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Why I Teach Coding

Why do I teach my students to code?

Simply put, because it is my job to engage, inspire and prepare my students for their future.

With the rate at which technology is moving, it is very likely that the jobs my students will be looking at have yet to be created.  Only one thing is certain- their futures will involve computers.  Because of this I feel that it is of the utmost importance to teach them to code and expose them to a computer science education at an early age.  By integrating a computer science education into my students daily lessons and activities I am able to use every facet of Blooms Taxonomy, especially their higher order thinking skills.  When students are coding they are analyzing, creating and problem solving in a highly engaging and often naturally collaborative manor.  Without fail my classroom comes alive and my students are inspired and empowered to keep learning.

Unplugged Intro to Algorithm and Programming Lesson


To accomplish this I use a variety of both unplugged and digital lessons/ tools and integrate them into my content whenever I am able.

One of our favorites is a culminating end of the year project where students program our Dash robots to give a life cycle presentation.  Throughout the year students complete lessons and tasks on’s Code Studio as well as several other apps, and utilize various robots (such as Blue Bots and Dot and Dash) in the classroom for a more hands on experience.

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Save Your Classroom Library and Your Sanity

So its the first day of school and you want your students to do some reading.  You send them carefully over to your beautifully organized classroom library (that you no doubt spent several ulcer inducing hours on this summer) and within a matter of minutes it’s destroyed and you’re fighting back tears (and maybe some rage haha).  Sound familiar?

As teachers we all want to foster a love of literacy and send the message that in our classroom reading is important and fun from the moment our students walk in… but we would also like to stay sane (there will be many other opportunities for us to lose our sanity no doubt).  That is why for the first few days of school I use browsing bins!

The process is quite simple really… I take several bins or buckets and fill them with a variety of high interest texts that are around the different reading levels of my students.   Now, I am currently teaching first grade so my bins are obviously going to be filled with mostly picture books.  I would encourage you though to continue to use picture books regardless of the grade you teach.  I’ve done this as a 5th grade teacher as well and my students loved it!

I then place one bin at each table or zone (if doing more of a flexible seating approach) and rotate them each day for then next few days.


These bins serve a variety of purposes, but to keep it simple I’ll just give you my top 3:

  1.  To send the message that reading is important and fun and held in high regard in this classroom.  By having books out for student use from day one I am encouraging them to explore topics and genres in a way that is not overwhelming or threatening.  There is no library system to navigate and no pressure to be reading at a certain level.  Instead they’re just picking a book that interests them!
  2. As an early finisher-  Reading is always an academic choice in my class.  I don’t ever want students to think that when they are done with their work it is “free time”… I do however give them “free choice” when they are finished with their work, and reading is the first choice activity that they earn.
  3. As a filler- every experienced teacher knows that no matter how carefully you create your plans for the first few weeks (or ever) something is bound to go awry.  The first few days can also be mentally taxing for little brains as they transition back to school.  Sometimes we just need to push the pause button for a moment, dim the lights and take a break with a book!

I will do many lessons involving the books in these bins over the first few days including how to care for our books, what to do if a book is ripped or broken, and eventually how to self select books from our classroom library/ use our personal book bins.  They have saved my sanity (well… they’ve certainly helped) over the last several Septembers and helped me be able to focus on other aspects of setting up my classroom management.  Give them a try!


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Who Are You Creating A Classroom For?

It is of utmost importance that we are creating a classroom environment that ALL our students feel welcome, supported, accepted, safe, cared for, comfortable, and engaged.  This starts with our classroom environment.  Use the hashtag #OURclassroom2017 on social media to provide the teaching community with examples of how you are being purposeful and mindful when setting up your learning space.

The following blog post is an excerpt from my Guide to Becoming Culturally Responsive.

Set the Stage…

While it should not be news to any educator, students thrive best in a positive learning environment that is inviting and welcoming both physically and psychologically.  The issue goes back to our own cultural experiences and how we (most of the time) unknowingly project them into our classroom setting.  What the teacher may view as welcoming, positive and inviting may indeed appear to be uncomfortable and exclusive to some of the students.  Moos (1979) states that “ for students of color and families of immigrants , their initial assessment of their acceptance into the school environment depends on whether or not they perceive pictures, symbols and other visual representations that remind them of their homes, communities, and values.”  Simply put, do all of your students see themselves represented within the walls of your school and/or classroom?  In the majority of public schools across our nation the answer is no.

In his book “Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning” (2012) Sharroky Hollie identifies 8 key elements that help to create a Culturally Responsive learning environment.  They are as follows:

  • Print Rich Environment
  • Learning Centers
  • Culturally Colorful
  • Optimum Arrangement
  • Multiple Libraries
  • Technology
  • Relevant Bulletin Boards
  • Displayed student work and images of students

Again, while many of these elements are not new to educators, the goal is to be culturally mindful and aware while implementing them.

A Print Rich Environment

All learners will thrive in an environment that is designed to stimulate their language development and literacy acquisition, but it is especially important to create this kind of environment rich with text and symbols for our underserved students (Hollie, 2012).  Signs, posters, symbols, labels and especially word walls are essential to all learners whether you are teaching in a primary elementary classroom or a content specific class.  Be sure to steer clear of commercially created items.  Often times images are not truly cultural/ ethnic reflections of your students, but are merely a “colored in” version of an individual with “white” features.  Actual photographs or images that accurately depict ethnicities are better suited if they are to be used.  Be highly critical of these elements and the message that they are sending to you students, your students are staring at them every day.  In order for you students to take ownership and truly see themselves in the environment the majority of the materials should be student created.

Learning Centers

The key aspect here is to think beyond the traditional content area centers of reading, writing, math, science, etc.  “Centers that feature culturally related speaking and listening activities are welcome additions to the traditional centers (Hollie, 2012).”  The research has been well documented showing how effective music is at stimulating the brain, the addition of cultural music at a listening center can be beneficial.  Dr. Hollie (2012) also suggests the addition of a “cultural center” where items from students homes can be brought in and showcased.  The purpose of this center is to act as a living museum for the students and their families to tell their story.

Culturally Colorful

Many of us have little control over the color of the walls and floors (even furniture) in our classrooms. If your school and district allow it, try painting over the often “institutionalized” colors that can be found in our aging classrooms, but please make sure you get an approval before picking up that paintbrush!  The goal is to have classrooms that are dynamic, lively, exciting and inviting, so if you can not get rid of those drab walls there are many other ways of creating a culturally colorful environment.  Please note, I do feel as though there is a delicate balance here and that again, you need to know your students.  I am not suggesting that you over colorize your classroom, you need to be purposeful and mindful just like everything else.  Many students (especially the younger ones in my experience) may become over stimulated by a dramatic use of color.  Shade, Kelly, and Oberg (1999) state that native American cultures seem to prefer earth-tone colors and in some cases bright yellows and pastels which are also colors supported by a lot of the current brain research.  The use of ethnic cloths and patterned papers (if you are unable to use cloth due to fire code), prints and artwork are other ways to tie color into your classroom in a purposeful manner.

Optimally Arranged

Almost every teacher goes through the same scenario in August when walking into an empty room with everything piled into the corner, “how am I going to arrange everything?”  Having tables can make the task somewhat easier, but for those with desks the potential arrangements can seem endless and choosing the “right one” is a daunting task.  There are a few key features to keep in mind when arranging your space it should be one that;

  • promotes movement
  • encourages student collaboration
  • enhances viewing capabilities
  • allows for students to connect with the teacher individually or in small groups

Multiple Libraries

How to organize a multitude of books into a classroom library has been another challenging and ever changing task over the years.  Dr. Sharroky Hollie (2012) suggests formulating multiple libraries by organizing books into categories such as genre, authors, topics or  reading levels.  He also notes that it is important to display the books in such a way that it appeals to students.  Clearly labeled and easily searchable baskets (or another organization method) that are within the students reach are generally more inviting to students.  I would also include that explicitly teaching students how to navigate the classroom library, as well as giving them the time and encouragement to do so is an important factor.

Use of Technology

In todays classrooms there is a definite push for the use of technology.  As teachers of 21st century students it is our job to make sure that we are being purposeful and responsive with how we set up and use technology.  There is a tremendous amount of potential for technology use with our students but often times you will walk into a classroom to find it collecting dust.  I implore teachers to utilize the technology that they have in their rooms and seek out opportunities to let it help you be culturally responsive.

Relevant Bulletin Boards

I would like to highlight the word relevant in this heading.  All to often I see educators using bulletin boards as a decoration or space filler that becomes old and stagnant.  Let us be reminded that the purpose of bulletin boards is to highlight and connect to the content being discussed or overall theme of the lesson/ unit.  There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating bulletin boards and there are wonderfully inspirational sources out there.  Whatever the you use your bulletin board for, make sure to do it purposefully, through a cultural lens, and please change it several times before June.

Displayed Student Work and Images of Students

Perhaps the easiest and yet most prominent way to reflect the learners in your environment is to display their work and images.  Just like bulletin boards, it should be changed out frequently (in fact, bulletin boards are a great place to highlight your students!), at least once a month.  As Sharroky Hollie (2012) states, this is the classrooms version of having your students’ names in lights, so it should be completely inclusionary while also maintaining high expectations for exemplary work.


Hollie, S. (2011). Culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning: Classroom practices for student success.  Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education.

Gay, G. (2010). Cultural Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (2nd ed). NY: Teachers College Press.

Griner, A., & Stewart, M. (2013). addressing the achievement gap and disproportionality through the use of culturally responsive teaching practices. Urban Education, 48(4), 585-621. doi:10.1177/0042085912456847

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Looking to Get Started With Culturally Responsive Teaching?

By now you may have heard a little bit about Culturally Responsive Teaching… but if you haven’t feel free to check out this post.

Getting started can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task.  Like it’s “one more thing” to be doing in your classroom.  I get it, I’ve been there along with my colleagues.   I’m here to tell you that it is much simpler than you may think- as a matter of fact you’re probably doing a lot of it already!

One of the easiest ways to get started with cultural responsiveness is by using attention signals in your classroom.  “Well I already do that!” you say… great!  The key here is using them purposefully and adding in a little cultural twist here and there (by culture I don’t just mean ethnicity- youth culture is a very important aspect as well!).  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when using attention signals to be culturally responsive:

  • Use attention signals for specific purposes.
    • To clarify, or give further directions
    • To transition
    • To bring the activity, or lesson to a close
    • If you use a signal to bring the class back to attention, do not use the same signal as a transition.  Students will get confused.
  • Make sure that you have a good reason to be using the attention signal.  You will lose student engagement and buy- in if you repeatedly us a signal without good reason.
  • Do not expect the students to be quiet immediately.  They should gradually come to quiet- within 3-5 seconds.  If done correctly, and with student buy-in once you start talking all should quiet down.
  • If you need quiet immediately, use your “freeze!”  or other stop on a dime signal.
  • The use of attention signals builds community, harmony, energy, rhythm and unity in your classroom.  They will validate and affirm those cultures that utilize call and response for connecting with one another.
  • Have signals in your toolbox that are traditional, responsive and culturally responsive so that your students experience variety and learn to understand how to respond to their differences and build situational appropriateness.

If you are ready to begin using attention signals in your classroom I have a treat for you!  I’ve compiled a bunch of my go- to signals in a easy to use freebie just for you 🙂  Click here to grab yours today and stay tuned for more ideas and products on becoming Culturally Responsive.

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TpT Conference 2017 Shirt

Are you looking for a comfortable, lightweight and stylish shirt to wear to the Teachers Pay Teachers conference this summer?  Then you’ve come to the right place!  These shirts are available for a limited time in my shop and come in a variety of color and text options.

These shirts are also available in unisex and womens sizing.  Just a little disclaimer… the womens sizes run uber small.  I typically wear a large… and have a few curves (I wear a large comfortably in the unisex), but a womens large was NOT comparable.  I would say a womens large runs more like a average size small.

Also, if these shirts weren’t enough by themselves you can also have yours customized with your business logo on the back!!!

 For customization please fill out the simple form that can be found here.  All custom orders must be placed no later than June 30, 2017 in order to allow enough time for processing and shipping.  Customization costs a total of $28.50 (shipping included).

So what are you waiting for?  Go grab yours today!



*All sales are final

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Is Your Clipart Culturally Responsive?

While it should not be news to any educator, students thrive best in a positive learning environment that is inviting and welcoming both physically and psychologically.  The issue goes back to our own cultural experiences and how we (most of the time) unknowingly project them into our classroom setting.

What the teacher may view as welcoming, positive and inviting may indeed appear to be uncomfortable and exclusive to some of the students.  Moos (1979) states that “ for students of color and families of immigrants , their initial assessment of their acceptance into the school environment depends on whether or not they perceive pictures, symbols and other visual representations that remind them of their homes, communities, and values.”

Simply put, do all of your students see themselves represented within the walls of your school and/or classroom?  In the majority of public schools across our nation the answer is no.

Most teachers (myself included) like to adorn our work with clip art.  Whether it be a powerpoint slide or a worksheet or even classroom posters, teachers everywhere are utilizing clip art and other various images on a regular basis.  Unfortunately many of these images do not accurately reflect the students within our classrooms and it all boils down to awareness.

I’ve learned over the years, after doing many searches for clip art of culturally diverse students that many of the individuals who create the clip art are simply unaware of what truly diverse images look like.  Often times attempts have images with the same facial features and body/ hair but slightly different skin tones.  This is called the “colored in effect”.  While it is a step in the right direction towards diversity it still portrays some of the “ideals”  that our students are flooded with on a daily basis.  Very rarely are drawn images of students depicted as being in wheelchairs, wearing glasses, having a broad nose and full lips, having freckles, wearing a hijab, and the list goes on (for a great example of Culturally Responsive clip art look here!).

On the flip side, many educators aren’t aware of how their own implicit bias affects the images of students that they use in their room.  Not to say that this is intentionally done in any way… but many times, especially considering that the majority of the teaching profession in this country is made up of white females, it just isn’t something that is considered all that often.  Inherently, teachers will select images based upon their cultural lens and must build their awareness of the other lenses in the room.

Even if they do not teach in a diverse setting it is important for educators to consider who they are representing through images in their rooms.  We don’t need to worry about representing our white students anywhere near as much as our nations underserved students, who have historically and systemically been under- represented or mis-represented in games, toys, books, curriculum, movies, tv shows, dolls, products etc for centuries.  Our white students see themselves represented just about everywhere everyday.  It is important that even in an all white classroom to expose students to people and cultures who are different from them.  I would argue that it may be even more important for teachers in this setting to take just as many steps to represent diversity as teachers who work with diverse students.

Overall, we need to do a better job of being cognizant of the images that we are choosing.  A cute little clip art kid may seem harmless at the time, but consider the images that are flooding our students on a regular basis from all angles.  The ultimate goal is to be highly critical of these elements and the message that they are sending to you students, because your students are staring at them every day.

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What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?

I love this quote by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. especially in terms of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT).  To me, it sums up what Culturally Responsive Teaching is… all of us with our different learned experiences working and maneuvering together in the same boat.  Typically, when I’m speaking to other individuals regarding CRT I like to start off with why it is so important for today’s educators.  In today’s post though I thought I would start off a little differently.  I thought I would start by explaining what Culturally Responsive Teaching is… because I can see in my colleagues across the country that many already know why we need it.  I see teachers on a daily basis who love their profession and students and want nothing more than to see them succeed, but despite their best efforts things are still not going as well as they could… or worse, things are going horribly wrong.

But alas, I can not resist providing you with a tiny little bit of background information…

Other than the Indigenous people of the United States we (or our ancestors) have all arrived here by “ship”.  The time period in which we arrived on American soil as well as the purpose for coming (voluntary vs. involuntary) has had a large impact on our experiences- especially within educational institutions.  We are all trying to navigate an antiquated, and racially biased institution together- our boat, which unfortunately is not set up for all to be successful.

When colleagues ask me what I’m doing differently in my class, or how I manage certain things, my answer is almost always CRT.  While still very much a work in progress, I have been studying and utilizing Culturally Responsive techniques (formally) since the summer of 2013.  I began attending a series of professional development on the topic that was provided by my district and presented by Dr. Sharroky Hollie.  More on this later!

So what is Culturally Responsive Teaching?

One of my graduate professors Amy Bergstrom Ed.D, professor at the College of St. Scholastica once stated to myself and my colleagues “there is no formula for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, there is no do a, b, c, and d and suddenly you’re culturally responsive.  Its vast, and its deep and wide.  And its organic because it changes based on context… “

Geneva Gay, one of the leaders in Culturally Responsive Teaching defines it as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches to and through the strengths of these students.   It changes the traditional understanding of the achievement gap by shifting focus away from the perceived student deficits and puts them towards school deficits.”  It requires teachers to respond to differences in students’ communication and learning styles by evaluating and changing their own management and teaching techniques.

I like to think of CRT as accessing students prior knowledge (also explained in the video below)… not just their content knowledge, but their cultural knowledge as well.  Then, we can build upon that knowledge and teach our students how to be situationally appropriate.  We use a variety of management techniques and protocols for responding and discussing that both validate our students learned cultural experiences and build new experiences that they will be able to draw from and utilize later in life.

In order for Culturally Responsive Teaching to be successful the following criteria are non negotiable.

  • The belief that ALL students can learn
  • An open mind and willingness to change
  • You need to know who you are
  • You need to know who your students (and families) are
  • You need to know what and how you are teaching

The following video from Teaching Tolerance does a great job at introducing the concept of Culturally Responsive Teaching:

If you are interested in learning more please stay tuned!

In the meantime you may also want to check out these resources:








Culturally Responsive Teaching Freebie!


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Its Time to Think About the New Year

With the New Year fast approaching, it is time to start thinking about resolutions and goals.  For the better part of the last decade one of my goals has always been the same- to improve my health and fitness… sound familiar?

It’s no secret that since having my first child 9 years ago I have struggled with my weight.  Prior to  pregnancy I was effortlessly thin and fit.  It seemed I could eat anything without issue, my metabolism was a raging furnace… then I got pregnant and have been it would seem that my metabolism packed up and left town!  It also seemingly got worse with each consecutive pregnancy.  Finally after years of frustration, symptoms, diets, protein shakes, and fitness regimes I asked my Dr. to test my thyroid… the results came back in the very low normal range, but “normal” nonetheless and my doctor said “welcome to your 30’s”.

Ugh.  So being 34 means miserable, tired, and fat?!  Umm I don’t think so.  By last summer I had finally had enough, and was complaining to an aquaintance about my frustration after church one day.  She then told me about this diet that she had tried when she was at the same breaking point that I was… the Fast Metabolism Diet.   Everything that she said about it made perfect sense and I was intrigued so I thought “what the hell” and ordered the book from Amazon right then and there!

Now, I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty details because this is not a sales pitch.  This is merely a friend telling a friend about something that finally worked.  If any of the above sounds familiar to you… go ahead and order the book.  Trust me.  The book is full of super sciency information about why and how to make this diet work… it was fascinating and made a ton of sense.  There were a lot of “A-ha’s”  and I truly felt like it was written for me and my circumstances.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t terribly easy to stick to at first but I was bound and determined to give it my best shot.  I started the diet on Monday, August 8 weighing 182lbs (shudder).  After 28 days I was down to 163 lbs… and I didn’t (formally) work out once!  SAY WHAT!?  Every time I look at those stats I get pumped up 🙂 Not only did I lose a considerable amount of weight in under a month but I felt GREAT.  So great in fact that I kept up with several of the “rules” of the diet and now as I write this (after binging both at Thanksgiving and Christmas on delicious goodies)  I have kept off all of the weight with the exception of about 2lbs.  That alone is a first for me when it comes to dieting!

Now, before you go and run over to Amazon to buy the book let me first highlight some of the Do’s and Don’ts of the diet:


Eat 5 times a day (3 meals, 2 snacks)

Eat every 3 to 4 hours

Eat within 30 minutes of waking up

Stay on the plan for the full 28 days

Stick to the foods for that day (there are lists to choose from… don’t worry)

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water

Eat organic as much as possible

Eat nitrate free meat

Exercise 3 times per week… 😉 🙂


Wheat, corn, dairy, soy, refined sugar, dried fruit or fruit juice, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, fat free or “diet” foods

I know, I know that last little bit is like WHOA, but trust me its fine.  The book provides you with a lot of ideas, recipes and foods to choose from.  I also purchased the app which was a huge help.  There is a cookbook that goes with the diet as well… which I also purchased lol.

So that’s about it.  Today is day 1 of  me starting again, I wanted to start a little bit before New Years while I’m off from work.  If you want to follow along head over to my Instagram  @lindseynagorski and comment below if you have any questions or want to share your progress!

Here’s to 2017!

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Quick and Easy Sight Word Assessments


Are you tired of the piles of paper all over during assessment time?  I know that I am!  Every time I have to assess a student I end up hunting through packets of papers, in a pile, in a bin somewhere which then translates into a big pile of papers on my kidney table.  I certainly do not claim to be a neat freak by any means, but I do try to keep things orderly and in their place (thank you Dollar Store bins!).  No matter what though I end up drowning in a sea of assessments, especially at report card time!

I am also fortunate enough to have a Co-Teacher this year for language arts as well as a lot of team planning and data collaboration time.  This translates to me hunting through my assessments for various scores on an almost weekly basis.  I was bound and determined to simplify my life this year and these digital assessments are certainly helping!

As you can see above I’ve created some super easy to use digital assessments for your students sight words.  No paper, no fuss… right up my alley.

Each assessment has the designated word list as well as a column for each month of the school year.  All you have to do is type x when a student reads a word correctly.  The table has been formatted to automatically highlight for you.


At the bottom of the assessment you will notice numbered tabs.  These tabs are a separate assessment sheet for each student.  I would suggest keeping them numbered for student privacy since this is a digital document.

At the end of the word list is a row titled “Total”.  No more going back and counting how many words the student read folks!  This document will automatically calculate that number for you (can I get an Amen?!).  It will also take that monthly total data and put it into an easy to read graph which can also be exported!  Imagine the possibilities- you can easily discuss monthly progress with students and parents.  Just print and go!

I hope that you will find these digital assessments as useful as I do.  They have already simplified my life so much that I am working on even more!  Head over to my store to check out the different versions of sight word assessments that I have available, and while you’re there make sure that you are following me so that you will be amongst the first to know when new assessments are uploaded!


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Five for Friday- It’s My 1st Birthday!


I’m back with another fabulous Five for Friday linkup with Doodlebugs Teaching on my first “I have nothing to do” day of summer vacation 🙂


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I simply can not believe that I have been on TPT for a full year already!  The amount of information that I have acquired and the new friends that I have made has far surpassed my expectations.  Not to mention that I have a ton of FUN creating classroom decor and other products for teachers (and myself haha)!  I am celebrating today with a flash sale- my entire store is 20% off TODAY ONLY.  And in 1 month I’ll be taking the next step on this journey by attending the TPT Conference in Orlando for the first time!  CAN’T WAIT

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Have any of you ever heard of the Insane Inflatable 5k?  It is a ton of fun… if you like running around a ski slope in 90 degree weather.  For real though, this was our second time doing it- my husband thought it looked like so much fun that he joined in with us this year.  I think he still had fun… but he’s a beast.  Me?  I kept my eyes on the medics the whole time.  I would post a picture of myself completing the obstacles… but nobody wants to see that lol, instead, enjoy an image of my future Ninja Warrior 😉

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No kickoff to summer is complete without a bonfire.  We had a small bonfire in our backyard with my Girl Scout troop this week to celebrate the end of our year.  We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores… the s’mores are made out of Girl Scout cookies.  Next time you see a Girl Scout selling cookies buy some “Thanks a lots” from her and save them for s’mores- you’ll thank me 🙂

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This is where I now live.  In the bleachers watching my little critters swim.  My oldest decided to give the swim team a try this year versus regular swimming lessons… so we are here at 8am every morning #momlife.  Then we come back at 10 for the littlest peanut’s lessons.  So if you can’t find me… this is where I am, destroying my data plan.

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And… as much as converting from a full time working mom to a stay at home mom during the summer is an adjustment for all, little moments like these are what I cherish!  Snapped this one while they were walking back from soccer practice to you know where… swimming 😛