}

Beach Day at Sherwood Island

Family Fun Beach Sunday at Sherwood Island State Park, Westport Connecticut

Beach Day is a staple activity of summer fun.  Back in the day I would just pack a towel, sunglasses a book and sun tan lotion.  As a mom, a fun day in the sun is not as simple, especially when you have young children.  When I leave the house I carry with me a backpack that feels as big as a parachute, but it really is a life saver. For a day at the beach in addition to the basics (food, milk, diapers and wipes) I need to protect my boys against sunburn.  But how do I do that when I hate carrying a lot of things.  So I turned to my trusted sidekick, Amazon Prime!

 

As the mom of a two year old and a soon to be know it all thirteen year old, I have a couple of extra people for whom to pack. My oldest is always ready to go but never has any of the things required (like a towel, actually putting on sunblock and water shoes). For our beach day we chose to visit our neighboring state of Connecticut, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. A beautiful beach between Sherwood Mill Pond and the Long Island Sound. We like being close to the water so we can which means not a lot of shade unless we bring our own, so I set out to find a sun tent or umbrella, that was affordable, easy to set up, light and compact to carry.  So here’s what I found:

SEMOO Lightweight Beach Shade Tent Sun Shelter with Carry Bag  This tent has four stars on Amazon, but as I read the reviews I was a bit hesitant to get it.  However, a $19.99 price tag and free same day shipping with Prime I figured I’ll give it a try. Now I was hoping to get a video of my efforts to set up the tent, but with a twelve year old watching the two year old, a nine year old girl looking for shark teeth and a husband busy recording other things I was unable to get a helper.  It was a bit windy so the process was a little challenging, still not that difficult. All you need to do is connect together the fragmented poles into two poles that slide through the top of the tent and hook to each of the four corners.  Not as complicated as it may sound, however In hindsight I should have:
1. connected the fragments to form two poles

2. taken out the tent to slide the poles through
3. Hooked the poles at each corner
4. Anchor the tent down


The process should have taken me about 5-7 minutes tops, but since I did not bother looking at the contents of the tent or the instructions until I got to the beach, it felt a lot longer.  Taking the tent down and folding away was less than five minutes and it fit back into my beach bag.

SEMOO Beach Shade Tent
SEMOO tent out the bag

Now the actual tent was quite useful, it provided enough shade for my two year old and for me, considering he would not leave my side for most of the outing (but that’s another issue). Depending on the position of the sun you would have

to place the tent strategically, but it is not difficult to move if you need to reposition it.  If it is windy, you will still need something heavy inside to weigh it down. In my case my mom bag did the trick just fine.  I had purchased an easy to carry mat last summer, as I mentioned I like to pack light and chairs are usually to bulky for me, so I placed the mat in the tent to allow for more leg room and for a sun bathing area. I keep one of these mats in the trunk of my car and another in the shed for backyard fun. I also have a smaller bamboo mat but that was a gift from Thailand and I’ve had it for close to ten years so if you find one like that, jump on it 🙂

Now as far as durability, I only used it once so far but it was used by several tweens throughout the day, a 9 year old and a toddler and it survived.  We shall see how many more uses I get, but for 19.99, free shipping and two day guaranteed delivery, I say it is a steal!.

This was my two year old’s first day at the beach and he was quite excited.  I had purchased a one piece swimsuit from Amazon in Small when he was 9 months to go to the pool which still fits.  The suit ran a bit large on the infant size small 9-12 months but it offered the covering he needed when he was small and it fits perfect this summer.  To be fair, my boy was a preemie and now that he is two he is about 36 lbs.  This suit offers great coverage and he loved wearing it.

Since yellow is his favorite color I also got him yellow water shoes, aqua socks, which came in very handy as he did not want to put his feet on the beach sand (yet he was okay put his hands in it, but who am I to judge).  I also got water shoes for my son who wears a size 8 in men and a pair of aqua wave water shoes for myself, because why not. Now I could have gotten cheaper water shoes had I gone to a local discount store, but I didn’t feel like digging through bins of water shoes trying to find the right size and color so I just figured since I was ordering the tent for our beach outing I might as well add the water shoes.  I did spend some time searching through Amazon for the items to be the right price and to actually ship within two days. This took a little bit of time because I was ordering on Thursday morning and I wanted it guaranteed for Saturday and you don’t know the guaranteed shipping date until check out so I kept having to leave cart

You probably noticed that everything I referred to was purchased from Amazon and you probably think is because of the affiliates links but you would be wrong.  I tend to procrastinate a lot, wait for last minute and often opt to avoid crowds so shopping online is my go to solution.  I constantly look for reviews that seem as honest and sincere as possible, once I noticed that Amazon kept asking me to review and answer questions based on my purchases I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply to the affiliate program and include the products I purchase into my blogs. So while I would rather purchase from local shops, ever since motherhood the shopping experience has changed but I leave that to another blog.

So as I mentioned my husband was unable to help me because he was recording other things, so here’s the evidence.  Enjoy the video of our beach day 🙂 (By the way, he is also a Web Developer so check out his channel if you want to learn how to set up your own WordPress Website).

 

Do It Yourself (DIY) Website

To pay or not to pay that is the question

The first thing a person usually does when they get a business idea is go online to get a website. You Google your idea, you even search for domain names to see if anyone else has it on a website. Now you are really excited about your idea, you search for domain names and even decide to purchase one. But you also need the actual website so you search for free websites to arrive with a list of interestingly named sites such as Wix, Weebly Yola, Doodlekit, etc. all offering free website builders. You figure, hey let’s try one of these free website builders and once it takes off then I’ll get something else. But you see there is nothing completely free, at some point you will have to pay.  Then the dilemma begins, to pay or not to pay? and what to pay for? While website hosting is free (to a certain extent) with free website builders, and sometimes you get a one page site when you get a domain name, depending on the goals for your business it may be too limiting.

If you are a an artist and you want to display your beautiful portfolio you look for professional photographer websites for ideas. You find a beautiful laid out website with large photos that load quickly. Now you try to do it yourself. You upload photos to your new free website site and things are not aligning, your pages are not loading fast enough. You noticed you are limited in the size or number of photos you can add. Now you have to start doing research and asking questions. But you are not getting answers and you realize that with most free services you can’t call customer service. You look through their forums and submit questions in hope someone answers you at some point. Now a venture that was exciting and fun, begins to be frustrating and you start getting discouraged.

Maybe you can’t relate to that example, maybe you’re not an artist. Instead you want to sell a product or service online.  For this you will need secure e-commerce service, or a way to integrate some of the already existing services like Zazzle, eBay, Etsy, etc. Maybe you want to just write about your area of expertise or interest and want to get advertisers or affiliate links. For these things that I mentioned you will need to do a lot of research to learn how to do it right. Even if you start with a free website you need to learn about the limitations and conditions of a free website.  Some of those conditions can include limited pages, file sizes, load speed, ability to advertise, looks of your website site and even the ability to take your content elsewhere should you want to. Whether you’re just having a little entrepreneurial fun or are hoping your side hobby takes off, this decision will have an impact. So what do you do instead? Here are my suggestions:

Make sure you own your content. That means that you can easily take it out of whatever free service you chose and take it with you. Some free services charge you to do this export and that’s how they lock you in. They make the move so complicated that you either pay them to do it, or hire a professional to do it.

Choose a service that gives you ability to fully customize. You want to be able to make your website look how you want and change it as your idea changes or your business takes off.

Look for customer support. Many free services do not offer telephone support or immediate customer support. Instead they have extensive forums, Q&A sections, explainer videos and limited email support. Look into the response time for inquiries and support, anything within 24 to 48 hours is ideal for a free service.

Make sure any service you use online is current and updated periodically. Technology is constantly evolving and the online world is more of a universe than a world. That means you need to make sure your website is up to date because in order to ensure is secure. Nothing is hacker proof, but using outdated website services makes you a target. Think of it like securing your car, you lock the doors, have an alarm and put in a club on the steering wheel. This doesn’t mean your car can’t be stolen, it just means, it will likely be by passed for a less troublesome car.

With all this said, if you are looking to start up a business idea or just want to get your own website to see where it can lead you, do some research. My first step to almost everything is to Google it! YouTube offers a wealth of information as well, I’m not big on watching long videos but when the need arises, I take the time. I like WordPress because of the flexibility it offers, and the forums are full of answers. For price ideas some web designers offer free consultations or have price ranges on their websites. With WordPress you have the flexibility of using themes, you can get free themes or purchase a theme that may come with more functionalities to fit your needs. Also, free is never entirely free, find out when it will begin to cost you and for what.

Ultimately be realistic with your expectations. When you see an awesome looking site and you try to do it yourself, keep in mind, it will not look the same way particularly if you have no content to put on the website (pictures, articles/posts, products, etc). Just like an amazing wall unit you get from a catalog that arrives in an oddly shaped box with what seems like a million pieces to assemble, a website will have to be assembled as well. If you do it yourself (DIY) give yourself time and be patient. If you hire a website designer to create or set up your site, make sure you know exactly what you want and provide all that the website designer needs to make your website.

I started with yahoo geocites back in 1999 where I entered basic html code onto a one page website, years later I used different free blog platforms until I landed on wordpress.com (free up to 3GB) and played around with several free themes. When I decided I wanted my own domain name and hosting in order to have full control of my site I turned to GoDaddy. Since my husband entered the field of Web Design and Development I don’t do my own site maintenance anymore (which honestly I often slacked on so I had set it up for automatic updates) and I purchased domain and hosting from him (because I might as well pay into my own household). I currently use the Genesis Framework on one site, and EvoPro on another which was developed by my hubby. By the way my use of his theme drives him nuts, because I am not using “right” in order to employ its “full capacity” but it’s my site and I do what I want to.

I hope this is helpful if you are considering a Do It Yourself (DIY) website. Good luck and have fun with it!!

When Life Hands You Lemons…

What’s the deal with lemons? We hear all sort of sayings about life handing you lemons.
When Life Hands you Lemons…
    Make Lemonade
    Keep them, because, Free Lemons
    Throw them back!
    Add some salt, tequila and make margaritas!

It seems life really likes handing out lemons.  So I was thinking, what’s the deal with lemons? Well let’s take a look at these sour punch packing little fruits.  They are rich in vitamin C, potassium and are overall a good healthy fruit choice.  But who would order a tall glass of 100% freshly squeezed lemon juice? I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t.  We always add something to it, water, sugar, honey, tequila.  I love cooking with lemons and with limes, that citrus punch kicks up many delicious dishes. Adding lemons can make something delicious, even sweet.   So the whole motivational lesson is to make something something good when life hands you those metaphorical lemons. You know when those difficult unexpected ridiculous circumstances creep in or just plain fall out of the blue, make the best of it.  But the more I thought it about it didn’t seem quite so simple.  You see, a gallon of lemon takes a lot of extra ingredients to make sweet.  With that said, it seems that when life’s difficulties hit, they don’t just trickle in, they ambush you like a flood.  In those instances making that lemonade takes a lot more than just a spoon full of sugar. And that’s where the challenge lies, not just in making something good or sweet with the lemons but it making sure that they don’t overpower you with bitterness.
Lemons are rich in vitamin c, an immune system booster, that means that it makes you stronger to fight off infections and keep you from getting sick. Very much like difficulties in life can also make us stronger.  Going through difficulties can help you grow, but what you will grow into depends on whether you let that lemon juice make you bitter or better.  There’s a quote that has been attributed to Winston Churchill that says, “if you’re going through hell, keep going!” More often than not, circumstances do not overtake us, we will make it to the other side.  But making sure that we are not bitter, angry and miserable after the journey is one of the biggest challenges.  Not only would that make it more difficult to face future truck loads of lemons along the road (and believe me the lemons keep coming) but it also affect those traveling with you and around you.

When circumstances get hard, let it make you better and not bitter.

Living in the Land of Make Believe?

 

Have you ever found yourself in the Land of Make Believe? Answer this, do you have Dreams or Goals?

Maybe you don’t think the Land of Make Believe really exists.  No, it is NOT a theme park and I’m not talking Neverland or Wonderland.  The Land of Make Believe I am referring to is near the City of Wishful Thinking just north of the town named What If and east of Dream Land.  Sure these places were fun to navigate when we were kids but as we get older remaining in any of these places becomes a dangerous state of mind.  

By now you either clicked away from this nonsensical babbling or are waiting for the point.  Well, I’m talking about those dreams we all have. You know, professional, personal, financial dreams.  When we wish we were our own bosses, dream about hitting the jackpot and all the things we would do or wonder what if we ventured into something new.  Well, it is nice to dream but, if that’s all you are doing then you are taking up permanent residence in one of the locations mentioned above. Even if every so often you end up getting knocked down the dream world by the disappointing hits of the mundane daily routines, you go right back to the same dream world.  No I am not looking to depress you. I’m just saying, there’s something you can do about all those dreams, wishes, and what ifs.  Yes, even the jackpot dream requires an actionable step; buy a ticket! That simple.  I’m not saying you’re going to win but at least you did something about it.  

What I’m getting to is that there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, thinking big, shooting for the stars and all that jazz. But if all you’re doing is wishing and hoping and thinking and praying then you will take permanent residence in the Land of Make Believe never getting anywhere.   So before you pick up your permanent resident card start making plans on how to achieve those dreams, then instead of being dreams they will become goals.  Small steps are better than no steps.  Doesn’t matter if is a long shot; pick a dream and make it a goal by planning a road map to it.  Just small action steps that can get you closer to it.  Write it down, set reminders, put it on a post it note on your mirror or computer screen.  Whatever it takes to get you a little closer.  Seeing that you’re taking those small steps in real life will also make you feel better helping you appreciate the journey.  Because all the realities we face on a daily basis (chores, bills, errands, parent-teacher meetings, and the list goes on) are not meant to be obstacles or setbacks, they are part of the journey that prepare you. All those things are making you stronger, wiser, and building your character so you can be that much better when you get to the goal.

So whatever it is you want to do, start creating a road map to it. Hey, if this election has taught us something it is that ANYTHING is possible.  Now go ahead and get to it! Whatever “it” may be!

What I’ve Learned Throughout My Years in Public Education

10 of the Most Important Things I’ve learned in my years in education.

When I started working in schools I was about 21 years old and my first job was as a day to day substitute teacher.  Today, I am a school counselor, and have been so for over ten years.  Whether in the classroom or in the counseling office there are some things that have been consistent throughout my years in education.

  1. Everyone Knows What Needs to be done.  Most of teacher trainings seem very repetitive and recycled information, yet keeping motivation to put it into practice daily and consistently proves challenging. Helping teachers stay motivated should be offered as a training to administrators and district heads.
  2. Engaging Students Works.  Students may moan and groan about a teacher that makes them work but they appreciate it. A teacher trying different approaches to make learning fun will make it more likely for the student to put more effort in class.
  3. Students Do Not Take Well to Sarcasm.  Even elementary school kids can tell when an educator is being sarcastic.  As a counselor, this is one of most frequent complaints I’ve ever gotten from students.  Using sarcasm to correct a behavior will lead students to lose respect.
  4. Technology is a Great Tool in the Classroom.  Tech is not the future, is the present and it makes a great tool in the classroom when used appropriately. However, just giving an electronic device to a student does not make it an effective lesson.
  5. Every Student Can Learn.  While students all learn in different ways and they will not all reach the same levels, getting them just one step ahead will make them feel empowered. Preparing a lesson with the mindset that they students are not going to get it will sets the bar low for the educator and the student.
  6. Demonstrating Personal Interest Opens the Doors to Learning.  Something as simple as greeting or noticing a student’s’ absence and letting them know they were missed will make them more likely to keep coming back to your class/school.  Everyone likes to feel liked.
  7. Respect is a Two Way Street.  “Do as I say Not as I do” is ineffective.  While showing respect towards students will not always be immediately reciprocated (particularly with challenging students), they do expect more from educated adults.  And believe it or not, eventually they will begin showing you respect. Keep in mind, many may not know what respect is supposed to look like, so be an example.
  8. Most Days Educators Exclaim While Shaking Their Heads, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”  The things that we encounter while working in schools would make a popular reality TV show, some sad some unbelievably ironic, yet we come back.
  9. Words Can Hurt As Much as Sticks and Stones.  The things educators say to students make a lasting impact.  We often say, if we don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But silence, as well as negative body language can also be hurtful.  Finding something positive about every student is very important, you don’t need to like them the same way they don’t have to like you, but respect and appreciation has to be evident in our actions.
  10.  “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business” The Godfather, 1972.   We are in the business of educating students, taking their misbehaviors/mistakes as an attack to your person will make you ineffective, and will make your job dreadful.  Remember to tell yourself, “Today Is  New Day!” and act like it.

And of course, if you’re an educator you already know all this.  But at least you didn’t have to go out of your way to attend a lame professional development meeting administered by folks that may not have any actual school experience to tell you something you already knew. Anyway, more of this another time 😉