Thursday, August 30

Famous Relations: The Marys

This morning, my friend Sarah sent a tweet:

Indeed, on this day in 1797, my great-great-several-great-something-or-other-by-way-of-her-husband, Mary Shelley was born. My father's father's people (the Shelley folks) are of English and Welsh descent. Somebody, some decades ago, somewhere in Eastern Tennessee did some digging, and realized that we are related to English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley- and by extension, his Frankenstein-writing wife, Mary. 
We Shelleys tend to write our novels whilst looking
wistfully off into the middle distance,
wearing fancy little off-the-shoulder numbers.

Thinking about Mary Shelley always leads me around to thinking about Mary Sawyer, my other Famous Mary Relation. You may never have known her last name, but I guarantee you know her. Every person who was ever a kid in America after 1830 knows Mary Sawyer. You probably know her best because of her pet: a little lamb

Mary Had a Little Lamb Statue Part 1 Pictures, Images and Photos
photo credit

My mother's father was a Sawyer from New York. In his thirties, he fell in love with a Southern belle and spent the rest of his days living below the Mason-Dixon line. I have never been north of the Mason-Dixon line (except for a layover once in Cincinnati), but I hear there are Sawyers I'm related to all over New England. Mary Sawyer, whose little lamb so famously followed her to school one day, is one of them.

And, there you have it. My literary and folkloric heritage, wrapped up in nice little Mary packages. 

Friday, August 17

How to Spend Your Time Waiting in the School Pick-up Line

School starts again on Monday. I'm still avoiding the issue as much as possible, despite the new backpacks, supplies, school clothes, and packable lunch foods I spent a million dollars on this. And despite the fact that The Girl and I spent a solid two hours on Tuesday picking out twenty outfits for her to wear to kindergarten. Yeah. Avoiding school. Mentally, at least.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is the pick-up line at school. There's a fine art to the timing of the pick-up line. Our school lets out at 3:10, and I've seen some parents line up at 2:15. No kidding. I, on the other hand, am often leaving my house at 3:07, speeding the 1.5 miles from our casa to the school, then catching the tail-end of the waiting line. It's far more nuanced than that... but those parents parking at 2:15 might have the right idea after all (provided they are picking up all of their children, and don't have a wailing DestructoTot in the backseat).

Because I'm a super helpful kind of gal, I've made a list for you guys about how to spend your time waiting in the school pick-up line. I call it, "How to Spend Your Time Waiting in the School Pick-Up Line." Brilliant, no?

How to Spend Your Time Waiting in the School Pick-Up Line:

1) Watch the sweet baby kindergarten kids careen around the playground, bashing up their knees and noses. But don't use binoculars. Because that's creepy.

2) Read a book.

3) Heck, write a book. This lady did. So did this one. (And so have Sarah Pekkanen and Jodi Piccoult, among tons of others, I'm sure.)

4) Take a nap.

5) Balance your checkbook. (Wait. Are we the only people left with actual checks in actual checkbooks?) 

6) Clean out your earwax, get the gunk out from under your nails, pluck your nose hairs. (Err, nevermind. I don't recommend doing any of those things in the carpool line. Save it for your own home, weirdo.)

7) Rock. Out. I don't know about y'all, but there's not much I love more than a good Rock Out (except, maybe #4 on this list). Our Toyota Camry, grocery-getter, sensible-person-car that it is, has one heck of a speaker system. There is absolutely zero shame in my game when I roll all the windows down and jam to Beyonce or Dave Matthews. There is only a little shame in my game when I roll all the windows up and jam to Tupac or Lil Weezy (Seriously. Windows up. That kind of music is only for grownups. Little kids cannot possibly appreciate "Dear Momma" like I can.)

8) Catch up on Words With Friends. A bazillion points if you can get *pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism.*

9) For real. Take a nap. You deserve it. Those kids are about to get in your car and be ALL UP IN YOUR EARHOLES!

Got any good ideas on what to do in the pick-up line? Lemme know here in the comments or on the ol' facebook!

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with
Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment
in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the
views of the Toyota.

Friday, August 3

Mission Possible: Reaching the Teachers

It's no secret that my home state typically ranks low on the educational scale when compared to national statistics. Arkansas is home to some phenomenal schools, and to some of the poorest districts in the nation.
I was given a copy of Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia's book, Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School.

Per the Amazon book description: Strategies for making the schools we need that work for all kidsEva Moskowitz (the founder and CEO of the Success Charter Network in Harlem) and Arin Lavinia offer practical, classroom-tested ideas for dramatically improving teaching and learning. Moskowitz and Lavinia reveal how a charter school in the middle of Harlem, enrolling neighborhood children selected at random, emerged as one of the top schools in New York City and State within three years. The results of the Harlem school were on a par with public schools for gifted students and elite private schools.
  • Describes what can be accomplished when students and adults all work to focus on constant learning and performance improvement; DVD clips are included for illustration
  • The Success Academies have been featured in two popular and widely distributed documentaries, Waiting for Superman and The Lottery
  • Details the Success Academies' THINK Literacy curriculum, which produces dramatic results in kids reading and writing skills
In addition to providing strategies and lessons for school leaders and teachers, Secrets of the Success Academies also serves as a guide for parents, policymakers, and practitioners who are passionate about closing the academic achievement gap.

Reaching today's children is harder than ever, no matter the socio-economic bracket they fall into. As the daughter of a teacher (my mom is a former elementary classroom teacher, now an English as a Second Language facilitator), I have seen first-hand how teachers are held often held back from reaching their own potential, much less boosting the kids' performance.

The Mission Possible book doesn't hold the magic answer that will provide each kid with perfect test scores. It doesn't give each teacher an infallible lesson plan. What it does, is tell the story of a school that came from behind, and ended up in front of the pack... and how every classroom has the potential to create educational superstars- both in front of the teacher's desk, and behind it.

I am giving away a copy of Mission Possible. You don't have to be an educator to win. You can be an involved parent, a concerned citizen, or just a really nice person. I'd encourage you to find a dedicated teacher to gift this book to. After all, school will be back in session sooner than we think!

To win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment here, or on my facebook page telling me about the best teacher you've ever had.

*I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are firmly my own*

Thursday, August 2

Pony Royale + Princess Party time! {giveaway}

This post is sponsored by Pony Royale. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A few weeks ago, four huge boxes arrived at my house. We're big fans of boxes around here, so when I wouldn't let the Bees peek inside, they were not amused.
Then the cupcakes were delivered, the accessories bought, and the girls (and twenty four princess ponies!) came to play.

The little girls:

The big girls:

The shy girls:

And the happy girls: 

My sweet Ladybug was actually terribly sick and missed half of the party. When she realized there were ponies on the line, she perked up for about an hour.

Nineteen little girls, from seven months to seven years old came to our Pony Royale party, celebrating the launch of a fantastic new line of toys.

Pony Royale, a new toy line starring beautiful princess ponies, brings a fresh new approach to princess play in the fashion doll category.  Pony Royale combines favorite play patterns - hair play, fashion play and nurturing play – to give children endless hours of open-ended creative play with a fun and easy fashion system. The full collection features 12 Princess Ponies, all with the ability to mix-and-match their manes, tails and fashion pieces.
The twelve Princess Ponies are pony action figure dolls with names, personalities, and changeable hair and outfits.
  • With two Pony Royale dolls, make over 60 fashion styles!
  • Each pony comes with a jeweled birthstone blaze
  • Two sets of Change-It-Up Hair and hair brush included!

At first, I was skeptical of the ponies. No lie. I don't need anymore princess stuff in this house. I try not to feed my girls the princess party line, but somehow, they buy it all anyway.
These pony princesses are... excuse the terrible pun... horses of a different color. The emphasis of the Pony Royale world isn't so much the fact that they're princesses, but that it really is open-ended play. There is no agenda within the Royale parameters. There are no villains, not even any Princes Charming. Each pony comes with a "map" of the Pony Royale kingdom, an extra "pony weave," as my super classy husband called it, and some pretty awesome accessories.

The only real drawbacks I saw with the ponies are those cute accessories. They're teeny. Like, pinky-fingernail-size-teeny. Easily lost, teeny. Choking hazard, teeny. But, if you have a designated space for the ponies, and keep them away from teeny babes, it shouldn't pose problem.
(And there's a pretty awesome dressing carousel that is available to hold all of the ponies' accessories and extra hair. Secret shopper tip: The ponies are the same price ($14.99) online at Target and Toys R Us, but the carousel is $10 cheaper from Target. However, Toys R Us offers extra "change it up" fashions.)

The girls loved the ponies. I loved that they were unique (12 ponies = 12 different birthmonths, birthstones, colors, personalities). I especially loved watching my little Bee girls playing together, instead of fighting over identical toys.

I managed to keep one pony box intact (oh, you guys. the plastic and cardboard was a-flyin' when all nineteen girls finally got to rip into their treasure!), and am giving away Sienna.

Sienna's birthmonth is May, her birthstone blaze (the jewel on her forehead) is an emerald.

Leave a comment here or on chasing my Bees' facebook page, after checking out all twelve ponies at, telling me which of the ponies you like the best! (It just so happens that my fave is Sky, September's pony, the smart one with a sapphire blaze. Surely no coincidence that Sky and I share a birthmonth.) 

Visit the Pony Royale website for more information. Pony Royale are available starting in at Toys R Us, and select Target stores. Be sure to check out Pony Royale’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter!