Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My First 23 Children

Dillon, Antonio, Lesley, Ebonisha, Allie, Hunter....

These are some of the names of the students who were in my second grade class. Last night, I laid awake in my bed, thinking about these little children (really not so little anymore), wondering where they are and what they are doing. It has been nearly five years since I was teaching elementary school in Mesquite, but I still think about these kids quite regularly.

That year was a whirlwind year for Josh and me. We graduated from ACU and moved to Garland, where I was blessed to get my first real job, teaching second grade at a local elementary school. That year was such a challenge for me, in many ways. I started the year out with a surge of excitement and anticipation about what I could do for the kids. My time spent student teaching in Abilene had shown me the jacked-upness of the public school system, so I immediately felt like I was going against the flow, instead of with it. (That is kindof my personality anyway, so it can't entirely be blamed on the school system.)

I entered the school thinking that I was going to have first graders and be team teaching with Beverly Ross, I woman whom I admire greatly and another fun woman that I felt had the same teaching goals I did. The week before school, however, I was told that I would actually be teaching with a different set of teachers on the second grade team. I was bitterly disappointed, and as I visited with the team I would be working with, I felt extremely unhappy. I just knew that God had wanted me to be with this first grade team. Now what was I going to do working with these other teachers with which I felt I had nothing in common? Looking back, though, I can see God's hand in this decision in many ways. God used that year, my first and only year of teaching, to change me, challenge me, and show me things about myself and maybe even to influence those kids.

I entered the year with prayer, asking God, "Why did you put me here? How am I going to function with this group of people that don't think like I do?" I come from a school of thought that is very relaxed in some ways, but very overdemanding in other ways. For example, when it comes to teaching, I value creativity and individuality more than papers with "the right answers" (although those are important too). On the other hand, I expected good behavior and respect from my students, and may have been slightly overbearing at times, in an attempt to get my kids to rise to the occasion. I don't take kindly to bossy britches, undisciplined kids who get their way by working the system. This is why I believe the public school system to be in such a sad state. There is no real discipline, but lots of emphasis on "self-esteem" and "helping them feel successful". But, that is really another story....

Anyway- I just felt like I was going against the flow, both with the school system and with the team teachers I was supposed to be working with. I threw myself into my classroom of little kids. That is really why I had this job anyway, wasn't it? On the first day of school, I happily admired my little classroom. I tried hard to follow the rule that every new teacher has heard about (not smiling until Christmas). I think I even scared some of the other teachers with my stoic face as my class marched past in the hallways. I really did love the kids in my class and tried so hard to show them that I loved them and was there for them (all without smiling, of course). Oh yes, and one other thing I did... I began to pray for each and every one of the kids in my classroom. I prayed for their specific needs, their sad and broken homes, their futures that seemed bleak, their futures that seemed bright, the lives that I wanted to see them lead, that they would somehow, some way, see Jesus in me, and that I would see them again in Heaven. I prayed that I would find a way to get along with the teachers I was supposed to be working with.

The year went by very quickly. (It didn't always seem quick or even happy while it was going on, but now seems like such a dream.) There were several sad cases in my classroom. There were people who were hopelessly behind on the first day of school (with really no hope of ever catching up). But even sadder was the vision of how I felt that some of these little ones' lives would turn out, if no one intervened. The lack of innocence that I saw in these young children at such an early age was what first convinced Josh and I to pursue home education for Mary Alice,at least during her very early formative years. I'm not saying that choice is for everyone, just that we were convicted that there was no way we could put our precious gift from God into that arena when we saw what would be her peer group. There was one mom who stated (in front of her child) "Yeah, if I had known how much trouble he'd be, I never would've had him!" Then there were two other parents whose children had serious unmet needs that could've easily been met, but they refused to help their kids. I also need to say that there were some wonderful parents, who loved their children and made the year so much easier for me. I don't know if I ever impacted these kids in a real way, but pray that God used me or will use someone else to bring their little souls to Him.

I had the blessing of keeping four of my students the next year (when Mary Alice was a baby) after school in my home. I feel a special attachment to two of those students, two sisters, who are now in the 7th and 8th grades. I still pray for these girls sometimes and wonder how they are doing. Anyway- it is the thought of these students, whom I love and care for just as much as the last day of school, that kept my thoughts racing last night.

Sometimes I am afraid that my whole life is going by and I am failing miserably at what I am supposed to be doing, teaching others about Jesus. Following Bev Ross's example, I did state to my whole class that I was a Christian. (That is a really scary thing to tell a bunch of kids if you really think about it. I know that there were lots of things that I did or said that year that didn't reflect Christ!) I didn't allow God's name to be taken in vain. I did bring up an occasional Biblical concept and even, if asked, shared my views on certain things, even pointing to the Bible's truths (gasp!) as a basis for my beliefs. I have no idea if any of that made one iota of difference to these kids, but hope that God used me in some little way for His glory.

Jeffery, Brandon, Katie, Charnae, Tevyn..... I love you all and hope to see you in Heaven some day!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is for you.....

Consider yourself tagged: HOLLY, because I know she likes to make lists,
MEREDITH, because I know she struggles about what to blog
and KATE, because I think she's funny.

If none of the above really wants to do this, though, we can still be friends. :)

Have a great day!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate with marshmallows
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Neither. Santa just puts the unwrapped gifts in stockings and leaves the rest by the fireplace (where the stockings are hanging)
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? white
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. But I would if I knew where to buy it.
5. When do you put your decorations up? this year, I am happy to report... BEFORE Thanksgiving
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? probably beef tenderloin or one of my mom's yummy green salads?
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? my Christmas tea party
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Sadly, when I was about six or so... I was just too curious and snoopy. After my discovery, I was the brat who went around telling my whole first grade class that there was no Santa Claus
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No way!!
10. What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him? chocolate chip or whatever happens to be in the house
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it on occasion, though not for long periods of time
12. Can you ice skate? yes, but not well
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? something handmade from my sis
14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? traditions: specifically my advent calendar, putting up decorations, and watching my kids open their presents
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? pie, all kinds, but not storebought
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? making things with my kids or sisters, singing hymns/Christmas carols with my family
17. What tops your tree? an ugly angel that I don't like very much
18. Which do you prefer Giving or Receiving? for sure giving
19. What is your favorite Christmas Carol? So many choices!!! I absolutely LOVE Christmas music! Oh Holy Night, Mary Did You Know, The Carol of the Bells, Silver Bells, all of them!!
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yuck. (Unless they are cherry flavored)

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tea Party Extravaganza

Have you ever seen the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster? Structures have been turned to piles of rubble. Possessions have been misplaced. Families are walking around with a confused look in their eyes, like they can't believe what just happened and don't know what they should do next.

That is how I would describe our family right now. There were several different "hurricanes" that hit our house last week. A suburban load of boxes full of junk kept me busy for a few days. Yesterday, was Mary Alice's tea party, which kept us busy for several more days. Now, in the aftermath, we are all wandering around, trying to get our life back to some sense of normal. Our house is littered with tea party decor, boxes, leftover tea party crafts, Christmas items, and boxes and boxes of leftover Christmas goodies.

I am happy to report, though, that Mary Alice's tea party was a success. She had so much fun with her friends. She did cry for a little while when the tea was over, saying that she wanted her friends to stay all night. She was very very sad when the party came to an end.

This morning, we got up and ate a special breakfast together. I made tea for the two of us, made toast out of leftover bread that had been cut out into various shapes, and scrambled eggs. We had our own tea party to celebrate the fact that the tea party was over. (at least that is what I was celebrating :)

My girl sure does love to have tea parties! I think that is one of her favorite pasttimes. Lots of people have tea parties with my girl. I think her favorite tea party friends are her Nonnie, her Poppa, and her Aunt Hannah who is affectionately referred to by Mary Alice as "my best friend Hannah". She has been wearing her dress up jewelry all day today (not uncommon for her), and carrying around various tea party items. She even wore her dress up stuff to the library today. Something about my girl in her dress up clothes is just so sweet!

About her tea party.... some of you have commented on what a great idea it is. It actually wasn't my idea at all. When I was in the third grade, my mother decided to have a Christmas tea party for my friends and me. I had them over for goodies and tea, which my mom served them from her teacup collection. She made a big deal out of telling them how ladies act at a tea party and about where she got each teacup, etc. Everything was really very formal. I had a tea party every year until I was about 12 or so and decided that was really too silly for me to be doing. My sisters had Christmas tea parties too until they were about the same ages. This is Mary Alice's third Christmas tea party and a tradition that I would like to carry on with her until she thinks that she is too old for it. Then I might just have them all by myself, because I like them so much!

Each year, the tea parties have evolved a little bit. We've made many many different kinds of cookies, scones, tarts, etc. and have found the little girl favorite to be crackers with a squirt of Cheese Whiz. :) I don't actually serve tea, but apple cider, as I don't want parents to be mad at me because their kids won't sleep at night. We've figured out that having fun things to do is good. Sitting around, talking and staring at each other may have been great fun for the Brits, but is not popular amongst little girls. So, we usually make crafts, although one year we sang Christmas carols around the piano. We've made everything from Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, to tea party accessories (hats, gloves, etc.)

Yesterday, the girls decorated gloves and purses with jewels and trim. That was pretty fun. Poor Mary Alice must've inherited my artistic talent. While the other 4 year olds used the provided Q-Tip to put dots of glue on the back of their jewels to adhere them to the purse, Mary Alice smeared the WHOLE purse with glue and then tried to stick things onto the purse. The purse was cute, though, because she made it.

Major had GREAT fun at the party. We dressed him in a tuxedo that was left over from Miran's wedding this summer. He had the most fun of all, I think. He sneaked around from area to area, swiping Christmas cookies, quiches, or whatever he could get his grubby little hands on, and stuffing them into his mouth as fast as he could. Yes, my big guy had a great time. He is such a little man. I think he ate more than all of those little girls combined! I am a bit concerned, though, that the two hours prior to the tea party Major was clickety clacking around the house in my black high heels. Should I also be concerned that he likes to put on Mary Alice's necklaces, hats, and push her baby around in a stroller? This behavior is definitely not encouraged around here, but what am I to do about this? Grandparents, if you are reading this, Major needs some manly toys for Christmas!!!

So here we are, the whirlwind of activity has left us. My house, though it is clean, is full of random items that need to be put away/returned to their owner. We have been so busy with preparing for the tea party that we now seem to have so much free time to enjoy the day. What are we going to do today? I love to have days that I can ask that question.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tis The Season To Be Busy

Whew! The play is officially over now and I am breathing a sigh of relief. Now we're on to other things around here... Christmas time is just too busy. I would be really happy with Christmas if we could just stick to gingerbread houses, advent Calendars, cheery songs, and love in our hearts. But, Christmas has become such a hectic time of year. It is just too much sometimes!

-While Kristen O'Quinn's blog states that her organized self has bought all but 2 of her Christmas presents, I have only bought 4. (not all but 4, just 4)
This means I still have 23 left to buy.. Kristen, how do you do it?

-Mary Alice's third annual Christmas tea party is this Thursday. I still have to bake cookies and other special treats, buy crafties, figure out how I am going to decorate the table, get my house clean, go the grocery store, etc. I keep thinking to advice I've heard on various decor shows that says you should use what you have around the house to decorate your party table. So, if I went by that little bit of decorating advice, I would be forced to decorate my table with taped together trash bags or some other hodge-podge creation. I don't think the trash bags would flatter my china and teacups very well. So, I guess I can add to my list acquiring table linens suitable enough for a little girls' tea party.

-Josh, in looking for my teacup collection (which I use every year for Mary Alice's tea party), drove out to storage to hunt for my teacups and card table. When he came back home, he arrived having brought not only my teacups, but a suburban-load full of boxes. Full boxes. Boxes that I have to unpack and figure out what in the world I am going to do with all the stuff inside! So, I have been busily bustling about today, throwing away, washing, and putting away miscellaneous items. I have killed many a spider today too. (If only Miranda had been here to help me, I'm sure I could've knocked it out so much more quickly. ;) But, as it is, I am still working working on a job that wasn't officially in my pre-tea party plans. Does anyone have any idea where I can find clear cellophane (like for wrapping things)? Do they have that at Wal Mart? I can't waste a minute of my time going to any unnecessary stores!

-We are still in the process of looking for a church home. We've found a church that we really like, but it just seems so far away! Any prayers would be greatly appreciated. I just can't feel a part of things down here until we've established a church home. We're definitely ready to do that- the sooner the better.

-I am now officially involved with BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). I was put on the waiting list for about a month and finally was called. What an unfortunate time of year for me to begin an in depth Bible study program. I have met some wonderful women and am glad to be a part of something so intense and challenging. However, I haven't really met the challenge this week and am VERY behind on my Bible reading. I think that will definitely be one of my New Years' resolutions.

-I love my family so much. Josh has been so sweet to me lately. He knows that I have a lot going on and has really helped me out. He took Major up to Frisco on Saturday so that I could get some things done around here. He took the kids Christmas shopping with him tonight so that I could finish unpacking those boxes. He even offered to do all of the Christmas shopping for me. (He has a long lunch break and works right by the mall. Lots of times, he spends his lunch break trying to dodge gossipy women, so I guess he felt like he could spare some of his dodging time and use it for Christmas shopping.) So, I officially have the sweetest, most thoughtful husband around.

-By the way, has anyone seen The Chronicles of Narnia yet? I have really been excited about that movie and would love to put all of my chores on hold, drop everything, and head to the local movie theatre, where it only costs $2.00 to watch any movie.

I know this was a really random post. Just thought I'd give a quick update on all of the things that are going on here. On a positive note, I just got finished rocking my two little ones and putting them to bed. There is nothing sweeter than singing and praying with your two little kids. They sing to each other and make each other laugh. What speshes!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Play Practice"

The past week (and the past month if I really think about it) have all been about one thing---Mary Alice's play.

The poor thing! She loves being in the play, but it is really wearing her out! Last week she had practices at the beginning of the week and a performance on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Keep in mind that many of these performances are past her bedtime or during her naptime. This has led to her being sick with a cold for quite some time now. We're really ready for the play to come to an end. Honestly! I don't know how theatre people do it! I don't know how they function without crumbling under all of the stress. I really love when my day is orderly and predictable, so theatre life is definitely not for me!

So, Mary Alice did well in her first five performances, but by Sunday, she was hyper-active, crazy, and had dark circles under her eyes. The director actually had to get on to her for dancing and wiggling around with her candle during the Sunday performance. She had a few days to rest and recoup before performing again tonight. As I type, I can rejoice in that she only has four more performances!! I am just hoping she can hold up for a few more days. Funny thing! She still calls it "play practice" and doesn't seem to understand that she is performing for people. It is probably better that way. Mary Alice sees the whole thing as "play". She thinks that she and her buddies are having a good old time just pretending and "playing". They just happen to be doing it in costumes and on a stage. It is hard for me to believe that this same girl doesn't want to go up in front of the church to perform. You know when they have all of the kids go down front to sing a song or whatever? Not Mary Alice. It has to be her idea.

I am posting a picture of one tired Mary Alice after her Saturday night performance. Notice the far off, spaced out look in her eyes. She is exhausted, but she is sure having fun! Josh's parents, Chad and Miranda, and Josh's Grandmother got to watch her that night. Josh's parents brought her flowers. They weren't anything fancy, but boy was she proud! She treated those pink carnations as if they were the most beautiful, valuable flowers in the world! She clutched them tightly to her chest all the way home, even falling asleep with them in her arms. They are now proudly displayed in a vase on the dresser in her room.

Well, I hear the garage door opening. That means that Mary Alice is home from her "play". Now we can hurriedly get her to bed and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fun Times

Ahhh.... Today is such a wonderful day! Yesterday was just as great. I love Christmas time! It is actually cold outside, so I can feel okay about singing my favorite Christmas tunes about the weather being frightful, jack frost nipping at my nose, and other Christmas/wintertime ditties. YA HOO!!!! The Christmas season is here!!!

Yesterday, Mary Alice performed in her very first Christmas play. She is in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". She only has one line, but she says that one line SO well. Let's hope she doesn't ever actually get a big part in a play, because I'm sure I will proud enough to be annoying to others. :) She plays a little baby angel. I got to watch the dress rehearsal last night. The play was precious. I do have just one suggestion for the director, though. I thought of a new, better name for the play. I think that the play most definitely should have been called "The Best Baby Angel Ever". I think that name is definitely a winner. Whaddya think? I better act quickly before the local newspaper goes out on Friday. It is probably copyrighted anyway. Oh well, our family can just refer to the play as "The Best Baby Angel Ever" because we know that is it's rightful name.

Yesterday, Mary Alice and Major and I decorated a gingerbread house for fun. Mary Alice had sooo much fun doing this last year that we decided to do it again. I like doing projects with her. It gives us lots of time to talk. She pretended that we were building the witch's house from Hansel and Gretel.(I would not recommend this story for a young child. I had forgotten how scary it was when I made the mistake of checking it out from the library a few months ago. I am surprised that this freaky story was ever a notable children's tale!)

Anyway- Mary Alice meticulously placed each piece of candy on the house. Major, on the other hand, ate each piece of candy that didn't make it onto the house. "Treat" is his new word (since Halloween). He is saying it fairly often these days, asking for "chocat teats" (chocolate treats) to anyone who will listen. The kids and I had so much fun making the little house. It now is proudly displayed in our kitchen, where it will remain until after Christmas, when it will be thrown away. But for now, the kids will daily ask me if they can eat the house.

Today, the air outside was cold and dry. After breakfast, I got the kids dressed (We all put on our warm jackets!!!) and took the kids out in the back yard. We played soccer (Major's fave) and in the playhouse (Mary Alice's fave). Then we came inside and made some hot chocolate with my new Flavia machine (my fave) and went back outside to drink our hot chocolate and play some more.

Another fun thing about today... it is December 1st!!!! I was so excited to put up my Noelle Piper Advent Calendar (something I absolutely love!) and read the first bit of the Christmas Story with the kids. This and the BEAUTIFUL Christmas nativity that I got to put up this year are sure to become my favorite Christmas traditions. I love love love the Christmas story and am sad to say that it was never really a part of my own childhood Christmas memories. Something about "Christmas not really being Jesus' actual birthday" and "We should be celebrating Christ's birth all year long." or some other such nonsense. I hope that times have changed enough that we won't have to stick to silliness like that, but can instead celebrate Christ all year long, but especially on Christmas!

The kids and I went to Target and bought way too many Christmas items and presents. Then we went to Home Depot and bought a 2 ft tall live Christmas tree. It was so cute to see the excitement on the kids' faces as we bought this funny little tree. It is kindof like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It is not our real tree, but one that the kids will decorate with the ornaments that they made. They are so excited! I am so excited with them. I love days like this when we spend lots of quality time together. It is days like this that I am so thankful to be at home with them, watching them grow and learn, savoring every minute...