Category Archives: teacher mama

Friendship Friday ~ Endings and Beginnings

Today marks my summer’s end. Today marks her new beginning. Seasons change, and here comes another one. When I return to my classroom on Monday to prep for the new school year, it will be just that.

My classroom.

After two years of sharing space and responsibilities and the dailiness of teaching together, it feels sad to me. I will miss my partner teacher like crazy.

After two years of sharing space and responsibilities and the dailiness of teaching together, it feels happy to me. I am glad to see her pursuing other dreams and possibilities. She has such ambition! I am eager to watch her soar.

And so it goes. Living in the tension.

The ambivalence.

We had talked about this moment more than a time or two during our weekly Wednesday catch-up meetings. How it wouldn’t be forever, but that we would enjoy our time together until it came to an end.

It has come to an end.

Endings are hard.

There is grief and heartache. There is change. There is unknown.

We each stand on the edge of our unknown.

It is so sweet when paths cross and we share a season together. When we walk a stretch of our individual journeys side-by-side. For us, this was a reconverging of paths. This season of teaching together was a time to relate as adult equals rather than relating in the teacher/student relationship we shared once upon a time.

She often said it was her season of coming full circle at Good Shepherd. Now it is time for her to move on, but the circle of love and friendship and memories that I have will not be unbroken.

Blessings, Miss Carter! Thank you for everything you did to make the past two years an adventure. You will always hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my children. You are a superstar and a treasured friend.

Still Single Digits

August is still single digits. New and fresh, the month has not yet swelled and aged into what is to come, but it’s coming.

Change is on the way.

The single digits of each month offer excitement and hope. They hold possibility. They look ahead to what is not yet here and offer a breath. A pause.

I am trying to breathe; to stay present in the single digits.

This month’s single digits offer just a little more slow down time. They remind me that the school year is not yet here, and that kids in PJs for another day is okay. They remind me to enjoy the puttering while it is still puttering season rather than borrow stress from what is coming.

Monday begins double digits and the last week of my summer before returning to work. I am spending another year in the classroom with just the right group of students. I am excited about changes that are coming. I am sad about changes that are coming.

Ambivalence much?

For now I will sit in the single digits. I will help change a guinea pig cage and visit a brand new baby in the hospital. I will hitch a ride to Roanoke to check out my son’s new apartment when he and his dad pass through with the moving trailer. I will continue to assess clothing and school supply needs for the upcoming year and check the calendar for last-minute appointments.

I will rest in the unrest. The mess.

I will savor the remaining single digits of this month.

Finishing Well

It’s the first of the last; the first day of the last week of school.

I want to finish well.

This school year seems to have flown by, now that the final days are upon us, and yet, there were those moments. I am thinking of certain parts that seemed to drag or even threatened to screech to a halt. Derail us.

We made it!

May is a hard month. In the seasons of my life, in my world, hard things have happened at the end of May and beginning of June. My body and heart remember this, and even though my head knows that I am in a different place, my heart and body, not always so much.

I am trying to be kind to myself in the finishing.

This is the time when the whispers begin, the ones inside tearing me down. Accusing. Taunting. Reminding me of ways that I haven’t been enough. Haven’t measured up. Laughing and saying, Yes, but, when I remember and speak of what was right and good.

It has been a good year.

This group of students has been a joy. With three of my own in the class, sometimes a hard joy, but a joy, nonetheless. It has been a gift to work with them. I have been blessed to watch them grow as individuals and as a group. I like to think I have helped them grow their wings a little bit stronger, their minds a little bit wiser.

We will finish well.

Today everyone wrapped up their academic work and tiptoed into the waters of program practice. We made it up to our knees and hung out there awhile getting our bearings about us before easing up and climbing back out.

Tomorrow we will venture to our venue and dive in for real. We will flounder and splash around and feel like we are drowning. We will cough and choke and gasp for air and try too hard. We will feel discouraged.

It’s not the end.

Then the next day will come, and we will find our groove and hit our stride. The lines will feel natural and props not as awkward. We will know where to stand and when to come in and begin to glide through our words and notes as a team.

We will build confidence.

The day of the performance, we will have a final run-through. Thursday night will be show-time.

Go-time!

And just like that it will be Friday, and the last day of school. We will have made it to the finish line together, basking in the glow of a job well-done, a year well-run, and we will have some fun.

I am looking forward to celebrating our finishing well!

This is the Storm

Twenty-one years ago, the first week of March, I was hugely pregnant with child number two, due in ten days. Big sister was a toddler of 17 months.

Steve and I hung out Wednesday night, as usual. Nothing about our world was different. There were no expectations. I hadn’t gotten to the point in the pregnancy where I was ready to birth out a baby. Child one arrived three days early. In my mind there was still over a week to go.

We went to bed, alarm set to wake us in the morning for another day of work.

Thursday I woke and found Steve already downstairs. He was facing the sliding glass door which opened to the tiny back deck off of the kitchen. The deck was covered in many, many inches of snow.

Julie, look at this!

I think my water just broke.

That’s how it went down. I think my water just broke. Why else would I be peeing in the living room on the carpet? Excitement?!

It’s a good thing that we were planning a home birth. We just had to figure a way to get the midwife from Dayton.

tbt big snow

It’s a good thing I have slow and steady, steady and slow labors. It would be a full day before that little, wrinkly, leathery old man would make his way reluctantly into the world.

But this is the storm.

It’s a little different today. Instead of waking to the ground covered with snow, I woke to thick rain hitting the windows. Then ice pellets changing over to heavy wet flakes and back to pellets.

It’s different because back in 1994 there wasn’t access to the technology that we have today, especially in our little townhouse-apartment. No TV, internet, nothing smart, not even a newspaper. Only talk radio that wasn’t listened to all that often. Certainly no anticipation of a weather event. No chatter and buzz.

School is closed today. Entirely.

That Thursday, March 3, 1994, was the first time that Good Shepherd School closed its doors for a snow day. By Friday the sun was shining and roads were clear. That part isn’t looking as promising this year, but by the weekend, I’m guessing, clear.

So we hunker down for another snow day; one of our last, I secretly hope. I try to relax and relieve the pressure I feel building inside and remind myself that sufficient for each day is it’s evil. And this isn’t evil.

My son turned 21 on Tuesday. It feels like yesterday that I was standing in the middle of a tiny living room, looking out at the tiny back deck covered in snow, excitement and fear mounting, wondering how the day would end.

It ended with me cradling a tiny person in my arms, both of us tucked into bed for our first night together.

In the snow. In March.

I wonder what this snow day in March will bring?

Friendship Friday ~ Circle of Play

She’s a funny girl, my Little Mae. I love the things about her that make her unique as the baby of eight siblings.

No matter how many children you have, you have never seen it all.

I love the new things that I see, which is why I love watching my little girl create play circles.

I don’t know when I first noticed her tendency to circle toys around herself and sit in the middle to play. She has always been a little player, though, gabbing this toy from here and that toy from there.

It can be rather maddening, looking like a toy squatter has taken over the house. Not good news for a mama who likes order and toys to stay in their proper bins.

The circle below is in the front entryway by the stairs. The porch cushions waiting to be put away, the stair basket, and Olaf all came together to form a cozy play place.

play circle

She has ideas about what would be perfect to pair with what else for the best play experience.

She has become somewhat of a trend-setter.

I see this as her teacher at school, one of its many perks, as she sets up circles for her friends, pulling toys from here and there, just like at home.

play circle

This play circle, composed of Rescue Hero tower and boat, pirate toy island, mini Rescue Hero mountain, and flexible track, is all ready for My Little Ponies to take over the scene. If you use your imagination, you can picture a group of little girls doing just that, while the boys figure out how they will set up their own circle of play.

Little Mae at play in a circle

This isn’t the same circle, but you get a better idea with this little squinch in the middle!

Return of Routine

It’s a bit overwhelming and much to think of jumping back into school and work and schoolwork and the second semester of the school year.

We are no longer thinking about it. We are doing it.

I would like to say that I feel rested and refreshed after two weeks off, but reality is, I don’t. I feel weary.

I am guessing that many of you reading this do, as well.

There is something about two weeks of intense unstructured family time to drain one physically and emotionally. Or is it just me?

There were some good times. Many good times. Lots of really great times.

There were also hard times. Many hard times. Lots of really hard times.

And sometimes good things are hard. Like lots of extended family together.

That can be hard. Even when you love each other a lot.

Because it’s out of routine. There are lots of personalities. There are many expectations both spoken and not. There are many different people on different paths in different states or different countries with different, yet similar, stories all coming together to journey a few miles for a spell on the same path, each equipped differently by their choice of how to cope with the terrain being navigated.

If you are reading this shocked that extended family time could ever be hard, consider yourself blessed with an extra measure of sanctification and grace.

Back to the return of routine.

I am actually looking forward to this in a pushing through the re-adjustment period sort of way. I am not looking forward to dragging myself and everyone else up out of bed in the mornings.

I am trusting the message that God gave me on the back of a restroom stall door on New Year’s Eve while attending an event for First Night, Harrisonburg.

He’s got this.

He’s got me.

He’s got you, too!

About Those Legs

I wish that I could find the picture that matches the one vividly in my mind. I’m sure it will turn up after this post.

2 or 3 year old me is sitting on the couch with my Aunt Caryl preparing to open her birthday gift to me. I open a Bert puppet from Sesame Street. He has an egg-shaped plastic head with a tuft of black hair on the top.

Like this.

Many things disturb little me about this gift, but what I say first, according to witnesses present, is Where are the legs?

I remember the long arms and also having to summon all of my preschool-sized courage to look up inside that plastic head to see where the hair was attached on the inside. To reach up into that vast crevasse and touch it was almost too much, but somehow I needed to to prove something to myself.

At three.

I had to touch that spot.

I don’t remember what happened to Bert and his plastic head and polyester striped shirt. My mother out of kindness probably had him disappear, though I also remember using him for puppet shows in a pinch.

Fast forward to a bright classroom idea I had last week.

In my classroom were two Christmas trees. A tiny one perched on a table in the reading corner topped with a cute Lambchop finger puppet I found. She made a perfect tree topper with her red Christmas hat and little arms and legs looking like she was just sitting there on top of the tree.

I was proud of myself for having the idea to use her there.

This gave me the idea that I could use a Curious George puppet to top the other tree for an equally classroomy, whimsical look. After all, Curious George is one of my favorites!

Curious George on the tree

Almost immediately my six year old daughter noticed, becoming visibly upset over this use of the Curious George puppet.

Mommy, take that down. It’s fweaking me out. Where are the legs? There are no legs!

Sympathetic to her plight, I removed George from the top of the tree and further asked about why it was so upsetting to her to have him as the tree topper.

It’s just reawwy weird that it looks like there are no legs and just this GIANT TREE growing out of Curious George for the legs.

Curious George tree

Lambchop has legs. I don’t have a picture.

Sensitive to her feelings in a similar, yet different way, George came down, replaced by a paper star. Much more natural.

Unlike those mannequins in Old Navy with no heads.

Let’s get out of here, Mama. This place is fweaking me out!

Thankful for Pushing-Through Grace

Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair. . .
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever, praising your greatness from generation to generation.
Psalm 79:13

I am teetering there on the brink of despair, not wanting to pitch over, yet feeling the pull.

Physically I am in a rough place with my body image and pain level.

Emotionally I am weary.

You can’t always judge someone by what you see. Externals can mask internal struggles. They can be a grace.  Don’t think that you already know. You don’t.

I realized my temptation to craft, order, and control this week by the simple act of looking up a Friday craft activity to do with my students. I hit up a place that I rarely visit to find something to do with paper towel rolls and construction paper.

Pinterest.

Scrolling through ideas and kid crafts, (these weren’t even gracious home decorating ideas!), I felt the discontent that stirs when one feels like they are living in the less than and chaos.

I am not in a season of gracious crafts and centerpieces and tastefully decorated mantles and fun kids’ Thanksgiving tables, yet square after square of coziness taunted me, causing me to wonder what if? 

I long to be crafty and orderly and cozy and controlled.

Those things are not what will satisfy my heart.

So this morning as a new day dawns, and a new round of struggle begins, my prayer is for grace to continue to push though.

We are all pushing through wherever it is that we need grace to sustain us.

Please help me to push through, Father. This is a tough, tough place.

You’ve been there before.

You will be there again.

You are always there.

You are with me.

I am thankful that Jesus is with me in the struggle, and that he sent crafting grace in the form of saved paper towel tubes found in the back office of our classroom (5 of them that I cut into thirds), paper plates from the kindergarten room, brown feathers from the random extra craft supply drawer in the teacher work room, scraps of red felt left from V-day (there were hearts cut out of it), and lots of washable poster paint. The ultimate classroom grace is always found in the form of my partner teacher whose calm demeanor, patient spirit, and easy sense of humor makes the hard stuff about every day not quite so hard.

photo 2

Can you find little Mae’s and Coco’s turkeys gracing the mantle in the above picture, easing us from fall decor to Thanksgiving? Mine and Roo’s are still at school waiting to celebrate at the Thanksgiving party!

Mercies Anew

I’m thankful today for mercies anew.

Yesterday started off rough and continued in off mode all day long.

There was nothing in particular to pin it on other than a disrupted morning routine, dealing with the unexpected, and interacting in the usual ways with the usual suspects.

It was just a really hard day.

Even though I left work early.

Even though I took a nap.

Even though there were no outside obligations last night.

Some days are just like that.

Which is why I am thankful for a new start today!

Grace, Like Rain

It’s been a rainy couple of days, and a look at my phone’s weather app shows more in the forecast.

I was thankful that on my school docket were merit store and desk changing for Friday’s activities. Both were indoor and disruptive, but low-key.

My partner teacher did a great job of running a sale on stuffed animals, so that those who wanted a mini dog could purchase one in our classroom store.

One student brought a mini NFL helmet set from home, and indoor recess turned into teeny-beanies and mini dogs playing football. Shh. . .it might not be the coolest, but it was super-cute and a safe place to be uncool.

Is that helmet JMU?

No! These are NFL football teams.

Is this one VCU?

Do you know what the NFL is? These are NFL helmets.

I love the conversations that I overhear. Usually.

Last Friday, the students and I traipsed around outdoors at a pumpkin patch under threat of rain. It held off until evening. I was so thankful.

Last Friday’s rain soaked into the parched fields where my daughters play soccer, quenching the ground’s thirst. The Saturday sunshine allowed games to be played. This season’s games are not as early as in the past, but they still disrupt the day.

A rainy start to the week didn’t call off Wednesday’s practice, though mud was flying.

As yesterday’s rain steadily fell, I began to wonder what the weekend would hold. Would there be soccer games? Would I be bringing a snack for my youngest girl’s team?

She had it all planned out, I just hadn’t made a run to the store, yet.

The email cancellation came through to an internal sigh of relief from this mama.

It felt like such grace to be given respite from the routine and space to stretch my soul amidst the Saturday morning crazy.

Yes, today will continue to come at me, and I know there is a lot ahead, but for now I will bask in that disruptive grace.