2019 Summer Week 4

Day 24 Clean Table

Finally. Home.  (For a day at least.)  I’m not ashamed to admit that some of the tubs and coolers from camping were still hanging out in the kitchen at the start of this day.  The best part of today was recovering the kitchen and dining room.  I’m thankful for a husband that still cheers me on when I send him these kinds of pictures while he’s at work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 25 VCTM & Trails

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com

So that home thing didn’t last long.  I headed to Richmond again for a meeting of the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics board.  This was my first official meeting as one of two elementary representatives.  These kinds of situations stir up a bit of my impostor syndrome.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that the folks there were super kind, and I actually had decent ideas to add to the conversation and brainstorming.  As I had promised myself the week before, I ended the day with a ride at Pocahontas State Park on the most perfect trails.  While I was riding, my mom texted and asked if I wanted to catch up with her for dinner before heading back.  We enjoyed dinner at Chuy’s while chatting about her upcoming surgery and how her friends remind me of the movie Wine Country.

Day 26 Middle School

This week Chica has been attending a middle school orientation of sorts.  The bus picks her up at the top of our street, and she spends the morning there having breakfast, going to a few “classes” and eating lunch before she gets dropped off back at home.  While Bubba has certainly missed her company during the day, I think it’s overall been a great experience for her.  She’s talked about making a new friend, taking a tour, visiting the herpetology lab, and decorating a pot in art.  I’m thankful for the teachers who gave up part of their summer to make sure incoming 6th graders feel prepared.  Now we just need to figure out how to help moms and dads feel prepared too.

Day 27 Podcast & Bike Ride

Today was a first for our podcast!  We welcomed a remote guest, Alice Aspinall, who talked about her book, Everyone Can Learn Math.  She wasn’t afraid of our 6AM start time, and we joked about how thankful we are that a podcast is just audio and not video!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Chica was having something special each day at school, I felt like I should do the same for Bubba.  We chose a morning bike ride on the trail and did almost 7 miles together.  When I go on short adventures like this with him, I can’t help but wonder what’s to come.  When he gets bigger and stronger, will he still want to go with me?  I would love hike the entire VA section of the AT one summer.  As of right now, it’s looking like he’s the only family member that might find that fun.  We’ll see.

Day 28 Girls’ Weekend

 

 

 

 

This spring, Alissa reached out to three of us who have girls the same age about planning a weekend getaway together.  Other people who heard about it assumed we were going to have “the talk,” but I think we’ve all already given it in one way or another.  Really we just wanted to get together to chat, eat, run, swim, hike, and let our big kids have fun hanging out.  We ended up in a little Airbnb on the Shenandoah River with way too much food for just one weekend.

Day 29 Hike

All the moms:  Time to go on a hike!  Yay!

All the girls:  Noooooooooooo…..

All the moms:  We’re going anyway.  Get your shoes on.

Despite their whining, we hiked the Hightop Peak Trail, a 3 mile out-and-back on the AT that you get to from the Shenandoah National Park.  The view at the top ended up making it worth it, even for the kids.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 30 Run Surprise

 

 

 

 

The cabin where we stayed was surrounded by beautiful farm land and an event space.  Both mornings, Alissa and I went out for a five mile run along the corn fields.  This morning as we were rounding the corner of one of the barns, we saw a guy sitting down taking a smoke break.  I tried to act like I didn’t see him because we weren’t sure if we should even be there, but apparently Alissa didn’t look away.  And she got an eye full of nekked lady!  We spent much of the rest of the run trying to figure out why she was there in the first place.  Were they the newlywed couple from the night before?  Limo driver and guest?  Owners?  Who knows.  Whoever they were, they certainly weren’t expecting us to come trotting around that corner in the middle of nowhere.

We were crazy hot when we got back, so jumping in the river in our shorts and sports bras seemed like the right thing to do.  Eventually everyone else joined us…until they saw a snake in the water!  Not being a 6 (look…I’ve learned something about the Enneagram!), I decided I wasn’t worried about it, and I stuck with my plan of swimming across the river and back while Rachel paddled along beside me.  The snakes stayed away.

 

I’m so incredibly thankful for this weekend that we had away.  No spreadsheets, no little people, no drama….it was perfect.  Here’s to conquering all the hard parts of middle school together.

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2019 Summer Week 2

Day 8 Soggy Starbucks Run

This morning Jay was photographing a race, so I had a short window of time to get my not-very-long long run in before I needed to be home with the kids.  It was slow, soggy, and almost cold, but I never regret a run once I’m out there.  The best part was running into Jay with about one mile to go.  My new watch has a tracking feature that allows certain people to access where I am along my route.  (No, this does not feel creepy stalker-ish when my husband’s the one doing the tracking.)  He surprised me along my course, and we chatted for a few minutes before I had to keep moving to get warm.  I like that guy.

Day 9 Put a Bucket on Your Head

At some point this weekend Bubba turned an old popcorn bucket into a helmet.  I guess if you have to unload the dishwasher, doing it with a bucket on your head is the way to go.  I just tried not to think about what nastiness was getting in his hair.

Also today, there are no pics to prove it, but I met Emily and Alissa for Starbucks and race stories.  My friend is strong, brave, and able to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours, and now she has the belt buckle to prove it.

 

Day 10 Camping Prep

This coming Friday we leave for our annual family camping trip.  The kids have been busy prepping by spending many hours in their hammocks.  Jay has installed hooks both outside and inside, and they’ve alternated back and forth with the rain.  Here’s a picture he sent me of Chica asleep for the night right beside his desk in the basement.

 

Day 11 Professional Development

Today I led two different math PD sessions for LCS teachers.  The first was a repeat of a training that I led in the spring.  I tweaked a few things and planned for it to be twice as long, and I think this one went beautifully.  I led a second one in the afternoon that was longer and had many more teachers in attendance.  This was a training that I planned during one of my Master’s classes, so I was excited to have a chance to try it out.  Facilitating something like this with people that don’t know each other is always tricky, especially if participants are a bit hesitant to share.  I was pleased with how things went overall, but I definitely know elements I will change if I get a chance to lead it again.

Day 12 Picnic

Today we enjoyed the annual University of Lynchburg faculty and staff picnic.  I think this was at least our third year attending as a family.  Chica spent the whole time cuddling kittens that one of the librarians is fostering, Bubba got me soaked in the water balloon toss, and Jay stalled in the shade as long as he possibly could before returning to his office for a meeting.  I’m so thankful that U of L has been such a great fit for him and our family.

Day 13 More Camping Prep

To me the worst part of camping is not the bugs, lack of air conditioning, or sleeping on the group.  It’s the packing.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my butt in gear and get ready until the last minute this time.  We altered our usual final night dinner from hot dogs to hamburgers, so this is the picture I sent Jay from Walmart to make sure I was getting something he’d approve of.  In case you’re wondering, these were great.

 

 

Day 14 Finally On Our Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the picture I sent Jay around 11am, just one hour after I was originally hoping to leave for Twin Lakes State Park.  I was so proud of myself for getting everything in the van and all of the bikes on the rack without a great struggle, so I sent a text to brag.  He was appropriately impressed.

The past few years we’ve gone to James River State Park, but we decided to try a new spot this year.  We were so excited to find that friends of ours are the camp hosts at Twin Lakes this summer.  They have kids almost the exact same ages as Chica and Bubba, so the four of them spent countless hours together riding bikes, exploring, going to the ranger programs, and swimming.  I don’t have a ton of pics, though, because I purposely let my phone die and put it away for most of the weekend.

Day 15 Kayaking

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the morning lounging, reading, and watching the kids ride bikes.  In the afternoon I took them to the lake to try kayaking.  Much like last year’s tubing debacle, Bubba hated it.  That child literally pouted and scowled for 35 minutes straight.  Turns out he was scared of jellyfish, but his fear gets translated straight into anger for whatever reason.  I tried all the mom tricks I knew and finally declared, “I am NOT going to let you ruin my hour of kayaking too.  I am choosing joy!”  (Fake it til ya make it, anyone?)  Well, some switch happened, he suddenly decided he was fine, and he paddled out to the center of the lake to meet up with Chica.  With our 20ish minutes left, we explored the entire left side of the lake, and that stone-cold kid even cracked a smile or two.

As I was finishing up washing dishes after dinner, the kids told me they were going to go on a bike ride with their friends.  I said okay, then asked if they would mind waiting for me to join them.  Well, IT happened.  I got a heavy sigh, bit of an eye roll, and a totally unconvincing “okay” from Chica.  My brain jumped from hurt to understanding to back to hurt, I told them to go on without me, and I trudged back to the campsite to pout to Jay.  That wise guy encouraged me to suck it up and go on my own bike ride…a perfect solution to get my mind off the idea that my kids are entering a new stage of independence that I’m not sure I like.  I rode three hard miles on the Beaver Trail and forgot all about her heavy sigh.  I was mostly just thinking about how I should have brought water, and hoping I’d make it back before dark.

Oh…and one more story I don’t want to forget.  Jay decided to sleep in the hammock tonight.  The kids were already in the tent, I was trying to finish up the last few pages of a book, and he was turning in early.  All of a sudden I hear the distinct sound of a tree falling from his direction.  Then silence.  Nothing.  I instantly knew what had happened, and the moments of complete stillness were so frightening.  Yep, you guessed it…the part of the tree where he had attached the strap of his hammock completely snapped off.  He came down with it, and he was laying flat on his back tangled in the hammock when I finally got over to him.  He had managed to roll out of the way while the huge branch was coming down, and he was laughing by the time I got to him.  Someone from a nearby site called out to see if we were okay, but by that point all we could do was laugh…and laugh, and laugh.  I finally helped him up, he tied the straps around a thicker part of the same tree, and got back in the hammock.  He made it through the whole night without breaking anymore trees. 🙂

Day 16 High Bridge & Legos

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our camp host friend, Becky, is training for an upcoming half marathon, so she needed to run 10 miles today.  I was so excited to join her on the High Bridge Trail, another nearby state park.  We hit the bridge at the most beautiful moment of the sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

For Father’s Day we gave Jay a 3 in 1 Lego set, and he had completed all three by the end of the day like I knew he would.  The kids and I decided on another spin out on the lake, and this time Chica and I tried their stand-up paddle boards.

Day 17 Home and Back and Home Again

 

 

 

 

 

I had an interview back home this morning, so we got up early to have breakfast and start packing up our campsite.  Our breakfast choices were limited because SQUIRRELS!  Saturday one of the kids left the food tote open, and while we left the site for a few minutes, a squirrel got in a helped himself to some of our bagels.  Well get this…on Sunday the plastic tote was completely shut, but they still found a way in while we were out.  Those suckers chewed through the tough plastic top and got to the rest of our sliced bread and more bagels.  Lesson learned:  Food. Stays. In. Van.

Anyways, I traveled back home in the morning, showered so I wouldn’t reek of campfire and sunscreen, completed the interview, then headed back to the campground for a few more hours on the beach with my kids.  And guess what crazy thing happened while I was at the bathhouse trying to help everybody cleaned up before heading home again?!? I received the call that I GOT THE JOB!  I’m so excited to share that I’m staying at my same school, but I’ll be moving into the role of Instructional Coach.  Basically that means that I will do whatever I can to help teachers teach better.  What a great end to a great vacation…probably the best our family of four has ever had.  We celebrated the new job with dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and many excited texts with friends and family.  Woohoo!

 

The List

This is the encouragement/lie that I tell myself daily:

Things will calm down if I can just get through ______.

Many years ago I filled in the blank with sleepless nights and potty training.
Sometimes it’s a short term obstacle like posting grades or I Love Math Day.
Other times I’m just trying to survive a holiday season or a tough school year.

These days that blank is always filled with “grad school”.

I’ve been in school for four straight years y’all.  First it was a self-paced program at WGU.  Next I spent a year at Virginia Tech in a program that I ended up realizing was a good stepping stone, but ultimately not the right fit.  These past two years I’ve been working through a program at VCU that I absolutely love, but I’m weary.  So weary.

I love the learning and the challenge.  I’m inspired by my classmates and professors, and have even come to not hate the writing.  But the hard part is this:  the never ending feeling that any break, no matter how short, comes at a cost.  There IS NOT enough time to fulfill every responsibility that weighs on me as a teacher, a mom, a student, a wife, and a friend.  So if I do choose to take a break, that time has to come from somewhere.  I find myself in a disappointing state of never fulfilling any of my roles as well as I would like to.

There are many things I try to tell myself to make it through:

Your kids are learning from watching you set a goal and meet it.

This is the next necessary step towards what you’ve been called to do.

It’s supposed to be hard.

Be thankful for this opportunity and the crazy amount of support you get that so many others don’t have.

Things will calm down if I can just get through August.

But the one thing that is truly keeping me going these days is The List.  For months now I’ve been drafting this unwritten list of things I’m going to do with my free time* when I’m done.  So this morning when reviewing The List on my open loop, as my pastor calls it, I decided it was time to write it down.

Here’s The List in no particular order:

Lose 20 pounds
Run the Holliday Lake 50K
Run faster
Figure out and fix this nagging problem with my right hip
Read the books I bought last summer but never started
Read the book I asked for for Christmas
Read every book on the Newbery Medal list
Fix up my side of the basement into a space I actually want to use
Try at least once to fold my T-shirt drawer Marie Kondo style.  (Anyone who knows me knows it won’t stay that way.)
Blog regularly again
Have friends over for dinner
Start teaching 2 year old Sunday School again
Talk to Jesus more
Start something like Math on a Stick or Math Anywhere
Buy the Carcassone Big Box and learn to play every expansion at once
Finish the hat I started crocheting two Christmases ago
Try art journaling
Get better at mountain biking and take Bubba with me
Figure out something Chica and I can enjoy together
Play disc golf and ride bikes with Jay
Cook dinners
Relearn calculus
Swim laps again

This list makes me happy and hopeful.

But I should come back to the *free time comment.  I’m trying to be realistic and know that there will still be work and new projects that come up and everyday time suckers.  “Things will calm down if I can get through August” is only partly true because there’s always something else.  However, I’m so looking forward to giving school a rest for the near future.  As my friends go on to start their doctorate studies or I stumble upon the next program that looks perfect, I hope I will reread this list and remind myself that The List is what’s next for me.

Summer Week 9

Day 59 New/Old Job

This picture is not from today.  It’s from the first week of school six years ago.  I’m excited to share that I’ll be returning to this classroom next week after two years as our school’s STREAM Lab teacher.  My year of math specialist courses has left me wishing in a big way that I was teaching math again.  So when this position unexpectedly came open the week before, I asked if I could make the move.  I have learned so many new things in my VCU classes that I need to try out before I try to coach someone else to do them.  I’m going to miss working with students and teachers all over the building, but I’m looking forward to building deep relationships with the 50ish kids that I will teach.

Day 60 Melt Down

I finished my morning run today by reflecting to Ruth about my kids’ recent growth.  I told her about them playing outside the day before.  Twice Bubba came in upset.  He flopped down on the sofa and announced some injustice inflicted on him by his sister or neighbor friend.  But this day was slightly different than the days and weeks before.  First, he hadn’t said the words I have been trying to erase from his vocabulary:  I’m going to tell.  Jay and I have been preaching to him that those words never result in anything good.  Finally it appeared that this message go through to him, and he just came inside when he needed help instead of extending the problem with those four fighting words.  This day was also different because he accepted help.  He calmed down quickly, and we rehearsed how he would communicate what he needed to Chica and his friend.  He went back outside quickly, said his piece, and kept on playing.  This is progress, people.

Well, nothing like an hour-long meltdown the following day to keep you humble in your parenting skills.  We got through it, but it wasn’t pretty.  Here’s a screenshot of a text conversation I had with Ruth in the middle of that mess.  Every mom needs a friend who is a few years ahead on the journey to remind her that she will one day see the other side of the hard parts.

 

 

 

Day 61 Sewing Class

 

 

 

 

Rachel invited Chica to join her daughter for a sewing class at Sew Simple.  They had a fabulous time and each sewed a tiny cover for a pouch of tissues.  She came home anxious to try something else, so I talked her into working on a stuffed animal pattern I gave her probably two years ago.  She didn’t at all follow the directions, but her finished product is super cute nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Day 62 Birthday

 

 

 

My birthday started off great with math nerd gifts from my family.  There was no avoiding homework on my birthday, but friends and a cake pop at the Y made it better.

I spent my birthday evening here with 25 of my closest online grad school friends.  At one point I messaged them something like, “Yikes.  Bad storm here.  My ceiling is leaking.  BRB.”  I rounded up a bunch of trashcans (after calling our custodian in a slight panic….I overreacted) and carried on with class.  Little did I know at that point, however, that there was major flooding happening all over our city.  I had to go the long, long way home because of blocked roads, but I realize that inconvenience is nothing compared to what many people faced.

Day 63 Game Night

It took me over two years to follow my friend’s advice, but I finally made an appointment for a real haircut at a real salon.  I took this super awkward picture on my way home.  Isn’t that what you do when you get a good haircut!?!

What I really wish I had a picture of was game night with our sweet friends from church.  We parent leveled up that night.  Chica entertained their youngest, pretending that she was the babysitter.  The four boys got along beautifully in the basement doing who knows what, and we enjoyed playing games with almost no kid refereeing.  It was glorious.

Day 64 Fun Day

I started the day with 11 soggy, sweaty miles with Ruth.  I promise we weren’t twinning on purpose.  This just seems to be everyone’s favorite tank these days.

 

 

Earlier in the week I made a deal with my kids that I was sure they weren’t going to keep.  Except they did, so I had to follow through and take them to FunQuest.  Misery loves company, so I was thankful that Alicia was willing to bring her kids to tag along.  Guess what….it wasn’t all that bad.  Chica actually thanked me without prompting on the way out the door.  Bubba often gets angry when we have to leave something fun and complains with his “worst-day-ever-I-didn’t-have-any-fun” refrain.  This time, instead, he walked out holding my hand, telling me how much fun he had.  My mom heart was happy.

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. 🙂

 

Cheerleaders

This week for my biotechnology course I had to build a bioreactor and its subsystems that would allow me to capture and measure the carbon dioxide gas produced in order to determine the volume of ethanol in my dextrose and yeast solution.

Translation:  I had to use yeast and sugar water to make alcohol and tell how much I had made by capturing the CO2.

Needless to say, with more than a decade between me and my last biology and chemistry courses, this was a challenge.  (And that was an understatement.)

I’ve been working on this project for about three weeks now.  Here is a rundown of the steps:

  1. Attempted to not freak out by assuring myself that all other elementary teachers in the class are in the same boat.  “He won’t let us fail,” was my frequent self-talk.
  2. Started a list of, “What I Know.”  For many minutes that list consisted of one statement:  Yeast is a fungus.  This is all I could remember from teaching fifth grade science.
  3. Began research.  I alternated between YouTube home brew videos, that were probably not credible sources, and scholarly articles that I could not understand.
  4. Drew first plan.  It was a joke.
  5. Met with my 5 person planning team via video conference.  One I couldn’t see, one I couldn’t hear, and the other two were nearly as clueless as I was.
  6. Spent a week revising plan after plan, muddling my way through mole calculations and projected volume.
  7. Found a God-send in Cheryl, a like-minded fourth grade teacher who doesn’t make me feel dumb.  We have sent countless Facebook messages and emails, shared chicken scratch calculations, and used Google Hangouts at all sorts of odd hours of the day.
  8. Consulted two other people who don’t usually make me feel dumb:  Jay and Papa.  One night I even made them both talk to Cheryl over Hangouts after dinner.
  9. Submitted a plan and received very vague feedback.
  10. Gathered all of the materials.  This consisted of very grouchy trips to Walmart, the pet store, and Michael’s with my two little people.  After dinner I made Jay continue the shopping, with them, while I wrote a paper for another class.  No rest for the weary….him or me!
  11. Felt pretty ready when class started.  We were supposed to build it in class, and I had about 95% of what I needed.  Except my ideas were all wrong.  My containers were too huge, and I spent most of our building time trying to find new materials in the lab while editing my design.  I shed the first of many tears over this thing that night.
  12. Forgot about it for almost a week while I Love Math Day happened.
  13. Day 2 of in-class building went so much better.  Something said in class made me think of a way to stir the solution:  LittleBits.

So the listing the steps idea sounded like a great plan when I started this post, but now I realize if I keep going, probably only my mom (and maybe Cheryl) will keep reading.  So let me just skip straight to the point:

I had a decent trial run, but my first and second, “Ok….let’s do this for real!” were complete flops.  I came home in tears last night, puddled on the sofa while Jay tried to talk me back to life.  I was doing every last thing that I don’t want to see my students or own kids do when they face a challenge.

But this morning I was at it again.  Fueled by enough hours of sleep and the promise of an entire free day ahead of me, I started in on the research again, determined to figure out the trick of immobilization.

And it worked. Tiny, glorious CO2 bubbles floating up a clear tube into my graduated cylinder brought me some ridiculous joy.

So this afternoon as I was prancing downtown to meet my family during my one hour break from data collection, I couldn’t help but consider those truly crappy moments of this challenge and what had gotten me through:

The cheerleaders.

*Jay with his calm spirit, reassuring words, and frequent reminders of, “I’m proud of you.”
*Cheryl who understood what I was going through and said, “I feel like I’m in the waiting room at labor an delivery,” while waiting to hear if my design was working.
*Chica who asked me fantastic questions about what I was doing this morning on the phone.  “What did you do differently?” and “Can you make it thinner?” she asked. Her sweet questions helped to slowly bring me out of the dizziness and back into the problem solving mode.
*Alissa and Rachel, my running amigas who are also both in grad school.  They text me about translation theory and Sherlock, I send them pictures of my moonshine creator, and we all laugh at how different but the same our lives really are.
*My students who seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing, and the sweet little guy who told me I had inspired him to build something one day.
*My mom and mother-in-law who are relentless in their support.

May this project be a reminder to me of what my kids need next time it seems impossible.  Most of the time they don’t need a, “Suck it up,” or a lecture on how failure is just an opportunity to learn something.

They need a cheerleader, and hopefully I can be that for them.

(Ok….back to tending my graduated cylinders and watching bubbles trickle up.  1060 mL of CO2 and counting.)

My Ten New Things

Last week my friend Brittany wrote a post about the ten (terrifying!) NEW things she tried in 2016.  Her words got me wondering if I could think of my own ten new things from 2016.  Here goes!

1. Running Buddies:

What began as my most terrifying new thing turned out to be my absolute favorite part of 2016. I heard about the No-Pressure Running Group from a friend when training for the Richmond Marathon in 2015.  For whatever reason, I pictured a perfectly manicured group of Boonsboro mamas prancing up the Monument Terrace steps like it was no biggie.  I just knew they would be too fast and too cool for me.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 when a sweet friend from church invited me to run with this same group.  At that point I wasn’t even sure if I could run the 5 miles they had planned, but I sucked up my fears and agreed to meet her anyway.  I quickly learned that this group was not at all what I had expected.  These women are real and flawed and smart and supportive and strong and amazing.  So for about six months now, the promise of good company has helped to drag my rear out of bed at 4:50 (or 5:00, or 5:13) a few mornings each week.  They’ve kept me running through the cold and pushed me to run faster and longer.  But more importantly, I now have a great new group of friends that have each been a tremendous blessing in my life.

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2. A New Job:

At the start of this school year I took a new position as the STREAM Coach & Math Remediation Specialist.  That’s a big-ol’ crazy mouthful that means I get to help kids build stuff and get better at math all day…what could be better than that?  The hard parts have been getting the room ready in time for school to start, missing working closely everyday with teammates, learning 500+ names, and figuring out how to respond to students with love and understanding when expectations aren’t met .  The best parts have been witnessing growth among both the students and teachers, the excitement I see as students get to collaborate and create, and nights (every once in a while) where I don’t come home to hours of prep or grading or emails.  Oh….and a schedule that makes those 5:30am runs possible!

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3. A New Degree

In April I finished my Master’s in Math Education K-6 from WGU.  At the end of this program, I was convinced that higher education is where I eventually wanted to land.  I knew that this degree was only going to get me so far, so I immediately started looking for the what-next.  For now the what-next is Integrative STEM Education classes online through Virginia Tech.  For me this has meant many late nights in the library at LC fueled by gummy worms.  For Jay this has meant countless nights of holding down the fort on his own.  I tell him and tell him, but I so hope he realizes how thankful I am for him.

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4. Blue Apron

A friend of my parents gifted us with a free trial of this meal service.  I had fully intended to get the free box and then cancel the subscription because it’s so expensive.  However, we really liked it!  The recipes were simple but interesting.  They forced us to slow down and eat at home.  We got some recipes that we liked so much we’ve repeated them several times with ingredients we’ve bought at the store.  Also, the portions are generally good sizes so neither of us overeats.  We were getting a box once a month, but now we’ve bumped back to every few months because we can reuse the recipes we already have.

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5. Mountain Biking

Whenever I run on the Peaks View Park trails, I get the mountain biking itch.  Before this year, I’ve never really tried it, but these trails (more than the ones at Candler’s) make it look like fun to me.  I remember thinking after a run this summer, “I wish there was a way I could learn to mountain bike….like a class or something.”  Well whadayaknow?!?  A few days later I ran across an ad for a beginner mountain biking class that would be offered through Parks and Rec.  It was super cheap and at a time when Jay could watch the kids, so I signed up!  I loved the class, but I left convinced that my bike from circa eighth grade just wasn’t going to cut it for many more rides.  I got a new bike for my birthday, followed promptly by a new school year that took up every free minute of time I might have had to ride.  I’m hoping that 2017 will bring more rides…and maybe a friend or two that will go with me!

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6. LuLaRoe

legginsSoooo….yeah.  I seriously debated whether or not to include this in my ten new things list, but I finally decided that ten years from now rereading this would probably give me a good chuckle.  At some point this year the Facebooks blew up with the LuLaRoe.  It somehow went from one college friend selling it to a gazillion sales every week.  I’ve never been a fan of buying something I haven’t tried on, so I waited until I got invited to a real-live party to buy any.  Somehow I got out of there with a bright orange pair of tights with blue paper airplanes.  What in the world?  And while they do actually feel as good on as everyone says they do, I can’t help but wonder what we’ll say about ourselves in 2026.  “Ahh….remember those leggings we all used to wear!?!  With unicorns and spaceships and flamingos and pineapples….what were we thinking?!”

7. Pokemon Goimg_2187

As usual, I’m a little late to this trend.  We just downloaded it over Christmas break, and I finally see what all the fuss is about.  It’s fun!  Grandma and I have been texting each other back and forth about our current level and how many we’ve caught.  She’s currently skunking me on level 14.  As soon as this post is up, I think we’re headed out to LC to try to catch up to her.  🙂

8. Twitter

twitterYep…also late on this one.  I started tweeting in March after hearing George Couros at LC.  While I was certainly hesitant to get started, so many good things came from tweeting the second half of our school year.  I think it’s fun to look back and have a record of what we did, but the best part was collaborating with a class in Canada through Twitter.  This school year I haven’t used it nearly as much because I’ve been sharing what we’re doing at school through Facebook instead.

9. Tutoring

A friend at school asked me to help tutor her in math for a few weeks over the summer.  She wanted help getting ready for a math placement test she had to take at CVCC.  Until this year I have never tutored adults, or hardly anyone for that matter, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help her.  It was such a rewarding experience to watch her grasp concepts and gain confidence.  I hope to do more of this in the future!

10. Aid Station-ing

There are people who run 60+ miles in below-freezing temperatures, in the mountains, just for fun.  There are also people who stand outside in those below-freezing temperatures to feed hungry runners, thaw out their bottles, and cheer them on….just for fun.  So while I was not crazy enough (yet) to run the Hellgate race, I did help with three aid stations for this ridiculous event.  It was so inspiring.  And cold.

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How about you….what did you do new in 2016?   

Thanks, Brittany, for the inspiration!  Follow her at TheBamBlog.com.