The Busy Giffs: June 2016

June 29, 2016

Cape Cod Children's Museum (Again!)

This year, we spent Tyler's birthday at the Cape Cod Children's Museum. I love the Cape Cod Children's Museum and we've been a few times already.  It's a roughly 40 minute drive but it's so worth it; we're always there for a few hours!

It's one of the smaller children museums and I love that because it's one big space and I can keep an eye on both kids even if they run to opposite centers. Emmalee loves the kitchen center and spent over a half hour pretending she was a chef, taking our orders, and then "making" us food.  Tyler loves the farm area and the boat is a new favorite!

Additionally, there is a huge pirate ship in the middle of the room, plus a puppet area, a submarine area, smaller "houses" that house public service costumes, musical instruments and a post office! There's also a tree house set up, a green screen and lots of little puzzles set up! It's one of those great places that I feel comfortable bringing my kids and letting them run around.

I was able to grab tickets on Groupon but it's super affordable even if you can't find the tickets at a discount.

Ages 1-59, $8
Seniors, 60+ $7
EBT Card Holders,  $2  (limit 4 people)  
Free admissions for individual with Military ID

During the summer, it's open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday noon to 5 pm. They have a couple vending machines but be sure to pack a lunch to eat in the car or down the street at the beach. 

They have some really great events going on all summer and if you follow them on Facebook you can get updates about what is happening when!

Ps. Be sure to leave your name and address and you might be lucky like us and when 2 passes to use at a later date!

xo Heather

Emmalee and Tyler's Birthday Party

Oh man, you know how you get a caught in all the new things and you forget to blog about the things that happened already?

I have wanted to write about the kids' birthday party for a couple weeks and just kept getting pulled in 32 other directions and never did!

Honestly, I think this was the last year of the two for one, double party.  Emma, being the social butterfly she isn't, wasn't understanding why she only had a couple friends over.  And honestly, that was on me.  Their birthdays kind of crept up on me, and with a joint party, it's always weird to invite friends who are only friends with one, I don't really know her friends since David does drop off and pick up, we have a small house, and with Tyler so young, we figured an easy cookout with family would work.  But then Emma was really sad that she didn't have friends coming so a week before her party, I backtracked and invited the 3 girls she talks about most at school and dance, and since I already know the girls and their moms from dance, it was less intimidating asking them to come!

We did a very low key cookout in the backyard but Emma did ask for a moonwalk, a pool, a pinata, bubbles, and tattoos so we made it all happen!

Thanks to my mom for so many great pictures!

 If you're local to New Bedford, check out Bouncing Time! They were the only company we could find that had a My Little Pony bounce house and it was only $115 for a full day with delivery, set up, take down, and removal! The guys were prompt and even did a big reveal, having Emma close her eyes to surprise her with the My Little Pony banner! It was the best money we spent all day!

Emmalee was also very specific about her cake, err, cupcakes.  She wanted "My Little POny cupcakes that look like Ponyville with flowers and ponies on them". So I whipped up some cupcakes, dyed some green frosting and used a Wilton tip to create "grass" that I topped off with a few sugar flowers and My Little Pony candles (they can be bought here and here through my Amazon affiliate links).

Tyler's cake was a bit trickier. I used a tutorial off of PBS for a Daniel Tiger cake and then completely changed it! Ha! I round cake and two cupcakes formed the face and ears and then I tinted frosting and just free handed frosting, rather than using the extras PBS suggested. I think it turned out great!

Emmalee also asked for rainbow krispie treats and tiger tail pretzels.  I tell you, when she has something pictured in her mind, there's no telling her otherwise.

I pulled off rainbow krispie treats making rice krispie treats and substituting in Fruity Pebbles instead of Rice Krispies.  They were a hit! And the first thing to disappear...

We also used our super cool Chocolate Pen to make Tiger Tail Pretzels! We were sent the Chocolate Pen last month (but you can order it here through an Amazon affiliate link!) and used it to make some really great little candies so I knew it would be perfect for this project too!

Instead of using the included molds, we warmed up the included chocolate candy and loaded up the Chocolate Pen.  We dipped pretzel rods that we broke in half into some orange Wilton Candy Melts then laid them on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet.  Emmalee used the Chocolate Pen to draw the tiger stripes!

I think they turned out completely adorable! I love the Chocolate Pen because it made it so easy for Emmalee to be involved in the party set up! We've already ordered extra chocolate sets so we can make more soon!

We had such an amazing day! I loved that we were able to make all the food ourselves, have a fun and almost relaxing day with our family and friends, and both kids slept like rocks that night!

Tomorrow I'll be sharing what we did on Tyler's actual birthday so be sure to check out where we went!

xo Heather

June 27, 2016

Summer Vegetable Salad and 149 Other Perfect Portion Recipes

Disclosure: My family was provided free product in exchange for this post; however all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links, I may be compensated for purchases made through these links. For more information, click here.

Now that June and vacation are just about over, it's time to get back into the gym.  Seriously, I signed up for this great class that started in May, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays, and then the kids both got sick, one after the other so I couldn't use the daycare.  And then it was school events and I had committed to those.  And then it was the Overnight walk and I couldn't move my body for a couple days.  Then it was a wedding and then vacation, and now the class is over.  I'm bummed but I also know that I have 10 weeks between today and my first day back for the 2016-2017 school year.  I can accomplish a lot in 10 weeks if I stick to going to the gym each morning or each afternoon after summer school.

In addition to a kettle bell and these awesome Perfect Portion Containers ( very similar to the 21 Day Fix containers but without the price tag!), I was given a copy of The Perfect Portion Cookbook. While I know working out will help, I have to pay attention to what I'm eating as well. The Perfect portion cookbook shares 150 amazing recipes for things like apple turnovers,chili, flatbread pizza, even crab cakes, but helps you visualize exactly how much a 100 calorie portion would be and then how many 100 calorie portions make up a meal. For example, a Quiche Lorraine would be cut into 12 slices, each holding 100 calories.  The recommended breakfast portion is 2 slices so it really takes the guesswork out of 'how much should I eat?'

Even better, they give you 7 days of perfect portion meal planning to help you out, plus 10 secrets to staying fit and healthy, that include exercises that burn off the 100 calories from your portion and tips for some smart 100 calorie snacks. I know I need all the help I can get so I'm excited that this is so much more than just a cookbook.

Today for lunch, I wanted to try out the Summer Vegetable Salad.  And oh my gosh, it was just as delicious as I hoped for!

Summer Vegetable Salad:

1 (10 oz) bag of frozen corn kernels, thawed (or 3 ears of corn, boiled, cooled and removed from the cob)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Place all ingredients in a large serving bowl and toss to combine.
2. Cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

I will admit, I don't love zucchini so I left it out and have cilantro growing in my window but not basil, so I replaced that, but it was still so yummy.  I'm thinking about adding in cucumber or avocado, but will have to figure out portions and calories if I substitute anything! But today, I used 1 serving size with a serving of rotisserie chicken for a delicious, healthy lunch to get me started again!

If every recipe tastes this good, I'll be healthier in no time!

xo Heather

June 25, 2016

From One Vacation to the Next - Sesame Place to #SantasSquad

As a teacher, I love "having the summer off" to spend with my kids but I usually pick up a summer school position so that I can bring in some extra income to pay for fun things we wouldn't normally be able to pay for or have time for. It's a quick, couple of hours, only 3 days a week but it does make trips a bit harder so much like last year's trip to Disney, I find we schedule our vacation for the last week of June before summer school starts up!

After a crazy week in Pennsylvania (I'll write about it this week- promise!), Dave and I decided this morning to grab a hotel in New Hampshire and check out Santa's Village this weekend! We've been invited as Santa's special guests and even get to see Santa before the park opens to help feed the reindeer and open the park! Emmalee must have been a really good girl so far this year! Santa already sent us an early gift, complete with an awesome Instax camera that Emmalee is going to get to use all day tomorrow!

We're so excited for Christmas in July... errr... June! Emma can't wait to ride the "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" swings and based on how much Tyler loved the Mini Scrambler at Hershey Park, I'm sure he'll love "The Pixie Mix"! Have you been to Santa's Village before? What's your favorite ride or attraction there?

xo  Heather

June 20, 2016

Father's Day Gifts

I joked around a bit with David this year about his Father's Day gift.  I told him at least 32 times that I got him an all expenses, paid vacation starting on the 19th.  This is hilarious because June 19th is also the day we started our family vacation that we've been planning for months. Ha!

But seriously, he's an amazing man and deserved some great gifts so even though we said we wouldn't be buying much, I mean, he did buy me birthstone rings for both kids for Mother's Day, I knew I wanted to surprise him with something great!

David has been eyeing a Movado watch forever.  It's one of those things he's always talked about but didn't think he'd ever get.  I mean, really think of where we were five years ago, and now I'm buying him a Movado. Yikes!

I picked out a gorgeous one from Kay Jewelers. I can't even put into words how excited Dave was! He didn't really believe I had bought it for him!

I also grabbed him this Pager Tag for his keys from Beets BLU (aff link).  He is constantly losing his keys so I figured it would be great for him! It's this small, lightweight, wireless tracker that he can attach to anything, including his keys, his work lanyard, or his wallet! Someone even posted in the reviews that they put it on their dog who kept getting out! Ha! The tracker is attached to an app on your phone, available for Android or iOs, and helps you find whatever you may misplace, including tracking up to 33 feet! I figure with this, there's no way he can lose his valuables, right?

And since no holiday is complete without some sweets, we grabbed him a huge Reese's Peanut Butter Cup because why not? Right?

He seems to love his gifts! Did you grab anything special for the man in your life this year?

June 16, 2016

June Blind Bags!

 This month, we got our hands on a few more surprise toys: Squishy Pops and Mash Ems!
The kids love these surprises so much!

Tyler's favorite thing is throwing the brain up on our ceiling and laughing as it hangs there!

I can't wait to see what we get to open next month!

xo Heather

June 15, 2016

The Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk : New York City 2016

I can't even put this experience into words eloquently, but I need at least try. Participating in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk through New York City was singlehandedly one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring things I have ever done.

Like I said before, the Overnight Walk is hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the money raised from these walks goes to programs that help educate the public about depression, suicide, and how to help.  There are two walks hosted each year, each walk between 16 and 18 miles long. This year, one was hosted in New York and I didn't hesitate to register.

I had 6 months to raise over $1000 and I did it! That was a huge scary goal for me.  I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to raise it and I'd have to somehow pay for it all myself, but I have an amazing tribe and was blown away but the generosity of people.

The day started early, with my puppy barking at a squirrel at 5 am.  Yep, earlier than my normal day and with a drive to NYC and the overnight, I was already concerned about the lack of sleep.  I was so nervous that I didn't sleep well.

My husband's aunt was extraordinarily generous and invited us to stay at her house while I was walking, which saved us a few hundred dollars on a hotel room and allowed David to be with me in NYC for a while.

The walk began at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. There were lots of tables set up and as I checked in they gave us a pin, an orange flashing armband, a wristband with an assitance phone number, and let us pick up our bead necklaces.  Each color represented a type of struggle: a loss of a loved one, for a loved one who is struggling, for a personal struggle, or simply to support the cause, for example. I got in a final charge on my phone and made some new acquaintances while we waited for the kick off ceremony.

 Dave stayed with me for the entire kick off ceremony and the stories were so moving. Hearing stories of what others have gone through really puts your own life and problems into perspective.  Many of the people being honored were on their 4th, 5th, even 12th walk.

I started off the walk next to another woman and we just started talking.  The usual "Where are you from? Is this your first walk? Why are you walking?" and then it started to downpour, like buckets and downpours. There was nothing a poncho or a raincoat could have done, I was soaked.

The first rest stop was around 3 miles so I pulled off my soaking wet socks and replaced them with dry ones and started off again.  At just over 6 miles, I hit the next rest stop and was still feeling good.  I was dry and was excited to keep going!

At mile 8 I was ready to give up. I don't know if you know, but I hate bridges. Hate, hate, hate. With all the firey burning passion I have, I hate bridges.  I white knuckle my steering wheel when I have to drive over them. Mile 8 started at the Brooklyn Bridge, which meant I had to walk 1.1 miles over the bridge, a couple miles around Brooklyn and then another 1.1 miles back over. 

This is when I really started to feel my feet hurting.  I don't know if I was just so hyper aware of walking, and being afraid... all I know is I cried the whole way over that bridge. Panic induced tears the whole way.  Multiple times I thought about just giving up, turning back around and skipping those Brooklyn miles, but I couldn't. I'm not honorable by any means, I just knew there was a reststop with bathrooms less than a mile away and if I turned around I had another 3 miles to go before a bathroom break.  By then it was 11 am night and all businesses, except bars, and the public restrooms were closed so I just kept trudging.

The roads were bumpy, my feet hurt, and I felt like I was going to fall over because the pressure on my feet was just so intense.  I was having a hard time looking up at the street signs and instead started watching my feet as I walked. Remember how I said they gave us orange blinking armbands? I could see one out of the corner of my eye so I followed that as I watched my feet. Bad idea.  As I'm following, and not paying attention to the arrows on street signs, I see the orange blinking light walk into an apartment.  I realize that I haven't seen any signs in a bit and called the assistance phone number on my wristband.  I had walked over a mile off the route and had to walk the mile back, adding more than 2 miles on to my already 9 mile walk.  Again, I cried, wondering how I would finish .

Getting back over the bridge was nearly impossible.  I sat at the rest stop crying, knowing I had to go back.  I changed my socks again but by now, I had blisters between all of my toes, on the sides of my little toe and on the pads of me feet.  Each step felt like I was walking on a piece of sandpaper. I seriously thought about giving up again but kept pushing.

I found 3 other girls who hated bridges as much as I do and we walked across the bridge, again all crying, but walking. At this point, my battery was more than half dead and I stopped taking pictures so I could save it for finish line pictures. After many tears and so many complaints about our feet, we finally made it to the next rest stop close to mile 14.  I told them to continue while I finally sat down at a medical tent at a rest stop. I took a couple ibuprofen, grabbed a fruit roll up, and wrapped my entire foot in so much moleskin.  I really wish I had gone to a medical tent earlier but I was happy for the bit of relief this offered me.  The ladies at the medical tent just kept saying "Only 2.6 more miles to go!" and it energized me just enough to keep going.

My feet had never been in more pain.  The only other time I did that many miles at once was at Disney last June, but that was over 16 hours, not 6. As I was thinking about how bad my feet hurt and how much I wanted to quit, when I heard a small voice say "I can't do this anymore. I have to be done." I am so thankful that girl was there.  My mom/teacher instincts kicked in and all I wanted to do was support her. I said something along the lines of "It's less than 2 more miles... 10 blocks up and 5 aves across..."  Immediately, I had another group to walk with.  We exchanged the "Where are you from? First walk? Why do you walk?" and suddenly I wasn't focused on my feet anymore.  I was focused on the brother's first year at college to be a teacher.  I was focused on the girl asking me what my favorite English books are.  I was focused on telling stories of my own classroom.  Those kids, and my students, helped me finish.  They helped me forget about how tired I was because I was genuinely enthralled with our conversations.  We counted down each block, announcing out loud to anyone around how close we were.

Walking from 11th Ave to 12th Ave and seeing the Intrepid Museum was so exciting, I literally cannot put it into words.  I have never been so excited to see anything, probably ever.

At the end of the walk, after you cross the finish line, they have you walk back to where the opening ceremony took place and give you a finishing tshirt, some food, and places to sit and relax. The walkway to this area was lined with these luminaries that each participant decorated, reminding us that there is always light shining. Walking over the finish line was one of the most gratifying feelings.  Knowing I had completed it, knowing that I had raised almost $1300, knowing that I gave someone hope. I can't put that into words. 

There were a couple of volunteers at the finish line and I received a very tired sounding "yey" as I did so.  I took 6.5 hours to walk it and I knew many others would take longer, some even being picked up by the sweep van, gathering those who couldn't finish in the allotted time.  I started thinking about how sad and disappointed I would have felt to not finish. I thought about how much it would suck to still be walking, so I went back to the finish line and sat down.  I took off my shoes, stretched and sat there cheering for every single person who walked by.  Have you ever heard me cheer? I'm loud and obnoxious. Whoooooo!!! and "You did it!" echoed across the place.  I joked with people stopping to take a selfie saying "You're so close, keep going!" and just hoping to get them to smile.  As I continued cheering, the volunteers got louder, and then more people joined.  I became an unofficial finish line photographer for people. I loudly cheered for crew and safety as they passed under the finish line banner.  My slogan became "Everyone deserves a Woooo!" and I stayed there for  more than 2 hours, until 4:45 when the last walkers came across and they started the closing ceremony.  I didn't want anyone to miss out on feeling accomplished, regardless of how they got to the finish line. 

After the ceremony, I booked it to Grand Central to hop on my train and get back to my husband.  My feet hurt, I was exhausted, and I felt so good.  Next year the walks will be in California and DC, and I'm already planning how to pull off the DC one.  I think I might want to volunteer and cheer all night long...

A photo posted by Heather (@heathgiff) on



June 13, 2016

Tyler turns 2 and Emmalee turns 5!

I can't believe that I have a 2 and a 5 year old.  Even though Tyler turned 2 last month, they shared a birthday party so they'll be sharing a blog post too!

I can't even deal with the fact that my baby is two and as our last baby, it's hitting me that much more than when Emmalee turned two.
Tyler weighed in at 26 lbs and 34 inches, so he's not a little guy anymore by any stretch of the imagination! He is wearing 2T pants and shirts for the length, but his waist is more of an 18 month, so pants are always a bit baggy, but shorts in an 18M fit great! We just had to buy him new sneakers in a 7.5 because the 7s we bought last month are already too small!
He eats everything.  Tyler loves food, and all of it.  There aren't many things he won't eat.  He may cross his arms and shake his head no at certain times, but he always ends up eating again at another time. His favorite foods are freeze pops, popcorn, chicken nuggets, burgers, french fries, produce, like cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots, and fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and pears.  As soon as I buy produce, it's gone in 24 hours, not that I'm complaining!
He sleeps in his own big boy bed but is such a mama's boy, always wanting to snuggle, giving me 8 kisses on my face, in symmetrical places, before we snuggle next to each other.  He falls asleep around 8 pm and sleeps straight through the night until about 6 or 6:30 am. When he wakes up, he walks into my room calling 'mama' and climbs into my bed next to me.  He is still taking a good 1 or 2 hour nap each afternoon as well!
His favorite things are tubbies, books, stealing my cell phone, anything Star Wars, including singing "BAHHHH BAHHHH" whenever he sees Darth Vader anything.  He loves balls, trucks, cars, puzzles, and bubbles.  He's already discovered his penis and that's a favorite as well.
We're still working on Tyler's speech through Early Intervention as his vocabulary is still extraordinarily limited.  He says 'pop' for popcorn, popsicles, bubbles, and when he jumps.  'Mama' is my favorite word, especially when he fluctuates his voice and I feel like the best person in the whole world.  He says 'hot' when he sees something steaming or when he knows it's hot, like a stove/oven or his dinner. He says "eeeeeeease" for please, and has said 'ball' and 'mine' once but not again since.  His newest word is "giggup" which sounds a lot like giddy up! He'll yell it as he rides the stick pony, or he will even throw his arms around your neck and yell it so I am convinced that's what it means.
It hurts my heart that he can't always tell us what he wants but he absolutely understands us and is working so hard on his language skills. I can't wait for us to be able to understand him completely.

Emmalee is a bit different. She's 5 now. She's like a little adult, even more than she was before. She is such a happy little ball of energy.  She invites friends to our house.  She picks out her own clothes and dresses herself.  She amazes me everyday with how mature she is, even if she dissolves into a overtired tantrum later in the day.

She's a measly 36 pounds and a staggering 42 inches tall. She thrives in preschool. She knows all the numbers and letters.  She writes and recognizes letters on signs. She still struggles with some of her letter sounds but is much more aware now after being involved with Tyler's Early Intervention.  We're lucky that she is still taking a daily nap, but is a raging beast without it.  She's an overly mothering big sister. Because she is such a grown up little girl now, I wanted to ask her some questions:

What's your name?

How old are you?

What's your favorite thing to do?
Umm, play dollies and dress up with you

What do you like about school?
I like drawing pictures with my teacher.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Um, an ice skating teacher

What is your favorite food?
macaroni and cheese

What food do you not like?
I do not like... white fish.

Who do you like to spend time with?
Mommy and Daddy

What can you do really well?
somersaults (as she does one)

What makes you laugh?
when Mom tickles my little shoulders (arm pits)

What makes you mad?
When Tyler bites me.

Whats the best time of the day?
when we get to play outside together

What are your three favorite toys?
1. My new Minnie Mouse bike I got for Christmas
2. My barbie and unicorn dolls
3. And my last favorite toy is my Doc McStuffins pretending bag.

What are you afraid of?
I'm afraid of monsters

What is your favorite tv show?
Bubble Guppies and Strawberry Shortcake, Dora and Diego, and My Little Ponies

What is your favorite movie?

Who is your best friend?

What do you like to do with your family?
Play outside and make s'mores

What do you like to learn about?
I like to learn about unicorns.

What is your favorite book?
Um, Goldilocks and the Three Bears

If we could go on vacation anywhere, where should we go?
I think I know.. to Sesame Place!

If you had one wish what would it be?
I would wish for my own toy unicorn or to go to Disney again.

I just love her and her answers. I can't believe that this Fall, we'll have one in daycare and one in Kindergarten.  When did they get so big?

June 6, 2016

To the Graduating Seniors

I've been blogger for longer than I've been teaching and I've always kept them as two separate worlds. Other than the occasional time that I write "I teach" or "As a teacher", these are two very different worlds in my life. This year however, as I taught my seniors about digital literacy, I tied in blogging, and even talked a bit about how I monetize my blog, as well as some of the really fun opportunities it has afforded me.  As a vocational school, I am constantly pushing my students to think about both college and entrepreneurship. Why can't they run a car repair company while running a company blog and website? It opens up so many more avenues for them. It's also why I'm finding myself want to write about them, because there is this co-existence between my two worlds.

This weekend my seniors graduated.  Yes, my seniors. I'm claiming them. See, this class of students was special. In 2013, they made me a teacher. I started the year as a paraprofessional at the beginning of the 2012-2013 year, and in February 2013, I was offered a part time teaching position, teaching 2 classes of freshmen. It was only until the end of the school year, but they were my first real classes. We worked on expert projects and I learned that each student had more to offer to me than they would originally let on, but if I was respectful and honest with them, they would be respectful and honest to me. They made me a teacher.

The following year, I had a group of them as Honors sophomores. It was one of the best years ever.  I was pregnant with Tyler and at times could be emotional or easily annoyed and that group of kids just kept coming up with ways to make me happy.  Whenever I was out that year, trying to handle the super scary bleeding I was experiencing, I'd come back to 25 kids asking how I was, saying we could take it easy that day, asking if they could do anything to make my life easier. We read memoirs and then they wrote memoirs and in that classroom we shared stories of joy and loss, and we shared laughs and tears together.  Watching that group grow into one homogeneous unit further solidified that teaching was what I wanted to do. They taught me that being vulnerable can be the greatest connector in our world.

As Juniors,  I had 2 classes of them, almost 60 students, some I was seeing the the second time in their high school careers. I had a group of students who were vocal that school was not for them. A group that at times were cruel to each other. A group that made me cry some nights wondering why I couldn't help them more. But it was also the same group that cheered when they found out I was their teacher, the same group who drew me pictures a la 5 year olds to hang in my classroom next to my daughter's drawings, the same group who hugged me and said "I know I passed MCAS because of you". They taught me that sometimes those who are hardest to love, are the ones who need to be loved most.

As Seniors, I again had 2 groups but a new 2 groups from the year before.  I had students that I had had as freshmen or sophomores and again, that bond we had developed in the earlier years was still there.  We talked about the plight of man, anxiety, depression, and the point to our existence.  We read, and sometimes Sparknoted, books and answered the type of deep reading questions they would need to be able to answer to do well in college.  They shared their goals, and their fears, and by the end of the year, their life stories. Again, the vulnerability blew me away.  The respectful conversations about what our purpose of life might be, and sharing personal struggles with depression and anxiety, they gave me hope.  So many people write off their generation and yet, every day they showed me that while they often like to be lazy and on their cell phones, they can and will offer so much to our world.

I missed graduation.  My seniors' graduation. It killed me.  They are my kids, my forever kids. The thing about teaching is that once you've been in my classroom, you will forever be my kid. And graduation day has been that validation for me.  In the years past, it's been cards, hugs, even flowers, thanking me for getting them to graduation, thanking me for being an adult role model, thanking me just for understanding them.  And I missed it. I missed it for a great cause, but I still missed it so I need to share the words I want to share with them, because as I know, they're all "creeps" who search for me on Twitter and Instagram and will hopefully, now that they've graduated, find this.

To my Seniors,

I am sorry I missed your graduation, but as I've said before, graduation is only one day.  You have so much more ahead of you.  As you go on this journey to work or college, or wherever your feet may carry you, please remember the sage advice I've shared before:

There is more than one road to Boston. Sometimes you need to get there a different way than others have.  My road to teaching was very different than the road of your other English teachers, but in the end, I made it.  Whether it takes you 4 years or 7 years to accomplish your goal, make it. Whether you end up where you want to go by following one straight path, or if like me, you get blown off course a few times, keep going.  Get there.  Set that goal, get there, and don't let anyone make you feel bad for how you get there, unless of course you're cheating.

Plagiarism is bad. Don't use anyone else's stuff as your own.  Don't use their work as a replacement for your own, you are smarter and better than that. More than your work, don't become someone else. Don't use someone else's personality as your own. Be your own amazing, awe-inspiring person.

Keep going, it gets better. I've shared my own story with you before and if I had given up, I wouldn't have had the honor, and some days - frustration, of teaching you. As dark as it may be, it will get better.  The sun will shine again, even if it feels like you're stuck in a monsoon.  I am floored by your ability to keep going, whether battling your parents in court, surviving after the loss of your mother, living in a hotel or on a friend's couch, or walking into the same classroom as your personal bully. You amazed me very day at your ability to keep going. I promise, it will get better.  It may not be right away, and it may get worse first, but eventually, it gets better.

My days will be sad over the next few weeks without you.  Without the letters thanking me for our years together, without the laughter of the extraordinarily sarcastic group of men, without the Twitter beef updates, without the yelling of "Mrs. Giffffff" down the hallway, but my days will be better when I hear about your accomplishments and legacies.  I will always remember you, even when other classes try and replace you as my new Seniors. Like my own children, I am always here for you still, to celebrate your victories, to mourn your losses, and to edit one last paper.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

Mrs. Gifford

June 3, 2016

Tomorrow: 18 Mile Overnight Walk

I am so freakin' nervous for tomorrow y'all. Months ago I signed up for an 18 mile overnight walk to benefit Out of the Darkness Walks, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to depression and suicide and providing support to those who, as I always called it, were "getting to the bad spot".

See, I've battled depression myself. And let me tell you, it was a battle. My college years were some of the hardest of my life and one year in particular almost killed me, or rather, I tried to kill myself. I felt so alone and unhappy and couldn't shake the feeling that something must be wrong with me.  I dropped out of college.  Me! The high school teacher, dropped out of college. It took me a while to realize that was I was dealing with was depression and it was only through medical help that I got better. Other than the doctors, my mom saved me.  She welcomed me back with open arms and never pushed me to open up or share.  I felt safe again.  I went back to school.  I went back to work.  I met my friend Casey who taught me how to love myself again. I drank Shirley Temples instead of alcohol.  I went to the gym to feel better, not to punish myself. I enjoyed my life again.  I owe my life to those two women. I am lucky that I had a tribe, not everyone does.

Out of the Darkness Walks look to help people who are like I was. People who need help. People who need to hear that they are not alone.  People who need someone to go to even when they feel like a burden.  People who need to need to hear that their life is worth living.

After having Emmalee, I battled against Postpartum Depression (PPD). There were LOTS of factors in play and every day was harder than the last. One day I just broke down. I had to admit that the feelings I was having felt so much like what I had experienced years earlier and again, I went to the doctor.  I felt guilty for despising my husband and my child, and I knew that only a doctor could make me feel right again.

I'm at a point in my life where I am the happiest I have ever been.  I have a loving husband and two amazing children. I have a large family who loves me.  I have a job that makes me feel fulfilled.  I have a home I love and so many things that fill it. I literally can not imagine why I ever wanted to miss out on this.

I often share my stories with my Senior students.  As we talk about the big scary world and how sometimes things don't always go as we plan, I share my struggles.  I tell them that failures will happen, mistakes happen but it's in how we get back up that determines our success.

Kristen Bell has recently come out talking about her out fight with depression and says something along the lines of "You wouldn't deny a diabetic their insulin, so why deny those who deal with depression what they need to be healthy??"

I support people like Kristen Bell who can be so forthcoming with their battles. I support organizations like Out of the Darkness Walks who want to help people. And hopefully, as I walk 18 miles through New York City tomorrow night, you'll support me.

Please follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and leave me little bits of love throughout the night. PM me your personal stories and remind me why I'm doing this.  Remind me why it's so important that I keep going.

40 in 4 : A New Update

With the big changes in my life, I've been able to knock off a few more things! 4. Buy a bicycle. I'm so excited about this one. ...


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