Monday, May 2, 2016

Thrive Experience

(Mr. D. and myself were both given 4-day sample packs to try out this Thrive product.  I mentioned to him that we should try doing it together to see how we each might react differently.  After 4 days of waiting for the green light that he was ready to try this, he was still sitting stalled at the starting block.  Therefore I announced to him that my 4-day sample had turned into an 8 day sample, and I  confiscated his sample pack.  What follows are my notes about my first 4 days...)

Day #1:
Today, I woke up at my normal time, in my normal manner, and I felt the slightest twinge of an oncoming headache as I dragged myself to the shower. "Dragged" being the key word.  I don't do mornings, and I certainly don't foresee "Thriving" in the mornings.  While I was in the shower I suddenly remembered the capsule I was supposed to take to start this whole process.  A single capsule filled with possibly more vitamins and nutrients than I normally consume in an entire day - possibly an entire week.  A capsule that I'm supposed to ingest with a full glass of water  - on an empty stomach.

(Who drinks a whole glass of water as their first daily intake?) 

Today I did....and that alone was a big step for me.  If nothing else, I drank one entire glass of water for the day. One glass down, multiple glassfuls to go (I certainly don't foresee that happening either - water is boring...I prefer bubbles!  And flavor!!).

I could have also had one of the shake mixes this morning - but again, that was also to be done on an empty stomach, 20-40 minutes after the capsule...and I just wasn't prepared to spend that kind of time trying to stomach a new "shake" on an empty stomach prior to finally being able to eat breakfast.  (**Note to self: take capsule as soon as I wake up, and drink the shake after my shower.)

Here's what I've noticed today:
8:45 - starting my day at work, outside, and greeting children as they come to school.  And oddly enough, singing a jazzy little tune in my head and tapping the beat out on my thigh in between students.  (There may also have been a moment where I very nearly skipped a few steps ...maybe.)

Was this it? Was I really "Thriving" already?  Or was it the warm morning, the sun peaking through the clouds and the fact that I live in Buffalo and didn't have to wear a coat this morning?  Who knows.  But it was a good start to the day.

Between 9:15 and 11:00 I was flying around work, very busy.    About 11:00 I remembered thinking, "headache is getting worse, should really take something."  Of course I had nothing with me to take, and given there was a little caffeine already in the capsule I'd taken, I wasn't sure Excedrin Migraine with it's add'l caffeine was the best idea....

I will say for certain that this headache was NOT a Thrive issue, since my head was hurting when I woke up this morning - my eating habits were thrown off, and then there was that pizza party with 36 kids in a classroom that happened.  

Yeah, anybody would get a headache from that.

Day #2:
Another full glass of water, another capsule.  This morning I added the shake mix to the routine.  The package said to mix with 8-10oz of water or milk.  I went with milk because I had already had a full glass of water with the capsule - you know, mixing it up for varieties sake!

Gotta be honest - It was like drinking a glassful of cake batter.

Remember -  I like sweets, and I like lots of "crap" that just isn't good for me.  You might think drinking straight cake batter would be delicious - well you would also be VERY surprised.

Anyway, I got about 80% of it down before it started coming back up on my last try.  Eh...80% more vitamins and nutrients is better than nothing right??  I ate a bowl of cereal, and went on to work - I wasn't singing to myself today, but I was still going along - it's Friday!!

My lunch that day consisted of a skinny little 1/3 slice of pizza and a "thumb-sized" eclair and another whole 10 oz of water (really need to drink more water, I know!!)  Oddly enough, I was satisfied with that.

That evening I had a school event that I needed to set up for, so I missed dinner - but I didn't really "miss" having dinner - I wasn't hungry until after I got home at 9:30pm.

Today's Observation:  The afternoon exhaustion did kick in again - so I'm definitely not Thriving at 4:00 in the afternoon.

Day #3:
Bumped myself up to two capsules today.  I had sat a glass of water out last night so it would be room temp and easier to drink first thing this morning.  Hubby, in his anxiety to clean up the kitchen before work, dumped it out.  Another day, drinking ice cold water first thing on an empty stomach.

I debated how in the world I would stomach today's shake.  What I discovered is that the vanilla shake mixed with water is just as bad as yesterday's cake batter mixed with milk.  Note to self....pick up bananas at grocery store to make this go down easier.  Or maybe an alcoholic beverage??  There was no way I was going to be able to drink a glass of this stuff down again, so I "cheated".  I thought that I was supposed to drink the stuff on an empty stomach, but  I made toast to accompany it. Actually, I burnt toast (unintentionally - but at least I'll be really thirsty!!).

Unfortunately, the burnt toast method did NOT work.  At all.  And I'm not just saying that this mix just tasted too horrible to drink.  I'm saying that when it comes back up, there's just no making it go down again.  So, tomorrow I will try the chocolate mix (because isn't chocolate always better?), and a banana...and some Hershey's syrup maybe.  (KIDDING!!)  I still have a few vanilla packets left, so I will definitely be researching recipes on how to help that flavor go down a little easier.

I've set a goal to drink 4 glasses of water today - I already have one down thanks to my capsule intake this morning...and now my glass of water is sitting on my counter - almost mocking me.  I know that four 8-oz glasses of water is not even close to what I'm supposed to be drinking, but I think this is a very attainable goal for me, considering that I normally drink NO water.  Repeat after me:
"32 ounces is better than none." 

Today's Observation:  I'm not craving crap that I normally like to eat.  I'm drinking water, and I'm not craving the usual junk.  Semi-impressed!!

(And a bonus...YES, I did drink all glasses of water!!)

Starting the day with my 2 Capsules and a full glass of water, and switching things up this morning with the CHOCOLATE shake mix.

Whomever it was that said chocolate makes everything better (maybe that was me?), was absolutely right.  The chocolate concoction was sooooo much easier going down than the vanilla.

I also have this patch thing on my shoulder.  The instructions read that I was to apply it to a lean portion of my body.  That took some creativity as I'm not sure that there is a lean portion on my body!!

Today's Observation: On Sundays I am usually extremely hungry well before the time my church lets out, as well as very irritable by the time I get home - you know..."HANGRY".  However, as I was  writing today's update, dinner is on the grill and yes, I'm hungry - because it's 1:00pm and it's time to eat! But I'm not hungry AND irritable at the same time.  Big difference - just ask my family ;)

Repeating the 4 glasses of water challenge for myself today was a little tougher, but I made it through three of them.

After 8 days, the biggest differences that I've noticed (as already mentioned) are that I'm drinking more water and I'm not craving the "convenient-yet-horrible-for-me" foods.  I've decided to stay on this for a little while longer to help establish these better habits for myself.  So I'm giving it 4 more weeks.  It's been said that it takes 28 days to form a habit.

Game on!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

We Still Refuse

I have had a number of people message me asking me about this year's state assessments that our children are scheduled to take beginning next week.  After all, NY State has been trying really hard to make sure that we know they've heard parent's concerns, that they've made changes, and they would like us to trust them.

I blindly trusted NY State 5 years ago, with the implementation of the Common Core Standards when they began building their freaking airplane while it was still in the air.

No More. 

I trust my children's teachers who are the true educators.  I trust them to be able to make thoughtful and accurate decisions regarding my children and what they are learning.  I can not trust individuals who are so far removed from the classroom that they're unaware of what is happening in the classroom from one day to the next.  I can not trust a system that has not yet proven itself and by its own admission has been full of mistakes, confusion, and inappropriate standards.

This is why my children are refusing NY State Assessments...AGAIN.  Yes, there is a new test vendor.  A vendor who has yet to prove themselves worthy, and who is currently relying on the previous vendor's question bank.  Yes there are less questions, but removing a single reading passage along with a small handful of questions that were developmentally inappropriate to begin with is just not enough.  I can not trust you, NY State, when your system is still one big guessing game that you're just holding your breath... hoping it might work.

Still Refusing in NY State,


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mrs. D. Goes to Albany

Standing in the NY State Senate Chamber
There comes a time when you think you know what you're supposed to do in life, or when what you may do with your life when you finally grow up becomes clear and you actually get the opportunity to go out and do it.  When you've found what you're called to do, at least for this moment in time.

This past Monday, the realization hit me.  I've found my purpose.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Albany to be a part of New York State PTA's Legislative Education Conference (or "LegEd" for short) and Lobby Day.  Given that I am the current Education Chair for my Regional PTA, and I've spent the past 4-5 years reading more education news from our state than I ever thought I would in my life, I anticipated the weekend with more than just a little excitement.  It seemed like a nearly perfect fit.

I say a "nearly" perfect fit, because I knew going in that there are a few areas where National PTA's position and my personal position just don't always agree.  But I have come to realize that I'm okay with that.  Where I stand personally is what I believe to be in the best interest for MY children and their education, and as the parent, that is my right - and THAT is something that National PTA and I can agree on.

As I attended workshops on Saturday and Sunday for this LegEd Conference, I sat with 90 other fellow advocates.  These were all NYS PTA members who were and are just as concerned as I am about the "hot button" education issues that continuously keep us guessing in our state.  We were also looking to gain additional insight on how to become better and more effective advocates for our students and families in our own school districts.

It was on Sunday afternoon, however, when I gathered with a smaller group. 18 NYS PTA members who had something to say, who wanted to be heard, and we represented the entire state from Buffalo to Long Island.  18 individuals who headed to our State Capitol Building to meet with legislators to discuss specific issues on funding education, early childhood education, family engagement, and the health & wellness of our students.  

Specifically, our Governor's budget proposal just does not adequately address the education needs of our state.  

No surprise there, right?

Six different meetings - six different experiences that I took away from each one.  I didn't take the opportunity to meet with my own local legislators, as this day was about key meetings with key individuals.

Our first meeting was with the Assembly Education Committee Chair's Chief of Staff.  Although we were unable to meet with Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan herself due to a funeral, her staff members spent a lot of time sitting down with us and listening. (I love when you can just tell that they're really listening!) Probably the longest meeting of our day, I was confident they would be taking our information and presenting it to the Assemblywoman with our concerns.

Senate Majority Leader, John Flanagan's staff members met with us for what ended up being a very quick meeting, but still very attentive.  I was concerned at first that this was a "you're on our schedule, but we're not really paying attention to you" meeting.  However, after presenting our positions to them, they did ask questions, they did prod for more info, and they did dialogue briefly before running to their next meeting.  The time was certainly appreciated! (And as a bonus we ran into our fellow lobbying group from North Rockland who were there advocating for full-day Kindergarten in their district!)

Our next meeting with the Governor's Deputy Secretary of Education...well that was an opposite conversation.  It really is true that you just can't win them all.  He was polite, he listened, and he may or may not have done some dancing around our positions.  I would like to believe, however, that we all agree that the heroin and prescription opiates epidemic are devastating to our families across New York State.  

Our meeting with Senator Marcellino, head of the Senate Education Committee, was a high point, because I think he just "got it".  We were able to engage in a real two-way dialogue with him, and I believe he heard what we were saying and realized the importance of what we were asking.
  • A minimum $2.2 billion school aid increase to ensure educational equity and to meet state expectations.
  • Supporting the Regents request to fund family engagement efforts.
  • PREDICTABLY fund early education in NYS
  • Support NYS PTA initiatives to improve response to heroin and opiate/opiod abuse.

During what was supposed to be our final official meeting of the day, we met with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's staff member.  Personally, I found him difficult to get a good read on...a personable fellow, yet I got the impression his mind was going in about 15 different directions.  (Although, I imagine as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Assembly Speaker, it probably was.) ** On a side note, I let him borrow my pen - my favorite pen - and I'm guessing that it is currently making its way through the New York State Assembly since I never got it back.  That's right - Making history through writing utensils!!

When our scheduled appointments had finished, and we had walked back and forth between the Legislative Office Buildings and the Capitol Building at least three different times, our group made our way to one last-minute scheduled meet and greet.  One of our members had contacted Senator David Carlucci, and although it was only a brief moment, it was another set of ears hearing what we were advocating for.  

At the end of the day, this is what I know:  Public education and our children are getting the short end of the stick financially, and families are finding themselves in a living nightmare because of heroin and opioid/opiate abuse.  This particular weekend was just one way to be a voice and make sure that the funding will be there to begin to fix what is broken within the system and most importantly to educate.  This is what I will continue to advocate for whenever I can, because my children - and every child - deserves to have the very best opportunities available to them.


Monday, February 1, 2016

A Disappointed Advocate

***The following post represents MY personal thoughts, and should not be considered as representative of any unit, group, or association.

I am a PTA member.   

That makes me a member of my local unit, my Regional PTA, the New York State PTA, and also the National PTA.  I've been a member for eight years, and seven of those years have been spent volunteering as an officer in my local unit.  That's right, I jumped in head-first and never looked back.  I don't remember why I felt such an urge to join...I had heard rumblings and rumors trying to sway me away from becoming a part of this group, but I knew that I wanted to be involved with what my three monkey children were doing...really involved. So I took the plunge and dove right in.

Today, however, public education is an entirely different animal, and I am a completely different PTA member than who I was when I first started on this journey many years ago. 

Eight years ago, the Common Core didn't exist and I wasn't even thinking about whether or not any tests that my children would be taking in their future school years would be appropriate, used for evaluating their teachers, or tied to funding for my school district.  Instead, as a new PTA member, I was merely looking at things like Bake Sales, Bingo, and Fundraising ideas.  At the local level, those are all great and important things that we do to help enrich our children's education experience.  We bring educational programs into the school, host "family fun nights",  and help to provide all of those little extras that our students would be missing were it not for our group securing it for every single student. When I became a PTA member, that's all it was about for me.

Today, I am a PTA member who is informed and educated on hot button issues.  I am a PTA member who is just starting to get a grasp on what this association is capable of at the local, state, and national level.  This isn't just another parent group who is merely looking to run your building's Field Day activities.  Any parent organization is capable of doing that. 

But when was the last time your local PTOther effectively advocated and had a part in:
  • The creation of Kindergarten
  • Safe buses and seatbelt regulations
  • Nationwide school lunch program
  • Improved playground safety
  • School libraries
  • Arts in education
As a PTA member, I've seen in my own state how we also have a respected voice and a seat at the table when it comes to effective lobbying for fair and equitable funding for our schools. The PTA is a resounding voice that is heard not only locally but across the state.

All of these examples have something in common - they have the potential to impact EVERY child in our public school systems.  This is advocacy, and this is PTA, and this is who I am at my very core.


Today, I am unhappy with my national association.  Today I feel ...betrayed by the National PTA.

With the release of their latest position statement on "Student Assessment and Opt-Out Policies", I am disappointed and disenchanted with this national level of my advocacy association.  It's a statement that is supposed to be, by the group's own mission, a voice for EVERY child.  Yet I can't help but wonder if my fellow parents of 240,000 students who made the choice to refuse the NY State Assessments last spring, are feeling that our own children's voices have been ignored at the National PTA level.  

This new statement that "calls for all students to participate in high-quality, comprehensive assessments that measure their growth and achievement so all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential" is full of pro-assessment verbiage that speaks of the woes of the opt-out movement, and its supposed detrimental effects to our students, except for a very brief mention that is almost buried in down in the 4th paragraph.
While we recognize that parents are a child’s first teacher and respect the rights of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, the association believes the consequences of nonparticipation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools. 
Let me be clear that I have never been against my children participating in high quality assessments - the key being "high quality".  Children (and parents) are still navigating their way through the disaster of the Common Core implementation here in New York State.  And I am completely opposed to my children continuing to be used as guinea pigs with an assessment system that has not yet proven itself to our public education system here in New York State.  

In a nutshell - in New York state, we're still waiting for those high quality assessments that the National PTA wants all of our children to participate in.

Since the release of, and in response to the National PTA's position statement, I've listened to parents advise one another to drop their PTA membership, or to push to become a PTOther in their buildings.  Let me be clear that I am NOT about to do that.  I've worked side by side with some pretty amazing PTA advocates in New York State doing some pretty amazing things.  It is the local, regional and state level units that are making changes, and are tirelessly advocating for your students and families.  I know, because I've witnessed it first hand.  

As a parent, however, I will continue to make this decision on behalf of my children, and they will, AGAIN, refuse this year's New York state assessments.  Many other parents across the country, like myself, were looking to the National PTA to support and advocate for ALL families, those who will choose to participate AND those who will not.  I believe, however, that this position statement from the national level is a slap in the face of our membership, and very nearly dismisses the voice of almost half a million children nationwide whose families have made the educated choice to refuse.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Blessings

A six-hour drive to Michigan, and tonight the monkey children are all nestled and snug in their...air mattresses, as visions of sugarplums dance in their heads.  Actually, it's probably dreams of Lego Dimensions, Nerf guns, and One Direction CD's.  But dreams and innocence of a child nonetheless.

As we drove down the road, arriving at my mother's house for the holiday season, the glow of her Christmas tree was visible as we pulled into the driveway.  It's not the family home that I was returning to, but just the same, that glow of lights through the window was enough to make me smile and break into song, "There's no place like home for the holidays".

This Christmas I know and appreciate so very much the love of my family around me.

I have a full holiday planned with my mother, brother, and grandparents.  Family members that I love but cannot see or spend time with except for the few times of the year that we make this return trip "home."

It was in the middle of creating pies for tomorrow's Christmas feast, that I realized I had never made a pie with my mom before tonight. (The whole pie-baking skill is something I only just recently acquired.)  I smiled as she taught me her secrets and we created four beautiful works of pastry art for Christmas dinner.
We schemed as she wrapped her remaining gifts, even as the youngest awoke from his sugarplums vision, to wander into the bathroom.  We giggled together seeing his impending concern that there were still no gifts under tree - what was taking Santa so long to arrive?

In the middle of my personal Norman Rockwell Christmas Eve, I had to stop and remember.  I thought of 3 of my closest friends at home who are missing their parents this holiday season.  I am very blessed to have both parents still here but I often take it for granted.  May we never get so busy and wrapped up in the craziness of the season to forget those whose hearts are still healing instead of celebrating with the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I am an Advocate

Those who know me personally, know that I am passionate about my own kids' education.  I believe that, without a doubt, no one will advocate on their behalf more than I will.  That passion rolls over to their elementary, middle, and high schools, to our school district, and to students everywhere who deserve to have someone looking out for them, making certain they have healthy and safe options and opportunities in education and their community.

So what happens when 200 of the most die-hard and like-minded advocates for students from across the state of New York State get together for the weekend in one location?

Leaders are born and inspired, and change begins to happen.

As the current Vice-President of my son's elementary school PTSA, and having also been recently appointed to serve my Regional PTA Board as the Education Chair (Because apparently I actually enjoy reading and keeping tabs on what's happening in education!), it just made sense to accept the invitation to attend this summer's state PTA leadership conference.  I thought about it for all of about two minutes, before I excitedly said "yes!" and agreed to attend.

I've been an officer in my local PTSA unit for the past seven years and I felt pretty confident that I had a decent understanding of policy, procedure, and the in's and out's of PTA.  I already knew that this was a powerful group of passionate individuals that do so much more than just local fundraising and the annual family fun night at school.  I understood that PTA is also a state and national association that collectively keeps their finger on the pulse of what is happening in the lives of our children.

Over the course of this weekend I sat in on workshops concerning:
  • the current hot topics in education
  • the differences between a PTA and a "PTOther"
  • improving the PTA-Principal partnership in our school (which, for the record, is already pretty fantastic!)
  • key issues with the current testing trend in our schools
  • taking action through advocacy and lobbying for change.
  • how to involve youth members in our unit (because, after all, we're fighting FOR these students, who better to stand alongside with us?), and
  • education updates for students with disabilities.

By the end of my weekend, I had come to a very vivid conclusion - I was in the midst of fellow advocates who understood my passion and were just as committed as I am.

I "get" that there are personal opinions that I hold onto that don't always completely line-up with the  position that the PTA has chosen to take.  What I've come to realize is that it's okay.  PTA advocates for every child.  Some of the opinions I hold on to are just that.  Mine.  Not those of every child or family.  But those differing opinions are still being brought to the table by other advocacy groups.  Awareness IS being raised, people ARE listening, and change CAN happen.

This past year in the state of New York, and across the country, education has been and continues to top the news media sites.  Politics are being played with our children's public education, parents either love or hate the Common Core, mandates and reforms keep us guessing. More than ever, we need passionate people who will step forward, and be a part of the change the will allow opportunities for our students to continue to thrive.

We are raising our own next generation of advocates!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Meeting Jack In The Rain

This was one of those rare mornings when I was up, awake, showered, dressed, dropped a kid at designated location, and managing to run errands....all before 10:00.  These kinds of mornings don't generally happen very often when you're a "non-morning" person, and quite honestly, it amuses me when I find myself being that productive.

On this rare productive morning, I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few things.  It wasn't even my "normal" store, but one that I drive by frequently.  While I was standing in the check-out lane, I noticed that it was exceptionally dark outside...and raining.

Is there anything more frustrating than trying to load groceries in your car when it's raining?  How about when it's pouring rain?  Having to walk out into the rain with your shopping cart and dodge the drivers who don't see you but are only focused on the empty parking spot straight ahead.  Or attempting to avoid the small lakes that are forming in the parking lot, or shielding yourself from the raindrops - which is just physically impossible.

I stood just inside the automatic doors contemplating getting stupidly wet or waiting it out.  Knowing that my other two monkey children were waiting for me at home, however, made my decision for me.  I pulled up the hood on my jacket and got ready for shower #2 of the day (If only I had brought my body wash and shower poof with me.)

"I picked the wrong time to walk to the store."

I looked to my left and there was an older, distinguished-looking gentleman, in shorts and a t-shirt without a jacket.  I smiled at his attempt at levity and we both rolled our eyes at the wall of water falling outside.

I don't know what caused me to react instantly, but I did.

"Sir, where did you walk from? Can I give you a ride there?"

This gentleman looked at me in disbelief.  Yep.  I had just offered a stranger a ride.  (My poor mother  is probably reading this in horror thinking she failed at giving me the "stranger danger" talk.)

"Would you mind? Really?"

No, I didn't mind.  It was pouring rain and there was some minor flooding going on in the streets.  We could have rolled our eyes together at the weather and I could have walked out with my groceries, and not have had another thought about this stranger.

But I didn't.  The ride was basically just across the street and down the block a bit, but far enough that anyone walking would have been completely soaked and their bag of groceries water-logged.  And for that short 5 minutes, I got to meet Jack, and learn just a little bit about him (he used to work for the post office downtown for 30 years until he retired 8 years ago).  We exchanged a short pleasant conversation this morning at a time of day when I'm normally not even functioning.

As I drove home I thought about this chance encounter with Jack, and I said a quick thank-you for the opportunity I had been given to meet this gentleman.  May we never become so self-absorbed in our own little smart-phone worlds, or fearful of the evils of the world, that we miss the chance to help a stranger truly in need.