Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mission Possible Book Giveaway

I was offered a copy of Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any Schoolwhich offers practical, classroom-tested ideas for dramatically improving teaching and learning. This book chronicles how a charter school in the middle of Harlem, which enrolled 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. In addition to providing strategies and lessons for school leaders and teachers, it also serves as a guide for parents, policymakers, and practitioners who are passionate about closing the academic achievement gap.

Instead of asking me to do a review of their book, Mission Possible offered to sponsor a post in which I discuss some tough issues in education. What they wanted to know is why I think stagnation is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale and why I think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions.

Tough questions, to be sure, but questions I have thought long and hard about and discussed with my colleagues extensively.

One particular exchange always comes to mind when I think of this issue -- of teachers being unable to accomplish their jobs at the highest levels and feeling "burnout." Several educators were discussing what they do to recharge when they are feeling burned out so they can get back on track and feel unburdened and enthusiastic again. We were all sharing tips, when someone stated that we were being ridiculous, since our jobs were not that hard compared to others. This individual said we should consider people with "real" high-stress jobs -- those who face mortal peril or physical harm on a daily basis -- and see how good we had it that we were simply frustrated in being unable to help every student achieve their greatest and reach their full potential.

I think this is a big part of the problem.

Yes, I agree that people who work in coal mines and go to war have very difficult jobs, some of the most difficult jobs in the world, but does comparing what I do to what they do make it any easier for me to teach people who at times seem to not want to learn? Does it make it any easier to hear people say that I am not making a difference in students' lives because not every student in America has received/retained the same level of education?


Part of the reason educators often feel they have reached the end of their ropes or that they have no one to reach out to, or there just isn't enough time in the day to accomplish what they need to accomplish and then also reach above and beyond and find new techniques and curriculum is because of the perception many people have of educators. Many people are unafraid to voice their beliefs that educators spend their day recycling their same old lesson plans and sitting at their desks, counting down the days until their "free" summer vacations. 

I agree that there are people in every profession who are just phoning it in. I'm sure there are teachers who make copies of the same worksheets they found in 1978, have the students grade each others' work, and call it a day. However, I haven't actually met any of those people. I have taught at every level of education, from Nursery school to college (my current gig), and I can tell you there are angry educators out there, there are frustrated educators out there, there are ones on the verge of giving up, but none of these people are sitting around and doing nothing about it. They are sending extra e-mails, staying later, coming in earlier, spending their paychecks on materials for their classrooms, and constantly asking others for advice and tips and guidance. While at times it seems like there are too many students who don't want to hear what they have to say and parents and administration who can do nothing to help, they are not saying "To heck with it. These kids will never learn, so why bother trying to help them?" Instead, they are trying new ways to help them, but still have to hear at every turn that they are lazy and ineffective.

Being an educator is a hard job, and many times a thankless job. Sure, I get a handful of e-mails at the end of every quarter thanking me for being a great teacher, but it doesn't feel like much compared to all the complaints, the yelling, and the whining. It's a hard job, and it's made even harder by people telling you that you not only have an "easy job," but you're bad at it if even one student doesn't reach his or her full potential. That's a lot of pressure. It might not be as much pressure as someone facing enemy fire, but it's stressful nonetheless.

I would like to thank Mission Possible for sponsoring this post, and am happy to tell you that I also have a copy of the book to give to one reader! If you would like a copy of this book delivered to your front door, all you have to do is ...

1. Be a follower on Google Friend Connect
2. Leave a comment telling me why you are interested in the book 
3. Leave your e-mail address if it isn't already attached to your profile (so I can notify the winner)

I will choose a winner at random on Friday, August 10th. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about Mission Possible, click HERE, and if you'd like to learn more about the author Eva Moskowitz, you can check out her facebook page ( and follow her on Twitter (

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sponsored Post: Dove VisibleCare Body Wash and a $500 Spa Finder gift card Giveaway!

I'm gonna get real with you. When I was offered a bottle of Dove body wash to review, I may have shouted HELL YEAH! into the computer. I'm already a Dove fan in general, so to get a new product to try out sounded like a win-win situation.

Now I'm going to get even more real with you. Shower time is still not guaranteed time in my house, and it often needs to take place in four minutes or less. I thought it was hard trying to fit in a shower when Josephine was little, but these days, when I am third-trimester-supposed-to-be-on-bed-rest tired and Josephine is a destructive little toddler, I find shower time is hard to come by. 

Sure, I could get up early and take a shower before Josephine wakes up, but I love sleep and don't get much of it. I could take a shower at night after she goes to bed, which is what I often plan to do, but then I am so burned out that I often consider asking Jeremy to push me up the stairs. Therefore, my daytime showers involve Josephine destroying things in the bathroom (her current favorite is using her bath markers on surfaces other than tile that the marker does not wash off of) while I rush through the fastest shower imaginable. This does not leave much time for me to focus on making things "soft" or "attractive" while I am in the shower. It's a race to get clean, and I have none of the pampering I so desperately need.

What this really breaks down to is, I need something that I can use in in my allotted "beauty time" (which is next to nothing) that will actually work and make my skin feel great. I am happy to report that Dove has accomplished just that.

Dove® VisibleCare Softening Crème Body Wash promises visually more beautiful skin in just one week. I'm not at all good at lying, especially about things I don't like, so you can take my word for it when I say my skin was visually more beautiful and MUCH softer after the very first use. It was pretty awesome.

Dove® VisibleCare Softening Crème Body Wash smelled delicious, and was thick and luxurious. I have been using the store brand of a "big name" body wash for years now, and it's *fine*, but the difference between the two was drastic. There were thick, lovely bubbles that didn't immediately slide off and go down the drain. The scent was strong enough so you could enjoy it but subtle enough that it wouldn't assault the nose of someone who is sensitive to scents (I have quite a few in my family, so that is confirmed). When I stepped out the shower, my skin didn't immediately feel like it was drying up like the dessert. In fact, it felt just as good as when I put lotion on after my old body wash. Hours later, my skin still feels great and the soft scent lingers. 

According to Dove, this is a revolutionary line of premium body wash because it contains the highest concentration of NutriumMoisture technology. It is available in three variants: Toning Body Wash helps to promote skin’s elasticity and strength, Renewing Body Wash nourishes and replenishes skin, and Softening Body Wash softens skin and dry spots. I am glad I was sent Softening, because even in the summer months, my skin could use a little help, if you know what I mean.
The best part is that I can easily switch to this brand and not feel guilty. At only $6.69 a bottle, it is a steal for how well it works. Feel free to head on over to to learn more.

Now, I have some awesome things for you. First up, a coupon!:
Visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off!

Next, a chance to win a $500 Spa Finder gift card!! Let me know one of your beauty secrets in the comments section, and then click away below to enter the sweepstakes! Good luck!

Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates!
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt
b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.
c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/18/2012 - 8/22/2012
Be sure to visit the Dove® VisibleCare™ Crème Body Wash brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sponsored Post: Kleenex Hand Towels & Guest-ready Bathrooms

As you know by now, we are BUYING OUR FIRST HOME, and I could not be more excited. However, while the house is "livable" (minus the living room wall color. SHUDDER.), there are lots of little things I am dying to do to spruce the house up and make it ours. 

One of the easier projects is going to be the bathroom that guests use. The bathroom is okay ...

But I think it would also be relatively easy to make it look much, much nicer. Since the previous owners almost had an all-white theme going there, I thought it would be fun to finish the all-white idea and then punctuate it with a nice bright color.

I think this make-over could be accomplished in five easy steps.

So, STEP ONE would be to paint that vanity white (a new one would be nice, but painting it would obviously be a cheap solution.

For STEP TWO, I chose my punch of color and found the perfect shower curtain in that color (and eliminated the tree shower curtain, which, frankly made me uncomfortable -- it's a bit too much for such a small space!).

Aquamarine panels

Yes, yes, these are drapery panels and not a shower curtain, but I ADORE them, and I promise you this -- I will find a shower curtain in this pattern, or I will die trying.

STEP THREE: since the big, dated medicine cabinet is taking up a lot of wall space but not offering much storage, I would rip that out and replace it with a simple white medicine cabinet.

That way, I have room for STEP FOUR: Adding in a cute wall cabinet over the toilet, also in white, of course, so the aquamarine will stand out.

Which leaves me at STEP FIVE: adding a few aqua accessories to pull it all together.

I found this beautiful mosaic mirror on etsy, which would look beautiful on the opposite wall, above the towel rack.

And a few of these glass jars in shades of blue would bring a great dose of color on the shelf beneath the new wall cabinet.

But you want to see what the finished product would look like, right? You want to see a vision board of my guest-ready bathroom, produced on my super-fancy design software. Here you go, ladies and gents!

BOOM! Made in Paint, loved by all. Veronica's bathroom-to-be. 

I hope all your bathroom make-overs are that easy or even easier. Enjoy your summer entertaining!

Join the 14 million people who have already joined the Clean Hands campaign by using Kleenex Hand Towels, and click here for savings and more! 

I was selected for participation in this campaign as a member of Clever Girls Collective.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How We Named Josephine AND a HUGE GIVEAWAY!

Choosing the name for our first child was a long and daunting process. I had a lot of criteria:
  1. I prefer longer names that have the option to be shortened, since if you have a short name, that's all you've got. I love options.
  2. I wanted something that was classic and traditional. 
  3. I wanted something uncommon, but not "you-nique." I didn't want her to have to be one of five girls in her class with the same name, but also didn't want people to hear her name and make a "huh?" face.
  4. I wanted it to be "pretty." I like serious names and I like fun names, but I really wanted something a little girly.
  5. I wanted to avoid names that had nicknames that I hated. 
I also had a long list of names, most of which were very long, sing-songy, and Italian.
Jeremy had different criteria:
  1. Jeremy had to like the name.
He also had a list of names that were WILDLY different than my own list. Many were one-syllable and not what I would consider "pretty" -- there were a lot of harsh edges to the names he liked. When I thought of names for my little girl, I thought of something that people would hear and think, Oh, how beautiful! That could be the name of a princess! not Oh, yeah, we have a dog with that name ... a male dog.

The other big struggle we were having at this time was that I NEEDED to know the sex of the baby, and he REALLY wanted to be surprised. A few days before the 20-week ultrasound, I swore if he let me learn the gender, he could name the baby. I assumed he would see how desperate I was, agree, and then not hold me to my promise.

I was wrong.

So, from his top-three favorites, he chose Scarlett. I liked it ... but I was having a really hard time with people trying to shorten her name and calling her "Scar" or "Lettie." I told Jeremy I would sit with it, and I did, for months, until one day I broke down crying, saying it was a beautiful name, but I just didn't think it was HER name. There were plenty of those names on our lists, actually. We liked them in theory, and if someone else used them, we would think "how pretty!" but it just wasn't the name for OUR kid we were imagining growing in there.

Jeremy took it pretty well, and we were back to the drawing board. It was not going well. Then, all of a sudden, when I was about 7.5 or 8 months pregnant (I know!), I was walking across campus to teach a class and the baby kicked me so hard I doubled over in pain. When it happened, I shouted at her ... and I called her by name ... and I called her "Josie."

To say that took me by surprise is an understatement. Jeremy had been making a case for the name Josephine for YEARS (obviously the argument heated up a bit when I actually got pregnant!), and he always said he would love to use Josie as a nickname. In the past, whenever he brought up Josephine, I couldn't get past the fact that it was just a male name with an "ine" tacked onto the end, which, I suppose is the appeal for many people. Jeremy has always loved the name Josephine, and as he had already pointed out to me countless times, it was a family name for both of us, so that would be a nice bonus for everyone (my maternal grandfather is Joseph, my father's beloved godmother was Josephine, and there are multiple Josephines on Jeremy's family tree -- not as close, but there nonetheless). Jeremy loves history and tradition, so this made him love the name even more.

It was the weirdest thing. I went from not even considering the name to knowing it was "the one," all in the span of a baby kick, but that's exactly what happened. From that moment on, I did not have a single doubt about her name. It was perfect and I knew it would fit her.

Our little girl was named Josephine Isabelle, and we could not love it any more.

I love Josephine because it is a classic name that can take all different forms. She can be "Josephine" and be strong, classic, and reliable, whlie still being girly; she can be "Josie" and be cute and spunky; she can be "Jo" or "Joey" and be a tomboy. On top of all that, her name has great rhymes and has spawned nicknames like Josephine the Bean and Josephine the Queen. I love Isabelle because it was my grandmother's name, a name I always loved and wanted to use for a daughter. Unfortunately, it got awfully popular in the last few years, otherwise, I would have lobbied to have it be her first name.

Even though it took a long time and a lot of tears on my part, we found the perfect name and we love it!

Now I'm 30 weeks pregnant with our second little girl ... and the battle is in full swing again!

It wasn’t easy, but that is how I decided on my baby’s name. How did you decide on your baby’s name? Or do you have a great story on how your parents decided on your name? Tell me for a chance to win a year’s supply of cards from! has expanded their offering of birth announcements!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cardstore. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules.