establish routines and schedules that I can pick up again next year without as much stress and preparation (🎉). I am excited to focus on this new book adventure this summer!

Thanks for reading all of this and please stick around for all of the fun that is yet to come! ❤️📚👏🏻🙂.

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Love notes

February is coming. And we all know what that means – Valentine’s Day, and everything red, lacy, and dark chocolatey. Not that I’m complaining, but I’d like to suggest another way you can “offer up” your Valentine’s Day. I have always made it a family affair, because, you know, kids like to have fun… and I’m pretty sure they like to feel loved and eat chocolate as much as the average adult. Involving your children in every holiday is not only a good time, but teaches them that life is about celebrations, creating connections, and enjoying each day to the fullest. In fact – why wait for a holiday – have a heck of a Tuesday night – I dare you!

Ever since my four were tiny, we had several February 14th traditions . That night, we would eat red food – spaghetti, or heart shaped pasta, then go on a “heart hunt”. This was simply a scavenger hunt with the hints written on heart shaped pieces of paper. The treasures found at the end were a gift bag for each filled with dollar store trinkets, or later, as they got older, whatever they were into – nail polish, a new scarf, key chain, cologne, whatever. Nothing fancy – but fun, and something they looked forward to each year. When they were all old enough to write notes to each other – or at least draw a picture – we started the tradition of putting out little mailboxes on February first. These mailboxes were decorated by each child and sat ready to collect notes and drawings from the family. They were found at Target years ago – very inexpensive. If you can’t find mailboxes, you can decorate paper bags or empty tissue boxes for the same purpose. It was always so fun to watch them check for mail – sometimes several times a day 💌. I have a bag of notes that I have saved over the years. It’s so much fun to read them now and laugh about the messages or handwriting. Reading these notes helps to confirm that they really ARE building a solid relationship- that they do actually love each other, despite a bit of yelling and door slamming that happens in every house.

The notes were all quite different. Some thanked family members for helping them with something. Others were poetry (my personal favorites!). But all of them took time to write. The family member had to be deliberate about showing affection – and that was the goal. If you love someone- tell them. Or show them. But don’t keep it to yourself. Making others feel loved and appreciated is something that we are all capable of – even the littles ❤️

Just wanted to encourage you to use February to show your love. Send a note to a friend. Call your Mom. Text your neighbor. Tell them why they matter to you. They will love it, and never forget you or the time it took to share the sentiment. It’s not difficult – and it can completely turn someone’s day around. And, before I sign off, I just wanted to say that I am so grateful for YOU. I love to write, but it makes me even happier knowing that others are reading my words, and (hopefully) enjoying them. You make a difference in my world. Enjoy your February- and I hope you get some chocolate, too!

  Preschool essentials…

As a mom of young children, I often attempted to teach my Littles the difference between the words want and need. Having four young ones, I needed them to know that they wouldn’t be getting EVERYTHING they wanted – plus, let’s be honest, spoiled kids turn into entitled adults – and that’s never pretty. We would discuss whether they wanted the new doll or needed it. Did they need the new shoes (that EVERYONE else already had) or did they really want them. It’s something that we all understand – not one of us out there has gotten every single thing we have ever asked for. Shout out to the box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built in sharpener that I wanted so badly, only to take home the Roseart crayons from Kmart. Being able to discern whether or not some thing, some one, or some situation was essential is crucial . And yes, I said someone. It’s easy to think you need to be friends with a certain group, when actually,  it’s just the desire to be accepted that you are feeling. I’m glad that we discussed this concept when my children were young. I know this knowledge will help them maneuver through their teens and early adult years.

Fast forward a dozen years, and I have found the word essential creep back into my world. I am a preschool teacher 2 days a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I help teach the cutest 3 year olds how to navigate their world – and it makes me smile SO BIG. I love my job. I earned a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education so that this could be my profession. After using all of my knowledge in the area of child development while raising my own four children for twenty years, this fall, I re- entered the preschool realm. I have told my assistant and family members on several occasions that I felt like I needed to wear an apron in the classroom so that I could have everything I used most frequently “on my person”. WELL – one of my daughters took my hints and ran with them – surprising me at Christmas. She bought this apron for me and even had it personalized in green with an adorable font – JOY to the world, indeed! I’m sure you can probably imagine my gasp when I unwrapped this baby!Now, I have to admit, that there are still, times that I feel like a waitress in a small town diner ,,,”Age appropriate curriculum- ORDER UP!”. But it gets the job done, and I’m forever grateful. I don’t carry the same things around every day, because – LIFE. Each morning I look over my lesson plans and toss my daily essentials in the pockets. I took a picture recently of the goodies in my pockets. I will list them below, along with the reason why I feel the need to toss it in a pocket. Yes. I went all out. You’re welcome. 😉

1.Carmax for my lips – I’m addicted – that’s all I can say.

2. Hand sanitizer- 3 year olds sneeze AT YOU – not near you. On occasion, I truly wish I could shower in between my morning and afternoon classes. But, I can’t, so this little guy is my second choice.

3. Glue stick – giving these littles Elmer’s glue is the stuff nightmares are made of – so instead we use glue sticks. They glue like it’s their job – because it is, so having an extra one handy is a grand idea.

4. Tissues – see #2

5. My lanyard – this is my school ID and room key. I have locked myself out of my room enough to know that wearing this is important . Yet, when it’s around my neck, and I lean in to help the children, I hit them square in the face. So this is a lovely compromise.

6. My wireless doorbell – you guys! This is absolute magic! When it’s time for a transition or I need the groups attention, I ring the doorbell by clicking the button.  They all freeze and look for me – THE POWER! I would highly recommend it to other teachers (under $20 on Amazon). Although, there have been times when I lean into it and it accidentally goes off (FALSE ALARM,children, as you were!) And my assistant told me about a time when I was using the ladies room and it accidentally went off – the kids all stood there in silence waiting for directions – she just laughed. Working out the kinks – but it’s all good!

7. A black flair pen – there are so many times during the day that I need to sign something or write someone’s name for them, etc… plus, I just love pens. ❤️✍🏻🎉

So there you have it! A tiny glimpse in a day of my life – and the essentials that help create the magic. I certainly hope that you found this even a tad bit interesting. Please share with me what you believe YOUR daily essentials are!

Have a great week end – Apron-wearing KJ

Plan B…

So, I had a whole bunch of plans for today. Instead, I woke up with the crud that has been floating around my classroom – sneezing, congestion, fatigue, a bit of misery. I looked at my to do list, which included breakfast with a good friend, and determined that I could postpone all of it. As much as I wanted to share coffee and catch up, I know she didn’t want to stare at my pale face, red nosed, messy haired self and risk getting these germs, too. Little did I know that yesterday, when I came home from school with laminated items to cut and lessons to plan, I was also bring this nonsense into my home. Those little turds – it’s a good thing they are so cute, because germs are the only thing that they will share willingly. 

This is my current view. It’s not a bad view, just quite different than the one that I had imagined. I love to be productive. To check things off of my list. And then – SURPRISE – life jumps in and reminds me of how very little control I actually have. It’s OK,  I think this day was probably necessary. Time to read and nap and read again. Time to watch tv and nap. And then just nap. Guess I need the sleep. My word of the year is RISE, which, admittedly, is difficult to do while congested and tired and perhaps a bit grumpy and negative. But that’s OK, too.  I’m fairly certain that we are all allowed – and should be encouraged – to have days that we pause our ambition, our desires, our huge plans. I’m not saying quit, I’m saying rest. Rest and THEN rise. Maybe it’s my cold meds. talking, but I’m feeling better already. Not get off the couch better, but mentally more able to “accept” that today is necessary and will benefit me more than originally thought. 

I will continue to lay low until I have my regular energy back. I am just starting, at 45, to listen to my body. Whatever you are doing on this Friday – I hope you are well (or getting there!).  Much love to you ❤️ – congested Kelly Jean

My word of the year – 2019

Well, hello there, January! You’re a sneaky little guy, you know that?! Here I was, eating a dessert after every meal, opening gifts like it was my job, and ignoring both the laundry and my alarm clock – then BAM! The calendar page flips and all heck hits the fan. School starts, I have to put “real” clothes on again, and everyone around me is talking the predictable “New Year, New me” talk. Yikes.

For seven years now, I have opted out of resolutions. Now don’t get me wrong. I am definitely one to reflect and attempt to improve myself. But, I know what works for me ~ and what doesn’t ~ and resolutions don’t work. I need something that is simultaneously more broad and more specific. Does that make sense? Let me explain. As I look back on my year, I pay close attention to what has given me trouble in the past. What is it that has caused anger, anxiety or stress? How much of these issues are out of my control, and how much could I have actually changed by more planning or less reacting? Deep, right?! But also, very basic. I want to have a word that I can use to remind me daily ( hourly, if necessary) of the positive life that I strive to live – even when I am facing something craptastic.

In the past, I have chosen contentment, perspective, peace, release, acceptance and focus. Each year, in December, I keep my eyes wide open for my new word. I read scripture, listen attentively to song lyrics, pay extra close attention during conversations. During this process my word is always revealed to me. This year, my word is RISE.

I chose the word rise for several reasons. First of all, it’s positive. It’s an action I can take. I’m a busy body, I need to DO stuff. One of the first things I ask when I situation presents itself is “What can I do?”. I can rise. Secondly, I wanted to find a word that would encourage me. When things are frustrating, and I said WHEN, not if, I want to be reminded they they will improve. That this, too, shall pass. That I can make things better, easier, more tolerable- if I rise. One of my very favorite quotes is “We rise by lifting others”. How can I help others? Are my eyes open to the needs around me? What can I do to make a difference? I can rise.

In regards to my word being both broad and specific, I hope I explained myself well enough. I guarantee that in 2019, I will have countless opportunities to rise. To stand back up, to find confidence that’s been lost, trust that’s been tested, truth that’s been denied. I hope and pray that 2019 is all that you want it to be. This year, I will rise.

Well, hello there!

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Wow. It’s been awhile. Life in general has kept me from the keyboard. I’m sorry. But now, I’m back. I can’t make any promises on how often we shall chat in the New Year, but I’m here now – so yay.

Let me catch you up a bit. Since I have last been here, our family has changed a bit. All good things, I assure you, but the change itself isn’t always easy. Our second oldest has graduated from high school and is now about to start her second semester in college. She and her older brother are both now living in dorms and enjoying the thrills of cafeteria style food and community bathrooms. We still have two left at home – a 13 year old and almost 16 year old, so it’s not a life of leisure for us just yet. Surprisingly, even with 2 less “children” in the house, things have not slowed down at all. What was I thinking? Delusional, I tell you. Why in the world did I believe our schedule would ease up, or allow any additional free time? I’ve raised busy, social young people – and I understand their desire to be on the move, their need to be active, involved and productive. But GEEZ. I’d love to sit down for a hot minute.

As I am learning to parent two young adults that no longer live under our roof, I also decided to throw in an additional major transition.  I rejoined the workforce again after 20 years of “JUST’ being a stay at home mom (don’t even get me started on THAT).  I am now teaching preschool two days a week. Yes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my main focus is instructing, loving on, and encouraging appropriate social behavior with the cutest group of three year olds around. They are the sweetest littles and they are filling a void that was created when my own darned children decided to grow up. How dare them, right?! So, other than the normal chaos of life, I am learning to balance lesson plans, laundry and trips to Kroger. Each day is a bit of crazy, wrapped up with sheets of success and surprise and topped with a bow of hope for tomorrow. There is always hope for tomorrow.

I have big plans for 2019.  Don’t we all? Because, really, why not?! I have things to do, dreams to chase, and closets to organize. I’d much rather cross things off of my list than sit around bored. So here’s to the New Year! Here’s to me making things happen … writing more on this blog, and living my best life. Or, at the very least, turning in my library books on time and getting my oil changed periodically. Baby steps, friends, baby steps.

We had a visitor this week end…

One of my daughters is a freshman in high school and is taking a parenting class. Part of her grade depends on how well she does taking care of a baby for the week end.  The project is similar to the “carry a raw egg around for 2 days without breaking it” assignment that I had, almost 30 years ago. This is so much more realistic – on several levels (I’m jealous, if you can not already tell). She was required to choose an open week end in which to bring the baby home. This task alone almost blew her mind, as every square of our calendar is always filled completely. After a little hesitancy, she chose her week end and requested a baby girl, which she named Charlotte Rose – the cuteness – I can barely stand it! She was assigned a baby, a car seat carrier and a diaper bag filled with clothes and 2 special diapers and a bottle that only her baby could use. This isn’t your typical plastic, take it in the bath tub kinda baby – this is a $900 baby with computerized components that enables it to coo, cry, suck and breathe using the recordings of an actual baby. The baby’s computer monitors how long it cries, if its neck is supported , and if her diaper is changed. My daughter was supplied with a computer chip that was mounted on a wristband. If the baby cried, it needed to be chimed (the wristband waved directly over the babies chest area) and then she had to determine and meet the baby’s needs. This  assured that my daughter was the one taking sole responsibility of the infant – not some excited grandma or little sister that was handed a crisp $5 bill. Charlotte even arrived with 2 special diapers that have a computer chip in them as well. If the baby is crying because she needs a diaper change, as soon as my daughter changes her diaper, she makes a happy cooing sound. If she doesn’t need a diaper change, the baby will continue to LOSE HER MIND even if a clean diaper is placed under her tush. Cue the confused  “I DON’T KNOW WHY SHE’S CRYING!” declarations from the basement. True to life once again, the Mama had to figure out exactly why the baby was crying. Good times. Depending on the data,  my daughter would receive her grade – and she was shooting for an A.

Having seen her sister complete this assignment years ago, she was not going into this week end blind. She was equally excited and terrified. It was very entertaining to watch play out, as a mom of 4 who has been through baby boot camp over and over and over (and over) again. When she arrived home Friday, she was excited to show us Charlotte and her bag of goodies.The clothes were super sweet and we all took turns oohing and ah-hing over the tininess of all the supplies – it’s been a dozen years since we have had a baby in the house! This baby would go “live” at exactly 4 o ‘clock – announcing her presence with an adorable coo.  Charlotte was programmed to need feeding, changing, rocking and soothing JUST like the typical newborn. God help us all. My daughter had already set up the basement as her “home away from home”, as to not keep the rest of the family awake if she happened to cry all night. Bless her. It didn’t surprise me at all that her younger sister was planning on sleeping down there with her, so she could help if needed. Such a great Auntie! The week end progressed and the new Mama fell into a pretty relaxed rhythm – managing to meet Charlotte’s needs as quickly as possible, while also doing other things. We even took her out to eat with us and she was perfect – we all held our breath the entire time – JUST like with a real baby! On Saturday, things got a little crazy. Baby just wasn’t having it and Grandma had to step in and rock and soothe. I’m not going to lie – I had been just waiting to get my hands on that little stinker. The weight of this baby on my chest and the sound of her soft breaths along with her baby powder scent – I needed our time together more than I knew! We finally got her settled and she slept for a stretch. All in all, the week end was a success. It opened my daughter’s eyes to the demands of an infant. She was tired, frustrated and more than ready for when the baby was turned “off” at 7 on Sunday night.  She was proud of herself, yet a bit surprised at how much effort it took. Did I mentioned that she was tired? Charlotte did her best work on Saturday night, waking up at 11 pm , 2 am, 3:30 am  and 6 am. {Aren’t babies FUN?!} I truly believe that each and every high school student needs to take this class. It is a beneficial , real life experience that they will always remember. And as for my Freshman, she received a 96% on this assignment – with points subtracted for a missed feeding and a missed diaper change *whoops*.  No parent is perfect! I congratulated her and inwardly thanked the Lord that no one was grading MY parenting!

And just a side note… our cat Max was a bit jealous the entire week end. He didn’t know who this baby was, or why everyone wanted to hold it. By Saturday he decided to just start sleeping when the baby slept- good advice for everyone!