Holly May Writes

The stuff of Life

June, 2016

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Decluttering and Organizing

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Decluttering and Organizing

Whether you are a parent, live with roommates, or even live alone organizing your living space can be very important. Having a clutter free house can improve your mood and reduce stress. Having fewer things around also means there are fewer things that can get piled up and cluttered. Both myself and my husband have a tendency to acquire a lot of stuff. We are notorious for having piles of papers laying around. Unfolded laundry can be found piled on our futon. My son scatters toys throughout the house. In an effort to help declutter and organize we read the book:The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

She developed a method called the KonMari Method of removing clutter and organizing your things. The book was very inspiring. She says to keep only things that spark joy. If you pick something up and it doesn’t bring you joy you throw it out (with a few obvious exceptions of course.) I won’t delve too much into the book because you should totally read it for yourself. There are a lot of great tips which is I’m sure one reason it is a best selling book.

Although the book did inspire me to try and get rid of some of my things, I have a bad habit of holding sentimental value with everything or I think I may use it again some day, or I may fit in those pants again some day. I’m not always honest with myself when it comes to all of the “junk” I have. Especially if something was a gift. I have made some strides to better organize myself. They don’t necessarily fit with the books theme but I feel slightly better. I put shelves and cloth cubes in my sons room and in our living room for storage of our items. It does look nice when cleaned up. The problem is my son dumps bins at a time out and it quickly gets overwhelming. It makes me better understand where the author is coming from when she talks about a much more minimalist approach. My clutter problems are solved by sticking stuff into bins, they are just more hidden.

I do feel less stressed when my house is in order and I make excuses as to why it often isn’t. ‘My toddler will just mess up what I clean, I’m just going to mess up the bed again anyway why should I make it, the dishes are never-ending I just don’t feel like doing them right now…’ Perhaps you make similar statements.

Do you want to change? Do you want your house in order? Perhaps you and I both need to take a closer look at the KonMari method and organize in a way that will bring us joy. I’m going to try to implement some of the strategies from the book. If you have read the book and have successfully incorporated her methods I would love to hear about it. If you haven’t I urge you to read the book and let me know what you think. Now I just have to convince my toddler that he doesn’t need all of those toys 🙂

My Stroller Review

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A few friends of mine have just had babies and I found out recently that my sister is pregnant so I’ve been thinking about all the things I used with my son, who is now almost 3. I thought I would discuss the various strollers that we’ve used and let you know what I think. So here is my stroller review.

Baby Trend Expedition Travel System

Type: Jogging Stroller, all terrain
Steering: The best steering stroller I have ever used. You can seriously steer this thing with one finger. It is awesome. It takes corners very well. Just make sure if you are going to run that you lock the front wheel otherwise it becomes a pretty bumpy ride that is impossible to control.
Size: A little large because it is made so that a carseat can be attached. It also has the large wheels.
Portability:It is easy to fold up and throw into the trunk of the car however if your car is small you may have a hard time fitting it in or at least anything else other than it. We actually took it car shopping with us so we knew it would fit. We also took it to the airport with us which was a lifesaver when going from one terminal to another. It did well being thrown into cargo.
Comfort:Due to the ability to lay back or sit up and the fact that my son took several naps in the stroller I would guess it is pretty comfortable.
Accessories: The stroller came with a carseat as we got the whole travel system. You can buy it without though. The carseat could snap right into the stroller which was super handy when my son was a baby. It made getting him and any shopping items into the house a lot easier. It has nice big real tires instead of plastic ones. This however can be a downfall as they need pumped with air and there were a few times we would have to pump them up before going for a walk. One of the tires currently needs a tube changed. I do believe the big wheels definitely help in the handling. It had a shade cover with a see through window but I wish it were a little bigger. It has four decent sized cup holders and a small storage compartment near the handlebar and a decent storage net underneath the seat.
Price:With the carseat it will run around $200 which we felt was reasonable for a two in one. Just the stroller itself will run around $100.
Recommendation:We absolutely loved this stroller. I have a love hate relationship with the tires and getting a flat but other than that I would 100% buy this kind of stroller again!

We are currently using a Britax B Agile.

Type: Jogging
Steering: The steering is definitely not as nice as the baby trend. It has small rubber tires. It takes both hands to steer this one. The handling isn’t too great either and feels like it could easily flip if you aren’t careful on corners.
Size: It is a little smaller than the baby trend but still decently big.
Portability:It folds up fairly easy but you need to press a button and pull a strap to do it. It does take up a lot of trunk space but overall it is fairly portable without too much hassle and isn’t too heavy.
Comfort: It is well made and the restraint system is strong. My son seems to be very comfortable in it.
Accessories:It has a very large sun shade that is absolutely awesome. It only has one small cupholder where the child sits but it has an accessory bag attached that can hold pretty much any sized drink. (both of those accessories are sold separately and do not come in the box) I do like the bag alot. It has a small net storage also underneath the seat.
Price:This one costs a little over $200 for just the stroller, they also sell the travel kit with carseat for between $320-$350.
Recommendation:It is a nice stroller but for someone on a budget it isn’t worth the extra money.

 

Next We used a Babies R Us Easylite Convenience stroller

No Picture Available

Type: convenience,standard
Steering: the steering isn’t as nice as a jogger but works well enough for a walk or some shopping
Size:small only slightly bigger than an umbrella stroller
Portability:this stroller folds up nicely by pulling on a strap. It easily fits into the trunk. And is very light.
Comfort:Not as padded and my son is able to stop the wheels from moving by putting his feet under the foot rest. He has however napped several times in it.
Accessories:It has cup holders but they are pretty much worthless they don’t fit many drinks even some sippy cups are too big. It has a small sun shade and a small net storage area under the seat but it doesn’t fit much and my son puts his feet there so anything you put in there will get stepped on.
Price:$60 so more budget friendly than a jogger
Recommendation: We wanted to upgrade our umbrella stroller with something that would be easy to throw in the car and use it in stores and such without hauling around the big jogger. It does work for this but one reason for the upgrade was for storage and cup holders which could be improved upon in this model. If you don’t care about those things then it is a okay buy but personally I would pass on it next time.

 

Umbrella Stroller

Type: convenience, standard
Steering: the wheels can get a little loose making steering wonky but it is so light that for the most part it is easy to steer
Size:small
Portability:As portable as it gets. Easy fold up and fits most anywhere.Not super durable though.
Comfort:Bucket seating so kind of like sitting in a hammock. Not much support but my son has napped in it.
Accessories: none come with the basic umbrella stroller some fancier models have a small sunshade or a bag to hold your stuff in.
Price:$30
Recommendation:If you just want to put your kid in a stroller and won’t be walking through grass or anything and don’t need storage or cup holders then this budget friendly stroller is the way to go. It has many colors and patterns to choose from and if it does get a wobble in the wheel or bent up a little it is easy to replace.

 

Double Strollers

When my son was small my friend and I went in on a Graco Ready2Grow Double stroller

Type: double stroller, standard (similar to a sit n stand)
Steering: I have a horrible time steering this. It is heavy and I’m always kicking it while walking which is annoying. Turning is tricky for sure but to be somewhat expected with a double.
Size:pretty big even for a double.
Portability:It folds up but sometimes not very easily. It is big and bulky.
Comfort:you can attach two carseats which is nice for twin babies. The seats face opposite directions which doesn’t allow any socialization between children which may or may not be a good thing. It is similar to a sit n stand stroller and you can remove the one seat to reveal a hard plastic seat underneath. The plastic seat does not have a back to it and although we never used it, it does not look remotely comfortable but if you are a toddler that just needs a rest for a minute I guess you probably aren’t picky.
Accessories:it has two sunshades but they are super small and pretty much worthless. It has a net storage area in the bottom that is fairly large, we were able to throw in two diaper bags. It has a few small cup holders. And with a place to stand it technically has 12 riding options.
Price:about $200
Recommendation:it sounds good in theory but I feel there are better options out there.

Recently I got to use a Double BOB stroller

Type:jogging, luxury
Steering: steers great especially for a double stroller. Has real tires so some pumping up or tube replacement may have to be done.
Size:fairly large
Portability:it does fold up and is supposed to be good for hiking
Comfort:super comfortable bucket seats. Could definitely get some naps in this one.
Accessories:large net storage area. Two separate sunshades. Other accessories like handlebar storage and cup holders are sold separately.
Price:$500-$800+
Recommendation:I only got to use this on a walk and don’t have enough use to give an opinion but it was very nice. I have a tight budget but reviews from friends that have one are always positive. If funding is available I believe the Double BOB will not disappoint. It does have the seats side by side which makes it pretty wide which would be tricky for shopping trips in tight aisles. But for a jog or some offroading it would be amazing. There are single BOB strollers as well I just never used one.

There are many other options out there but these are the ones I have experience with. I’d love to hear your opinion on these or any other strollers that you love or hate.

 

Multipotentialite

hollymaywrites multipotentialite

I love to learn new things. I enjoy watching Ted talks.. Yesterday I learned a new word. The word I learned is multipotentialite, according to Emilie Wapnick a multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.

I always assumed I was indecisive or just liked too many things. But it turns out there are other people similar to me in the world. I have such a wide array of interests. I love graphic design, web design, teaching, music, computers, gaming, photography, video editing, and writing just to name a few. It is hard to choose just one that would make me happy. My goal is to put as many of them together as possible into my pursuits. I hope that writing children’s books, educational software, and blogging will help me to do this. I know I was always surprised when people knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. I’m approaching my late 30’s and still don’t know what I want to be.

Before I became a full-time teacher I did a lot of substituting. One thing that was great about that was that one day you could be in third grade and the next you may be teaching gym class. It never got boring and if you didn’t want to go into work that day you just didn’t answer your phone. I did love being a Reading Specialist. It did offer a lot of variety. I also loved my job as a computer repair technician. But I had many more interests to pursue. Some of them I’m still exploring.

Maybe you are similar to me and just didn’t know it was a thing. If so don’t be hard on yourself there are others out there. What interests do you have? How are you using these interests in your career? Do you easily get bored with projects? Let me know in the comments what you think about being a multipotentialite if you are one or if not how you came about your one true calling.

And if you haven’t already you can check out Emily’s Ted talk to find out more:  https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en

she also has a website http://puttylike.com/

I have no affiliation with either but found it to be very interesting.

How to Make Chores Fun

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How to make chores fun:

If there’s one thing in our house that we don’t like to do its chores. This generally holds true whether you’re single, have roommates, are married, or have a family. This is something that my husband and I struggle with daily. So we were searching out a way to make these jobs more fun.

I stumbled upon a website called “chore wars“. What this site does is allow you to play a role playing game of sorts. Each chore is an adventure and worth experience points, gold, and even treasure. You will even run into the occasional monster and have to defeat them. You have your own character and you can have a party. Although the rewards cannot be spent in game you can come up with ways to spend them outside of the game for fun. Your party can even have NPC’s which could be children that are too young to participate in the game but you can fill in the chores for them. This can be a great incentive for getting things done around the house. Also if you are competitive like my husband and I it’ll make you want to do chores more. My husband and I both love to play games and this is one way to gamify something that we dislike doing. So far we’ve only done this for a few days but it has made our house look better and improved our attitude towards doing chores. Even unwanted chores such as changing the toddler’s diaper or taking out the trash has become easier knowing that you get points for it.

There are some chores listed that you can choose from and you may also add your own and create the experience points and rewards for those chores yourself. You can create one-time quests and you can also have daily things listed. Now we just need to figure out what we can spend our rewards on in real life for fun such as a massage or a night where you don’t have to cook or time alone or whatever sounds most fun. You can make this into a competition where the winner gets a prize at the end of the week or the end of the month the winner can be determined by their experience points and gold. If you dislike chores but love playing games this is definitely something you should try. I recommend going to www.chorewars.com and making an account. You can participate for free or if you want long term records of what was done you can pay a one time subscription fee. I have no affiliation with this website whatsoever I just thought it was pretty cool and worth mentioning. So go out my friends and turn your unwanted duties into a game.


Warcraft for the Horde

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For my birthday I watched the Warcraft movie.  I was an avid player of the World of Warcraft. I played that game for many years. I was even the guild master of a raiding guild. I however did not play the original Warcraft games. My husband has since shown me those games though. I understand that some of the Lore changed in the movie. Since I didn’t play the game before I had to look up some of the back story.  Although it appeared to be a flop in the United States Warcraft actually did very well in the box office worldwide.

View the Wired article here: http://www.wired.com/2016/06/warcraft-and-the-future-of-blockbusters/

Which excites me I hope that there will be a sequel. I thought the graphics were very well done. I feel like anyone who likes fantasy would like the movie even if they weren’t familiar with the games or the books. They spent a lot of time on detail in small things like even hair on the characters was very noticeable. It was very nostalgic for me to see some of the things that I was familiar with in a more real-life setting. It almost made me want to go back and play the game some more. Warcraft takes place before the World of Warcraft but it’s in the same world and there are a lot of similarities and you are introduced to a lot of the parts of the game. And as a bonus the theater I went to had reclining seats which made my experience even better. Recently I’ve been a little busy and haven’t been doing much gaming. I did however watch the E3 2016 coverage from this weekend. A lot of promising games seem to be coming out in the near future. One of my favorite franchises is Zelda so I was excited to see the gameplay demo for that one. It looked like Nintendo really decked out their booth which was cool.  I also saw demos of virtual-reality. It’s amazing how far things have advanced since my childhood. Even the movie Warcraft I watched in 3-D. I don’t know if I’ll go back to playing WoW but I give the movie a thumbs up. And I learned that my son is baby Thrall incarnate. “For the Horde”

Literacy Strategies: Readers Theater

Readers Theater

There were times when my reading groups were falling behind on a trade book and I would make a script out of the last few chapters. The students loved this. I also did the “Who’s on First” skit with some of the older students and they had a blast.

This strategy is great for reluctant readers. It helps them to develop fluency which in turn aids in comprehension. Readers Theater is similar to a play except that you do not need a stage or costumes. Students will have a script which you can make from a story with lots of dialog or you can get pre-made scripts either based on real books or scripts made specifically for this purpose. This activity is best done in small groups and students should not memorize the script but actually read from it during their performance.

-Teachers should choose a script (either self made or pre-made is fine)
-Help students to choose parts ( it may be beneficial to have students highlight their parts)
-Have students practice their part repeatedly. Depending on how much time you have alloted they can do this over a few days both in class and at home.
-Students then perform in small groups in front of the rest of the class

An Internet search will bring up many free scripts for example https://www.dramanotebook.com/plays-for-kids/scripts-based-on-childrens-books/ (I have no affiliation with this linked site. I stumbled upon it and clicked a few links and it seems to be a good resource.)and there are also many paid options.

If you liked this post, have any questions, or would like a certain strategy highlighted on my blog please make sure to leave a comment!


Literacy Strategies: KWL Charts

kwl charts

An oldie but goody and one of my favorite strategies is the K-W-L chart.
K-W-L charts are a type of graphic organizer. They give a way to activate students prior knowledge of a topic, help students to set a purpose for reading, and monitor their learning.
First start by taking a sheet of paper (can be horizontal or vertical) and form three columns either through folding the paper or just drawing lines. Then at the top of the first column write a “K” or “KNOW”, in the second write a “W” or “WANT”, and in the third write a “L” or “LEARNED”.

k-w-l

k-w-l chart

Before reading on a topic ask students to write down what they think they already know about the topic in the “K” column. This can be done individually, in a group, or as a class. However you see fit. Then in the “W” column ask students to write down what they would like to know about the topic. (Answering Who, what, when , where, why, and how may help them to come up with questions.) Having them come up with these types of questions will give them a purpose for reading the article (other than because I said you must read it). It has been documented that having a purpose for reading aids greatly in comprehension. You may want to fill out a chart yourself in front of the class to help guide them in the direction of things to look for.

After reading the text students can then fill out the “L” column which shows what they have learned. This will show what they were able to comprehend as they read. Sometimes they will be able to answer the questions they wrote down prior to reading. Sometimes they will have learned things that they hadn’t thought about asking in the beginning. Hopefully if they still have unanswered questions they will further their reading with other resources. There are various adaptations to this chart one of which is the K-W-H-L chart where the “H” stands for “HOW” you can find out, for example: at a library, on the Internet, at a museum… adding the “H” would help them think of where to find resources to answer their question but now in the days of Google I don’t generally put in that step as most students will just do an Internet search if they are motivated to find out more. I know I am guilty of just searching the Internet for most things. At this time students may also want to review their “K” column in case they had any misconceptions at the beginning and see if “what they knew” still holds true.

This strategy works well with expository texts. So textbooks, biographies, newspapers… all make for great reading material to use with this strategy. After using this strategy a few times I found that I internally do these things when I am about to read. If you haven’t already used this I highly recommend it. Any age group can use it. If you have students that can’t write yet they can totally draw pictures to represent their ideas. This is also a great strategy for ELL/ESL students.

If you found this post helpful please leave a comment and let me know if there is a specific topic or strategy you would like me to highlight.


Literacy Strategies

Reading comprehension can be a struggle for many students.  As a Reading Specialist I’ve come across many books about reading.  I’ve also come across several strategies that can help students to read better, understand what they read, and also to write better. For example KWL charts and Venn diagrams. I plan to start a series of blog posts on different literacy strategies that I have used with my students, while teaching, that I have found effective.  One book that I highly recommend that has been a great resource for me is “50 Literacy Strategies” by Gail Tompkins

I personally have a copy of the first and second editions of this book.  It is now in its fourth edition.  It is a great resource for teachers to quickly locate strategies. Further posts in the series will focus on just one or two strategies and I will delve into specifics of how a strategy works and some examples of it in use. So keep checking back for strategies that can help you and your students to be successful!

 

Using an indoor Antenna

So about 2 years ago my family cut cable.  We use a Roku, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and Plex to watch tv.  We also have a Leaf Antenna.  We don’t watch the antenna much mainly because we forget about it.  I’ve been wanting to watch some game shows and none of my tv options play game shows.  So after rearranging the living room today I spent several hours playing with the antenna.  I know I know I’m supposed to be tech savvy, Attach a coax cable to the antenna and then to the tv… ah if only it were that simple.  Once it is connected you must then find the place in the room that gets the best reception and believe it or not a few inches can make the difference between getting a channel and not getting a channel.  I wanted to get FOX, I live close enough to the city that that should not be a problem. Put it by the window of course there is a giant tree outside which didn’t help matters, got 24 channels to come in. Moved it 3 inches over, still at the window, got 32 channels but still not FOX.  Went online to find our which direction the tower broadcasts from so I could try to aim in that direction.  That direction was on the other side of the house so I moved it closer to that side. First got about 29 channels still no FOX… moved it more as far as the cable would go in that direction and the signal strength for everything was getting very weak and still no FOX.  So I figured I’d go back over where I started to get the most channels even if I didn’t get the one that I wanted.  This time I moved it about 2 feet further than it was originally.  I got 30 channels and all be darned if Fox wasn’t one of them. So I nailed that thing to the ceiling and at least today the signal strength is good and I have the channel I want. So if your signal isn’t good, move that thing a few inches to the left, then to the right, up a little, down a little, oops too far, go back, re-scan, ok looking good, oh shoot you dropped it… do it all again.. find that sweet spot, there it is, somebody give me tape, a nail, a hammer, super glue… something. There it is, signal 65% video good, audio good, and my show was over half an hour ago…