May 29, 2014

Meditation Music via YouTube

I've talked before on my blog about how much I love using music in my classroom.  After regularly using music throughout the day for the past three years, I cannot imagine a quiet, music-free classroom.  I use my ipod throughout the day as well as songs that I embed into my ActivInspire flipcharts.  (Sadly, we cannot use Pandora at school...) Read the full post about the different ways I use music here.

One of the first ways I began incorporating music into my classroom back in the day was by playing classical music during writing time.  Since then, I've increased the parts of my day during which I play background music to include testing time, independent work time, group work time, etc.  One problem came up this year, though: While I add to my "relaxing music" and "upbeat music" playlists frequently, my "classical" and "instrumental" playlists have grown a little...stale.  If I have to hear the same four Mozart albums one more time...well...needless to say, it's no longer having the same relaxing effect on me!

A few weeks ago, I walked into my colleague's classroom after school and loved the quiet, relaxing music she had playing.  I asked if it was a playlist on her ipod, and can I please get the songs from her???  Imagine my surprise when she told me she was streaming through YouTube!  She told me that if you just go to youtube and search "Meditation Music," you will find hour, three-hour, eight-hour, etc. videos of soothing, quiet music complete with calming visuals.  Jackpot!
Works for after school grading time too--Don't we all need a little help relaxing during grading??
Since then, I've been pulling up different recordings during the school day.  I love the change, and my kids love when I project the visuals on the screen.  The best part is that it is EASY!  No downloading, no messing with CDs or my ipod, easy peasy lemon squeezy.  And during a hectic school day, finding something easy that helps everyone relax is pretty awesome, am I right? :)

Do you use music in your classroom?

May 27, 2014

Training Tuesday: Two Weeks til Race Day + Tommie Copper Review

Another week of tri training is on the books!  It's hard to believe that there are less than two weeks until Esprit de She and less than a month until Pleasant Prairie!  I actually feel pretty great about both races though--there is more work to be done (especially for Pleasant Prairie), sure, but I'm gettin' it done!  This week I got in an easy run, a bike/run brick, a 27-mile ride in the most beautiful weather ever, and two great swims.
Almost had my first clipless pedals wipe out Saturday when I didn't unclip soon enough at an intersection...Luckily I was fine and, equally as importantly, no one was around to witness my shame...

Sunday I even swam 2,000 yds straight with no breaks!  That was a huge milestone for me.  I have only made it that distance a couple of times before, and always with at least 1 break thrown in there.  I felt truly unstoppable in the pool during that swim!  What an amazing feeling!  This is why I love taking on new challenges and distances every year--without fail, I discover I am capable of things I'd never thought.  I remember when I swam a half mile for the first time!  Crazy.  I am actually looking forward to going for my first open water swim next week!

This week I got to try out a new piece of gear that I totally loved--Tommie Copper Compression Socks.  (Read my past Tommie Copper reviews here, here, and here.)  I was pumped to have a chance to try out another Tommie Copper item, since I have really liked everything else I've tried by them.  Like all TC items, these socks are made with copper infused yarn to help speed recovery.  I wore these babies on a short 3-mile run Thursday night, and I loved them!  They have a great level of compression, and the height of the socks is perfect for me--not too tall, not too short.  Also, they were a good thickness--sometimes compression socks are too thin, and I feel like my feet are sliding around in my shoes in them.  I will definitely be wearing these on future runs!  (Though definitely not for my tris...imagine putting on compression socks in transition!!)  Highly recommend this product.  Thanks Tommie Copper for letting me try them out!
The return of stretchy laces...Must be tri season!
Speaking of gear, stretchy laces have made a return in my running shoes!  I put a pair of Lock Laces in the shoes I'm planning to wear for my tris.  I love stretchy laces for transitions.  Last year I used Yankz, and they were kind of annoying to adjust.  I am already a bigger fan of lock laces.  Easy to adjust and so far they seem to stay put!

I'm also starting to think about my race day clothing.  Tri clothes are so much trickier for me than running clothes.  When it comes to running races, I have so many items of clothing that I absolutely love, so it's never hard to plan a race day outfit.  Triathlon is another story though!  I bought a new pair of tri shorts from Pearl Izumi that I have taken on a bike and run, and I think I will probably end up wearing those.  While I liked them, my Skirt Short tri shorts that I wore for the past two seasons have definitely seen better days.  I'm trying to figure out which top to go with, however.  I have worn the lavender Athleta top below for my past two tris that I like, but don't love.  I have Pearl Izumi tri top (below, purple) that is decent, but it's a little short.  I HATE HATE HATE short tops.  I also bought a Pearl Izumi cycle tank (below, blue) that I might be able to get away with in a tri, but I will have to swim in it first I think to see how fast it dries.  #triathleteprobz.  
Training goals for this week include setting a new bike PDR, getting in a solid bike/run brick, and maybe even nailing a 3-sport brick...we'll see about that one tho!

How is your training going?

Disclaimer: I was sent a pair of Tommie Copper socks in exchange for sharing a review on my blog.  I was not compensated in any other way or encouraged to express a particular opinion.

May 24, 2014

Sweet Saturday

I have found myself with a very rare free Saturday, and I decided there was only one way to celebrate it...
 Lazy couch and balcony time with a book and stove top oatmeal.  Yum!

Now I'm finally getting my lazy self off the couch and out to enjoy a bike ride in the BEAUTIFUL weather.  It is seriously perfect here--sunny and 70s.  What a gift!

But the day is made even better by the email I just got from my principal in which he copied and pasted part of an email he just received from the parent of one of my fourth graders...

He had the two most amazing years in Miss ___'s classroom..he made a huge growth...Miss ___ is definitely one of the best teachers that we had pleasure having as our child teacher...She is amazing..She goes the extra mile, finds the way how to work with an individual child, recognizing the weakness and most importantly she knows how to overcome that same weakness and gets them there, happy about themselves...

Obviously, I was in tears reading that email.  After a long week and with my patience rapidly wearing thin with my little darlings, this was just the pick me up I needed. :)  

Happy long weekend!

May 21, 2014

My Favorite Post-Workout Smoothie

Happy Wednesday!  The weather in Chicago is finally HOT which means the return of the sweaty selfie:

It also means I am loving a frosty cold post-workout smoothie these days!  A reader left a comment on the Juice Boxes + Crayolas Facebook page the other day asking me to share my favorite smoothie recipe.  After finishing a hot and sweaty brick workout last night (just before a thunderstorm rolled in!), I was definitely ready to enjoy a post-workout smoothie.

All my smoothies are basically variations of the same recipe:

  • 1 cup almond milk (I like Silk Light, Original Flavor)
  • 1 big handful spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • A handful of whatever frozen fruit I have on hand--Usually this ends up being blueberries, but I am currently LOVING the frozen pineapple tidbits from Trader Joe's, and have been using a mix of pineapple and blueberries in smoothies lately.
Layer the ingredients in blender in that order (now that I know how to correctly blend smoothies...), blend, and enjoy!  
I used to add protein powder into my smoothies, but I decided it wasn't necessary and that I was getting enough protein from the almond milk and other sources in my daily diet.  After a long hard run, though, I will often add a big spoonful of peanut butter which makes the smoothie just that much more amazing.  I mean really, isn't everything better with peanut butter??
That's it!  Easy, delicious, refreshing, and healthy.  A perfect summer beverage!  Well, at least a close second to Leinie's Summer Shandy... ;)

What's your favorite smoothie or go-to summer beverage?

May 20, 2014

Training Tuesday: Race Recap--Chicagoland Half Marathon

Half marathon #8 is on the books!  Now for my 6 word race recap:

Sunshine and running buddies, beautiful race.
And now for the real recap.  While I was hesitant to commit to a half three weeks before a triathlon after how under tri-trained I ended up last year after doing same thing, I am so happy I did!  My running buddies Christy, Donna, and I decided to run the Chicagoland Half Marathon together.  While the three of us ran together all last summer for marathon training and all winter too, Christy and I had only raced together once--during the Chicago Marathon--and Donna had never run a race with us.  We were pumped to finally race all together!  The race prep started Saturday night.  I live just 10 minutes from the start line for this race, so I invited Christy over for a pasta/running movie pre-race sleepover to save her from making the drive on race morning.  We watched Spirit of the Marathon II (awesome) and Hood to Coast (also awesome).  The perfect pre-race ritual!
Sunday morning we met up with Donna at the race site, and it wasn't long before we were off and running!  Thank goodness too--it was chilly out!!  I was super thankful I'd grabbed an old long sleeve race shirt for a throwaway.  The three of us decided to run 3/1 intervals, to have fun, and take it easy.  The race was in a big local forest preserve, and it was just gorgeous between the shining sun, the green grass, and trees that are finally full of leaves after a brutal winter.  After setting my PR at the Chi Town Half, I was more than happy to take it easy during this race!  Not worrying about pace at all, the three of us chatted up a storm for about 11 miles nonstop.  
Towards the end, I was struck by a crazy feeling--this race felt easy.  I have never felt that way about the half marathon distance before, but there I was in the last two miles chatting, dancing, and encouraging my running buddies.  I was even getting antsy to run faster!  I had this surreal experience during those last few miles, thinking about how just a few years ago this distance had seemed impossible, then just super super challenging...and here I was, just having FUN!  Wow.  

Christy fell back a little at the end, but Donna and I crossed the finish holding hands, then cheered for Christy as she finished minutes later.  Afterwards, other than being ridiculously tired, I felt...awesome.  A little sore, but nothing like I have after half marathons in the past!  I couldn't stop thinking about how much fun we had.
Donna and I, just across the finish line!  Right ahead of us in blue is a runner we met at the very start of the race.  She asked us what pace we were running, and we encouraged her to tag along with out little group.  She had hopes of a new PR, and after finishing, she thanked us for helping her not only reach it but crush her old PR!   
And in that very thought lies the reason I run:  I run to break down barriers, to make things that once seemed impossible not just possible but everyday experiences.  I run to make new friends, cherish old friends, celebrate beautiful spring days, and dance across finish lines.  Some days I run to push myself to the breaking point...and other days I run to celebrate the runner I have become.

Did you race this weekend?
Tell me why you run!

May 15, 2014

Nothing After Nine

I'm currently reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin for my book club's May pick.  I really enjoyed Rubin's previous book, The Happiness Project, and while I'm just not loving this one so much, it has me thinking about resolutions.  Basically, in both books Gretchen creates small resolutions each month designed to make her life overall more organized and happy.  Reading things like this always gets me thinking about my own life and ways I can improve.  I'm planning on taking a look back at my 2014 goals and starting smaller monthly goals with the start of next month, but I wanted to share one of my current "resolution" practices that I'm really loving.
Source: Amazon
Last year, a teacher friend and I were talking about how hard it can be to turn your brain off at night sometimes.  She shared with me a new-for-her policy: Nothing After Nine.  Basically, every night at nine pm, you began to power down.  Get off the computer, turn off the TV, put away any school work or other projects.  At 9pm, it's time to relax, get things in order for the next day, and get ready for bed.  At first I thought, "That's way too early!  I can't drop everything at 9!"  But then I realized that most of the things I'm doing after 9 aren't even productive things--usually it's facebook, pinterest, or watching another episode of Pretty Little Liars or some other Netflix trash.  I love sleep, and I need a good night's sleep to be prepared for school, so I decided to give Nothing After Nine a shot.
Way too plugged in.
Yup, that's Food Network on my TV that I'm watching during intermission for a Hawks playoffs game (on my laptop on the coffee table) while working on school work on my school laptop...
For the last year or so, I've been practicing Nothing After Nine on and off, but mostly on.  It's become a wonderful habit and nightly routine for me.  On week nights, at nine pm I tear myself away from the computer and turn off the tv.  I do any leftover dishes sitting in the sink, take a shower, pack my workout bag for the next day, and pick out something to wear for school.  If I'm feeling really ambitious, I even pack my lunch, but those days are few and far between.  Then, I lay down and read.  I find that sticking to this routine has two wonderful benefits (besides the fact that my dishes stay under control!) I make time each day to read, and I can go to sleep relaxed.
Only screen I need after nine--my kindle :)
Some days that I fall out of the routine and end up working out after nine, or blogging, or watching tv.  Those days, when I turn off the lights, I'll find myself tossing and turning, my mind still racing at 100 miles per hour.  A good night's sleep is almost impossible.  So for me, I think Nothing After Nine is here to stay!  At least most weeknights :)

What "resolutions" and routines do you practice on a daily basis?

May 14, 2014

May 13, 2014

Training Tuesday: A New Bike PDR

At the start of this triathlon training cycle, biking had definitely beat out swimming in the "weakest sport" category.  Swimming has always been tough for me, but I really hit it hard this winter, whereas biking...well, aside from a few trainer rides, it was almost nonexistent.  After Alyssa and my rockin 22 mile ride last Sunday, I decided I wanted to up the distance again this weekend.  As always, Alyssa was on board, and we agreed to tackle 30 miles.  The furthest I'd biked up until that point was 23, when I got lost in Busse Woods last summer...whoops.  

Anyways, it was a GORGEOUS day Sunday, so we started off excited and enthusiastic.  Alyssa's fiance Matt was in town, so he joined us.  We were biking a favorite 7+ mile loop, and the first two laps passed quickly with lots of chatting.  The third was challenging, since by then the sun was up in full force, but we had a good chuckle about an older man we spotted biking in socks, sandals, jeans, and (wait for it) suspenders.  Don't worry, like the fitness blogger creeps we are, we snapped pictures without pausing our ride.
Bloggers can be creepy sometimes...we know.
Aside from the suspender man, other highlights included a dog in a bike basket and a little girl out with her dad wearing bike shorts and a jersey.  I could barely contain my excitement at that cuteness factor.  After the third lap, my stomach was growling so we took a quick break to refuel and relax for a minute.  A Clif Bar and water never tasted so good!  That break was just what I needed to get out there for one last loop.  It wasn't easy--by the last few hills, my quads were burning and my shoulders were tired, but we did it!  30 miles!  A new personal distance record woo!
 After the ride, Alyssa, Matt, and I did some serious damage at the Pearl Izumi outlet.  I mean, we totally earned some new cycling clothes with that ride, right?  Right?  I ended up with a new pair of tri shorts, a pair of cycle shorts, a cycle tank, a jersey, and full gloves for spring and fall rides.  (I could have used those just last week, actually!  My fingers were freezing!)  I won't tell you how much I spent (too much), but I did save over $100 off the original prices!  That counts for something, I think...
 Two lessons were learned Sunday:  1. I can ride further than I thought.  2. I really need to start wearing sunscreen.  It is apparently that time of year...whoops.
How have your workouts been going lately?  Any training milestones? 
Brag away in the comments!

May 12, 2014

Signs of Spring

I've you've been reading my blog at all this school year, you'll remember that I had some pretty strong feelings about the terrible winter we had.  Almost as rough, though, was the fact that until very recently, spring just didn't seem to be coming.  One day I actually had the thought: "Maybe climate change has ruined the Earth so badly that this is what spring is like here now.  Maybe we will never have warm weather."   This is what it had come to.  Winter blues much?

Luckily, my mini-depression over our lack of my favorite season has completely disappeared.  Better late than never, it looks like spring is really here!  Sure, it only took until mid-May, and sure it's supposed to drop back down to 40s and 50s this week (sad face), but right this very moment the weather is beautiful and life is good.  I've been seeing some of my annual signs of spring around!

Sleeping with the window cracked
The return of both running shorts and post-run sandals!  
(And the accompanying reminder that I am due for a pedicure...)

Changing the "sweater drawer" into the "tanks and shorts drawer"
Outdoor lunches

 Coming into school with just your lunch, purse, and coffee because that school work bag is suddenly less important, and let's face it--you're kinda winging it in the classroom these days anyways!

What signs of spring have you been spotting lately?

May 7, 2014

Haiku Bag Winner!

The winner of the Haiku Sprint Duffle is...

Congrats, Lisa!  Send me your name, address, and shipping info at juiceboxesandcrayolasATgmailDOTcom by Friday to claim your prize!  

Thanks everyone for entering!  I have another giveaway in the works, so stay tuned!  Here's a hint--it's a DELICIOUS one!

Have a great Wednesday!

May 6, 2014

Training Tuesday: Tri Training Update

First things first: today is the last day to enter to win a beautiful, functional workout bag from Haiku!  Check out my review and enter here.

So while it may not really feel like it, triathlon season is right around the corner!  I've been hitting it hard recently, and I think my work over the winter might just be paying off.  Yay!  I'm feeling more confident than ever in the pool, even fitting in two before-school pool sessions last week.  When that alarm goes off at 4:30, it's not pretty, but I never regret it once it's over.  The pool is always pretty quiet at that time too, which is nice.
Sunday, I met Alyssa for a bike/run brick.  I love training with Alyssa because she pushes me to bike just a *little* further every time.  Sunday was a little rough--I was tired, it was cold, and the wind was blowing.  5 minutes in I was wanting to be done.  But the conversation was great, the weather improved, Alyssa didn't laugh when I almost crashed into a stoplight (still learning how to clip in and out...), and we ended up getting in 22 miles followed by a 1.5 mile run.  My legs were definitely jelly when we started the run, but they loosened up pretty quickly.  Yay!

I'm also excited that this year I will be a race ambassador for the Esprit de She Naperville Triathlon!  This is one of my favorite races, and I'm pumped to be a part of their team.
Esprit de She is truly a phenomenal race.  They are well-organized, have the best swag, and just create the most positive, supportive race atmosphere.  My experience with them last year was awesome, and I couldn't be more excited to be back again racing this year.  If you are interested in a discount code to register for one of their events, just shoot me an email at juiceboxesandcrayolasATgmailDOTcom and I'll send it over!
At last year's Esprit de She Naperville Tri
How is your training going?  Any big upcoming races this month?

May 5, 2014

Current Classroom Management Win: SLANT

My giveaway for the Haiku Sprint Duffle ends tomorrow--what are you waiting for??  Go enter--it's as easy as leaving a comment.

I love being part of my school's PBIS universal/tier 1 team.  Developing school-wide behavior goals, implementing action plans, and planning celebrations for when we meet those goals is something I really enjoy doing.  Back in March, we tried a new goal that was hands-down my favorite to date.  One thing that several of us on the PBIS team had noticed we were struggling with was attention and eye contact during instruction.  Ever since hearing about it during my Quantum Learning training a few years ago, I've practiced SLANT with my kids:
S: Sit Up
L: Lean Forward
A: Ask Questions
N: Nod your Head
T: Track the Speaker

Every fall, I teach my kids what it means to "SLANT" during instruction and turn and talks.  We practice nodding (appropriately...), sitting so that our body sends a message to the speaker that we are listening, and holding eye contact with the speaker.  When we're learning the skill, I will walk around the whole room talking, encouraging the kids to turn in their chair and follow me with their eyes.  This is my favorite element of SLANT--while I know that eye contact expectations differ across cultures, I let the kids know that in our classroom, eyes on the speaker sends the message that we are engaged, listening, and interested.  
Anyways, back to our PBIS team.  After talking about our attention struggles, we decided to set SLANT as our school-wide goal for March.  Every day for three weeks, classrooms worked to earn a letter to spell the word SLANT, with the end goal being to earn enough letters to participate in our school community celebration.  I loved this goal SO MUCH!  We were already practicing SLANT, but this goal lit a fire under my kids to send the speaker--whether it's me or a student--that they are ready to listen and learn.  Loved the difference I saw in my class, especially during the "Spring Slump" that happens so often in classrooms come March!

What are some of your slam dunk management strategies this year?

May 2, 2014

Our New School Running Club

Ever since I coached Girls on the Run with the fabulous Lauren a few years back, I've been dying to start a running club with my students at school.  This year two other teachers and I finally did!  We ended up purchasing Fit Girls instead of going with Girls on the Run for a couple reasons.  First, while Girls on the Run offers scholarships, it packs a hefty price tag for girls.  Second, the Girls on the Run 5K is in Chicago, making travel there a bit of a logistical nightmare for many families.  We did some research and decided Fit Girls would be a good match for our school and got the program rolling back in March.
My friend Katy and I ready to run the GOTR 5K as running buddies!
We decided to open our club to girls in grades 4-6.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, we meet for an hour after school.  Here's how our meetings typically go:

1. Snack & Read Aloud:  One unique feature of Fit Girls is a literacy focus.  We have a "lending library" (aka a bin) of books about strong, brave girls that the kids can sign out, and we are also reading aloud Moon Runner by Carolyn Marsden.  I'd never heard of this book--Fit Girls sent it over in our starter kit, and I love it.  Great messages about running and trying new things!

2. Warm Up/Stretching: We will spend a few minutes warming up with a game or activity like freeze tag, relay races, hula hoops, etc., followed by some gentle stretching.

3.  Workout:  Obviously, the bulk of our time is devoted to running.  We started with 15 minutes of run/walking and have been adding on each week from there.  This part can get tricky--a lot of the girls are super gung ho at the start, but rapidly taper off and fall into a leisurely walk.  It's important to find a balance between remembering that these girls are actually little kids, not high school track stars or Olympians in training, and trying to get them ready for a 5K.

4. Closing Circle:  We always end by sharing celebrations for the day and with a closing huddle--everyone puts their hands in and shouts Fit Girls! on 3 before giving high fives all around.

We've been trying different things to spice up our workouts.  A few weeks ago, we gave the girls chalk and had them draw a little "tally box" for themselves and write some "words of encouragement."  Most of the teachers in the school do Quantum Learning, and one popular piece of Quantum is using positive affirmations with kids, so this was nothing new for them.  As the girls ran around the blacktop, they drew tally marks in their box for each lap.  Also, they were allowed to stop and write kind words for their friends near the other tally boxes.  The girls loved this!  Hugely motivating.

Another day, at a friend's suggestion, we paired the girls up with a buddy they didn't know very well.  We instructed the girls to stick with that buddy the whole time, no matter their pace.  After each lap, the other teachers and I had the girls tell us a fact they had learned about their buddy.  Halfway through, we had the buddies join with another pair to form a small group of 4.  The girls had a blast, and it was awesome seeing them make new friends!

We picked a local 5K to run as a club near the end of May, and have worked with race coordinators to get our girls and teachers a discounted entry fee.  Also, our school is planning to use funds to cover the registration for any girls who need financial assistance to make sure all of our girls can be included.  We are pumped!

I'm absolutely loving this club, and for so many reasons, too.  Our PE teacher came up to me after school the other day and shared that he was explaining the push ups fitness test to a group of kids, and one of the girls in the class said, "Oh, I can do this--I'm in Fit Girls!"  Heart. Melts.  Among other things, this is what I want my students to understand--anyone, anywhere can be an athlete.  Anyone can run.  No matter how fast or how slow you are, you can be a runner.  You can run for joy.  For fun.  For friends.  For yourself.  It took me 22 years to fall in love with running.  I hope that some of my girls have already fallen for it.

Have you had the opportunity to encourage your students to get active?  
Ideas for spicing up the workouts for our Fit Girls club??

May 1, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a Haiku Sprint Duffle!

Has anyone else watched the Fault in Our Stars extended trailer?
OMG.  June cannot come soon enough--I am so pumped about this movie.  I LOVE John Green, and this is my favorite of his books.  Better get my box backpack of tissues ready, I will surely have no mascara left by the end of this movie!

I was able to cross something off my list of 2014 goals recently--I finally got clipless pedals!  I'd been resisting bike shoes and pedals for so long because I was just plain terrified.  I was certain that I was going to forget how to unclip and wipe out on my bike, either into an unsuspecting runner or into oncoming traffic.  Enough triathletes and cyclist friends had sung the praises of clipless for long enough that I decided to go for it this year.  If I'm going to step up my game and make it through an Olympic tri, I need all the help I can get.  
Guess what?  It's really not as hard as I'd built it up to be!  Guess all of my friends were telling me the truth. :)  I've gotten out for a couple rides, and while I'm still not as quick clipping in as I'd like to be, it really is simple to clip out.  No falling or flying into uncoming traffic--yet!
This just in--I definitely need to do some more "bricking"... #jellylegs

We are on third grade social studies curriculum this year (multiage classroom = switching off between two curriculums year to year), which IMHO is pretty lame.  I mean, I got to teach American History when I was a 5th grade teacher, so "Our Community" leaves a little to be desired.  However, this past chapter we were reading and learning about individuals who have made a difference in their communities--some big names like Ruby Bridges and a few others who I'd been unfamiliar with.  After completing a group project about their "Community Hero," we had the kids write letters to their heroes.  Grading them, I think my heart melted a little bit.  Here's a little bit from one of my favorite's:
Overall, it's been a long, tiring week, and I could not be happier that tomorrow is Friday!!

Tell me about your week!  Highs and lows?
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