30 Day Challenges

I am a little obsessed with before-and-after’s, especially when they involve a 30 day challenge (thanks buzzfeed). In the spirit of trying new things I am going make 2016 the year of 30 Day Challenges. Some might be silly, some will be hard, but all of them will be designed to help teachers better manage work/life balance. S0….get ready for challenge #1. The teacher bag challenge.

(also if you are already awesome and have zero issues with keeping your work bag organized feel free to share tips and tricks in the comments. Also, stick around because I am also doing a lifestyle challenge.


Waiting for AL

I  am waiting for a friend. A dear friend, a friend who is going to help me with a project, but also a chronically never actually on time friend. Which means that I have been waiting at Starbucks for a crazy amount of time. However, I chose to do this, and in the amount of time I have spent waiting I have updated my desktop, downloaded a word processing software, checked and rechecked Facebook, drank a bunch of tea, and ate a blueberry scone. I also googled “work-life balance and teachers”. I thought I would find a BUNCH of stuff on this topic because it is always a topic when I get together with other teachers. However, I didn’t find much-and I didn’t find what I was looking for. Data from teachers-people in the trenches of education-trying to balance an enormous workload with replenishing one’s spirit and soul.

I have spent a lot of time this break trying to find some restoration. Restoration in my spiritual practice and restoration in my teaching practice. What has happened is that I, for the first time in forever (cue Frozen song) I am not particularly stressed. And this has led to me wanting to design my own 30 day challenges. To find and blog about the illusive work-life balance and how to keep this calmness that i have found.

The First Few Weeks of School

Any teacher worth their weight in “teachering” has read Wong’s book on how to start the school year strong. I am convinced he missed a chapter, ‘How to Not Die During these First Few Weeks’–a working title. Gone from my life are the days of making breakfasts and lunches for the week, or working out in the morning….of updating my planner. They have been interrupted with email responses at 4:45 in the morning, with more coffee then I would like, and a constant urge to make sure that I don’t have lice. Yes friends, school has started. This is the first year that I am consciously allowing my body to adjust to these first few weeks. Last week, our first week of instruction, was about getting through the week. This week is about reestablishing some basic routines-like cleaning the house, and waking up early. I am refusing to beat myself up over not having any work-life balance, or for having to make a breakfast everyday. I am trying to practice the art form of being kind. Being kind to others, and myself.

There is one goal that I have been pretty proud of, and that is leaving my desk neat and clean each day when I leave. Today, the plan is to open the planner and use it! I’m kind of excited, I’ve missed it.

Make these muffins

Last weYummy muffinsekend I discovered this amazing recipe for breakfast muffins.

They are easy to make, delicious, and when individually wrapped and placed in the fridge they are a great way to start the day.

A couple notes on them:

  1. It is okay if you don’t have maple syrup-just use sugar.
  2. I put chocolate chips and crasins in mine-and they are the perfect combo of tart and sweet.
Baked Oatmeal Cups from http://www.wifeinprogressblog.com
Yields 9
A quick and easy breakfast using Quaker Instant Oatmeal
  1. 5 packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal (equivalent of 2 cups – any oatmeal will work)
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 cup of apple sauce or mashed banana (I used applesauce)
  5. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (Grade A)
  8. 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil (or melted butter)
  9. Optional for batter: nuts, finely chopped fruit, chocolate chips
  10. Toppings: Fruit, nuts, chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake pan with 9 cupcake liners.
  2. Combine oatmeal and other dry ingredients in a bowl (including nuts or chocolate chips if you’re using them)
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together maple syrup, banana/applesauce, egg, melted coconut oil and vanilla
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, leaving some space for each cake to rise.
  6. Place any toppings of nuts, fruit or chocolate chips on top.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and wet ingredients are fully absorbed.
  8. These can be stored in the refrigerator. Eat warm, chilled or at room temperature.

Week 3-Almost a habit

Week 3 Was TOUGH!!!!

Some planner thoughts from the week. When I don’t write down my chores-I “forget” to do them. Even if they are set to remind me on EVERY SINGLE APPLE DEVICE I OWN! I still don’t do them.

This week was also full of school “to-dos”. Most of which I got done without having to take work home-which is of course the goal for this school year. To not spend every waking moment working. Challenge part 1 has been to use the planner. Challenge part 2 has been to work out every morning. With the exception of two days this week I have pulled myself out of bed at 5 am and worked out for 30 minutes. Still can’t seem to bring myself to go to the gym after school-maybe this week?

Finally, i have been trying to figure out why I am not nearly as stressed about school starting as I have been in the past. Some have suggested it is because I have been doing this for a while now and I feel comfortable. I am not sure if I agree. Anyone who knows me knows I am a high stress individual.

I think it is deeper. I have been spending a lot of time in prayer recently. The stress of a spouse being without work has put all other stress into perspective. There are many things that I worry about in life that I have absolutely no control over, and that is a pretty foolish thing to do. The only thing I can control is my response to things (positive or negative) that are placed in my way. I cannot do anything else.

I think this is the secret sauce for finding work/life balance. I am the controller of my own time. I cannot blame anyone else for the choices I make. The choice to stay late at school, the choice to put something off, or the choice to stop working at a decent hour are things I decide to do-not my school.

It is about making the daily (sometimes hourly) decision about what is most important in my life.

Challenge Update-Week 2

Good Morning! Today ends week 2 of my planner challenge and I am surprised with how successful I have been these last two weeks.  I have not been great about completing my task lists-but I have been using and following the planner consistently. Along with that I have been able to keep up with my “chores”. Side note-if you have not checked out Apartment Therapy’s 20 minute house cleaning list-look at it now! It is life changing. I have always struggled with keeping my house picked up daily. I’m not messy-just was okay with doing a massive pick-up and clean every Saturday. Now I just pick up for 20 minutes and I’m done.

Another benefit of using the planner is that I have been more motivated to work out. They don’t seem very related-but I have been logging each of my Ballet Beautiful workouts (or non workouts) and being able to see that in my planner has motivated me. However, it has not motivated me to swim-and that is clearly written in my planner 🙂

My planner struggle for this week will be determining how to write down all the school prep stuff I need to do while still keeping the planner usable and nice to look at. For this week, I cut up some lined paper and taped it on the side-I’m not confident that this will help-but we all must start somewhere.

Be on the lookout for THREE additional posts this week: my Ipsy bag review (first ever!), my workout review, and another planner update –> and yes all of those are already written down in the planner 🙂

The Week of the Planner


I love planners. I love looking at them, buying them, pretending I will use them. In fact, buying them and losing them (or pretending to lose them because I am ashamed of not using them) has become kind of a Harris trademark. This year I want to be different-and so I made a plan (on a post-it, because I lost my planner). My first step was to watch copious amounts of YouTube to find out how to decorate my planner. Numerous hours and Advil later-because some people should not make YouTube videos I had some good ideas-most of which involve Washi tape. Step two was to buy the planner and Washi tape. I settled on the Moleskine hardbound large planner in black. I am mostly pleased with this planner, but probably would have purchased the extra-large. Step 3 is where I essentially fail every year. The putting of things in the planner……I tackled this using the Washi tape. I put in really big things (like school starting, when our finals are,etc.) in first, and used pretty tape to do it. Then I made the life altering decision to start weeks on Monday. You may laugh-I am kinda laughing at that sentence anyway. For as long as I can remember, Sunday has been the start to a new week. BUT my planner has Monday as the first day……a planning dilemma/ or an excuse to not use the planner.

I began to think about what it means if Sunday ends my week. If Sunday ends my week then I can use Sunday to plan for the upcoming week, I can have a day of rest and relaxation, and I can really view it as an end. Yeah-this might be crap-but I’m going with it for the time being. Also, I can spend Sunday evening updating my planner for the coming week.

The week of the planner has been a success. I am remembering to check it, add things to it, and have not forgotten to do things because I am constantly reminded of them. My house is clean, and I am in a calmer state of mind.

Here is the left side of my planner for last week.
Here is the left side of my planner for last week.
Here is the right side of my planner from last week.
Here is the right side of my planner from last week.

20 Day Challenge

I love going down the rabbit hole that it blogging; being a fly on the wall of someone else’s life-even someone I don’t know. The blogs I love the most are blogs that are updated regularly and have some sort of theme. My theme for the next little while will be just to get into the habit of blogging regularly. Everyday. There might be guest author’s-but for the most part it will be me…writing…everyday…prepare yourselves.

Day 2-Where did all this grading come from

Today was a rough day. My planning time at school was spent in meetings, and since today was my long teaching day I did not get as much done as I would have liked. Also, there was a meeting after school. Even though it was a very long day, I managed to not eat any dairy or gluten (and I really wanted some ice cream-but I resisted. 

In terms of the house cleaning. Today’s task was to clean the fridge, and unlike yesterday I did the required chore. This chore wasn’t bad though because Lee had cleaned out the fridge last week. I also chose to spend five minutes cleaning the entry way-and although I am not nearly done with work-I at least feel better about the house.



Now on to more grading!