Camping at James River State Park

When Jay and I were dating, we went camping in Florida over winter break.  Most of the details of that trip are gone from my memory, but I do remember one pretty clearly.  We had just finished a really yummy dinner and he asked me, “If we get married, can we keep going camping like this?”  Um….YES!  Six weeks later, he put a ring on it.  Fourteen years and two kids later, we still love camping together.

Friday

Friday we left for our trip to James River State Park.  For dinner that night we had chicken & veggies cooked in foil packs, the same meal that I’m pretty sure convinced Jay he was ready to start talking about marriage 14 years ago.

Saturday

I’ve been counting down the years until Bubba would turn 6, the minimum age for tubing, canoeing, or kayaking at the park.  I ended up deciding to take the kids tubing Saturday morning because I remember enjoying that as a kid.  I just had a whole paragraph typed out about Bubba’s bad attitude during this trip, but I’ve decided I’m not going to let that define my memory.  Instead I’ll choose to remember the rapids that felt big from the water but look tiny from the bank, the magic of watching the bottom of the river zip by you in the shallow parts, and our stop on a sandy island to poke around.  Tubing was just as fun as I had remembered it.

I know Gerry Brooks would not approve of this photo, but I couldn’t help myself.   In the afternoon I took the kids to the Discover Area, a natural playground of sorts.  They played, and I prepared for my upcoming book club in the shade.  I love these slow moments.

 

Saturday night we took a wagon trip to the Tye River Overlook with a park ranger.  (Jay took this shot of us on the ride, and I happen to love it!)  The ranger had an electronic owl call to attract screech owls.  On our third or fourth stop, right about the point that Bubba fell asleep in my lap, we finally got one to respond!  It talked to us from a nearby tree for several minutes, but we never spotted it.  On our last stop we heard both the whinny and bounce calls, and two owls called back and forth to each other.  We joked that we had just helped to make an owl love connection.

Sunday

This day started out the best way…with a run.  I took the Cabell trail, and in keeping with tradition, got slightly lost.  The trail map and markings are great at the park….about 95% of the time.  But when there’s an arrow pointing left and no real trail going left, you just have to make your best guess.

 

The night before, Bubba asked to join me on the morning run, but we all knew that would be fun for like the first 5 minutes.  So I promised him a short run together when I got back.  He turned out to be a much better running partner than expected.  We took the Cabell trail in the opposite direction from what I had just run and figured out where I went off course.  I’m still sticking with the fact that it was a signage error….not mine. 🙂

Later that morning we went to two programs led by the rangers.  We watched Cobb, the corn snake, eat his weekly meal of a tiny thawed out mouse, then both kids held him.  We also learned lots of interesting ways to start a fire, and Chica got to try it out with a magnifying glass.  When I asked the kids at lunch today what their three favorite parts of the weekend were, both of these were mentioned.  I was slightly underwhelmed, but they were enthralled.  Doesn’t it often work that way??

If I’m being honest, I feel like I have a hard time connecting with this one these days.  I’ve written about that a bit, but that feeling keeps nagging at me.  So when she expressed interest in kayaking, I jumped on the opportunity to spend some time just with her.  We rented two boats after lunch on Sunday, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  She was (is) brave and strong and chatty and positive and encouraging.  We docked our boats twice and explored.  At lunch today both of us voted kayaking as our favorite part of the trip.

As if we hadn’t already packed enough into this day, I ended up sending the kids on a scavenger hunt before dinner.  I hid some Dollar Tree toys around the campground with clues, and they rode their bikes to find them.  The hunt was followed by a few (mostly drama free) hours of playing together.

Monday

I was feeling brave this morning, so I decided on a morning bike ride instead of run.  I’m still so green at riding trails.  I picked the longest, easiest trail in the park, the River Trail.  Most of it was a really wide, grassy path, but the end had several super steep downhill sections.  I’ve been reading about taking risks in my math teacher book, and I know risks are how we learn.  So…..I leveled my pedals, stood up, stuck my elbows out and butt back, cried out “Jesus! Jesus!” a few times, and went for it.  I lived to tell about it, y’all.  It was kinda fun.

The rest of the day was just packing up and hot.  Real hot.  The most exciting thing that happened was that we found a black widow spider building an egg sac on the top of our tent, under the rain fly.  I snapped this picture and took a short video before Jay killed it.

 

And finally, a few more pictures just for fun!  I asked Jay to send me a few of his best photos from the weekend.  Apparently he either really likes funny face photos, or that’s all we ever do when he pulls out the camera.

   

 

 

 

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Summer Week 2

Day 8 Home Alone

Nana and Papa took the kids for the day, so I had great intentions of being super productive on my kid-free day.  I know you’re surprised but….that didn’t exactly happen.  I did catch up on emails, clean up a bit, and do some planning for next week, but mostly I spent the day finishing up this book, The Hate U Give. I picked it up from the library thanks to the Facebook recommendation of a camp friend.  I’m still trying to figure out what to say about it.  Saying “I love it” just doesn’t feel quite right for a book that’s all about police brutality.  To borrow my friend’s words, it rocked my world.  I was struck by how the main character struggled to fit in and be herself, both in her own neighborhood and in her almost all white school.  I can’t help but wonder if this is the reality of some of our students, especially Chica’s classmates.  I was also struck by how the author was able to describe the real, personal, raw experience of people who are victims or witnesses of police violence.  These real life events become so politicized so fast in the media.  We forget….I forget….that behind them are real people with stories so much deeper than we will ever know.  This is the kind of book that changes you.

Day 9 Yes, We RNUTS

After a downtown run and my first trip to the Community Market this summer, we headed to Roanoke for the Roanoke Non-Ultra Trail Series (RNUTS) picnic.  The food was good, the company was great, and we finally got our sweet jackets.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that the purple jacket is what pushed me over the edge to sign up for the series.  Now we just have to wait for an appropriate time to wear them…

*Update:  Monday was rainy and uncharacteristically cold for June, and I was thrilled. 🙂

Day 10 Indoor Picnic

What’s better than a picnic in the park?  A picnic inside!  There’s no worry of kids wandering off too far, no need for sunscreen, way less sweating….it’s pretty great.  That’s what we did this morning at church!  Here’s my crew enjoying lunch, including Nana and Emily.  My favorite parts of the morning were playing games with Bubba in the gym and watching Chica ham it up on stage as Gideon’s servant.

I tweeted today’s other memory about Pokemon and talking math with Bubba here.   #goodbookchoiceafterall

Day 11 Summer Tomatoes

So today is a perfect example of why I am trying to post a memory from each summer day.  I have no trips, no play dates, and no funny stories to post.  In the morning I led a STEM class at an LC summer camp.  The kids spent the afternoon and evening with Nana, and I tried to get work done while they were gone.  I cooked rainbow chard to go with our chicken dinner, and Jay pretty much hated it.  It was just a regular ol’ day, and this is my only photo to show for it.

But the tomatoes.  Can we just talk about summer tomatoes for a moment?  I got these huge, ripe ones from the first lady on the right at the market, and I’m embarrassed to tell you just how much I paid for them.  But it was WORTH. IT.  Toast the bread, butter it, put on the big honkin’ slices, top with salt and pepper, and enjoy summer on a plate.  All the people in my house ask for more, and I couldn’t be happier.

Day 12 Puke

This has become a common thread this week, but Nana kept the kids again this morning so things would be a bit easier at my STEM class.  Bubba joined me in the afternoon for some errands, and he complained of an upset stomach the whole time.  He refused to eat dinner and fell fast asleep in Jay’s lap when the rest of us were done eating.

About 20 minutes later, Bubba started to rouse.  He took one confused look around and promptly puked right in Jay’s lap.  Twice.  Thankfully I caught the third time in a trashcan.  The look on Jay’s face was one of pure horror.  I was so sure Jay was going to puke in response, right on top of Bubba, but he held it together miraculously.

There are several circumstances in our house where I play the Mom Card….certain things I declare I won’t do or put up with, just because I’m the mom:  I won’t let sweaty Bubba put his sweaty head on me when it’s hot outside.  I don’t do feet.  Everyone’s been thoroughly warned that tickling and Wet Willies are a sure way to pull back a nub.  Well, Jay pretty much plays the Dad Card on puke, so I had the pleasure of cleaning everything up.  I snapped this picture after all the excitement had died down.  Poor guy.

Day 13 Yes
It feels like I’m always saying no during the school year.  No, I can’t do a Sunday afternoon run.  No, I can’t make game night.  No, work, school, the house is a mess, blah, blah, blah.  But this picture reminds me that there are way more chances to say yes in the summer.  Rachel posted that she was going for an after dinner walk, and thankfully, I could join her!  We talked about book clubs, school stuff, trips, being young with bodies that are starting to feel old, and everything in between.  Note the big ol’ ice pack on her booty and the fact that I still can’t figure out the posing thing despite her many lessons.  Whatevs.

Day 14  Pop See Ko

Go Noodle is the break of choice at our LC camp this week.  Today we watched Pop See Ko, a favorite for nearly everyone.  We had to go by school afterwards to drop some things off, and they were still singing Pop See Ko when we got there.  I was feeling grumpy as ever at this particular moment, but them getting along and enjoying each other helped to pull me out of my funk a bit.  Bubba’s move was to jump and cross both his arms and legs.

Also, tonight the kids made pancakes with no help AND packed their own stuff for camping.  That’s a Double Parent Level Up right there.

Summer Week 1

My typical back to school conversation goes like this:

Friend:  How was your summer?
Me: Great!
Friend:  Did you do anything fun?
Me:  Yes!  We went camping.  We visited my parents in Richmond and went to Kings Dominion.  We swam at the Y.  I took classes.  It went by too fast.

Yes, camping and Kings Dominion are highlights for me, and much of my time will be taken up with grad school, but each summer has so many other small moments worth remembering.  Moments like eating ice cream for dinner and baseball games and bike rides.

So I’ve decided to try to post at least one photo and memory each day this summer.  This way I can look back on August 7th and remember that the summer was more than our two trips and studying.  I fully realize that this plan might go the way of summer chore lists and never make it past the first week, but it can’t hurt to try, right?  So here goes….

Day 1  Last Day of School

The hours and hours of work I put into the end of year video certainly felt worth it when I watched students sing along:

This lovely lady will be a senior next year, and we ran into her at the GO Center picnic.  Michelle taught her in third grade, and I taught her the next year in fourth.  She made such an impression on both of us.  I’ve always known she will accomplish big things in life!  I had another favorite student stop by the day before with her mom, and two more on Friday.  It’s such a gift to watch our students grow up and become the amazing humans that they are.

 

And I got this letter from a current student.  Day made.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 Code Girls

As soon as my semester at VCU ended, I decided to tackle my summer reading list.  Up first was Code Girls because I wanted to hear Dorothy Braden Bruce speak during the Randolph College Reunion.  At 98, she was witty, charming, and fascinating.  My favorite moment was when the interviewer asked her if she was scared to head to Washington to do a job that she knew nothing about.  In a very matter of fact way, she said, “No.”  She felt fully prepared for whatever she might face because of the education she had received at R-MWC.  I certainly knew that feeling, and I think so many of the other women in the room did too.

As an added bonus, I ran into two class of ’03 friends who where enjoying their 15th year reunion.  What a great surprise!

Day 3  Conquer the Cove 25K

 

I spent the first 8 miles with Ruth and Rhonda.  Their company made the miles pass quickly and put me in a good mood.  I didn’t really mean to, but I pulled ahead of Ruth when we hit the long, uphill fire road.  I’ve decided, for now, that I like fire road climbs better than single track climbs.  I think that the hilly downtown run that (the other) Ruth and I do a few mornings each week paid off!  I ate lots of pickles, saw one tiny turtle, tried to run with gratitude, and stayed mostly dry and clean-ish until the last 5 minutes.  Maddy coming up from behind motivated me to keep pushing all the way to the finish.  Being kid-free after the race allowed Jay and I to hang around, cheer for our friends finishing the marathon, and take the long way home.  It was a perfect day.

Day 4 Small Victories

I accomplished something this morning that I’ve been wanting to do for months….I cleaned off our porch.  It had accumulated an unruly collection of toys, tools, and broken junk, and there were weeds climbing up from both sides.  Tonight Jay and I enjoyed the first of many hours of summer porch sitting.

We spent an hour at the YMCA pool this afternoon.  The last time we went, Bubba got up the nerve to try the swim test, but he didn’t pass.  He tried again today and earned the red band, granting him access to their super cool slide!  I’m proud of that kid!!

Day 5 Enchiladas

During the school year I forget how much I like to cook.  We get stuck in a rut of Chic-fil-A, pizza, hamburgers, and waaaay too many Lunchables.  At least for now, while I’m not taking classes, I’m enjoying cooking again.  Last night Chica helped me make chicken piccata, and tonight Bubba helped me with enchiladas.  Neither of them was really a fan of what we cooked, but they’re not a fan of much when it comes to food.

 

 

Day 6 Gifts

This morning when I returned from my morning run, I found some out-of-the-blue gifts in my chair on the porch.  That Jay Proffitt is one smart dude.  He knows I like practical gifts, hence the work gloves and shovels.  He also knows that my enthusiasm for weeding our flowerbeds might last longer if I have the right tools to use.  And finally, he knows I lose stuff….hence the triple pack of gloves.  Love.  For the last few mornings he’s enjoyed his coffee on the porch while I pull weeds.  I think he’s always wanted to keep me company like this when I cook, but I have to concentrate way too much.  Weeding is mindless, so we’ve enjoyed those few cool minutes just chatting before the sun comes up and over the house.

After dinner tonight we went for a one mile walk on the Creekside Trail starting at the Farm Basket.  I think Bubba’s the only one that’s not afraid of the swinging bridge, but he was not so sure about the big sinkhole right before the steps.  I was so thankful that Jay put his video editing work on hold for an evening and came with us!

Day 7 Home

 

 

 

 

This was the first day we didn’t go to the pool at the Y.  I had great intentions of cleaning up and planning for the summer camp sessions I’m leading next week, but it just didn’t happen.  I read a bunch and played Carcassonne with Bubba while Chica played Minecraft.  In the afternoon we invited friends over to play in the sprinkler, and after dinner we rode up to New Covenant to let Chica learn how to get on and off her new to her (and almost too tall) bike.  We got it earlier this week from a Facebook Marketplace post.  She fell that day while trying to stop and scraped up her knees, so she was pretty hesitant to get back on it.  But as you can see in the picture, she got over that today and was thrilled with herself for learning how to stop and work the gears.  Watching them both finally ride confidently makes me so excited for our trip to Damascus in the fall.  It will be our first go at the Creeper Trail with no one being pulled in a buggy!

The kids are spending the night with Nana and Papa, so Jay and I enjoyed the best kind of date at Mr. Goodies.  I didn’t snap a picture, but we both commented like 17 times about how good it was.  I’m pretty sure it tastes even better than normal when you are kid-free. 🙂

 

What Will They Remember?

I wonder what my kids will remember.

I think I will remember the sideways, white rain I saw through the window behind Jay.  It was the sound of stuff banging around on the porch and the sideways rain that told me it was time to take cover.

I will remember the strange calm that came over my two sweet kids as we sat it out at the bottom of our basement steps in the dark.  “This is an adventure. We will be fine.  Tornadoes are over very quickly.”

I will remember that all of the neighbors resurfaced from their basements at the same time.  “Are you ok?  Yes.  Are you guys ok?”

    

I will remember texting nearby friends…thanksgiving after thanksgiving as each one of them replied that they were safe.

I will remember learning through our spotty cell connection that friends had lost their entire home.  Everything.  In the dark of our living room there was no way to hide the reality from our kids.  Later, with tears running down my cheeks, Chica asked, “Mom, are you crying?”  Yes.

I will remember that Nana’s house didn’t lose power, and we had a place to go.  Unlike so many friends, we could get out of our neighborhood easily.

I’ll remember that I tried to do homework on our unexpected day off, but I spent much more time scrolling Facebook, overcome by thankfulness for the good in our community.

I hope my kids’ memories are slightly different.

I hope my kids remember playing Catan by headlamp.

I hope Bubba remembers losing his first tooth at Nana’s while we waited for power to return.

And perhaps most importantly, I hope they both remember that people are more important than stuff, and we will do everything we can to protect them when scary things happen.  And when we can’t protect them, God can.

There are reports of 20-25 families in Elon that lost their homes.  Here are links to a way to help two families that we know:
https://www.gofundme.com/24dvh5h8
https://www.gofundme.com/5ev5htk

 

 

Surprised By Yes

I find myself saying no often as a mom.  Yesterday the no’s included:

No, Chica, you cannot play Minecraft on that one morning where you’re actually ready for school early.  In a strange turn of events, you’re distracting Bubba.  Sorry.

No, you cannot keep playing when it’s time to go.

No, you will not get a treat if you don’t eat your sandwich.  My answer hasn’t changed since the last seven times you asked me.

There are other frequent no’s:

No, you can’t knock on your friend’s door at 6:45 on a school night.  I know we just got home, but your friend is probably already getting his shower.  And nope, 7:30 on Saturday morning just won’t work either, Bud.

No, we’re not going to sign you up for a sport right now.  I’m barely holding on to our current commitments.

No, we’re not getting a pet.  I don’t like/need/believe in/want to take care of/have time for pets. No no no.

And then the one that crushes me a little every time:

No, I can’t do (fill-in-the-blank) with you right now.  I have homework.  Lots of it.

I worry about that all the time.  I worry that this is what they will remember and what will define these years for them.  When I shared that worry with a friend last week, she said, “No.  They will remember a mom who had a goal and worked hard to achieve it.”

I hope you’re right.

——————–

Friday nights are usually my one night off.  The week is a hard push to Thursday, my class night.  Thursday nights, after class, are for catching up on all the balls I’ve dropped during the week.  By Friday I’m just over it.  I declare to my unsurprised family every Friday, “I’m doing nothing tonight.  No-thing.”  I want to curl up on the couch and spend the evening in an internet mind-suck, guilt free.

Last night I had the phone in hand, pillows propped just right, and blanket pulled up, when Bubba decided to join me.  He pushed his way up into the warm corners in the way that only he can do.  “Can we play a board game?”

No. This is my night.  My night to lay here and be warm and numb and do nothing.

But, I said: Yes.  It was an “ok-I-guesssss-sooooo” kind of yes, but still a yes.

He was surprised.  I was surprised.  Jay was surprised.  Bubba rushed into Chica’s room to grab Chutes and Ladders before I could change my mind.

So here’s the biggest surprise of all: I had fun.

Here’s why…
1. Apparently Jay and Bubba played Chutes and Ladders recently.  Jay helped him work out the ever maddening problem of knowing which direction to move.  There was no more, “Hey!  You’re going backwards!”
2. The kid moved for me.  That’s love right there, y’all.  I stayed warm under the blanket, and he counted out the moves for both of us.
3.  He’s gotten fast.  One main problem with this game is that it takes so blasted long.  But when you don’t have to remind a kid it’s his turn or wait for him to figure out which way the numbers are going, it gets better.  Promise.
4.  We talked math.  I can’t help it.   Here’s one of my favorite examples:  We were on the same spot.  I rolled a 3, and he moved me 3 ahead.  Then he rolled a 6.  Instead of counting up 6 from his spot, he counted up 3 from my spot.  I love hearing him try to explain those understandings that just come naturally to him.
5.  And the ABSOLUTE biggest reason I had fun:  He’s a good sport.  Chica is just rotten with sportsmanship, and she always has been.  She’ll cry if she loses.  She’ll cry if she thinks she’s going to lose.  She’ll quit rather than lose.  Lately she’ll actually just refuse to play anything rather than lose.  I’ve tried everything I know to do to help her with this, but I think it’s going to continue to be a long, slow, uphill climb.  I guess either Bubba is just wired completely differently, or all the sermons I’ve preached to her stuck to him.  Whatever caused it, that boy is good at winning and losing.  He’s competitive, but encouraging.  It was a night of no tears and no pouting, and it was refreshing.

We ended up playing one game of Chutes and Ladders, one fast game of Candy Land, and at least three rounds of super hero dominoes.  To top off an already great evening, we had ice cream right before bed and talked math.  Talking math is my current love language.  (Joking…..but actually not really.)  Out of nowhere he starts telling me he knows what half of 180 is.  He explains he’s thinking about how many school days there are, “And I just can’t get that number out of my mind.”  Yep.  My kid.  I get ya buddy.  His explanation was so unexpected that I made him say it again so I could record it.

——————-

I’m struggling with how to end this post.  Goodness knows I’m not going to conclude with some challenge to my mom friends about more yes’s.  Because, let’s be real friends, my ratio of no’s to yes’s is like 2,348 to 1.

Instead I’m just going to hope for all of us that the yes’s are the spaces where the strongest memories are made.  That’s true for me as a mom, so hopefully it will be the same for them.  Carry on.

 

 

 

Wide Angle Lens

This week for my grad class I had to write a portrait of myself as a teacher.  Something about this process was so hard.  When the first question in the reflection asked me to describe how I handle my emotions, all I could think about was the class of second graders I had yelled at that afternoon.  Like really yelled.  It was ugly.

In my assignment I was also supposed to reflect on my use of rich tasks, classroom discourse, and evidence of student learning….and on and on and on.  But my ability to think objectively about all of those areas was totally clouded by my most recent mistakes.  It’s been a hot mess kind of week, and I just kept picturing the teacher I made cry, the class I made sit and listen for waaay too long, and the balls I’ve been dropping all along the way.

I had my zoom lens on, and it wasn’t pretty.  Thankfully though, I got an email yesterday that helped me to begin to zoom out.  Then at lunch today I read an article that made my view a little wider.  Tonight, at the Chipotle checkout of all places, God reminded me a third time of the value of a wide angle lens: The portrait of me as a teacher spans 11 years, not one week.   Here are three snapshots that I must include:

*A mom of a student I taught four years ago emailed me for advice for her youngest daughter.  She told me her son was doing well in Algebra, and she appreciated the way I had reassured her of his understanding and ability way back in fourth grade.  She wrote, “So, as a teacher, what I so appreciate about you, among other things, is your ability to see the child and his mind, not just the results of his work.”  Her kind words have been incredibly encouraging to me.

*Today at lunch I read an article about local high school athletes who have signed with colleges.  One of my former fourth grade students received a full scholarship to play football.   I can only imagine the kind of determination and commitment it has taken for him to land this spot.  This has given me such renewed hope for my current students.  

*Tonight at Chipotle the girl ringing me up stops and says, “You look so familiar.”  I knew right away by her age that I must have taught her, but no names were coming to me.  (I don’t have that gift like my friend Ruth does.)  But as soon as she told me her name, I remembered exactly who she was.  And guess what that beautiful young woman said next?  “I still remember what you taught me, all those rhymes!  6 times 8 equals 48.  I never forgot it!”  I did a little dance right there in Chipotle.  No shame.  And I asked her if I could hug her.  Yep.  Again, no shame.  I told her that she had totally made my night, and continued dancing with my chicken bowl all the way to the door.

I know I run the risk of appearing like I’m tooting my own horn by recording these moments, but that’s truly not my intention.  I need to write them down to remind myself next month or next week or maybe tomorrow at 3:30pm that I am making an impact.  But more importantly than that, I want to remind my teacher friends that WE are making an impact.  My newest teacher friends, you’ve have never had the experience of meeting one of your students all grown up.  But your day will come too, and you’ll forget their names and embarrass them and be so stinkin’ thankful all in the same moment.

Carry on, friends.

26 Memories

Air Mattress – These days Jay and the kids like to camp out in the basement on the air mattress.  I hope this is a memory they’ll talk about when they are big.

BB-8 – Chica came into my room tonight to tell me she had finished five things on her to-do list, but mostly she wanted me to notice her super cool dangle BB-8 earrings she had just put on.  They were a most perfect Christmas gift from Aunt Rachel & Uncle Justin.

Coaching – I’ve been reading about content coaching yesterday and today for my next class.  I get overwhelmed and encouraged as I read, all at the same time.

Dessert – Our family has decided that these brownies are our new favorite dessert.  In case you’re wondering, a double batch is the way to go. Thanks, Mom.

Estimate – I spent one and a half snow days last week making this super cool Lego sculpture…times two.  Our students and staff have to now estimate how many Legos were used to make it.  I can’t wait to see if anyone will be close.

Finished  – Chica finished Chasing Space tonight.  It was so fun to watch her be excited to read about something other than dragons.

Groceries – Technology failed us tonight.  I made the grocery list on Google Docs so that I could keep updating it as Jay shopped.  However, it never refreshed on his phone, so he came home with about half of the things I was expecting.  We don’t argue over much, but we both almost got our panties in a wad over whose fault this was.  Conclusion: It was no one’s fault.

Hidden Figures – This is my new favorite movie, and this book is at the top of my summer reading list, along with Chasing Space and I Am Malala.  On the off chance that I finish all three of those, I think I also want to read Code Girls.  I usually spend my few free weeks of the summer reading fiction aimed at fourth and fifth graders, but I’m hoping to up my game this year. Maybe my two English teacher friends are rubbing off on me.

Integers – I helped a friend prep for making a video on integer multiplication today.  Red and yellow counters are the way to go if you ever have to explain to someone why a negative times a negative equals a positive.

Jordan – One of our former students lost his life this week to gun violence.  This has rocked me in a way that I cannot describe.  So many questions.

Kids – And many of those questions have to do with the kids I teach today.  How can I convince them that what I have to offer is better than what the street has to offer them?  How can we expect them to care about improper fractions or series circuits or the Virginia Company of London when their most basic needs are not being met?  Am I doing enough?  What else can we do?

Little Dickens – I spent the morning upstairs at Little Dickens sharing my kids’ public school experience with a sweet friend.  Public school is the only option that we have ever considered, and I am over and over thankful for the ways that their teachers and classmates are influencing them.  There are so many hard things and much brokenness, but there is also so much good.

My bribe – The kids had to tag along while we talked, so I bribed them with a stop at the Humane Society if they let us talk in peace.  I sent them in the cat rooms and just watched from the window.  Parenting win.

Netflix – Please watch David Letterman’s interview with Obama on Netflix.  I came home from school on Friday just so stinking discouraged about our country.  I’m embarrassed to be represented by our current President who devalues people in such an ugly way.  But then I watched Obama’s interview, and I tried to cling to its message of hope.

“I think in the whole struggle, there may be some setbacks, some delays, some interruption…but you take a long hard look, we will get there.  We will redeem the soul of America.  We will make this little piece of real estate we call America, and the world, a little better.  We all have a role to play.  We all can do something, we all can make a contribution.” – Rep. John Lewis

Our Friend, Martin – Today my tiny contribution was watching this with my kids, educating us all on the man and the message that this day celebrates.  Chica said her takeaway was that, “he didn’t just fight for Black people, but for the rights of all people.”

Patterns – I’m still trying to figure out what my pattern lesson will look like for first grade tomorrow.  This blog was supposed to be a quick diversion.  Two hours later….

Quiet – At dinner last night we took turns asking each other deep and not-so-deep questions.  I asked, “What does the world need more of?”  Bubba’s response was, “Quiet.”  Yes, Bubba.  Agreed.

Rekenreks – My most fantastic husband has cut and drilled over 250 pieces of wood to make rekenreks, a math tool that’s similar to an abacus.  I’m so thankful for that guy.  I can’t wait to give them to our teachers.

Star Wars – Tonight Bubba listened to a Star Wars early reader book on CD.  He then insisted on reading the whole book back to all of us after dinner.  Jay and I had to tag team it was so long.  I love this age and stage because I feel like you can almost see them grow overnight.

Tomorrow – SNOW!  Who do you think will be crazier at school tomorrow in anticipation for the snow Tuesday night?  Teachers or students?  Yeah…definitely teachers.

Undone – As it goes almost every year, I started the year off with a clean house and all kinds of plans to keep it up.  And as always, week 2 left most of those plans undone.  I recovered the dining room and den today, but the dishes and laundry are still staring at me.

Vegetable – My new favorite vegetable is brussel sprouts.  No lie.  (Yeah…I was really reaching for a V word.)

Water bear – Chica has a fascination with tardigrades or water bears.  Today she found a stuffed one at Givens.  I’m saving this for a birthday idea.  #nerdtoys

eXpectations – A family in our life group had a baby, and an invitation was extended for each of the families to bring a meal.  Oh the pressure:  How am I going to get it there on time and feed my own family?  What if I make the same thing as the person before me?  What can I make that the kids will eat?  How will I keep it hot?  This bring a meal thing is second nature to some people, but it makes me break out in sweat.  So I decided to lower my expectations.  I’m going to figure out something I can bring that I don’t have to make…just pick up.  Like pizza. Or Panera.  Or a rotisserie chicken….whatever.  Lower the expectations, and I can do this!

YMCA – Jay’s been going on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  I’m proud of his consistency, even through the crazy cold mornings.

Zero – I have zero ideas for a letter Z memory, just like I still have zero ideas for my pattern lesson tomorrow.  Now back to it….