Saturday, May 28, 2011

HMP: Maniac Touching Trucks

The Junior League of Pittsburgh sponsored its fourth annual Touch-A-Truck event last weekend.  We've gone to three of the four and have enjoyed each one thoroughly.   They really do prepare a hands-on and enjoyable day for the children and parents of Pittsburgh.

This year, Peanut and Mommy went to share some special quality time together as Walnut had a soccer game.  Peanut literally ran from truck to truck squealing with excitement.  He was my little maniac for the morning.  He loved climbing into the trucks and playing with all of the knobs and buttons AND the air horns.  I would like to thank Jenn K of  Macaroni Kid South West Pittsburgh for the complimentary tickets to this event.  Good times!

hangin' out with the S.W.A.T. team
hugging bears for safety
checking out really heavy machinery
blowing air horns incessantly
saying goodbye to the trucks

Friday, May 27, 2011

Big Blue Slide

hide and seek
We don't live near Frick Park.  In fact, on a bad traffic day, it would be a nightmare to even attempt to fight the mobs of cars to get there.  Luckily for us, we were near the East End of town and "needed" to visit the Blue Slide Park in Squirrel Hill.  Walnut glided down the big blue slide on an old pizza box...

Peanut climbed, with a little daddy assistance, one of the several jungle gyms...

Walnut climbed what Peanut and he deemed "Spider-Man's Lair"...

and, Peanut flew down a much smaller blue slide sans the old pizza box...

All of these fun activities were not the highlight of my evening.  What I enjoyed watching was the Orthodox Jew reading, sporting earlocks, a book of worship while his two year old was playing.  I enjoyed watching the infant African American twins playing alongside Peanut.  I enjoyed watching the deaf couple communicate with their children with ease and fluidity.  I enjoyed watching the Asian American children climbing the bridge and playing chase with the other children.  It is a much studied point that children do not retain racial differences until ages seven or eight.  And, the proof was at the Blue Slide Park.  Children of several different races, handicaps and socio-economic status played together happily.  I said, "Perhaps we don't belong in the suburbs."  I am still not quite sure. But for now, we'll continue to visit Frick Park and enjoy our fellow person.

HMP: The Potty Dance In Toys R Us

Last weekend I declared, "This is the last box of diapers that I am going to buy for the Peanut."

Bob and I burst out laughing because when we asked our three year old to sit on the potty he threw a royal fit.  We figured that he'd be in diapers until he got his driver's license.  We had some issues with antibiotics right as he was getting comfortable with going on the king's throne and then full fledged regression snuck in and took our potty training nirvana away from us--damn ear infections.

Nevertheless, we did not despair.  Equipped with a dozen pair of Diego, Thomas the Tank Engine and Cars underpants, we ventured to the world of diaper-free living.  Peanut refused.  We stood firm.  Accidents happened.  We bribed.  Peanut peed, finally, in the potty.  'We're on our way!'

As part of the calculated bribery of our Peanut, Peanut, Andrew and I visited Toys R Us to purchase some of the Cars 2 vehicles to reward the little guy as he progressed through the beginning stages of his lifelong commitment to the commode.  We were in the Cars 2 aisle for quite some time-new characters equals new merchandise-when I saw Peanut doing the Potty Dance.  He was crossing his legs, shifting his hips and holding himself.

"Let's go to the potty!"


We ran back.  I sanitized the best I could.  He PEED.  I did the Happy Mommy Dance.  Walnut cheered.

'We're on our way!'

We purchased extra Cars 2 guys that day and it was more than worth it.  We're still almost there...

Carni-VAL PT

dunk tank for charity
Our kids are, for the most part, good kids.  This year's administration decided to reward the student body by throwing a carnival on the day of the Prom.  Prom attendees are dismissed early so that they may transform for the night's festivities.  The Parent/Teacher/Student Association and the Student Council contributed man(person)power and money to accommodate our teenagers with bouncy houses, dunk tank, live music and much, much more.  Teachers volunteered to be dunked by their "favorite" students.  The money raised, over five hundred dollars, was donated to Officer James Kuzak who was wounded in the line of duty.    The day went without a hitch and the students really enjoyed themselves.  Carnivals are for big kids, too.
strong man station

Monday, May 16, 2011

Big Thanks to Nic

One of my amazingly talented students designed our new banner.  Applause for Nic, please!

Mall Parking Lot Carnival

Somehow today became a busy and exciting day without any planning at all.  Walnut wanted a new batting helmet for his birthday and all things baseball are right up my father's alley.  GrandJay quickly agreed to a date to Dick's Sporting Goods to select the perfect plastic hat known to man.  Also, the Peanut was up for his first baseball bat, too.  So, in about five minutes, we were able to select the what?

Funny coincidence was that there was a carnival in the mall parking lot.  My parents were quick to suggest the carnival to my eager-to-be-entertained children.  Walnut's first reaction was, "YAY!  The carnival!"  Peanut watched as his older brother jumped up and down and yelled, "Carnival!" and joined in on the chant.  I then vaguely remembered that Bob mentioned that Walnut spotted the Ferris wheel as we pulled into the parking lot.

'This won't take very long.  How many rides could there be?'  from a severely selfish standpoint because I hadn't eaten lunch and was famished.

Three boxes of popcorn and about two and a half hours later, we wrapped things up after Walnut and Peanut rode the helicopters and the cars and the bugs and the Ferris wheel and the flying saucers-many times.  While the boys were riding one of the rides, my father said to me, "Are these types of things (carnvials, etc.) for the kids or more for the parents?"

"both, " I replied.

We enjoyed the best mall parking lot carnival.  Our children smiled.  My parents smiled.  Bob and I smiled.  It was no Kennywood or Idlewild or even close to Disney World but it was a memory to cherish for a lifetime.  So appreciate the carnies for they shall bestow upon you the memories of laughter and precious swept away moments in the most unassuming of places.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adventures in K: iWant iWhat?

"Mom, Laugh (pronounced lock--short for Laughlin) has an iPhone."

I wasn't quite sure where this was going but figured that there would be a request at the end of the conversation.


"He plays cool games on his phone."


"I want an iPhone for my birthday."



"Mommy and Daddy don't have iPhones."

"I know."


"What about an iTouch?"


"That's what Laugh has."

"We'll have to see..."  I was hoping that this would die a swift and painless death.

"'re going to be six."

"But, Laugh has one and he's in first grade."

And, so it begins.

After much discussion, Walnut suggested an iPod instead.

Gotta love the technology natives generation!

Mother's Day Water Heater


The above mentioned are standard gifts for Mother's Day:  a necessary commercial holiday.

During Walnut and Peanut's birthday party (the day before Mother's Day), Bob and I experienced our "Oh Crap!  What the hell is wrong with the hot water tank?" panic episode.  Being a little naive about some of the homeowner necessities, I figured that we would call someone and 'POOF' with the wave of a magic wrench it would be fixed.

However, early on Mother's Day morning the noises coming from the basement sounded as if they were straight out of an episode of Scooby-Doo!  Bob had plans for the day but showering and hot water took precedence over our celebration.

We traveled to Lowe's with our children in tow.  Walnut and Peanut literally played with every faucet and toilet in the plumbing department before we ordered what we thought would be the solution to our problem.  We were patient.  We purchased, scheduled and anticipated the arrival of the miracle tank.

We were dead wrong...

The contracted plumber from Lowe's arrived on the scene at approximately 11:00 a.m. with said hot water tank, took one look at our system and said, "This isn't going to work."  By the way, Bob and I weren't home. My father-in-law was kind enough to meet the plumber so that Bob could meet his out-of-town obligation and I could prepare my students for their AP exam only two short days later.  And, so, the text messages and phone calls began.

The last text message I received was a four digit number and the words "includes labor."  WOW!

My heart dropped.  I couldn't believe it.  I called my father-in-law, got the skinny on the situation and came to grips with the reality of homeownership and the beauty of modern appliances.  I called Bob and we commiserated for a while.

For Mother's Day 2011 I received the most wonderful hot water tank that any mother has ever received.


Author Note:  I did receive several FANTASTIC Mother's Day gifts.  My husband and children amaze me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

6 and 3 = Artists In Training Birthday

October 2010

"Do you want to have your birthday party at the Trolley Museum?"


"OK.  I will call in early spring and book the party."

January 2011

"Do you still want to have your party at the Trolley Museum?"

"I don't know."


"I don't know where I want to have it."

"Well, we need to discuss it so that I can book the venue."

"What's a venue?"

"Where do you want to have your birthday party?"

"I don't know."

February 2011

"Where do you want to have your birthday party?"

"Trolley Museum"

"OK.  I am glad that you decided."

March 2011

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat with the same conversation on a daily basis.  Walnut had decided that he didn't want to have his birthday at the Trolley Museum.  He preferred to have it somewhere else and rattled off what seemed to be a myriad of places.  

Essentially, he had no idea where he wanted to have his party.  And, we had been to so many parties for friends that he didn't want to repeat what the others had done.  

April 2011

We went to the Trolley Museum for the Bunny Trolley.

"Mom, I want to have my birthday party here."

**internal scream equipped with expletives**

"Are you sure?"


I went to speak with Lisa, the awesome liason at the Trolley Museum, and asked if they had ANY availability in May.  answer? a. BIG. fat. NO.

After much perusing around the internet and considering the boys' interests and hobbies, we decided on an art themed party based on the Picasso quote, "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up."  I borrowed a few decoration ideas from Catch My Party and altered them a bit...
one of the grab and go candy stations

paint cans 
quotes about art at the painting station
...and JE designed the graphics for our AWESOME family birthday t-shirts...

front paint splash

back of boys' shirts

back of Mommy and Daddy's shirts

 ...AND my "gametime" lifesavers were...
CA, CS, JG and K (plus JK--not pictured)
They did some really amazing things with the partygoers.  JG helped the children make masterpieces.
artists in training
Peanut and Walnut LOVE to paint.
Walnut's buddies are a creative bunch.
JK and C helped other children draw their own cartoons.  A few of the children sat for over an hour drawing favorites.

I see Yoshi.
K made shaving cream art a must-do activity, too.

messy and fun

...nothing like a little origami...

origami pinwheels

...but NOTHING beats face painting.  CA, CS and JG worked their magic.

the beginnings of a lion
fairy fun
Walnut and Peanut love having large gatherings at our house.  I heard a few, "You're crazy!" remarks but it was more than worth it.  Look at these faces!

the usual--Spider-man

nice and easy = pizza and juice boxes

Make a Wish!
little help from Mom
Happy Birthday.  Happy Family!
A big thanks to Amber, too.  The photos are wonderful!


Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, May 13, 2011

Adventures in K: Kindergarten Lunch

The day of the average Kindergartener intrigued Bob and I since Walnut started school in August.  I ask Walnut, Monday through Friday, about the intricacies of his academic day.  The responses vary due to tiredness or excitement.  We never really had a glimpse of the five and six year olds' school day until this past week when we attended Kindergarten Lunch at Walnut's school.

Bob and I stood in line with Walnut as he directed us to follow the protocol of lunch line etiquette.  I forgot to wrap my silverware in a napkin and was reminded that I didn't follow directions properly.  Wow...he was a stickler for procedural perfection.

We were able to share chocolate milk and a chicken nugget or two with Walnut as we engaged in conversation with a few friends and their parents.  AND, we were able to view the spectacle and organized chaos of Kindergarten recess as well.  Parts of recess reminded me a little of Kindergarten Cop.

Overall, Bob and I appreciated the opportunity to share in our son's daily routine at his wonderful school.  Walnut beamed with excitement when he saw us and continued smiling even through recess.  We also conversed with many of the parents, too.  A day in the life of Walnut proved to be fun filled.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

HMP: Just Wanna Play

Walnut is currently participating in soccer and baseball during this spring season.  Bob coaches Walnut's soccer team.  When Bob conducts practice, the Peanut goes with him to play.  Our feisty three year old runs and plays at practice BUT when Walnut's team warms up on game day (ugh) ALL HELL breaks loose.

At the first soccer game of the season, Bob prepped his team and Peanut ate his snack as he was seated in his chair awaiting the beginning whistle.  However, as soon as the whistle was blown, Peanut threw down the bag of something, got up from his chair and ran to the middle of the field.  When I retrieved him he screamed, "I WANNNNNAAAAAAAA PLAY!"

I tried simple distraction techniques.  I tried bribery.  I tried suggesting a walk around the adjacent fields.  I tried EVERYTHING.  To no avail, Peanut was bound and determined to play soccer with his big brother and teammates.

And, so, he cried for thirty minutes.  At first, many of the spectators laughed.  It was cute.  But, after a few more minutes, Peanut's crying simply annoyed the heck out of everyone, especially me.

'I am NOT caving in this time.'

I let him cry.  I thought he learned a lesson.  I was triumphant mommy.

I was completely and abysmally wrong.

Peanut just wants to play.  Over the course of the last few weeks, we have attended baseball and soccer games and a baseball photo appointment.  Peanut cried each time-although not as long as at that first soccer game-and I learned patience and the art of distraction.

He can play soccer next spring!  Thank goodness.

You're a Certified Teacher. Now What?

In January, I spoke to MAT students at the University of Pittsburgh.  My friend, S, asked me to "give 'em the good stuff" and explain the real necessities of teaching and surviving the first few years.  Here is the handout that I gave the pre-service teachers in the crowd.  Enjoy!

Mrs. T. Kocanuts

First Week of School
o   Make an excel spreadsheet of all of the requirements for the first week of school:  medical alerts, gifted and learning support IEPs, service agreements, required meetings, parking pass applications, substitute folder information, personnel information, etc. 
o   Buy a bulk box of craft sticks and a variety of colored Sharpies.  Also, purchase small plastic containers for each class period plus one extra to store the craft sticks in for attendance.  Place small labels with color coded numbers to identify each period.  Have students write their names on each side of the stick with Sharpies.  I utilize the craft sticks for attendance, selecting groups, random questions and many other things.  They can be a valuable resource in your room.  I still use mine almost every single day.
o   Purchase a hanging file folder crate for each class as well as manila folders and hanging file folders.  After students have finished writing their names on their sticks, have them write their Last Name, First Name on the tab of the manila folder.  Double up students in hanging file folders.  This is another valuable tool for so many different reasons:  works in progress, all graded materials, handouts from an absence, passes, etc.
o   Print out, in large bolded font, the names of the courses that you teach.  Be sure to laminate.  Also, you may consider printing out the words BEFORE, DURING and AFTER and laminate them, too.  I use this for the objectives board.  BEFORE signals students what to do prior to the start of class,  DURING states the objective (great for observations, too) and LATER provides a place for you to put reminders or homework if you wish.
o   Buy two to three inch binders for each of your courses and sheet protectors.  Keep a chronological hard copy of what you have done in class, especially with test keys.
o   Set up a google apps site for yourself and your students.  Create a new gmail account that is not your personal account.  Our school has a webapps account.  You can create online calendars and also place all necessary documents in a secure and accessible  site. 
o   Suggest that your students buy a binder with a clear pocket on the front cover so that they may put your monthly calendar in it.  It really helps them with organization.
o   Create a missed test/assessment folder.  I write the names of absent students and the dates and place them in the folder.  Then, on the front I keep a running tab of outstanding work.  If a student is absent I place handouts in his/her folder in the back of the room but I write his/her name on the sheet.

o   Create a system for the hall pass.  I use one of the craft sticks and students sign out and go.  You don’t want to be constantly interrupted.
o   Set up a class library with a lending sign out sheet.  If you have extra books bring them in and make them available to students.  If you don’t have extra books solicit some from your students’ parents. 
o   Make a supply station equipped with lined and blank paper, pencils, pens, highlighters, tape, staplers, correction tape, paper clips, tissues and hand sanitizer. 
o   When you collect lengthy essays or intricate projects, collect them in groups of ten.  Grade ten at a time.  I tell my students that they don’t want to be the 60th paper out of 60 that I grade. 
o   Buy an accordion file folder OR a portable document box for to be graded papers.  I have mine color coded for each course that I teach.
o   Photocopy two weeks before an assignment.  As a rule, copiers never work when you need them to work.  Consider purchasing a storage bin to place your photocopies in for easy access.
o   Write your absentees on your desk calendar each day.  Also, when you schedule make-ups place the period and name of the student in the corresponding date box.  Save the calendars at the end of the month, just in case.
o   Make your bulletin boards a class or group project.  They will change often and you will always have current information on them.
o   Place your mailbox key on your car key ring.  At the end of day put your classroom key in your mailbox.  You’ll never forget your keys again.
o   If you are visual learner buy an inexpensive bookcase and place all of your important teacher resources on the shelves.  You’ll be more likely to use what you see.
o   Create a binder with all of your lesson plans from most current to oldest.  If you are observed you’ll be able to find the information immediately.
o   Know your district’s call off procedures.  It’ll make things easier for you when you are actually sick.
o   Go to your local news website and register for school delays and closings to come to your cell phone.  You may find out quicker from the news than from your school district.
o   Schedule your planning periods and evenings to maximize your energy.  At the beginning of the week I select what I am going to grade during my prep time or study hall.  I enter grades after school when I have very few distractions. 
o   Keep your door shut in the morning until you are ready for students to enter the room.  You may just need extra time or a few silent moments to prepare for the day.
o   Befriend secretaries, custodians and the librarian.

o   I don’t have discipline issues.  But I can give you this piece of advice that has worked for me in a few situations:  threaten an entire week of detention.
o   Want respect?  Give it.  It is that simple.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Fantastic Birthday Gift

one good lookin' Bob
Bob's brother, S, married L in January.  You may recall the True Winter Wedding post.  

S and L gave me my birthday gift on Saturday but I was kinda busy wrangling and entertaining close to thirty children during Walnut and Peanut's birthday party (Don't worry...posts in the future).  Nevertheless, when I had a chance to open my birthday gift I teared up a bit.  S and L gifted me the memories of Bob and our boys via photographs and the trusty, dusty flash drive.  Hot Metal Studio's Tiffany and Jonathan were in charge of preserving S and L's wedding day and we are grateful for the photos taken as well.  Here are a few photos from the big day:

intense concentration
I LOVE this pic.
Hold on to that ring!
so handsome

They all clean up nicely.
Where are the cookies?

He's got moves and they won't be denied.

...and so does Peanut

slight resemblance
Weddings are no laughing matter.


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