Aug 29, 2012

First Daze

Here we all are on the first day of school while internally I'm thinking, we have to take pictures, but I hope we are not late to school!  So while Hunter got a ton of kindergarten pictures on his first day, here you are looking at Ainsley's.  Don't blink.  We were just a bit frazzled trying to move a family of five out of the house by 7am.  I mean it was our first go around and hardly smooth yet.  In fact, it's day three, and it's still not smooth yet.  I'm giving myself a wiiiiiiiide grace period.
 I realize that these are the older two's pictures, but just look at my cute baby!  I think the hardest thing for me is not getting to see her for most of the day.  I know that I have complained before many times about how super clingy Tessa has always been, but I've gotten so used to her glued to me, that it's hard to be unstuck.  It's just another transition that Tessa is actually doing better at than I am.  She just loves staying home with Daddy a few days and then getting to spend a few days at Ms. Lorraine's who just dotes on her all day long.

Sooo, how is it going?  Well, it's going.  There are definitely ups and downs, but overall, the kids are liking it.   Ainsley is delighted to be there and we got her bus situation worked out.  I'm discovering that her daycare situation is so-so, but it's not bad either.  There are just slim pickings or actually really no other options in this small town where I teach.  Hunter is loving school (until today when he was given an assignment that he wasn't sure how to do and had a mini meltdown).  However, I think he'll be just fine in his class. And as for me, I am just trying to get into the swing of things in my classroom.  The first two days, I was on fire and things were clicking along.  Today, everything kinda fell off the band wagon and I was doing more training of routines than teaching of curriculum.  And so it goes.
And now I'm going to be honest.  There are times when I look at the students at the school and I think, what the heck did we just do?  These kids are SO far behind and I just threw my own in there with them.  Sometimes the cost of being asked by God to be involved in a community gets right up in your face.  Especially if you had other options.  The school by our house they would have gone to is a full 100 points higher on their API scores.  That's just light years of difference. Our new school is a half hour away in a tiny farming community where most people are Spanish speakers and very poor.  The whole school is on free breakfast and lunch.  I have never sent out a school supply list where it was the norm to be happy if you got students to bring at least half (I didn't).

Sometimes being called by God to take a step out into another comfort zone that defies common sense makes you feel like you are doing something bold and brave.  And then you actually do it, and it feels more scary than bold and brave.  Sometimes it just feels down right dumb.  I know most people are thinking that putting them there is down right dumb.  It's hard to explain that I believe God has asked us to get involved in the lives of these kids and community and that means our kids too. I don't believe I am "throwing them under the bus" so to speak.  Tonight we sat down and worked on homework together and I am constantly in touch with their amazing teachers.  The teachers and staff at this school are a dedicated bunch and I know that they will teach what my children need to know academically. Actually, in thinking about the lessons and skills I want my children to learn from life, academics is just a slice.  I know that the academic piece may not be as strong this year, but they won't be left too far behind because we are staying on top of it.  But what I mostly want my children to know about life is how to love other people.  All people.  I want them to know that loving other people means living, working and playing with them no matter what walk of life they may come from. It means seeing them as equals and valuable and not people to separate from.  I can't think of a better place to teach that lesson than to put them in a classroom with children from another culture, demographic, and economic privilege and then ask them to make friends with them.  So some years, we may focus on academics, and other years, God might call us to focus on an entirely different lesson. This year is that year for us. I do know this, when God asks, the dumbest thing you can do is to think you know better.  And when He asks, He promises this: "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deut. 31:6

The first day of school when asked Tone asked Ainsley if she made a friend she said, "No, because they all just spoke Spanish."  But by day two, she said had made three friends and every time I saw her (which is often since our lunch and recesses are at the same time), she was giggling and laughing away with some cute little girls.  Isn't that beautiful?  May I always remember when I become afraid for my children this year that God cares more about their heart for others than their academic score.   I think Tone and I are involved in school enough that that will happen anyways.
So here we are three days into school, still getting into the swing of things.  I still feel like I'm scrambling to catch up as I figure out routines and systems constantly that weren't communicated because I am the only new teacher.  Along with that I'm learning a whole new curriculum and figuring out how to best love my students and find out what they need (a whole LOT).  Even though I am hardly a new teacher as far as having taught before, I still feel like I am on a big learning curve with ups and downs daily. But I have some super cuties in my class and already am enjoying each student that walks through my doors. The kids are enjoying school but tired and cranky as they also are plunged into a whole new environment.  I think we just need to give ourselves a big grace period, and hang on and enjoy the ride.

Aug 26, 2012

Ainsley's childcare and my first week of work

So this last week, I've been a very busy girl with Monday through Friday being first week of work before students.  First school day is tomorrow!  I have readjusted to getting up at 6:00am so I can leave the house by 7:00.  That in itself is a major accomplishment. You really have no idea. I do not do mornings super well and never have.  Proverbs 27:14 says, "He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him."  I mean I'm just saying.  It's a good verse.  I'm kind of a "give me my space in the morning, actually, go ahead and give me a wide berth" kind of gal.  I NEED that half hour drive to school that I get. The sunrise was spectacular the first three days of work with the clouds looking almost identical all three days and just like this picture below.  I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a sunrise rather than a sunset.  I'm also pretty sure that Tessa likes going to her daycare so much, that there may be a slight preference to go there rather than stay home.  I said slight because of course the mommy in me does not want to admit that Tessa might be having more fun with someone other than her darling dear mother.  But sadly, I think that that is a true story so her daycare situation is a definite win this year.
I wrote last week that Ainsley's after school care was really problematic.  There are still some kinks in the plan, but at least we found her a good place to go through a loooong grapevine of people.  It's a few blocks from the school at a lady's house who has been doing daycare for years and has had a lot of teacher's kids.  That's all well and good and Ainsley will love it there I think, but Ainsley has to ride the bus to get there.  That's when the mommy in me starts to freak out a little bit.  Putting my baby on a bus and sending her off to go somewhere is hard for me.  But you know, I'm a pretty easy-going mom and Ainsley is excited to ride the "fun bus", so I was about ready to put on my big girl pants and get over.  In no way will I freak out in front of Ainsley, so I'm talking up the bus like it's the most amazing ride on the face of the planet so she doesn't get scared to ride it by herself.  For the record, she isn't.  So this little bus scenario is already bothering me, when things starting falling apart a bit and the kinks started to come into the plan.  You see, this lady has two little ones in her daycare and can't leave them.  The bus lets off on the wrong side of the street from her house at another elementary school (she lives directly across from it).  She can't come across the street to get Ainsley and Ainsley can't cross by herself.  I've tried every avenue I can think of to try and get Ainsley those 60 feet across the street and haven't come up with anything yet.  The school is not willing to help with that, I'm not sure that the bus driver will walk her and I'm pretty stymied at the moment.  I guess we'll see how it works out this coming week, but four phone calls and contacts later trying to figure it out and meeting dead ends, I was about ready to cry.  My baby is getting off the bus at another busy school during pick up and drop off time and there is no one to make sure she gets to where she needs to go across the street.  The lady will come out of her house and to her front gate and can see Ainsley, but there is no one to physically cross her yet.  So once again, I am praying that my baby is taken care of and trusting God to take care of that.  Her first day to ride it Tuesday, and I asked my principal if I could leave school and follow the bus. I will be doing that for sure. Perhaps I can find someone to walk her across, I don't know.  At any rate, I know it'll get figured out somehow, and Ainsley is pretty excited with just about everything.  This school wears uniforms, so we have been trying to piece it together, but pretty much everywhere is out of stock.  Here is Ainsley modeling her uniform the day we bought it.  She's pretty excited.
We spent most of this last week in training because the district adopted new English Language Arts curriculum.  I swear I have eating, sleeping and breathing these darn lesson plans.  
My classroom is finally ready enough for kids on the first day of school, though as you can see, I have not brought in books for my classroom library and what you can't see either is that all six of my computers are just a jumbled mess.  I had six brought to my room and it's just a spaghetti mess of cords and confusion.  Another time, another day will be spent crawling under the table plugging things in and sorting the bajillion cords.  I'm sure that day will be pleasant.  But the rest of my room is cute, functional, and ready for kids.
My favorite part of teaching is the kids and some of the creative aspects, so I have gotten some of the creative juices flowing, but I am mostly just to eager so meet my students and start loving on them.   I want to start teaching already!  Those trainings got long and overwhelming after a while. 

I treated my kids to one last playday before school starts.   We went to the mall to try and find the last pieces of their uniform and we got there when it opened to beat the crowds.  Crowds, three children, and long lines don't mix.  The reason should be so obvious if you have any sort of dealings with children. So we got in and got out quickly.  The last stop was ice cream and then we stopped at the courtyard to play in the water spouts.  Yeah they totally wore their swimsuits to the mall under their clothes so they could play in the water spouts.  Sometimes I'm a cool mom and think of things like that.
Anyhow, I'm sure I'll be posting soon with first week of school pictures and report of how it is going.  

I'm sure it will all be so amazing...as long as we exclude the first hour of my morning.

Calendar time

So this whole year I have been using this awesome little printable calendar from Creative Mama.  It was a free download and looks so cute on a clipboard hanging up by my kitchen table.  Being that a new school year is starting up, I thought I would check and see if she had her 2013 calendar out yet.  She did!  I got excited!  Then I looked closer and NOOOO!  She oriented the page this year landscape so it won't hang on my clipboard.  So I made a knockoff.  It's true, I loved it that much.  I don't think mine is as fancy, but I certainly had fun creating it tonight on photoshop.  And I totally credit her, so go ahead and check her's out because her's is better.  And if you aren't hanging yours on a clipboard, then the orientation won't bother you and you can have a pretty calendar for free.  Anyhow, I'm ready for the school year with a pretty calendar to boot.  Here is just the first couple months to show you (I'm still using the rest of this year from Creative Mama's).


P.S.  My classroom is done, lesson plans ready, after school childcare worked out for my own kids, and I'm ready for the kids on Monday!  This is why I am able to sit and think like mundane things like pretty calendars and such.

Aug 18, 2012

Aye yi yi!

So I have been in my classroom this whole last week which means that any creative endeavors have been devoted to classroom setup. We officially have the students a week from Monday. Next week all of my in-services and teacher work days start so I had to get my blank room which only some odd furniture shoved in there in tip top shape.   It looks miles better.  I'll post pictures later (that means I haven't taken them yet). I have a HUGE room which was formally a 5th grade room.  Bigger bodies, bigger room.  Not complaining, but blank walls that have to be covered seem to go on FOR-EV-ER.  It's such a cute 2nd grade room now though if I do say so myself.  And I do.  Because I did it.  Every single dang wall, and two of those days I had my kids with me.  Yes, indeedy, which means I might just be super human.  There I was with a large piece of paper hanging down over my head with a stapler in hand trying to bang in a corner of it with my arms stretched up as tall as they can go, while a kid is yelling at me down below, "Hey, Mommy! I'm hungry!"  Again? True story.

In other awesome news,  I managed to get both kids transferred to my school this last week as well (Hunter has been on the waiting list) so that was wonderful.  The downside was that Ainsley's after school care fell through this last week.  So here I am in a new school, in a new community, where I know not a soul, with no daycare for an hour after school for Ainsley while I fulfill my after school duties.  I've been on the phone with not much in the way of leads.
Let me tell you something funny in the way our brains work.  When everything works out, we think, well God must have wanted me to do this.  When something pretty major falls through in a tight deadline, all of a sudden we start doubting that message that we formally thought was pretty clear. So today while I was on the phone trying to cold call people who offered daycare, I felt like God was asking me for a lot of trust.  I mean, where will I send my daughter for an hour and a half after school?  I am pretty picky about where she goes and who she spends her time with, and now I'm down to calling strangers. What am I doing?????!!!

 I  pulled Ainsley from the our neighborhood school the day before school started here (our district started this week) and then discovered there was a problem with my school which starts in one week (so a week and a half later).  I'm pretty sure I can't get her BACK in our neighborhood school because there was a waiting list and now school has started. I know she could go to Tessa's daycare if she went to our neighborhood school, but two kids at two schools on two schedules is not in the plan. I sort of started to panic today.  But then I heard God say, "Didn't I ask you to put your children at your school?"  And the answer was, yes, I have always believed that from the very beginning.  I feel like God excels in testing our mettle and resolve.  A kind of "Abraham" moment, where He is asking for my child and will I give her.  Do I believe He has already found a place for her though at this moment in time, it's looking like it's not working out? I believe He loves showing up at the last minute and in a crazy way, but today I allowed myself to doubt and have a "Mommy panic" moment.  So tonight, I decided to quit panicking and carry on as I know God has a plan in all of this and go school shopping for their classroom supply list.  As a REAL test of faith, I even got Ainsley part of the school uniform they have to wear at my school.  But then again, I am also weak at times, and so I also left the tag on.  I should probably go and rip that tag off as I sign of my faith or something amazing like that. You know, like a "True Hero of Faith" moment!!! Maybe. Whatever, I'm just not that into it.  That would involve diggin' through the bags to find it.  The realism and laziness in me just spoke, people.

See those boxes?  I've unloaded and put away about 30 of them.  This blog post may trail off at any moment when I fall asleep at the keyboard.
I managed to fit in two last fun summer fling days this week.  We had our last day at Wild Waters water park. We get passes there every summer since it's close to our house.  The kids did not want to leave.  Ever.  

Tessa is pretty bold and will go down all the big preschool water slides without any fear.  Some of them are way over my head.  She's pretty amazing.  Hunter and Ainsley have become much better swimmers this summer and Ainsley finally loves the water and has become a little fish too.  FI-NA-LLY.  Basically, I think she just caught on that if you aren't swimming, the rest of us are, so you're going to be pretty bored.  It's better to just jump in and go for it.
Hunter cracks me up when he "lays out".  He gets cold and loves to soak up rays.
We also had one last boating day.  Good bye boat for this summer!  It's still hotter than blue blazes and normally we would be boating until October, but the reality of a job has just bitten, and now we are done.  Tone is not off most weekends so that's that.  The sunset was gorgeous on our last day since an odd storm kinda blew through briefly. This picture is a fitting last day tribute. I know, I know.  Boo hoo, violins and all that.  
Okay, I'm over it.  
Here we go to an excellent school year.  Right? Right?  Oh boy.

Aug 7, 2012

Prying my fingers open

I am learning to hold things loosely.  Even people. I am learning I am simply in control of quite simply, nothing.  Yes, I try to be a good steward of what I am given and base my decisions on sound principles, but if someone asked me what my five year or ten year plan was, I would say, "I don't know what God will do then."  I am quite simply at best on a one year plan.  I've learned that God simply asks me to follow and He will do the controlling.  So far, He has orchestrated some breath taking events in my life that I would have never put on my five or ten year plan, so I've simply stopped making them and I just ask God to show me the next step. I don't mean I throw my hands up and do nothing.  I mean that I work at my very best at whatever I've been given and then when God shows me to move on, I don't cling. I've learned that God is good and trustworthy and am daily trying to meditate on Him and His character in a complete surrender and dependency on Him.  I am finding that as soon as I lay something down, I often want to pick it back up and gnaw on it for a while. But I am learning that complete surrender is sweet balm on the soul.

This all seems so well and good. And I don't seem to have terrible trouble with this when it comes to life events such as job changes, a new house, a move.  However, lately, I've noticed that I have the most trouble with this when it comes to the people around me. Lately, I've had some serious angst at people who seem to not be living their lives in a way that shows a surrender and love for God when they claim to know Him.  And then in those moments, I want to control them, avoid them, or just be plain frustrated rather than love them.  I see a bad decision being made, and I feel angry and wish I could change their minds and hearts for them. And then God has to remind me, that He is the pursuer of their hearts and minds and He has the situation under far more control than I.  And God has to pry my fingers open and force me to give that person and my angst and frustration about them to Him.  I'm sure you can see the irony here.  As I want the people around me to know, bask, and surrender in the love of God that I am so enjoying and use His wisdom, I'm angry and frustrated when they don't.  Say what?  If I believe that a surrender to God begins and ends with love, then can't I act loving towards others even when they aren't acting in the same belief?  Do I trust that God REALLY can handle their poor choices and is calling them to Himself in all His wisdom and love?  Do I really think that He isn't at work or that things are out of control or maybe it depends on me?  In my head, no.  But in my frustration and angst, maybe I do.

Here is how it plays out when I grip people too tightly:

I see a friend who was badly wronged by an individual try and get revenge on the individual's whole family and take them down instead of offering forgiveness - as if revenge would bind their wound (it never does).  I'm all of a sudden not feeling compassionate.

PRY.

I see people who claim to want good marriages caught in the trap of porn and smut novels and they excitedly recommend the books to me.  I know I need to have a loving chat about what it does to the mind and to marriage but I really just want to avoid the whole thing.

PRY.

I see an abusive marriage and a co-dependent spouse who really isn't doing much about it but is letting it continue.  It's exhausting hearing about something that never seems to change.  So I get sharp and frustrated when I hear it again.

PRY

I see moms who brag far too much about their way of child rearing and try to one-up each other in "best practice".  I feel like I need to "prove" why I'm such a great parent all of a sudden.

PRY

I see a person who is so busy judging all the people around them, that they have set up an impossible standard for anyone to actually meet.  They always know the best way to do something and the funny thing it's always their way.  Then it's expressed in obvious disapproval and condescension to everyone around.  Now I'm just mad and pretty much just want to write this person off.

PRY

An the list can go on.  As I get closer to God and see His truth, goodness and love, the more it can point out  what ISN'T around me.  And then that can go two ways.  I can get mad, point accusing fingers, speak Christianese at them, be condescending, avoid, speak sharply and show my frustration when forced to be around them. I believe this is what is called "not seeing the log in your own eye but seeing the speck in your brothers."  But now my fingers are holding on tightly and I am choosing to carry around a great weight.  Now all of a sudden I think I must see more clearly than God.  And now all of a sudden, I am acting nothing like Him.

 Or I can let it go and trust that God has their heart in mind and is in the process of changing it.  Not me.  My job is to be God's tool when He needs me to be by speaking truth into their lives as gracefully as I can when He prompts me to, and the rest of the time, just love them and let God do His thing.  God's goal is to care for His children and heal hearts.  I need to be compassionate and trust God to just be the God He has proven Himself to be over and over again.  I always think of that old poem, "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson, where no matter what the man does and tries, God will just not give up pursuing him.  You see many people around me may not have fully given everything up to Him yet.  It may prompt them to act in revenge, control their spouse to an extent that is abusive, engage in fantasies that were meant for their spouse only, try prove their worth as a parent, but God is relentlessly pursuing their hearts and I have no idea what ways He may be using to get them for His own.

And besides, who says I always have it together myself?  God is still relentlessly pursuing ME.  I am constantly and painfully surprised by the rocks He seems to dig up and turnover in my heart exposing the ugly underneath.  I believe as we walk this journey, the more we can actually see clearly our own motives of the heart and the ugly around us. Following God is a journey, not an event that we are all on. But instead of pointing fingers and gripping tightly to judgementalism, I seem to feel God gently nudging me to hold lightly.  To just love people and let Him work it out. It is NOT my job to change them, control them, or heal them.  I am simply a tool that God might choose to use in their life and I am only called to a life of love which is bound up in truth and grace. It all begins and ends with love and that is all He has called me to.  It's such a peaceful place when we hold people lightly and let them go to a God who CAN change and heal them.

PRY.