Summer + Stars & Stripes

My favorite holiday is the 4th of July! What's not to love? It's light out until 9pm, popsicles and ice cream can qualify as dinner, & your weekend wardrobe usually involves a swimsuit or sun dress. Combine that with the smell of fireworks + country music + all your friends and family outside and you've wrapped up one of the best days/nights of summer!

So, I dedicate this post specifically to my two favorites: Summer and the Stars and Stripes.

First off, the 4th of July! I'm more of a minimalist when it comes to dressing for holidays. I like subtle accents (plus it's kinder on the ol' budget). I've been loving these Patriotic headbands and think they'd be SO cute with a white flowy top & sunkissed skin!

Now to the other, equally important favorite: Summer

Anyone that knows me knows I'm a warm weather / rather-be-at-the-beach type of person. So it makes sense that my favorite season to style is summer.

I LOVE the first romper and continue to have my eye on it hoping *so* much it goes on sale! Keep scrolling below --> I wear the Adidas shoes a ton because they are so comfy + stylish! They're a staple right now!


I LOVE this dress but haven't sealed the deal yet! Love the skinny straps for summer or throw a stylish jean jacket over it for work. I also bought 2 of these comfy, cute A-line dresses and wear them constantly! (I have the heather grey & the striped).

Dear Summer,
You're my favorite. Every bit of you. Don't leave us too soon!

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How to Stay Disconnected

Yep. You heard it right. Coming from a girl who just started a blog and should be trying to 'connect' and I'm spilling advice otherwise.

The (probably obvious) truth is that we are more connected than ever, but less committed. Did you know people actually buy likes & followers on social media? It's real. And happens all the time. It somehow makes that person or business seem more validated. When I read this article, my heart sank. Often people are so wrapped up in the nonessentials that many forget to enjoy their own life. 

I now take my pleasures seriously. And the only way I could do that successfully was to disconnect.

About 6 months ago I decided to disconnect. Not altogether. Just reduce time spent on my phone. I wanted to lead a more intentional life. So, I decided to go old school! (I mean really -- what would Friends look like if it were filmed now)?  When I'm with my family & friends, the time on my phone is either non-existent or cut short. I pick up the phone and call a friend when I'm thinking about them. I read more. Run more. Enjoy the outdoors more. I have less distraction and more fullfillment.

We live in a very digitally connected world and there are so many benefits!  However, it can also feel overwhelming. Below are a few things I do to stay balanced personally & digitally:

  • I rarely get on social media when I wake up (probably because my alarm is set for the exact amount of time I need to get ready). Basically, 'I ain't got no time for that!' 
  • Relax before bed. No aimless scrolling for me! 30-45 minutes before bed, I disconnect.
  • Give yourself a time frame. For me, I try to disengage from my phone until after I've gotten home, worked out, and started making dinner.
  • I don't always check my work email in the evening. Honestly, most of my responses can wait until morning.
  • The Daily Skimm: News that's to the point + is written w/ some sarcasm and wit. It's my digital one-stop newsstand sent straight to my email every morning. No more checking various portals for me! Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Shonda Rhimes, + many others are Skimm'ers too! Oh, and bonus - it's free!
  • Feedly.com: If you're a blogger or simply love reading blogs, this is an organizational dream. Instead of cramming your bookmarks bar or trying to remember 'that one blog that had that one thing I loved,' subscribe to Feedly. I do the free version which allows me to create 3 categories to house the blogs I enjoy. So when I have time, I can reconnect efficiently.

When you know something, really know something, it tends to stand the test of time. The things that mattered most back in the day (or 'old school' as I mentioned above) are still things that matter now. I'm editing Lee Ann Womack's song a little bit but I think she'll be okay with it:

"When you get the choice to sit it out or (scroll on your phone), I hope you dance."

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Giving > Receiving

3 years ago I was sitting in church and was admittedly distracted. I kept thinking about my students. Since my first year of teaching, I always did a lesson around the holidays on the difference between a want and a need. I always talked about the importance of giving and how special it can be. Yet, I never really felt like it stuck. I kept thinking, 'How do I make this more real to them? How can I put giving into action?'

After the sermon was over, our associate pastor shared there were a handful of families around our Lee's Summit community that still needed to be adopted for the holidays. All the sudden I was sitting straight up, eyes wide open, all ears. ALL IN.

I went (okay ran) after the service to adopt one for my classroom. And let me tell you -- it's one of the best decisions I've made as a teacher. To try and explain the magic in my classroom well...you'd just have to be there. They go from naming all the things they want from Santa to becoming 'thinking of others' kids. (I once received an email from a parent saying they will be donating new socks because the night before their son emptied out his whole sock drawer for the kids in our adopt-a-family). Don't worry, she (and I) laughed & loved every ounce of his thoughtful soul.

Two years ago one of my boys came bouncing off the bus & could barely make it to my door saying, "Miss Russell, I wasn't greedy!" He proceeded to tell me the night before another boy in our class arrived at our school-wide Holiday Shop as it was closing & didn't get to buy anthing. So, he gave his friend the 2 things he purchased instead. I'll never forget what he said next, "Miss Russell, Christmas means giving away what you really love to others." He couldn't stop smiling. And neither could I.  That comment was one of my favorite Christmas presents. They got it. It stuck.

I could write a whole post about their sweet comments & actions. Instead, I thought their kind hearts may have inspired you to think of others. Below are ways you can spread love this holiday season.

How to Help in Your Community

*Call an elementary/middle/high school and ask if there are families in need. They will not give you names, but will give you a list of wants/needs and clothing sizes. You're in trusted hands.

*Call local churches in your area and ask if there are families in need. Often churches also take donations for specific organizations as well.

*Lee's Summit Residents: Coldwater is a nonprofit centered in LS. They provide food and clothing for those in need and are always looking for donations.

*Hillcrest Transitional Housing: Hillcrest offers homeless families, singles, and youth a disciplined education program within a caring, supportive environment. This is not a one-time visit. Their objective is to move people from homelessness to self-sufficiency within 90 days. Housing facilities are located in Independence, Sugar Creek, Lee's Summit, St. Joseph, Overland Park, and Kansas City. Donations are welcomed.

"Freely you have received. Freely give." -Matthew 10:8

Merry Christmas from my little classroom family!

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

If you're a teacher, you know that as Christmas break approaches, the crazier the kids get. Every year. No matter how many morning class meetings I schedule, holiday stickers I give out, or how many times I remind the kids our Elf on the Shelf is reporting back to Santa, the craziness takes over. The Christmas magic in a child's eyes is hard to contain. And honestly, I don't ever want to squash it. They're only little once. So I jump on that I-need-more-coffee-I-should-stop-for-a-donut-I'll-order-out-when-I-get-home-so-I-don't-pull-my-hair-out train & try to be the opposite of Scrooge on that final stretch!

Our assistant principal understands the craziness that will inevitably happen within the next 3.5 weeks. As we were crawling toward the Thanksgiving finish line last week, we received this email below that started today with "Stuff" Yourself into Sweats or Stretchy Pants. (Yes, I'm very aware I hit the Colleague Jackpot).

CandyLand-@-SVEs-Snow-Village.pdf

Regardless of your work setting, the holidays can be a stressful time! Consider adopting this staff Candyland gem and making your work environment a little more cheerful this holiday season!

Your colleagues will thank you (probably over and over again)!

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All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan


"Instead of turkey we'll have Mahi-Mahi grillin & pina coladas in the blender chillin."

Dear Santa,
All I want for Christmas is a real good tan. (It's what I tell my Kinders every year...& then cue the Kenny Chesney song)!

Last year, my Christmas came a little early. Our Thanksgiving trip to Key West was one of my favorite island trips. And I gotta say, being on an island over the holidays (which has always been a dream of mine) lived up to its potential.

If you're going to do Key West, you gotta do it the right way: Fly into Ft. Lauderdale, rent a car, and drive Highway 1 until you hit Key West. I'm tellin' ya, you'll feel like you're living in one of those beachy Zac Brown Band videos.

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale late Tuesday night, drove to Key Largo (we didn't get into Key Largo until about 12:30am) and stayed in a motel the first night (why pay a ton of $$ for 7 hrs of sleep)? We woke up on Wednesday around 8, stopped to get coffee (a must), and began our adventure around Key Largo. While there we stumbled upon some boutiques, restaurants on the water, and met some of the nicest people...one specifically at April Daze Boutique. It had cute clothes, decor for your home with an island flair, unique jewlery, & one of the owners is originally from Olathe, KS! It's a hidden gem and a must-stop as you're driving through the Keys!

Next stop: Islamorada.
Islamorada is gorgeous and has some great places to stay if you're looking for a quieter setting. The Islander Resort is SO cute, quiet, has a family-style motel feel, and was updated in 2004. (Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma caused severe damage to this cute little place). However, their sister resort (Islander Bayside Resort on mile marker 81) was spared and is open!

Next stop: Marathon
I'm a scuba diver & Marathon is known in the Keys for diving! November isn't their peak season (+ the water was coooldd) so I opted out. However, if you go to Marathon in the summer, you need to stop! We 'beached it' for a few hours in Marathon. I wish I could tell you which beach we stopped at...but that's the fun of having no plan. We just stopped at one that was especially pretty 😉 

Final stop: Key West
You won't need a car. Everything is within walking (or scooter) distance. We turned in our rental car at the Key West Airport and grabbed a cab to our hotel on Duval Street. Duval Street is the heart of Key West. If you enjoy being close to restaurants, bars, and shops, you'll want to stay close to this area. There's SO much to do in Key West. Duval Street alone can keep you busy all day & all night! I'm leaving my top 2 recommendations while in Key West:

  • Rent a scooter & explore like a true islander! It's SO cheap & SO fun! We spent the morning adjusting to the scooter (ok that was just me) then spent the afternoon @ Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (I would suggest this public beach because it's kept up by the Navy & seemed cleaner + with a better view). We got hungry for Key Lime Pie & scooted back to Duval to hit up 2-3 places for pie! (If it's not already obvious, eat LOTS of Key Lime Pie).
  • Eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner on Sunset Key @ Latitudes. You can stay on Sunset Key (which would be dreamy too)! You just have to take a quick 10 minute boat ride into town. We ate breakfast there on the patio (the only way to do it) and it was outstanding!

I'm a home-for-the-holidays girl. Or was. That was pre-Key West. I'm staying in KC this year, but there's a piece of my heart that's still hoping Santa will jet me off to a beach (or at least deliver some realllly good Key Lime Pie).

Sending warm wishes to you this Holiday Season!

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Living Out Our Important Things

I believe most teachers have a passion for their career. I am one of them. I strive to give my students the best possible education I can. I'm also a BIG believer in letting them be little.

Hi! I'm Regan. This blog has been in the works for close to a year and I am finally (thanks to a few wonderful people) taking a leap of faith. I wanted to create a place where people could go of all ages and professional roles and leave feeling 'fed.' It's a reminder of hope that is naturally found in our children. Whether you leave challenged, refreshed, with resources, or shopping tips (this post is already in the works...couldn't help it), this blog was created for us all.

Let them be little. It's a beautiful phrase. In the modern day classroom however, this can sometimes feel hard to attain. I hit a point this fall where I felt off balance from the various roles we all play in our profession. I had to take a step back and reflect:

What do I remember about my schooling experience? What’s essential?

As a Kindergarten teacher, my thoughts naturally flashed back to my kindergarten classroom and my beloved teacher Mrs. Forrest. I remember everything about her. And I knew, even at the young, naïve age of five, that I was lucky to have her.

The realization I had when thinking about my kindergarten teacher and its experience was this: I didn’t pay attention to all of Mrs. Forrest’s traits because I was an observant child. I took notice because I loved and respected her. Because she cared for me, I took interest and cared about her.

It is very possible that educators have more on their plate now than ever before. Some days it feels similar to having about 82 tabs open on a computer and I am just trying to X them out as the day progresses (and as I typed that I actually said out loud 'ugh yes!' So, I'm sure many of you can relate)! Is this the reality & daily grind some days? Yes. That’s life. But, does it have to be? Actually, no.

I slowly realized that if everything is a priority, then nothing truly is. I had to figure out: What are my important things?

Out of all the amazing things we undoubtedly did in Mrs. Forrest’s classroom, the memories I kept centered around ‘experiences.’ Part of the experience of school is being your age. Whether it was learning the letter Dd and my dad bringing in donuts, meeting my best friend (who is still one of my best friends to this day), singing songs together as a class, or playing in the home living center that was set up like a treehouse, all of these experiences mattered.

So, what’s at the top of my list of important things?

As passionate as I am about laying the academic foundation for their education and introducing lifelong curricular skills, I am equally as passionate about letting them be little. Whether it’s walking to see the horses that neighbor our school, partying kindi-style the day after the Royals won the World Series, or stopping a lesson because a students’ dog died the night before, all of these things are significant. And these little things that usually take no more than 10 minutes out of our day, end up being the big things; the things the kids remember the most.

 World Series Champions > all lesson plans

Experiences matter. Joy matters. Being present matters. And most importantly, letting them be little matters. Whether you’re an educator or not, think about the different roles you play in life and ask yourself: 'What are my important things?’

(If your list gets really long well...try it again. This isn't a to-do list. It's a list of the things that matter most to you).

Now what? You make them a priority. You live it. Because it's time we start living out our important things.

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