It All Started with a Tweet!

Sunday, April 28, 2013 2 comments
One of my all time favorite Twitter guys/librarians/book lovers, Mr. Schu, tweeted about a book giveaway for Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino's Boy + Bot. I had read about the book in the post and knew I had to have it for my guy. So I entered and also added it to my wishlist (that's what I do!) Days passed and AH! we won the book! 
T and I were tickled pink the day it arrived! We didn't even make it in the garage before he was reading it. (Big fan of robots AND receiving mail!) 
We read it 4,567 times and he packed it in his backpack himself! Boy+Bot was going to preschool! T reported back to me that the class loved the book. We then read it 1,234 more times and I let Ame Dyckman know about all the book love via Twitter! She messaged back that she would be happy to send a little something for T's class. I was all like, "no way!" Just a few days later, T had another box! 
We could not believe it! This sweet author, this talented writer, took the time to write a sweet note to T's class, and send bookmarks, stickers, and bracelets! Needless to say....happy kids and super happy T. Who does that? A special person, that's for sure! He loved sharing them with classmates and his teacher and Mommy loved sharing them with her class and our librarian! I have told everyone I know about Boy+Bot and the kindness of the author-Ame Dyckman! She has a passion for reading, for inspiring our youngest readers!

I (of course) read the book with my class-friendship, inferring, compare, contrast, pictures telling story, retell. They LOVED it! Shared it with our kindergarten team, too. I could not resist! It is a sweet story, and a story within a story. The pictures are amazing, too.

Click HERE to order your copy, or better yet, buy it from an independent bookstore! Then click HERE to visit Dyckman's blog where she shares books and right now is talking about one of my favorites-WONDER

Meet Elena.

Saturday, April 27, 2013 2 comments
One of the BEST things about being a Shot@Life Champion is meeting amazing people. They are moms, grandparents, bloggers, dads, students, business leaders, children, politicians, and they have quickly become friends. I recently interviewed a fellow Champion and friend, who also happens to be a mom and teacher too~Elena Sonnino.

Elena is a freelance writer, digital content strategist, an advocate for social good, a runner, a cancer survivor and a dream chaser. After a successful 12 year career in teaching and educational leadership, Elena took a leap of faith to chase her dream to empower herself and audiences to make every moment matter at
Elena does more than just talk the talk about self-sufficiency, empowerment and dreaming big each day. Learning to find balance and cultivate her passion is a daily journey that Elena strives to navigate. As the Director of Internal Community Relations at TravelingMom and as an advocate to social good campaigns for the UNFoundation Shot@Life campaign, ONE Moms and the American Cancer Society, the hallmark of Elena’s work is her authentic voice and ability to inspire action.
In a nutshell, I might want to be her when I grow up! Here's our chat!
Most important question ever-what is your favorite children's book? The Last of the Rea, the last of the really great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. (I'll be looking that up later!) 

Now, how did you hear about Shot@Life?
I first heard about Shot@Life thanks to a Washington DC event hosted by a Champion and blogger, Monica Sakala, in the spring of 2012. The passion and purpose was infectious during the event.
Why did you get involved and what have you done in the past year?
After the first event, as a mom and teacher, and believer in finding ways to build self sufficiency in others, I needed to learn more and find a way to do my part. At first, I just wrote a post to build awareness, and then was lucky enough to be part of Blogust, a 31 day blog relay where we were able to empower readers to make a difference in the lives of children in developing countries just by leaving a comment.
The culmination of Blogust for me was attending the Social Good Summit, where I had the chance to learn more about the context of what was being done. Sharing the stories and learning about global health became a main focus of my blog, leading me to apply to become a formal Shot@Life Champion.
So far, as a champion, I can point to three concrete ways I have helped spread the word:
1) I have met with the staffs of three members of Congress to share why continuing to support global health campaigns in developing countries are vital. Speaking to members of Congress, reminding them that these issues are important, in our hearts and our minds, is critical to keeping the conversation and efforts alive.
2) I continue to use my voice to write and amplify the issues, the stories and the need for more active support both through organized campaigns like Blogust, 28 days of Impact as well as unofficial posts and articles.
3) I empowered my daughter, through conversation to take her own action to support Shot@Life. After deciding to start a club in her class about Shot@Life, I taught a lesson to her 2nd grade class about the needs of children in countries like Uganda, where each child illustrated a milestone that they hope every child can experience in their own life.
Moving forward this year I will be focusing heavily on three ways to help spread the word:
4) Fostering awareness in children will be an area of focus for me, with the goal of helping children find ways to use their own voice to support their global peers. My daughter would like to go back to Capitol Hill with me, to share her own ideas about why Shot@Life is so crucial.
5) Speaking to groups (like at Mom2Summit in early May) to build awareness and share ways to get involved
6) Raise funds through a Teammunity campaign to give more children a Shot@Life
by running the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2013
Join Elena and I by learning more about Shot@Life!

Gettin' Buzzy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 No comments
I begged my inventor friend, and fellow Shot@Life Champion, Dr. Amy Baxter to chat with me about her invention (Buzzy,) her work, and of course-her favorite children's book. Dr. Amy, a mom and advocate, lives right here in Atlanta. I feel so fortunate to know her! Here is part of our interview about her career, her totally amazing invention (STEM anyone?, girl power anyone?) and how well....balance is hard to find!

What sent you on the path to becoming a doctor?  I always liked being a know-it-all and being able to fix things.  I particularly like being able to step in a crisis and say "OK, let's calm down.  We know how to do this.  Let's start with this...." or fix something that's broken.  That's probably why my son's Evil Needle-Wielding Fiend experience made me want to find a solution to the problem of immunization pain, and then execute it.

What is the best part of your job?  Best is when we get letters from nurses or kids telling us how much Buzzy helped them, or how great it is, or how a kid who hasn’t gone to the doctor for years due to fear of shots now isn’t afraid. It’s also awesome working with the team of my friends whose children are my kids friends, and all of us are helping Buzzy. We’re all moms, and all have really down to earth “let’s make this work” sensibilities, on top of a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  We share some equanimity about if the business doesn’t take off, we’re still doing something meaningful. The worst is having a business at all; I’m still a practicing doctor with a busy research department, and so I don’t have nearly as much time for my family. I haven’t seen a movie with my husband for three years. If Buzzy doesn’t take off and help a lot of people, and allow me to have a bit more free time when the kids are teenagers, I’ve sacrificed a few years of time with my children that I can’t get back.  The very hardest is working from home when I don’t have a sitter but expected one: I’m edgy about the goals for the day I need to get done, irritable because the kids want time with me and I’ve got STUFF TO DO, and sad because even when I try to be in the moment and enjoy the time with them I can’t put myself in that mental frame. 
Who is Buzzy and how did he come to be? I was doing needle pain research throughout my pregnancies, and when the kids got old enough to remember I brought creams or distraction toys to lessen the impact of the shots. Consequently, they were all really good shot takers until one nurse told my oldest out of nowhere “You are going to sit still or this is really going to hurt and we will have to hold you down.” He did great for the shots but then threw up afterwards and had been needlephobic ever since. I was so mad at the system and myself for not being able to protect him that I wanted to come up with something that worked instantly that parents could bring and use even if the healthcare system wasn’t interested.

I knew that the body could stop pain naturally using something called “gate theory”. If you bang your knee and rub it the pain stops, if you smash your finger and shake it it helps the pain, or if you burn your finger and stick it under cold running water it quits hurting. I thought of cuffs of cold water, all sorts of messy stuff. I got the idea in the car driving home from the hospital one day that vibration would work, but it wasn’t until my husband suggested frozen peas UNDER the vibration that it really made my kids’ hands numb to sharp pokes. Once I figured out that cold and vibration together near the sharp pain worked, I tried to get a pharmaceutical company interested in the idea. For a few years I tried, with no luck. Finally my husband and I agreed to sink the home equity line into the idea and start our own business. I also invented cards called “Flippits!” that you can pull out and distract during procedures. They have counting and finding tasks which are proven to decrease pain, and they can even fit in a slot on Buzzy’s tummy to block the view of the procedure if the sight of the sharp is the problem.
Buzzy combines cold and vibration to block sharp pain transmission, just as putting a burned hand under water makes it better.  The ice pack is either brought in a Cold-to-Go bag or sandwiched between two freezer packs (I used the ones from the Medela pump) or taken the freezer at the doctor’s if they have a Buzzy.  When the nurse is ready for the shots, the freezer pack is slipped into an elastic band behind buzzy, then the vibrator is switched on and the ice and vibration are applied together “above” the site of the shot.  When the shot is not on an arm or leg, put Buzzy between where the nerves come out of the spinal cord and where the shot is: lateral to the shot for the stomach, closer to the spine than the shot on a diagonal for the buttocks.  Leave Buzzy on for at least 15 seconds, up to a minute or so for extra numbing.  Buzzy stays ON during the poke to keep disrupting the nerve transmissions.  

What's next for Buzzy? How does he connect with immunizations? We've just finished a new Buzzy, a little smaller and more powerful, to make immunizations easier.  My children have grown up with Buzzy, so even though two of the three were afraid of shots, now they don't even ask if they have to get a shot, just "did you bring Buzzy?" 

What is your number one piece of advice for parents? CONSTANT VIGILANCE!  Seriously, it's hard to distinguish bad parenting from fatigue.  Children are a rushing river, and you are the banks.  Keeping those banks firm and maintaining the direction of the river is a constant, exhausting job.  Fortunately repair jobs are easy when you let things slide. Click here for a few tips from our Buzzy site.

And last, but not least, what is your favorite children's book? Wow, there are so many.  Officer Buckle and Gloria is one we refer to often.  For Max, of course, Where The Wild Things Are by Sendak was memorized.  And I associate Miles with the Harry Potter series.

About  Dr. Baxter!  Dr. Baxter attended Dartmouth college, and graduated from Yale and Emory Medical school.  In May, she will take a sabbatical from her clinical practice to focus on the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Associates research division and MMJ Labs, where she oversees day to day operations, including development, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and sales from her home basement office.  Her idea for Buzzy received one of the inaugural Huggies MomInspired awards, and a 1.1M NIH research grant into preventing vaccination pain.  Dr. Baxter is a published author in scientific fields of pediatric nausea, pain management, and procedural sedation, and has written numerous articles concerning mom-entrepreneurship and moving from idea to invention. She has three children in elementary, middle, and high, and wishes she had more time for reading, gardening, and playing with them.  Fun fact: a devoted sci-fi geek, she was adopted by author Robert A. Heinlein. 
This post is part of World Immunization Week and the first birthday of Shot@Life!

Kids Say It Best!

When I asked T what he wished every kid in the whole wide world could have a Shot@, he didn't even think about it. He looked at me and said, "playing with A and Davis (our neighbor.)" 
I loved it! In fact, it made my whole day. It really is that simple. Every child deserves a shot@playing with friends, and nobody knows that more than my four year old!

We held our 2nd Annual Shot@Life Playdate in the Park over the weekend. We had a big birthday bash to celebrate Shot@Life's first birthday! It was AwEsOmE!!! (Look for the post soon!)
@ErinSonderman Photography and shirt by @Shootiegirl
I decided to make note of what our kid guests said every kid, no matter where they live, should have a Shot@.....
...playing an instrument
...swimming in the deep end
...climbing trees
...having a boyfriend (ah!!)
...beating the other team
...going to school
...driving a car (again, AH!)

Kids know what life is all about and it shows! Join me in celebrating Shot@Life's birthday by learning more and doing more! Here's how (in no particular order!):

@Download the free Shot@Life app to track life's special milestones. Like this one...his first time holding a caterpillar!
@Visit Shot@Life and sign up to learn more! You'll receive an email a few times a year with updates and opportunities! 
@Donate $20 (or more-that's for all my super wealthy friends!) to vaccinate a child for LIFE! You'll be helping saving a child's life from something as common as diarrhea or pneumonia!
@Download the free CharityMiles app and run/walk/bike to support Shot@Life.
@Participate in the Global Mom Relay by sharing posts on FB, Twitter, or email! There is a new story (inspiring!) each day until May 3rd. 

What do you wish every child had a Shot@?

Why I Stay

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 No comments
Teacher retention has been a hot topic the last couple of weeks (and it should be) thanks to a beautiful letter of resignation that went viral. LOTS of chatter came from the letter-some good and some bad. A highlight for me is this video starring real teachers sharing the reasons why THEY STAY

Parents, teachers, community members-watch and embrace this. Share with your friends.

Teaching IS tough. 

But here is just one reason (I have dozens) why I stay....

I learn something new every single day and that my friends is what living is all about!

Do you teach? Why do you stay? 
How can we bring the best and brightest to our field and how can we help them stay? I have a few ideas, but that will need to be another post!

Baby Steps

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 10 comments
I have grown leaps and bounds since I started teaching over a decade ago (that sounds like it is sooo long!) I have learned that I do not know everything. In fact, there is much I do not know. I have learned to better accept criticism (though I do not think it is ever easy.) 

With that, I finally (years in the making) submitted my first manuscript for critique. This was HUGE for me. I've always wanted to be a writer. I even wrote about wanting to be a writer here! To turn over my story to a reader felt like I was telling my biggest secret. I know it sounds silly, but our stories are personal, private. This one has lived only in my head, my journal, and at bedtime when I share it with my little guy. 

I did it though. I pressed send and there was no turning back. 

So I wait

and wait

and wait.

Not sure what to expect, but ready! Sad to have waited so long, but proud nonetheless~for I have taken a baby step toward one day become a published author!
So here's to baby steps and here's to writing and here's to following your dreams and here's to great stories!

It's Peter Brown!

Sunday, April 14, 2013 No comments
It's Peter Brown is actually Peter Brown's twitter name. I think it is perfect, just like his books! Do you know his work? NO!?! If you have a child 4-10, come meet a few of my Peter Brown faves!
 Product Details
Come learn a little bit more about this one (all about friendship-perfect for back to school) from Lucy the Bear and Mr. Brown himself. I LOVE THIS BOOK, so do T and my class! 

Product Details
Moms and Dads-Lucy finds a boy and asks mom if she can keep it. Mom gives in (shocker!) and Lucy keeps Squeaker. Things do not go as well as Lucy planned. FuN!
Teacher friends-I use this one for persuasive writing and inference.
Product Details
Moms and Dads-This is perfect for talking about how we must respect nature and nurture our environment.
Teacher friends-I use this for Earth Day. It is beautiful!
Now Peter Brown did not write this one, but he did do the amazing illustrations. This book is (quoting T here) "so cool!!"

Visit his website, too. There are lots of videos, freebies, and a pretty easy way to make your own hardcover book! 

Do you have a favorite Peter Brown book? Can you tell which one is mine?

Spring Break Teacher Funny

Friday, April 12, 2013 4 comments

Little Miss Outdoors

That's me!! Lover of the wind blowing in my hair, the bugs clinging to my clothes, and the sun beating down on my face! Ah, nature! Ha! As we know from a previous post, I am the opposite. I am Little Miss Indoors! Oooh, I like that! 

I put on my big girl britches though and headed for Stone Mountain with the family. My guys loves being outside and we are always up for an adventure. SO GLAD WE WENT! I love the new and improved (hadn't been in 10 years) Stone Mountain!

A few highlights...
4D Movie~Journey to the Center of Earth! Loved it! 
Checking out the ATL from atop the mountain!
Goofing off with daddy and dancing across the top!
Train ride around the mountain~so relaxing!
Wildlife Wonders showed us a chinchilla, kangaroo, alligator, and more! We even petted them! T LOVED the campground adventure...especially the zipline!
T also loved the Barn-an indoor playhouse where you climb and slide and shoot foam balls at people. AWESOME! We did not do the Geyser because we did not want to get wet, but it looked super fun! We stayed for the laser show and it was great, too! It was missing a little ATL hip hop, but that's ok! 

By far, and I am very serious, the best part of Stone Mountain was the atmosphere. Every single employee we encountered was beyond friendly. They were so helpful and nice. Seriously-it was like being in Disney World! 

Our family had a blast and will be going back for sure....any time except summer, I mean, we know how I feel about extreme heat!

Who's Looking at Who?

Thursday, April 11, 2013 No comments
 I recently had two and a half minutes to myself. What made this special occasion even more amazing, was that it happened to take place right on top of Stone Mountain. It was almost quiet, the sun was shining, a breeze was blowing. Peaceful.

I decided to take it all in by relaxing on the rock! I looked up to see this beautiful sky. At first, I looked for shapes in the clouds (my sister N, loved doing that) and I found a shark, South America upside down, and Africa. Then I tried to clear my mind and just breathe. 
Just breathe. In a world of noise, I just sat and truly took it all in. 
As I heard the roar of my little dinosaur heading my way, the thought occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the sky was staring down at me wondering what in the world I was doing.
 I laughed a little and that made those two and half minutes even more spectacular!

Do you have time to just breathe? Share your secret. I'm serious. It was amazing!

Our First Family Hike!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 No comments
For those of you who know me well, I am not the outdoor type. at.all.

Being mom to a four year old little boy has left me no choice though, I must venture into the great outdoors, like it or not! 

Why I don't like being outside:
A. heat
B. bugs
C. heat and bugs

To kick off our spring break, and celebrate T's LOVE of the great outdoors, we took our first family hike. 

I packed:
antibiotic ointment

T packed:
yogurt raisins
3 stuffed animal friends
bag of shredded cheddar

N packed:

We headed out for Kennesaw Mountain and were not disappointed! We took the shuttle up, had a picnic, and hiked around and down (about 2 miles.)  The weather was great so I did not have to fake passing out due to heat exhaustion. N was thrilled. There were TONS and I mean TONS of gnats though. They were everywhere!!!!! I fought complaining with every bone in my gnat covered body. Hours, days later, I still feel them on me. I'm serious. 

Even with the creepy crawlies, it was amazing! A great first time experience for all! Next time-bug spray. WHAT? Did I just say next time? That in itself is amazing! 

Do you have a favorite spot for us to try next? Do tell! :)

Fluency Fun

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 No comments
Fluency, Part II of II
Want my very favorite tip for fluency fun? 

Think poetry. Think short reads. Think perfect for your disfluent friends! 

Ta Da! Here it is!! Get these books! 

I attended a conference a few years ago and the presenter suggested these books for read to someone. She is a genius and if I remembered her name, I would write her a thank you note!

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You are designed with words on the left (first reader,) words on the right (second reader,) and words in the middle (to be read together.) I immediately fell in love and so have my first graders and tutoring students! They are affordable too! I ordered my last set through Scholastic book orders!

Mary Ann Hoberman is one of my favorites anyway, but it is like she wrote these books with fluency in mind. She has one on fairy tales, fables, and the kids' favorite-spooky tales! 

So how do I use these gems? They go home with kids to read with their parents (after modeling lots of times!) This is what an actual page looks like.
I also copy the pages and place them in a binder. The first speakers' part is highlighted one color, the second in a different color, and the middle parts are highlighted in a third color. Brilliant and easy!
They LOVE them! The levels vary, the topics are super kid friendly, and it really spices up our read to someone (Daily 5, CAFE) time! 

Have you seen these before?

What is Fluency?

Sunday, April 7, 2013 No comments
Fluency Part I of II
Fluency is reading with appropriate speed, accuracy and proper expression. 
The real questions are....

Does it matter? How can I help my child/student?

YES! Fluency does matter. Fluency is comprehension's best friend. If the reader can read the words and keep a steady pace, the story makes more sense. 

There are many ways to help build and increase fluency. 
*Start early by reading aloud to your child. The more they hear what fluency sounds like, the better off they will be! 

*When they are ready for the next step (repeating what you read or beginning reading) it is a great idea to have your child read/repeat the material again. Nursery rhymes are a great place to start. Try to have a copy of the rhyme available so you can point to the words as you read. Make it fun by reading in a silly voice, monster voice, etc. 

*As your child becomes an independent reader, the fluency practice needs to continue! Have your child read material that is slightly below their independent reading level (ask your teacher for this info.) This allows your child to spend less time deciphering words and more time on pacing and thinking about what the story is really about! 

Please share your fluency tips!
Check back tomorrow to see my favorite way to build fluency!

Parenting Advice-FREE!

Saturday, April 6, 2013 No comments
My sweet, pregnant friend asked me for my best parenting advice. 

I laughed. Then I laughed some more. I mean, and I told her this, I do not think I should be handing out parenting advice. Then I realized, LOTS of people do not need to be handing out parenting advice. 
I pulled out my guy's baby book and read it so I could remember a few kind words passed on from friends....

let him cry it out, no matter how hard it is on you (um, no.)

sleep when he sleeps (I did this one a few times!)

don't hold him all the time (he was/is too cute not to hold!)

off brand diapers are just as good (LIAR!)

take turns! (we still do!)

Then I found where I had written this gem...

"The best advice I received was 'spoil that baby' and the worst advice I got was 'spoil that baby.'" 

So I called my friend back and told her just that, and that off brand diapers did not work for my guy, and that I held him all the time, and that I did spoil him rotten, and I did not let him cry it out, and to try to sleep as much as she can-when she can, and that all babies are different and that she should do what works for her and her very own little prince. 

She was all, "okayyyyy, but if you only had ONE thing to say that would really help me, what would it be?"

Hmmm.....Oh, I know!
Every single day.

What was the best or worst advice you received as a parent?

Morning Meeting

Friday, April 5, 2013 No comments
Each day, my class and I start with morning meeting. We share compliments and goals, discuss hot topics, and build community. Yesterday's topic was "think about a way you can help someone at your house?" They think first and share second. Then they share their idea in a complete sentence. Friends may respond, they may not, but we all listen. Their responses were great and almost all of them were sincere, caring answers....almost. 

I was driving home thinking about their responses and asking myself how I can help someone at my house. How can help N? How can help T? How can I help my mom who is over 300 miles away? 

I know it sounds silly, but it really hit me. I think we sometimes get bogged down in life-work, play, home, etc and forget about the people closest to us. I know I do. 

So that's what I'm thinking about right now. How can I help the ones I love? What little things can I do to help the people who mean the most to me? 

What are you thinking about right now?

Donors Choose Giveaway!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 39 comments
Hi friends! I have a $25 Donors Choose code and I would love to pass it along!

This is super easy!! No rafflecopter, no tweeting, not liking on FB. (Though you can do that here.) Just paste the link of your project or one that you love in the comments section. I will draw a number and post the winner on Friday....our last day before Spring Break!

Good luck! Tell your friends!

**I also have a friend who will be throwing $5's our way! 
Woo hoo!


Monday, April 1, 2013 No comments
We had an amazing Easter weekend with my family! Hope you did, too!


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