Parenting Out the Don’ts

We parents (and teachers) often spend much of our day using the words “don’t,” “no,” or “stop.” Some days – those really special ones – we use all of those words all in one sentence. But these words often leave me feeling like I all I did all day was nag at my children  (or *cough* husband).  They leave me feeling like a failure and like my children are bad. Don’t get me wrong I know my children are sinful like myself, and I know that sometimes these words are necessary – like when your three-year old is dragging your 15 month old across the floor by the collar of his shirt (not that this has ever happened at our house…) – but many days I feel like I use them too often.

You see, our brains are geared towards finding the negative. Pointing out what is wrong is the easy thing to do. Much research shows this to be true. It is why we are fixated on negative news. It also why we feel that the world is such a dangerous place, even though statistics shows otherwise.    We have more safety precautions, technology, and medicine then ever before, and yet we focus on all the bad things. Yep no more dying of bubonic plague or savage barbarian tribes or dysentery (unless you still play Oregon Trail). But I digress….

Always pointing out the negative in myself or in my children doesn’t always help them to understand what I DO want. Instead of saying, “don’t take things from others,” I have been trying to say, “please leave the toys in his hands.” Sometimes this turn of phrase can be tricky and not helpful either, but I feel like the overall message makes me feel less naggy.

Oftentimes though, it isn’t as much about turning these negative phrases into positive ones as it is about simply pointing out when they ARE doing what I want. Do you ever feel like you only speak to your children when they are being bad? I do. What about the moments that they act kind or share or listen right away? I am trying to be better at narrating those moments for my kids. I want them to know – “hey, you did good there!” I want to show them that being sweet and kind and obedient has just as many pay-outs (in terms of attention gotten) as being mean and disobedient. I found this method to be true when I was a teacher as well. The more I pointed out to my students what I wanted by saying things like, ” thank you so-and-so for being ready right away” or “I see so-and-so is sitting attentively” etc. the more they seemed to do that behavior. This seemed to help most of those students who were just slightly off-task get back on track, while also praising the behavior of those students who really deserved it. In the long run it also helped build up in them the behavior that I was looking for.

Now, before you get all “behavior modification” blah blah blah on me, I want to say that I think the biggest change this method elicited was that it changed my own heart and attitude. I started focusing less on the negative and more on the positive. I started to see that things were not always going wrong. That most of my students were doing what I wanted and acting virtuously most of the time. It completely changed my outlook on the day. I stopped feeling so much like a failure as a person and as a teacher, and started feeling more like “I got this!” That confidence only boosted my future interactions with them as I saw them more as people and less as small creatures to boss around (don’t tell me you don’t think this sometimes in your mind). I was more open, and more comfortable with them and myself. I let my hair down a little, so to speak, and that had boundless positive effects. I attribute this conscious effort on my part, and many many prayers throughout the day, surrendering to God my complete inability to do it on my own, as the reasons for my feeling of success last year.

Now, I just need to apply some of those tactics at home, a place where there isn’t constant feedback or evaluations or accountability. Home is a place where it is just me, my kids, and God. It is so much more humbling in a way because it really makes me stretch into the farthest realms of what integrity means. To be at all successful, I need to be more intentional about having some quiet time with the Lord to get my own heart right. Then I need to fight my very natural instincts to correct, correct, correct, and boss, boss, boss. I want to need to be the first example of what forgiveness, kindness, and humbleness means to my children, and the only way to do that is to go to the source Himself. And then point it out in them.

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One Week In

 

We have now lived in Bloomington for a little over a week – and what a week it has been! On top of the emotional up and down that is moving across the country and leaving your job, we also had multiple days of a stomach bug. Britton dealt with his right before and right after traveling (thank God nothing happened ON the plane). Charlotte waited to christen our new house. It was quite a couple of days.

As a person of routine and schedule, one of the more frustrating parts of travel and moving is the schedules that get disrupted. Naps were lost and bed times were pushed back. It took the kids about a week, but I think they have finally adjusted to the time difference, so we are now able to actually start some routines here. Even something like grocery shopping is challenging when the stores you have to shop at are not the same ones you had before. Having to learn the set up and options available while dealing with two often hungry and whining children is not one’s ideal shopping time. So far we have checked out HyVee (it’s a little pricey, but has TONS and TONS of options – and Ah-MAAAAA-Zing donuts), and Aldi. I grew up with Aldi, but it is so different now.

But before we get too heavy into starting new routines here, we have tried to spend some time exploring our new town. Moving from a city with millions to a town of 130,000 or so (that’s Bloomington and Normal together) makes this place feel so small. Dare I say po-dunk even, at times. But also small-town in the best of ways. Like people are so friendly here, and our neighbors have already come over and talked to us several times. The boys across the street just wander over to our porch in between their nerf gun fights and bike riding escapades. There are also so many other differences between here and Arizona. First, there are – trees! and bugs…. and lots of old houses! No more adobe and terra cotta roofs for us.

In fact just down the street from us is an original brick cobblestone street that is chalk-full of all the Victorian wood-sided scalloped trimmed houses you could ever want and in a schema of colors that would put Baskin Robbins to shame: historic pink, purple, blue, yellow, mint green. It’s a veritable rainbow of house colors around here. And the front porches? Nearly every house has one, accompanied, of course, with the necessary front porch swing.

 

 

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And if ice-cream shop hues of houses aren’t your thing, there’s always brick. And more brick. Additionally each house comes with it’s own tree lined side-walk, of which Charlotte commented the other day that we were “in a deep forest.” Only a kid who has grown up in a desert landscape with very few trees thinks that a sidewalk with a few overhanging trees is a “deep forest.”

Also on the list of things we have tried so far:

-The beautiful bike path – The Constitution Trail – that is literally at the end of our street. It has no shortage of shade, flowers (an herb garden even) and historic markers – most historic markers around here have something, if not EVERYTHING, to do with good ‘ole Abe Lincoln.

– We found this wonderful park today on historic Franklin Square. It is small, which works for me because I can see them from anywhere in the park. We will be visiting often since it is only a few blocks away.

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This park even comes with its own castle! Not really. 

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We even met a furry friend at the park – can you spot the caterpillar?

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– An ice-cream shop in Normal called Emacks and Bolios. It was delish! No really. You can get a sundae with two scoops, unlimited toppings, fudge, whipped cream and a cherry for like 5 bucks. And the ice cream is guuuuud. I tried the Chocolate Addiction and Espresso flavors. And their fudge was on fleek for sure.

Our town even has those cute free library boxes around. This one is right on our street.

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Next on the list:

  • The zoo
  • The County Fair – which is this week
  • The Discovery Museum
  • The State Farm park (yeah, they have their own park, which you can only go to if you work at or have a spouse that works at State Farm). It has pools, spas, splash pads and more!
  • The David Davis Mansion – I’m not sure who this person is, but their are road markers directing you how to get there.
  • More parks!

In between those activities, we will continue to settle in and spend lots of time looking out all our beautiful windows contemplating all sorts of high-minded things I’m sure. Or…. just neighbor watching. Britton’s already got this activity down-pat.

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This Old House

We found a place to live! We are more than excited to finally have a place that we like down in Bloomington/Normal, IL. For those of you who have NO idea where that is, you are not alone. You can find it here.

After looking at townhouse and regular houses, some that had too few bathrooms, some that had no yard (a major thing I missed about living in the Mid-West), some that were at the top of our price point, we finally found something we think will work for us for time. Our goal is to rent for just a few more years and be saving up to buy a house in that time frame. This will give us time to figure our where we want to live and the schools we want our children to attend.

So here some pictures of the place:

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Now moving on in….

I love the hardwood floors, which are original (the house was built in 1904). There are also nice architectural features like the built in cabinets and the beams in the dining room. The rooms are a little dark for my taste, so we are going to brighten them up with some fresh white paint and some flowy white curtains.

Living Room:

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Dining Room:

How can you not love the French doors, and set in ceiling and that window seat? It just needs a soft cushion and some pillows, and you will be able to find me there any day of the week.

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The owners are replacing the countertops in the kitchen. There is also no dishwasher, which is a bummer since I got used to less hand washing while living out here, but the built-ins are nice.

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This downstairs room will be used a a playroom for the kids because it is the only room on the first floor. It will also be given some lovely white paint. There is a bathroom downstairs as well.

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Moving upstairs now…..

There are three bedrooms upstairs as well as a half-bath.

 

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I will have to learn how to live with stairs again. 

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This is the room we will use as the Master

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A look from within the room

 

The kiddos will get their own rooms for a little while at least. The baby will sleep in a bassinet in our room while it is little. During that time Britton and Charlotte will get to have separate rooms, then I think we will try to combine them into one room and keep the smaller room as a nursery.

This is the larger room that will be Charlotte’s:

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This is the smaller room that will be Britton’s: 9b8a5ed9b912cd6e29ca38b1051b7d3cl-m18r

 

Overall, there are lots of things we love about the house and many that are not our ideal, but we are going to make the house work for us for a couple of years until we are ready to buy something else.

Now for the fun part….. DECORATING!

The Stress of it All

I turned my keys into school the other day. This action marked the end of the equipment I had to turn in and check list of “to-dos” that I had to accomplish before I could officially leave the school. And while perhaps that day should have been filled with lots of emotion  – it wasn’t. No, the weekend before, when I actually had to move all of my stuff out of the room, disassembling the classroom I had carefully crafted and the only classroom I’ve ever known – that was the day it really hit me. Moving became real. Leaving my career became real.

And from there I have entered the whirlwind, roller coaster, fire hose (yes it can be ALL of these metaphors) of emotions and things to do so that we can before we move. Starting with a house. Let me tell you, finding a place to rent that suits the needs of our family, that we can actually afford, and that isn’t awful looking, in a town that is not the rental-type of town has been frustrating. We think we may finally have found something (I will share once we have things more finalized), but this ushered in another surge of emotions.

Is it just me or do other women get themselves into a convoluted, spiraling circle of crazy thoughts? For me this feeling of finalization in leaving my job has made being at home with the kids harder some days. Especially when they don’t nap or sleep at night. Some days I feel awful because I feel like I don’t like them, and then that makes me not like myself for not liking them, which in turn, probably adds to the curtness and impatience towards them that makes me not like them. Being an introvert and a parent doesn’t help either – an issue I found equally as challenging while being a teacher. I often had to “waste” my prep periods at school to just sit and do nothing and re-charge. At home that is harder to do. I find myself emotionally drained from being so needed all day. Britton wakes up at night sometimes, so I put him in bed with me, then he is up at 5:00 – sometimes earlier – and it is off to the races…..the crying races that is. You know the ones where they are either switching off whining and crying or even…..crying simultaneously. And I think…how do I add a third to this chaos???

So sometimes we try to go out and leave this house and start our day over again.  Of course, we would just go play outside but we live in Arizona where it has literally been 120 degrees outside. This makes us unable to step outside after 10:00, let alone venture off to the death-trap that people in other states call a playground. The other day, we went to our all-time favorite store: Target. But this did not help because do you know what they already have set up at Target? School supplies. Yes. Wonderful, beautiful, shiny, new markers and crayons and binders and….. sigh. I love school supplies. So this made me miss teaching and miss the fact that I won’t be setting up a classroom this year. So of course this lead me to start looking into the schools near the house we want to rent in Bloomington. Never mind the fact that our oldest child is barely three. But my research was disappointing. I was less than impressed with the supposedly “Grade A” school. Coming from a wonderful school like Great Hearts, it is hard to go back to a regular public school. It is often all standardized testing scores and PARCC (Common Core), and computer reading programs and Halloween parades (and don’t even get me started on their funding issues). Not that there is anything wrong with any of these things (okay, I am really not a fan of Common Core, and Illinois really does need some  real re-vamping to their funding, budgeting, and pension issues), but I know it won’t be the same type or caliber of education that I fell in love with at Hillsdale and was able to practice at Great Hearts. So then I consider homeschooling. Until I remember the whole crying issue/not liking my own children sometimes conundrum, and I think about trying add actually TEACHING them something to all of that, and it all seems to be crumbling down.

One would think you could escape some of this by simply laying down and taking a rest for a while, but it has all followed me into my dreams. Dreams about teaching where nothing is prepared and my math sprints are just Halloween coloring sheets, and I don’t know the schedule for the day and the students are all out of control. And others where my children turn into zombies and eat me. And so there seems to be no respite for all my stress.

So we are going to build into our schedule a time each week where I can get away from everyone – go to the library or Starbucks or ANYWHERE by. my. self. and just have some quiet alone time. To recharge. To allow absence to make my heart grow fond again. And to de-stress a little. In the mean time, maybe send some extra coffee. Or earplugs. Or both. Maybe you should have a therapist deliver them just to cover all the bases.

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See they are cute and not crying sometimes. 

Growing pains and joys

Today marks two weeks of being a stay-at-home-mom. Two weeks. Only two weeks? While I have stayed at home each summer prior to this one, this one feels different because I know it isn’t going to end. And that, my friends, feels so daunting right now. I mean only two weeks? Hasn’t it been like two years? It feels like two years, or two months or two million hours? Yes, clearly I am adjusting well. These last two weeks have already been such a humbly and frustrating experience for me. One in which I have learned more about myself than my children. Here are some updates on our life right now.

Me: Staying at home is nice. I know, I just said it’s awful, but my house is clean. No really, it’s clean. Like I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor in the like the first time ever, although I won’t mention what this exercise taught about me the grout on our kitchen floor. My laundry is done. Books are being read. I get to drink all of my coffee in the morning. Breakfast gets eaten. It’s nice. But also hard. I have learned that while I worked so hard at trying to become more patient in my teaching career, I really lose it at home. Don’t get me wrong, I am still plugging away at it, but it is so much harder here. Why is it always harder to be patient with our loved ones than with strangers or people more in the periphery of our life? I have also learned that staying at home brings out the introvert in me. I just want to sit and read books and have everyone leave me alone. But then, the extrovert that often pushes her way around inside is yelling, “why are you doing this to me? Where are the people? You can’t keep me in here!” So we venture out, and I often regret it because naps aren’t had and children throw temper tantrums, and the introvert says in her Eeyore-ish way, “See, we should have just stayed home. Nothing good ever comes of going out.” Sometimes, I feel that going out becomes more about me escaping, although I justify it as “an outing for the kids.”

Charlotte, my first born, and my mini-me in most every way, ends up getting the brunt of what I have learned is often my brutal perfectionism. I have been starting to notice just how nit-picky I am. Too much noise bothers me. Too much movement bothers me. That’s not where those toys go. Why have those things been sitting on the floor for all of three seconds? It’s rough on both of us. And so it isn’t any wonder to me that my stubborn, willful, opinionated daughter, who also happens to be a three-year old, fights back and says “no” to all the control I put over her. Saaaay whhaaat? Now, now, I know you are all so surprised to find that I have a child like this. I can imagine it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that there is perhaps an unhealthy amount of the words “no” and “stop” around here. So, I’ve decided that I need to go back and read this because this girl need some breathing space from my control. I know because I would. My goal is to let it go a little – something I should know by now, since I hear the *bleeping* song every. three.seconds. I need to enjoy them more. I want to be aware of how playful and happy I am really being around them, so that I don’t feel like I am just grumpy and nagging. #difficultlifegoals.

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Charlotte: She is a fierce little thing. She knows what she wants. She loves all things pink, sparkly, and Disney. She wants to wear dresses each and every day, and insists that they twirl. She is still baby enough that she wants to be held and snuggled and carried around at times, but she is also independent enough to insist upon buckling herself into the carseat, picking out her own clothes, and getting out her own food. Three is also such a wonderful age in many ways. She sings songs all the time, most of the time from the movie Frozen, but other favorites include: The Star-Spangled Banner, Jesus Loves Me, and lots of other little tunes she learned at school. She also pretends now. She cooks me pretend food, and gets her bags to pretend to go to the grandmas’ houses. She pretends to be the mommy – okay, no this one she sassily tells me she IS sometimes. I just tell her that if she’s the mommy, then she has to change all the poopy diapers. That usually quiets her down a little. She makes little houses out of blocks for her ponies and acts things out with them. She “reads” books to herself. When we aren’t power-struggling with each other, she is really rather pleasant.

 

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Britton:  Gah! Could this kid be cuter? I mean look at the guy. Those blue eyes. That round head. Those eyelashes. Why DO boys often get better eyelashes than us girls? This boy has my heart. He walks (yes, he walks now!) over to me, smile on his face, and plows into me to give me hugs. All. The. Dang. Time. It is wonderful. He loves to snuggle and give kisses. And just sit by you (sometimes, at least). Because Charlotte is so movement oriented, having a kid that just sits is, well…sigh…it’s nice. He loves his sister so much, and wants to do all the things she is doing, something she often finds frustrating. But sometimes they actually do play nicely together. Besides giving hugs and following Charlotte around, his other major passion is food. The kid can EEEAT. Any time you are eating, expect to be feeding him.

Dean: Is doing his best to adjust to the fact that now when he gets home, I need a break from those sweet darling kiddos. He will take them outside or play in another room with them, just to give me a small break. He also watches them for a good portion of time on the weekends. On the job front, he has had several interviews, which have gone well, but we still haven’t heard back yet. So we are waiting. We know we want to move, it is just a matter of when. He always seems to handle all this stress better than I do, and is not as put off by the clutter, chaos and mess that children are at times, as I am.

Overall, I am glad it is Friday, and that I have another week to try again. Only…let’s do the weekend first eh?

Stay At Home Adventures

Friday brought the last day of school, and with that came my last day of teaching….ever. Okay, probably not ever. But it feels like that right now. Right now the full implications of our decision to have me stay home haven’t really hit me. I feel it at moments, but right now it just feels like summer break as usual.

But this summer break is different because it won’t end for me. There won’t be any prepping for classes, readying my classroom, buying new school supplies, and smelling all the new school books (wait? what? I don’t do that…) this fall. And I don’t know how I feel about that yet. Some moments this feels so sad. I love teaching, and I feel like most days I’m good at it. But with a third baby on the way, staying home with our own children feels like the right decision right now. They need me.

So this is a time that I simultaneously feel full of fear, but also of excitement over the potential of what this life brings, a life I have literally never lived. I have been in school (taking classes or teaching them) since I was 5. That’s the only world I know.

So this is untrodden ground for me. I know I know I’ll need help. That’s why we are moving closer to our family. But I also need help from all my friends. Don’t forget me. Don’t stop messaging me and contacting me just because I’ll be far away. I need you for your love and support and for the normalcy I will seek when day and day of small children starts to make me feel insane.

And since I am a type A personality, constantly consumed with lists and tasks, I of course have oodles of ideas of what I am going to do with all my time (you know, in between diaper changes, trips to the parks and finding new play-group friends). Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW that staying home with children is time and energy consuming, but living a dual-life as teacher and mom/wife has had my head spinning for a while now, so just doing one seems gads easier. Here are a few things I am thinking of tackling while at home (besides actually getting laundry and dishes done in a timely manner):

  • Reading: I have so little time to read just for pleasure while I am teaching that I can’t wait to get back into the wonderful worlds that those pages bring. I’m also hoping that this will ignite the creative person that I know lives inside me, and will bring on some ideas for a book of my own.
  • Baking: I am going to be honest – baking scares me. Mostly because of *shudders* chemistry. Perhaps blame it on my scary chem teacher in high school, but the chemical precision baking takes is overwhelming. But I am planning on tackling that beast and learning how to make breads, and pastries. Or maybe I’ll just keep the Great British Baking Show on repeat and trick myself into thinking I’ll be a baker one day too.
  • Cooking: I am separating this from baking because I actually CAN cook already (although Dean hasn’t seen my amazing skills in quite a while). But I want to learn some new recipes and learn how to make more things myself and buy less of them (like making our own hummus and a good spaghetti sauce from scratch). What are some other things that should be list of things to make? Favorite recipes you have?
  • Knitting/Crocheting: I did know how to crochet at one point, but it is something I haven’t done in years. I would like to revive this little crafty art (or learn a new one).
  • Learning the Uke:  Having played the piano when I was younger, I know the value of learning an instrument. I would love to have some music time with the kiddos each day, and have them grow in their appreciation for making their own music. We don’t have a piano, and my child-sized hands cannot reach the cords on a guitar, so learning to play the Ukulele seems like a good compromise.
  • Finding some good podcasts:  I think this will help me feel like I am still growing intellectually and that I’m still connected to the outside world and to the Word. I want to avoid having the TV as much as possible, but I know that mommy will need more to listen to than three small people whining at her feet. What are some podcasts you swear by?

 

  • Staying Connected:  like for realz. Not only will I be livin’ that glam SAHM life where my life is sure to dwindle into the small box that will be our home, but we are also moving 1800 miles away. I love the people I met here in Arizona, and I want to do my best to stay connected to them through means other than social media. I want to spend time each week writing a few snail-mail notes to friends I have all over the country.

Stay-at-Home friends, what else should I look forward to or put on my list of things to do to keep me sane? Give me all your wisdom.IMG_5288

Trading Happiness for Joy

At the beginning of the school year, our headmaster asked everyone to write a personal professional goal. I’m sure many focused on classroom management, lesson planning, sequencing or myriad of other teacher-related professional goals. But me? Mine was simple – and utterly difficult. A goal people work at their whole lives. Mine was – Be Happy. Yes, be happy. Two small words that pack so much punch, while simultaneously leaving you saying, “whatever that means….” For me – a person who tends to be overly critical, perfectionistic, ever self-improving and what I often call “realistic” (which is really code for a less dramatic pessimist) – being happy meant being more flexible, relaxed, open, and able to let things go in my life. It also meant enjoying my family and students as more than little vessels that I can task-master around. And when I made this goal in August, a small nagging little voice in my head said, “are you sure? When you make goals like this God often tests you.” I rolled my eyes.

And so the year began  – with eye rolling, just what every truly happy person does. But really it started off well. My class this year is great. They are fun, excited about learning, easy and perfect for me because they are so task-oriented. Truly, I give them a task or directions and they get right to it (well most of them because you know….there are always those few….). I have never felt calmer or more at ease with myself. I have laughed – really laughed – with them this year, and been sillier than I have been with other classes. I have invested in getting to know them and introducing them to my family. We have a mutual love and respect for each other. Maybe year six of teaching does that to you. Or maybe they are special. Or maybe being a mom has made me more comfortable in my own skin. Whatever the reason – I have never felt happier. “Be happy!,” I excitedly exclaimed.

And then as the school year continued and Britton and Charlotte grew, we started to really seriously talk about moving. Just when I was starting to feel happy, I had to work through all of the emotions of leaving a place that has helped me grow up. I now felt nervous, sad, anxious, happy all at once. I also felt like I might be losing my identity by becoming a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always worked, always been doing school, who would I be now? The more I worked through it though, the more I realized maybe I could be happy doing that was well. I wasn’t sure yet, but I just kept chanting, “be happy, be happy,” hoping that my Dory-like attitude would make it come true.

But that little voice in August was right. And it recently emerged full-force, hand on hip, three snaps in the air finger wagging, and said in it’s sassiest voice, “I told you so. I told you, you would be tested. You didn’t listen.” or maybe life just happened. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

On February 27th, our sitter told us she could no longer watch our kids effective March 1. The next day would be her last. All her reasons for leaving only made us more upset. So I panicked and did what every person in the history of the entire world has done when things aren’t going well – I called my mom. And she re-arranged her life to fly out on Wednesday and watch the kids for a week or so, while we scrambled to find a permanent arrangement. But all we found were waiting lists, prices we couldn’t hope to afford, and dead ends. In fact, we are still searching for somewhere for them to go. And I attempted to whisper into a tear-stained pillow  – be happy.

Then the following week, my fourth grade team and I underwent some major changes. This change required re-arranging teachers, adding responsibilities, and asking what seemed like endless questions. And so through rather gritted teeth, I grumbled “be happy.” But I didn’t feel happy.

Then I started thinking. None of these situations are happy ones – frustrating? Yes. frightening? Yes. Sad? Yes. Emotionally draining? Yes. But happy? No. And the more I tried to be happy the faker I felt. Happiness seems to cause us to deny our true situations, to mask over the reality of what we feel, to put on a smile and nod “fine” when we are really dying inside.

I realized maybe happiness was the wrong goal. Maybe I should have been attempting to find joy. God-filled joy, which acknowledges the hardship of one’s circumstances, but also turns your eyes back up to the heavens, and helps you to say, ” Everything seems bad, but God is still good.” It doesn’t put a smiling mask on your face, disguising the realness of life; instead, it gently tilts your chin up to help you see beyond the dust and dirt at your feet, to see the life that still exists. It lifts us out of the mire we feel stuck in, and helps us to say, “Lord, I trust you.”

Joy is realizing that although you need a shoulder to lean on or even to cry on, that you are lucky to have so many friends who have lovingly outstretched their arms to you, attempting to safeguard you from a small part of the storm.

Joy may not be loud. It may not be had with jumping or skipping or a sprawling smile. In fact, it is often just a “small and broken hallelujah.” But it is also deeper than happiness. It is deeper than happiness because it reveals more than it masks. It is deeper because it is from God, who acknowledges our sufferings, but loves us through them. He even calls us to rejoice in them.

I know that happiness will return one day, but right now I will keep working on finding joy.

And so this song has become my new mantra:

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

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Three of my biggest reasons to have joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

What is home? Or a home? It is more than the house we live in, but it can be and is also that. It has something to do with the people we are around, even if they aren’t ones that live in our house. After we moved out to Arizona, I was confused about where “home” was. This weird mars-like habitation wasn’t home – I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t even know where I was going half the time. I still mostly thought of my parent’s house as “home,” although I hadn’t lived there in years. Slowly, over many years, Arizona has become home. It became a place full of community: church, school, work, friends who connect you people that eventually become your friends. It took time to make those connections, to build relationships, and frankly, to get used to the extreme weather before I started to think of Phoenix as home.

But now, it is time to return to our original home. Living 1800 miles away from family can be difficult, and with two little ones, it is even harder. We want them to grow up near their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. So we have decided it is time to uproot again – or rather to reroot ourselves back where we started. We are looking to move at the end of May, so that means this will be my last year at Archway Veritas. Actually, it will be my last year teaching for a while. I will be taking some time to be a Stay-At-Home Mom (uhm hellz yeah, I capitalized that title because it is legit job as well as a vocation), a task I am nervous about, but also so so so excited for. We are so happy to be moving closer to our community of family.

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But like all things of this nature, it is also sad. I am sad to leave a place that I have come, through time, to find enchanting and beautiful. But more so, I am sad to leave my job at Archway because it is full of people and ideas that I love and cherish. My co-workers are not just my colleagues, they are my friends. Our work environment is built on real mutual respect and appreciation for each other. It is unlike any place I have ever worked, and probably ever will. It is a place that has helped me grow up, gain confidence, gain compassion, and like any place that truly impacts us, to lose a little bit of my heart to it along the way. I can only hope I will find even a semblance of this wonderful group of people when we move back to Chicago. Thank you, to all of my friends who work at and have worked at Archway Veritas. I truly cannot put into words how I feel at losing the ability to just be around you each day. I am also sad that Charlotte and Britton will not get to learn at this school, and be taught by those that have taught me so much. Thank you for what you have given me.

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P.S. (because my junior high self would die if I didn’t): Dean has not officially transferred with State Farm, so the details of when and where we are moving haven’t been settled yet

My Classroom Tour.

So that’s a pretty old picture of Charlotte in my classroom, but it’s too cute not to share.

While I don’t write often (due to the fact that I work a whole bunch and have two small monsters at home), what I have written about mostly pertains to my “home” life. But a major part of my life has been teaching. This is my sixth year of teaching, in fact. For those of you who don’t know me – I graduated from Hillsdale College with an English major, French minor, and a certificate in Elementary Education from the state of Michigan. I then took my first teaching job at Great Hearts in Phoenix, Arizona, and I have loved it. Although I want to share my journey to being a sixth year teacher at Great Hearts, right now I thought it would be fun to just give you a cursory tour of my school and classroom! I love visiting classrooms because, like a home, they say so much about you: what you like, what is important to you and how you organize yourself. I have spent waaaaaaayy too much time and money on my classroom, but only because I realized – somewhere along the way- that I spend more waking hours of my day  in that room than I do at home. So I might as well love being there.

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This building was once a Motorola office, but it makes for a good school too!

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This is the walkway up to the front of the school. Isn’t it so inviting?

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This is the playground, which you walk past you enter the school. Not a bad view, ammiright? *Side note – the playground grass starts off a lush green, but looks like this less than half-way through the year. That’s what happens when 500 kids run on desert grass every day.

One thing I love about my school is that it doesn’t look like your typical elementary school. The walls are covered with canvases of classical paintings, and beautiful artwork from the students (thanks to the amazing Elizabeth Burch). Even the library isn’t your primary- colors-are-for-primary -school toting space.

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Zis is zee famous art wall. Most of the time I just ogle it because #truelife kindergarteners be painting better than me.

Now down to my classroom (because uhm isn’t that what you’ve really been waiting for). Outside each room we have a bulletin board that we get to  have to decorate.

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The Fourth Graders memorize ALL of “Paul Revere’s Ride.” That would be 126 lines of poetry. What did you do as a fourth grader? #lifegoals

Now won’t you come on in?

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Ah, there is nothing like the excitement of going to school!!

I pride myself on being organized, which usually involves lots of baskets and bins (read: endless trips to Target and Homegoods) so that every THING has it’s own place and space. I want my classroom to be set up in a way that the fourth graders can manage much of it on their own. Need scissors? gluesticks? Tissues? – you know where they are. Teachers make so many decisions and answer so many questions every day, and I don’t want those menial things to be the questions that use up all my energy for the day. The more I’ve taught, the more I’ve given over to the students because they are capable, and I want them to feel capable of taking care of some of their own little problems.

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Paper towels, tissues, and lysol wipes are stored in the wooden crates (I stained them). White boards were cut from this at Home Depot. They will cut them there for you in 1 ft. by 1 ft. squares. This gives you 32 individual white boards for under $15. I have found that they hold up pretty well for a very cheap investment. I used these bins from Target to hide away games or other supplies that I don’t want sitting out.

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I LOVE this cart from IKEA. It has really helped my keep my own teacher things organized for each lesson.

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I use this bamboo organizer tray to keep everything for protractors, to extra pencils, to stamps in. These colored masons jars {similar} store extra scissors and pencils that need to be sharpened. This Cynthia Rowley home 6-bin caddy helps keep all those highlighters organized. I picked mine up from Marshalls, so it was hard to locate this exact one to show you, but this one and this one are similar.

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I love using mason jars to store pens and colored pencils. They are pretty and functional!

As you move around the room to the right you will see:

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I bought this file cabinet from Goodwill, painted it up, and put new handles on it. The paper bin you can get here from Target. The basket is from Joanne’s {smaller version here}. And in the basket are small blanket squares and pillows that the kids use when we do free reading (it gives them a defined space).

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I used these cubbies from IKEA to create a classroom library. The only problem is that they don’t work well for chapter books, so enter in these bins. It makes looking through books a lot easier too and better utilizes the space.

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I keep extra books (usually curricular related) in the larger grey and white  bins that way I can rotate books and freshen up our library selection each quarter. A paper tray {similar and similar}  works great for extra copies (then the kids can find their own when they lose the one you know you gave them).

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The laundry hamper {similar idea here} doubles as a ball storage space. Hooray for pretty ways to store ugly things.

Also, this is my view outside of my classroom. Can’t. Be. Beat.

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And on the other side of the room:

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I decided to lower the table this year because I love sitting on the floor to work, so I figured some kids might like that too. It’s been a hit.

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I loved these bins for my Reading A to Z books (these are books that you print out-with a membership- from the Reading A-Z company. They make great little readers to use in reading groups) because I could easily label what was in each one. On the smaller shelf: small bins of alphabet stamps that the kids use during #daily5 time to practice their spelling words. On top: the white canister houses glue sticks, and a ramekin houses extra erasers.

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Other small details:

I use this stapler and these scissors because beautiful things make me happy. I also use this organizer to file the students graded work. #target, you really are a gem… and also a fiend because you so often seduce me with your beautiful things and then take all my money.

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I love that could personalize the color scheme! I have plans to make more with other backgrounds and colors if you are interested. FYI: you can use dry erase markers on glass!

This is a calendar I made from paint chips, extra fabric and cheap frame from Goodwill. I keep it in a place where the kids can see what is coming up. This helps alleviate many worries and extra questions.

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These are the classroom rules I came up with this year. I wanted something more specific than just abstract expectations. It has worked out pretty well. As a class (I’m including myself here), we have really practiced failing and having mistakes this year with the view that we learn so much from those moments of failure.

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A closer look at the job chart I made. I just used large ribbon, velcro (the labels are velcroed on so that you could change them if you wanted to trade out a job one year), labels, cardstock, contact paper, and jumbo chalkboard clothes pins. The clothes pins I wipe off and use year after year (*claps for saving money*).

My objective with classroom jobs is to get stuff DONE (some teachers use it to help build responsibility). Because my objective is aimed at efficiency, I randomly pull clothes pins and let the students choose their jobs. I have found that this more effective in actually getting the desired task completed (who would have thunk that having a choice in what you do actually motivates you to do it…).

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This little bin (I don’t know why, but it will only pull it up on the U.K. IKEA site) from Ikea was dolled up. I based mine off of this DIY, but there are TONS of other ways to jujj…tszuj.. it up. It functions as a place to keep the extra job board clothes pins and also as a library catalog system.

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I also use a small glass trinket box and another Ikea bin (see above links) to help keep things on my desk organized because getting out tons of papers clip (a task a do a thousand times a day) is oh so much more enjoyable when you get to open this tiny little treasure chest.

I hope you enjoyed visiting my classroom and maybe it even sparked some at-home organization ideas!

 

Raising an Adventurer

I think most of us would say that we want our children to grow up and live as full or fuller life than we did. As we approach a new year, many of us look back on the last year(s) and reflect on what we would change. For many this means more time with family, more travel, trying new things etc. I can at least say that it is true for myself. I wish I had taken more time before getting married and having children to travel and see the world. Much of that is put on hold right now because well…planes and babies….let’s just say that there thousands of better combinations of things in the world. We still go places with them, but not as far or as often as I would like.

For now we have learned to adventure from where we are, and somehow God gave me this rambunctious, ever moving, ever opinionating [not a word, I know. But it fits], ever willing -the-universe-to-happen little girl. Charlotte is exactly like me in so many ways. In truth, that fact is simultaneously humbling and frustrating. To meet your most annoying qualities intensified in two-year old form is an every day sanctifying process. I think that is why God gives us children sometimes.

At the same time, Charlotte is NOTHING like me (or Dean for that matter). She is more like both of our siblings. My sister Paula has traveled to places I never thought of going, and is currently doing missions work for Seeds of Hope in Costa Rica. Dean’s brother Curt, who is a marine, is always off to somewhere: out with friends, going back to school, on a three-week trip to Europe. And Charlotte, she is like them: outgoing, and fearless. The child leaps from the couch, bounding from chair to ottoman without a care in the world. She climbs to the top of the playground as if she were a 5 year old. I don’t think she has ever thought of herself as her actual age; she truly believes she can do whatever all the other, older children are doing.img_4070

But I think I needed that in my life. I needed a child who, when she first laid eyes on Camelback Mountain close up, stated with utmost certainty, “I climb that.” I needed a child who wants to get dirty and play in the rain even if she is in her favorite Elsa dress. I needed a child who spontaneously decided that the only right way to drink hot chocolate was in the cold, so upon her prompting we sat out in the carport in the damp, chilliness of the night. I need that. I need it because it ignites the adventurer inside of me that often gets too scared to really do what I want. I need it because sometimes I feel silly doing spontaneous things. I need it because it pushes me to become better.  I just hope that she does not lose her sense of adventure as she grows up and encounters the nay-sayers of the world. I pray I don’t become one of those nay-sayers. And I hope I am a parent who sees the beauty in her drive and spirit (and Britton’s too, if that is how God has made him) and not just its potential danger.img_4391img_4393