Saturday, March 16, 2019

It's A Whole New World!

So, they told me it would be awesome!  It would be great.   But I figured out rather quickly that there are no words to describe what it is like to become a grandparent!  My life changed 3 weeks ago!  Literally!  My husband and I became grandparents!  

Isn't she just the cutest baby EVER!  Okay.....I will say all babies are cute....but she takes the cake with that swaddle and headband that is as big as her little head!

She stole grampa's heart pretty fast too!  
I'm not sure what my favorite part is about this whole gramma thing!
But I'm telling you, I can't take my eyes off of her when I'm around her!  All those of little smiles and facial expressions are amazing to watch!  And watching her interact with her momma and daddy just fills my heart with JOY!

This was my attempt at taking a selfie after reading her a book.  Put her right to sleep and she found that thumb pretty quickly too.  I forgot how incredibly amazing it feels to have that little life resting in your arms.  TRUSTING you to take care of her and LOVING her like crazy!

We need to give the momma some credit too!  This was our first attempt at getting the "papoose" all rigged up.  We didn't have stuff like this when I was a new mom.  My baby carrier was more like a backpack!  It's a little tricky but I think with practice she will become a pro at this "papoose" thing.  

When I told my elementary kiddos that I was a gramma I asked them "What do I need to do to be a good gramma?"
Here are their answers:
*Get some wrinkles.
*Bake cookies.
*Wear old gramma shoes.
*Get gray hair. (Only my hairdresser knows!)
*Spoil the grandkids!
*Have candy and fruit snacks at your house.
*Read them books.
*Play games with them.
*Wear gramma shirts.
*Make them things.

So I started to think about what my gramma made me.  Sweaters!  She knitted and made ALL the grands sweaters, slippers, hats, mittens and scarves.  My sister helped me catch the crocheting bug over Christmas vacation and I have my first afghan almost completed.  THEN I saw this cute little sweater on the website I follow.  It's not the same because I had to use the yarn I had on hand during our lovely winter weather!  I thought it would make a good one to wear around the farm or to the park!  Can't wait to try it on her!  So, you can teach an "old dog  gramma" a new trick! to get me some baby hugs!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Get on the bus!

We started off our new year by reading The Energy Bus for Kids by Jon Gordon.  What an excellent way to talk to kids about staying positive and overcoming challenges.  

This book presents 5 different rules to help us in our daily lives. 
Rule #1:  Create a positive vision.
When we take time to close our eyes and picture how we want our day to go, then we are creating a positive vision.  I love how one of my students called it "visioning".  They turned it into a verb.  Start visioning before your day starts.  Think about how you will interact with others, how you will work toward your goals.  I have used a term with my students before called "mental imaging".  This is what athletes do before they perform.  They picture themselves making the free throw in basketball or executing a perfect front handspring in gymnastics.  
What can we vision?  Here are some ideas:
Greeting others with a smile.
Helping others when they are struggling.
Encouraging others.
Doing a chore for someone in your family.
Giving someone a special treat.

Rule #2:  Fuel your ride with positive energy.
Positive energy includes the positive thoughts and emotions we think and those we share with others.  How do we fuel up with positive energy?  Try some of these:
Choose to be positive.
Be grateful.
Use your manners.
The book suggests thinking this:
"I am ready for a great day.
I believe in myself.
I trust that I will accomplish my goals and dreams."
I love this!  What a great mantra to start your day with!

Rule #3: No Bullies Allowed!
I love this rule because it isn't really about me, it's about how we handle people who may not treat us very good sometimes.  It's our response.  WE can REACT or RESPOND!  WE get to choose if we will allow someone to drain our positive energy.  And I don't know about you.....but I don't like to give someone else that power.  I'm not saying this is always easy.  There are some negative people out there who make it their mission to ruin someone else's day.  That makes me sad for them.  I use the Empowerment Tools that author Trudy Ludwig taught our students years ago when she visited our school and they still work!  Check them out here on my YouTube channel with Mr. Judge our 7-12 counselor.

Rule #4: Love your passengers.
This one pretty much boils down to being kind.  The thing I love about kindness is the ripple effect that it has.  I love teaching kids about kindness because they can list ways to be kind ALL. DAY. LONG!  They love it!  When I talked to the kids about this I asked them about how to LOVE your passengers.  They thought LOVE meant the mushy kind of love. So we had to clarify that!  We talked about different kinds of love such as loving your family compared to loving pepperoni pizza. We also talked about how we show that love to others.  I told them when my family cleans up after themselves it is their way of showing me they love me.  My students' ideas included saying hi to someone, closing someone's locker door for them, helping someone out, doing something extra special for someone on their birthday.

Rule #5:  Enjoy the ride.
When we practice the first 4 rules, the 5th rule is just automatic!  The ride through life is so much more enjoyable when we are making a practice of being positive, which is what the Energy Bus is all about!

I had fun interviewing our transportation director, Amos, about what his take on the Energy Bus Rules was.  Tune in here to watch the interview!

THANKS TO AMOS for spending some time with me and sharing with our students! it's your turn.  Are you going to 'get on the bus'?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

One Word

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of One Word as your vision for the year.  If you are familiar with Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, you will know what I am talking about.  You are to pick one word that will be your driving force for the year.  One word that will keep you focused!  One word that will help shape your life and the people you live with and work with!  
I found it is rather difficult to pick one word.  I have a good friend who has done this for a number of years and it seems she comes up with this great word every time!  In my head I'm thinking, "If I use her word, am I being a copycat?"  So, I decided to really follow the plan this year in choosing my word.  The plan tells you to do 3 things:
Look IN--to prepare your heart.
Look UP--to discover your word.
Look OUT--to live your word.

So I started to really look IN.  I kept thinking what is it in my heart that I desire to focus on.
I narrowed it down to a few things: my faith, my family, my health, my career.
Wow!  That didn't seem so narrowed down when I really thought about it.  It pretty much encompassed my life!  That is when I went a little crazy and thought maybe I needed to have my 
SERIOUSLY---then I might as well set some New Year's Goals that I can keep for a month!
I decided to ponder it---asking God for some direction.
Well, I got direction while being the nursery attendant during church.
My word came to me as clear as could be:
2018 was a year when I found out that I had a health concern (diabetic!).
(I wrote about this in an earlier blog post.)
So, I needed to start developing some new HABITS in my life.  This doesn't just happen overnight! Oh, I have some habits, but these are probably ore in the "bad habit" category!
So, how does one go about creating "good habits"?
I figured I better do some research to which Google showed me more sites and books then I could possibly go through in a YEAR!  I decided that as a school counselor I have some background in this area anyway.  So, using my current knowledge and choosing a few pointers that I picked up in various reliable articles, I came up with a plan.
First, I'm going to plan out my day.  Try to get a routine going.  I have this somewhat established so it shouldn't be too difficult to refine and really be deliberate about keeping the schedule.

Next, find my 'tribe' to be accountable to.  For me, this includes my husband, daughters and close friends. (plus my 'twinkie'---alias for twin sister!) Having accountability people can really help a person stay on course.  Choose people who will be honest with you but also that you can really trust.  AND those who you are willing to take constructive suggestions from. 
Like I said, people from your 'tribe'.

I need to put into my plan those choices that will keep me on the path to developing new habits.  It seems one of my 'landmines' that destroys my goals and accomplishments is trying to do too many things at once.  This is true for many of us---we just fill out 'plate' too full with commitments.  We seem to think that if we say "No" to something, that we won't measure up for some reason.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  It's like self-sabotaging!
So let's just get real and do what we can---stop 'shoulding' on ourselves.
You know, "Oh, I should do this or I should do that!"
Or we believe others when they tell us what we 'should' do!

Finally, CELEBRATE!  Celebrate accomplishments!  Celebrate when I feel success like it becomes just a part of my life!  That is when I will have developed new lifelong habits.

Now that I have my word---and my plan---I need to make it visible.
The bathroom mirror that I look in every morning!
Painting a rock with my word on it and keeping it on my desk!
I"m not really into tattoos, but writing it on my wrist where I will see it as a reminder is something I have found helpful!
If you don't have a word, try thinking about one.  What word would you want to have as a focus for your life as you enter 2019?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

What is your "BRAND"?

This month we are finishing up our unit on Empathy and Critical Thinking in our Sanford Harmony lessons.  One of the vocabulary words that we have learned is stereotype.  Our discussions at the different grade levels have been amazing!  I really thought this was going to be a tough concept to grasp for our "littles" but they are NOT giving me the glazed over look!

Here is our definition of stereotype: 
a belief that all people in a group are the same in some way because they are all part of the same group; a fixed image of a group of people; judgments of someone based on ideas about the group they belong to.

The activities were great.  Before we even gave the term a definition, I would ask students to go to one side of the room if what I said was true of girls and the other side if it was true for boys.  We did the same for old people and young people.  It wasn't long before kids would say, "That could be either.  Both boys and girls could do that!"

We also talked about examples that we may see of stereotyping.  They did a great job finding examples in the stories they currently had in reading.

The 4th graders had a fun time writing characteristics of different age groups.  You can see from the papers pictured below what they thought was true for the various groups we discussed.  I asked the students how they knew these things were true.  Some of them said it was because they have siblings or cousins in that age group.  They also decided that not everything was true for all people in that group.  So, as we said in kindergarten and 1st grade, "some people do, some people don't" fit the stereotype.  
One student said that all of those traits described his sister perfectly!  
"She's 16!  She has a car!  You know what I mean?"  😏

I loved how they found the characteristics of parents to be mostly positive!  Loving, caring, helpful.....and of course, "neat freak"!  Also "mean and strict"--which I'm sure most kids would use as descriptive traits if they have had to hear "no" from a parent or have experienced consequences of their bad choices.

I told the kids I was very interested in seeing what they wrote for grandparents since I am going to become a grandma in February.  It looks like I can put away the wrinkle cream since "wrinkles" made it to their list.

We also talked about what causes stereotypes.  Is it based on what we see most people doing in society?  Or is based on what we learn at school or from our parents?  All of this talk about stereotypes got me thinking about another term:  Branding!
How do we "brand" ourselves?  In other words, do we create a "stereotype" or "brand" for ourselves based on what we do?  What we post on social media?  How we act?  What we say?
I think we do.  I decided to take this to another level with my middle school students who are more in touch and active with social media.  We have been talking about drug and alcohol prevention in 5th and 6th grade.  Here are my questions:
What type of stereotype or "brand" do we give people who drink, smoke, vape or use drugs?
What type of "brand" does media give those choices?  Do advertisers give a different brand in order to sell their products?  How does this affect our choices?

My next challenge for them:
"What type of brand have your created for yourself?  Base this on your social media posts, what you "Like"?  How about the brand you create for yourself based on how you act?  Or treat others?
Are you creating a brand that would be popular? (Remember, "What is popular isn't always right and what is right isn't always popular!") Have good value?  Show good character?

So, what is your personal brand?
Are you happy with it?  Or, do you need to do some changing?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Put your own oxygen mask on first!

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care is usually NOT the first thing we think of as school counselors, or even as adults!  So often we are busy taking care of EVERYONE else first!  Every time I get on an airplane and the flight attendants are going over the flight procedures, I think about the part called "In the event of an emergency.....put your own oxygen mask on first".  I remember the first time I flew and thought, "That's crazy!  What about the kids!"  
Bottom line....if we are "lacking oxygen" we will be of no use in helping anyone else!
Isn't it interesting how life events help us learn?  I'm going to share a little personal information here so I am kind of stepping out of my comfort bear with me.
This past summer I thought I was having trouble with my thyroid.  Symptoms were fatigue, my hair was thinning, weight kept creeping up, etc.  The first thing I did was to self-diagnose using Dr. Google!  Oh, I visited all the sites to get my "research" together---WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and probably a few that I am not so sure how credible they are.   After I gathered my info and had my "diagnosis" ready, I decided to make an appointment with my local health care professional and get it "confirmed".  We started off with blood work....."just go to your relaxing spot in your mind" and then ouch!---got that done!  My report was waiting for me when I got to the clinic for my appointment.  The nurse came in and took all my numbers---weight, blood pressure, and go through the series of questions....
Do you smoke? NOPE
Do you drink? NOPE
Have you been out of the country in the past month? I wish, but no!
Yada, Yada, wait for the PA to come in.
A few minutes before the PA came in, the nurse returns and hands me my blood work print out and said I might want to look that over before Tasha (PA) came in.
I was thinking in my head, "I know what I's a thyroid issue!"
Well....surprise.  It wasn't.
I saw things like..."pre-diabetic" and "cholesterol numbers that indicating in a "too high" category.
Time to reframe what I was thinking the discussion was going to be with Tasha!
Long story short....Tasha told me exactly what I needed to hear.
Simply put..."You need to take care of some of these problems.  Let's start with your A1C." (That's blood sugar talk --- new to my vocabulary!)
I seriously left there thinking "Well, my life is good foods to eat any more for me."
You know, the self-pity party kind of thinking.
A week later I met with the dietician (Sheila) and the diabetic educator (Kathy).
I can't say enough good things about these 2 ladies.  They filled me up with information that I needed in order to turn these numbers around!
So....that was 5 months ago.  How have I been doing?
Not too bad actually.  I decided I needed to make my health a priority.
I was more intentional about watching what kinds of food I was eating.  I followed the plan that Sheila gave me.  I also started walking EVERY day!  I discovered how much better I felt relatively fast actually!  And, my numbers started going down.  My clothes started fitting more comfortably.
I even have more energy.  LIFE IS GOOD!
Self-care makes me a better school counselor!  A better mom!  A better wife!
I show up to work feeling great!
So, how did I start my day today?
Rolled out of bed and headed to the wellness center in town for my walk on the treadmill.
(I really prefer outside but the temps and ice dictate where I walk!)
While I was walking I decided to listen to a youtube video about growth mindset that my friend Barbara Gruener presented last night in Texas.  Click on the link below to "attend" her presentation.

THANKS BARBARA for spending my workout time with me this morning!

Then it was home to get ready for school!
Here is my latest "diabetic friendly" breakfast pizza.
Here is the line-up:  Flatout, mozzarella cheese, veggies (green and red peppers, mushrooms, spinach) and 2 scrambled eggs!

Saute' veggies in olive oil sprayed pan.  Add the eggs.

Spread the mixture out on the flatout.

Top with mozzarella cheese. (I used sliced but shreddded works fine.)

I bake mine in a toaster oven on a copper pan.  No idea what this is called because I bought it on an auction but it allows the crust to get crispy.  Baked at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes---not sure exactly---the time it takes for me to run to the shower and get dressed.

I like to let it cool while I do my hair (low maintenance girl!) so about 5 minutes.

Then slice it up and eat!  Yum!  I will be adding turkey breakfast sausage this weekend for added protein but didn't have any thawed out this morning.

This is how I take care of myself.  I get to work feeling ready to roll with the kiddos!  
Bottom line....if you aren't taking care of yourself, give it a try!
The people around you will thank you and you will feel great!

Monday, November 19, 2018

If you're happy and you know it!

I'm not sure if the part of my job I love most is going into the classrooms for lessons, but it sure rates right up there in the top 3!  I have mentioned before that we are implementing a new social-emotional learning curriculum this year, Sanford Harmony.  I can't say enough about the benefits our students are gaining from it!
This is one of those weeks where not every class will get a lesson because of a shortened week.  I decided to dig into the Quick Connection cards and find a couple of ideas that will help keep the kids connected!  First, we warmed up by singing "If You're Listening!"   It is similar to "If You're Happy and You Know It" but we changed it up with using our listening skills.  (In all honesty, I don't know of any teacher who would turn me down if I asked to do an extra activity on listening skills!) 

Here is the card giving the details of how to do this activity.  It is just one of MANY cards that come in the Quick Connections Cards box from my Harmony kit.

I went "off the cuff" coming up with things for them to do as we sang the song.  Shout out to Mr. B for being my videographer during our fun!

After we finished up with the listening song, we sat in a circle and did the Compliment Can activity.  
Again, see the card below with the description of this activity.

I loved hearing the kids come up with ways to compliment their classmates.  Here are a few of what was shared:

"You are a hard worker!"
"You are a caring person."
"You are always kind to others."
"You are funny!"
"You help others when they get hurt."
"You are fun to play football with."
"You are generous."

We finished our time by passing the Thumball around!  The kids L.O.V.E. these!  I think I have about 30 of them on different topics.  You can get them here.  Great discussion starter and way to get kids to share.

What a great way to start my workday!  Hanging out with kids and having fun!  
Best part, they were learning and connecting the whole time!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Coffee with the Counselor: Children's Mental Health 101

One of the most requested topics for school counselors is anything to do with mental health.  It seems to be the "hot topic" in many circles these days, which is why our November Coffee With the Counselor topic this week is:  Mental Health and Children.

Let's first just break down the barrier we all do not want to admit is there.  Mental health seems to have a stigma surrounding it.  This is very unfortunate.  Do we have a mental health crisis in America?  Great question.  Try Googling America's Mental Health crisis and you will get about 1.2 million results.  Yes...MILLION!  According to NBC News, American children's mental health is worrying experts, with one in five kids suffering from a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder.  Let's break that down:  in a classroom of 20 kids, that could be 4.  
What exactly is mental health?
Here is the definition from The American Heritage Medical Dictionary:
When we hear people talk about mental health, it usually has negative vibes to it.  How often do you hear someone say,  "I am really taking care of my mental health."  We are more likely to hear someone say, "I am so stressed!  I can't hardly take it anymore!  I need a mental health day!"
Well, October 10, 2018 WAS World Mental Health Day!  Sorry if you missed it and needed it, which I think many people would say they would take it!

So, let's talk about our kiddos and their mental health.
Children can develop similar mental health conditions as adults, although their symptoms may look different.  Let's look at some of the warning signs which may indicate your child could have a mental health condition. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

Mood changes.  Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least 2 weeks or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.
Intense feelings.  Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason--sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing--or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
Behavior changes.  These include drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior.  Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others also are warning signs.
Difficulty concentrating.  Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
Unexplained weight loss.  A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
Physical symptoms.  Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition might develop headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety.
Physical harm.  Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm.  This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself.  Children with a mental health condition also might develop suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.
Substance abuse.  Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, consult with your child's doctor.  It may be a good idea to write down dates and behaviors of what you are seeing to take along with you.  You may also want to talk to your child's teacher to see if they are seeing any concerns in behavior before you seeing the doctor to take that information along as well.

How does a child get diagnosed with a mental health condition?
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has criteria which will help your child's doctor or mental health provider determine if there is a mental health condition to be concerned about.  Other factors considered can include a history of medical conditions or trauma.  Diagnosing a child with mental illness can be difficult depending on the child's age.  Younger children have difficulty expressing their feelings.  Also, what is considered normal development for children varies from child to child.

How is a child treated for a mental health condition?
Common treatments may include psychotherapy or medication.  Psychotherapy is known as talk therapy or behavior therapy.  This type of treatment the child will learn about their condition, moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors.  The ultimate goal in psychotherapy is for the child to learn how to respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills.

What are some of the more common mental health conditions?
Anxiety disorders.  Children with this condition experiences anxiety as a persistent problem that interferes with their daily activities.  These can include: obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder.
Just because your child worries from time to time, doesn't mean they have an anxiety disorder.  IF worry or stress makes it hard for a child to function normally, an anxiety disordered should be considered.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  A child with ADHD has symptoms which include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.  A child may have all of these symptoms whereas another child may only have symptoms in one of these categories.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  This disorder will usually appear before age 3.  ASD is a serious developmental disorder with symptoms and severity ranging among children in their ability to communicate and interact with others.
Eating disorders.  Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are serious conditions which can become life-threatening.  Children can become so preoccupied with food and weight that they focus on little else.
Mood disorders.  Examples of these disorders include depression and bipolar disorder.  Mood disorders can cause a child to persistently feel sadness or extreme mood swings, much more than normal mood swings common in many people.

I just shared A LOT of information regarding mental health.  First of all, don't start self-diagnosing yourself or your child.  Gather information.  Talk to your child's teacher or school counselor.  Talk to family members or caretakers for your child and see if they see any of the symptoms you may be seeing.  If you feel your child may be suffering from a mental health condition, talk to your family doctor.  They are a great resource for you and can refer you to mental health providers in your area.  Your child's school counselor can also be a resource for you.  School counselors are trained to help your child in the area of social-emotional learning.  They are also trained in knowing when to refer a child to a mental health provider.
We had a GREAT conversation this morning!  So grateful for those attending and willingness to share.  Oh my, how we can learn from each other.

Find more info on mental health here.

My next blog post will cover the ways to take care of our mental health.  Stay tuned!