Jan 23

Book Review: Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Berlin Boxing Club Book Review: Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
“Today you had a very important lesson on taking punches. A lot of people will tell you that the first thing you have to learn is how to take a punch. But I believe the first thing you should know is that you can take one and survive. A punch won’t kill you. Conquering your fear is the first step to becoming a powerful fighter.”

 Berlin Boxing Club is a nice work of historical fiction, a book to get those reluctant teen boy readers to read.  The story follows a young teenager named Karl Stern, a non-practicing Jew living in Germany at the start of the Nazi takeover.  Luckily for Karl he does not possess the typical physical characteristics of a Jewish person and escapes most of the ridicule and abuse other Jews including his little sister face on a daily basis.  Eventually his secret is exposed and when his fellow classmates bully and beat him at school Karl becomes ashamed at his inability to defend himself.

Fortunately for Karl his life takes a dramatic change of course one evening while helping his father in his art gallery.  Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, who is on friendly terms with Karl’s dad, asks about a special painting that he wants, but is not for sell.  In order to get Karl’s dad to give up the painting he offers to train his son.  Karl’s dad reluctantly agrees and Karl starts to see himself in a completely different light and grasps with both hands the chance to reinvent himself.

Over time Karl becomes a strong, self-reliant young man and with the help of the greatest boxer in his country a well-respected amateur fighter, but Schmeling and the other boxers he trains with does not know Karl’s family history.  And as Nazism takes hold in Germany and Nazi violence against Jews escalates Karl finds himself struggling with his rising fame as a boxer and keeping his secret safe.

I really enjoyed reading the Berlin Boxing Club and thought that this was the perfect book to get some of my reluctant students reading.  I enjoyed the internal struggle that Karl faces with standing up for his Jewish faith while at the same time realizing that letting people know that he is Jewish could jeopardize every relationship that he has.   Telling the story from that point of view I thought was very creative and original way to look at Jewish experience in pre-World War II Germany.  I give the Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow 4 shells out of 5.

Jan 14

McKayla’s Week 6

15653463034 7b42b43cd6 z McKaylas Week 6

I remember week six being a milestone with McKenna.  The first five weeks were so challenging and by the sixth week things were FINALLY starting to settle into place.  It has been so much easier this time around with McKayla.  I don’t know if that’s because she’s a more mellow baby or if it’s because this isn’t my first rodeo.  Either way, things are going pretty great.  I seem to be visiting my parents house pretty regularly now a days just as a treat to have some company and they are also such a help with my girls.  Eventually I’ll be able to do it all by myself all the time but for now I am so thankful for the help.  Kenny taught Saturday school and did some work with my Dad on Sunday so it didn’t seem like much of a weekend but that’s okay, we have this coming weekend to look forward to and it’s supposed to be really nice weather.  Maybe a trip to the zoo is in store (McKayla’s first).

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Going to my Mom and Dad’s is SUCH a highlight for me.  It brightens my day and is such a blessing to me.  I am thankful they live close and are willing to help me.

Kenny- Coming home from my busy days is always a treat, I miss my girls.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- I am really loving this new nursing bra I bought.  It is super comfortable and easy to operate (I can hook and unhook it with one hand when necessary).  I even bought one as a Christmas present!  It’s a Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra.

Kenny- We bought a new sound machine to use with McKayla.  It was inexpensive, can be battery powered if you need it to be portable and it makes great sounds.  We are really liking it.  It’s a MyBaby Sounds Spa Portable.

McKenna and McKayla Week 6 Picture

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Karen- My main struggle right now is trying to get both girls and myself ready and out the door.  Just the last minute little things like getting McKenna’s coat, shoes and hat on….getting McKayla in her carseat….gathering up my purse, diaperbag, coat etc…. I’m usually sweating and we’re all kind of in a tizzy by the time we get settled into the car.  Whew!

Kenny- Both girls have not been sleeping well this week.  We had been doing so great the last six weeks and it all just kind of fell apart this week.  Hopefully we will get back on track quickly.

Picture of the Week    

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Something we’ve learned:

Karen- I have to keep reminding myself that this stage of my life isn’t permanent.  I won’t always be changing diapers and nursing around the clock.  I won’t always be so busy I don’t have time to shower or clean my house.  I won’t always have a little two year old begging for my attention and I need to step back and treasure these memories, I’ll miss them one of these days.

Kenny- As long as I keep rocking McKayla’s little Rock ‘n Play she will keep sleeping… it’s a great little calf exercise.  (We may have to get this girl a swing).

Quote of the week:

Mom: (trying to soothe McKayla while simultaneously getting us ready and out the door) “shhhhh”
McKenna: “Shhh…shhhh…no Mommy you’re not shushing her, I’m shushing her….shhhh”

Dad: “McKayla, how was your day today?”
McKenna: (Looking at Dad quizzically) “Daddy she can’t talk…she’s just little”

It has been a great sixth week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 6

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for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 6 weeks old 

Jan 10

School or Education

soe home School or Education

As a public school teacher we are placed under a lot of pressure to provide an education for our students, and rightly so.  That is why I choose that career and have persevered doing it for over a decade.  Unfortunately it gets tougher every year to stay with it.  Do not get me wrong, I love being a teacher, getting my students to think for themselves, care about the subject I teach, and go forth looking to further their education.  So why, from time to time, do I think about giving up my room key and start looking for a different career?  It is because every year it seems like I become less of an educator and more just a school teacher.

You might be thinking that an educator and a school teacher are the same thing, but I do not see it that way.  To me school is just a building, a place where young folks go and spend some time.  School is just something that you had to do.  Education on the other hand is something that lasts a lifetime, and an educator teaches students to develop those skills to make learning a lifetime passion.  Regrettably education has taken a backseat to schooling as an over reliance on standardized testing and teaching to those tests have taken the place of self-discovery, debate, and enjoyment of the educational process.

If the majority of the school day is spent reviewing standards and test taking strategies to pass those standards then school just becomes a place to spend time.  In a lot of ways school is like prison, students buy their time in hopefully with good behavior and good work, pass some test to show they can be a productive member of society, and go on their way.  The idea of developing a life-long education is lost and thus students will fall farther behind their global peers because education becomes less of something that we want and more of something that we just have to do.

I urge you to go out and see what is going on in your local schools, ask your children, nieces and nephews, or other kids you know, see what they learning.  Ask them all how often they work on test taking skills, or spend time doing math and reading but miss out on science and history.  Are they working on self-discovery of material or is just standard after standard?  Are they learning to work in groups, debate, finding their own solutions to problems, learning to think quickly to overcome obstacles skills that will help them in whatever career path they chose or are they just able to answer questions from a test?

To see my other musings about education in the United States click here

picture via http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/colleges/educatio/media/soe-home.jpg (lol assessment driven all teachers are we have to be)

Jan 05

McKayla’s Week 5

16211327495 ee2eb13411 z McKaylas Week 5

This has been SUCH a fun week!!  We celebrated Christmas with my (Karen’s) family and got to spend the week with my sisters, brother-in-laws, nephews and niece.  It was so much wonderful!  McKayla was a little sweetie pie, as usual, and met her family with lots of coos and smiles.  We had good meals, played fun games and just did a lot of relaxing. My favorite!

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Introducing McKayla to Uncle Neil and Aunt Julie (they live out of state and this was their first time to meet her)

Kenny- McKayla handled being in a noisy busy environment like a champ (she slept right through squeals and shouts of five kiddos playing and unwrapping Christmas gifts, wow!)

Product we’re loving:

Karen- We have recently introduced a little Nuk pacifier and McKayla has really taken to it.  I was surprised because McKenna never wanted anything to do with a pacifier, she always just sucked her fingers.  If McKayla is ever having a rough moment, like being in the carseat, having that pacifier seems to make it more tolerable.

Kenny- I have been appreciating her summer infant swaddle blankets.  It really helps her sleep more soundly when she is wrapped up like my little burrito.  We liked the HALO swaddle blankets with McKenna but the summer infant ones seem to work better for a newborn.

McKenna and McKayla Week 5 Picture

16211327995 b51b9619f3 z McKaylas Week 5

Karen- The only struggle this week was trying to get everyone up and around and dressed and ready and diaper bags packed to go to my Mom’s to spend time with the family.  There is no more ‘wake up and jump in the car to go’… it takes a lot more prep work to get four people ready.

Kenny- Trying to get quality photos of my girls.  It’s hard when you just have a tiny window when McKayla is happy to sit still and have pictures taken, then trying to get my settings all right and the background nice , it takes more work than you’d think.

Picture of the Week    

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- Being organized is important.  It saves my sanity to have everything together and laid out and ready to go when I need it.

Kenny- work is much easier than home, but I’d so much rather be at home

Quote of the week:

Karen- My little niece (who’s two)  ”baby…baby… pat pat baby”  She was so excited to meet her new baby cousin.  She loved to come over and pat and kiss the top of McKayla’s little head, so gentle, she’s my sweetheart.

Kenny- McKenna talking to Dad, “want to know a secret…I love you!” (she’s going to make her Daddy cry one of these days)

It has been a great fifth week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 5

16023824718 9c711f60ea z McKaylas Week 5

for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 5 weeks old 

Dec 26

Christmas in the Park: Yukon

16115619512 c3dc420117 z Christmas in the Park: Yukon
Christmas in the Park in Yukon was much bigger and better than we were expecting and it was free! The trifecta of a good family outing, in our minds, (bigger, better, and free) was in effect the other night so we had a wonderful time.  We left being really impressed with the city of Yukon and their holiday display and it is something that we will definitely add to our holiday traditions going forward.  Karen and I are always looking for something fun and free to do and what better way to spend a Christmas evening than looking at the wonderful display put on by the city of Yukon, Oklahoma.
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Yukon, a suburb of Oklahoma City has been putting on their holiday light spectacular since 1995.  Their “Christmas in the Park” celebration has close to 4 million lights on over 400 displays in 2 different city park locations. It is a drive through as well as walk-through Christmas display.  They have a train ride nightly as well as horse drawn carriage rides during the weekends.
16114442141 ff153cf566 z Christmas in the Park: Yukon
Last year our daughter was just about a one and half years old and never a big fan of the car seat so we bypassed taking her to see any Christmas lights.  Now we have a second daughter and she actually enjoys her car seat (on most days) so we thought we would go looking for Christmas displays.  It ended up being a great night.  Our two year old McKenna loved the displays and wanted to go through a second time.  Our youngest daughter McKayla, who is just a few weeks old, slept through the whole thing so a great drive all around.  Next year we hope to get out of the car and walk around a bit.  Yukon has a good thing going and we hope it just keeps getting bigger and better.
16114441811 f34534fc27 z Christmas in the Park: Yukon
Christmas in the Park: Yukon
For more information about the Holiday Display visit

Dec 21

McKayla’s Week 3

16050812536 8e4c527134 z McKaylas Week 3

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already!  Time is just whizzing by and Christmas will be here in just a few more days. Kenny is off work now for two glorious weeks of Christmas vacation and we are soaking up the time with him already.  It is so nice to have another set of hands to help with everything.  Sometimes it feels like I am nursing around the clock (which is good because it means my milk production will be good), it kind of chains me to the couch for a big chunk of the day so it is hard to get much else accomplished right now.  I know it won’t always be like this so I’m trying to just enjoy the time with my little muffin.  McKenna is being such a sweetheart, so patient with me and her little sister.  She is usually content to sit beside me and listen to me read her books while I nurse.  My sweet girls!

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Friday rolling around (meaning it was Kenny’s last day of work so he’s ALL OURS!)

Kenny- I’m finally off work and I get to spend time with all my girls.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- I have used a Moby wrap carrier (borrowed from Aunt Julie) several times on outings and even just around the house so I can use my hands more and McKayla has really loved it.  She usually just snugs right in and goes to sleep.  This is such a blessing if we are out and about like at the grocery store or library.

Kenny- Our rock ‘n play is working great for evenings for me.  McKayla will sleep in it or even just hang out in there while I rock her and interact with her.

McKenna and McKayla Week 3 Picture

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Karen- While I’m nursing for hours on end my mind is usually racing about all the things I need to be doing.  I’m trying to just give myself some grace and focus on my girls for now.

Kenny- Soothing McKayla when she’s wanting to nurse and I have nothing to nurse her with.  It’s usually just for a few minutes while Karen is wrapping up what she’s doing.  Bouncing her on the ball works the best for now.

Picture of the Week    

16050810406 09729648cb z McKaylas Week 3

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- It helps to get a few minutes to myself every once in a while.  Whether it’s a nice warm (uninterrupted) shower or a quick car trip to pick up some dinner, a few minutes of alone time to clear my head and recharge is so wonderful every once in a while.

Kenny- Once you’ve lived through it once it’s easy to live through it a second time.

Quote of the week:

Karen- I was asking McKenna what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas and she quickly responded “I would like another baby just like Kayla”…. oh dear, she may have to wait a while for that wish to be fulfilled.

Kenny- Karen was changing McKayla’s diaper in the other room and I heard her making some funny noises.  Then suddenly she shouted out “Kenny, she just smiled right at me!”.

It has been a great third week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 3

15889178368 5019ab11ea z McKaylas Week 3

for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 3 weeks old 

Dec 16

Granite countertops step 2

16024279265 5b05482416 z Granite countertops step 2
Well after Kenny did a great job jacking up our old countertops it was finally time to bite the bullet and have the new countertops installed.  We had been debating back and forth between two different colors, Giallo Ornamental Extra and Thyphoon Bordeaux.  We finally decided to go with the Giallo Ornamental Extra, it was less expensive and also a more traditional color so we are hoping it will hold up well when it comes to resale value if and when we decide to sell our house.
15998507576 eb3e2da96c z Granite countertops step 2

We shopped around at about six different stores and found the best deal we could and made our purchase.  Our installer set up an appointment about two weeks away and then all we could do was wait.
15402025064 60899b6db3 z Granite countertops step 2
Finally they came out and got everything in place in under an hour.  They installed our beautiful undermount sink and got the hole drilled for our new faucet.  It was so exciting to see things fall into place.  It is still a little hard to envision without the new backsplash in place but it is one step closer to finished and we are loving being able to use our kitchen sink once again.  We are planning to do a natural travertine subway tile backsplash, something like this

travertine Granite countertops step 2

Hopefully you can use your imagination until we get the real thing in place.

Dec 15

McKayla’s Week 2

15412858543 f4d867dbfe z McKaylas Week 2
Two weeks old and such a little joy.  We are so blessed that God shared these two precious girls with us.  We feel so honored to be their Daddy and Mommy.  Even though it may not always be easy, they bring such smiles to our faces we couldn’t imagine life without them.  Knowing from experience that the first six weeks are kind of an adjustment period we are just going with the flow for now, nursing and napping and snuggling whenever it works to make us all happy.  I’m sure we will start to recognize a pattern to our day and get a schedule down but for now we are winging it and that’s okay.

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Spending my first full day ‘on my own’ with both girls.  Daddy was back to work, Grandma’s and Grandpas were back to their homes and it was just me and my little ladies.  It wasn’t my greatest moment as a Mom for sure, I don’t think McKenna took a nap and I didn’t eat lunch until about 3:30, but it was nice to know that I can do it!

Kenny- Watching McKenna and McKayla interact.  There is such love between the two of them already.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- The little baby bathtub we have borrowed from Julie and Neil has come in handy once again (we used it with McKenna too).  It is a great size, folds down for storage and is just handy all around.

Kenny- I get a lot of use out of our exercise ball.  Most people talk about ‘rocking’ a baby but our girls seem to love the up and down motion of bouncing so in the evenings while I let Karen catch a few zzz’s putting McKenna to bed I keep McKayla happy by bouncing.  Thanks again to my Mother-in-law for introducing me to this technique.

McKenna and McKayla Week 2 Picture

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Karen- Sleep (or lack thereof) is always a struggle with a little newborn.  McKayla is actually doing pretty great in this department.  I get anywhere from four to seven hours of sleep (broken up throughout the day and night) but when I first wake up I always seem to think I need a little more.

Kenny- Things are actually going pretty great, the only thing I struggle with is finding time to do everything I need (or want) to do.  Grading papers, mowing the lawn, ongoing house remodeling, helping with the girls, we just run out of time for it all.

Picture of the Week    

15402025524 475a9e7cc0 z McKaylas Week 2

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- Even though I feel guilty for splitting my attention and taking all that focus away from McKenna, I am actually giving her the greatest gift I could EVER give her, a sister.  If their relationship is anything like me and my sisters they will treasure each other more with every passing year.

Kenny- Wait for the rain to stop before you go to the library.  We had planned all weekend to go to the library and when Sunday rolled around the storm clouds were rolling in too.  We finally got ourselves together, diaper bags, library books to return, everyone’s tummy full and diaper empty and strapped into car seats and a torrential down pour broke loose.  I mentioned that we should probably wait until the rain passed before we took off for the library but Karen was READY.  So we ventured out and by the time I got myself, our books and McKenna out of the car we were drenched.  It even started hailing!  Karen carried McKayla inside and we were so thankful for our car seat canopy which kept McKayla snug and dry.  I can’t say the same for the rest of us.

Quote of the week:

Karen- McKayla was laying on her little pod pillow on the ground and McKenna was snuggled up right beside her.  She gave her a sweet kiss on the forehead and said “My sweet McKayla, I love you.  You make me soooo happy” (oh my goodness, melt Momma’s heart!)

Kenny- McKayla was crying and I was reassuring McKenna that everything was okay.  McKenna said “she’s just saying she wishes I had brown hair like her”.  (I’m glad she can translate for us)

It has been a great second week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 2

15412858373 0e98a752dc z McKaylas Week 2

for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 2 weeks old 

Dec 08

McKayla’s Week 1

1 Week Photo 

15358342334 af3795f722 z McKaylas Week 1

One week down and many more to come.  I have to say that life with a newborn the second time around is a million times less stressful.  It still takes a lot out of you but having been through it all before you feel more confident and competent.  We are having such fun with our new little doll girl!

Highlight of the week:

Karen- After DAYS of labor and contractions, FINALLY giving birth to our sweetheart.  Hearing her cry for the first time and feeling her little warm body in my arms is a moment I will never forget.

Kenny- Seeing McKayla born is such a special moment.  Actually witnessing the miracle of life is pretty amazing.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- Our little rock n play sleeper has been amazing these first few nights.  It really cradles her snug and helps her sleep for several long chunks at night.

Kenny- A handmade car seat canopy made by Karens Mom.  We have had to take McKayla out quite a lot the past few days to check her weight and jaundice levels.  With the weather so cold and drizzly it has been nice to know she is warm and snug in her little car seat.

McKenna and McKayla Week 1 Picture

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Karen- The hardest thing I’m dealing with right now is splitting my time between my two girls.  I’m so used to showering all my attention on McKenna I feel guilty now that I need to focus so much of myself on McKayla.  I have to say that McKenna is handling it like a champ.  She loves her baby sister so much!

Kenny- Going back to work after a week off with my girls is hard.  I don’t want to miss out on anything.

Picture of the Week    

15954846116 2c85807201 z McKaylas Week 1

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- I’m learning to trust my Mommy instincts more and more.  It takes a while for my milk to come in and the doctor was getting a little anxious about McKayla’s weight gain.  She was just barely under ‘normal’.  The doctor suggested we supplement with formula but Mommy knew better.  We nursed and nursed and nursed as much as she could/would and as of today she is right on track.

Kenny- It’s easier the second time around.

Quote of the week:

Karen- Yayyyy!!  I’ve been daydreaming about you for days!!  (when the anesthesiologist walked in to give me my epidural after literally DAYS of labor and contractions) (more on that later when I post my birth story)

Kenny- “OMG you have a great looking family!!!!!”  (a sweet e-mail from the principals secretary at Kennys school)

It has been a great first week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

 McKayla vs Bear Week 1

15794884527 ee91332937 z McKaylas Week 1

for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 1 week old 

Nov 11

Thanks to Veterans

Veterans Day Thanks to Veterans

My wife and I are truly blessed in so many ways, and one our blessings is living in a country that is grand, and with today being veterans day we just want to thank all those that  have, are, and will serve our country protecting us and the freedom that we cherish.  We were shown this video today in our veterans assembly at my school and it was too good not to share with you.  To all veterans and their families we thank you for all the sacrifices that you have made.

Image via

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