Thursday, July 27, 2017

Back in the Saddle

For the past two days I've attended the Revolutionizing Learning Conference.  The RL conference is a partnership between TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association), CSTA (Community Schools Transformation Alliance) and several local districts.  I hadn't been able to attend the past 2 years due to other commitments and it was nice to be back!

I loved learning from other educators! I was able to meet some librarians and get some tips and tricks. The keynote presentations each day were great.  I was so glad to finally get to see my friend Greg Garner keynote on day 2.  Super impressive! What I really loved it getting to see some people I haven't seen in a while! I was able to sit and talk to people instead of just passing in the hall and waving hello.  It was so relaxed.

I was also able to present on the first day of the RL Conference (also my birthday ;).  I really like getting to teach teachers!  I taught a session on Design Thinking.  Here's a link to my education blog if you'd like more info.  I was relived to see so many of my Sunnyvale friends in my session.  Sometimes it's no bueno when your friends are in your session.  But my friends rock! They participated and encouraged me.  I think they even learned a thing or two!

Two or three years ago I was doing a lot of presenting at educational technology conferences.  I've pulled back as I tried to sharpen my focus and figure out what I was doing.  I realized yesterday how much I've missing connecting and sharing with other educators.  I don't know that I'll really start focusing on presenting more.  It used to be my primary goal. I wanted to present at as many places as possible.  I'm don't know that that's what's best for my family.  But I will try to share and present more.  I really love it.

I appreciate the hard work of all those involved in organizing the RL Conference.  It was really well done.  First class all the way! Thank you for the opportunity to get back in the saddle!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The World's Largest Fidget Spinner and My Worries

B-man is 2 things - creative and entrepreneurial.  These are excellent traits.  I really love his creativity.  In theory, I love the entrepreneurial spirit too.  In reality, not so much.

His entrepreneurial spirit and creativity usually means that he wants to make something then go out to our mailbox and try to sell it to passersby.  Often times he stands out there and nothing happens. Sometimes I'll feel sorry for him and post something on Facebook.  This usually gets a friend or two over to buy something for far too much money.

Monday he kept himself busy for a while making the World's Largest Fidget Spinner.  3, actually.  Then announced that he was going outside.  It's Texas in July so he didn't stay out too long.  I was working on a presentation for work so I wasn't paying too much attention.  The next thing I know, he goes out and comes in with a dollar bill.

"Where did that come from!?!"

"Someone bought one of my spinners."


"I don't know"

"Not someone we know?" I start naming our friends in the neighborhood.  Nope, he has no idea.

I have a mini internal freakout and tell him he can't go out again.  None of my friends text to tell me they saw him and bought a spinner.  Later that night, Ryan talks to him about stranger danger.  I have another mini internal freakout.

B-man is super social.  A doctor once told me that he was too social to be autistic.  We all know he's social until he can't be anymore.  And that's not a super long time.  He has no stranger danger.

Let me repeat that - no stranger danger.  He will walk up to anyone and say just about anything.  Like "I like your baby" to random moms with strollers.

This is a real worry for me.  Our town was considering a 24/7 gas station behind our neighborhood. I emailed our town council to oppose it for just this reason.  My kid will walk up to any car and try to sell them whatever he's made.

I can't let my guard down.  I let it down Monday while I was busy working and he not only talked to someone but got close enough to accept a dollar from them.  I still may puke thinking about it.

So, I'll take the creativity all day long.  The entrepreneurial, I'd like to put a hold on.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Breaking Busy

The subtitle of this book is How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy.  Since I live smack dab in the middle of a world of crazy, I'm all in!

There's so much good stuff in this book.  I could write for hours about the virtues of this book.  I wouldn't because I really want you to buy this book.

My favorite little gem is actually in the Epilogue:
I want to be sure we never confuse a busy life with a full life. To me, a busy life is frazzled, harried, lived at a pace I'm not meant to live, doing things I'm not meant to do. A busy life is a life the Enemy has created in order to keep me from God's purpose. A full life, on the other hand, is a life lived in a step with what God has called me to do.

This spoke to me because I like to do stuff.  I like to do meaningful stuff.  I want to do meaningful things that make me happy and positively impacts others.  

This book pairs well with Frank Bealer's The Myth of Balance.  Both focus on doing your best in the way that's best for you.

Alli Worthington walks us through her own journey. She is open and honest.  Each chapter ends with action steps to help you digest what you've read.  She helps us with capacity, relationships, calling, editing, thoughts, traditions, time, decisions, communication and worth.

My two favorite chapters are the ones on editing and worrying.  Editing is all about picking and choosing, clearing out space for the good stuff.  Alli talks about proactive edits (on purpose) vs reactive edits (due to disaster).  At school, I try to practice "addition by subtraction" where I ask teachers to give me time in order to get time later.  I'm not sure why I haven't carried this over into all areas of my life.  I need to stop and think about the things I'm doing now, figure out what I need to keep doing and what I need to stop doing.

Alli really drives home an important point in the chapter on worrying:
The more we worry, give in to fear, or think negatively about ourselves, the busier we get.  We are driven to do more, be more, and prevent whatever it is we are worried about. 
Ummm, wow!  How many times have I sat up in bed at 2 am worried about something that then led to getting up and working furiously on that thing!?! What I really love about Alli's advice is that it's Biblical. She refers us back to Bible verses to help us control our thoughts.

I so appreciate this book! Alli's honesty and Biblical approach makes the book perfectly accessible.  I hope you'll take the time to read this book.  You'll be better for it, promise!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Raising A Good Kid

Two of my boys are teenagers, I worry about them making good choices every day. I've been thinking a lot about how to raise a good kid lately.

Honestly, I don't have any idea. We're winging it for sure!  And I know that just because my boys have made good choices in the past doesn't guarantee they will continue to make good choices. Even writing this post makes me nervous, I don't want to presume that I know what I'm doing or that my boys are angels.  They aren't.  None of us are.

16 years in education has also lead to these thoughts. I've met lots of great kids and their parents.  Many of the great parents have these 3 things in common as well.

Here's what I've been thinking...

1. Talk about your walk with Christ - Exposing them to church is awesome but you really multiple that impact when you talk to your kids about your walk with Christ.  We talk about what we're praying about.  When we all rode to school together we'd listen to a Bible Study podcast on the way.    Whatever you decide to do, just jump in. Make sure your kids know that Jesus loves them and has a plan for them.  Make sure they know God and Jesus aren't just for Sundays at church. Kids need to know right from wrong.  They need to believe in something greater than themselves.

2. Make them do things they don't want to do - this one can be fun.  Torturing your children for fun! You know the drill - make them eat their vegetables, clean their room, stuff like that.  It can also be things like a 'no headphones in the car' rule.  This year we had to make Zac do a couple of things he didn't want to do but he ended up loving it.  Going to the middle school dance and cheering at Powder Puff game specifically.  You can also gang up with your mom friends to make entire groups of children miserable. ;)

3. Help them do the things they really want to do - I guess the first step here are to help them set goals.  We ask the boys to set grade goals each year.  Then when they are slacking off during the year, we remind them of their goals and help them get on track.  The older boys also have athletic goals that we try to help them meet.  Sometimes this goal seeps into #2 because we make them things do things they don't want to do in service of the goals they've set.

There are a lot of other things that go into raising good kids.  These 3 have just been on my mind lately.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rewarding or Bribing

Last week I needed to work in the library each morning.  There is so much to do that I could have worked all day in the library but I had tons to do in other areas too.  The older boys have workout in the mornings so I needed to take B with me.  About an  hour would be easy peasy for B but 3- 4 hours would be a struggle.

A couple of weeks ago, B asked me for a new video game.  Thankfully, it was a cheaper one.  Most of them are $40-50. This one was 'only' $20.  But still I didn't want to just go buy it because he wanted it right then.  I usually try to delay him because he goes from thing to thing quickly.  But if he stays on something, I'll usually find a way.  I ignore lots of first requests.  He also wasn't too keen on earning the money working around the house.

When I worked in Mesquite ISD, I was training on a system called Love and Logic.  It's an awesome system for discipline management.  The hallmark of the system is giving kids choices.  Another is that if you offer something before bad behavior it's a reward.  If you offer something to get bad behavior to stop, it's a bribe.

B balked at the idea of going to work last week, I decided to have him 'earn' his video game by not complaining about going to work with me.  I knew I couldn't pay someone to watch him for $20 so I figured it was a bargain.

B doesn't wear many shirts in the summer
B did struggle at times last week.  But he would take a breath and remind himself of his goal.  Every day he asked me how many days he had left.  On the last day he asked me when we would go to the store.  He was super excited to get his new game.  He felt proud that he had earned it!

And I didn't feel like I had to bribe him!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I'm at preteen camp this week.  Thank you for your prayers ;).  I'm writing these before I leave and they'll automatically post.  Enjoy!

B-man is funny dude.  Today I want to share some of his recent great lines.  Outside our family, I've just used initials.

To one of Zac's friends:
L, you're pretty awesome.  Behind God of course.  He's number one in my life.  He should be number one in everyone's life.

To me after I told him he could do chores to earn money for a new video game:
Ummmm, I don't really do chores.

To me:
You saw a mirage.  I've seen a mirage before.  Like when I thought the neighbor's car was in the garage but it wasn't.  A mirage.

To my nephew at noon on the day his family is moving into a new house.  There's no furniture in the house yet, just boxes:
I like your new house T.  It's great but it needs some decorative pillows.

To our neighbors on their teenage son:
B: Mr. T, ummm is C old enough for a girl?
T: you mean a girlfriend?
B: yeah, that special someone?
Mr T's wife: B, have you decided who C's special someone should be?
B: it has to be someone who will help him live out a righteous life

To Zac after he dyed his hair platinum blonde for baseball:
Everyone is going to fall in love with you when they see your hair. Well, the womens will.

To a friend of mine after she served him baked ziti:
Sometimes you have to taste with your heart, not just your tongue.

To me while we're looking for his glasses, again:
Can you just keep up with them from now on?

To me after I asked him if he flushed and washed his hands after the bathroom:
Why do you keep informing me of this!?!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Amplified Leadership

I'm going to be honest.  I'm not a fan of this book.  Not enough to stop reading it.  I did finish the book but I'm not a fan.  I read with a pink highlighter/post-it flag in my hand.  My books are highlighted and flagged within an inch of their lives.  This book only has one flag and less that 50 highlights.

Most of my highlights are at the start of the book.  Maybe this means that I'm just not ready for the later stages.  I'm willing to concede that so I'll put the book on the shelf and see what tomorrow brings. Amplified Leadership starts with the idea that if you don't like people, you probably aren't cut out for leadership.  I joked with a friend that it's all down hill from here since I'm not always a people fan.  (It really was a joke.  I do love to serve people but I am an introvert. I need time away.)

I have never published a book (bucket list).  I can't image the hard work and dedication it took to write this book, or any book.  So, to that end, I don't want to bash the book.  It's not poorly written, it's just not for me.

I want to share the part I flagged.  When I get nervous, I just keep talking.  Actually, I don't have to be that nervous, I just get carried away sometimes.  Then after I walk away I realize I should have asked more questions and let the other person talk more.  In the chapter entitled, Connect at the Heart, Dan Reiland shares 4 reasons you should tell a story about yourself.  The point is to help you determine your motives.  Are you sharing to get attention or as a form of therapy?  This is not talking about when you're hanging out with your friends, it's talking about in a leadership or mentoring situation. Here are the four reasons for talking about yourself:

  • To instruct
  • To entertain (my personal favorite)
  • To inspire 
  • To encourage 
I actually love all those reasons.  They are four of my favorite things to do.  I hope that my writing here does one of these four things.  

I do not regret reading Amplified Leadership.  I was reminded of several wonderful principles.  The focus is on relationships.  And I always need reminders to slow down, push pause on the to do list and focus on someone else.  

If you need a framework for mentoring someone, this is the book for you.  I feel certain I'll use the principles in the future.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On Creativity

Even if you're new here, you can see B's creativity in action.  I hadn't thought much about it.  He has ideas, I want him to keep having ideas, I try to facilitate these ideas.  Also, he can be very persistent about his latest interest.  Thank you, autism! The dude is always creating!

Many of you know that I am an educator.  This coming school year will be my 17th year to teach.  My first teaching job was to teach technology applications and a GT pull out program.  I think I got the job because I'd taken a Creative Thinking class as one of my Master's out of program electives.  At that job, I was super focused on getting my GT kids to thinking creatively and differently.  That did not bleed over to my tech classes.

I've also taught 5th grade in large, urban district.  We were self contained, meaning that I taught all the kids all the subjects.  That job was pure survival, keeping my head above water.  My kids needed lots of things.  It never occurred to me that they needed creative time, I'm sad to say.

As I evolved as an educator, I worked to incorporate more and more creative time. It wasn't always easy and I wasn't always great at it. But I tried.

Tuesday morning my awesome friend, Rafranz Davis posted a blog titled: The Inaccessibility of Making, Tinkering & Coding.  Go read it, I'll wait.

As I read Rafranz's post, I began to think about B-man and his creative pursuits.  He's privileged to have parents who get it and can provide supplies and experiences.  He's privileged to go to a school that values creativity and can afford to provide opportunities and ideas.

Here are a few of things I've purchased for B's ideas this summer:

I'm happy to buy all this.  I'm blessed to have the means to do so.  But Rafranz's post really got me thinking about other kids.  What about kids whose parents can afford to buy whatever their creative little minds dream up?  What about kids who go to school obsessively focused on 'the test'?

As a momma, I'll continue to provide what I can for B.
As an educator, I'll continue to provide what I can for my students.
As teacher support person (not sure how else to frame my new role), I'll encourage teachers to take risks and provide opportunities for kids.
As a writer, I'll try to bring awareness to other educators so they can provide opportunities for kids.

This is an unsatisfactory ending.  "Encourage" and "Bring awareness" may or may not help any kids get time and supplies to be creative.  What else can we do?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chocolate Things

Last week, I got this text message from my neighbor and friend Lori.  Actually, it went to our friend's group message.

I'm not sure how this whole thing got started but it was well under way.  Saturday morning B woke me up at 7:45 am, "Momma, let's go to the grocery store".  I made him wait until 8 am but then off we went.  

We got everything on his original list plus caramel.  The store didn't have candy molds so I talked him into cupcake liners.  He chose everything himself and even scanned everything to check out.  

Once at home, I took care of melting the chocolate and writing the flavor on the bottom of the cupcake liners.  B scooped chocolate and filling into each liner.  We had to work on the scoop.  I didn't realize what a fine motor skill that was!  He struggled with how to hold it (just as he does scissors) and tended to move too quickly from the melted chocolate to the liners.  We ended up with a mess on the island but I let him work and cleaned up later.  I wanted to give him a chance to work it out.  

The hardest part for B was waiting for the batches to cool/harden in the fridge before he could start another batch.  I used the time to clean but he watched YouTube and checked his creations.  He hung in there until the last batch, the marshmallows.  After I melted the chocolate and he began scooping, he asked if I could finish them.  I was surprised he lasted as long as he did given how much down time there was.  

He had 3 families he wanted to give chocolates to.  I found some baggies he could use for packaging.  He decided to name his creations Chocolate Things.  He made logos and taped them to each of the bags.  He's ready for delivery! 

I went next door with him to deliver to Lori and her family. It was so cute to hear him tell them about the four flavors.  Lori cut them into pieces.  Here's the caramel one.  

B received rave reviews from everyone who tried his Chocolate Things.  They were pretty good!  I am super proud that he came up with the idea, planned his grocery list, shopped, created (almost everything) and delivered everything.  All with a bunch of down time in between.  That's huge for him!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Baseball 2017, Done

On Tuesday, the 2017 baseball season officially ended for the Bartis boys.

Sam's season wrapped up in May when his high school JV team finished up their season.  Sam hadn't played baseball in a few years so it was fun to see him back on the field.

Zac's season wrapped up in San Antonio in the semi-finals of a tournament.  As I wrote yesterday, Zac's team isn't select.  They played several local tournaments but we only traveled to two out of town tournaments.  The first one was in College Station and the last day was rained out.  The second one was this past weekend in Austin and San Antonio.

The tournament itself was a bit of a hot mess.  We had to go between Austin and San Antonio.  The fields weren't great.  The boys won their first two games on the first day but then didn't win the next four games on the next two days.

Tuesday was a different story.  They looked great in the first game.  The second game was a nail biter.  They played hard but lost.  But honestly, I was so proud of them.  It was a hard way to end the season but being blown out would have been worse.

This season was not always easy for Zac.  He struggled at the plate.  He put in extra work. Sometimes it showed, other times he still struggled.  My favorite thing he did this year was bunt.  The kid is so fast that he can bunt a dribbler just past home plate and beat it out to get on first base.  It was amazing.  The other team always looked shocked.

Zac also worked hard to learn a new position this season - pitcher.  I was not in favor of this move, I'll be honest.  Baseball is a unique in that it is a team sport but it is also HIGHLY individualized.  That pitcher is out there all alone.  The defense can't help him if he can't get the batter to swing.  It's gut wrenching to watch your kid out there struggling.

Zac got to pitch in this tournament and looked really good.  Until he didn't.  It was progress.  And I was able to watch most of his outing.  Progress for both of us.

I love watching the boys play baseball. But I'm super excited that it's time for my favorite sport - it's officially football season now!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


This past weekend we were in Austin and San Antonio with Zac's baseball team.  Zac's team is not a select team.  The boys all go to school with each other.  They are friends who hang together off the field.  They also play football and basketball together as well as run track.  All that to say, we aren't a travel team. This spring we played a couple of tournaments a month around Dallas.  In June we traveled to College Station for a tournament.  I plan to write more about the baseball tomorrow.

I love to travel with the boys' teams.  We don't do it a lot so it's novel.  But I really love it because of the families that travel with us.  They are real.

We are a rare group of parents, in my humble opinion.  We're all harder on our own kid than the other kids.  When one of us gets on our own kid, another parent chimes "You got this kid.  Come on now.  You can do it".

My boys have been on teams where this was not the case.  I've seen some ugliness at baseball games from parents.  A parent on one of Sam's team regularly complained about Sam within my earshot with no apologies.  So, I appreciate that I'm harder on Zac than anyone else.  I love that we build the boys up to each other.

But what I really love is our on going "my kid's an idiot" game.  It's almost like a contest now.  Who's kid did the dumbest thing today?  I love a good story.  I love to hear them and I love to tell them.  So these little sessions make me super happy.

What makes this all work is that the kids are great kids.  They screw up.  We all do.  But by and large they make good choices, get good grades and are respectful.

It makes me feel not so alone.  It reminds me that we're all in this together.  Everyone's kid's an idiot and good kid all at once.  We'll all get through these teenage years together.  We'll have fun.  There are other people who will love my kid and hold him accountable.  We are not alone.  Because we made the choice to be real.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Balloon Creations

YouTube strikes again!  Out of no where last week, B asked me to get balloons "so I can make balloon creations".  What?  "You know like balloon animals."

I happen to find a little kit at the grocery store.  It had balloons, a pump and a little instruction book.  Of course, the book was not necessary because B had YouTube.  

His first attempts were frustrating.  He couldn't pump up the balloon.  I became the official pumper and tie-er.  The frustration continued when he tried to make his first animal.  I was sure this would not last long.  But, low and behold, B created a heart - his first balloon creation. 

Then we went to my sister in law's house and B took his balloons. He and my niece figured it out and they were balloon creation creating fools!  They were pumping them out fast!  I was helping my sister in law get ready to open her new boutique.  B decided that the boutique needed balloon creations.  No buddy, that's not the kind of thing the boutique is going to sell. 

Wednesday morning, on her way to set up her boutique's booth, my sister in law called with a business proposal for B.  She would take 5 balloon creations to sell in the booth.  If those sold, next month she would take 10.  She told B to make 5 of the best creations that he knew how to make, price them, tag them and send them with me Thursday morning for the boutique's grand opening.  He was so excited and readily agreed!

The day was full of ups and downs.  B had not heard "best creations that you know how to make"  he had heard "best creations".  He took to YouTube to try to learn to make some super deluxe balloon creations.  He grew more and more frustrated.  "Call Aunt Laura and tell her I can't do it."  

Here's where the rubber meets the road.  I could have given in.  I could have texted Laura.  But instead, I ignored him for a while.  Then I tried to talk to him about the difference between the best and the best he knew how to make.  He'd rally and begin working again.  Then become frustrated and want to quit again.  Finally, I told him "You made this deal with Aunt Laura.  If you can't keep your word, you'll have to call her and tell her yourself."  This is not something he was willing to do so he pressed on.  

In the end, he made a couple of new creations and sent some creations he and my niece had already made.  We put price tags on them and sent them to Aunt Laura.  

True to her word, she put them in the boutique.  And they sold!  B was so excited!  

When I got home Thursday night, I gave him the money he had earned.  We talked about how many creations his cousin had made.  He decided how much the money she had earned.  We put it in an envelope and he asked me to write her a note that he signed "We did a good thing!"

Yes they did!  So did my sister in law.  And once again, God reminds me that we are not meant to live life alone.  We are meant to live together in community.  To lift each other up.  I am so thankful for my sister in law who always remembers this and encourages both B and I .  I am thankful for our community that support our family!