How To Get Away With Parenting

I am on a podcast y’all!!!! I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my new friend Malaika on her podcast, How to Get Away With Parenting. We are discussing how body image really begins with one’s parents and the “d word”-discipline 🙅🏾. We are not experts by any stretch of the imagination but are two mamas really trying to figure this ish out. So check it out- click here!

Self Love is the Best Love: A Valentine’s Day Lesson for Secondary Students

I hate Valentine’s Day. It probably started when I was a teenager. I never had a guy bring me chocolates or ask me to be his valentine. I always envied the girls that got to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Finally my senior year in high school, I got that moment. I had a boyfriend and I was ready to feel what I thought Valentine’s Day should feel like. Except that he was a jerk. I quickly learned that being with a jerk on Valentine’s Day is much worse than being single on Valentine’s Day.

In college I found more reasons to hate Valentine’s Day. A good friend of mine had finally gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. It was hard for her to leave the relationship, but she knew that it would only get harder if she stayed. I saw her every day and was happy to help her close this difficult chapter of her life. Well, until Valentine’s Day came and she went back him. She was so sad about spending Valentine’s Day alone that she decided she’d rather be with him then be single. I tried to tell her that Valentine’s Day with a jerk is worse than being single on Valentine’s Day, but I wasn’t convincing enough. Not only did she have an awful Valentine’s Day, but she consequently allowed this guy back into her life and it took months before she was able to leave him again.

After that, I made a vow to never celebrate Valentine’s Day again and I never did.

I like to say that my current partner and I celebrate our love everyday, and while that isn’t as true as I would like, we make an effort to keep our love strong so that we never need Valentine’s Day to remind us to love each other.

But every year I’m confronted with Valentine’s Day as a high school teacher. The students inevitably ask if I have a Valentine and I go on my rant about why I hate Valentine’s Day.

It’s a commercial holiday.

I don’t like when my single friends are sad because they don’t have a Valentine.

I don’t like when my friends in relationships are sad because their significant other didn’t do enough to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I don’t like when people spend money they don’t have because corporate America is telling them that they have to if they love someone.

Besides, who wants to wait hours to be seated at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day when the food is just as good a week before and a week after?

And while some students appreciate my approach, I really just come off as a grouchy person that hates love. So last year I tried a new approach. I still explained that my partner and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but since it is a celebration of love, let’s celebrate the most important love: self love.

I talked about how important self love is in all aspects of our lives. How I’m a better partner, mother, teacher, friend, daughter, sister because I love myself. How it was impossible to find a partner that would love me unconditionally until I learned to love myself unconditionally.

Then I shared a few things that I love about myself, and it’s usually things that I used to hate. My big feet. The bags under my eyes. My stomach. Or I shared personality characteristics that had served me well. My sense of humor. My work ethic. My empathy.

For the daily check-in question (I do this everyday as a way to do attendance, check-in with students, and build community) I asked them to share what they love about themselves. For some students this is easy, and for some, it is incredibly difficult. But whenever a student would say they didn’t love anything about themselves, I would ask the class to share things that they loved about this student. And they always had a lot to share. And before you know it, we were all showering each other with love and affirmations. In one class a student asked if they could share something they loved about each person. In another class a student asked if we could go around and yell out what we loved about our classmates one student at a time. In all of my classes, we spent most of the period finding things we loved about each other. And it was the best Valentine’s Day lesson I had ever done.

So no matter what you do in your classroom on Valentine’s Day, take a moment to remind your students that the best love is always self love. (And you’re still welcome to go on a rant about how we don’t need a holiday to remind us to love the people in our lives…)

Multiple Intelligences Project Menu


If you are an urban teacher, you probably have a heterogeneous class. Successful teaching in heterogeneous classrooms is all about differentiated learning and multiple intelligences. Creating differentiated lessons that utilize multiple intelligences is one of the main challenges in teaching. But once you create something great, you can adapt it and use it for different purposes.

One of my favorite assignments for allowing students to explore and hone their multiple intelligences is a project menu. I take the topic that we are studying and give them over 15 ways to demonstrate their knowledge to the class. This month we’ve been exploring the concept of morality, so students were expected to create a project about morality that they would present to the class. However, rather than give strict criteria about what the project needed to entail, I gave a list of 15 different options with very little criteria for each option. Here are some of the choices for their project:

  • Dramatic Monologue
  • Comic Strip
  • Social Media Account
  • Children’s Book
  • Board Game
  • Poetry Series
  • Song/Rap
  • Soundtrack
  • Blog
  • Puppet Show
  • Movie
  • Research on Presidential Candidates

When developing the list of options, I try to ensure that the there is an option for each type of student and the range of skills that they bring into the classroom. I also add that they can do something that isn’t on the list, as long as it’s approved by me.

Once the students pick their project, they complete a proposal and rubric for their project. I’m not making rubrics for 15 projects, so I model how to make a rubric and then they are expected to create the rubric that they’ll be graded on. I check the rubrics to make sure they are holding themselves to high standards, and then I grade them on that rubric when they present.

This project is also great for Sustained Silent Reading. I always have students create a project for the book that they’ve read independently which is way more exciting than a book report. Here are some of the project options for their SSR projects:

  • Movie Poster
  • Memory Box
  • Alternate Ending
  • Fashion Portfolio
  • Architecture Project
  • Cookbook
  • Character Analysis
  • Book Club Leader

When I have them present their SSR projects, they have to bring the book that they’ve read. After their presentation, I open the book to a random page, read a small section, and ask the student what is happening in this part of the book. This has two purposes. The main purpose is to make sure they’ve actually read the book. It is always clear if they have not read the book. If they haven’t, they can’t get complete credit for the project, but I allow them to finish the book and then I quiz them again once they’re done. I also like reading a part of the book in class because sometimes the passages get other students excited about reading the book, which helps create a culture of reading among the students.

Here are the links to both of the referenced projects:

Feel free to adapt the project to fit your classroom structures and expectations. Every time I do the project I add a couple more options and occasionally I take some away. If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section!

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I’m Full of Love After My First Day Back at School

First day selfie!

First day selfie!

Today was the first day of school. I’m teaching 9th grade for the first time and had my very first experience of teaching a whole class of students that I had no prior relationship ( I always taught 11th and 12th grades on a two year loop). There is so much to blog about and so instead of trying to stick to a theme I figured I would just get it out of my system. Here we go!

First off, I love my students! I’m always amazed by how a bunch of different personalities can come together to form an advisory- a group of students that by graduation, consider each other family. I won’t get into descriptions of all 18 of them but I will share a little anecdote from today.

My friend helped me put my room together and decided to put a poster that a student I worked with had made ten years ago right above my board that reads “If Guns Could Die We Could Live”. I asked him to move it explaining that it might be a distraction but he said he wanted students to be distracted by it so I went with it. Well right on the first day he got exactly what he wanted. In the middle of class I found myself in a debate about gun control. Students were saying things like “what about the 2nd Amendment?” “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “What about the police, if they were disarmed, who would protect us?”

To all this I responded “amendments can be amended. How many people have been killed by guns accidentally? What if we had a world without police?” I saw their brains expanding, and eyes brighten at the thought of a different type of world. My heart went aglow. I’m fully aware that I’m simply in the honeymoon phase that most teachers experience at the beginning of the year but I know better than to take it for granted. I’m going to ride it out!!!

I also love my classroom! I spent two days getting my room ready and take a lot of pride in the aesthetics of my classroom. I generally like for my classrooms to feel like living rooms since we spend so much time there and by “we” I mean I. Last year I used decorations left over from my birthday party for my classroom in the spirit of reducing consumption. This year I was lucky enough to get fabric that my coworker used to cover up hay from his wedding. I originally was going to dye it and use it for table cloths but instead decided to hang them on the walls to add color to the space. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I feel a sense of calm when I walk into my classroom and I hope my students do  as well. I love how decor can have an instant impact on one’s emotions. I also really enjoyed dying the fabrics. It was so easy and exciting to see how each pattern materialized!

My classroom this year:

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My Classroom last year:

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My 30th birthday party:

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Lastly, I love MetWest Live (the whole school town hall that I coordinate with students). Today had a few hiccups and was very challenging to put together because I didn’t have access to students to help me. However I am proud of the “Summer in Review” video that I put together. I got emotional when I was editing it because there are a lot of every day people fighting the hate in our world. I wish I could post it but I used so much space on my computer making it that I can’t upload it :/

That’s all! I figured I would capture all the positivity I am feeling before things start heading south.

Multiple Intelligences Human Bingo

The teacher anxiety dreams have started up again which is the first signal that summer is coming to an end. Work officially starts for me tomorrow, although the anxiety dreams started just over a week ago. Hopefully you’ve read my blog on first week activities for a secondary classroom and it’s helped you plan out your first few days. This year I’ll be adding the Multiple Intelligences Human Bingo to my first week activities.

This idea was shared with me at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Oakland this summer. It takes a common teaching icebreaker, but adds the value of multiple intelligences. By having the students keep this worksheet in their organized binder you can refer to it all year. So whenwe are looking at a pie chart for information, we can refer to our Human Bingo activity to see which students have something to offer. When we are studying familial capital in Tara Yosso’s Cultural Wealth Theory, we can pull from our Human Bingo activity and find which students live with a grandparent. It begins as an ice breaker, but works all year as a tool to remind us of the different skills and experiences that students bring into the classroom.

Feel free to make a copy of the worksheet and make changes so that the information is relevant to your students. You can find the google doc here.

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I hope everyone has a great start to the new school year!


Chocolate Covered Oreo Pops: An Alternative to Cake Pops

I love cake pops but I think they are a bit too trendy for me to invest in the pans and the stands and all that goes into making cake pops at home. So when I came across beautifully decorated chocolate covered Oreos on Pinterest I was excited and decided to give them a try for Brendan’s third birthday. Since then, I’ve made them as holiday treats for my students and colleagues, Brendan’s fourth birthday and most recently prom! They sort have become my thing. They are also great because you can make a large batch of them all at once rather than bake, wash pan, and repeat which is what I have to do when I make sugar cookies or something.
Here’s how to make them!


Double stuf Oreos (the regular ones are too thin)

Kabob skewers (don’t try to substitute for cute lollipop sticks because they are too big)

Wax paper

Wilton Candy Melts

1 mug

1 plastic butter knife

1 pair of scissors 

Cookie frosting, candy frosting or any type of frosting that hardens

Candy bags

1. Using scissors cut the skewers to your desired length.

2. Slowly and carefully insert pointy side of skewer into the cream of the Oreo until it’s in about half way. (You will have a lot of Oreo casualties that is why you should buy extras and save the Oreo snacking until the end of the process)

3. Once all your Oreos have skewers, put as many chocolate melts in a mug that will fit and heat them following the directions on the package. If you overheat the chocolate it will destroy it turn it into a hard chunky mess!

4. Put down wax paper for the Oreos to go on after they have chocolate. I usually like to put my wax paper on a cookie sheet. 

5. Holding your Oreo on a stick in one hand, scoop a whole bunch of chocolate out of the mug with your plastic butter knife and begin spreading it smoothly all over your Oreo. Remember to spread it on the bottom where the skewer and Oreo meet because that will reinforce the skewer. 

6. After you have spread the chocolate smoothly all over the Oreo to cover it, lay it down on the wax paper for it to harden. (It takes about 10 minutes for the chocolate to set)

7. Once the chocolate has set you are ready to decorate! 

Note: If you are using sprinkles or candy eyes you should decorate before the chocolate sets.☝🏽️

8. After they are all done I like to wrap my chocolate covered Oreo pops in little clear plastic candy bags and tie them with a cute ribbon. I find that doing this makes them seem more fancy than they really are 😉.

Oreo Pop Gallery:


The Baby Steps of Sleep Training

share_tempory (4)Sleep, or lack thereof, is an ongoing topic for new mothers. Even though I didn’t like constantly being asked how baby was sleeping, I find myself asking new mothers that same question all of the time.  Getting babies to sleep through the night is less about baby and more about mommy and daddy. Therefore, the concept of sleep training is something that most parents are confronted with in the babies first year of life. And while there are often two sides of the sleep training debate: the “cry it out” method and the “they’ll do it when they’re ready” approach, my experience of successful sleep training falls somewhere in the middle.

Both of my babies slept next to me in our bed for their first few weeks of life. I felt safe having them there and it was easier to nurse them back to sleep when they woke up multiple times in the night. Some sleep training experts would say that nursing the babies back to sleep in my bed was enabling them to rely on me for sleep. The method of putting down baby while they’re still awake never worked for me. I was able to do it occasionally, but with a newborn baby, I didn’t care how they got to sleep as long as they got there quickly. So I take responsibility for enabling sleep habits that I later had to break, but I still think it was the best for me and my babies.

So the process of getting my precious babies from waking up multiple times a night in my bed, to sleeping through the night in their own crib is where sleep training is necessary. But I don’t view sleep training as a one-time process of forcing the baby to break bad sleeping habits, but rather, an ongoing process of training baby to sleep independently. I think a big mistake that parents make is trying to change too much of the sleeping process at once, when we really need to take baby steps.

My sleep training plan is to change one thing about their sleeping arrangement at a time. First, I had to move baby from my bed to their crib. But even before making that jump, I moved the baby from my bed to a co-sleeper that was next to my bed. I would still nurse or rock baby to sleep, but then I’d place them in the co-sleeper. So they got used to waking up in the co-sleeper rather than in my bed. Once baby seemed okay with that, I’d move the co-sleeper across the room. Once the baby was okay with that, I moved the co-sleeper into their room, and then finally, I moved baby into the crib that was in their room. This entire process took about a month, but my babies didn’t have to cry it out. If they did cry, I would hold them, rock them, nurse them, or sing to them, but I would still stick with the sleep training step that I was on.

Once baby was sleeping in their crib, it was time to cut back on nighttime feedings. So dad and I would talk to the pediatrician about how many nighttime feedings were normal for the baby’s age and weight and then we’d only nurse the baby that many times. If baby woke up more than that, then one of us—usually dad—went in to rock baby back to sleep. Again, because there was a loving parent to rock the baby then we didn’t have to let baby cry it out. With my daughter, dad was working nights, so I went it to rock her to sleep. It was a bit harder because she knew I had the goods she wanted, but it was still successful. Once the pediatrician said that baby was at a healthy weight to sleep through the night, we did the same thing. We’d rock and sing the baby to sleep, but I would not nurse. With each of these steps the baby adjusted in just a couple of days.

Now that my babies are sleeping through the night in their own crib, it was time to work on getting baby to fall asleep independently. If baby falls asleep sucking on a pacifier by being rocked, don’t take away both aides at once. Take away the pacifier, but still rock the baby. Or let the baby have the pacifier while you just hold the baby. Again, don’t try to change too much at once, just one thing at a time. For my daughter, taking away the pacifier at 20 months was our last battle. My son never used a pacifier so right now we’re working on having him fall asleep without us. Currently, at 13 months, he sleeps through the night in his crib, but he needs us to be in the room while he falls asleep. We don’t hold him or rock him, just let him know that we’re still in the room. Our final step is to lay him down and walk out of the room.

While I never let my kids “cry it out” that doesn’t mean that they didn’t cry. They’re still babies. And with each baby I had a handful of nights where they cried and nothing worked. And a couple of those times I walked out and closed the door and let them cry themselves to sleep. But I never had to let them cry for an extended period of time as a sleep training method.

In addition to this gradual process, there are some other suggestions that I’d add. First of all, I suspend all sleep training during teething or growth spurts. When baby is cranky, I’ll go back to doing whatever it takes to getting baby to sleep. But once that passes, then we’re back to whatever step we were on. Additionally, a good nighttime schedule at roughly the same time every day is important. My babies go to sleep at different times, so their routines are separate but still similar. We brush our teeth, give goodnight hugs and kisses to daddy, read a few books, and then say goodnight to things in the room or outside of the window. I also have the same songs that I sing to reinforce the bedtime routine (with my daughter I sing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” and with my son I sing Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home to Me”) and I use stuffed animals that play the same nighttime music every night. Finally, I also believe in the use of mindfulness for helping baby sleep. I use mindfulness in my class on a daily basis—I’ll post on that another time—but it’s super useful with the babies. Nothing keeps babies awake like an agitated restless parent trying to get them to sleep. They totally feed off of our energy, so we have to remain calm and relaxed if we want them to relax enough to fall asleep. So when I feel agitated or restless, I do about 60 seconds of mindful breathing to calm down. Sometimes I hold the baby while I do it and other times I put the baby down and do it outside of the room.

I don’t claim to be a sleep training expert, and many experts may disagree with my approach. However, I wanted to offer this method for parents who felt like the other popular methods didn’t work for them. But ultimately parenting is about what works for you whether your baby is crying it out for a few nights or co-sleeping until they’re ready to move into their own bed. The most successful parents are the ones that make the decisions that are best for their circumstance.

NOTE: The naptime struggle is one that I haven’t quite conquered yet, mainly because the routine and sleep times vary from mommy to daddy to daycare. Usually I still have to rock the 1-year old to sleep and pretend to fall asleep with the 2-year old. Any tips??

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Butt Why?: Baby Butts, Spinal Cords and MRIs

baby butt

“We are going to need to keep an eye on the wrinkle above his butt crack.” This was what I was told during Grayson’s first doctor examination when he was just a day old. The doctor went on to say that it is probably nothing but if it didn’t go away in a few months then there is a possibility that Grayson could have a tethered spinal cord and he would need an MRI in order to check if he had one. My husband and I were freaked out but we knew we couldn’t let something so far out of our hands consume us. We put the possibility of a tethered cord in the back of our head and occasionally checked the “Y” at the top of Grayson’s butt crack, praying that it would simply smooth itself out.

Months passed and Grayson’s pediatrician notified us that his wrinkle was still a cause for concern and that Grayson would need the MRI. My heart sank. Grayson’s pediatrician tried to console me by sharing that it’s just a precaution, that babies rarely have tethered cords, and that checking babies because of wrinkles above their butt crack was actually a newer symptom. She also shared that if he does in fact have a tethered spinal cord and they don’t fix it now he could lose bladder control and could even end up paralyzed! With that said, we put Grayson on the MRI waiting list with no hesitation.

Grayson was able to get an appointment earlier than usual and  we were given opportunities to talk through everything with the anesthesiologist ahead of time. She assured me that the MRI was a routine procedure with very little risk. She also said I would be able to be with Grayson the whole time.

The day arrived. My husband and I took the day off and I fed Grayson as close to the cut off time as possible (babies have to fast for a few hours before the MRI). We arrived on time but the MRI clinic was running late. We waited anxiously and eventually Grayson’s named was called. The nurse came over, explained to us what was about to happen and took him from us. It turned out that parents weren’t actually allowed to stay with their children during the MRI  process. At that very moment a huge wave of fear washed over me and tears welled up in my eyes. The “what ifs” started running through my head. What if they give him too much anesthesia? What if he does have a tethered spinal cord? What if he’s back there missing me? My husband and I consoled each other and I tried to distract myself with work emails and text messages.

As I sat there however, watching baby after baby come in and go out, another “what if” came to me. What if this is some Tuskegee experiment type stuff? What if they are using these baby MRIs for something or doing something else to the babies back there in the name of science? I know it sounds super conspiracy theory but this is the one “what if” that I still think about. Grayson’s spinal cord is fine and we moved on with our lives but after my close friend went through the same thing with her little one, my conspiracy theory popped back in my head. After my friend’s son was also found to have a normal spinal cord we came to the conclusion that although tethered spinal cords are a real concern, the high referral rate to the MRI clinic is probably financially driven. So while I’m sure there are babies born to this world with tethered spinal cords, I’m also sure that like a lot of medical precautions this one generates a lot of revenue for the MRI industry-at the expense of vulnerable parents concerned about their children’s livelihood. So would I do it again? Yes, definitely but I would keep in mind that it is likely that the main thing that will come from my child getting an MRI is an increase in revenue for somebody.

My Favorite Food Blogs

I don’t know how people cooked before the internet. I mean, I know that recipes were passed down from generation to generation. But what happened if no one passed down good recipes? If your parents didn’t cook delicious food, how would you ever learn? While some of my favorite recipes came from my mom, she was limited in her repertoire of recipes, probably because she didn’t have the internet.

(And I really don’t know how teachers taught before the internet, but that’s another blog for another time…)

Anyway, I’m incredibly thankful for the number of recipes I’ve been able to find online. Over half of the recipes that I cook on a regular basis are recipes that I’ve found from blogs and pinterest. Although, recently I’ve had bad luck with pinterest recipes. The picture is always beautiful, but the recipes aren’t usually as great as I’d like. So now, because my time is increasingly limited, I only frequent a few food blogs that have consistently provided original recipes that turn out great. So here is a quick list of my favorite food bloggers, in no particular order, and my favorite recipes from these blogs.

The Stay at Home Chef – Rachel’s bio says that she is all about “bring restaurant quality food to your home kitchen” and she definitely delivers. She occasionally has additional “cooking lessons” on her blog that give clear directions on certain cooking techniques. I’ve loved everything that I’ve made from her website, but her Triple Fruit Salad with Lemon-Poppyseed Dressing has made me quite popular at many potlucks over the years. I’ve made it as is, I’ve made it with differnet fruits, I’ve made it for 40 people, and it’s always a hit.

Damn Delicious – The recipes on this blog are classic, easy, comfort food. She makes the most daunting recipes seem easy and everything I’ve made from her has been a hit for the whole family. When I made her One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta the first time my partner asked me if I could make it at least once a week, and now I do. It’s so simple, so tasty, and so versitle.

Thug Kitchen – This blog is fun to read even when you don’t cook their recipes. Their goal is to make healthy eating accessible to everyone, and they achieve that by cussing at you throughout their blog post. Sounds strange, but it totally works. All of their recipes are vegan and all of their blog posts are vulgar. And it’s a brilliant combination. My favorite recipe from them is Spring Asparagus Risotto and if you ever thought making risotto was too fancy and labor intensive, their recipe will make you feel comfortable enough to make some risotto tonight.

Patrice D’Agostino (Formally Preferably Vegan) – Okay, so you should know that this blog is not just a food blog, it’s a lifestyle blog. And you should also know that Patrice is a good friend of mine. But with those disclaimers aside, her recipes are wonderful! I aspire to be as health conscious as her, but I’m not quite there yet. Although her website is constant reminder that healthy, plant-based eating can be as delicious, if not more, than my current diet. I regularly make her Turmeric Latte (Dairy-Free) because it’s fragrant, healthy, and caffine-free. It’s the perfect way to end a long day.

All of these blogs offer delicious and easy recipes that will impress your friends and families. And they make my life easier as an urban teacher mama.

What are some of your favorite food bloggers??

Teachers as Cheerleaders

My last post was a bit of a bummer so I figured I should lighten things up a little with a music video that I made with my colleagues. It is a tradition at my school for adults to act silly every so often and perform a remixed version or should I say “MetWestified” (my school is called MetWest) version of a pop song for our students. This year’s song was Cheerleader by OMI. I chose this song because as teachers we often play the role of cheerleaders for our students and it is an important one! While the idea of cheerleaders often bring images of pompom-clad gender conforming eating disorder under aged sex symbols we also took the opportunity to push those images out of people’s minds by, well, being the opposite.

Happy viewing!