Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dear Blog...

Hard to believe it's been 4 months since I last wrote a post. What can I say? Life has been a bit of a whirl wind since mid-July and non-essentials have been cast aside. Sadly, blog, you are a non-essential right now.

I miss you and the way you help me think through the many conversations about life's challenges and opportunities that swirl around in my head. I do hope that someday I have time to visit with you again, to share life's little blessings, joys, and bits of celebration with you. Until then, I will be thinking about you.

peace

Monday, June 24, 2013

You'll Find Me in the Stacks...

On June 12th I posted this thought to Facebook:
"I have questioned where the future of my professional life lies many times over the past 3 years. I've stressed. I've tried to force. I've cried. I've been angry. I've recently decided to stop wasting energy trying to figure it all out, and instead put more energy into being the best I can be where I'm currently landed. That decision has brought much peace to my heart, which I think is a pretty good indication that I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing right now in my life."
A number of key events had happened in the weeks leading up to this point that influenced this thought.
  1. I had taught my last scheduled yoga class in Carlisle and cleaned out the studio space I was renting...for a second time. Class attendance numbers, while steady, were small and it was getting increasingly more difficult to juggle my teaching schedule and family activity conflicts which seemed to be occurring more often.
  2. I had gotten yet another "thanks for applying, but we are pursuing other candidates at this time..." email from one of the few wellness related jobs I've found to apply for over the past 2 years. Repeatedly not even getting to speak to someone in person about a job in a field in which I have 15 years of experience has been discouraging to say the least.
  3. I'd just interviewed for a different position at the school where I have worked for the past 2 years, having left the interview quite excited about the possibilities should I be offered the position.
Last week I was offered that position, and gladly accepted the chance to start a new adventure come August. I will be serving as an Instructional Media Assistant, which basically means I'll be working as a school librarian with some teaching duties. I'm super excited that everyday I will have the chance to work with kids ranging from Kindergartners through 5th graders. I'm going to be able to revamp some of the lesson plans from what the previous media assistant taught, and I will being incorporating some new technology instruction into the mix for the 4th and 5th grade kiddos. I've already started to do some reading about the duties of elementary school librarians, how to develop library skills lessons, and have begun gathering ideas for teaching students solid research skills, which I envision will be a large part of my technology instruction time. There is so much information out there for me explore and learn, which is part of what makes this opportunity all that much more exciting for me. I plan to do some writing about this new adventure on a new dedicated blog, Little Footsteps in the Stacks. I've also decided to lift my self imposed ban on Pinterest so that I can use its powers to gather ideas and information. I'm hoping both blogging and pinning will help me connect and network with this new pool of professionals which I will be joining. In a way I feel like I'm starting my adult working life all over again, and honestly it feels great!

While relocating our family, and my business, was a big factor in my most recent professional direction questions, realistically it's been an issue that's been brewing in the back of my mind for a number of years. I loved the work-life schedule I had built teaching fitness and yoga in Grinnell, but I knew it was unrealistic to believe my body could maintain that type of schedule long term. I also found that if I didn't find ways to keep myself mentally stimulated, it didn't take long for my work to feel mundane at times. As a student it's easy for things to feel fresh when you only see the same instructor 1-2 times a week. It's much harder to keep that fresh feeling when your the one regularly teaching 10-12 classes a week.

I had really believed that what I wanted professionally when we decided to relocate closer to DSM, is to rebuild my wellness focused business here in Carlisle where I could work close to home like I had in Grinnell. I knew it would be a challenge, and that the question about physically being able to keep up with the demands of such work long term were still present, but I didn't want to make excuses, not try out of fear, and then spend time wondering "what if". In many ways my undertaking was a success. Because of my willingness to stick my neck out there, I met many, lovely individuals in our community that I may not have otherwise met. I also helped a few people new to yoga come to love the practice  and know that they are continuing to practice even without the availability of my classes. THAT fact makes me incredibly happy. In the end the stress of working to build something with little to no income, working as a solo instructor without any back-up, and the difference in the local trends when it comes to fitness/yoga, proved to be more than I was willing to deal with at this point and time in life. I considered stepping outside of our local community in order to find opportunities to continue to work in wellness, but the fact of the matter is how I approach health and wellness, and how that shows on my body, doesn't jive well with the mainstream fitness scene. I know that being in the more image focused world of mainstream fitness is not healthy for ME and my personal body image. As a Mom of 2 young girls, that's not a place I'm willing to go.

I've really come to enjoy working in public education over the past 2 years. While my specific job wasn't always the best fit for my personality, knowing I was spending time everyday making a difference in the lives of kids, supporting all the good that happens within the walls of a school, and working alongside others who have similar goals of making a positive impact on the world around them, HAS proved to be a very good fit. For years a dear college friend of mine, one who herself is a 3rd grade teacher, has been telling me I belong in education. I'm thankful for her gentle, constant encouragement to just consider the possibility as I'm starting to believe she's been right all this time. Now that I've allowed myself to accept that I am spending my working hours right where I need to be, a huge sense of relief has come over me. No longer is that constant, nagging question about what I'm going to BE when I grow up rolling around in the back of my brain even as I face this new adventure much as it has before. I'm excited for not only the challenge of learning the ins and outs of a new industry, but I can see it as being a field that would provide plenty of opportunities for growth and learning for years to come.

I do no wish for the remaining weeks of summer to pass any faster than they are already passing. The girls and I fully enjoy our summer days of gardening, projecting, hanging out at the pool, and visiting friends and family. I've always enjoyed the excitement of the start of school come August even if I am a little sad to say good-bye to the casual schedule of summer for another year. I think this year will hold even a little more excitement than normal for me...and it won't just be because of the fresh, new school supplies each of us will carry in our bags. I wonder what school supplies a school librarian needs in her school bag? Maybe I should Google that...


peace

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Soundtrack of Summer...

Lexi has recently become a country music listener. As a result, we've all started listening to more country both at home and in the car. While our home music collection boasts a large amount of country, southern rock, and folk music, generally the tuner on the car radio (and our most played Pandora stations around the house) are pop/rock based.

Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, Kenny Rogers...all familiar names from my childhood. Growing up we had this HUGE old console stereo. It had a tuner, it played 8-tracks, but in our house it was a stack of vinyl that most often provided the beat. My Mom would load up the turntable, crank the volume and we would dance around cleaning or cooking or working on the task of the day. I loved the deep, rich sound that old wooden box provided. It's the same reason Scott and I still own the, by modern standards, huge stereo we bought the winter before we married. I'm a sucker for the big base its sub-woofer cranks out.

The comforting familiarity of county twang makes the perfect soundtrack for summer. We are fully settled into the ease of summer now that the weather has consulted the calendar and turned the heat up a few notches. I love our summer life. It's not just the more relaxed schedule and hours spent by the pool. I feel most authentically ME during the summer. Whether it's tending to the yard, or digging in the dirt of my gardens, or spending time on the bike trail, or sitting atop my new equine buddy Ranger as we chat our way through the trees by the lake, or simply hanging with friends, the summer sunlight and the ability to do it ALL outside feed my soul. Summer means no longer are work and play defined as separate activities. It's all just daily summer life. Summer often makes me think of my grandpas and their lives as farmers. They worked (or in the case of my Grandpa Hall, still WORKS) hard, but I think they worked hard because their work was also their play. Summer apparently speaks to my farm-girl roots.

So many of our summer days have been lived to a country beat over the years. Summers that involved windows down drives across Nebraska, or through Kansas, with a tent and sleeping bags stashed in the back of our vehicle. A summer spent dancing in the dirt of a rodeo arena as newly weds. Summers spent on the sand volleyball courts drinking terrible, but cheap, beer. The summer spent waiting, hotly waiting, for Lexi to arrive and make us a family of 3. My summers of RAGBRAI. There is a country tune playing in the back ground of almost everyone of those memories.

Country music + summer = a life I'm so blessed to be living.


peace

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fun with Animals...

I had a hard time deciding which camera to pack for our quick trip this past weekend. My old Rebel is smaller and much lighter, but since upgrading to my 60D a couple years ago, I'm spoiled with the ability to still get good quality images in low light settings. In the end I went with the 60D knowing some of our photos would be taken in darker, interior locations. Turns out I didn't take near as many photos as I would have expected to take due to the rainy day. Thank goodness for my old, water resistant Eastpak backpack that comes on most ambulatory adventures with us. As you can see, rain or no rain, we had a good time bumming around with the animals.

These two are practically attached at the hip when they are together. It's hard to remember sometimes that almost 4 years separate them. It also cracks Scott and I up with how comfortable Lexi is with her older cousin because she is scared to death to talk to the volleyball players that Scott coached this past year who are the same age.


Scott and I were trying to be silly with momma giraffe. She got tired of waiting for me to get the right perspective and waked right off Scott's hand as I snapped this. Still makes me smile.


We're thinking we would like to plant one of these varieties of trees in our backyard once they are made available to the public. Shade and yard decoration all wrapped up in one neat little package...


There is a gorgeous sensory garden at the zoo, complete with lovely rain blocking arbors. A zoo keeper had a few tropical birds out in the garden, who didn't seem bothered by the sprinkles at all.


One of the areas that I enjoy the most at the Omaha zoo is the primate houses. The gorillas are amazing to watch. I really think I could sit and watch them all day. The intelligence in those eyes...


These birds, and their crazy head feathers, crack me up.


We are also big fans of the big cats. I love how no matter their size, cats will always sleep in a box if you provide them with one.



Brea was the first who showed signs of wilting. She stayed up much later than normal Friday night, which I'm sure was a factor as she's usually our early to bed kid. Luckily she's easy to please and along the way we found little treats to get her through...Aunt Kathleen got her a hotdog, Uncle Jason offered up his lap for some snuggles, and a new small stuffed river otter purchased at the aquarium gift shop helped distract her from her fatigue as she showed him all the sites we visited after he joined our family.



Why is it my husband always insists on being silly when I point the camera in his direction? Obviously he's the fun half...


Short sitting breaks got more frequent as the day progressed...



The aquarium still proves to be my favorite attractions at Henry Doorly. (Although the new butterfly house is pretty awesome too!) I love the new expanded jellyfish area since I was last through a few years ago. The colors, the textures, the fluidity of movement all mesmerize me. These big orange jellyfish look upside in photos, but this is actually how they were swimming. I wonder if this is how they always swim or if it's a result of how they are fed or the direction of the current in the man-made home? (Yes, these are the nerdy questions that go through my head. Just like the lengthy discussion we had after we watched a zoo keeper switch out the blood dishes in the vampire bat display. I wonder what type of blood they feed? How do they get it...liquid or powdered that needs dehydrated? Are the platelets removed or is an anti-coagulant added as the old trays she was removing wasn't clotted at all? So many questions...)


This little display of upside down jellyfish was pretty cool. It's like a jellyfish garden.


It was a day well spent. I'm glad that we finally made good on our "we should meet in Omaha for a weekend sometime" plans, and that so many family members were able to join the fun. Just as Scott and I talk about trips taken during our childhoods, I'm sure this will be one the girls think back on with good memories for years to come.


peace

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just Cheesecake Please...

Traveling with family with whom you don't normally travel can be a fun treat. And a little stressful. It is quick to point out how uniquely we all approach things on the road. This is one such story...

We took a short trip to Omaha this weekend to meet my mom, my brother, my aunt, and my cousin with a goal of hitting the zoo on Saturday. Zoo it we did, despite the rain. Thankfully it was nice rain. No lightning. No wind. Mild temps.

After a long, moist day at the zoo, we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. My Mom had never eaten at one, and had mentioned that fact several times during planning our gathering, so to the Cheesecake Factory we went. I realize there were a couple of factors that contributed to my near meltdown once we got seated in our booth and I opened the menu.
  • I was tired. I do not sleep well in hotels, especially the first night. I finally turned off the light to settle in at 11:45 Friday night after a full day. I remember seeing 3:00 on the bedside clock. I was awake for the day by 6:30. Even though I'm generally good on short night's of sleep, a full day at the zoo is tiring even when you go into the day on a full night's sleep. 
  • I really could have used a moment to freshen up between animal gazing and food consuming. The rain at the zoo didn't bother me, it was actually beautiful and, except for a little stress over keeping my camera dry, it made for kind of a romantic day as I strolled around hand in hand with my hubby. But my hair was a frightful wet hairspray mess by day's end and my tired feet were filthy having walked for hours on end in my favorite Chacos. Filthy.
  • My brain was ready to rest. Scott and I, as the parents of the youngest kiddos on the trip, spent a good portion of our day keeping tabs on our girls who wanted to be with everyone in the group BESIDES mom and dad. We were the herding dogs keeping track of the flock. Herding sheep can be exhausting. That catalog of choices they call a menu at CF takes a ridiculous amount of decision making brain energy. I made the mistake of trying to start that process BEFORE ordering a drink. 
  • I had not properly prepared myself, or our budget, to spend as much through the weekend as we ended up spending on just food. We eat well when we travel, but we eat well on a budget. We generally spend a little less at some meals to allow us to spend a little more at others. We also tend to stay away from chain restaurants in favor of local establishments. That approach is a  little harder to do when you're not the only ones making the decisions about when and where to find nourishment for a party of 8.
Needless to say I opened the menu, started adding up the bill in my head as I helped my picky, also tired daughter who no longer qualifies to order off the kids menu at CF (Ten is a ridiculously young age to cut off the kids menu, by the way...especially given the HUGE serving of food that my 7 year-old couldn't even come close to finishing when it was set in front of her.) figure out what she might want to eat at full adult prices, and then had to will myself not to cry. In the end we all left full. And we sorta ate balanced meals. (French fries count as a veggie, right?) The food was okay. Nothing really stood out as particularly special. We got cheesecake to go, which I will be enjoying after I finish writing this post. Whether she planned to or not, my mom picked up the check. (THANKS MOM!) I'm feeling quite guilty about that fact given our total with tax and gratuity worked out to be about $30 per person. Our family's portion of that total bill would have fed the 4 of us 3 meals the way we normally approach on the road food gathering. I'm a lover of food, but I have a really hard time throwing down that amount of cash on any single meal experience unless it's a SPECTACULAR experience. The Cheesecake Factory is not.

The whole experience was a good reminder about why Scott and I tend to go local rather than chain when we eat out, at home or on the road. The only reason I'll be going to The Cheesecake Factory in the future is for cheesecake. It's really the only thing I've eaten there that really lives up to it's inflated price tag...and even that seems a bit much knowing the mean cheesecake making skills I myself posses. It's also made me question how we are going to afford our whole doing plan for summer 2013. The rest of our doing will just have to be on a tighter budget than planned. It will be a good lesson in flexibility.

Obviously I still have some work to do in that area of my life.

I'll post some pics from our zoo visit, and the more lighthearted part of our trip, later in the week. It really was a good trip.


peace

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summertime...


Summer officially started last Thursday at 11:00. Our home now houses a 2nd grader and a 6th grader. Sixth grade means a move to the middle school. A certain 11 year old is pretty excited about that fact. Her parents are a little more nervous, but at the same time confident she'll do great.

Our summer schedule is filling up quickly. Summer looks a little different for us this year as the girls and I will be spending a couple days each week hanging out at the house of one of Lexi's classmates while his parents are at work. The girls were a bit concerned about how that would cut into our pool time, but I assured them we'd still have plenty of days to splash around in the sun. Plus, a little summertime employment means a less stressed family budget, and that's a good thing.

We're doing our best to make good on our doing plan for the summer. So far we have a family weekend to Omaha for visiting the zoo, a quick solo trip to KC to enjoy time with a friend and see Mumford & Sons, a trip west to see family while attending my 20th high school reunion, and an end of the summer wedding trip planned. We're also excited that Uncle Jason will be in Iowa to visit for a bit at the end of July. I'm training to do some 5K events with a lovely group of lady friends throughout the summer. (I use the term training somewhat loosely here as I have yet to put together any regular workout schedule thanks to an early summer cold, and our goal is simply to participate, not to clock world record pace times.) We'd also love to get the tents out for some weekend camping this summer, but first it seems we need to get past the Iowa rainy season.

At least the rain is good for the gardens. In addition to plantings around our house, and plans to make new raised beds this summer for next summer's garden season, we are part of 2 group gardens this summer. Apparently one of us has a hard time saying no to opportunities that requiring digging in the the dirt.

I'm sure come August we will be amazed at how quickly these lazy days of summer have passed. I do hope, when it comes time to ready school supplies and backpacks, we will be able to say summer 2013 was well spent. As for now I'm going to grab a second cup of coffee and enjoy the sound of Brea reading to our new summertime buddy on this cool, rainy, mid-week, school free day of June.


peace

Monday, May 13, 2013

Doing...

"I just don't want to put things off anymore."

Words written to me by my Mom as we make plans for a short weekend gathering in June that has tentatively been planned for someday for several years. This fall we learned first hand that sometimes somedays cease to be a possibility long before you expect. In many ways, the pain of Rod's sudden death is still very raw, but it is also pushing us to not put things off any longer. It's just one of the many small blessings that has come through the great pain of loss. Life is sometimes contradictory like that I'm learning.

I'm feeling a bit restless about summer. I have an itch to pack the girls up in the car and hit the road visiting friends. We WILL be camping this summer, not saying we SHOULD take time to go camping. Scott and I ARE going to take some time to get out on our road bikes...together. I WILL be spending time dancing, barefoot, outside, to live music this summer.

This summer we will DO.

It's so easy to put off doing things until a time when finances are more abundant. Or until the weather is perfect. Or until our calendar allows to comfortably fit things in. We assume that of the resources needed to make plans, that time is the most abundant.

When it comes to time, there is no guarantee.


peace

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Accidental Discovery...

We decided to do spring break a little different this year. It included 29 hours spent in St. Louis. The weather was less than springy, but we had a great time anyway. We drove into the city right around the lunch hour and decided to exit the interstate at a random gas station just to get a sense of where we were and find a bite to eat. Totally by accident we found the Schalfly Bottleworks, a micro-brewer we knew about because of a printed beer pint in our cupboard, but not a planned stop on this trip. Unplanned discoveries are awesome.





Brea and Scott had DELICIOUS buffalo burgers. Lexi and I enjoyed vegetarian fair.


Beer was sampled and enjoyed.


Much laughing was done. It was a great way to set the tone for the rest of our trip.

Next stop, the St. Louis Science Center...


 peace

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Creative Writing...

We've been projecting around here, and I've been writing about it over on my new dedicated craft/photography/creative blog. The problem seems to be the more we make, the more I want to make, the more I have to write about about, the fewer hours that seem to exist in the day. Weird how that happens. My most recent post over there...the creation of a flannel duvet cover for Lexi's new down "fluffy comforter".


I love that the girls are showing signs of having caught the crafting bug. Oh the projects I'm sure we will tackle in the years to come...


peace

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sick Day...

Brea woke up early this morning with an icky tummy.


This is not how she had planned to spend her day. In PJs, yes. At home, no.

Today at school kids are celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday. PJs, slippers, and silly socks are being worn. Stories are being read. Birthday cake is being eaten.

Brea's words to me mid-morning were, "It makes me mad that I'm not at school today."

It reminds me of the 2-3 years in a row when I was about her age that I was sick on my birthday. It made me mad. And sad. I just wanted to share birthday treats ON my birthday with my classmates. Was that too much to ask?

After a pukey morning, my little monkey seems to be feeling a bit better. She's eaten a piece of toast, has built a cave fort with the couch cushions, and is watching toons as I type.


Since neither of us are joining in the fun of silly sock day at school, we decided to have our own silly sock day at home.


Silly socks and PJs...our way of brightening up this sick day.


peace

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Snowing...

Yesterday, as our house was waking for the start of the day, it started to snow.



90 minutes later I white knuckled my 6 mile drive to school on a single cleared (a term I'm using loosely here) east bound path on the divided highway I drive each day.

At 1:00 school dismissed early, I drove home (on wet, but clear roads), and spent an hour clearing the walks and drive of our corner lot. The girls built tunnels, forts, and threw snowballs.

30 minutes later, the snow resumed.



Last night I cancelled yoga to encourage people to stay home once there. Sporting events, classes, and meetings were cancelled or postponed all across the state due to the weather.

At 10:30(ish) I went to bed. It was still snowing.

At 6:02 am this morning my phone rang with the notice that school would be on a 2 hour delay.

At 6:18 my phone rang again, this time to notify us that school had been cancelled for the day. Scott crawled out of bed to re-shovel his side of the driveway so he could start to make his way to the office. His drive today, thankfully, took 1/2 as long as yesterday's drive. I made and drank coffee.



The girls have had breakfast, have been out to play in the new layer of white, and are already back inside warming up while watching a movie.

It is still snowing.

Not bad for a storm that 3 days ago was predicted to bring us maybe 1-2 inches of snow. Our 24-hour total is currently at around 10 inches.

Did I mention...it is still snowing.


peace

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spring Cleaning...

Yep, it's that time of year. That time of year when I start to feel the depression of winter's hibernation melting. That time of year when I get restless for a little bit of change and reorganization. This spring I'm sweeping up the annoying cobwebs in my life according to the internet. Email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Linked-In, Words with Friends...it can all get so over whelming. I feel like at times it sucks the life (and hours of time) from my being. So I've made a plan:
  • This past week I finally sat down and cleaned out my email inbox, which had grown to over 200 emails, and unsubscribed from the daily deal offers and newsletter bits that always came in faster than I could clear them out. Sorry Groupon, you're just not worth that much of my time. I'm happy to say I'm now receiving a reasonable 3-5 emails a day. I can deal with that!
  • Our #1 social networking choice should be time spent face to face with friends and family. I've been in too many social settings over the past year where, at times, people have spent more time staring at the little screens of their smart phones checking their social networks than networking socially with those in their presence. It annoys me. As a result, I'm cutting down on both the number of social network accounts I have active and the amount of time I spend scrolling through my news feeds. Linked-In is out. Twitter is close to being out. I'm seriously considering a March Facebook fast. I haven't played a word in months. I'm still standing firm against signing up for a Pinterest account, which baffles people to no end given my love of crafting. (It simply boils down to the fact I'd rather spend time crafting than browsing for stuff I won't make because I'm spending my time browsing for things to make.) Ravelry gets a pass because, well, it's Ravelry. 
  • Time spent online generally leaves me feeling 1 of 2 ways. Sometimes I log off feeling energized and inspired. Sometimes not so much. I'm choosing to spend my time online from this point forward only (okay, mostly only) in ways that leave me with a smile on my face and inspiration in my heart. My RSS reader is filled with blog feeds that do just that and I look forward to reading them each night. Writing also brings joy to my soul, which means I want to make blogging more of a priority when it come to my limited online presence.
  • This spot, my beloved first blog, will continue to be dedicated to sharing our family's life and my personal thoughts with loved ones near and far. I've decided that sooner, rather than later, I will be changing the privacy settings of this blog so that it is only available to those who I have approved. Part of my decision to head in this direction is due to the face we have a pre-teen in the house. She, and her friends, have an ever increasing presence online, much to my dismay. I'm not sure that the girls are going to want just any of their acquaintances to stumble across Mom's online diary someday. I'm not sure I want that either. Their stories are mine to tell and share for now, but that will not always be the case. I feel like I need to start to think about honoring their right to write the next chapters of their own stories...if they chose.
  • I miss being a part of the greater blogger/blogging world, which was much more a part of my online presence at one point and time. Since I'm planning to limit readership of this site a bit in the coming days, and since I've not got much to say about yoga lately, I've decided to start a new blog adventure. Crafty goodness...that's what I will be sharing over on my new blog, Creative Exhalations! I hope if you've ever enjoyed one of my crafty posts here you'll join me over at my new creative home!
I've been thinking about voicing these changes for a few weeks now. It feels good to air them out. I'm excited to see how life might shift with a little more attention spent on my intentions for virtually connecting to the world around me.

Spring...always a good season for change!


peace

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

First Grade Homework...

I had this random thought the other day walking the hall at work...in a school...

Sometimes the current workings of the educational process feel a little like a manufacturing factory. Raw product in, standardized product out.

I've been thinking about this random thought for a couple of weeks now and wonder why it crossed my mind. Is it because I'm not an educator by training? Or because I work in that system with kids who don't learn the way we traditionally expect them too? Or because as a parent I want my kids to not only excel academically, but to follow their hearts doing what makes them happy in life even if that means thinking outside the box from the path society expects them to follow?

I've found I really enjoy working with some of the kids at school who struggle to understand concepts the way they are presented by the chosen curriculum product. I enjoy the challenge of helping them find a way to make sense of it all through their own best learning style. For some kids it simply a change in wording that helps them understand. Some just need consistent repetition so they can see the patterns that evolve through the process. Some are more visual/spacial learners than concept/auditory learners.

I know for a fact I am a hands on, involved in the conversation, hear it said rather than read it in print kind of learner. When I was in college, I rarely skipped a class because I found if I attended class and was engaged in the lesson and discussion, I really didn't need to read the text book or study for hours on end before a big test. If I skipped class, or we were expected to learn a portion of our information simply from studying the text, I was much less successful with regurgitating information for exams. I know this about myself which is why I taught myself to knit using YouTube videos and hands on trial and error. It's also why I sometimes get half way through reading a book I've pulled off our home library selves before I realize I've already read it.

I dream of a public educational system that allows for us as a society to honor our differences as learners rather than try to fit everyone into the mold we've created with our focus on standardized tests and performance dependent funding. Our kids are not raw product simply waiting to be molded via assembly line into a standardized product. Which brings me to an observation I've made this year about my 1st grader's opportunity to do some advanced learning activities in both math and reading.

Brea started going to an advanced level math class and an ELP reading group about a month ago. We were excited to get word that she had qualified for these programs, and were not at all surprised given her quick math skills and ability to read, and comprehend, books in the 3rd-4th grade reading level. She has been just as excited to attend these classes and is so proud to come home each day to show us what new concept she learned that day. The one aspect of these new classes I am not as thrilled with is the amount of homework that has become a regular part of her week. Homework that often feels like little more than busy work. Tuesday's homework, for example, included 3 math worksheets: a practice worksheet from the regular lesson, a page of 50 addition fact problems using the number 4, and  a challenge skill sheet of 24 addition problems each adding 3, single digit numbers. The last of these required some addition with regrouping (what we used to call carrying back in the day), a skill she has not yet learned. So I taught her how to do so to help make her job a little easier. These are in addition to the expectation she will read a minimum of 20 minutes each night at home (a variety of reading packets come home that are to be read as part of that time) and her nightly spelling practice worksheet to prepare her for Friday's spelling test.

When it's all said and done, Brea spent over and hour doing homeqork Tueaday. Thankfully she's a kid who easily stays on task or it could have been longer.

As a first grader.

I'm kinda not okay with that.

I'm kinda not okay with that because it's started to take some of the fun out of learning for her. Making sure she gets her homework done before any evening activities has become a bit of a chore. There are days she just wants (and I'm sure her brain NEEDS) to come home and play. To get out her play-doh to create, or her baby dolls to mother. With the coming of spring there will be days I will just want her to come home and play OUTSIDE. I believe our kids need unstructured time to explore life just as much as structured time to help them make sense of it. Slowly I feel our unstructured time slipping away.

I'm lucky that, for the most part, I have very self sufficient, responsible children who know their father and I's expectations when it comes to getting homework done, and they take the necessary steps to meet those expectations. Having to discuss possible consequences for homework not completed "on time" is not a conversation I ever expected to have with my 6 year old. At the same time, I feel like if we don't stress the importance of taking responsibility for her homework NOW, it will be that much harder to get her to do so further down her academic road.

And so, even as I question the process, we continue to feed the system that is set up to take our raw child in through its doors to be spit back out as standardized educational product.

Education....just another example of the concerns you face as a parent that you can't fully appreciate until you are in the midst of the storm.


peace


*** P.S. This is by NO MEANS meant to reflect poorly on the job teachers do each and every day in classrooms throughout our country, especially the great group of teachers I have the honor of working with here in our district. I do believe that most teachers do the best they can within the confines set by the bureaucracy of our current educational system. The teachers I know love kids. They love learning. They want nothing more than to make learning fun and to help those who struggle. But they are spread too thin. they are tired, and they know, at least in part, that their continued employment is dependent upon being able to work within the system set before them. I'm sorry for what our society had done to their profession.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Random Bits...

Friday night I slipped on comfy clothes and headed over to a friend's for a casual girls' night complete with take out, wine, knitting, chatting, and a movie. We watched Magic Mike. I've seen better movies, but I've also wasted 2 hours on MUCH worse movies. There was one section of dialogue that keeps running through my thoughts. Brooke, the eventual girl friend, asks Mike what he would choose to do if he could wake up one morning and do what made him the happiest. His reply was to spend all day, every day, making things.

I can relate.

* * *

Scott is off playing picking up basketball while I type this. Lexi is at TKD. Brea and I are quietly hanging at home getting ready to start preparing dinner having returned from a trip to the grocery store. It's a pretty good reflection of our individual personalities. I find it somewhat ironic that over the past year or so Scott has gotten much more involved in our community, and more active with his extra curricular activities while I, the one who used to make a living working out and who has spent much time trying to figure out how to motivate Scott to be more active with me, have settled into a much more sedentary existence. My mood, and the waist band of almost every pair of pants I own, are starting to indicate the need for change in that fact.

* * *

Saturday afternoon I had a few free hours to myself unexpectedly. I found myself downtown DSM in the East Village just browsing shops after visiting my 2 main destinations, Allspice and Hill Vintage & Knits. I love hanging out downtown, especially in the EV. Sometimes I daydream about living in a small loft downtown with big windows overlooking the State Capital, Principal Park, or the DSM River. After leaving the KC metro area 13+ years ago because we wanted to get back to small town life, and given how I used to feel about DSM when we first moved to Iowa, I find it interesting how many times Scott and I have talked about our future downtown "empty nesters" loft space. In the end I'm guessing an acreage would still win out given a choice. But one just never knows.

* * *

I had a shop owner hand me her business card on Saturday. She commented on the fingerless handwarmers I was wearing and I thanked her, explaining that I had knit them. She invited me to consider selling them in her shop as she is always looking for locally made, natural fiber items to feature and could see them selling well next winter season. It was an interesting comment I keep rolling around in my head. (See random bit #1.)

* * *

It's January, which means too much time spent inside, and in darkness. Literally and figuratively speaking. I have already started the countdown to the light of spring.


peace

Friday, January 11, 2013

Parenthood...

The teacher whose room I work in this year is expecting her first baby in March. While I can honestly say I have ZERO desire to have another baby, it has been fun watching her belly grow and to get caught up in her excitement. She's gonna be a great Mom.

Today I had to make a visit to the Principal's office with a concern. I didn't like going to the Principals office as a kid. (Not that I was a frequent visitor.) I'm not much more comfortable going there as a parent. Never in a million years would I have expected to be dealing with an issue centered around the subject of our conversation with a daughter who is in 5th grade. As a Mom it breaks my heart to know words were thoughtlessly said by another student that hurt my daughter. As member of our school community, and of the greater world, it saddens me to see the innocence of childhood fade at an increasingly younger age these days.

Parenthood, like so much of life, is an ever educational journey it seems. It would be really easy to get down about having to face tough issues with one of our girls an age when life should still be relatively carefree. The mother bear inside me wants to gather my cubs and pull them into our den to protect them from the evils of the world for just a little bit longer. I occasionally find myself thinking about how nice it would be to have the ability to turn back the clock to a time when I, much as my classroom teacher, was focused on the tough decisions of which diapers to use, how many onsies and burp clothes I would need to get through the week, and what bottles would be best to use with my breastfed babes. My-o-my have my parenting worries changed since those early days.

As much as my heart is broken over the conversations of the last 24 hours, it is also filled with much hope. We are lucky to have fostered a positive, trusting relationship with our daughter to the point that she felt comfortable coming to us to ask for help in her time of need. I feel confident in the care and support she gets from trusted adults at school when tough situations arise. The past 2 years have started to show us they will arise, whether we like it or not. I am thankful that in addition to being my awesome co-workers, those trusted adults listen to our concerns as parents with compassion and work to keep lines of communication open with all parties involved.

As the old African proverb says, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." Without family close by, I sometimes worry about if we have chosen the right village. For now this is our village, and I am thankful for the members of our community who offer their support as we take those unknown steps on our parenting journey.

These two little ladies...



they are the world to me. I know we are going to need the assistance of our village to help them continue to blossom into the amazing human beings they have already started to show they each are. They have taught me so much about the goodness of the human spirit, and the power of deep, endless, truly unconditional love. I can't even imagine what lessons parenthood has left to teach. I'm trying my best to be a good student.


peace

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Illusions...


I've decided managing our finances is a lot like practicing yoga. I work diligently at it, knowing it's a slow, gradual growth project. Gradually I start to feel like we're getting on top of things, like we've reached some sense of order and control. Then life steps up and smacks me in the back to the head, reminding me that a sense of control is but an illusion.

Yesterday I went to my 2nd of what will be 5 dentists over the course of 2.5 months. Apparently I'm making up for 5 years worth of absence from the dental chair all in one quarter. In the end I know it is work that has needed to be done to save 1 of my teeth. But when I look at what we will be paying out of pocket by the time it's all said and done, I start to wonder if 1 tooth is really worth THAT much.

I guess I will make a point to smile big more to show off my new investment. Either that or I'm going to ask for naming right to that dental chair.


peace