Around Here Weeks 8 and 9: 02/19-03/03

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home right now.

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 7+ hours (of 1000)
I racked up another three plus hours these past two weeks with some warmish, sunny days sprinkled in there. I took the kids to the high school parking lot on Gemma's birthday for some bike-riding and rollerblading (one of their fav after school activities!) and we stayed until the moon was pretty high in the sky! B met me for a few laps around the track during lunch, Rust and I took the dogs for a long walk, and I carted the kids to the playground for an hour on a sunny (but actually pretty cold) afternoon. The weather has continued to be totally wacky. We had rain, snow, and then extreme wind that warranted a canceled school day for the big kids and a 2hr delay for me. It has been really frustrating as I'm never quite sure to what extreme the weather is going to be, but I'm trying to take the nice days with as much gratitude as possible and believe I will do better come nicer, consistent weather days to come.  (as a side note - at this time last year, I had over 23 hours of outdoor time clocked already!! ugh.)

Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - the writing is so beautiful I have to pause occasionally just to reread the sentence and savor the words for a minute more. I read through and got plans organized for my Spanish2 Honors novel, Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro which they start this week coming up and my Spanish 2 has already started El Capibara con botas and they're delight and surprise about how they have been able to understand it has been a real treat. We did a write, draw, pass exercise last week for Chapters 1 and 2 and everyone was laughing and engaged which is always a nerdy teachers treat :)

Celebrating our six year old Gemmi Rose. This girl has always been so grown from the very beginning of her life and it does not appear to be a trait that is fading anytime soon. Gigi, Pappy, Uch, and Kevin all had school birthday lunch with her and even Grey sneaked away from his class to be there for his sister at lunch too. We sang at home for breakfast and dinner and measured her in our kitchen doorway (she's as tall as Grey when he was six and a half!) Then on Friday, she chose to have sleepover with four best friends (all of whom are 2-3 years older than her). Gemma's showing love language is Gift giving, so we put together little gift bags for her friends including a stuffed animal kitten and a sleep mask which she was so proud to hand out. No one was more thrilled to come to the sleepover birthday party then her little sis Violet! The girls played 'spin the nail polish bottle' and painted all their fingers and toes, danced the night away on Just Dance, and did lots of giggling. It was a fantastic party and we are so grateful that Gem has these incredible girlfriends in her life already who are so sweet, caring, patient, and thoughtful.

Cheering on our cheerleader at her first competition. My mum drove out to Slippery Rock with me, Gem, and the babies for the day (thank you!) while B and Grey stayed home for baseball practice. Pappy and Gigi drove up to watch too and we all hung out and kept the babies occupied through the long wait until Gems' routine (where my #cheermoms at?) Gemma did awesome and fought through her nervous butterflies all by herself. She said, "I was about to cry before we went out but I held it in and did it!" I was so proud of her and she was proud of herself for a big win after long months of working so hard in school to see her excel in something her body seems built for.

Tolerating Rusty's attempts to potty train himself these past two weeks. He's only 20 months so it's one part amazing that he's been actually successful at going on the potty but one part incredibly exhausting as he's constantly removing his own pants and diaper and just peeing wherever he is if he can't get to us fast enough. I have done so many crib sheets these past two weeks as he is daily removing his diaper while in bed. He has by far won the title of "latest talker" in our family and still probably only has a solid 10-15 comprehensible words down. Who needs to talk when you have three older siblings who are more than capable of reading your sound effects and doing (ahem, big siblings- not helping). But little by little he's adding more communicative stuff (gestures, sign language, sounds, words) to his repertoire. He can certainly get his little point across when he wants to. Also doesn't hurt that his little smile and curls melt everyone into a puddle of mush - so that child is going to be the one that finally undoes me.

Visiting with our cousins Adam and Lea who are back in the states after three years in Abu Dhabi! It was such a nice evening catching up and laughing with them. The kids were so thrilled to have them over and kept telling Brandon and I to stop talking so much that it was their turn to play with them (ha!)

Failing to take care of myself again so I got sick and had to call off of work. I'm very bad at this managing one's own needs thing. I could feel it coming on - the overwhelming feeling that I had late last year and so although I still got sick this time - I did take notice at the first moment and rested right away. I've definitely been easier on myself in the chores department - but I still try to give too much in all ways but to myself. I have it written on the top of my March month page in my planner, "You can't pour from an empty cup" in an attempt to give myself a daily reminder that I need self-love if I want to be the best for everyone else. I need to work on the guilt that I feel so strongly when it comes to self-love (guilt that I could be doing so many other things that would be more valuable - chores, spending time with the kids or B, school work, writing on the blog, anything for the various organizations I work with, etc), but I need to find a balance. I started weight watchers freestyle two weeks ago (loving it!) and ordered a new fitbit (such a list/goals/progress monitoring NERD!) B has also offered a day a week where he and the kids go away from the evening so I can just brainstorm, think, and do whatever I want uninterrupted (imagine?!). So baby steps, but still steps.

Enjoying a date evening with B at the NS boy's basketball game (my students won! on to state playoffs!) followed by dinner and drinks at a newish restaurant in town; TAP 814. It was so delicious and such a nice evening just the two of us. Thank you Ms Hannah for watching the kids on the shortest notice ever! (I messaged her at 3:30p and she was at our house with a smile for our babes by 4:30p - our very own Mary Poppins for real! We love you!)

Making all the cake box mix desserts because I've been so tired and lazy to properly make baked goods from scratch - but I've discovered that Brandon loves the cake mix base, so win! We had cake box mix chocolate chip cookies for Gemma's birthday party instead of a cake (she doesn't like icing), we had cake box mix sprinkle cookies when Adam and Lea visited (to accompany our order-in pizza for dinner) and then I whipped up some banana-cake box mix muffins (so good!) with four overripe bananas! For actual dinners, we've enjoyed Hawaiian meatballs over rice, Ranch breaded pork chops, slow-cooker Ritz cracker chicken, kielbasa and pierogies, Korean bbq ground turkey over rice, Ranch chicken tacos, slow cooker chili, and salt & pepper shrimp.

Reflecting, worrying, and praying. It is an emotional time to be a teacher (teaching always carries emotion with it as we worry, love, encourage, and support these kids who aren't actually ours, but somehow also are), but it has been particularly difficult these past few weeks with all that is happening and being discussed. Gemma and Grey had the I'm not Scared, I'm Prepared book read to them at school the other week. Their teachers messaged all parents to touch base with the kids again in case they had more questions. Gemma explained the book to me on the way home from school,
"So our teacher is the shepherd and we are the sheep. And if a wolf comes to school, she will tell us what to do. We have to stop, look, and listen. And maybe we will hide and we have to stay really quiet. Or we might have to go out of the school, but we have to make sure to hold Mikey's* hand so he stays with us." 
This is my six year old talking about active shooter training procedure. (*student's name changed)  I am so grateful that she understands the plan so well but so heartbroken that she and all students need to know of such a plan at all. Grey was more blunt with his description, "The wolf is someone who comes to school to shoot us with a gun."

Babies, I'm so sorry. So sorry that we as the generations before you have not done a better job at leaving this world for you. 

There's so much that needs to be fixed - there is no band-aid that will heal this open, gaping wound that teachers and schools are dealing with every single day (kids who are hungry, who are tired, who are worried, who are taking care of their addict parents, who need to see the doctor or dentist after years of neglect, who are raising younger siblings, who don't know how to process their feelings because of lack of connection and too much access to distraction, who struggle with depression or anxiety, who just need someone to look them in the face and remind them they exist). I have felt sort of un-tethered these past two weeks. In an effort to make a tiny step in a positive direction, I put up a bulletin board last week ("Throw Kindness around like confetti") and it's been slowly feeling up with compliments and sweet notes from students and teachers. Maybe all I have to give is love, kindness, encouragement, and enthusiasm - then by goodness, I'm going to show up every day with a smile on my face, a listening ear, and an enthusiasm for learning.  Basic humanity needs to be restored in so many of us - we need to be the kind of people we want other people to be. We can't sit back and wait for someone else to do the right and decent thing. We have to do better; each of us in every small way - it all adds up.

Around Here 6 and 7: 02/04-02/18

Monday, February 19, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute




Intentional Outdoor Hours: 4 hours + (of 1000)
This winter has really been so wacky. I know I keep saying that, but in this month alone, we've had a snow day, 2 hr delay (both for snow), and an early dismissal for flooding (because it warmed up and poured). I must be better though, because my soul needs it.

Reading and finishing The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I really really loved it and finished with tears rolling down my cheeks. Brandon was right beside me as I was finishing it and said, "How about you choose a book next that doesn't make you cry?" haha, he doesn't get books. I read and finished Fiesta Fatal by Mira Canion which is what my Spanish3 Honors kids will be reading in a few weeks.

Laughing with my sisters. Kayla spent a long weekend back in PA and the three of us attended Mardi Crawl (good job Uch!) for laughing, dancing, and karaoking. While Kitty was in town, she squeezed in a belated birthday date with Violet, a birthday date with Gemma, and attended our last regular season basketball game with me (thank God, the kids were bonkers that night). There are so many people that love and miss her and somehow she manages to make quality time for all of us. (xxox love and miss you Kitty! Send us some sunny and warm from Bermuda please!)

Celebrating Valentines day with a lot of love and a little mom guilt. We made and snail mailed Valentines to our cousins (our February kindness!) and then went through the whole classroom valentines dog & pony show. Leading up to the class valentines parties I was a worried and forgetful maniac but my mum came to the rescue and purchased four boxes of valentines for the kids (thank you!) I've been around this Valentine block or two and I decided that I was not buying into the accompanying treats - but it was not without some serious mom-guilt. I had four classrooms of Valentines for goodness sakes - I was not going into debt for these flipping Valentine treats. So I didn't and sent the kids off to their schools with a signed paper valentine for all their friends. And then the kids came home with bags filled to the brim with Valentines and treats (candy! temporary tattoos! pencils! pinterest'ed witty snacks!). Brandon walked into the kitchen after the kids had all dumped their loot on top and said, "Wait? Did you guys trick-or-treat at school today?" because's out of control mommas - we have got to all agree we need to reel it back in for Valentines day. In Valentine celebration of love - B and I shared lunch at Burger King during school (LOL) and got one milkshake with two straws #romancegoals and he brought the girls their annual bouquet of flowers home after school. They squealed and giggled and smiled their little heads off while Daddy beamed.

Gearing up for Gemma's sixth birthday! She got special dates with Kitty shopping and ice cream, Gigi out to eat, shopping, and a trip to the hair salon for some pink temporary hair dyed tips!, and with Aunt Uch and Kevin (and Abba and Chum) at the ice skating rink. We've almost finished up the planning and organizing stage of her birthday sleepover that caters to her love language of gift-giving. As I say every year, it's impossible that she's this old - but also isn't she like ten? She is so mature and grown up and nurturing. My Gemmi Ro - you are so incredible.

Smiling about Greyson's surprise family breakfast he made for us on a Saturday morning. He cooked up scrambled eggs, microwaved frozen sausage, and made toast for the whole family. He even set the table and followed the directions I gave him for brewing coffee. He was so proud to surprise us all and when we all sat down to dinner he said, "Alexa, play My House" (by Flo Rida). I was so giddy about it that I was planning a whole blog post for it about a boy and his breakfast when he was on the cusp of eight year old boyhood...but time is not a friend of mine these days. I may still figure out how to get that post written for the momma I'll be in ten+ years. For her, I just might have to. 

Extra-curricular'ing it. Gemma has her competition cheer routine down and got her uniform last week (so cute!) Her first competition is coming up next week in Slippery Rock! She's excited but nervous too. Grey started indoor baseball practices this past Sunday too. B joined an adult basketball league (and still got it, heh) and my Spanish club is gearing up for their next elementary school visit.

Cozied up with my two best friends, our handsome husbands, and all our babies under one roof. It was such an exhausting (8 kids 8 and under!) and amazing weekend being all together and listening to our kids play and laugh together. So much more to say about this and them and friendship. But for now, I'll say that I pray everyday that my children will have friends as good as my friends.

So tired. no, that's all. we are just so tired. all.the.time.

Trying to get a hold on our galactic spiraling life...but yeah, no. At least not until basketball season is officially over (we've made playoffs! yay? yay!) and probably more realistically not until summer break. But for real, if we're being legit here - probably not until...oh I don't know, 17 years from now?

Making Superbowl snacks in the form of mini taco cups and teenie weenies baked in the shape of a football (hah). We had frozen pizza cut in the shape of  heart for the kids on Valentines day while B cooked up some Shrimp scampi for our grown up dinner after bedtime. I've made a pork roast in the slow cooker which naturally lended itself to loaded pork nachos with the leftovers (yum!), spaghetti with meat sauce, grilled cheese hot dogs, and buffalo chicken dip. We also whipped up two batches of New Baby meals for two our of family friends who brought home beautiful baby girls these last few weeks. We made our standard delivery meal to them (and got in some baby snuggles) of chicken, veggies, and stuffing casserole with a side of double chocolate muffins (for dessert or breakfast!)


Friday, February 16, 2018

One of my favorite quotes credited to Ayesha Siddiqi says, "Be the person you needed when you were young."

When I was young, I needed someone who had a different perspective - a wider lens of life and humanity and culture and experiences than our small (albeit beloved to me) town. I wanted to see more and learn more and experience more. And I was lucky enough that my parents and teachers could see this in me that they pushed me towards those people. My parents (with reluctance but good faith) put me on an airplane headed to Honduras with a group of doctors and dentists when I was sixteen. They also became what I needed themselves, my Dad the curious researcher and questioner - my Mom the ever patient listening ear while I went on and on about some new thing I learned.

As a teacher now, I see everyday that what so many of my students need is someone who simply has the time of day to notice them. I have students everyday starved for meaningful connection.

The person our young people need is

Someone who puts their phone down. and looks them in the eye.
Someone who listens to what they are saying without a planned, predictable response.
Someone who smiles.
Someone who is silly and cheesy.
Someone who finds common ground with them despite age and interests.
Someone who notices when they are particularly happy or sad or worried and then asks them 'you okay?'
Someone who see when they aren't okay at all and need real help and puts them in touch with who ever it is that support them.

They are the most 'connected' generation in history but there is so little real connection. Our young people need us. We all need each other.

Were we lonely back in our day? yes. Were our parents lonely and their parents lonely and theirs for all of time? yes. But the danger now that we did not have then, is that we have this new layer of artificial connection that is also a means for infinite distraction from dealing with real feelings.

We cannot continue to look at our young people and say - we've all gone through the teenage years, yeah, it sucks. we've all been bullied. we've all felt lonely..."  Because although that may be true - we have not gone through it like them. How often have you said, "thank goodness I didn't have the internet/social media when I was a teenager." If you are like me it is all the time. I read back through my diaries and laugh and cringe. And on top of the social media aspect of it - if we're being honest, really honest with ourselves, painfully brutally honest, they are also living through it with parents, older siblings, and teachers who are so 'connected' themselves they aren't there to help our young people sort through the feelings and bounce back.

I'm not trying to say that phones and social media are the problem. But we cannot ignore the potential impact of having the whole world in our palms and we cannot ignore that social media is false sense of connection that encourages us to ignore the people right in front of us.

There's a million things we can do (need to do) so that when I tell my eight year old son about the Parkland school shooting, his first response isn't, "Momma, maybe you shouldn't work at a school anymore." But some of those things are big and take time in a way that my impact is small.

Maybe there isn't even a point to this post. I'm just typing to sort through my own broken, tired, sore, momma-teacher heart. I can do what I can in this little sphere in which I can reach. I can love and hug our kids and have the hard conversations with them and I can look in their faces and talk and connect with them and do everything I can to try to break poor phone habits so I can be a better version of myself. And I can love my students and push them and encourage them and check in on them and in the face of all their wise cracks and bad behavior see that they're just kids who need someone to not back down or go away. (hi, students who discovered my blog - see you Tuesday, happy long weekend. I do care about YOU!)

there's no answers over here in my corner of the web. Just a call to action. Action in love and kindness and grace and connection. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. And I hope that what each of us do is Love one another.