Friday, December 18, 2015

Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come From a Store...

Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.  We watched the classic animated Grinch movie yesterday after our class party, and I paused at this Dr. Seuss quote. I told my students that this is absolutely one of my favorite holiday quotes.  I asked them what they thought it meant and we discussed for a bit. We talked about doing for others, about how there are times when you can't give people gifts even when they deserve it, but you can give them your love, your attention, and your respect.  That means so much more than monetary gifts.

The past few weeks, I have been spread thin. Between holiday plays, holiday parties, volunteering, and my own Christmas shopping, cards and preparations, I have been  so exhausted (not to mention the fact my 3 year old STILL DOESN'T SLEEP ALL NIGHT). It's easy to lose sight of the big picture.  You know, why we do all this-- to spread the good news, to celebrate the love of our God, the amazing birth of our savior. As a public school teacher, I don't blatantly profess my Christianity to my students, but I hope my school babies sense my love somehow. Whether they assume it's from my heart or from somewhere else.

A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to serve at an event at our church.  Families came, the kids played in snowball fights, inflatables, photo booths and got their faces painted, their bellies full of sweet treats and shopped for their moms and dads, all the while their mommies and daddies loaded their trunks with food and presents.  At the event, I saw one of Reagan and Anna's friends from daycare, and my heart was so full.  I still get all choked up thinking about seeing parents putting in those coveted Elsa bikes in their trucks. The next night, the same event took place at a venue close to my school, and when we watched the video at church on Sunday, I saw several familiar faces.  These faces weren't just ones I passed by in the mornings when I dropped the babies off.  These were faces I saw all school day long, in the midst of reading novels and learning long division.  These faces were the faces not of families who just needed a little help, these faces had names.  They were kids I knew so much better than just from a night of service at church.

In our daily lives, we may not realize that the people who are closest to us, are the ones that need the most help, or we might, but they may try our patience and we forget (remember, I am a teacher and kids are still kids) that there's more than what's on the surface; more than the preteen attitudes and lack of homework in their agendas. They need love, they need your patience (even though they try it), they just need to know you care. Without going into specific detail, this year more than ever, I have been so grateful for our blessings; more aware that there are families without.  Families that are doing the best they can.  Families that love their children just as much as we love ours, but their circumstances just aren't the same. They aren't able to make all the wishes from their kids' wishes lists come true.  They aren't even able to make sure their basic needs are met.  My prayer this holiday season is for them to be safe, to be happy and content with what they are given and for the new year to bring about abundant blessings for them.  Because after all, maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Everyday Blessings

It's that month.  The one month a year we are all reminded to be thankful.  I really try all the time, but sometimes the stress of day to day life overshadow all blessings that surround me.  Today a friend posted about taking time out to notice those daily blessings, and I decided to step up to that challenge. To stop being bogged down by deadlines, paperwork, temper tantrums, running late, dirty laundry, and all the other glamorous things that come along with being a working mother and really focus on the everyday things I often take for granted.

This morning, David buckled the girls in the car.  That sounds trivial, but last week I had to pull into a church parking lot across from our neighborhood because I had forgotten to check the bottom buckles on Reagan's five point harness car seat.  They were not buckled. This morning, that was not a problem, because my girls had extra time with their daddy while he loaded them in the car so I could fix a cup of peppermint mocha and pack leftover potato soup for lunch.  It was a double sided blessing.  My girls have a daddy who loves them and their mommy, and I had a few minutes to take inventory before loading myself up for my marathon of a day.

I dropped the girls off at daycare. A daycare where they learn, have teachers who genuinely care about them, and I feel that they are loved and nurtured. We have dropped our kids off at different places, and we've been fortunate that this has always been the case, but I have toured places where I left in tears and was convinced we'd just have to cut back on everything before I could knowingly send the girls there.  It is a huge blessing that I sometimes take for granted, but I'm so grateful for.

I drove to work, a little off pace as usual. I got behind our school crossing guard, driving to work on his bike.  This man amazes me.  He drives quite a ways on his two wheeled, self-propelled transportation, and manages to do his job with more enthusiasm than most people who arrive to work with warm buns from their heated leather seats. I'm really thankful for his waving me by each morning and keeping our kiddos safe.

When I entered the school building I was greeted with hellos from my grade level friends. I cannot imagine work without these ladies.  They share resources, jokes, and egg & cheese biscuits; we commiserate over lesson plans, family drama, and testing stress. I love my job and a lot of that is because I love these girls I get to work with.  I don't tell them enough, but I'm so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to call them friends.

As my day progressed, I realized how grateful I am for technology.  It brings my content alive!  These kids who live in front of televisions, with tablets in hand need something a little more interesting than words on a page sometimes.  Fossils were a little more interesting with the paleontologists who discovered them, the read aloud was a little cooler with Kevin Costner reading it, and an interactive quiz made multiplication a bit more fun. Even after technology stole my planning time due to some new training, I still have an appreciation for it and how it makes my job a little easier.

By the time the car riders were dismissed, I took time to realize just how thankful I am for my job.  I get a new challenge daily, I get to experience new learning with kids and introduce new concepts.  I get to start fresh each day, hug away fears, help them make lifelong friends (I'm still friends with some of my elementary school pals), and hopefully make a lasting impression.  It's not a job, it's in the cheesiest sense, a real calling that I am so thankful I listened to.  I may have been capable of doing a job that was more lucrative, but I wouldn't have felt nearly as fulfilled.

Before I left (as quickly as possible--I'm also incredibly excited that tomorrow is a holiday), I checked my e-mail and straightened my desk. At the end of an e-mail from a parent, she closed it by saying "We are very thankful our child has you as their teacher." Words. We don't often think to be thankful for them, but sometimes a kind word is all we need to feel a little more confident and rejuvenated.  I'm really thankful for that sweet e-mail.  It hadn't been the most positive e-mail chain, but the fact that this mother, who wants what any other mother does for their child, realizes that we're on the same team is incredibly meaningful.

I made piles of to-dos for Thursday and on my desk was a note that filled every square inch of the notebook paper it was written on. It said, "Please write my name in the word problem. Love, ***" Every day the kids have 2 word problems to complete for their math journals. I write these and try to include the kids names in them.  I obviously need to include this kid's name in one.  It made me smile. Even if my students are on the big kids' hall, they are still really little. Their names in math problems are really exciting to them, and I love that!

I picked up my girls in the sunshine today!  That in itself is worth a whole Facebook post for being thankful today.  I can't remember a school year that started with so much rain.  I entered the door at the daycare, and my babies ran over to me and knocked me over with hugs. My greatest blessings in life are those two little monsters that call me mommy.  We came home, had dinner, and snuggled on the couch.  Their daddy brought their brother home and my living room has 5 pairs of feet propped up on reclining furniture. It's cozy and warm and full of so much love.  Each night at bedtime, whether I'm tucking in two or three children I call mine, I always tell them before I prayers that I thank God for them.

While I'm very cognizant of my big blessings, my family, my home, and my friends, I often forget some of these daily reasons I have to be thankful. Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, because it's a time where we slow down to say thanks and to be appreciative.  In a world that is fast paced, I like to take a time out to just live here and now.  Daily things that usually get lost in the shuffle shouldn't be taken for granted.

Take the time every day to be thankful for everything that you have. You can always have more, but you could also have less. — Mohd Uved

Monday, September 7, 2015

"Perfect" Family Weekend

We planned a few weeks ago that we'd take the kids to Tweetsie for the weekend.  We waited til the last minute to book somewhere to stay, because the cabin we usually stay in had a 3 day minimum stay for the holiday weekend, and we didn't want to stay 3 days, because we had to get little man back to his mom's on Sunday.  So, David booked one of the last hotel rooms in Boone, turns out it was Appalachian's first home football game of the season, just for Friday night.

Friday, I left school a little earlier than I usually would, picked up the girls and ran in Target for a few last minute items.  I had no intentions of staying longer than 15 minutes, because I was going to pick up their brother, get us home and packed, and the car cleaned out so we could leave by six.  Well, Mother Nature had other plans.  When we were about ready to leave, I hear rain pouring, thunder roaring.  We walk around to kill time, and all of a sudden the power goes out.  It was pitch black.  I grab both girls, with both arms, and even though the power came back on within seconds, it seemed like an eternity.  I made sure my phone was in my back pocket after that.  I wasn't going to be in total darkness again.    Finally, it stops raining, we get out of there, pick up Bubbie, and are home by six.  Quick shower, pack up, and we're in the car at 6:39.  A little off pace.

Anna whined all the way to the mountains.  She's not the best traveler, so we chalked it up to that.  I slept with the girls that night, the boys shared the other bed.  Anna whined all night.  It was already uncomfortable trying to make sure no one fell off the bed, add the fact we were up basically all night, it was pretty darn miserable.  I got up with her around 5:45 to use the restroom, changed her diaper to her pull up (let's not talk about how potty training is going), and went back to bed.  David got up a few minutes later, turned off the light in the room I had left on; I don't like sleeping in the dark in strange places, and went to shower.  About that time Anna started screaming and puked all over the bed.  Perfect!  I yell at Brent to grab a towel and turn the lights back on, and I get her cleaned up, thankful that I hadn't dressed her, because no pukey clothes to take home.  I moved Reagan over to the other bed and put Anna in the bath. Once I'm pretty certain she's going to be okay, she's randomly puked before if something didn't settle well on her tummy, and unfortunately from the looks of it, I could tell something hadn't settled so well, I throw on a sweatshirt and drive to the CVS for some anti-nausea medicine.  No matter what we were to decide to do, I knew it would be a necessity at this point.

Well, we wait.  We waited til 8:30 to head down to breakfast.  Over two hours, no more sickness.  Anna drank some juice, ate some yogurt, and was running around as usual. We waited a few more hours, check out was at 11; so we waited until nearly 11, and then decided that we would do the theme park.  The other two kiddos would be really disappointed if we just headed home, and Anna had been well for several hours.  We let her have another dose of medicine and off we went.  We did have a fabulous time, even if we did ask Anna if she was okay 2 million times. I rode some scary ride with Brent, we all rode the steam engine 3 times, saw the mice in Mouse Mine Number Nine, watched the girls fly airplanes and captain boats.  We ate lunch at the Feed and Seed and saw the Tweetsie Cloggers on stage.  I don't regret making those family memories at all; even if the morning had been less than fun.

We headed back to the car around 4ish, and Anna had been asleep, we woke her up, I gave her the rest of her pink lemonade, which was probably a mistake.  We drove about 7 minutes.  She started whining and looking green.  David pulled off the road into a church parking lot.  I hop out, not even taking the time to put my flip flops back on, and before I can get my hands to unbuckle Anna, she goes all Exorcist/Scary Movie projectile vomiting on me. If you've never caught vomit, I don't recommend it. I get her out. Clean her up. Again.  Throw her clothes in a pillow case. No one else moves in the car.  Not quite sure why the time was standing still for them. After we're both clean and sanitized as much as possible, and I give her another dose of medicine, we are off again. In about an hour and a half, we pull into our garage. I've never been so thankful.  I am pretty independent and able to do most anything, but move a carseat and unlatch it is something I haven't mastered.  I told David I needed to wash the carseat cover but he was going to need to get it out.  He says he'll do it.  I'd already started the water in the washing machine, so he heads out...In a freaking hazmat suit.  Okay, not really.  But he does have gloves on to his elbows and a mask on.  Remember, this is the same vomit I just caught. Whatever, I'm obviously not the hypochondriac.

Anna never got sick again.  No one else feels sick.  I'm not sure what was up with her, but it made our weekend getaway quite memorable for reasons I'd rather forget.  I think a lot of times our Facebook timelines and Instagram snapshots show a picture that looks perfect, but it is so far from the truth.  It isn't that I want people to think everything is always peachy. Life, marriage, motherhood is one hard gig.  No one wants to see the vomit, but it's there.  Our weekend was fun, but it was far from perfect. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Take Care of Her

I think it's pretty normal to get unsolicited advice from strangers when you have children. I've always been a magnet for strangers to speak to, not sure if I just don't have an intimidating demeanor or just give off overly friendly vibes, but I'm okay with it. I've had more conversations with people I'd never met before that moment and likely will never speak to again, than I can remember. One such conversation happened yesterday, and it has resonated.

We were on our way home from a weekend in the high country, when we had to stop for a bite to eat. When a three year old cries they're hungry, you had better feed them.  At the family restaurant, many folks ordering off the senior menu were enjoying after church lunch. Reagan was on her second cup of water when she exclaimed, "Moooommmmy, I need to potty." So off to the bathroom for the second time we went.  In the restroom we made the usual small talk. Don't touch the potty, aren't those hush puppies yummy, haven't we had such a fun weekend... When we came out of the stall, we went to wash our hands beside a sweet white headed lady with a long braid, a pink dress and a smile.  She told Reagan how beautiful she was, told me how she had six children, one born every two years, and she has been married 65 years. She smiled and told me it was hard, she knows it IS hard. She then said twice, "take care of her."

You know of all the unsolicited parenting advice I've ever gotten, some of that advice from people I know and love, this piece of advice was the best. Take care of her. I thought of the past few years.  Before Reagan was even born, I had began preparations to take care of her. I saved over half my paycheck for several years. This money helped pay for unforeseen expenses. The emergency room visits prior to her birth. There was 3. All of which I was sent by my doctor's office, I swear, I was not crazy. It was just a crazy pregnancy.  I was just taking care of her.

When I brought home that seven pound bundle, I had very little knowledge of what to do, but I did my best to take care of her. I cried over painful cracked nipples, the fear I wasn't an adequate food source. I watched her sleep. Counted her breaths. Bought every stupid baby device ever invented, just to take care or her.

I returned to work five short months after she was born, because we needed health insurance, we needed my income to supplement my husband's. I needed to work to take care of her. It was hard finding someone to trust to be my hands while I was away, but we have been fortunate that amazing caregivers have grown to love our babies as their own.

I cried when I stopped producing enough milk, knowing before I even saw the positive pregnancy test results, that I was unsure of how I was going to take care of her and a new baby too. I was certain as I began to mix formula filled bottles that I wasn't doing my best to take care of her. Looking back, I was doing what was right for our family in that moment. I was taking care of her.

I've held her hands as she began to take her first steps, I've reminded her we don't write from right to left, I've made sure she brushes her teeth, combs her hair, eats at least 4 different food groups, assured her there are no monsters, and told her daily how I thank God for her, just her. I know there will be times in the future it will be a challenge to just take care of her, but I'm so thankful for that sweet lady's advice. There is nothing more, and nothing less I can do as a parent other than to simply take care of her.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Type A...Type B...Please.

If I were assessing my younger self, I would have probably declared my Type A personality without actually having to declare it.  I was kinda full of myself.  Used to being the center of attention in my own family, used to being one of the handful of "smartest" children in my class, and used to having more than enough words to dominate almost any conversation.  Having Reagan, didn't change that.  I worried about  and planned every single detail of her life week by week.  When I found out I was pregnant with her sister when she was almost 24 weeks old (six months...remember, I worried WEEK BY WEEK), I freaked out to say the least.  It wasn't that I didn't want another baby, because I wanted another baby more than anything, I just didn't want another baby when my baby was still a baby.

So, after Anna was born, my aggressive personality, to put it nicely, took a backseat to parenting.  I realized very quickly, that the cute smocked outfits were just going to get yellow poop all up the back, so why not just dress the kid in a cheap cotton Target onesie with some cute saying like "My mom doesn't want your advice.." because really, she did not want or need it.  Always eager to please, but to sway folks to seeing my way, I quickly learned that my way of life wasn't for everyone.  I wasn't going to force breastfeeding and cosleeping on my new mother peers, though I couldn't imagine doing this mommy-hood gig any other way.  Other mommies didn't want or need my advice either!

My former self had a pet peeve about promptness.  My current self is happy to get anywhere within an hour of the scheduled time.  I'm almost disgusted by this fact still, but we really cannot help it.  Have you ever tried to get two small {girl} children ready?  I have one that changes clothes like the weather.  Seriously.  I'll have her ready, and I'll go to check on her sister and come back and find her completely naked.  It's a losing battle.

I still make calendars and create schedules, but if we don't follow them...Eh, it's okay.  As long as no one is crying, fighting nap time, or biting each other, I really could care less if we visited the Historical Museum, attended the concert in the park, or watched the magic show at the library.  No use crying over the best laid plans that don't happen. 

Truthfully this switch has probably made me a better person all the way around.  I'm completely happy in my own skin, even if I'm not as blonde, thin or tan as I once was.  I'm way more content these days than I ever was when I was trying to be perfect all the time.  I still have a strong desire to pursue fairness and do what's best.  That's awesome in my classroom. But also, understanding that going with the flow is a necessity, and being able to adapt to most any situation without becoming too bummed out, has proven to be even more helpful.  

I wouldn't say my type A self is gone, and I wouldn't say I'm totally a type B either.  I'm just a happy in-between.  I don't forsee me ever going back to being as quite extreme as I used to be, but I'm not going to throw out my summer calendar ever.  I'm so grateful for my girls for a billion reasons and the least of those is help change me into a person that's a little sweeter, and little more relaxed and way more fun!
Before the Madness

Embracing the Chaos

Thursday, June 11, 2015

These are MY kids too

As the school year comes to a close, I realized how sad I am for the year to end.  Year eight almost in the books, and though I'm spread thinner (I'm not thinner though...), I still feel that same attachment and love I did for my first group of students.  I've changed schools, more than once; I've changed grade levels, more than once, but one thing remains the same: I absolutely have the best job ever.  Sure, I have bad days.  I've had a desk thrown at me, hateful e-mails in my inbox, ridiculous evaluations that knit-picked the fact that I was a pumping mother over the fact "the content was covered very well." Those days I went home and cried, but luckily I have had way more good days inside the four walls of my classroom than bad.

Today I went home and cried for a completely different reason.  At dismissal today, my last bus rider was waiting for her bus to be called, like all nearly 180 days this year, but this day was different.  She happily told me earlier this week with a flip of her blonde hair that she wouldn't be attending the last day of school.  This day was her last day of fourth grade.  She stood in the door frame looking much more grown up than she did in August and looking at her sweet face, I saw her eyes swell up with tears. I hugged her and tried not to cry too.  She just smiled stared at our class picture hanging by the door.  We joked about the silly smiles on the friends' faces in the class. She laughed and cried more.  Her bus was announced, I gave her another big hug, gave her that class picture and told her to have a great summer. These 28 kids that sat in room 318 this year will no longer be a class after tomorrow.  They will move up to fifth and be combined into different homerooms.  The kids will have the same friends and see familiar faces when they return in the fall, but it won't be quite the same.

I had the kids make memory wheels and complete fourth grade surveys to share with next year's class.  I'll put them on display in the hallway at Open House.  When I read the kids' work, I noticed a lot of the kids filled in the My teacher really loves... blank with her kids.  I do tell tons of stories about Brent, Reagan and Anna, I swear some of them are content related, and I guess my students really take away that I love being a mommy.  But from August to June, I spend a whole lot of time with other people's kids.  I spend time away from those children, worrying about them.  Sometimes it's "will they ever understand how to do long division?" Sometimes it's "this friend was really worried about a home situation, I pray they are okay and it resolves soon..."

The other day in the midst of a speech about caring for others, this time of year kids have short tempers with each other, I went around the room sharing things I've learned about the kids this year.  Little things from the name of their little league team, that their family fosters pets from the animal shelter, that they love fishing with their grandpa, they have a collection of rocks.... You get the idea.  They were amazed that I remembered little details of things they had mentioned all year.  I am always amazed that they remember my silly stories about my kids too.  We, our class, invested so much time in each other, together this year.  We're like a big family. It really is hard to see that fun time end.

No matter how many years I teach, no matter how many kids I get to raise in my own home, those children that fill my classroom each year become mine too. As I go to work tomorrow, I'm sure I'll feel a bit of the same way my little friend did in the doorway this afternoon.  As excited as I have been about summer break, I'm not excited about the good bye that awaits tomorrow at 2:50. These are my kids too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Birthday Bash!

A couple weeks ago we celebrated, jointly, the birthdays of our two favorite girls.  Truthfully, planning two parties within a month of one another was hard.  Trying to get dates for both parties that everyone could make it was tough, and by May.... well, I'm pretty tired. May is a pretty exhausting time for teachers; especially this one.  So over the holiday break, I decided that this year, one big bash would do.  Best choice I've made in a while!

Every Thursday night you can find us at High Point Gymnastics Academy.  Reagan is in the preschool class and we love it there!  When trying to decide where to have their party, it was in the running.  It won out because they answered my snow day e-mail inquiry first with the date I wanted. We were able to request Reagan's teachers as our party hosts, and it was SO much fun!

I'm a details girl.  I like the cutesy, personalized party decor.  I would monogram my socks, if I wore socks.  So, on those snow days, I made banners thanks to some customizable buntings I bought on Teachers Pay Teachers and made adorable food labels with the perfect clipart I found on Etsy.  I did make a Pinterest inspired cupcake holder that drove me nuts, and looked like it just might cartwheel right over at any moment.. but we used it and then I broke it apart as soon as the party was over!  Not everything can be perfect. At the last minute, I decided I wanted some type of guest book for each girl, so I called my sister had her pick up some tote bags and made some iron on transfers from my computer using the same clipart I used on the decorations.  We had all the party guests sign their bags, and now Reagan carries hers weekly to class.

Food was pretty easy since it was a 3:00 party.  We had Pretzel BARS (pretzel sticks), Ham & Cheese ROLL(ups), CARTWHEEL cupcakes (I made the toppers and ordered a couple dozen from Harris Teeter), Fruit WEIGHTS (just fruit on toothpicks), GYM juice (pink lemonade), & Cookie RINGS (Fudge Stripe cookies). All the paper products were just from Walmart, and they had really great bright colors, chevron and polka dotted patterns in their party section, matching our bright & polka dot decorations.

My sister helped out and made adorable centerpieces and with all the food prep.  We had several of the girls' friends attend and it was a really fun, really easy, really low stress party for me.  I thought for a bit it wasn't going to happen because Anna got sick that morning, and I am not one to expose other kids to my sick kid, but when I found out her daddy let her eat 7 cookies before bed that night, I was able to draw my own conclusions about what was wrong with the princess.  I know joint parties won't always work, but this year it was what was best for all of us!  The girls had a super fun time and so did I, and on their actual birthdays we got to (and will get to) celebrate them, with just us. I really like private family time too. Reagan chose a tea party at the Children's Museum of Winston Salem and Anna's debating on the Zoo or Build a Bear.  In just 9 days my baby is THREE!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Belong in This World

Today a little girl in my class, frustrated with an assignment, had a rush of emotions that make her declare sobbing, "I just don't belong in this world." After comforting her, shedding a few tears with her feeling rather helpless, I kept hearing her words in my head.

As a teacher, I want kids to feel loved, safe, happy, and cared for; all the time, but at the least when they are with me.  The fact she felt comfort confiding in me made me feel like I'd done a little of my job right. As a mommy, this little girl's feelings are one of my biggest fears for my own children.  I thought way too much growing up, remembered way too many details about things that were trivial to others, and there were lots of times, I wondered where I do fit in in this world. I was well liked, I did lots of extra-curriculars even when I was the same age as the kids I teach (clogging counts, right?).  I had friends, they might not have read as many novels or learned their multiplication facts as quickly, but they didn't dislike me because I was good at school, and I didn't care that they didn't have the same love for school as I did.

How can I help my students and my babies not feel like this?  I don't know.  Find things they are good at.  Nurture friendships and relationships.  Give them time to work cooperatively.  Give them time to be independent.  Laugh with them.  Cry with them. Build them up. The other 26 students in my class were genuinely worried about their classmate.  We have had several class meetings this year about kindness, acceptance, but none about how to accept ourselves.  Reagan laid in bed last night and told herself she loved her.  I laughed, thinking, "well, she's slightly full of herself."  Her birthday is tomorrow and even though she's sharing a joint party with her sister next month, cupcakes at school today and a tea party at the Children's Museum tomorrow has made her think she's getting "SO many birthdays!!!" But my nearly four year old had it right.  She asked me, "Mommy, you love you too, right?"  I smiled and told her sure.  Somewhere between being a cute baby, a funny toddler, a smartie pants preschooler and where my school kids are now, that sense of self love is torn down.  While some kids are full of themselves, more often than not, they are just looking for and trying to find themselves.

I'm thankful by the time I was really trying to figure this out, I had my parents and my youth leaders at church to help guide me.  I didn't always listen.  I had to make mistakes on my own, but I didn't question my place as much.  I was a pretty well rounded kid and  I could pretty much fit in anywhere.  I'm not sure my normalcy is hereditary, so I'm going to do all I can to help all my little ones (the 27 I see at school daily and the 3 I tuck into bed at night), to feel love, feel cared for, to feel they belong.

My heart has never hurt quite like it did today when I heard those words.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere.  Changing jobs, making a big move from my comfortable small town, I understand the grown up side of that conversation today. And the grown up side of me knows a lot of the time, I don't belong in this world. I'm just grateful I'm in a place where I can try to make things a little brighter where I am.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I'm Glad My Kids Are Less Than 14 Months Apart...

When you have kids people ALWAYS have advice to give you.  And somehow, having really small children gives permission to people to say whatever they want to you.  I like to think I'm a pretty decent mother.  Not perfect, not over the top, not too slack, but somewhere right around sensible.  No I didn't plan on having my girls in consecutive years, but I wouldn't change it and here's the top five reasons why:

1.  I never had to pack away and then re-get out all the "baby" stuff.  High chairs, swings, bouncers, rock 'n plays, cribs, changing table, etc all are bulky.  They take up tons of space, but when having little people, they're so handy (and some necessary)  Reagan was 6 months old when we found out Anna was on the way.  I just shoved that crap in the corner for the new baby.

2.  I love hearing people say "Wow, you have your hands full." Well, not really.  But we get it a lot and I've had a lot of time to work on my one liners back.  Like when one babe is in the cart and one is on my back... "Well, actually my hands are pretty free."  Or "Yep, but I sure do have pretty nails, see?!" (Ha!  Just kidding, but shameless Jamberry plug there).

3.  Oh, gosh two in diapers?!  Yes.  2 in diapers.  While an expense, so much easier than a newly potty trained kid and a newbie.  The running to the disgusting public bathrooms or back to the minivan for the travel potty blows.  You pooped your diaper, baby?!  No problem, I can change that in a sanitary, controlled space I choose.

4. My girls love the same activities and pretty much are at the same speed.  I'm not a helicopter mom, but I do watch my kids and try to be sure they are safe.  We went to the park today, and the girls could pretty much climb, slide, and jump from the same spaces.  I felt bad for the mom with the not-yet-mobile baby in the baby swing and the active preschooler climbing and jumping.  How do you keep the baby occupied and make sure the big kid isn't breaking his arm?!  Don't know.  I don't have to figure that out!

5.  They are best friends.  Really.  End of story.  Nothing warms my heart more than seeing how close these sisters are.

So while people have said lots about my oops baby, complete strangers mind you, I have always been content knowing that God doesn't make oopsies.  At a time I was pretty defensive about it, to the point, I would introduce myself saying, "Hi, I'm Rachel.  I have a __  and a __ year old, and it's exactly like it sounds, they're a year apart." Now, I'm a little older, a little wiser, and completely content with our family dynamic.  If we hadn't have had the girls so close, Reagan may very well have been our only (in addition to her brother, who has one liners too for the hands full line too), and her built in best friend for life wouldn't be here.  And while to the outside world it may look like chaos, I absolutely love it.... we wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Birthday Blues

I have always loved March.  Especially the first week of March.  Basketball season is at it's peak, there's that fun rivalry of Duke and Carolina, in college it was always the week we were out on Spring Break, and for my whole life it's the week of my birthday!  This year as my birthday approaches, I'm less than excited.  I'm not an overly sentimental person, but I'm pretty emotional about bidding farewell to my twenties.

This all sneaked up on me this weekend.  The weather was yucky, I was doing the massive amounts of laundry from snowy day layers, to Anna's 2,341 wardrobe changes a day. Somehow in the bottom of the laundry there was a tiny little onesie that probably hasn't fit either baby in years, which says a lot since the babies are only two & three.  I held it in my hands.  I'm not one of those moms that boo hoo's when packing away the clothes that the little ones have outgrown.  In fact, I love it.  I love making room for new stuff and getting rid of the old stuff.  But this day, I looked at it, almost in disbelief.  Somehow, I used to have a person that was that tiny and I managed to keep it alive until it was no longer so tiny, twice.  Holy guacamole.

I thought when I was home with a newborn and a one year old, life wouldn't get any harder.  I was wrong.  If you've asked me at any point within the last few weeks, I've told you, all I want for my birthday is a couple hours to forget it's my birthday and forget about being responsible.  I'm pretty sure that a whiny brat has taken over the body of my near 4 year old, and I'm convinced that my other child may need to see an exorcist.  I wake up in the morning and my body wants to jump out of bed, but my head is saying, "Do I really have to get up?  You're going to have to dress the child who likes none of her clothes and will flail around, hiss, hit, and scream.  Not to mention, said child is going to have to ride in her carseat, which she also has a strong aversion to."  I roll over for a few more minutes to wallow in the dread of it all.

I'm not even 100% why I have this gray cloud hanging out above me, I have everything I've ever wanted.  If I could have planned my life, it's even better than my plan.  I have a husband who is supportive and loving.  Two little girls who are beautiful, creative, and witty.  A son, while not mine by birth, is as much my child as his sisters.  We have a home full of laughter.  I work at a job that never feels like work, that I get to have fun and do what I love, teach and learn and be around 28 of the best kids all day.  But as my birthday approaches, I still get a little sad.  I've pretty much met all the 5 year plans I've laid out, but I have no idea what I want just for me personally in the next 5, the next 10.  The day I got married, my priorities changed. I had two other people's needs I put before mine.  The day I became mommy, I had a tiny person who depended on me for every single most basic need.  When all of this happened, I changed.  I would say I lost a bit of me, but that's not true. That old me evolved.  And she's so much more giving and loving and caring.....and tired and exhausted....and old.

This weekend as I held that tiny little onesie, I thought about the changes this decade has brought.  At twenty, I celebrated my birthday with the sweetest girls in Gray Hall.  We may not have had {legal} air conditioner (it's a fun story-my roommate and I had a rolling a/c unit that certainly wasn't to code--but our room was the coolest, literally), but we had so much fun.  The past few years, I've had joint dinners with a little boy whose birthday is a week before mine.  Life has changed so quickly.  While I feel so fortunate for this life, I miss those carefree days, and I'm not sure I truly appreciated them at the time.

I think my recent exhaustion from the constant crying, all out tantrums and being stuck inside for the last 2 weeks thanks to winter has majorly attributed to my birthday blues.  I've always loved my birthday.  I'm an outspoken, first born, lover of attention after all.  But once my girls were born, being the center of attention, isn't really for me anymore.  I couldn't be more happy to share the spotlight.  I still love birthdays, just not mine as much.  When life held a lot of uncertainty for me, and I was unsure of the path I was supposed to take, I would repeat my favorite Bible verse in my head (Jer. 29:11) and all seemed right with the world.  Tonight as I'm holding on to twenty-nine for a couple more days, I think about that verse again.  It still rings true now, as it did then. Makes my birthday blues...seem less blue.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hard Conversations

Since I started teaching in the fall of 2007, I've had one group of 3rd graders, one group of 2nd graders, three groups of kinders, and I'm on my fourth group of 4th graders.  If you do the math that's an extra group of kids, but I'll explain that in a moment.  It doesn't really matter the age of my students, sometimes the fact that I have a life outside of teaching seems to seep into the classroom.  Leading to some of the most difficult conversations I've had to have be with wide eyed kids younger than 10.

This past week, I ended an email to one of my class moms with "I was more human than I like to be."  You see after lunch that day, I found out via text message that my grandma, the one who was my babysitter from infancy to 3 or 4, the one I told about my future stepson before my parents, the one that shared my love for chocolate with, had taken her last breath.  And while I knew it was coming, I didn't expect to find out then or like that.  I laid my head on my kidney shaped table and sobbed.  My kids were wonderful, and I haven't heard so many stories of empathy about dogs dying, cats dying, hamsters dying in all my other days teaching combined.

I've had to tell two classes of five year olds there was a baby in my belly.  The questions that ensued after the fact are always innocent, but enough to make this conservative girl blush.  The second year in a row there was a baby in my belly, my absolute favorite was, "How did you get a baby back in your belly SO fast?!" He had a baby sister the same age as Reagan at home, and I think he really feared his mom was going to get another baby in her belly fast too.

I had to share that my dear assistant had lost her mother with the third class of kindergartners.  I always worry that sharing that kind of news with really small children will scare them.  I don't want them to be scared that their moms are going to die, and as I told them her mother was really elderly, I still got all teary.  My assistant was so close with her mom that my heart literally broke for her.  That class was so concerned they made cards to cheer her up.  One little boy drew him and Mrs. Hagee on his tractor, because when he felt sad he told me, "nothing is better than a ride around the farm."

The hardest conversation I've ever had to have came my third year teaching.  I left a group of 27 fourth graders behind.  In 2009 I got married and moved an hour away from my school.  It was too hard being a new wife and stepmom.  Driving that distance to a pretty demanding school, was just too much.  When a second grade opening popped up nearby, I sent in my resume, was called to interview, and was offered the job the same day.  I couldn't not take it.  It didn't make sense.  But as I stood up in front of a class of below grade level reading, free and reduced lunch eating, run down apartment living nine year olds and told them, it didn't make sense to them.  I may have cried more that night than I did this week after I got the news of my Nana's death.  I can't express how much I love those Ramseur kids.  I always tell David if we move back, I want to work there.  He thinks I'm crazy.  He saw how difficult it was, but there's nothing quite as rewarding as working with kids who NEED you.  A lot of my Ramseur babies needed the teachers there to love them.

I hope that it will be quite a while before I have to have another hard conversation with my school kids.  Honestly, I really don't like admitting in my professional life I'm human at all.  It's really tiring, but I always end up learning as much from the kids as they learn from me. And I have learned that letting the kids know about your life, learning about theirs, building relationships, is what makes a classroom community warm, successful, and inviting.  So, while I'm not convinced I ever have quite the right words when I need them, I'm grateful to work in an environment where being human is part of the job, where building relationships is one of the requirements, and having those tough conversations happens only from time to time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Right now...

Nearly four years ago I started this blog to chronicle my new adventures being a mom.  Truthfully, it was an incredibly lonely time.  Being a new momma, no matter how rewarding, no matter all the precious baby snuggles you get, is isolating.  You have a tiny person depending on you for everything, you need to watch her breathe, because heaven knows she may need you to do that too, and your home no longer feels like your home.  It's full of devices that you're not even sure you know what to do with, but the baby registry experts said you needed them.

Over the course of the past few years, I've realized I'm not alone.  I've watched a lot of my friends welcome new little lives in the world.  They all seemed to transition into their roles more effortlessly than I did, but we've shed tears together.  We've prayed a lot of the same prayers.  We've joked about jumping and peeing in our pants.  Who knew that would ever be funny?

Tonight I was laying in bed trying to sleep.  David was already snoring.  Anna and Reagan finally tuckered out much later than their usual bedtime. And I lay there feeling quite alone.  My Nana went to square dance in the sky beside my Papa Jack today. Despite the fact I just saw her a little over two weeks ago, and that I've been pretty much constantly connected to my family via iMessage, I feel that same feeling of isolation I did as a new momma.  It's not that people I know aren't going through similar situations, it's not like I'm being left out, it's just a feeling. An incredibly exhaustive feeling.  

I was thinking about my childhood.  Each summer I'd spend a week at my grandparents house.  Nana gave the worst baths ever.  I swear she scrubbed us with Brillo pads.  She always let us have dessert.  Christmases had the most presents and the most beautiful tree at her house.  She and my Papa fought a lot, they were loud, they laughed a lot too.  We played cards.  I was the princess of Rummy.  We went camping in a camper with air conditioner (the only way I ever want to camp).  We roasted marshmallows.  They took me to Catholic church for the first time.  It was a little strange to the Southern Baptist raised little girl I was.  Nana didn't have the best way with words.  She didn't care.  She told my sister her prom dress looked like something Queen Latifah would wear.  She totally meant it as a compliment.  When Anna was born, she told my mom I didn't spell Anna correctly and that if it was A-N-N-A, we should pronounce it Anna (think Frozen).  I, being pretty hormonal and fiesty, told my mom if Nana called my child Ah-nah, then I was just going to have to call her Non-uh instead of Nana (I'm the oldest grandchild and I called her Nana first).  She said on Christmas this year my girls (one of whom is in <10% for weight) were pretty heavy for little girls.  Honestly, she was probably weaker than she cared to admit., but I just had to smile.  That was just her. 

I'm so grateful that almost near 30 years I got to know and love my grandmother--that's a lot longer than a lot of people get to know and love theirs.  There's a feeling that doesn't make me feel lonely at all. No mistaking I'll miss Nana, but I have lots of silly, funny, loving, horrible bathing experiences to tell Reagan and Anna about.