A Note From the Principal

Nutritional Cookies Instead of …Well, Junk (and a yummy give away)!

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/30/12 8:58 PM
CATEGORIES: A Note From the Principal, Blog

First I must say, I feel a little wrong writing this post right now.  You see, I’m about to write a post about the best damn cookies I’ve ever had that are also nutritional while buzzing on candy corn bark.  Let me say, that if I ate candy corn bark every day of the week (or more likely more than twice a year) I’d probably be a Type 2 Diabetic .  A reasonable hypothesis given the fact that candy corn bark (recipe here) is basically candy corn smothered in white chocolate with peanuts.  The only thing worse would be deep fried candy corn bark.  (Making a mental note about the possibilities…but I digress.)

Halloween is for candy.

Other days are not.  In fact, we do our best to limit sugar intake in our home which is unbelievably challenging given the strength of Sean’s sweet tooth and is apparently genetic.  My kids like dessert.  I don’t like feeding them crap.  This poses a mommy-dilemma.

Enter Among Friends.

I was first introduced to Among Friends baking mixes by my friend Suzie, who happens to be the co-owner.  At the time I didn’t even know Suzie had a job other than wrangling her three kids and hyper-active husband.  (Brian and Sean were cut from the same cloth.)

Sue and I, August 2012!

She gave me a few mixes as a hostess gift after our Fourth of July party, and as soon as I baked up my first batch we were hooked.  The first thing I liked was the fact that it was a mix.  I didn’t have to buy flax seed, oats, whole wheat pastry flour, etc. which can be expensive.  Second, it was incredibly convenient.  Add a few ingredients of your own, and wah-lah..healthier home baked cookies.

Over the past four years, Among Friends has expanded their business.  Based out of Ann Arbor (where all great things organic come from), they are currently available in Whole Foods throughout Michigan, the Andersons in northwest Ohio, and Sautters in Sylvania.  The product is yummy and as mothers are getting more health conscious every day, Among Friends is a welcome addition to our busy household with discerning taste buds.  My personal favorite are the CJ’s ChocoCrinkles, and Suzie-Qs Chocolate Chip.  Yum.

To learn more about Among Friends products, visit their website here!

Among Friends Baking Mix Give Away!


I’m curious.  Do you have any tricks up your sleeve about making a traditional recipe healthier?  Please share your tricks and the winning comment will receive a basket of Among Friends baking mixes!  Winner will be announced next Wednesday, November 7th!

Now do tell….


 Last Week’s Sautters Gift Certificate Give Away Winner

The winner from last week’s fake cooking post comment give away was Peggy!

Been lurking for several weeks, now I have to comment:My favorite fake cooking involves potlucks at work — I never know what to bring, I don’t have a lot of potluck-worthy recipes & if I do have the recipe, I don’t have the ingredients !!!I found that Mrs. Kroger & Mrs. Anderson (and Mrs. FoodTown, in the old days) will fill your casserole/serving dish with their products so it looks like you made it. I used to try to guess how much a dish would hold, and often couldn’t pull it off. Now I take in the dish, they weigh it, fill it & charge me the difference !!!

Totally brilliant.  How did I never think of this?  Peggy, email me your address at the contact Carolyn and Sean button on the bottom of the home page and the gift certificate for Sautters will be on its merry way!  And…so glad you came out of lurkdom!  I’m so happy you’re here!


School Choices! Making Some New Ones…

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/25/12 9:15 PM
CATEGORIES: A Note From the Principal, Glass City Parent

I often am asked if I’m doing anything differently for my second journey through parenthood.  It’s a weird question to be asked, but I understand it’s origins.  After all, there’s eleven years between our #2 (Ryan) and #3 (MK), so it’s almost as if we have a second cohort of kids. 


 Actually, we do have a second cohort of kids. 


Sometimes I think of our second trip through parenting as a bit of a ‘do-over’.  Now, don’t misunderstand!  Drew and Ryan have turned out pretty good thus far, but mommying little ones in my forties is very different than it was in my twenties.  I’m definitely making different choices this second time around. 


A few of my new parenting routes are a symptom of my age:  changing table instead of changing on the floor (arthritic knees) or homemade baby food instead of the jarred stuff (I can’t read the labels on those darn little jars!)     Most of my changes in parenting techniques, however, are due to the experience I have under my belt.  This isn’t my first time at the mommy rodeo, and I have the benefit of  our “been there done that” adventures to propel us in new and sometimes very different directions.


One of the most distinct change-ups we’ve made is the choice in educational settings for our little ones.  It’s not that I was dissatisfied with the grade school Drew and Ryan attended.    Their kindergarten through eighth grade journey through our Catholic parish grade school prepared them well for the rigorous college prep curriculum they’re embroiled in now.  What I am looking for this time is a school that not only uses best practice to capitalize on my girls’ individual talents, but also teaches tolerance and celebrates diversity.  Oh…and an entusiastically positive faculty would be a much welcomed bonus! 


Imagine my delight when I found such a school.


I’d heard the word “Montessori” bantored about many times over the years.  In fact I even enrolled Ryan in a Montessori preschool not far from our old house.  (I pulled him the day I went to pick him up and the teachers didn’t know where he was… which is fodder for a post all on its own!)  You’d think that with an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration, I’d know a little more about the Montessori method, but it was only after I enrolled Mary Kate at Westside Montessori that I had an up close and intimate look at what a real Montessori school looked like. 


Needless to say, I loved what I saw.


I admit I kind of defaulted into this school.  In January 2011, I realized that Mary Kate would really benefit from being around kids her own age.  Not quite three at the time, and definitely not  potty trained, I was relieved when I learned Westside  had room for her mid-year.   I hesitated a bit, I’d never sent a child to school before the age of three, but with my book coming out, and the fact that Mary Kate knew the theme songs to Dora, Chuggington, and The Fresh Beat Band verbatim, I was thrilled when I learned that Westside would take her  –diapers,  Nick Jr. addiction, and all. 


One of the requirements for MK’s attendance was that I observe her class for a morning.  I begrudgingly went, mentally noting all the things I needed to be doing instead, but was so glad I did. 


Imagine a classroom full of one, two and young three year olds, all working independently on tasks that interested them. These tasks were like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Push pins being used to poke holes in a certain shape on a paper (fine motor control).  Children being encouraged to fill up a giant jug using small cups of water retrieved from the sink across the classroom (gross motor control).  Puzzles, and stacking games, and bead work…all neatly arranged on trays on shelves.  Children choosing whatever activity they wanted, and concentrating  on their “work” with a voraciousness for completing the task at hand. 


The classroom was quiet, but it wasn’t.  I know–weird description, right?  But it’s accurate.  Each child was embroiled in their “work”.  They were interacting, but all were surprisingly on task…but all different tasks.  The teachers moved from child to child, engaging and checking in, but definitely not directing.  The child directed.  The teacher facilitated.   And the classroom buzzed with activity, but it was calm–almost serene. 


Missing from the classroom was the “work” that I remember Drew and Ryan bringing home at that age.  Sean and I used to lament about their preschool created art work.  It was perfect, which made for pretty refridgerator decor, but was missing authenticity.  You see, Sean and I don’t harbor even half of an artistic bone between us.  There was no way under the sun, either of our boys cut out a perfect autumn leaf.  They couldn’t even do that now–their high school art teacher would attest to that. 


In addition to being intrigued by what I’ve observed in a Mary Kate’s classroom, two of Drew’s best high school friends graduated from Westside Montessori, and I’ve noticed something very different about these two boys.  They are smart–so is Drew–but there’s a curiousity and level of engaged interest in these kids that is very different.  Of course, they come from “good stock”, so I’m not discounting genetics!  There’s just something special about these boys’ and their obvious thirst for learning. 


My interest is peaked by the long term affects of the Montessori method. 


So, when I’m asked if I’m doing anything differently this time around, the choice of the girls’ school is probably our greatest deviation from past parenting practices.  I have no idea how long we will stick with the Montessori setting.  I admit I’m having a hard time picturing how it will work for her as she gets older —remember, I’m used to, “Everyone sit down, and open your books to page 138!” .  But for now, I couldn’t be happier with the choice that we’ve made for her. 


I’m excited to see how it plays out over the long term!   




To learn more about Westside Montessori or the Montessori method please visit Westside’s website here!  You’ll be glad that you did!  The pictures communicate more than a thousand blog posts! 





A Note from The Principal: How Parental Pressure Can Cause Kids to Cheat

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/21/12 9:03 PM
CATEGORIES: A Note From the Principal, Blog

I’d like to think of myself as my kids’ biggest cheerleader.  I try to support them in everything they do.  I want them to reap the rewards of their hard work, and sometimes that means offering encouragement when they’re wanting to quit.  My drive comes from the notion that the taste of success,  breeds the desire for more success.  What mom doesn’t want their child to be successful? 

So I encourage, and I cheer, and I push (delicately) and I prod (gently) in hopes of motiviating my kids to do their personal best!  But I’ve learned from my years as an educator that the fine line between healthy encouragement and damaging pressure is easily blurred and when crossed can do serious damage.

Case in point, Scrabblegate! 

Last week the world was rocked (okay not the whole world…but the Scrabble playing world…which I didn’t know existed until last week…but I digress…) by a cheating scandal at the Scrabble National tournament.  The player was ejected for hiding blank tiles in his lap in hopes of using them to bolster his word score during his next match.   Beyond my obvious shock that a National Scrabble Tournament existed (who knew?), I was doubly befuddled when I learned the culprit was only thirteen years old. 

What would cause a seventh grader to feel the need to cheat at Scrabble? 

The answer is simple.   Kids cheat when they’re stressed and the most common source of stress in a child comes from parental pressure. 

But I don’t pressure my kids…do I?

I admit, that in the heat of a competition or in the the face one of my kids’ failures,  the unedited thoughts that fly through my head are most inappropriate.  It happens when I see Drew running a race slower than expected, or when Ryan brings home a disappointing grade.  It’s my own disappointment that I can barely contain, and when the bad news hits–in those first few seconds–I am thankful for my ability to clamp down on my tongue.  It’s a skill that I developed during my years as a principal,  and it’s an exercise in self control that I’m grateful I have. 

Or, wait…do I have that skill?

I’m not so sure.  My kids can see when I am obviously disappointed because no matter how well I can control my mouth, my facial expressions are notoriously visible.   And I’m not sure that shielding them from disappointment is the right way to go, either.  It’s a delicate walk down the road of life’s lessons, and in the end I think it’s paramount that my children understand I have high expectations that they will do their personal best, but no matter the outcome, I will love them unconditionally.

My heart goes out to the young Scrabble player who learned an important lesson the hard way. Hopefully he’s got a good support system of adults who can help him learn from his mistakes, and move on to other successes.

In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to help parents define the line between encouragement and pressure.  It’s a list I wish I would have sent home to my school families back in my principal days.  I think it would have been helpful!

Swallow Your Desire to Pressure Your Kids.  Children will cheat when they feel that there is no other path to living up to high expectations.  Make sure your child knows that you expect them to do their PERSONAL BEST and that there ‘s a difference between personal best and the best!   

Reward with Caution.  When your child is successful at a given task, go ahead and praise them but do it correctly by commenting on their efforts and not the end result.  If you choose to reward the success (i.e. paying for high grades) make sure your child understands you are rewarding their hard work. 

Talk about Your Child’s Challenges.  Make sure you are checking in often with your child about his/her academic and extracurricular activities.  Inquire about their stress levels and ask if they need any help with their more challenging activities or courses.  Coaching kids through challenges can bolster a child’s self-confidence and help them to learn how to cope with disappointing outcomes.

Talk about Pressure to Cheat.  Rest assured, one way or another, your child will either be approached by another to cheat, or witness a classmate cheating.  Discuss with your child how he/she can set a precedent with peers by sternly declining to participate.  Role play how they can say, “no”, and explain that by not cheating they are protecting themselves and the other student(s) involved.

Take Advantage of News of Cheating.  It seems that we are all too often bombarded with news of athletes or businessman getting caught cheating.  When a news story presents itself use it as a teachable moment with your child.  Nothing is better than pointing out the damage that is doen when the integrity of a celebrity is tarnished through cheating. 

Remember, They’re Watching.  Regardless of what you say, your kids learn the most from your actions.  Little “white lies” or shortcuts to a desired outcome can make serious impressions on the minds of our kids.  And by all means, shower your children with stories of your own mistakes and how you learned from them.  It’s important to show that not only are you not perfect, but that you don’t expect them to be perfect either.

Going Green When Packing Their Lunches – Give Away

 Sticking with the spirit of back to school week, I’m giving away some really cool bags  from the Itzy Ritzy line of reusable lunch gear.


The concept behind Itzy Ritzy designs is to reduce lunch packing waste by doing away with disposable containers. 

From their website…

Itzy Ritzy Mini Snack Bags are washable and reusable snack bags made for little hands, snacks, fruit, sandwiches, school lunches, travel, crayons, cellphones, makeup, keys, license, toiletries, and much more! Goodbye ziplock bags, hello reusable, machine washable snack bags! Waterproof lining keeps contents securely inside. Help reduce the huge amounts of plastic bags going into the trash each day by using these washable, reusable snack bags. 100% cotton exterior is fashionable and fun, 7-inch by 3.5-inch reusable snack bags come in packs of two and are a wonderful, green alternative to plastic baggies for your lunch, snacks, daycare, school, work, litter free lunch programs. FDA approved & BPA Free, eco-friendly Snack Bags are lead free, phthalate free and CPSIA certified!

It’s my pleasure to have a gift bag of Itzy Ritzy resusable lunch packing bags to give away this week!   All you need to do to qualify for the give away is comment below by sharing your thoughts on why kids cheat or how we can help them to feel less pressure from parents.

Good luck!