Thursday, June 30, 2011

Musings of a Six Year Old: First Library Card

Walnut accepting the coveted library card.
Our hometown had been fundraising since we moved into our house in 2003.  I remember reading the pleas for pledges, the articles about the financial shortfalls that the library was facing and progress reports on the facility project in hopes that we would one day (in the distant future) have a brand new library.  Our old library, while it did the trick, was limited in its offerings.  However, it pleased me to learn that literacy has always been important in our community.  The Canonsburg Public Library was the first library to ever implement the Accelerated Reader program.  To me, that's impressive.

June 15, 2011:  Frank Sarris Public Library opens--FINALLY.  Walnut ecstatically searched the stacks in the Children's Library.  But, he was most looking forward to receiving his first library card.  He wears it proudly (not all of the time...that would be weird) on a lanyard.  We have already visited the library five times.  It is a great facility and our six-year old (and Peanut) is a very happy reader.  Walnut has signed up for the Summer Reading Program and is super excited.  Of course, with my profession, we make literacy a priority but to see both of the boys so excited about visiting the library, checking out books, listening to audio books in the car and insisting on reading is precious as well as priceless.  A big thanks to the people who made our new library happen!

our little readers

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Birthday Buddies

playing hard, having fun

My childhood friend,  Jennifer,  and I have a very special bond.  Our children share the same birthday.  Actually, her oldest and our youngest share the same birthdate.  We recently had the chance to celebrate her daughter's first birthday.  What a great time to reconnect and let the children play.


J and Walnut

Adventures in K: Graduation

Walnut and K conduct the formal welcome.
Walnut receiving his diploma from Mrs. W.
Mrs. W., Walnut and Mrs. R.

When we were preparing for Walnut's Kindergarten Celebration, I kept thinking of logistical situations like:  

'Would we be able to see Walnut receive his diploma?'
'Would he be dressed appropriately for this event?'
'Should we buy him a small gift or a balloon to be presented to him after the ceremony?'
'Are the camera batteries charged?'
'Will Peanut behave?'

The morning of the Kindergarten Celebration, I busied myself with the task oriented issues.  We ate, got dressed, packed some snacks for Peanut, organized our technological devices, etc.  I didn't have a moment to think about the gravity of the day.  

Walnut would be done with his first year of school.  WOW!

When we arrived at the school, I seemed to be 'fine' until we filed into the gymnasium.  The teachers laminated an art project that chronicled Walnut's academic growth from the beginning to the end of the year.  I teared up.

We assembled the teachers' gifts.  I teared up.

I talked to other parents/friends.  I teared up.

'I didn't even cry at my own high school graduation.  What the hell is wrong with me?'

Walnut marched onto the stage, presented the introduction, sang his song selections, collected his diploma--without a tiny drop from his eyes.  It may have helped that it was 95 degrees that day but I believe that he just enjoyed his special day.  He loves his teachers, his school and especially his friends.  To Walnut, his Kindergarten Graduation celebrated all of his wonderful emotional, intellectual, academic and social accomplishments of  the school year.  Makes sense, right? Flashes of a rosy cheeked, bright blue-eyed infant popped up through my memory.  'How is he six years old already?'  It reminded me of the Father of the Bride scene where Kimberly Williams talks to Steve Martin about marrying the boy of her dreams-realistic and frightening.

After the ceremony, and my abysmal failure of a speech, we laughed, took photographs and remembered what  a wonderful year Walnut had in Kindergarten.  

I just can't believe that he's a first grader.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adventures in K: the LAST conference

Mrs. W and Mrs. R.--Walnut's Kindergarten teachers.  Walnut had two AMAZINGLY wonderful teachers this year for, what we've deemed, his "inaugural school year."  Both Mrs. W. and Mrs. R.really made school fun and meaningful for Walnut.  I will never forget the day that I picked him up from school and he said to me, "Tomorrow we are having turkey tetrazzini for lunch, Mrs. R. said it will be really good.  I'm going to buy tomorrow."  Bewildered, I thought 'Perhaps I should have Mrs. R. suggest a few other things like cleaning the house?!'  By the way, he ATE the turkey tetrazzini.  Talk about influence!

Nevertheless, the year-end parent/teacher conference approached and I figured the conversation would take up the slotted ten minute period, we would discuss Walnut's strengths and weaknesses, Mrs. W. would suggest some enrichment activities, I would provide a few thank yous and it would be over.  simple.


After a few tissues and tears, I truly realized what it meant to have Mrs. W. and Mrs. R. as Walnut's Kindergarten teachers.  Every day, Walnut attended school with two of the most caring and wonderful women I have ever met.  They taught him more than reading, writing and arithmetic.  They were his "mothers" away from home.

Mrs. W. and I discussed the special bond that the Kindergarten class had developed.  She mentioned that they were kind and compassionate children BUT I would be remiss if I didn't place the praise in the teachers' hands and hearts.

We made a decision to send our children to Catholic school.  I remember when I was in my first or second year of teaching in a public school system and my mother-in-law said to me in a probing manner, "Surely you'll consider Catholic school when you have kids."

I laughed.

"Why would I ever send my children to Catholic school?  I am a public school teacher."

The 2010-2011 school year proved to be a year of growth for Walnut.  I never expected it to be a year of growth for me, too.

God Bless.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

HMP: A Throne Reader

Peanut on his throne equipped with a train magazine

Great Teens Will Be Great Adults

Two of my favorite students on their last day of high school.  Best wishes to them both!  They are sure to be successful adults.  This is what teaching is all about folks...

412 & Pittsburgh Baseball Club

The BFFs took a PNC Park tour recently.  Bob was extremely excited to visit the house that PNC built...just kidding.  The Pittsburgh Pirates' home truly exemplifies the baseball parks of yesteryear with its beauty and simplicity while accommodating the 21st century visitors.  Tom, our tour guide, should be considered the most patient human being on this planet.  He conducted an amazingly informative tour whilst the younsters were...being youngsters.  As a bonus, the Pirates have a pretty respectable record right now.  Here's a look at our fun filled day.
the boys and Willie Stargell
Walnut on the warning track
Peanut in the press box

Steel City Family

Move Over, Neil Walker

Walnut is really swinging the bat this spring baseball season.  I have enjoyed watching him grow more confident in his athletic abilities.  Here are a few "action" shots of our slugger.
Peanut believes that he is on Walnut's baseball team.
Look at that intensity!

trophy from Coach J
Congrats on a great season, Walnut!  We're so proud of you.

The Strip District Ritual, a BFF and a Butcher

Coupon blogs are really BIG right now.  I have subscribed to a few and have learned quite a bit about saving money with a food budget.  My friend through the goodness of BFF, Christen, also has her own blog, Journey to Debt Free Living and has taught me quite a bit about couponing and saving.  However, I have some tricks up my sleeve, too.  Christen joined my father-in-law and me as we ventured to world of the Strip District, most notably Wholey's.

My father-in-law is a butcher by trade.  He supported his family by working in different grocery stores before eventually climbing the success ladder to work for one of the big food conglomerates.  With that, at any family function he talks about meat.  In April, our family visited the Strip District to purchase meat and seafood items and I thought it may be a good idea to include some of my saving savvy blogger friends in my ordeals in the heart of all things delicious in Pittsburgh proper.  I invited Christen and she willingly woke up at the crack of dawn to fight the crowds at the Strip.

Here is a plan of attack when you go to the Strip District, especially if you'll be purchasing foodstuffs for consumption at a later date:
1.)  You must arrive no later than 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Most of the mentioned stores are open on Sundays, too.
2.)  You must bring a cooler or two-depending upon your budget and your appetite.
3.)  You should bring a few of the grocery chain flyers from several weeks prior to view and compare prices.
4.)  Start at the farthest destination.  I usually start at Penn Mac.  I then work my way to Sunseri (delicious cheeses and specialty breads), Stan's Market (produce), Penzey's (spices), Prestogeorge (coffee/tea), Mancini's Bread and then to Wholey's for some serious shopping.  I try to avoid, sometimes unsuccessfully, Fudgie Wudgie.  There are other sometimes stops on Penn Avenue, too.  However, I usually follow the same pattern with intense focus on deals and delicacies for the family.
5.)  Wholey's has ice bins stationed at the exit--a big bonus to fill up the coolers.

Back to the story...
My father-in-law schooled me about cuts of meat and prices per pound and tenderness, etc. on our trip in April.  With that, I learned that unless you're going to use the back of the chicken to make soup, don't buy whole chickens.  They're a waste of money.  I learned that if you buy a pork loin and cut down the chops you can save over $2.00 a pound on pork.  I learned that it pays to have an awesome butcher in the family BUT you can also buy a larger piece of meat and request that the butcher cut it for you (there may be a charge but it is worth it.  The below picture shows my father-in-law explaining to Christen where the different cuts of meat are located on the cow:

With Ziploc bags in hand, we headed to my in-laws for the meat cutting to commence.  Here is what my receipt detailed:
  • langostinos $8.09
  • pork loin $24.85 (cut into chops, roasts, kebab squares, and city chicken cubes)
  • fillet mignon $32.34 (cut into steaks)
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts $12.97 (cut into butterflied breasts, chicken strips, chicken nuggets, chicken kebabs, etc.)
  • ground beef $6.41

My father-in-law cut the meat.  I bagged the meat for the freezer and started my trusty division.
langostinos @ $8.09 /1 meal
pork loin @$24.85/10
fillet mignon @$32.34/5
chicken @ $12.97/9
ground beef @ $6.41/2
TOTAL:  $84.66/27 meals = $3.13 per meal for a family of four

Many people go to Giant Eagle or their neighborhood market for meat.  I understand it.  It is so convenient.  In fact, I used to do the same thing.  I would tally up my perks and shop, but after buying the meat in the Strip District, I just can't go back.

Did I mention how much I spent at Stan's Produce Market?  I paid thirteen dollars for a seedless watermelon, five yellow bell peppers, three cucumbers, three pounds of apples, a bag of carrots, a bunch of bananas, a head of cauliflower and three pounds of small red potatoes.  $13!!!

For another day:  produce comparison via Stan's Market and the Night Farm Market in Bridgeville.  Until then...happy eating!

HMP: Request from the Tub

Peanut was taking a bath.  Here is thirty seconds of our conversation:

Me:  "Are you ready to get washed up now?"  (He had been playing with his boats for about ten minutes.)
Peanut:  (in his little and adorable voice)  "NO.  two minutes"  points to the door
Me:  "Aren't you ready to get out now?  Isn't the water cold?"
Peanut:  "NO.  Go on you puter."  again, points to the door
Me:  "Go on my computer?"
Peanut:  "Yep."  smiles

too freakin' cute...and a true digital native...

30 Day Song Challenge Page

Thanks to Jenn and Patti I decided to trace my own thirty songs, too.  Check out my 30 Day Song Challenge selections!  If you'd like to suggest any, please feel free.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Follow kocanuts on Twitter