G-PA Survival Kit plus Free Printables

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Working in the Special Education department with a group of people who chose this profession to help struggling students day in and day out, gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented individuals. During my first few years teaching full time, I met six amazing people in my department who all played a part shaping me into the teacher I am today through their wisdom, guidance, personal life experiences, and sense of humor. I will never forget my first day of work. It was July in 2012 and I was all of 48 hours into a state of newly post-wedding bliss and blur. This lady called me on the phone to invite me to a scheduling work day. I couldn’t remember her name, but she told me that we would be meeting at the high school at 9:00 that upcoming Thursday to build our master schedule. So I thought to myself… my first work day, is the week of my honeymoon. Awesome.

And so I went to work on that Thursday in July, nervous to enter the room and face my first REAL job, with REAL co-workers. I met 6 individuals that day who would make up my learning support co-workers. The first face I saw was a younger man, I guessed late 30’s at the time, and I recognized him from my interview team. He re-introduced himself as we walked down the dimly lit and intensely 70’s styled hallways. It smelled of cleaners and humidity and we walked to the “conference room” which felt more like a utility closet, the same one that happened to be my interview room. It felt much less intimidating with the warm welcome my soon-to-be mentor provided. The next to arrive was the voice from the phone. She was tall, looked young, but had the respect from others as though she had taught for quite a while. She was kind, and introduced herself as Holly again, only this time I made an effort to remember. She brought with her a white haired and incredibly tan man. Apparently they carpooled at times. I predicted when I went out to the parking lot there would be a convertible car he would get into. I was right.

The next two to arrive were both younger and neither spoke a word, but sat quietly nodding and agreeing with all decisions made during the scheduling. The last to arrive was super pleasant, immediately shook my hand and brought an undeniable heart-warming presence in to the room. I remember how comfortable he made everyone feel. His name was Dave, and every time I would walk into his classroom he still had that effect. He took a seat at a computer in the corner to type the schedule as we built it. This task would eventually become my job in future years.

The next two hours passed with discussion and thought process too abstract for my inexperienced mind. I listened as they spoke of classes and course requirements that were so foreign to my high school requirements I simply continued to follow them and watch as my schedule was built. Once a skeleton of a master schedule was set up we were to hand schedule the students on our caseload. Still floating in that blur of post-marital bliss I was focused on getting home to figure this puzzle of scheduling out in the comfort of my own home, away from the hovering and experienced eyes surrounding me.

This memory has been floating around in the back of my mind as I hit the ending point in my count down to a career shift. The voice on the phone turned out to be the kindest woman I have ever had the privilege of working with. She has been a motivator on those rough days to always stay positive and remember everything we do is for the kids. She is so wise and keeps everyone on task at whatever meetings we hold, and has the sweetest voice. She also forces me to work-out on our non-school-related dates… We really need to work on this aspect of our relationship! I know she will forever hold a place in my life. I’ve spoken countless times about my mentor and his heavy presence in my life. The super tan gentleman who arrived with the lady from the phone call ended up being an undervalued and phenomenal presence in our students lives. He is greatly missed by both students and fellow teachers.

And the kind soul who went above and beyond, to introduce himself and show me to my classroom ended up also falling into the irreplaceable friends category. He has inspired me to fight for what is right. His first piece of wisdom shared with me during my first year was, “Your wealth with always be in your time…” as a 25 year old, it held little value, but I appreciated that it would grow over time. As my little family grew one child at a time, I truly began to understand the weight behind his wisdom. He will forever be an additional mentor, role model and inspiration in his crazy unconventional ways. The time we spent joking, along with the stories we have shared will forever hold a place in my heart.

The fifth person who developed a strong influence in my life didn’t come in to play until my third year teaching when our middle school and high school combined to become a Junior-Senior High School. She was also one of those treasures that a district develops anxiety at the thought of losing. Her job is so intense and requires such a highly qualified personality to be successful in and she does it. Just like that, she is focused, and dedicated, and meticulous, and I just love her. I was so sad at the thought of leaving her along with my handful of close friends I have developed over my time working there. But I was comforted in the fact that she would understand. She is that all-balancing mother first, teacher, escort to her children, coordinator of family schedules, reminder of to-do lists, and supportive friend. She would get it. So when I was making this incredibly difficult decision, I found myself confiding in her, weighing the pros and cons, because she is the type of mother want to get the chance to be. She is involved and her kids will always come first to her.

Which leaves me with just one last critical person in my department who truly shaped me into the teacher I am today. My boss. Luckily, I feel fairly safe in writing this, knowing he’ll never read it, so I will be frank, I knew the moment I walked out of my interview, I wanted, correction, I needed to get this job. Some unidentifiable force was pulling me to this district, and I truly believe a higher power was at play drawing me in to these people, these life long friends, hard working and dedicated people. Each person described above holding a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, each so readily available to share with me, whenever I needed them. These people became a family to me. Kind, devoted, and at times a little crazy, but family. That unspoken love was tested just a year ago when a family member was sick. So we pulled together, prayed for a miracle, and were blessed with just that: A Miracle.

Now that we have survived the emotional roller coaster of my sentiments, I present you with the most recent creation my work family and I put together. Our boss recently became a G-Pa for the first time ever. He and his wife have the most perfect little man to spend the rest of their lives celebrating and watching him grow. We wanted to help celebrate this little bundle, but in a very “our department” fashion.

Let me introduce to you, The G-Pa Survival Kit:

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After spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME over-thinking this gift, we developed a list of essential items to survive the first month of G-Pa life. The kit included:

 

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The list held as many hunting reference as we could come up with, along with some universal diaper changing jokes. Hunting is critical in our Western Pennsylvania life style. We then passed little size 1 diapers around to all who contributed giving each participant a moment to write funny little messages for our boss while he was on “Poop Doody.” The supplies were all found locally minus some specialty details, which I will provide links to the products in this post towards the end.

It is this positive environment for little comical jokes, that sets our department apart from most. We know every statement typed into an IEP is legally binding, and that every word spoken during an IEP meeting is critical. So perhaps it is the weight and importance behind these tasks that drives us to find the humor and enjoyment in these small moments.

The gift was so enjoyable to give, watching each item bring out a new level of laughter. Seeing the sweet little man in his tiny Muck boots all but sent me over the edge ready for another little peanut in our house!

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The items we included started with Rubber Gloves, Safety Goggles, Metal Tongs, Disposable Face Masks, Zip Lock Bags (written on with Sharpie “Caution – Hazardous Materials”), Camouflaged Pacifiers (baby silencer), Camouflaged Bibs, Toy Rattle (Baby Rattler Call), Diaper Supplies: Diapers, Wipes, Butt Paste (because it has the best name…!), Daniel Boone Baby Coon Skin Cap (this was the clincher gift…!), My First Muck Boots,  and of course some iron-on personalized baby body suit designs. We even included a turkey call as Baby’s first turkey call; however our boss claimed it as his own.

Rattler Call

Turkey Call

Silencer

I have seriously tossed around the idea of opening up an Etsy shop offering personalized printable gift ideas, but for now I will stick with simple, free ideas you can download and share. Please do not hesitate to use and share with me your gift giving stories. I can only hope it brings you as much joy as it has our little “family.”

Cheers!

  • Whitney

GPA Item Labels

GPA Labels

GPA List Printable

 

 

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Weekends with Toddlers | What to Do?

I found myself sitting on a Tuesday commute home divulging in the temporary excitement that comes when a significant change is about to occur in your life. Now that the shock and awe of my career shift has sunk in, and the important parties have all been notified, it seems as though life has begun to move in slow motion, gradually ticking away the hours, minutes, and seconds until this Career Shift actually takes place.

I’ve gone through every emotion possible starting at terrified, then moving in sequential order through heart-broken, excited, nervous, frustrated, irritated, anxious, impatient, exhausted, and now to complacent. Emotional roller coasters are exhausting. But as my rail car seems to be stalling out, I’m focusing on the here and now. What do I have left to do before I leave? And most importantly, what can I already begin to do with my little girls as I make this shift to prioritize them above all else.

So it was on this random Tuesday, pulling out of the sitter’s driveway that my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, could we make cookies tomorrow? No, could we make cookies TODAY?!” I thought for a moment about the steps involved, ingredients needed, and then like a lightening bolt striking a tree, remembered buying a tub of cookie dough from my niece’s fundraiser that was, brace yourselves, ACTUALLY GLUTEN FREE! I had already planned to make One Pot Jambalaya for dinner, a recipe I kind of whipped out of no-where, winging an attempt at a more complicated version I had made years before. And with this simple dinner plan, I knew we would have additional free time to do just that, bake cookies. I immediately agreed to this simple task of scooping and rolling cookie dough without hesitation and the squeals of excitement that escaped my girls in the back seat were music to my ears.

We then hurried home and began our dinner preparations, finishing just as my husband pulled into the driveway. Once everyone was well fed, the girls began to dig into the container of cookie dough rolling, scooping, and even eating, until we had created 2 sheets full of cookies! My girls actually enjoy the prep better than the end result in almost any cookie (except sugar cookies. My youngest will take you down to get to a sugar cookie) so when the trays were completed, and the cookies were not the top notch cookie like many of our homemade ones, the girls were not interested in eating them.

I then thought to myself, what can I do with 24 gluten free cookies that don’t meet the expectations of the cookie baking connoisseurs my daughters have become? And just like that she hit me; a student who has been on my caseload at school for 3 1/2 years now, has a gluten intolerance that is not well monitored. We immediately packaged up the cookies, making her a little card from the girls placing them in my school bag to be delivered the next day.

Jambalaya -10

It was this small pay-it-forward gesture that got me thinking, what other “service-project” activities could a toddler and 17 month old participate in?

My very good friend runs a Helping Hands club that is highly active in service projects and volunteer hours. I want my girls to learn the value of paying-it-forward at an early age. So I developed a list of 10 simple activities you can do with your child at any age to help teach this core value of our society to even the smallest of children

  1. Baking cookies for a local shut-in, delivering with a friendly child-crafted card.
  2. Donating old books to a local library or the Salvation Army
  3. Sorting through old toys, choosing ones to donate to local community supporting corporations like GoodWill
  4. Creating a “coupon book” of hugs and kisses for grandparents.
  5. Making lists of the things siblings love the most about each other, sharing one item every day for a week off the list.
  6. Taking your children grocery shopping for items to donate to a local food pantry.
  7. Volunteering with toddlers to help sort at local food banks
  8. Understanding the value of the critical terms Thank You, or Please at ages as young as 1
  9. Letting small children assist in picking out gifts for other children, and sharing in the joy of giving a gift to someone they love.
  10. Taking your child to local community events demonstrating the importance of community and supporting local businesses from an early age.

All of these ideas could easily be performed in a small rural community all the way to the booming cities across our country. We want our children to be BETTER than us, to value more, and want less.

Spend the weekend with your children, no matter their age, sharing in the joys of paying it forward.

Cheers!

  • Whitney