A Year of Growth

DJ and I took a walk with Bryce today, and we had a chance to talk and reflect on the last year.  In some respects, it feels like it has been about five years, but in other ways it has really flown!  Bryce of course had many, many milestones.  Last year, he was still a chubby little baby, and now he looks more and more like a little boy every day.  DJ and I both had some major personal and interpersonal growth.  We had to relearn how to be a couple in the midst of navigating parenthood, as well as figuring out our individual new identities and roles.  Ten years ago, DJ and I were waking up late from an amazing Cinderella-like New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center.  I had JUST discovered Orff Schulwerk,  I was still scarred from teaching middle school, I was so in love with DJ and we were less than two months away from getting engaged.  I definitely feel much older and wiser at the close of this year, but life is so, so good, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Some major events and memories for me this past year:

I successfully nursed Bryce until he self-weaned at 13 months.

I presented two sessions at the Denver AOSA conference.

I was invited to teach a summer Orff Level 1 course at Winthrop University.

I had a miscarriage.

I joined a playgroup.

I quit a playgroup.

I reached out to a random mom I met at Wegman’s, and we are becoming really good friends!

I met all my neighbors while out walking with Bryce.

I discovered FlyLady.net, decluttered my life, and reclaimed my sanity.

I made it out to Mobtown Ballroom a handful of times, but discovered that I don’t miss dancing as much as I thought I would.

I learned how to grill pizza.

I maintained my health and my weight, in spite of having a baby (and in spite of learning to grill pizza.)

I found my first gray hair.

I got my 25 year waterski club trophy at Woodloch.

Running finally felt good again.

I still really love my husband, not quite the same way as I did at the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve ten years ago, but with less flash and more depth.

Some Bryce memories I don’t want to forget:

Nursing him; the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done.  I was sad when he weaned without me really realizing it, but I got some closure when he signed “Milk” while watching me put my bottles and pumping equipment away.  There were three sad little bags of pumped milk in the freezer.  I defrosted them, and he drank them all up, signing “milk” the whole time.

Bryce’s signing taking off after his first birthday.

Bryce singing “Uh Oh” along with Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” and totally getting down to “Blurred Lines,” “Lucky Strike,” and “Light ‘Em Up.”  He would say “Yay!” every time he heard a song he likes on the radio.

Taking his first few steps at the Lilly Reunion.

The gigantic poop explosion on the way home from the Lilly reunion (maybe I’d rather forget that….)

Bryce saying “Grandma!” every time he saw my cell phone.

Bryce saying “Hi!” to everyone we see at the grocery store and out walking.

Many, many miles logged on his pushtrike.

Bryce saying “Ball! Ball!” while picking up big green walnuts at the playground.

Meeting my neighbor, Maureen, and her grandson Owen at the tot lot.

Bryce saying “Uh Oh” and alerting us whenever we forgot to latch a cabinet lock.

One snacktime, I was singing “Bryce likes to eat grapes grapes grapes” to the tune of Wheels on the Bus, and he totally on his own inserted “Bar bar bar!” because I was eating a granola bar.

When he first learned how to give kisses.

He is such a sweet, friendly, playful little guy, and I am really treasuring this time with him.  I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!


Interval Ladder

I used to take a really long time to work out.  I would go out to run for 45 minutes to an hour, or I would do P90x strength workouts, or hit the elliptical while I watched TV.  Now that I have to squeeze all of my personal care time and productivity into the 1-2 hour window of Bryce’s nap, I have been all about circuit training and interval workouts.  If I want to get the maximum results in the least amount of time, short and intense is the way to go!

Bryce does enjoy the jogging stroller for brief periods of time, so on days that I work, or days when he ditches his nap, I’ll usually take him out for a run.  Here is a nice little interval workout that I  did with the jogging stroller this week.  Bryce seemed to like it too, he yelled “RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN!” every time I started to sprint!

Warm up jog for 5 minutes

10 second sprint, 10 second jog (you can count seconds, I usually just count my steps)

20 second sprint, 20 second jog

30 second spring, 30 second jog

etc,  all the way up to 60 seconds.


60 second sprint, 60 second jog

50 second spring, 50 second jog

etc, back down to 10 seconds

I got a nice little burn, and the whole workout covered about 3 miles (including warm up and cool down.)  I love this workout because it is so easy to modify.  Only go up to 30 if you’re short on time, walk instead of jog for the recovery, do a few more 60s in the middle to extend it.  I’m just happy I found a workout that Bryce and I can do together!

Christmas Traditions

We’ll be spending our first Christmas at home this year!  It only took my giving birth to finally allow us to celebrate in our own home.  For a few years, we didn’t even bother decorating because we would spend most of the holidays on the road bouncing between extended families.  Bryce is much more aware this year, and I am really looking forward to building some holiday traditions with my little family!  Some of the things I’m excited about:

Symphony of Lights:  This is a mile and a half of christmas light displays that you can drive through.  There are some times that you can walk through as well, the Dazzle Dash run, and the Blinking Binkies stroller walk.  I took Bryce to Blinking Binkies this year, and he loved chilling in the stroller eating grapes and looking at all the lights.

Washington Christmas Revels:  Every year this group puts on a sort of Madrigal Feast, sharing holiday music, dancing, and traditions from around the world.  I’ve only attended once, but it was absolutely magical and transporting.  My master plan when Bryce is old enough is for DJ, Bryce, and myself to audition and actually perform in the production!  What a fun family experience!

Carol Singalong:  When I was a child, my mom would host a carol sing for all the neighbors on our street.  Everyone would come over, eat goodies, and then we’d sit in the living room and sing Christmas songs.  Fostering community music making is one of my passions, and this is a tradition that I am really excited to continue!  I’m hosting my first one this year, and I am in the process of creating a website with all the lyrics and piano/guitar chords so attendees can access them from their tablet or smartphone.  I don’t mess around when it comes to Christmas music.  😉

Cookies:  I don’t think I will be quite as extravagant with the amount and selection of holiday baked goods as my mom was, but I do want to make some goodies for the season!  Bryce is starting to be interested in standing on a chair at the kitchen counter to watch my food preparation activities (and to unload  and reload the silverware drawer) and it is only a matter of time before I attempt to make a yogurt cake with him!

Giving Back:  Our church offers many opportunities to help out the community during Christmas; Angel Tree, breakfast for the local homeless shelter, music and puppet ministry, and other things too.  As Bryce gets older, I really want to involve him in some service projects so that he can focus on helping others as much as the Santa Claus/gift getting part of the season.

I can already feel our family life starting to blossom.  It is so wonderful to BE where we are and ENJOY the holiday season instead of worrying about packing, traveling, and surviving the holiday season!

It’s About Habits

I’ve posted before about how much I love FlyLady, and how her routines have helped me keep my my home clean and organized.  Well, then November happened; I was either sick or traveling for 2 weeks of the month, and now that the holidays have hit I haven’t quite gotten back on the bandwagon.  I haven’t suddenly become a hoarder, and my house didn’t spiral into a vortex of filth, but it definitely is not an oasis of cleanliness and calm.

I am signed up for FlyLady’s weekly email, which gives a daily 15-minute cleaning mission.  When I read it, I immediately felt like I needed to do all the missions at once so that I could catch up, but I stopped myself.  The whole point of FlyLady’s philosophy is to develop routines so you don’t have to do everything all at once.  The issue is not that my house is dirty, it’s that I have fallen out of my routines.

Part of the ‘problem’ is that my beautiful baby boy now sleeps till 7 instead of waking up at 5:30am.  When it’s 5:30, no stores are open and it’s still dark, so it’s easy (ish) to do chores in the morning because really, what else are you going to do?  It has been quite a treat to sleep in, but that has gradually led to staying up until all hours of the night (Ten o-clock!  Wild woman!) looking at pictures of cats on the internet.

It’s not New Years, but I am re-making a resolution to manage my time better.  Everyone has the same number of hours in the day, it is how you choose to use them.  Einstein, Mozart, and Mother Theresa had the same amount of time that I do (though they didn’t have smart phones or social media to suck them in.  I can totally see Mozart being a Twitter fiend.  )   It is fine to relax and have fun, but first priorities should be taking care of my health, taking care of my family, and helping others.


Morning  (Pre-Bryce)- Flylady Mission and morning chores BEFORE checking email and facebook

Keep computer shut during the day.  I can catch up later…. or on my smartphone 😉

Naptime – Workout, work on notes for the summer course I’m teaching (more on that later!  Exciting!)

Evening, after Bryce goes to bed – prep for next day after dinner BEFORE checking email and facebook, set an alarm for bedtime so that I don’t lose track of time.

We’ll see how it goes!

Downward Doggin’

I need to do more yoga.   Every time I practice, I feel like a balled-up piece of paper that has been uncrumpled and smoothed out.

It’s hard to justify the cost and time of taking classes at an actual yoga studio, so I do most of my practicing at home.  I’m fortunate to have a dedicated dance/workout space in my basement, but I always need to convince myself that my time will be better spent stretching instead of burning off the Stress Chocolate I ate after teaching 1st grade.  I’ve been trying to do a better job of tuning in to what my body needs (and moderating the stress chocolate).  Hopefully I will be able to make yoga practice  more regular part of my workout schedule.  I know I’m always glad I made time for it!

YogaDownload.com has been a major part of my at-home yoga practice.  It is basically a giant collection of yoga class podcasts that you can stream or download.  They have lots of different instructors, and most classes have a 20 minute, 45 minute, and 60 minute version available.  Most of the 20 minute classes are FREE, and for $10 a month, you can stream unlimited classes and download four to keep.  When you consider that most yoga classes are $15-$20 EACH, it is an incredible bargain.

Everyone should try to get a little namaste in their life!    I know yoga helps me manage the mental and physical stress of living, teaching, wife-ing, and mothering.  If you don’t think yoga is for you, check out this amazing inspirational video and reconsider your thoughts!

Beginning to Discipline

And so it begins!  No longer is Bryce a sweet chubby little lump who lies on his back and bats benignly at objects.  He is On the Move and On a Mission to explore anything and everything!  We have done a pretty thorough job of babyproofing the house, so there isn’t anything that would cause him harm, or any irreplaceable valuables within reach.  However, there are definitely limits that need to be set for acceptable behavior!

I have the advantage (?) of having been hardened by 10 years of teaching elementary school, so I know all too well the children who were so cute that their parents didn’t deny them anything.  I will admit that it is definitely difficult to remain steadfast when you see this:


However, I am determined that he will not be one of those kids that people think “He’s adorable, but he’s SUCH a brat!”

I started doing my homework while Bryce was still a baby.  I read and re-read The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp and Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne, both AMAZING resources!  I browsed Pinterest for ideas.  I brainstormed some basic rules and behaviors that I wanted to reinforce, and I talked with DJ to make sure that he was on board (Memorize this response: ‘Ask Your Mother.”)  😉   I wanted to make sure I had a bag of tricks and a plan in place, so that when the time came I was ready to jump right in.  I am such a teacher it’s not even funny.

So far, things are going really well!  I wouldn’t say that the Terrible Twos are in full swing, so I’m not relaxing and patting myself on the back just yet, but I feel like we are laying a solid foundation for managing behavior in the future.

Here are some things that are working really well for me:

1. Baby Signing Time.  Number One recommendation for reducing fussiness!  Bryce is just beginning to verbalize things, but with his signing vocabulary he can tell me what he wants for snack, if he wants his blanket or pacifier, when he wants music on, when he wants to go outside, if he needs help, if he has a dirty diaper.  I feel like signing has made him a more sociable baby as well.  Other kids at the playground are very self-involved, but I think because Bryce is used to looking at people for communication cues, he walks around and tries to interact with everyone.  All I did was buy the Baby Signing Time DVDs and let him watch them.  I had to relax my “No Screen Time Before Two” standards, but it was totally worth it.

2.  Time Outs. This comes from my Happiest Toddler reading.  If Bryce is tantrumming or doing something he shouldn’t, he gets a slow count of 3, or a redirection, depending on the situation.  If he continues to fuss or misbehave, I take him up to his crib and leave him alone (with the light on and the door open) for 1-2 minutes.  This is AMAZINGLY effective.  Now, if he starts to throw a fit, 80% of the time if I count to three, he will calm himself down.  When we put up the Christmas tree, he started playing with the tree skirt and wearing it like a cape.  When he continued to mess with it even after I offered him another toy, I gave him a time out, and he hasn’t touched it since.  The Happiest Toddler book offers lots of other suggestions for managing behavior as he gets older, but right now, time-outs are working well.

3.  Setting a schedule up for success.  Simplicity Parenting talks about the concept of “pressure valves,” and how people need to balance periods of stress and activity with periods of rest and recharging.   I know I get cranky if I’m sleepy or hungry, or have been running myself ragged, so I try to make sure Bryce is in a state of homeostasis before I unleash him on the world!  I usually plan errands around Bryce’s sleep/meal schedule, either after breakfast, or after his nap and lunch.  I make a plan, I try not to take more than an hour and a half, and I always take a sippy cup and a finger-food snack just in case.  If we have a busy afternoon with a playdate, errands, or a class, we’ll keep the morning low key, or vice versa.  Simplicity Parenting offers other suggestions for reducing stress and overstimulation that can lead to tantrums and misbehavior.  I feel like many of the suggestions given in the book can help adults to reduce stress in their lives as well, whether or not they have kids!

Giving Bryce a way to communicate his needs, gently but firmly establishing my parental authority, and setting him up for good behavior by working with his schedule have really helped to keep him (and Mommy!) happy and balanced.  I hope that I can continue to build a strong relationship of respect and love on this basic foundation!

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Food

I am so excited to be hosting my first Thanksgiving at home! I love cooking, but I especially love putting together fancy meals and feasts like Thanksgiving dinner.  As much as I try to tell myself that food is fuel, it isn’t as simple as that.  There is definitely a Food=Love philosophy that is ingrained in my upbringing.

In addition to enjoying the food itself, there is so much sensory joy that comes from the preparation.  Feeling the textures of crinkly kale, smelling herbs and spices as you measure and chop, listening to the sizzle of oil, and planning out your preparation so that everything is done at once.

Then there is the joy that comes from cooking for others.  Much like knitting a prayer shawl, where the maker prays intentionally while knitting the fabric, cooking for friends and family makes me take extra care with my recipe as I think about the health and enjoyment that my food will bring them.   Preparing and sharing a meal with special people is one of my favorite things to do. Few things bring me more happiness than savoring a good meal while savoring the company of loved ones.

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The focus is on the people you love, sitting and sharing a meal together.  Such a simple thing, but a such a huge blessing.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

AOSA Conference Reflectons, Part 2

This was the third Orff conference I have attended, but the first one where I have been a clinician!  This was the highest profile audience I have ever addressed; music teachers from Maine to Alaska come to this conference, from college students to seasoned teacher-educators.   I was more than a little excited and nervous!


My session was entitled “Jump, Jive, and Patsch!  Processing Swing Music and Dance for Children” and I presented it twice.  This workshop is the intersection of my dancing experience, and my Orff Schulwerk teaching experience, and I am really proud of how it came together!  So much of Orff teaching involves creative movement improvisation and folk dancing, and swing dancing is a natural fit for both of those.

I was nervous because they had me assigned to present in a really small room, and 130 (!) people had signed between the two sessions.  I squeaked as politely as possible, and the conference director was able to move me to a larger space, which really  helped with the success of the workshop.

I played swing music as people walked in, and I had bought Hershey kisses for the door monitor to distribute.  First impressions are everything, and I figured it would also give people energy for participation.  =)  The introducer read my bio (which is starting to sound pretty impressive!) I took a deep breath, and the lesson just started to flow.  Swing dance is something that I really love, and something that I am very comfortable teaching.  I had prepared the best I possibly could, so I was really able to be present and enjoy the ride.

It was so much fun to see all these teachers movin’, groovin’,’ and enjoying the music and dancing.  Swing is such a joyful dance, I really think that no other dance form can compare to it!  Seeing the delight on the participants’ faces as they performed in our final jam circle was priceless.  I was especially happy to see one particular person enjoying himself immensely.  Doug Goodkin is a nationally-known educator and clinician who specializes in combining jazz music and Orff, and he came to check me out!  I was really excited to get his stamp of approval.

I finished off the workshop by sharing the children’s book Jazzy Miz Mozetta.

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The story is about Miz Mozetta and her elderly friends who used to be swing dancers.  They are old and creaky now, but they end up teaching their young hip-hop -dancing neighbors how to jitterbug.  I read the story aloud, and briefly shared the story of Frankie Manning, an original lindy hopper who spent the last 30 years of his life traveling the world teaching the next generation of dancers.  I actually got choked up and teary as I urged all the teachers to pass this culture on to their students, and there were many moist eyes in the audience as well.  If I can make people cry (in a good way!) I think that means the workshop was a success. =)

AOSA Conference Reflections, part 1

I just returned from the American Orff Schulwerk conference in Denver, CO. Teaching music isn’t without its challenges, but music teachers have the Best. Conferences.  Ever.


I started each day with Early Morning Song Sessions, led by past presidents of AOSA.  These were my favorite sessions of the conference!  The past presidents are all dynamic and inspiring educators, they have a presence that fills up the room and draws you in.  We sang and danced to an Argentine Joroba, harmonized and hemiola-ed to a Zulu play song, moved and sang in 4-part canon, and read some soulful feel-good choral music.  If every day could begin by singing “The Storm is Passing Over” with 50 trained musicians, I think my coffee would become unnecessary.

Over the course of the conference, I danced inside of a stretchy silver body bag, led a Chinese dragon dance (with train of people wearing a long vinyl table cloth following me!) learned a stick dance from India, sang 8 part double canons, and made silly backwards videos on my iPad.  I experienced some absolutely incredible children’s performances; trash Bands, marimba ensembles, choral groups, and more.

It is so energizing and inspiring to be around other teachers at these AOSA conferences.  Every presenter has a different strength to share.  Some are recorder gurus, some have amazing processes to teach mallet instruments, some know how to bring the dance out of the most tentative mover, and some are ethnomusicologists who collect songs and stories from all over the world.  It can be daunting to experience so much excellence.  There are so many great ideas presented, and most clinicians make it seem so easy and effortless you wonder how you could possibly be as great!  It definitely gave me some new goals for myself and my teaching!

Conference is educational, but it is also FUN!  Music teachers are mostly crazy to begin with, and Orff teachers are a special kind of crazy.  We burst randomly into improvised complimentary rhythm ostinatos, compose canons in the elevator, and don’t even blink when a clinician hands out scarf and tells you to create a water dance in five minutes GO!


I wish I could have attended the late night folk dancing sessions, but I have become an early-to-bed person, and the 2-hour time difference didn’t help matters.

I probably could have caffeinated and sucked it up, but I was actually PRESENTING on Saturday and wanted to make sure I still had some juice left for that!  More on my presenting experience tomorrow!

Another Nut Butter Trick

Previously, I shared a recipe for Peanut Butter Hummus, one of the recipes I use to make protein more palatable for my sweet boy.  I have a similar trick, one that yields a delicious dip for fruit and veggies.  It can also be spread on bread, crackers, waffles, stirred into oatmeal, or eaten with a spoon. 😉  Bryce loves it, and it kicks the nutrition of nut butter up a notch.

Buttery Yogurt Dip

1/4 cup nut butter (I love almond butter or peanut butter)

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

dash of cinnamon

1 T maple syrup or honey (can be omitted)

Stir everything together until well blended.  It is wonderful on graham crackers with thinly sliced apples!