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Monday, March 27, 2017

Best Reference Books for Mothers of Multiples

Parenting multiples (twins, triplets, or more) is a unique, wonderful, and daunting challenge. When I first found out I was expecting twins, I was at first pretty ecstatic after having gone through struggles with infertility. Then the reality of a higher-risk twin pregnancy and the prospect of two babies hit and I was completely overwhelmed! As I do with most any new challenge I encounter, I started reading everything on the subject of twin pregnancy, twin babies, and raising twins I could find. I promise you, if there was a book about anything related to twins, I read it. So today I wanted to share the books that I found the most helpful for each stage of being a MoM (mother of multiples). If you are expecting multiples yourself, I hope you find this list helpful!


1. When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy by Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein


This is basically the multiple pregnancy bible. I learned so much from reading it and referred back to it over and over again throughout my pregnancy and into the first few months after the girls were born! I was blessed with an uneventful pregnancy but this book did an excellent job of preparing me for whatever may happen in a way that made me feel equipped, not paranoid. 

2. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins: A Step-by-Step Program for Sleep Training Your Multiples by Marc Weissbluth


Of all the aspects of parenting babies, how they eat and how they sleep have got to be the two questions parents both struggle with most (since eating and sleeping are pretty much a baby's entire life) but also get the most opinionated about (often in very polarizing ways). If you're someone who is put off by the phrase "sleep training", don't let that stop you from reading this book. I did not follow everything that Mr. Weissbluth suggests in this book. As I think most parents do, I sort of fumbled my way through a mix of different philosophies and methods of handling my daughters' sleep. But what I think is helpful for any parent, no matter what choices you end up making in this regard, is the information on what "normal" looks like. I think this book does a great job of discussing what an average sleep pattern looks like at different ages, including a wide range of what would be considered "healthy" depending on a variety of factors. It really helped reassure me and helped me anticipate difficult transitions in their development.

3. Raising Twins: Parenting Multiples from Pregnancy Through the School Years by Shelly Vaziri Flais


This is the book that I still, now that the girls are 5 years old, refer to on a regular basis. I LOVE this book. Written by a pediatrician and mother of twins, the book touches on the topics of twin pregnancy, sleep training, breastfeeding, and other important twin baby topics, but the best part of this book is her section on each stage of development up through the preschool years and beyond. For each stage of development, the book includes a description of what to expect, some of the unique challenges and distinct joys of each stage, and tips of navigating every aspect of parenting in that stage. 

4. How Do You Do It? 

How Do You Do It?

OK, this isn't a book, but I found a lot of great advice and, most importantly, camaraderie and community through this blog for mothers of multiples. Written by a number of contributing authors, you can find posts on pretty much anything related to twins, triplets, and more you could possibly imagine. It has been a great way for me to connect with other moms going through similar experiences and look up information and advice on those random, middle of the night questions that plague me every now and then.

If you are expecting multiples or know someone who is, I hope you find this information helpful. Wading through all of the information out there can be challenging when you're already overwhelmed by the prospect of multiple babies! If you're a MoM yourself, what books or references have you found most helpful for you at each stage? Share them in the comments! 
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Half Notes

In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, I'm going to be sharing my favorite lessons for teaching various rhythmic elements. I'm sharing these ideas in conjunction with a month-long collaboration I'm doing with a group of amazing music education bloggers over on the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page, where we are sharing a new rhythm-related teaching tip each day. You'll get tons of great ideas just by following along, so be sure to go follow the page to catch all of the tips from other bloggers (and get the scoop on a special gift coming at the end of the month)! If you're reading this after the fact, do not fear- you can search for #31daysofrhythm any time to find all of the ideas that we've shared!

Today I'm focusing on half notes. I teach half notes in 2nd grade, and it's the first rhythm they learn that is longer than one beat. There are lots of great lessons that I love using to teach and practice half notes, but today I wanted to share one of my favorite songs to use to introduce half notes.


I like to introduce half notes for the first time with the song, "Bickle Bockle":


I particularly like this song because I can also teach the solfege pitches 2nd graders are working on, mi, sol, and la, with the same song! It's also short enough for students to learn quickly.

We start by learning the song, then I have the students walk around the room on the steady beat while singing. Once they can do that, I have them stop and practice clapping with the rhythm of the words while they sing. After doing it the first time, I point out that there are a few long notes in the song where we keep singing but we aren't clapping, and I ask students to identify those long notes ("sea" and "me"). Then I tell them to clap and then keep their hands together, then I tell them that they actually have bubblegum stuck to their hands and I stretch my top hand up while making a grimacing face. The kids love that idea! I tell them to stretch out their bubblebum on the two long notes, and we practice singing and clapping the rhythm in place again. We all grimace when we sing the long notes too ;) Once they can do it while standing in place, I tell students to walk around the room on the beat while clapping and singing. The final step is to take out the singing and just walk and clap.

Once everyone can successfully walk on the beat while clapping the rhythm, including stretching out the long notes, I tell students that the "bubblegum notes" are actually half notes, and we discuss how many steps they took for each bubblegum notes (2!).

Whenever I introduce a new rhythm, I like to have students practice reading it from notation in short, 4-beat rhythm patterns right away. We practice speaking the rhythms, clapping them, and then playing them on instruments. Here are some examples I use with my students- I like to first have them play one line at a time, and then eventually try to play all of them in a row without stopping.


Once they can perform the new rhythm, I like to have them use it in a composition exercise. For this lesson, I have them create a 4-beat rhythm and have them play it on an instrument of their choice as a rhythmic ostinato while the other students sing the song and play the accompanying game. By doing the song with a game, I can have my students repeat the song over and over without it feeling like drilling! My favorite game instructions are at the end of this video:


With this age, I like to do most of my composition activities with manipulatives. For 2nd grade, when they are learning to incorporate half notes in their compositions, my favorite manipulatives to use are my monster magnets. The kids love them and they are such a great, concrete way to help them see the 2-beat value of the half notes! You can read more about them in this post:


There are plenty of other manipulatives that you can use, though, that are much less work to put together. If you're looking for more ideas for composition manipulatives that work great with lower elementary students, here is a post I wrote on where to find them cheaply:


What are your favorite ways to teach half notes? There are so many great songs and activities to use to teach this rhythm- I'd love to hear your favorites! Leave a comment below to share your ideas. And don't forget to go follow the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page for more great ideas all month long! Happy Music In Our Schools Month!

Looking for more lesson ideas? See my full curriculum here.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

My Go-To Online Resources for New Recipes

If you're too busy to slave away in the kitchen for an hour but still want to eat healthily, this post is for you! I'm always looking for great recipes that are easy and fast to make, healthy enough, and are appealing to my 5-year-olds and to me. I just didn't have that many recipes in my arsenal that fit the bill in all of those categories, and I was getting tired of making the same things over and over again! I've come across several online resources recently where I've been able to find lots of new recipes that fit all of my needs, so today I wanted to share those with you!


Very Easy, Not As Healthy
These two sites have lots of very easy recipes, and they're great for when I'm super busy. They aren't the healthiest recipes in the bunch, but they do have quite a few recipes that are healthy enough for me to feel good making when we have a particularly busy day.

1. A Year of Slow Cooking
Of course one great way to save time in the kitchen is with a slow cooker- I love when I can throw things into the crock pot before work and come home to a ready-to-eat dinner! This site has every kind of slow cooker recipe you can imagine. Here's her recipe for honey garlic chicken, which is simple and quick to throw together but very tasty. 

2. Bigger Bolder Baking
As the title suggests, this one has mostly sweet treats, but she also has quite a few mug meals that you can make in the microwave in just a few minutes! I've found a lot of great after school snacks here, and the microwave mug meals are great when I'm eating dinner alone (and on the run). Here's a video with 5 mug meal recipes!

Pretty Easy, Pretty Healthy
These two sites have mostly recipes that are not "dump-and-go", but they are still pretty easy- most of them can be made in under 30 minutes- and most of the recipes are healthy (and kid-friendly) as well! Many of these recipes have made it into my regular dinner rotation.

3. The Domestic Geek
This site has so many great, healthy recipes that are easy to make, it's hard to choose just one to recommend! For most weeknight dinners, these recipes are the perfect balance of healthy and easy for me. Here's a video with 3 easy meals you can make on 1 sheet pan!

4. Asian at Home
Many of you know that, having grown up in Japan and spent a good amount of my adult life living in Korea, I am particularly partial to East Asian food. This is a great place for getting relatively easy recipes for Asian food of all kinds- she has Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Chinese, and other cuisines represented and she explains how to get any unusual ingredients in the U.S. as well. Here's a great, super-simple recipe for Oyakodon, a Japanese chicken and rice bowl that I absolutely love.

I hope you found some new recipes to keep you and your family eating healthy on busy weeknights! If you want to see more of my favorite, simple and healthy recipes, check out my Pinterest boards:



What are your favorite places to find new healthy and easy recipes? Have a favorite weeknight dinner recipe that your whole family loves? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Whole Notes

In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, I'm going to be sharing my favorite lessons for teaching various rhythmic elements. I'm sharing these ideas in conjunction with a month-long collaboration I'm doing with a group of amazing music education bloggers over on the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page, where we are sharing a new rhythm-related teaching tip each day. You'll get tons of great ideas just by following along, so be sure to go follow the page to catch all of the tips from other bloggers (and get the scoop on a special gift coming at the end of the month)! If you're reading this after the fact, do not fear- you can search for #31daysofrhythm any time to find all of the ideas that we've shared!

Today I'm focusing on whole notes. Does anyone else struggle to come up with really effective ways to teach whole notes? So often whole notes come at the end of the song and make it difficult for students to truly experience the 4-beat length. It took me a few years but I've found a few ways to teach it that work for my students, and today I wanted to share one of my favorites with you.


I use the song, "Standin' On the Platform" to introduce whole notes:


I love using this song for 2 reasons: it has a whole note in the middle of the song, plus a half note and dotted half for comparison, and I am able to do it with a fun movement game, which helps students to more naturally experience the whole note.

When I first teach the song, I have students walk on the beat and move their arms like a train (you know, back and forth with your elbows bent like the metal things connecting the train wheels....). Once they have learned the song, I have them keep walking in place and singing while I start wandering the room (still moving my arms with the beat like a train). At the end of the song, instead of "Liza Jane", I sing another student's name, and that student starts following me around while we sing again. At the end of the song, that student sings another student's name, who joins our "train", and we keep adding until we've got the whole class in one long line marching around the room (side note: I often mix things up and take the opportunity to review tempo and/or dynamics vocabulary by singing some verses at different speeds and/or volume levels- keeps the kids engaged and following my singing!).

Once the last student has joined the "train" (this is also a great way to do a quick assessment of their singing- if you're doing that, you'll want to have the last student sing as well, in which case I secretly give them a silly character's name to sing and make the whole class laugh, like "let's go minion Bob" or something like that, or the principal or homeroom teacher's name), I have them stay in the train formation but this time tell them to clap the rhythm of the words while they walk on the beat and sing. Any time they have a long note, they should pretend they have bubble gum stuck to their hands and stretch out the bubble gum until the end of the note.

Once they've experienced the long notes, I ask them to identify the two rhyming words (train/Jane) and then tell me how many beats those words are (4), and I show them the notation for the new note. I always tell students to remember that it is called a "whole note" by noting that the open circle looks like a hole (I use a similar memory hook for whole rests- read about that in this post).

I include a few different songs in younger grades that include whole notes to get them experiencing the concept before I formally introduce it- I especially like using poi balls with the Maori song "Hine E Hine" to experience whole notes in 2nd grade- you can read about that lesson and other ideas for incorporating Maori music in this blog post!

What are your favorite lessons for introducing whole notes? I'd love to hear them (and I'm sure other readers would as well!) in the comments below! And don't forget to go follow the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page for more great ideas all month long! Happy Music In Our Schools Month!

Looking for more lesson ideas? See my full curriculum here.

Get updates, free curriculum resources, and more!