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Monday, February 28, 2011

My Newest Obsession

Photography.  I read blogs about photography, tutorials on using dslr cameras, and photoshop lessons.  The only problem? I don't have a dslr camera or Photoshop.  What's even more disturbing about this obsession is that I have been perfectly content with my point and shoot camera for the last few years, but now that I'm figuring out what I can't do with it, it no longer seems adequate.

Which is sad.  Discontentment.  Not fun.

And since money doesn't grow on trees (trust me, I've looked for those ever-elusive trees), I can't go around acting like it does.  Dslr's are expensive.  And Photoshop? Yep, it's expensive too.

So for now, until you all start contributing to my camera fund (ha! Just kidding), I'm learning to work with what I have.

I'm using a combination of Picasa and Pixlr, which are both free photo editing programs.  While there are drawbacks (like the 20 minutes I just spent editing a photo in Pixlr just to have it disappear), I am able to spruce up my pictures just a bit.

While they may not look like the Pioneer Woman's awesome photos, I'll keep working on mine and shoot the cutest pictures possible of my little guy with my P&S, which isn't hard since he's so dang handsome (totally takes after his dad).

Friday, February 25, 2011

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mom To Two?

For 18 weeks, I have had a baby growing inside me.  A precious baby, gender still unknown to me, but not to its Creator.

As I sit and write, it comes alive to me with its little flutters and somersaults.  The less I move, the more I feel it.  So I sit, and sit, forgetting to breathe at times, just hoping to feel the baby I already love.

But behind the excitement and behind the love, lies uncertainty.  Not an overwhelming amount of uncertainty, but just enough to make its presence known.  And in that uncertainty, questions arise.

Will I be the same mother to two children that I am to one?
Will my patience endure?
Am I ready to resume night wakings and nursings?
Two under two? Am I ready?
Is Nate ready to be a big brother?
Will he feel that he has lost his mom to this new baby?


After I have questioned.  After I have swam in the murky waters of insecurity.  I remember the words I have heard preached from the pulpit since childhood, the words I have found to be true over and over again, yet I need to be consistently reminded.  Because in my weakness, He is made strong.



1 Peter 5:7
Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.
John 14:27
I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust the Lord completely; don't ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

(Thanks to Stacey for these beautiful flowers)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Orcas Island: My Slice of Heaven

I may have found my own personal heaven, except that it isn't really mine, but I'd love to pretend that it is.  This summer, I visited the San Juan Islands with family, but only explored Friday Harbor, neglecting to make it to Orcas Island, which is just a stone's throw away (10 minutes by ferry).  Friday Harbor (or San Juan Island) is popular during the summer because pods of orca whales swim around the island, making it a very popular tourist destination.  However, Friday Harbor's scenery can't compare to Orcas Island.  


The views are incredible. A short drive (about 3 miles) up a windy road to Mt. Constitution, inside of Moran State Park, gives way to views like these.  Pictures just can't do it justice. At the mountain's peak, a breathtaking 360 degree view of the surrounding islands, Anacortes, Mt. Baker, and the Cascade Mountains are visible.  We actually had to go up on the mountain twice. The first time there was just too much cloud cover for a clear view, much less a decent picture.  But we went up later in the day and it most definitely paid off. 


I can easily imagine a retreat to the island where I get a room with a view, take lots of books to read, go on walks, write, and just relax.  But if you need a bit more excitement on your vacations, there are whale watching expeditions, kayak tours, trails for hiking and bicycling, lakes for fishing and other recreational activities, and dinner cruises.  


This was our view from our hotel room.  Not bad, right? Since we went in February, the weather was a bit chilly, windy, and at times overcast, which I didn't mind, but I can only imagine how wonderful the weather is during spring and summer.  I definitely want to add this to my "I-have-to-move-here-now" vacation list for the summer. 

'

I blame the coolness of this island on it's shape.  Because it isn't just a boring round island, there is a seemingly endless supply of waterfront property, thus providing a never ending myriad of spectacular views. 


And if you still don't believe me, check out this article that was written by the Travel Section of the New York Times titled, The 41 Places To Go In 2011.  Out of all the different countries, islands, mountains, desserts, and cities they had to choose from, they chose the San Juan Islands as their #2 destination.  

But if you still don't believe me, that's fine because I want the island all to myself the next time I visit anyway. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.



Even though it was frigid, making his eyes a little red, Nate was perfectly content running through this soccer field. 


Blogging With Consequences: Follow Up

Yesterday I wrote about Natalie Munroe, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, as did many other bloggers and media sources. The only sources available then were quotes from the media and short interviews with Natalie herself.
But today she has started blogging again. Of course, she has plenty of time since she has been suspended with pay.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when making any judgements:
(taken from
Natalie's latest blog, in which she defends her actions)

-According to Natalie, her blog "
talked about everything--such exciting topics as our trip to Sesame Place, my favorite (and least favorite) restaurants, my work experiences, the diaper genie." Contrary to popular belief, her blog was not just a site to bash students and teachers.

-She was not trying to become a celebrity blogger, but rather blogged for her friends. She had "
9 followers--2 of whom were my husband and myself, the other 7 were friends." I could get more followers than that just by tweeting and asking people to follow me. She was obviously attempting to maintain some sort of anonymity. She could have easily had these conversations over the phone or while sharing a cup of coffee and no one would have judged her.

-Over the course of 2 years, she blogged a total of 84 times. I have been blogging for about 7 months and have already posted 115 times. This post will be number 116 and I read many blogs that are updated even more than mine. With that being said, it is apparent that she did not spend all of her time blogging. It isn't like she was spending every spare moment writing about work. Out of those 84 posts, "
60 of them had absolutely nothing to do with school or work." So, over the course of 2 years, she mentioned her workplace 24 times. I've known teachers to complain about students every single day. While her posts were harsh, exaggerated, even in some cases, extreme, she was venting, which is a right that every American has regardless of profession.

In the
words of Natalie, "The fact remains that every year, more and more, students are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate. These are the students I was complaining about in my blog. The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with."

Another
blogger wrote about this same situation (thanks to my husband for finding this link). One of her commenters, a college professor, struck a chord with me stating, "I teach at the college level, and I see these same things. But, where do WE go to vent and exchange ideas? It annoys me to no end that students can go to rateyourprofessor.com and bitch about how unfair professors are. Someone who came late to every class, missed half the classes, didn’t study can attack me on that site and tell the world I am a terrible instructor. Why isn’t the school suspending these students?"

Everyone will agree that being a teacher is one of the most under-appreciated, underpaid, and most difficult professions that one can have. Yet we expect these teachers to never complain (especially in a public arena), never tell the truth about the realities of teaching in America (unless commenting to a spouse over the dinner table and heaven forbid that these complaints are ever documented), and always maintain a positive attitude, 24 hours a day, regardless of having to deal with students described as such:
My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying. (source)

After hearing and reading
Natalie's side of the story, has your opinion changed at all? Since being made aware of this story yesterday morning, I have felt nothing but sympathy toward her, perhaps because I have spent time in a classroom and know just how treacherous (as well as wonderful) it can be. Of course it is easier to complain about the negative than brag about the positive.


If you'd like to read an example of one of her blog posts, check out this link that one of the anonymous commenters left.  She documents some of her struggles in the classroom, the disrespect, and unwillingness to follow simple directions (if you still don't believe that teaching is difficult, spend a few weeks in a high school classroom.  You just might be shocked). 

I wish her the best and hope that she is given ample opportunity to voice her side of the story.  Too often the media villanizes the situation early in the game, leaving little room for redemption or explanation.



**By the way, I love when you respond to my posts, even if you disagree with me.  Please feel free to voice your opinions without feeling the need to remain anonymous. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging With Consequences: Denial of Freedom of Speech?

There is a story flooding the internet right now about a teacher from Pennsylvania who is on paid suspension for blogging about her students.  While she never used students' or teachers' names, only included her first name and last initial, and never mentioned the school she taught at, her blog is still under investigation and is being harshly criticized.




Apparently, she referred to her students as "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners." She also is quoted as saying, "There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid." 

These are just a few of the things she's said, but, according to reports, she has been blogging since 2009 about her students.  Because of this, parents, teachers, and administrators are calling for her resignation.  Others want her fired immediately.  

But why penalize her for using her right to freedom of speech? Blogging is just one of many ways that American's voice their opinions.  Bloggers are allowed to write and rant about politics, parenting, religion, marriage, and countless other topics, but if she talks about our kids, more than likely only stating the truth, we want her fired? I think it's outrageous that she is not granted the same freedom of speech as the rest of us because she is a teacher. 

In her interview with Good Morning America, she stated that the administration continuously swept problems under the rug.  Doesn't that sound like a typical school district? Always refusing to deal with problems until they make the school look bad. 

Coupled with the fact that she is pregnant with her second child, I'm sure she just needed an outlet to vent her frustrations.  Middle school and high school students are a tough age to teach.  I've substitute taught for these age groups (working toward becoming a high school English teacher) and have walked away many times thinking the very same things that this teacher wrote in her blog.  That doesn't mean that I don't love teaching and love students. But sometimes they are beyond frustrating.

How many of these parents would say the exact same things about their own child? There is an entire world of blogs where parents just complain about their kids.  Parenting is tough.  So is teaching.  

The only problem I would have with her blog is if it's found that her negative attitude was being demonstrated in her classroom.  Was she notorious for being negative toward her students? Was she apathetic and disengaged in her teaching? Did she treat the students poorly? Did she ever say these types of things to the students?  

If not, then she is just another teacher who wrote her feelings down rather than vent them to other teachers in the teachers' lounge.  If every teacher with negative feelings toward students were asked to resign, I doubt there'd be any teachers left. 

Let's not be so hard on her and realize she was just writing what most of us think. 

How do you feel about this? Do you think she should be allowed to blog about her career as a teacher and her feelings towards students? Should she resign? 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day


There is so much pressure associated with Valentine's Day.  Commercials begin telling us what to buy our sweethearts. Girlfriends expect something truly exceptional and romantic.  And our society, as a whole, feels disappointed if the day isn't overflowing with love.  

But I don't want to buy into all that. To me, Valentine's Day is just another opportunity to show our love to those who are important to us, but there are many ways to show love and most definitely should not be limited to just one day a year.  Love isn't just demonstrated by chocolate, flowers, or even diamonds. 

Don't get me wrong.  I love participating in V-Day rituals.  I have decorative Valentine's Day hand towels hanging on the stove.  I made red eggs and heart-shaped toast for breakfast.  And I even dyed our lunch, clam chowder, pink just for fun.  But the real acts of love are in the everyday monotonies of life-those little moments where we find opportunities to say I Love You.  


My husband is great at that.  He shows me he cares more times than I could ever keep track of.  Not a day goes by that he doesn't find some way to affirm his love, whether through words or actions.  That cliche, "everyday is Valentine's Day with me, baby" is really, definitely true with Ryan, which is why I don't mind when he says it, as cheesy as the saying is.   

My list of "Why I Love Ryan" is far too extensive and intimate to comprehensively cover in a blog post.  I've said this since the beginning, but he is the coolest guy I know in every single sense.  He is my best friend and there is absolutely no one else I'd even want to think about navigating this crazy life with. 



I didn't realize that when I married him my love could get any stronger but it does.  I can only imagine how much love I'll feel in 20 years. 


And then there's Nate, the other love in my life. He's such a silly, strong-willed, smart little guy and I am honored to be his mom. There is no other job I would rather have. 

Everything about him is perfect to me from his big, round eyes, to his eyelashes, to his lips (which he gets from me), to his little toes.  Honestly, I can't imagine a more perfect boy (I'm sure this is a sentiment I share with all other mothers).

I can't help but be completely in love with this little guy. 


Instead of focusing on myself on Valentine's Day and what I should get or how I should be shown love, which is how we have been trained to think on Valentine's Day, I'd rather focus on the incredible gift I have been given.  The gift to be able to love a family, my family, with a love I am still learning to comprehend. 

Little children, let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity). 1 John 3: 18

Happy Valentine's Day! 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

I am a huge fan of random, unplanned day trips.  Nothing fancy-just exploring a new place and hanging out with my hubby is guaranteed to leave me very happy. 

Yesterday, we drove 50 miles west of Seattle to Sequim, WA.  A short ride across the Puget Sound on the Edmonds Ferry, followed by a nice drive through trees, charming towns (Port Gamble), and alongside the Olympic Mountains took us to this town we've heard so much about. 

To be honest, I wasn't immediately impressed. Sure, it's nice, but what sets it apart from all of the other towns in that area?  After exploring for a bit, I began to find this picturesque town quite enjoyable.  The town is simple, but the views are the exact opposite of simple. One side is bordered by the Olympic Mountains, while the other is water and beaches. 

But then we found something truly awesome in the little town of Sequim.

Olympic Game Farm. 


This place is amazing. We actually had to sign a form acknowledging that we understood the risks. The rules are simple. Stay in the car. Only feed the animals bread. Don't feed the caged animals. 

The caged animals include Kodiak Bears, Black Bears, Siberian Tigers, African Lions, Timber Wolves, and Cougars. 

The free range animals include Zebras, Llamas, and Tibetan Yaks, not to mention the hundreds of rabbits that roam the farm, along with peacocks at every turn. 




The above picture is a view of the farm.  Out the window to my right were Prairie Dogs and Eagles in the trees. 


This peacock came right up to my door.  During high school, my family temporarily had a peacock, so I always have a certain affinity for them.


This pesky Llama ran along side our van just begging us for food (don't forget that llamas can weigh up to 500 pounds and reach 6 feet in length).  If I would have had the window rolled down, he would have snatched the bread out of my hands and would probably have scared Nate, who was sitting on my lap, basically in awe of the dozen or so animals running up to our van.  Never in my life have I been so close to Llamas, Yaks, or Zebras. 


This Yak looked a little bummed when we drove over the cattle guard and took the rest of the bread with us. 


And the bears! The bears were amazing. I've seen bears at the zoo, but usually they are huddled somewhere and are barely visible. Or they are asleep.  I don't know how many times I've seen a pile of fur hidden behind some rock or tree.  The fur is moving up and down, but it usually isn't very exciting. 

This time was different. We drove alongside Kodiak Bears (reaching 9 feet in height and 1800 pounds), as well as Black Bears (6 feet in height and 350 pounds) and were literally feet from them. Since Nate was able to sit on my lap during the drive through the farm, he got a really good look at them.  The bears were massive! We kept wondering how easy it would be for them to hop the fence, but instead decided not to focus on it too much. 


These Buffalo may not look too menacing, but in reality, they are ginormous (length 9 feet, height 5 feet, and 2,500 pounds!). We were told that a group of military guys drove through this section and their vehicle was surrounded by these humongous monsters.  Within minutes, the strong, brave military guys were crying and screaming for help. And I don't blame them! 

Even in our mini-van, I had no doubt that they could do some considerable damage to it if they got angry, not to mention the fact that they could probably puncture a hole straight through the van door and into my leg.

Luckily, they kept their distance and didn't venture onto the roads while we were driving through.  


My husband found a cool article about this gem of a farm (can you even call a place with Lions, and Tigers, and Bears a farm?).  It was first developed in the 1950's.  During the 50's and 60's, they worked exclusively with Walt Disney Studios.  All of Roy and Walt Disney's animal actors remained and were cared for here. In 1972 (after Walt and Roy's death, and ultimately the demise of Disney's nature films), they opened to the public, allowing visitors to drive through the farm (usually taking about 45 minutes), but only after signing a waiver acknowledging all risks involved, and swearing not to open any vehicle doors or exit the car at any point during the drive (you better use the restroom beforehand).  

Sound exciting enough for you? You can read more about them here.  If you are planning on visiting Washington any time soon, I highly recommend making the drive to Olympic Game Farm. It's an awesome experience unlike any zoo is able to offer. 


Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Olympic Game Farm. They have no knowledge of this post. The above opinions are purely mine. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Link Around


Go Pack Go! Not that I'm necessarily a Packers fan, but I'm not a Steelers fan, so I'm cheering for Green Bay.  In case you aren't really into the game, here are a few great reads to keep you busy until halftime.  


That's it for this week.  Enjoy your Sunday, regardless of who wins the Superbowl. :)



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Toffee Bar Recipe

Are you still looking for something to add to your Super Bowl party? With all of the salty and savory dishes that are such a big part of Super Bowl Sunday (chips, dips, appetizers, pizza), you're going to want something sweet. 

This recipe is great because, not only does it taste delicious, you probably have everything you need in your pantry.  The only thing I had to buy was the chocolate chips.

Who doesn't love a tasty toffee bar?


Ingredients: 

1 cup of softened butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. In a bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar together.  Then beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.  Slowly add the flour and the salt.  Keep mixing it until smooth. Press the mixture into a baking pan.  Bake it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes golden brown. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and return it to the oven for a minute.  Spread the melted chocolate.  Add any additional toppings, such as pecans.  

I sliced the bars into triangles when they were still hot so that they didn't set up too much and become too hard to cut. 

This dish would also make a great Valentine's Day dessert with some red sprinkles or other decorative designs. 

Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Valentine's Day Photo


Are you getting ready for Valentine's Day? Finding cute pictures? Digging through recipes to find the sweetest one? 

This photo is being entered into Paper Mama's Valentine's Day photo contest.  If you have a cute photo, you should enter as well, but hurry! The deadline is midnight tonight.


The Paper Mama

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making The Switch To Reusable Wipes



Some of you might have seen this article I posted on my Facebook the other day about making the switch to reusable cloth wipes.  


As I read it, I realized that it just made so much sense. My son is (almost) 17 months old and although I absolutely love cloth diapering, I hate the poopy wipes that have to get thrown in the trash.  It's gross to look in there and see them just hanging out.  But there isn't anywhere to put them.  

I can't flush them down the toilet (I've learned my lesson about that).

I can't shove them in the dirty diaper because they can't be washed.  

So the only place to put them is in the trash.  And that's disgusting.  Why not switch to cloth wipes?  By switching to cloth wipes, I will have the same luxury that disposable-using-mamas have of just wrapping them up in the diaper.  The diaper will get tossed into the diaper bin like usual and then the diaper and the cloth will get washed together.  No more dirty wipes in the trash.  

Gosh, why didn't I read this post sooner?

I don't have quite enough reusable wipes yet, but I'll work on that.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear experiences from any moms who have used reusable wipes? Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly.