Reflecting on my blessings – Part 1

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amSo, I missed Slice of Life Tuesday.  I have vacation brain!  But, you see, I did have every intention of writing yesterday, but then got distracted.  My plan was to write in the morning,  but the pool was calling our names.  Then, I thought I’d write in the afternoon, but going out for a drive to explore Myrtle Beach had called our names.  Then, I decided to write when we got home after dinner, but snuggles on the couch with my girl called my name.  So, here I am a day late, but feeling the need to write.   These past few days of relaxation, thinking, reading, and spending time with family, has made me notice and focus on the people and things that I’m blessed with in my life.

There are so so so many things in life to be grateful for, so I’m thinking this is going to be a multi-part post.  Today, I’m just going to start by highlighting some (there are many more) of the people in my family that I’m truly blessed with.

My blessings:

  • A wonderful husband who knows me better than I know myself many days.  Who is my rock and knows how to help and comfort me when I need it.  Who is protective and takes care of our whole family.  Now, if only he could read my mind and know what chores/jobs need to be done without me asking – yeah that would be even more wonderful 🙂
  • An amazing daughter who has a determined but loving personality.  She amazes me every day with the things she does and says and I need to be better at pointing those out to her.  She’s feisty and has trouble controlling her emotions.  But, she’s also very kind and attuned to how others are feeling.  She knows when people are feeling down and will give hugs to make them feel better.
  • A mom who is my best friend and quite possibly the strongest person I know.  At times I know she doesn’t feel so strong, and I wish she would just lean on us a little bit to help her keep her strength.  She has been through many hard times, but my wish for her is to put the most focus on all the good times.  I hope she knows that we are all her supports that will keep her standing tall – no matter what.
  • A brother who has gone from being my “little” brother, to being my friend.  He’s had to grow up faster than most people his age, but he has become an amazing man.  I often think he worries too much about filling my dad’s shoes, and wonder if he realizes that he doesn’t need to fill any shoes.  He has his own shoes and my dad is walking right there with him – always.  As he gets older, I see more and more of my dad’s personality in him.  It definitely makes my heart happy and I hope it makes him smile.
  •  An aunt who is like a second mom to me.  Her and my mom are technically cousins, but they might as well be sisters.  I love everything about their relationship.  They laugh, they bicker, the love each other.  Every night at 9pm my aunt calls my mom.  It’s their nightly check in (even though they’ve probably spoken like 50 times during the day).  She looks out for us and my mom looks out for her boys.  She’s such a huge part of our family.
  • My father-in-law who was the missing piece to our family.  Finding him and reuniting with him six years ago just filled our lives with so much joy.  Old wounds were healed and we got to experience a father’s love again.  Also, I now know where my husband and daughter get their hard heads from!

What are you grateful for today?  What are the blessings in your life?  Take a minute out of your day to stop and think about them.  It truly puts a smile on your face and fills your heart with joy.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. – William Arthur Ward

Come back tomorrow to read Part 2 of my gratitude posts!

#sol17 ~ Early morning

My eyes shot open. I looked around the room. “What in the world was that sound?” I quickly jump out of the recliner where I had fallen asleep last night. My heart pounding in my chest, my eyes not quite focusing yet. I quick go to check on Brad. He’s totally fine, snoring away. Next stop – Mom’s room. She was sound asleep as well.

And there on the couch, where I cuddled her to sleep, was Emma sleeping soundly.  She had some trouble settling down at bedtime, so I put on some guided meditation, cuddled her close, and off to dreamland she went.  Hence, the reason I was sleeping in a “not so comfy” recliner, in the living room of my mom’s country house.

Anyway, back to the sound….Yeah, never did figure out where the sound came from. Maybe it was all in my dreams! Those dreams that were long gone. I tried and tried and tried to get myself back to sleep. I cuddled up with my blanket in the chair. Couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to snuggle up on the other couch – that didn’t work either. Why oh why didn’t I just go lay down in the bedroom?!

While making one last attempt at sleep, I turned on my side, and caught a glimpse of the lake through the window. The sky was just starting to lighten a teeny tiny bit. It made me think about watching sunrises with my dad when I was little. And there it was, my sign. I got up, went into the bedroom and put on my sweatpants, sweatshirt, and socks (5am and 55 degrees on this July morning). I made a nice hot cup of coffee, and tip toed out to the back porch. While everyone was still sleeping inside, the world was just waking up outside.

I sat and sat and sat, taking it all in – sipping my coffee. I looked, listened, felt, and just breathed. The birds were singing their morning tunes. So many different songs. The fish were popping in and out of the water, leaving rings on the water’s surface. The fog was floating slowly over the water. Right before my eyes, the world was slowly saying “good morning.” It was peaceful and calm – pure bliss.

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For a second, I thought about how tired I was going to be later, but just pushed that thought aside. I just sat there looking out at the water, listening to the sounds, watching the sky change colors, and all I could feel was gratitude in my heart. I was grateful for whatever woke me up. Grateful for the peace and quiet I got to experience on this chilly early morning. Grateful for being able to realize the benefits of being up so early and for taking the time to “stop and smell the roses.” Grateful for my dad waking me up on beach vacations when I was little to see the sunrise – I totally get it now, but hated it as a kid. Grateful for letting myself be present in the moment!

And then, my silence was broken by teeny knocks on the window. Yup, there was Emma, smiling with a blanket wrapped around her. I glanced down at my phone to check the time. It was 5:45am and she was wide awake. I helped her put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and together we sat and watched the sun peek up over the hills. Her first sunrise!

“Oh my goodness Momma – it’s so so so beautiful,” she said with a huge smile on her face.

I hugged her close and said, “Yes, baby it sure is.”

And there we sat, cuddled up on that chilly July morning. Her eyes sparkling with excitement, and me filled with gratitude for all the blessings in my life.  A memory I will cherish forever!

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Our view!

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Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

 

#sol17 ~ Summer PD

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amTeachers don’t work during the summer, right?!?  Well, anyone who is a teacher knows that isn’t a true statement.  The only truth to that statement is that we technically aren’t in our classrooms with our students because our school year is over.  BUT, many of us are still working in some aspect.  We are either teaching summer school, taking classes, participating in twitter chats, reading articles and/or books to help us continue to learn and become better at our craft – and the list goes on.

I’m lucky enough to work in a district that provides wonderful professional opportunities throughout the summer.  So far I have participated in two classes this summer.  The first was a 2 day literacy institute where we focused on writing (yay!).  And then, these past two days, I have been part of a class/study group where we were learning about Seesaw, the digital portfolio.  All of this learning is getting me really excited for the upcoming school year.

It’s no secret – I’m a lifelong, year round learner.  But there’s something different about the learning that happens during the summer.  It’s like a more relaxed kind of learning – relaxalearning (yup, now I’m making up my own words)!  I mean, I sit in my PJs with coffee and read books in the morning. Currently, The Innovator’s Mindset and Disrupting Thinking are my two “teacher” books (both recommended).  I also take my writer’s notebook to the park with my daughter and while she plays, I observe, write, wonder, write, think, write.  At night, I sit on my couch, with my lap top, and join in on some Twitter chats.  I will admit – the Twitter chats scared me, but I just jumped right in (kinda like I did back in March with the Slice of Life challenge).  During the school year, there aren’t as many times for the relaxing type of learning!

Of course, I don’t just spend my whole summer learning and talking about school, even though it’s kind of hard not to.  Learning and teaching are my passions.  However, I do cherish all the extra time I have to enjoy my other passion – my family!  While I’m excited about a new school year to apply some of my learning, I’m way more excited for our family vacation in a few weeks.  A teacher’s summer should be for relaxing, recharging, enjoying “free” time, and sneaking in some learning opportunities as well.  How are you relaxing and learning this summer?

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Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

#sol 17 – The Joy of Reading

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI’ve rediscovered the joy of reading this past week.  Wait, does that mean I had forgotten how joyful reading can be???  No, no, it’s not that.  I know exactly how joyful reading is.  I just haven’t had the time – or better yet, made the time – to enjoy reading for myself.  

I do love reading.  I didn’t always love it.  It always felt like something I had to do for school.  It wasn’t until my mom’s friend, who was a high school English teacher, brought me a book (that I can’t remember at the moment) and said  “give this book a try, you might like it.”  I’m sure I rolled my eyes at her, but I ended up giving it a try, and that was it.  I had felt the joy and fell in love.  Now, I love everything about reading.  I love the feel of books in my hands.  I love their smell.  I love reading to my daughter and 1st graders.  I love picture books, and professional books, and fiction books – my most favorite genre. I’m not as adventurous with other genres as I’d like to be.  There’s always room for growth!

So if I love it so much, why don’t I make the time to read books I want to read?  Why don’t I make the time to get lost in books like I tell my daughter and my 1st graders to do?  I have no problem sitting with them, radiating my passion for reading, while saying “now go, go get lost in your books.”  The answer is simple – other things take precedence and are the priorities (even if they shouldn’t be).  Well, until now…

This past week has been a tough one for our family.  Our sweet, sweet dog, Lucy, gave up her fight and passed away and my husband’s uncle had a massive heart attack and the prognosis isn’t good.  I don’t deal well with any type of loss (or bad news for that matter)- especially since losing my dad 11 years ago.  My anxiety quickly makes its appearance known.  I don’t sleep well and my mind gets filled with thoughts that make my anxiety worse and worse.  I try to be mindful and stay present – let’s just say that’s still a work in progress for me.  

So what did I do?  I turned to reading.  It’s the one thing that has helped me “escape” my thoughts.  Reading for pleasure and fun – just sitting with a book and getting lost in it. Letting the story take me away to another place – even if only for a short while.  Smiling and being happy.  Just me and my book.  I let go of the idea that I wasn’t paying enough attention to my daughter.  She was perfectly content playing, creating, and sometimes even reading alongside of me – lost in her own world.  I didn’t think about the sad things that had happened.  I “escaped” with book in my lap and coffee in my hand.  Reading brought me the joy I needed, and now I’m hooked again.   I don’t think I realized how much I missed it and how much joy it brings me – hence the rediscovery!  I guess I’ll have to find the balance between doing what needs to be done and getting lost in my books.  It will just have to become one of my priorities!

I’ll gladly accept any fiction book recommendations – I’ve got the reading bug now!  

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

Celebrate ~ Rainbows

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 8.54.55 PMEvery week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share a celebration. What a great way to focus on something to celebrate!

 

This week I’m celebrating rainbows.  I simply love them.  When I was little, I always loved drawing a big rainbow arching from one little white cloud to another little white cloud.  My first graders are always drawing or painting rainbows of all kinds.  Entire papers covered with rainbows, rainbow hearts, diagonal rainbows, rainbow bracelets, and the list goes on.  Rainbows just make me smile.

In our family, we believe that rainbows are signs from our loved ones in heaven.  It’s their way of letting us know they’re ok.  In some ways, rainbows are comforting to us.  We also believe that the first rainbow we see after losing a family member is the sign that they are ok.  Whenever I see a rainbow in the sky, I immediately feel my smile.

Well, this past Thursday, we felt nothing like smiling at all.  We had to say goodbye to our loving dog, Lucy.  She had been sick for over a year, and fought the good fight, but on Thursday she decided she was too tired to fight anymore.  She was really my mom’s best friend, even though my brother brought her home about a year after my dad passed away.  Emma and Lucy have been best pals since Emma was born.  Losing her, our fur baby,  has been a tough pill to swallow.  There’s been lots of tears, lots of hugs, and lots of looking at pictures.  We’ve all been pretty gloomy and it’s been hard to notice celebrations.  But, just now, when I was outside on my mom’s porch, I looked up and there it was –  a bright rainbow coming from a white cloud.  The kind I used to draw when I was little.  That rainbow was our sign and it’s my celebration.  Even in sadness, there are still things to celebrate.

Today, I celebrate 10 joyful years with the most loving dog and rainbows!

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Camp Mommy – SOL #17

Yesterday was the first day of Camp Mommy.  What is Camp Mommy you may ask?  Well, my husband seemed to think that it was going to be similar to boot camp! But, nope.  It’s just days filled with me and my girl.  I’m not sure that choosing the Camp Mommy option will be the best, but we’re trying it this way for a few reasons.

  1. Em has had a long school year and needed some time to just chill.
  2. Em HATES – I mean hates mornings!  (I don’t love them either!)  A typical camp day starts in the morning like a school day, which means I’d have to wake her and then wait for the storms to hit.  Yelling and fighting about getting out of bed, brushing teeth, brushing hair, eating breakfast. The thought of those fights that I had the past 180 school days just made me cringe. Since she’s been out of school, she’s been sleeping in til 8:30 and waking up full of smiles!
  3. Structure and Schedules are great – even for me.  But, at Camp Mommy, Em gets to have more say in our schedule.  Now, I’m not saying she gets to do whatever she wants and is the boss of summer – she’s not even close to that!  But, she is always being forced into the schedules that the world makes for her, so why not let her summer be more at her own pace?!  She’s lucky enough that I’m home and don’t have to rush, rush, rush anymore.
  4. Relax, recharge, breathe.  The hustle and bustle of the school year was especially hard for her this year (and me too).  My post here explains a little about this.  I’m hoping Camp Mommy gives us both time to relax, recharge, and just breathe in everything around us.
  5. My one main reason for Camp Mommy is that I want to have time to enjoy my Em and fill our days with happiness.  Those battles all school year were hard on us all – just exhausting.  It became harder and harder to find the good and focus on the positives.  The goals of Camp Mommy are to be present, to laugh, to smile, and to find the joy in each other, every day.

Em said Day 1 was the best day ever and was full of smiles and hugs.  Today, we’re taking our first “Field Trip” to the zoo.  It’s going to be another great day – I can just feel it!  If you have any suggestions on other things that will make Camp Mommy a success, please comment below!

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Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community.  A place for us to grow together as writers.  Join us for SOL Tuesdays!

Celebrate – 15 years of teaching

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Every week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share a celebration. What a great way to focus on something to celebrate!

I’m a first timer with posting a celebration.  I’ve come across some posts of people celebrating but until now, haven’t linked up a celebration.

Yesterday, marked the end of my 15th year of teaching.  Wow, 15 years already.  That in itself is a celebration!  The bigger celebration is that I still love what I do.  It’s still my passion and I continue to want to learn more and be a better teacher.

Saying “goodbye” to my kiddos each year is bittersweet.  The end of the year is hard for me – I’m not really a fan of “endings.”  I don’t like “goodbyes.”  But this year, it felt harder to let them go.

I had read some of their thank you cards during the day and the kids were making me lots of pictures.  One little girl kept announcing that she was sad to be leaving me.  This was the same little girl who had a tough time transitioning to her new school and cried and cried for the first month.   But, she soon became my best hugger (several times a day) and one of the most enthusiastic learners.  But that’s not what made me emotional.  I was doing fine until I took them outside to be dismissed.  Their parents started to come over with big smiles and phones out for pictures.  They were mouthing “thank yous” and putting their hands over their hearts.  The kids and I did a big group hug and posed for a “family” picture.  And then, all of a sudden, I found myself fighting back the tears and my breath was taken away.

These kiddos were a special bunch with very supportive parents. We had a wonderful year together and formed a close bond.  I guess some years are just like that.  So my celebration is them!  They have grown in all possible ways during our 10 months together.  Every day they amazed me in one way or another.  They became stronger readers, writers, and thinkers.  I hope they’re celebrating all they’ve learned as well.

Today, I celebrate successfully finishing my 15th year of teaching and my special group of 1st graders who made this year amazing!

 

End of Year Tired

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amEnd.  Of.  Year.  Tired. – Yup that’s what I am.  Three days left – well, there are really 3 half-ish days.  So much to do, so little time.

I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and I still don’t have a “good” end of the year system.  I make the usual “to do” list, but don’t really prioritize what needs to happen.  I then start bouncing from thing to thing.   I’ll be organizing books in the library, and I’ll go put some books into my closet, where I will see something else I need to do and BOUNCE – there I go!  Wherever I look, there’s something else to do, so there I go BOUNCING all around. I’m like a bouncy ball bouncing from job to job.

I usually start off the pack up process strong.  I file my papers and organize my library, and organize my supply closet.   I pack my teaching books according to unit of study.  I label boxes and really try to keep myself organized.  I start off strong in the beginning of the week.  By Thursday and Friday afternoon, I change from “organizer” to “shover”.  I just start shoving things in boxes and labeling them “stuff.”  I shove things in drawers and think to myself “I’ll organize this in August.”  Does it ever happen? Nope!  I always have the best intentions!

Anyone else “bounce” around like me?  Who can offer me some helpful End of the Year suggestions or tips so I don’t feel like a bouncy ball?

Anyway, I was going to skip writing tonight, because, you know I’m tired, but I just had to BOUNCE into this slice.  At least the cleaning and packing up the classroom distracts me from realizing how much I will miss my kiddos!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

Slice of Life Tuesday: Mad Libs

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amThis slice is brought to you by…..Report card procrastination!

Yes, you read that right.  I’m still working on report cards because my school year is not yet over.  8 more days to go and surprisingly, I’m not in full on panic mode.  My to do list just keeps getting longer and longer.  Anyway, back to my slice….

Who remembers Mad Libs?  My brother and I used to have books and books of these.  I feel like we begged my mom to buy us new ones every time we went to the store.  We were obsessed with them.  We’d fill them out together all the time and even took them on road trips.  Of course, we just had to come up with the most ridiculous nouns, inappropriate body parts, and silliest adjectives and verbs.  Reading them back would cause us to double over laughing and tears would be streaming down our faces.  The more ridiculous it sounded, the more hysterical we’d be.

I had forgotten all about Mad Libs until recently, when one of my girls, L, brought in a Mad Lib she had done at home.  She couldn’t wait to read it to me and was belly laughing the whole time.  I think most of her plural nouns were bananas or hot dogs. This little girl has the most amazing sense of humor.  Anyway, she asked me if I had any Mad Libs in the class.  Of course I didn’t (because I had forgotten about them).  But what did I do? – went right to my computer, did a search, and printed out a bunch.

That afternoon, my class was buzzing with chatting and laughter over these Mad Libs.  L was the ring leader – getting every one excited.  The excitement did fizzle a little bit, but yesterday interest sparked again when L went to the pile of printed Mad Libs and asked if she could do one with me.  We sat at my table while she asked me for verbs, adjectives, plural nouns, etc. and wrote all of my responses in the spaces.  When it came time to read it back, she started to giggle before she even began (which then made me giggle, too).   It’s like she just knew it was going to be funny.  She read smoothly, with intonation, and even stopped to point out how parts didn’t make sense.  More and more kids started to come over to our table as they heard us giggling. All of a sudden they all wanted to do Mad Libs again with each other.  They were working in teams and the laughter just brought a smile to my face.

When my brother and I were playing with Mad Libs, I’m sure we had no idea that we were learning at the same time.  We didn’t realize we were learning about adjectives, nouns, plural nouns, verbs, and adverbs.  Or that we were practicing reading with fluency.  We were even noticing (through laughter) when sentences didn’t quite make sense or sound right, but ridiculous or not, those sentences followed the grammar rules! To us, we just were having fun.  I’m sure my kiddos don’t completely realize the learning that’s happening either (unless I point it out).  Learning in a playful way is just amazing.  We have to strive to find ways to keep learning playful, fun,  and exciting for everyone!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

The Teacher/Mom struggle

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amSometimes it’s hard to be a teacher mom….

So, my daughter is finishing up second grade, and this has been a more challenging year for her (and in turn for me).  Increased academic demands, some girl drama emerging, reading struggles, and attentional struggles really coming to the surface.

I’ve always suspected potential attentional issues from the start of her academic career, but tried not to jump to conclusions and let my “teacher brain” be in charge.  She’s always been a kid who marched to her own tune.  She’s a stop and smell the roses kind of girl and time means nothing to her.  We’ve always had struggles with things at home such as stopping one task and transitioning to another, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.  She’s always needed redirection at home with these tasks.  It’s definitely been hard to decipher if it’s in her control or not and if I’m expecting too much of her.  But, this year, the attentional issues started to impact her learning.

Her struggles with reading showed up early during 2nd grade.  In 1st grade, she made steady progress, but the battles about reading at home started to happen.  I’m like a literacy junky, but couldn’t help my own daughter.  When the summer came, the battles about reading just got worse.  “I just don’t love it like you do Mommy!!  It’s too hard.  I just want to play and draw!” she would yell on a regular basis.  My heart broke.

I will admit that the teacher part in me freaked out a bit – But, she has to read.  She’s made so much progress.  She’s gonna lose it all.  Ahhhh the summer slide.  I started to panic.  Then the mom side swooped in and reminded me to breathe.  I realized that arguing and forcing her to read was just going to make her hate it even more.  We compromised – I read to her daily and without her knowing, I was helping deepen her comprehension.

But, of course the summer slide happened.  So much of her progress gone- exactly what I knew and feared would happen.  After the first reading assessment her teacher conducted, we set up a phone conference and she shared the reading regression along with some difficulties focusing, and that’s when I shared all of my concerns and told her about the struggles with reading I saw at home.  Her teacher is simply amazing.  She put a good plan in place and before we knew it, Em was receiving reading support outside of the classroom and her attitude about reading started to turn around.

While the reading was improving, the attentional issues continued to show up in different areas.  Finally, my suspicions about the attention piece was definitely effecting her learning in school – not just making me crazy at home.  After many months of hard work and collaboration between her teacher, the school support team, my husband and I, and our pediatrician, Em was diagnosed with ADHD – inattentive type.

Despite her challenges with staying focused, she has made tremendous progress this year and still loves learning!  We now have accommodations in place for next school year to keep her on the right track.  Success happens when the school (teachers, support staff, administrators) and parents work together!  I often wonder if I wasn’t a teacher would I have been so attuned to the struggles with attention as early.  Hard to say.  But while being a teacher mom can be hard, it is also great!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.