Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hubby went shopping for the kids!

So Jeremy went to California last week when I posted about my Gap purchases on my blog.  He teased me about how he would know what I purchased if I put it on my blog and Pinterest!  I wasn't too concerned since I have barely bought anything for a few months and buying some clothes that fit was long overdue, especially clothes that fit since Aleena has grown a LOT in the past six months.  Her summer clothes don't fit, let alone any of her winter clothes.

I asked Jeremy to buy some clothes for the kids if he had a chance but really didn't believe he would.  I am surprised, impressed, and happy to say that he did very well!  He went to Gymboree and bought a few clothes.  I would have done a lot more damage but I have to give him full credit for doing any kids' clothes shopping since that's usually my thing.

Here are the clothes that he bought.   I love the school related t-shirts he bought for Connor, especially the math one since I've been teaching integers for the past month.

A fall outfit for Aleena.
Halloween shirt that glows in the dark.
"Positive Beats Negative"!

There's just one day left to enter the Playful Peanut giveaway. I will announce a winner on Monday.  Click on the logo to go to the giveaway post!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Online Shopping Problem via Pinterest

Okay, I admit that I bought a few things online this weekend.  I had wondered why Aleena didn't fit in many of her clothes and that became quite clear at her 18 month shots when I discovered that she had jumped from around the 50th percentile for height and weight up to the 85th percentile!  I thought it'd be fun to share the items I have bought online via Pinterest.  I am not sure if everyone can view them or not.  You might need a Pinterest account which is easier enough to get.  If you don't know what Pinterest is, it's an awesome and addictive way to bookmark photos you find on the internet.  It also allows you to follow others' photos which are categorized on various virtual boards.

For example, I have boards with recipes, favourite places, items for the home and now "My Online Shopping Problem" which will feature all items I have bought online.  I don't think my husband will like that board very much but at least he can keep up with the items I am buying.  I anticipate that I'll do most of my Christmas shopping online so I'll update as I purchase things but might have to screen certain things so I don't ruin any surprises.

If you are interested in Pinterest, just leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll send you an invitation.  I think I've still got a couple left and I am sure some other readers would be willing to help out with invitations if needed.  It's a great way to check out what other Moms are finding online.  That's my favourite aspect of Pinterest.  I love following other Moms to see what they have found online and then you can "pin" those same items for yourself.

Here's the link to my new board with the items I bought from The Gap on the weekend.  I am excited to receive them!  My Online Shopping Problem Board via Pinterest

Also, don't forget to enter the Playful Peanut giveaway that I posted yesterday.  They've got a $25 gift card as well as a balloon cocoon up for grabs.  The contest is open to the US and Canada until October 30th at Midnight.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playful Peanut Review & Giveaway

I am excited to tell you about an adorable Canadian company called Playful Peanut.  Like many small mom run businesses, Kari-Ann and Amanda started their business to stay at home with their little ones and to create handmade boutique quality products.  The item that I noticed first at Playful Peanut was their "I Spy Bags".  They are a fun and unique toy for toddlers who can seek out various items in a bag with a small window for them to seek through.  I think the words "fun" and "unique" are the best way to describe Playful Peanut.  For this review, they sent me a balloon cocoon to try out with the kids.  Admittedly, I had never heard of a balloon cocoon before but it's a cute idea that makes playing with balloons a bit safer for kids.

The Review

I let Aleena and Connor try out the balloon cocoon in our living room yesterday.  Of course, as soon as a balloon came out, mayhem ensued and they turned into crazy monkeys.  They certainly tested out the resilience of the product by poking it, prodding it, throwing it, squishing it and even jumping on it.  I realize it's not immune to be popped or broken but I imagine a balloon popping inside the cloth cover would be less traumatic than one popping without one.  Actually, the balloon is still fully inflated inside the cocoon today so the kids were able to play with it again.   It wasn't so crazy the second time around and they mostly just tossed it and chased it around.

Aleena eating the balloon cocoon..better than eating the actual balloon!
The Mayhem!

Aside from cute unique toys, Playful Peanut sells a variety of handmade items including the following list that I borrowed from them: Toddler Belts, Snap Belts, Nursing Covers, Hair Clips, Bibs, Burp Clothes, Sock Monkeys, Car Seat Canopies, Soother Clips, Chalk Place-mats, Quiet Books, Quilts, Change Pad Covers, headbands, Balloon Cocoons, Snack-Loc Bags, and Wet Bags.

They have a lovely Website, Etsy shop and Facebook Page with LOTS of things for sale.  I love the designs and all the interesting items they've created.  They have great taste in fabrics for their products especially the cute girls' dresses.  If you're looking for some excellent handmade gifts for Christmas, there are some great options on their Facebook page in particular.  It has the most selection right now based on what I saw today.  I also noticed that they're making the rounds to some craft and Christmas shows in Manitoba so you can watch for them if you're from that part of the country.  They post their sale information on their Facebook page so that's the best way to stay up to date.

If you somehow don't find exactly what you are looking for on their site, you can contact Playful Peanut and they would be happy to customize an item for you.

The Giveaway

Playful Peanut is giving one lucky winner their very own balloon cocoon and $25 to spend on Playful Peanut merchandise.  (Shipping is additional or you can include the shipping in the $25 gift amount.)

I will be using to select the winner of the contest.  You must make each entry in a separate comment below.

How to Enter:
1.  Visit the Playful Peanut Website and/or Etsy Shop and let us know what you like the best! 
2.  "Like" Playful Peanut on Facebook.  Feel free to let them know I sent you!
3.  Follow A Sophisticated Mommy via Google Friend Connect.
4.  "Like" A Sophisticated Mommy on Facebook.
5.  Share this giveaway and let me know how.  (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Forum)

This contest is open to Canada and the US.  The contest will end on Sunday, October 30th at Midnight Saskatchewan Time.  I will announce the winner on Halloween Day.

Here are a few other things that I love from Playful Peanut.

Adorable Dresses
I Spy Bags
Personalized Super Hero Capes
The pattern of the balloon cocoon that the winner will receive.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bedtime Little Monsters!

I was reading this book to Connor for the umpteenth time tonight and thought I`d share how much I love it on my blog.  I hadn`t even heard of it before but found it in the Safeway bargain bin when he was just a few weeks old.  I`ve read it hundreds of times since then and it`s still a favourite.  It`s also amazingly still in tact considering it has lift up flaps in it.

The book has lots of little monsters hiding in various places to avoid going to bed.  They are all different colours and the text rhymes throughout the book.  It`s not too long, the art is colourful and engaging and it has a good flow.  It`s easy to follow and doesn't have any unnecessary words like some children's books do.  I would highly recommend it!

I can practically recite the book by now..."Goodnight little monsters, but the monsters want some fun!  Scamper, scamper, crash and bang!  Quickly!  Off they run!"

What are your little one's favourite bedtime books?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Advocating for Education and EAL Students in Saskatchewan

I attended the STF Fall Conference over the past couple of days.  It was hard to be away from the kids but also kind of nice to spend some time with adults.  It was the first couple of nights I've been away from Aleena since she was born so that was strange for me.  I did fine and she did great with Dad.  So did Connor although Dad had to deal with a phantom leg injury which miraculously cleared up this morning after a good night's sleep.  I am glad it did but wonder how a child can go from not walking and screaming in pain one day to feeling "all better" the next day.  I guess I'll just be happy he's okay and not worry too much about the "why".

Back to council now... I really enjoyed it.  It was one of those times in life when you end up in a situation where you feel like you belong.  There were lots of teachers just as interested in talking about collective bargaining, various educational issues, and all sorts of policies.  Some people might find it boring but I found it fascinating.

My favourite part of the conference was having opportunities to advocate for English as an Additional Language students.  I had a chance to do this with the election candidate at a luncheon on Thursday where our teachers' federation invited several election candidates to participate in a town hall forum on education and to join us for lunch for dialogue on educational issues.  If you read the papers, you may think it was all about teachers complaining about our contract negotiations.  Sure, we made the point that we felt disrespected by the government during the last round of negotiations.  That is a fact.  However, the majority of the forum was simply teachers advocating for public education and, ultimately, for our students.

In our table discussion with our candidate, I mentioned my biggest concerns with respect to education.  Since I am an EAL teacher, the issues I feel most important are as follows:
  1. You cannot bring in thousands of immigrants and expect the current educational funding to support this population of students.  English as an Additional Language (EAL) students require more resources, smaller class sizes, and more supports.  I am also wary of hearing the argument from both federal and provincial MPs and MLAs (candidates) that the other is responsible for refugees/immigrants.  I realize they need to communicate and possibly share funding but my impression is that there is a lot of passing the buck on to the other.  Neither seems to want to take responsibility for the additional funding that is absolutely necessary to ensure that immigrants and refugees receive a quality education so they can become educated, productive members of society.
  2. There is no EAL curriculum in Saskatchewan and this is unacceptable.  Once again, there is always a reason for why we don't have something as of yet.  In this case, the argument is made that we haven't needed one until recently.  Now, I would possibly consider this except that Saskatchewan has had EAL students for decades on Hutterite colonies.  Furthermore, the majority of Canadian provinces already have well developed ESL curriculums including BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland & Labour, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  I have looked through the Saskatchewan Curriculum documents and cannot find one reference to English as an Additional Language students, not even for some adaptations.  I recall the old curriculum made an occasional mention of ESL but the new document does not.  There is a real need to develop a curriculum guide for English as an Additional Language as there are different outcomes required for students learning English and simply differentiating is not enough.  I looked for research to support this argument but it doesn't exist because it just goes without saying that ESL students need a curriculum designed for their learning needs.  Is there overlap?  Of course, but it's language-based in that these students need to learn more than the outcomes and indicators in the existing curriculum which assumes students are native English speakers.
  3. We need EAs in our program.  I cannot stress this enough.  Yes, I have small class sizes but that's for a very good reason. In one class, I have students from several countries at varying levels of English and they may or may not have literacy skills in their first language.  We always have at least a handful of students who are non-speakers and could really use one-on-one support from an EA.  We used to have this support but lost our EA a couple of years ago when cuts to these positions were made.  Another example of how we used this support would be when the EA's attended a Canadian class with a group of EAL students and could provide support for those students and report back to the EAL teachers for further tutorial support.  We really miss that.  Actually, the STUDENTS really miss that because they are the ones suffering.
As I am sure you can tell, these are issues I feel strongly about.  They are political, yet they are directed at every political party. I care about making sure these problems are dealt with and would be happy to discuss them (and will be discussing them) with MLAs in the future.  

One last thing...and the subject of a future blog post since it seemed to garner a lot of interest will be a discussion of what we are doing at my school to support EAL students.  While there is always room for improvement, we are doing some great things and I want to share those.  I was flattered and excited to know that a principal in another school division is going to take my ideas forward in an attempt to change things for the better.  I want to share this information on my blog and maybe help others who are at a loss when it comes to supporting students from other countries.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'll take a helping of written feedback please!

My little "helper"!
Yes, I am spending my Thanksgiving weekend writing a midterm paper.  I am not complaining..okay, maybe a little bit.  I am sad I am missing my family Thanksgiving but it's been a crazy few weeks this fall and we're just a bit stressed out around here.  We just need to relax for a day or two.  Jeremy is going to take the kids to his family's Thanksgiving tomorrow so I can stay home and have some quiet time to work.  I will at least get some leftovers!  Honestly, I've been eating so much lately that it's probably a good thing I am skipping out on the main meals.  The last thing I need right now is a big Thanksgiving dinner.  I think the stress of everything has caused me to eat way too much which isn't a good combination since I'm taking some time off running due to a nagging leg injury. Well, this post sure has become depressing.  I promise to write a more positive post tomorrow about all the things I am thankful for because I truly am thankful.  I feel lucky to be so busy and have so many great things going on in my life.  It's just that it is busy and I don't get a lot of time to relax.  There's no magic here.  I just work a lot and don't sleep very much right now.  The good news is that I am enjoying everything I am doing so it's all good.

Of course, while I am working on my paper, I hope and pray that the kids sleep well.  They are also very helpful as you can see from the picture of Aleena with my journal article and outline.  So far, I've got a well developed table comparing journal articles that's fourteen pages long.  The write up has to be around ten pages so now it's just a matter of typing it out and adding a few other supporting articles.  I am sure that no one really cares about this except for me and possibly my professor.  Actually, my classmates might find this interesting since I know it's fun to compare progress with others.

I asked Aleena where Mommy was.  She was right!
In other news...I hope to post a giveaway on Monday.  I just need a couple photos of the product being reviewed so hopefully that occurs tomorrow with some nice autumn leaves and cute kids.  The company is a small Canadian business which features some adorable, unique products that would be great as Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers.  I am excited to write about them!

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend, whether you are at a big gathering or at home with your family.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Gorgeous Fall Day

I am sad to say that today may have been the last really warm day this year.  In order to celebrate, I took my students outside for literacy class and they shared their stories in smaller groups.  The students really appreciated it since tomorrow is the start of a long weekend and I think they were ready to leave the school anyway!  Amazing how a few words can energize a class.  I should take them outside more often as they were really excited about it and stayed on task the whole time (okay, most of the time).

Took a picture of the school today.  It really is a beautiful building.
The lovely girls in my literacy class.  There are only four girls in a class of fifteen students.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

Aleena watching Uncle Curt run his first half marathon.
I sit here writing this as I should be working on a midterm paper that's due in a week and a half.  Seems like a lot of time but not really...not when I don't have any guaranteed working time and have to take advantage of every opportunity available to me.  This past week, I think all of this caught up with me and I ended up taking a sick day.  Yes, I am just a wee bit stressed with everything that I've taken on.  No, I'm not superwoman..not even close.  Actually, typing this reminds me of when I visited my minister when I was in high school.  They used to have clergy come into the school to do some counseling for students.  Wow, have times ever changed.  Imagine the uproar that would cause these days?!  (I went to a public school.)

Anyway, back to the story.  I remember telling our pastor that I was extremely busy and stressed out and had taken on too much.  I really had.  I am starting to see a pattern here in my life.  I seem incapable of relaxing for very long but at least it does happen from time to time.  Ironically, I am often asked about my running as if it's an extra thing I do that stresses me out.  The good news is that running doesn't stress me makes me feel better.  This is why I am somewhat unhappy right now as I've got a nagging injury that I am making myself finally listen to.  It's time to rest now that my half marathon is over before I cause any permanent damage.

I realized the other day that I may have an addiction to being busy because I've stopped telling people everything I've taken on.  I'm actually embarrassed to admit it.  For example, how many people know I have helped coach cross country running at school this year?  I doubt anyone knew until I got sick and couldn't take the kids to a meet thereby canceling the event for our school.  Gotta love how the one extracurricular/volunteer aspect of my job made me feel the most guilty about going home sick.  And how many people know that I'm now a school rep for the RPSTA (RPS Teachers Association)?  I figure that if I don't like how some things are going in education right now, it's better to take action than complain.  This is my way of getting involved.

Of course, there's also my Masters class and it mostly just stresses me out because I am never sure when I'll have the time to work on the readings and assignments.  More good news though.  I enjoy taking my Masters as odd as that may sound.  It's so relevant to my teaching and I find it fascinating.  For example, I have 15 stories to correct next week and I am going to write a paper comparing a couple journal articles on giving written feedback for ESL students' writing.  I find it fascinating to learn what the research in the field is.  When you read a text or teaching guide, you get one perspective.  When you read a bunch of journal articles, you learn many sides of the story and get a broader perspective on a topic.

Of course, between all of this craziness, there are my two lovely children with contagious smiles.  They keep me smiling too.  They also remind me about what's really important everyday and that helps keep perspective on everything else.
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