Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This break is allowing me to...

...sleep a little later.
...pick up Jett throughout the day.
...explain things to my older children that have been left unsaid because we just didn't have time.
...plan meals, shop for groceries, and cook.
...take a nap.
...lay my baby down for naps and enjoy the cuddles and sweetness that come with it. games with my daughter.
...visit with friends.
...think about my health.
...sort through pictures.
...clean out my recipes. my children play in the snow.
...sit and chat with my daughter. a movie with my family.
...hear my kids' stories...about important things, silly things, and funny things.
...browse in a store and not feel pressed for time.
...treat my kids to special yummies.
...focus on the things happening inside the walls of this house.

Too many of the things I wanted to type haven't happened yet.  I'm hoping to... Barbies with Jenna.
...go for a bike ride with my big kids.
...go for a walk with our family.
...go to the movies with my family. random acts of kindness with my kids.
...bake with my kids.
...visit our neighbors with my family.
...have friends over to hang out.
...have a family game night.
...draw with Asa.
...make up a dance routine with Rylee.
...go on a date with Joel. more movies as a family.
...cook more.
...organize more.

Ahhh....break from routine!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quick Follow-Up

That quagmire I mentioned in my last post...well, I think I came to a comfortable place about it.

We went to church on Wednesday night.  Prior to church starting, I was sitting in the Cafe and I heard someone ask our pastor a question about how to best share the Gospel with some family they would be visiting.  The woman explained that the family came from a denomination that was rather legalistic.  Our pastor responded with an encouragement to just love them.  Then, he said something I don't think I'll soon forget.

"I've never met a happy legalist."

And, that was it.  It was the little tidbit I needed to confirm to me that my choice was just fine.

See, when our kids asked us about Santa and we decided to tell them the truth, it wasn't because I didn't like Santa.  I'll be honest and say during the first year it was really hard to not be angry at the way Santa has morphed and replaced Jesus in much of our culture.  I think I was frustrated.  My kids asked a question I wasn't really prepared to answer.

But, as time has passed, we have gained clarity.  We have figured out better ways to explain things.  We've figured out how to have more balance.

For me, it's the same old story.  I realize something I've been missing and I get extreme about it.  Then, over time, I mellow.  The pendulum swings back the other way a little and I find the balance.

When my pastor made the statement about love and legalism, it just resounded.  I was tempted to think I had done something wrong, against my own standard.  But, it's a false standard.  I was being legalistic with myself.  I wanted to host a Polar Express day so my kids could enjoy a movie and hot cocoa.  I wanted to express love to them.  And, if I erred, it was on the side of love.  That's the way I want to err every time!

I want to be a happy free woman who loves God and loves others.  I want the banner over me to be LOVE, not a rule.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Now showing

My co-teacher and I hosted a Polar Express day today.  We have half days today through Friday.  The kids have been struggling to stay focused since we returned from Thanksgiving break.  It's such a hard time of year to keep them engaged.  Family gatherings, Christmas parties, staying up late to watch movies or look at lights or decorate or visit with friends or...  you name it!  Parents get much more lax in their routines.  It shows in the classroom BIG time!

So, back to today... I gave a big unit summation quiz yesterday.  We are now officially done studying Colonial America.  So, I figured we could do some fun things for the next three half days.  Friday is class party day, so that's taken care of.  Tomorrow I'm having the kids do a few projects they can take home as a gift for their parents.  I heard some buzz about other classes (2nd grade and then 1st grade) doing a Polar Express day.  The kids wear jammies to school and drink hot cocoa while watching the movie.  Hmmm....  sounds good!

So, I printed tickets and we made our plan.

Only problem for me (personally) is that I really don't care for Polar Express too much.

I swept those personal feelings about the book/movie under the rug because everyone else was showing it and getting in the spirit.

But, I have to admit that today it bothered me.  First, I read the students the book and then we watched the movie.  I even bought jingle bells to give one to each kid (because I remember that's what another teacher did and it goes with the theme).

But, here's my conundrum, I don't know how I feel about the message of the book.  I mean, I am the person who wrote about why we told our kids the truth about Christmas at a young age. I'm also the person who has had hard conversations with close friends challenging them when they say things like "I saw him once" or "I still believe" to a child.  I mean, what does that mean?  "I still believe."  Still believe in what?!  You do NOT believe there is a man living at the North Pole who gives gifts to nice kids and not to naughty ones.  If you say that, you must NOT teach school because you will certainly discover those very naughty kids got gifts and Santa must be off his rocker!

But, this piece of our culture is so tricky.  I'm absolutely NOT in favor of banishing all things Santa or protesting his existence.  I just think there must be some balance somewhere.

Maybe I struggle with this topic because my children are still in a concrete thinking phase.  They take their teachers at their word.  They believe them.  So, when my children ask me "is he real" and I answer honestly and then they hear their teacher say things like "He's real if you believe", they are totally confused!  Did I just feed that monster today as a teacher?  I think I did.


This post has absolutely no answers.  It's just my rambling about the quagmire in which I found myself today.  It stinks to be reading your class a book while in the back of your mind you are questioning whether or not you made a big mistake.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nothing Like It...

I have strep throat.  Thankfully, I caught it right at the beginning and got on meds.  The doc says I can go back to school tomorrow.

But, there's nothing like a sudden sickness to force me out and show me what a control freak I am, even in my classroom!

I have sub plans. I have my regular lesson plans.  I have a neat and tidy classroom...for the most part.  But, I had plans!  I had things I needed and wanted to accomplish with my students today. They are mine.  urgh.

So funny.  I felt fine.  My throat was just very, very sore.  I woke yesterday morning with it hurting very badly, but figured it was from allergies.  It got a little better while I was constantly drinking during the day, but when it started getting worse again at nightfall, I decided to go to an urgent care.  The test popped positive very quickly.  The doc wrote me a script and then gave me a shot to bolster the fight.

I already felt better this morning but couldn't risk exposing any of my students to the virus, so I had to stay home.  I graded lots of papers, reorganized some things, and watched some t.v.  I eventually took a short nap.  But, I have to say, forced banishment is probably the only way this would have happened.

Last night I was up late adjusting my plans, writing sticky notes for my sub, and trying to think of how to control everything while not there.  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  I'm not really in control of anything.

I'm so glad something called strep showed up to remind me.  I needed the kick in the pants.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Doubt About It

A million posts fill my head as I am in traffic or in the shower.  Then, I sit to write and I'm blank.

I know I wanted to write about this transition of my life, but for that very life I can't think of a single thing right now.

I vacillate in my mind between being really honest on this forum and just putting up the pretty stuff.  I have no clue who even checks this blog anymore.  It's been so long forgotten.

The brutal honest truth in this season of life is that it's tiring.  I can't say "hard" because teaching comes quite naturally to me.  I guess that "bossy" title I loathed and was criticized for throughout childhood is actually an asset when it comes to teaching.  I have command of my classroom and can "manage" it very well.  My students listen to me and, for the most part, stay in line and let us get down to business.  They know they are loved.  At least, I hope they know that.  If they leave with more knowledge but not knowing that they are deeply loved by one more adult in their life, then I have failed with one of my primary goals.

I am incredibly blessed.  I often just sit and think about all the pieces that have fit together to form this very place where I get to exist and thrive.  The intricacies of detail that all fit perfectly together are just too incredible.  I could not have orchestrated it if I tried.  My mom moving to live with us, the timing of support and certificates, tests being prepped for a passed, childcare for Jett, jobs for Joel and I, being with three of my children every single day....

But, this place in life is tiring.  Anyone who has taught knows what I mean.  Everyone says your first year is like a beating.  I understand.  Honestly, I'm grateful it came in this season.  I mean, it's definitely more taxing to experience my first year while I'm also a wife and mother to four children.  But, it also gives me a perspective that would have been lacking 8 years ago.

I rarely look through the lens and see my classroom as just a teacher.  I'm always a mother first.  I am a mom.  It's just who I am.  It defines me more than my role as a teacher in a classroom ever will. I'm a teacher.  I've embraced it fully. But, I'm a mama.  I'm a much better teacher because I'm a mama.  My children have had fantastic teachers who aren't mothers.  I don't know if they'll be "better" after they become mothers.  I just know I am better because I'm a mother.

When I get frustrated with a student--whether it's because they aren't "getting it" or because they can't seem to control their behavior--I end up getting reminded that this is someone's Rylee.  This child is the baby that's celebrated every year by another mother.  They have goals and hopes and dreams for this child.  They would want me to be patient and understanding.  This child deserves for me to be understanding.  When I can't get it right I want others to be understanding with me.  And, ultimately, I want this child to learn love.  Why bother to teach him how to read better if I can't teach him the more important thing of love? How can I teach love unless I demonstrate it?

It's a constant asking of Jesus to fill me, to overflow me.  He must be my hands and feet because too often my hands are too sweaty and my feet too achy.

I am still dawdling my way through 2 Timothy during quiet times.  I keep hanging up on the verse that talks about being ready in season and out.  I am wondering what season this is.  I remember a time in the not to distant past when I wondered if I would ever have (and hoped for) opportunities to really put my faith into practice.  I felt like I was always home and surrounded by a Christian bubble.  ha!  Of course, my home and children are a primary mission field.  I see it all the more now that I'm in "their" environment all day every day.

It's exhausting.  The schedule, the pace, the expectations, the demands, the thinking and learning and planning...  I'm sure I'm not doing half of it right and I'm not even doing some things.  But, wow, the joy.  There is still great joy in knowing I'm right where I'm supposed to be right now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Silence and Friends

I have laryngitis.  Started coming on Thursday afternoon and by Friday it was gone.  I'm squawking if I talk, so I'm whispering.

I usually lose my voice once a year or so.  I'm not sure why but it seems that if I get a cold it will end up costing me my voice.  I'm hoping this is the one time for this winter season.

Teaching was a little rough yesterday with no voice.  But, I'm happy to report that my kids are in such a good routine that we were able to accomplish a lot even with me whispering.  We did our Literacy Centers and Daily Oral Language after we took our Spelling Test and did our regular morning routine.  They finished up a project in Social Studies that they enjoyed, then we switched and I got my co-teacher's homeroom kids.  We had just enough time to do some Literacy Centers before lunch then had to cut the afternoon short due to our all-school assembly to celebrate Red Ribbon Week.

The assembly was a lot of fun.  We also spent the last two weeks doing our fall fundraiser and the assembly kind of tied it all together.  The kids could earn a 12 inch piece of duct tape for every item they sold in the fundraiser.  They then used their duct tape and got to tape up our 2 male teachers (to a wall).  They were chanting "duct tape! duct tape!" as names were called to come get their pieces and tape up the guys.  It was fun.  Then a teacher band lip synced to some songs while all the kids danced.  It was fun!

Today, I get to visit with two of my best Texas girlfriends.  We're long overdue.  And, since I can't talk much, I get to listen and be filled in on all that's going on in their lives.  Can't wait!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Raising Money

Our school is doing their annual fall fundraiser, Believe Kids.  It has been an incredibly successful fundraiser for our school the past several years.  We're hoping to raise even more funds this year.

As the Vice President of the PTO this year, I get to help make decisions about how we use the PTO funds to support our students.  Thus far this year, we have paid for premium memberships for every classroom for Spelling City, a great online tool (that I have been using for my students since week 1).  In addition, PTO paid for the all-school Incentive Day to the Pumpkin Patch October 12th.  Over 250 students plus chaperones enjoyed a day of fun and sun for their hard work the first 6 weeks.

The PTO paid for two new ELMOs (video projection system) and projectors so that our core classrooms each have this awesome technology.  (My class was one of them!)  The PTO pays for all Teacher Appreciation Days (once per six weeks), and I am especially thankful for their generosity.  The PTO bought new keyboards for all our netbooks, as well.  (My class uses the computers on Thursday and my kids LOVE it!)

If you're so inclined, please take a moment to browse the Believe Kids catalog.  Every purchase helps our school.  It's a great fundraiser (giving us 50% profit...that's huge!).  My kids would be incredibly grateful!  And, I appreciate your support.

The Catalog Link

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pondering Friendship

I was just sitting here this morning wondering about friendships.

I've been very blessed in my life to have some true friends.  I have been molded and shaped by my friendships, especially those long-lasting friendships that have sustained the distance and time.

I struggled with friendships when I was young.  I never really had a "best friend" growing up.  There were girls here and there that I would refer to as my best friend, but in all honesty, I was pretty lonely throughout my growing up years when it came to girlfriends.  I always felt like the 3rd wheel or the alternate friend.  I never connected solidly with a friend until high school and maybe even college.

I think I struggled with friendships, in part, because I wasn't sure who I really was.  I had one very close girlfriend in junior high but that friendship went by the wayside when I wanted different things out of life than she did.

Once I became a believer in high school, I had a close girlfriend.  But, again, we drifted as our goals in life went in two separate directions.

I remember a very distinct time in college when I was driving home and cried out to God about my loneliness and desire for a girl in whom I could confide.  God stopped me in my whiny tracks with a very firm whisper to my heart "My child, if I were to give you a girl in whom you could confide, you would put her in My place."  The next morning I was reading Oswald Chambers' devotional "My Utmost For His Highest" and came across a reading pointing me to Isaiah 6.  "In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord...".  Chambers asserted that Uzziah and Isaiah were friends.  Yet, Uzziah pointed Isaiah to the Lord to the degree that when he died, Isaiah saw the Lord!  Chambers went on to write about friendship and how the Lord sometimes keeps us from them because they will stand in the way of our relationship with Him.  My heart was touched, knowing I would have done that very thing.

Within a few years the Lord brought me a very sweet friend.  She continues to be one of my closest and dearest friends.  We had the privilege of sharing holidays together when we lived in PA.  Sadly, we now hardly see each other because so many miles separate us.  Yet, when we talk, we just pick right up and dive right into each other's lives once again.  I pray for her, her husband, and her children.  And, I know she does the same for me.

I've had other special women come into my life, as well.  Really, they are too numerous to recount one by one.  Some friends from my younger years even resurfaced in the last several years and have blessed me beyond measure.

I have a few close friends who live right here around me, but the majority of the women I would call my closest friends actually live at least 1,200 miles away from me!  We keep in touch via email, occasional phone calls, and lots of blog/Facebook stalking.  Our emails aren't always replied to right away, but there is a mutual love, respect, adoration, and concern.

Yet, the thoughts I had this morning were about the ending of friendships.  When the miles are too far and the lives are too separate, can a friendship be maintained by just one person?  What makes it a "friendship" if there is not mutual sharing, mutual respect, mutual concern?  There are seasons in friendships.  At times, one person carries the other, even carries the majority of contacting and keeping up with the other.  This was true when I was a new mom and my very close friend had not yet started having babies.  She came to see me more often, she called more often.  But, I hope she always felt like I cared, even if I wasn't the one initiating the call.  And, I made efforts to still let her know I was thinking of driving to see her (which involved packing a bazillion things for the baby now on board).

At some point, I think you have to just let go.  I imagine this is different for every friendship.  Hence, the pondering.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Seven Weeks Ago...

We started school.  

Rylee is in 3rd grade this year.  So is Mama.  She's teaching at the kids' charter school.

Jenna and Asa are in 1st grade.

Jett is in preschool on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Not pictured:
Daddy is in seminary.
Nana is teaching high school part-time at a private school.

I was told the first six weeks would be absolutely full and busy and all those reports were absolutely accurate.  I love being back in the classroom and can't believe how much I thoroughly enjoy teaching elementary school!  I never (in a million years) would have thought I'd be teaching elementary, but God has a very neat way of giving us heart desires and making things work so well.  There is no place I'd rather be.  I had to spend a lot of time thinking and praying through the transition from being home full-time to working full-time, but knowing I would be with three of our children and more involved in their lives made all the difference.  When our family needed me to work, God made a way and worked it out so much better than I could ever have expected.

I'm teaching Reading/Language Arts and Social Studies.  The reading portion is definitely the most critical.  We have a state assessment in reading for this grade.  So, not only is this a whole new ballgame with a different age group of students than I was used to teaching, but I'm in a completely different subject, as well.  I have a wonderful group of coworkers who have been very helpful.  I've also been involved with the school as a parent, and actually am serving on the PTO Board this year.  I feel like I've just stepped it up a little more.

And, I cannot explain how much I just love the kids I get to teach every day.  We took an all-school field trip today and I had some moments of just watching the kids have fun.  I reflected in those brief moments and was in awe at how much love the Lord has given me for my students.  I'm sure part of it is the fact that these are all Rylee's classmates and have been for the last four years.  But, they are just an incredibly sweet group of kids.  It is an honor to get to teach these precious kiddos and have an influence on their lives.  I pray every day that the Lord would use me and show His love through me.  I'd appreciate your prayers on my behalf to that end, as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teacher Encouragement

This sweet post (Why I Hated Meredith's First Grade Teacher) made me cry.

Take a minute and read it.  It really is a sweet tribute to mom's letting their babies go off to school as well as the teachers who love those kiddos dearly.  I understand both sides of that fence.

I take my job as Mama very seriously and have for the last 8+ years.  My children's teachers have become part of our family, just as Meredith's did.  I have been incredibly grateful for the amazing teachers my children have had and appreciate their sacrifice and commitment to love my children.

I also take my job as teacher very seriously.  I am entrusted with great treasures each day.  I pray each morning that I have His eyes to see them, His heart to love them, and wise words from Him to guide them.  My job is much more than teaching Reading/Language Arts and Social Studies.  I can build up or tear down.  I can encourage or do lifelong damage.  My words have power...and so do the looks I give.

If you would be so kind to stop now and pray that I will do both of these jobs well, I would appreciate it!  On my own, I know I'll mess them both up, but in His strength I can share Light and Love!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unfair Labor

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.  
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today many in our country will take a day off from our jobs to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  No matter if we’re celebrating at home or at the beach, we’re entering into a tradition that has largely been shaped by Labor Unions - organizations that are dedicated to protecting workers’ interests and improving their wages, hours, and working conditions.  Today as we lounge around or hang out with friends and family, we’re not only celebrating hard work, we’re honoring fair, ethical working practices and the laws that prevent discrimination, abuse, and child labor in our country.  Without these laws in place (and enforced), the most vulnerable members of society suffer.  Who are the most vulnerable? Children. 

Today as we’re celebrating the systems in our own country that strive to prevent injustices like child trafficking and child labor, we’re mindful of the many child slaves around the world who are unprotected and the organizations, like Mercy Project, who are working to free them.

As a mother, it’s difficult for me to imagine my children working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’m unable to wrap my brain around the thought of my children engaged in long, hard days of physical labor, eating one meal a day, and then falling asleep at night on a dirt floor filled with other slave children.  Yet this is the daily reality for kids who have been trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa.  As with much of Africa, there is a great deal of poverty in Ghana. Unfortunately, this leaves many mothers in an unimaginable position: sell their children to someone who can take better care of them or watch them starve to death. Most of the mothers are told their children will be given food, housing, and an education. Instead, the kids are often taken to Lake Volta where they become child slaves and their mothers never see them again.  Thankfully, Mercy Project is working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves.  Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta. 

Get involved.  Watch the video.  Pray. Give.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Trip to Arizona ~ July 27-Aug 7

 The wind turbines in west Texas are very cool.  We drove from Dallas to Amarillo and then across northern New Mexico and into Flagstaff, Arizona, where I finished my last year of college.
 Northern Arizona is so beautiful.
 The kids traveled very well.  Jett napped, played with this toy (that we got Rylee on one of our first road trips with her back in 2004!), and babbled.  Rylee read, played her DS, and played games.  The twins did the same and also watched movies.

 I spent a good part of the trip studying for my upcoming (last of 3) teaching exams.  
I also helped navigate since we had to rely on paper maps.  No more iPhone mapping.  We missed it!
 We stopped at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest just inside Arizona. It was beautiful! The next day we went to the Grand Canyon.

 Jett was being difficult, so he ended up walking barefoot pushing the stroller through the park.

 I got to visit with my dear friend, Kathryn, who serves the Lord with her family abroad.  
I haven't seen her in 7 years so it was really good to visit in person!
 We stayed with our friends, the MacHughs, while we were in Phoenix.  
Jett loved their dog!  Can you tell?

 Between the MacHughs and Fletchers, we had 7 kids (and their #4 will arrive in November).  
It was a full house of laughter and fun, for sure!

 My beautiful friend Kara (and her baby girl).
 We spent time with the Burks family.  Our kids had a blast with their not-so-little guy.

 We went to Arizona to help Nana pack and move to Texas.  Our days were busy with sorting, purging, and packing.  Then, we would visit friends for lunch or dinner.  It was a good balance.
 The kids had a blast at Pastor Chuck & Mrs. Mary's house.  The men were outside with the kids in the pool.  I'm not sure what all they allowed, but I'm certain I would have had a hard time watching some of it!  Then Pastor Chuck and a few men from Calvary came to help load the moving truck on Friday.

 We went swimming with the Benders and another sweet family.  And, Mr. Max stopped by to say hi. The kids had fun joking with him.

 Before we left town, we made sure to visit the Norris family.  The kids jumped on the trampoline with the sprinkler underneath, then watched a movie and had popcorn, theater style.

 Denelle and Jerry had just moved so we stopped to see them on our way back to Texas.  It was great to hang out for a few hours and enjoy lunch at their new place.

 On the way back to Texas, Joel drove the moving van that was pulling my mom's car.  Mom and I drove in the van with the four kiddos.  We took three days to come back home since we couldn't go as fast with the moving truck.  We celebrated my birthday on our second day of traveling.  And, the kids did quite a bit of sleeping.

 The kids were funny as we drove through west Texas.  West Texas is just a L-O-N-G, hot, boring drive.  (sorry west Texas people)  We got to El Paso around mid-morning, which really messes up the schedule/routine.  There is not much between El Paso and Odessa/Midland...which is a four hour stretch.  We ate lunch at a gas station, making the best of what we found.  It wasn't exactly my best birthday lunch ever. But, I was thankful for food and being with my family!

 We had a fun trip!