Horn Beep Beep Beep Town

I feel like I write the same story over and over.   For every one time I write it here, I’ve lived it 20.  Here’s how it goes:

Kids do something annoying.  Mommy gets mad.  Mommy stays mad.  Kids do something beautiful that catapults Mommy from chronos to kairos.  Mommy asks for forgiveness and tries to see the blessings.  Repeat.

So for this morning’s version of the same ol’ story:

Today on the way to church we had to pick up fruit from Kroger for lunch.  Here’s just a sampling of what you may have overheard had you tagged along…

“No, you can’t take the bright orange tie down straps into the store with you.  Why not?  Because that’s just ridiculous, that’s why not.”

“Bubba, sit down.  SIT DOWN!  Sit. Down. Nooooooooooow.

“Chica, puh-lease watch where you are pushing the cart.  No, never mind.  Just stop.”

“Stop talking, I can’t concentrate.”

“Where the heck is my wallet?”

“No.  I already know what you are going to ask.  Just no.”

Yeah.  It wasn’t pretty.  All while I should have been preparing for what has the potential to be my most peaceful hour and a half of the week.  And then we got in the car, and I just wallowed in it, like Templeton wallowing in the muck.

But thankfully, cutting through my annoyance and anger, came the sweetest words from the back seat.

“Horn.  Beep beep beep.  Horn.  Beep beep beep.  Tooooooown.”

Bubba was singing.  Not following along with his sister or me…just singing his own song.  How much was I missing while swimming in the mire?

And somehow his simple words sang to me…

Come awake!  The straps and the cart and the wallet and the begging for gum are just not worth it.  Be thankful.  Be thankful and awake to the gifts around you.  This boy.  His song.  This girl.  Her imagination.  Her freedom.  Her dance in church.  Come awake. 

Sing on, Bubba.  Keep reminding me.  One day I just may get it.

Image:
NY CITY BUS  
© Shankar S. | Flickr Creative Commons

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From Two Thousand to Four

I did it.  It’s past 12:00 and my eyes are straining to focus, but I did it.  I cleaned out my inbox of over 2,000 old e-mails.  There are four left:  the teacher workday schedule for the next few days, two e-mails I need to return but am not ready to compose, and a “don’t forget to look into this cool opportunity” reminder.  Phew.

I’m excited to say that this purging of stuff hasn’t been limited to my inbox.  I’ve spent the last three days at school working on clearing out space in my classroom.  My filing cabinet, closet, bookshelves, and cabinet all now have that fresh, organized look that I seem capable of only maintaining for a few weeks at best.  I still have my desk, sink cabinet, and a few (huge) boxes of papers to go, but the hard work has already been done.  I…no….we got this.  Being ruled by peace over here.

I have many things to say tonight about organization and creativity and friends and writing and my little family and, and, and.  But it’s late, and everything’s a bit fuzzy, so I’m just not sure I can articulate anything more than this….

I was struck as I read the subject and first line of each e-mail tonight how memories almost forgotten flooded back to me:

A hurricane.  A school shooting.  The death of a dear friend.  Congratulations for a contest won.  Struggles with students that ended with thankful e-mails from parents.  Room moms from heaven.  A huge project with an old friend. The green light to try a new and crazy strategy.  I need a sub…my kid is sick again.  I am one of the only five people that hasn’t turned something in…again.    And meeting after meeting after meeting.

So what did I learn from those memories?  I’ve sat here waiting for the last five sleepy minutes or so just trying to figure that out.  I think maybe I’ve got it.

When I was a kid, or maybe a teenager, and I would get overly stressed out about some assignment, my mom would always ask me something like, “In five years, will this matter?  If the answer is no, then don’t worry about it.  Get it done, but don’t obsess over it.”

As I recalled many of those memories, I felt again the panic that was such a part of the moment.  Unnecessary panic, I see now, because even just six months later, that thing, whatever it was, already doesn’t matter.

I’ve said it already, but I’m just going to keep speaking it and writing it and praying it.  This year will be different.  This year I plan to trade the panic for a focus on the things above.  A view of the stuff that will matter in six months.  In five years. 

Did my students see a peaceful, Christ-like attitude?
Did my students hear me apologize when it wasn’t so Christ-like?
Did they know that I believe they are capable and important and unique?
Did they come away loving learning and with more questions than they had when they arrived?

These last three days I’ve thrown out over 2,000 e-mails, 5 trashcans full of junk, 4 crates of paper to recycle, and a whole counter full of teacher stuff in my, “Free, Take Me,” pile.  You know teachers just pass around each other’s junk, right?  It takes a long time for stuff to actually make it to the dumpster!

But I have some more to throw away, I realize.  And no, I don’t mean recycle or the Take Me table…because you don’t need it either!

So tonight I continue to purge:
Worry.  Panic.  Frenzy.  Impatience.  Disorder.  Insecurity.  Anger.  Hurry.

More room for peace that way.

 

 

 

 

Trading Frenzy for Focus

Skype an astronaut.  Assign weekly STEM homework assignments.  Create video lessons and three levels of practice for each math topic.  Figure out how to welcome and include new teachers.  And, and, and….

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at a workshop led by several NASA educators.  We completed design challenges, connected virtually with experts at Langley, learned new ways to model the vastness of the Solar System, accessed and analyzed real NASA data, and just barely scratched the surface of the resources they have created for teachers.  It was pretty awesome.  And just as it should be, I left pumped and ready for a new school year….possibilities and plans rolling a mile a minute as I drove home Tuesday afternoon.

But then I remembered:  This year will be different.  No, not because I’m going to be flipping every math lesson or because I’m finally excited about teaching science.  This year will be different because I will be ruled by peace.

And somehow (truthfully, I know exactly how) I realized that this frantic churning of ideas and worrying how will I get it all done is not at all peaceful.  Peace-less, actually.

So my goal-oriented, objective-focused self realized that lesson plans aren’t the only things that need to be written before this year starts.  I need my own set of goals through which to help me filter those frantic ideas.

I’m in the process of writing them….still at the brainstorming and maybe rough draft stage.  Here’s what I have so far….

1.  I know this needs to be a peace goal.  A Jesus goal.

And of course I couldn’t help but look to Colossians 3 first:  Set your minds on things above…not specific enough for me to apply easily to my daily routine.  Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…this might work.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…also a good choice.

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  

I think this might be it.  I really like the fact that it leads me to consider both my words and my actions.  And reminds me to be thankful (a practice, I’m learning, that may keep me Awake to the important things.)  But I struggled at first to think concretely about the do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus part.  What exactly does that mean?

While mulling this over on my run tonight, I may have gotten an answer.  Or at least part of one.

What if I were to take any word or action and follow it up with, “I am doing this in the name of the Lord Jesus?”  There are plenty of words and actions where this would make perfect sense:  Taking the time to get to know a student or new teacher in Jesus’ name.  Extending unexpected grace to a student who expects a reprimand in Jesus’ name.  Reaching out to a struggling family in Jesus’ name.  Of course in my public school teacher role, this won’t be a spoken in Jesus’ name, but rather a conscious effort to work with a things above mindset, following Jesus’ example in word and deed.

Then there are those seemingly insignificant tasks to which I can add, “In Jesus’ name.”  What about grading papers in Jesus’ name?  Or giving instructions to an assignment in Jesus’ name?  Or covering lunch duty in Jesus’ name?  I think the key to these mundane moments lies in Colossians 3:23:  Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not human masters.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Wouldn’t it make a big difference to view all of those moments as service to Jesus and not just a school system, a principal, a classroom of students, or a group of parents?  I think yes.

But then there are those other moments as a teacher (or parent, or nurse, or salesclerk, or waitress, or whatever) that are just incongruous if we add in Jesus’ name.  I can’t very well berate a nine year old in front of his classmates for forgetting his homework in Jesus’ name.  Or complain, in Jesus’ name, about a snippy e-mail I got from a parent.  Or repeat the latest teacher gossip in Jesus’ name.  So that’s what I came to today while running….if the words I’m about to say or the action I’m about to take is incompatible with in Jesus’ name, then I need to check myself and make a new plan.  And if it’s too late, because it will be too late plenty of times, then I need to ask for forgiveness from the ones I’ve wronged (yes…often my students!) and take steps to do it differently the next time.

2.  I’m thinking this should be a goal about inspiring my students.  It sounds pretty cliché as I write it, but I want my kids to love learning and leave my classroom with the confidence that they are mathematicians, scientists, and most importantly, learners.  Sooo….maybe something like…

My students will learn to love learning math and science.  Or maybe Develop confident and inquisitive mathematicians, scientists, and learners.

Yeah…still working on that one.

3.  I’m thinking something along the lines of Facilitate the learning of SOLs in a deep and meaningful way.  I admit my focus in the past has been too much on just Passing. The. Test.  I cringe to think of the number of times I’ve said things like, “This won’t be on the SOL test, but…”  Ugh.  While I do believe all students can learn well past the minimum requirements in the standards, I am blessed to work with a group of kids that will get there much faster than the average classroom.  This year I want to focus on going deeper than just the required info…and I realize that I can rely on my inquisitive learners to get us there.

My hope is that once I have nailed down a few solid goals, then I will be able to use them to start weeding through the tremendous number of ideas that are swirling.  Keep the things that meet all three requirements.  Pass on the rest.  I’m looking forward to trading frenzy for focus.

Teachers, do you have a set of big goals that you have written for yourself or your classroom?  Friends in other jobs and roles…how about you?  I’d be really interested (and grateful!) to hear them…even if you are in the brainstorming stage like me.  Please share!

Bubba Speak

These past two days as Jay left the house, he encouraged me to take it easy, reminding me that these are my last few precious days of summer.  I love that guy.  Yesterday I took that as permission to take a big fat snooze during the kids’ nap time and not do a lick of housework all day long.  It was fabulous.  Today I took his advice again and did something fun I’ve been wanting to do all summer…make a video to highlight Bubba’s funny little way of talking these days.

When Chica was in the learning to talk stage, she was a regular chatterbox.  She would spout off what sounded like whole sentences or paragraphs, but only one or two words might be recognizable.  This offered a perfect opportunity to record her and then add closed captions that were completely nonsense and quite funny.

I eagerly awaited this stage with Bubba so that I could make more closed caption videos, but he never got there.  While Chica’s speech has always been profuse, Bubba’s has always been precise.  He just doesn’t attempt a word or an idea unless he’s pretty sure he can get his point across.  And he’s not afraid to repeat it over and over and over until you get it.  : )

So my idea instead was to record him repeating some of his funniest/best words and make YOU guess what he is saying.  If you decided to take the Bubba Speak Challenge, let me know how many you get right!  Good luck!

I Sorry. TV. Butt.

Bubba likes butts.  Today he spent much of the morning pushing butts…both literally and figuratively.

And by butts, I mean buttons, of course.

His favorite “butt” to push is the TV power button because of the extreme reaction he gets out of Chica.  Every. Single. Time.  Today his fascination with the butt gave me lots of chances to practice disciplining with peace.  I had begun to draft in my head a how-to post about timeout for toddlers when my strategy all of the sudden became obsolete:

He can now open doors.  Ugh.  A facebook friend wrote recently that this was her “least favorite milestone.”  Agreed.

But since I fear that my mom may stop speaking to me if I don’t hurry up and write something new, and my only other idea for a post is concerning my family’s recent fascination with bow ties, I guess I’ll just carry on with my toddler time out how-to.

Except I probably will have to call it something more like, “How to Discipline Your Toddler During the Four Days After They Learn To Converse But Before They Learn To Escape Closed Doors.”  I’m still not sure what makes me think I have the authority to post on this subject, but here goes anyway…

I’ve decided that disciplining Bubba started with him seeing Chica face consequences.  For about the past month, whenever she was punished, he took notice.  “Sister crying,” or  “Chica bed.”  As if to say, “Ohhhh….she’s not happy.  She got sent to her room.”  Something about his reaction made me realize that he was connecting, in a very small way, her behavior to her consequences, and then her reaction.  His observations made me realize that maybe the same might work for him.  And for about four days, it did.  Today it went like this…

Chica:  Moooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off again.
Me:  Ok, coming.
Bubba:  (Hops back into the chair to make himself look a little less guilty.)
Me:  Bubba, Chica doesn’t like it when you turn the TV off.  It makes her sad.  If you push the button again, you will have to go to your room.  Bubba doesn’t want that to happen.
Bubba:  Yeah.

Five minutes later…
Chica:  Moooooooooooooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off AGAIN!
Me:  Ok.  Coming.
Bubba:  (Rushes to the chair again.)
Me:  (Carrying Bubba upstairs.) Bubba, you made a bad choice.  It makes Chica sad when you push the button and turn the TV off.  You have to have time out in your room because you didn’t obey Mommy.
Bubba:  Bed.  Bubba, Bed.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba bed.
Bubba:  (He didn’t stay on the bed, but he did stay in the room with the door shut and miraculously didn’t cry.)
Me:  (Rushes around to get lots of jobs done.)

Five-ish minutes later…
Me:  Bubba, sit down on the floor, and look at me.  Tell Mommy why you had to be on your bed for timeout.
Bubba:  Butt.  TV.  On.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba pushed the button on the TV and it turned it off.  This makes Chica sad because she can’t watch her movie.
Bubba:  Chica sad.
Me:  You need to tell Mommy what you are sorry for.
Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Me:  I forgive you Bubba.  I love you.
Bubba:  (Kisses me once on the lips and once on the shoulder.  Not sure what the shoulder is about these days??)
Me:  Bubba, go tell Sister you are sorry.
Bubba:  Ok.

Downstairs:
Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Chica:  I forgive you Bubba.

We went through this exact same script at least once or twice more until he was all of a sudden tall enough to open the door for the first time.  You should have seen his thrilled, aren’t-I-so-smart grin when he greeted me in the kitchen.  He just couldn’t grasp why Mommy wasn’t quite so thrilled.

I’m not sure timeout has the same effect when he can let himself out but lacks the self-control to keep himself in.  Or maybe the self-control is the next step that we are ready to work on now.  Nevertheless, here’s what I tried to follow and what seemed to work for those four short days…

1.  Give a clear warning.  “If you do ___________ again, then I will put you in your room in timeout.”
2.  Follow through with the consequence right away.
3.  As you are moving to the timeout spot, explain why they are going there.  “You have to sit on your bed because you did not obey.  You _____________ when Mommy told you not to.”
4.  Leave the room.
5.  After a few minutes, come back and ask why they are in timeout.
6.  Explain, in simple language, why the choice was a bad choice.  “When you did _________, it made _______ feel ______________.”  Or, “____________ was dangerous because ____________.”
7.  Ask them to apologize.  “I’m sorry for _____________.”
8.  Forgive them.  Hug and kiss.
9.  If someone else was affected, make them apologize to that person too.

I pretty much follow this same pattern still with Chica, only adding the question, “What better choices do you plan to make next time in this situation?”  Today I had to go through this with her when she called Bubba a, “Little rat,” and then lied about what she really said.

She’s usually pretty good at getting along with Bubba, but I guess today he had just pushed her butt one too many times.  Can’t say I blame her.

Image:  Power Button (178/365) © Jim Murphy  | Flickr Creative Commons

Currently Me

A few weeks ago I wrote “currently” posts about Chica and Bubba.  I knew it made sense to write one about myself next, but sometimes as a mommy it feels pretty hard to separate what I’m doing from what we’re doing.  If they’re reading Elephant and Piggie and watching Momo’s World, chances are I am too.  But things have slowed down a bit lately, and it seems as if I might have enough of me back to write about.  So here goes…

Eating:  Homemade chocolate chip cookies and skim milk.  And by “homemade” I mean the break apart kind that are ready to go on the pan, because even the slice from the tube kind is one more unnecessary step I don’t need these days.  I baked them yesterday to prepare for a showing of our house in hopes that the yummy smell would linger long enough for our visitors.  A friend in our Sunday School class said that the fresh baked cookies on the table were a major selling point for him when they were looking for houses, so I decided to try his trick.  We had three showings, and only one cookie was eaten.  Oh well….more for me.

Reading:  Colossians 3.  I was challenged last week to memorize it, and I’ve made it to about verse 8 so far.  Verse 15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  The person who issued the challenge wondered what life might look like if we actually went to work each day with Christ’s peace ruling us.  My mind immediately jumped to September and pictured how that would change my school day.  But just now, writing this, I realized there’s no need to wait until September.  Come Peace.  Come when Bubba refuses to get in the car seat and no one wants to eat any of the eight healthy lunch options I offer.     Come when I have to wash the sheets three days in a row and when nap time seems an eternity away.  Rule my heart then, ok?

Listening:  Billy Joel on Pandora.  Nearly every song conjures up some almost forgotten memory for me… dancing with hairbrushes in hand during a giggly sleepover, the marvel of a friend’s player piano in her basement, a mix CD Jay made me while we dating, or window-down drives to the Peaks Camp.  “Riding around with the car top down and the radio on….”  Mmmm.

Watching:  Well, Jay and I had been watching The Voice.  I was totally pulling for the quirky girl with the tight pants and huge glasses, but whatevs.  As is customary in our house, the reruns of West Wing have begun to play again…our fallback show whenever we run out of something else we can both agree on.  I never thought it was a show I would like or even understand, but now I think it gets better every time we watch it….and we’ve watched it a bunch.

Saying:    I’m going to run the 10 Miler.  Jay and I first talked about it on our bike ride this week, and I think we have a good time picked out that I can start to run regularly.  Today I told two different friends I was going for it, and now…umm…I’m telling you.  Maybe it will be harder to back out that way.  Hold me to it, friends!

Hoping:  That someone will buy our house so we can finally start looking for real, and not just online, at new places.  And so that I don’t have to keep hiding my soap and shampoo in the cabinet under the sink.  That and about a million other things that are annoying to a housekeeping challenged girl like me while our house is on the market.  This too shall pass, I know.     

Learning:  This.  Really, take a minute to read it…you’ll be glad you did.  I used to be the avocado mom just a little bit, I think, but now I’m the mom doing a little cheer if I can get them to eat chicken nuggets.  Forget the vegetables.

So, I’ve made some new friends lately, and I was tempted to think their kids were taking naps on a schedule at me and they were enjoying their big houses and flat yards at me.  But here’s the kicker:  “We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors – fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal – many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other.”   Yep, I’m learning to let that happen.  One goal — many paths.  I like it.

So, what’s happening currently with you?

This post was inspired by Mama. Papa. Bubba. who was inspired by Sometimes Sweet who was inspired by MeganIsLove.  Pass it on.

Currently Chica


IMG_0109Eating: 
PBJ, ice cream, apples, carrots, dry Corn Flakes (who does that?!?), strawberries, mac & cheese, pumpkin seeds, and Wheat Thins.  Besides anything else dessert-ish, the above is really an exhaustive list of what she’ll willingly eat these days.  Oh…she’ll also eat a hot dog if you slice it once in both directions and put it on a hamburger bun.  Go figure.

Reading:  Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems.  You might recognize his name from the Pigeon or Knufflebunny books.  I had read a good review online for this series of beginning reader books, but I wasn’t able to find them last time I looked at the library.  Today we accidentally happened upon them, so I added two to our already bulging stack.

While Bubba and I hit the restroom, Chica started reading There is a Bird on Your Head.  By herself.  She kept on reading it aloud as we proceeded to the counter.  I was just a tiny bit disappointed that the checkout lady wasn’t nearly as amused as I was.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I forgot to get out my library card and just stood there giving Chica hints about the long a sound in the word making.  Just maybe.  Sorry, lady, there was a lot going on.  My kid was actually reading a book by choice, without help.  Hello!?!   Chica even exclaimed, “I’m really into this book!” on the way out the door.  Anyways, they are GREAT books.  Check them out.  Er….just not all of them so we can get a few more next week too, okay?

Singing:  She’d certainly rather make up a new song than sing anything else, but she’s usually willing to sing a few of the old favorites to keep Bubba happy.  I’m thankful for her.

Watching:  Today we rediscovered My Little Pony.  Ugh.  I was so glad to move past that and on to Wild Kratts.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Saying:    “My strawberries are tardy.”  She actually means tart, but boy, that is a cute mistake.  She also is currently taking any and every opportunity she can to point out honeysuckle or magnolia trees that we pass. Now we’re working on finding dogwoods* and weeping willows.

Playing:  Her neighbor friend came back from his family vacation today.  You can bet she’ll be over at his house playing as soon as she is allowed tomorrow.  While he was gone, I think her favorite play item so far this week has been the package of paper bag puppets I found her at a yard sale.  She loved looking at the picture directions and assembling them.  I sure got a whole lot of bang for that buck!

Learning:  To unlock the front door!  After one quick lesson from Daddy, she was ready to do it by herself.  Yippeee!  This means I can corral Bubba and carry the 17 random items that need to come in from the car each day without having to put everything down to unlock the door.  I can now just send her ahead while I find all 17 items and make our way to the house.  Tonight she said she would unlock the door for us every day, even her birthday.  Excellent.

So, what’s happening currently with you?

This post was inspired by Mama. Papa. Bubba. who was inspired by Sometimes Sweet who was inspired by MeganIsLove.  Pass it on.

*P.S.  Writing about the dogwood made me remember something funny Chica asked this week.  When I showed her a dogwood tree, I explained that it is our state tree and that the cardinal is our state bird.  Later she asked me if the cicada was our state bug.  Ha!