Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Tonight, I just want to close out this month of blogging by saying that I am thankful.  I love my family.  I love my job and the people I with whom I work.  I am thankful for the opportunity to get off of work and come home, to my own house.  I appreciate all of the friends in my life and I pray that I always remember to make sure they know this.

I am thankful for people who go out of their way to make sure you are okay, but I want to make sure I am that person to others.

I am appreciative for so much, but what I am realizing is that I need to make sure that I am the person others are thankful for, also.  I don't want to be the one who takes and takes but never gives.  I don't want my friendship to be a burden, but to be a mutual give and take with no expectations or repayment etc.  I am the type of person that will always be here for those I love, but the problem is I'm not always good at recognizing when there is a need.

So, to all of my loved ones, if there is ever anything I can do for you, will you please never hesitate to ask??  I know that asking is uncomfortable, but I really am not good at figuring these things out.  I promise I won't be burdened and actually look forward to the chance to "pay it forward".

Meanwhile, I am going to make it a point to be more in tune with people and their needs so that I can begin to meet needs without having to be asked.

I hope this makes sense...I have just had MANY people lately stepping up and pouring into me and my family and I feel so appreciative.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Failure?

Maybe.  I took a challenge to write in my blog every day for the month of March.  I started a couple of days late.  I missed a day here or there, and I missed this entire weekend.  Some may call that a failure, but I wouldn't have blogged during this weekend for any prize.

My husband had a "Wipe Out Run" that he was participating in with some people from his company.  It was being held in Baytown which is a little ways (maybe an hour) from our house in Katy.  He asked me if I wanted to come watch him participate, to which I responded "Absolutely!".  I don't know if he realized that this would be the perfect weekend to get away for a little bit, but it was the last weekend before my 4th graders took their first round of STAAR tests; today and tomorrow are day 1 and 2 of the Writing portion.  I'm their Reading and Writing teacher, so these days are pretty stressful.  Regardless of what is said, the scores matter.  With my future at my campus dangling in the air like a wind chime, I feel the pressure more than I ever have.  This isn't my first year to teach a tested subject/grade.  I taught 7th and 8th grade Reading and Writing before, so I'm not stranger to state exams.  However, there is a lot more riding on this test, for me, than ever before.  It's my chance to see if I'm making a difference.  It's my chance to prove to others that I am.  It's my kids' chance to show how incredibly amazing they are.

So, this past Thursday I woke up with a sore throat.  I stuck it out.  Friday morning, I wake up with absolutely no voice.  My writing liaison steps up and offers to teach my morning block in order to let my voice rest.  She offers to ask one of the other 4th grade teachers to step in for my for my p.m. block, but I didn't want to impose.  I assured her I would be able to make it through the afternoon if she was able to let me just assist in the a.m.  And I did.  Through the pain, I strained my voice for every last noise I could make.  Mind you, I'm not teaching my own students.  These are students from another 4th grade class, and I definitely did not want to let them down.  I asked for their forgiveness right away for not having the energy that I usually do, but I promised I would give them all that I could if they would do the same.  And they did.  These kids have truly shown me that they know the meaning of "rise up".

After I got home on Friday, I packed up a few changed of clothes for myself and my two sons.  We waited for my husband to get home, and then we were off to Kemah.  My husband told me to book a room for the night at the Kemah Boardwalk Inn.  I'm usually too worried about finances to spend extra money on a hotel for anything other than a trip to visit family, but  my husband had been pretty stressed at work, and I had been too.  So, I did.  And I made sure to get a room with a view of the boardwalk.  And you know what?  I don't regret the extra money we spent.  I don't regret spending a little extra to eat at one of the places that has been featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives.  I don't regret spending quite a bit for our little ones to ride a few rides on the boardwalk since they were too small for many. It was amazing.  I slept like a baby, and when I woke up, I didn't have to make the bed, do laundry, dishes, or anything else that I usually do.  We enjoyed dinner with friends, coffee on the boardwalk for breakfast on Saturday, and had a BLAST at the Wipe Out Run.  My youngest son made a new friend with the son of one of my husband's friends.  My oldest son conquered his fear of heights and rode a couple of rides that even made me a little squeamish.  My husband ran a 5K, wearing a red tutu and participated in a very amusing obstacle course along the way, all surrounded by several of his coworkers who just wanted to have a little fun.  I was so proud of the two ladies who ran with them for pushing through and finishing the race.  It was so much fun to watch, and I hope to participate next time.  The kids got to play in an area that had a bubble machine.  It was the highlight for them, I think. 

I came home and spent the day on Sunday getting the house in order.  I finished ALMOST all of the laundry and cleaned up a bit.  I did my grocery shopping.  I went to bed and slept like a log.  I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day.  I'm usually doing everything I can to keep myself awake on testing days, but today I was energized. 

So thanks, hunny, for taking me a way for a little while.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to spend some alone time with me and the boys.  Thank you for all that you do, day in and day out, to make it to where we are able to do these kind of things every now and then. 

I may have missed a few days of blogging, but it was so worth it. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Switching Kids

We are full swing into our "Writing Camp" for forth grade.  It's our way of having a little fun with the kiddos while reviewing for their upcoming writing STAAR which is on Monday.  We decided, as a team, that for the whole week, each person is teaching one lesson.  There are 4 teachers, so there are 4 topics ranging from revising and editing, to combining sentences, to addressing expository prompts and addressing narrative prompts.  So, I haven't taught my own two classes since Tuesday, and I have to say, I'm really enjoying it.  It's nice to see different faces, hear different voices, and experience different abilities/personalities.

But what is really surprising me is how much I'm enjoying that my own students are getting to experience the other teachers.  I am so blessed to work on a team that has 4 very different personalities teaching Reading, Writing, and Social Studies, and another who is there as our Writing Liaison, but who does SO MUCH MORE.  However, each one of these women is so knowledgeable that I have no fears in allowing them to teach my own students.  In fact, I'm kind of excited by it because maybe, just maybe, their way of teaching that particular topic makes more sense to someone who wasn't "getting it" with me.

I was just thinking about how different each one of our personalities is.  I'm the loud, laid back one.  We have a silly, motherly one who is so incredibly passionate about what she does and the kids she teaches.  We have another who is a very new teacher, but is so sweet and silly, and the kids adore her. The last one is incredibly funny and a little bit...how do we say....hyper organized?  She is so incredibly creative and artistic, and she is ALWAYS singing or dancing...or both.  The writing liaison is so incredibly energetic and funny, but she also holds the kids to such high standards.  She is often at work before I am, and I see her helping with so many different clubs and activities that I can't even count.

I believe the five of us, though incredibly different, have been very carefully knitted together.  These women all have amazing zeal for what they do, and they have truly lit a fire for me and reminded me that I still have so much room to grow.

While I still don't know if my principal is going to ask me back next year, I know that I have been challenged to my very depths this year.  I have worked longer and harder than I have in the past 5 years I have taught.  I have found that while I absolutely adored my 8th graders, I have a serious love for these 4th graders...really for elementary all together.  I have realized many areas for growth and truly feel that I am better now than I was in August.  Each one of these ladies has poured in to me in one way or another, and many more that I haven't even mentioned.  I am forever grateful, and while I don't know if I will be with all of them again next year, I pray every night that this will be the case because I can see such great things in store.

If not, I hope each one of them knows how much they are loved, valued, and appreciated.  I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My brother, John.

John means "Jehovah has been gracious."

My brother was born 6 weeks early after my mother fell outside of her home.  She landed on her stomach and her water broke.  To put this into perspective, my mother was 16 when she had my first brother, Chris.  She's now 18 and pregnant with her second.  She's a military wife since my dad joined the Army.  They are living in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, away from all of their family which was in Houston, Texas.  The year was 1978.  Technology was definitely not as it is now, which means medicinally we were not where we are now.
My brother was taken to Vanderbilt because he was very sick and struggling to survive.  The doctors were worried because, in their words, baby boys do not usually have the fight like baby girls.  The boys will often just lie there and die.  Well, John definitely did not.
He was a decent weight, over 5 pounds, but he was long, which means he was skinny.  His diapers swallowed him up.  He had no fat on his body.  But John didn't give up.  He survived.

Fast forward a few years.  They are now living in Germany.  John is mischievous, not purposefully all the time, but he's got a curious brain.  He was the kid who took things apart all the time just to figure out how they worked.  Well, one day a lamp stops working, so my brother had to figure out what the problem was.  He ended up sticking his finger in the light socket.  I'm not sure if you know, but in Germany, the electricity has a much higher wattage than in the U.S. or at least it used to.  My other brother yells for help, so my dad comes running to the rescue.

I cannot imagine what ran through my parents' minds, especially Dad's as he saw his little 4 (or maybe 5) year old son being electrocuted.  He did what they say not to, and he grabbed my brother.  The electricity then passed from my brother's body, into my dad's arm, and then blew out the back side of his elbow.  The doctors said that saved my brother's life because it gave the electricity a way out instead of running continuously through his tiny body.

So, the hospital gets to know John by name because he has to have skin graphs done.  He has to go in frequently to have the finger cleaned and  re bandaged frequently.  Mom says that was the worst part.  Changing the bandages hurt him.

My brother still has scars on his pointer finger and his finger nail never grew in quite right.  A constantly reminder, you could say, of that curious brain of his.

So, my brother, at 29 years old, ends up in the hospital with pains he describes like knives stabbing him in the chest.  His cholesterol was dangerously high and he was having a heart attack.  He ended up having to have triple bypass...  At 29 years old.  Everyone, even the nurses and doctors at the hospital, were blown away that he was having to have this done at such a young age.  We weren't so surprised.  My grandfather had his first heart attack at 27.  He passed away at the age of 34 from another.  This high cholesterol is hereditary, a problem that not even an internal medicine doctor has been able to rectify within my own mother.  Hers was almost 500 at one point in her life.  After weight loss surgery, the loss of 70 pounds, and numerous different concoctions of medications, it's still over 200, but it is in a much safer range than before.

 Back to John.  Even the surgery was difficult.  They had trouble getting the veins out of his legs so it took much longer.  Of course we didn't know why it was taking so long as we were waiting in the waiting room, so we were extremely nervous.

That was hard.  I thought I would be ok, but when they wheeled him in on his bed to see us before they wheeled him into the OR, it hit me.  He was in his gown all prepped and ready to go.  I remember he had his right hand over his head like if he was shielding his eyes from the light.  He was crying and trying to hide it. It's never easy to see a 6 foot 3 inch man cry, especially one who weighs over 250 pounds!!  He's a giant teddy bear.  That's when I lost it.  I started crying and just buried my face into my aunt's chest, sobbing.  That's my brother after all.  This was a serious deal.  They would be sawing open his chest for God's sake.  It was almost too much to think about.

Afterward,  it was so hard to see him intubated.  When he was in ICU, I remember a needle sticking out of his neck; I believe this was for the anesthesia. I remember as he started to wake up, he really wanted the tube out of his throat, but they wouldn't take it out until he would stay away.  So, I would remind him of that and he would SHOOT his eyes open as wide as he could and then motion with his hand a circle, as if saying, "OK, speed this up!"  He hated that tube.
I remember him being incredibly thirsty so I would run and get him lots of juice.  The medicines often cause dry mouth.  The absolute worse though was when he would have to cough, sneeze, or when he got the hiccups.  It was incredibly painful for him, and he would just hug a pillow to his chest and then cry.

So, when 6 years later he begin to have serious pains again, you cannot imagine the worry.  Luckily, his heart is fine.  His cholesterol is high again, but he's working on it.  He doesn't have health insurance, so it's difficult to get the medicine which is right at $150 a month for just the Crestor.  But through it all, I have realized just how much a brother's love is worth.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Even though we go long stretches of time without seeing or talking to each other, (I live in Katy, he lives in Corpus Christi, I work days, he works nights) we know that we will always have each other's backs and that life would not be the same without each other.

Last example, I get a phone call at 6 a.m. from my mother.  She is NOT a morning person, so I know something is wrong.  John was in a motorcycle wreck on his way home from work.  Someone cut him off, hit him, and fled.  His huge body was lying in the middle of the only major freeway in Corpus Christi, as a friend who (thank God) happened to be following behind him attempted to pull him to the shoulder.  She was a girl though and I've already told you how large my brother is.  He was knocked unconscious because his head hit the road, so he was dead weight.  She actually thought he was dead.  He always wears his helmet, so that saved his life.  But a stranger stopped on the middle of the freeway and helped pull him to the side.  Minutes later, another motorist runs over his motorcycle, splitting it into two and sending fragments everywhere.  That could have been my brother's body.

He is recovering well.  He has a few broken ribs, a broken scapula (shoulder blade) and a punctured lung.  Luckily his lung never collapsed, his scapula broke cleanly and began to heal without surgery.  But boy, those ribs cause some serious pain during healing.

So, while John often says that if he didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all, I say that his luck could have been much worse.  You see, yes, that electrocution was traumatizing, but it could have caused more damage, or death.It was terrible that he had to have open heart surgery at 29, but he also could have instead had a massive heart attack that ended his life at 29, much like our grandfather.
It was unfortunately that he married a woman with whom he just couldn't make it work, but I think it's better than never having known love at all.It was really heart breaking to have him finally get the motorcycle of his dreams, only to have it shattered.  It was horrible to see him in the pain he was in.  But it was SO good to get to see him at Christmas, to have him here on Earth to celebrate one more time.  It was SO amazing that he didn't have to see an orthopedic surgeon.  It was amazing that his punctured lung stayed inflated.  It was amazing that a perfect stranger, whom we NEVER met even to this day, willing stopped on the middle of a major freeway in the middle of the night to help pull a man to the side and ultimately save his life.

Much of life is about perspective, and John has truly helped me to remember to cling to the positive instead of allowing the negative to swallow me whole.

To go along with my previous posts about names, I believe John has proven his. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Have you ever gone through a struggle, and as you were striving to overcome, you truly could not picture the light at the end of tunnel?  Have you ever been so overwhelmed and felt so inadequate that you really wondered if it ever truly does get better?

If so, my word tonight are for you.  Don't give up.  I have been battling some very dark demons for many years, often in the privacy of my own heart, alone and completely frustrated.  There have been times when I felt so completely alone that I truly believed nobody in this world understands me.  I have tried to flesh it out and found that I simply do not have the ability to do so.  But.  I recently had a major break through.  I have found peace after battling for almost 14 years alone.  Except I really wasn't alone. My God was right there walking with me, waiting for me to turn to Him and BELIEVE that He's got this.

When I was struggling to find a teaching job that would work with son's schedule and would be closer to home, my brother started having heart trouble again.  (This is a blog in itself so I will write about him tomorrow).  I was incredibly worried about him, worried about my job, worried about everything as I always seem to be.  My husband bought me a new charm for my charm bracelet that says, "Let go.  Let God".  I used to say this all the time but realized I was not doing it.

As I looked at my charm last night after having some quiet time with God, I couldn't help smiling.  For the first time, I was truly letting go.  

And can I tell you, it is such a freeing feeling.  The trust I have that my Father has got this allows me to joy of just basking in his presence.  I am forever grateful for my God who is constantly pursuing me and never giving up on me.  I wish everyone knew this joy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's in a Name?

I am really big on names and their meanings.  I think it goes back to my Christian upbringing.  Reading the Bible, I learned that people were very careful in the names they chose for their children because they would live up to their names in essence.  Also, people would change their names according to specific special events/occurrences that would happen in their lives.
My name is Jennifer and is said to mean "fair one".  My middle name is LeAnn and means "light; beautiful woman".  I never thought my names meant a great deal, but growing in my faith has led me to realize that my parents were inspired by the Heavenly Father to give me those names, and I understand why.  You see, I have struggled with my weight since college.  I have made bad decisions that have caused me to feel ugly.  I have allowed myself to listen to the voice of the world that has told me I'm not beautiful, but that I'm worthless, not good enough etc.  Knowing my Father the way I have come to in the last few years has made me realize that regardless of the mud and the muck, I am beautiful because I am made in HIS image.  This means, when God looks at me, He sees His perfect son, Jesus.  I know I am FAR from perfect, but how many times have you gazed upon your own children and just thought that life couldn't be any more beautiful?  That's only a smidgen of what God sees when He looks at you, His beautiful creation.
So, my name is special.  And I love it more today than I think I ever have because regardless of what others think, Truth tells me that I was well thought out.  I was planned.  I had a purpose long before I was ever in my mother's womb.  I was deliberate.  I was not a mistake.  I was wonderfully made.  I am a child of God, the everlasting Father.  The Great I Am.  The One Who Was and IS and Is To Come.  I am royalty.  And I don't say this arrogantly.  I say this completely humbled that my Father would love me so much as to number the hairs on my head.  That He would love me enough to be there with open arms, waiting for me to accept His gift of grace and forgiveness.  And today, I accept that.

I am changed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Boys NEED to be Boys

Much of my life is centered around my two boys, so much of my writing is, as well.
Today, we went out to the soccer fields since Daddy had a soccer game.  The boys love to go, especially my youngest, J, because he LOVES soccer also.  Really, he loves ANY sport.

Today I began getting really serious about getting back to my healthy self, so while Daddy played, instead of sitting down and watching, like I usually do, I was up walking all over the empty fields and playing a little soccer with my boys.

However, the best part came when my boys decided they were going to be the devilish little men they are and they began playing in the water that has collected in the ditches from all the rain we have had lately.  It was a beautifully sunny and warm day today, so I fought everything in me that was wanting to yell at them, "Stop playing in that water!!  It's dirty.  That's gross!!"  etc etc.  And let me tell you, I was fighting it.  Literally, I was having conversations in my head about how I HAD to remember how much fun puddles of water used to be.
"But, disease and all sorts of nastiness could be in that water.  What if there's a scratch on one of their legs and something gets into it and we land ourselves in the ER??"
"Seriously Jennifer??  You played outside, usually barefoot and in God knows what.  You used to swim in the pond by your house.  You are sill alive and well."
I honestly thought about how they hear "No!" or "STOP!" so much in their lives.  And I thought about how stifling parents can be.  I decided I was going to shove all that fear down and let my boys be boys.

Can I tell you that watching them splash through that nasty water and hearing them giggle and laugh uncontrollably was so precious.  More than anything, they were playing TOGETHER.  They were united, as brothers, in their fun.  There was no arguing, no pushing, no shoving, no hollering, no crying, no tattling, NO SIBLING RIVALRY for about 20 glorious minutes.

They ended up dirty and soaking wet.  So my boys rode home in Dad's truck without any shorts...literally their T shirts and undies because I made them take their shorts, shoes, and socks off before getting in the truck.

 I worried that their dad would be mad that they would have to get into his truck all nasty, but as he walked up at the end of the game, he just laughed.  And my heart smiled for the first time in a long time.

Now, I challenge you to stop worrying so much and just let your boys be boys.  There's something amazingly beautiful about witnessing that happening.

p.s. I also went to the gym afterward and was on the treadmill for an hour straight (not running but walking briskly and running intermittently).  It felt AMAZING.  I'm bound and determine to work my way back into being the runner I once was.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


This seems to be a theme showing up over and over again in my life lately:  the need for truth.
One of my first blogs was about the secrets we bury inside.  I'm learning that those secrets tear us apart, ever so slowly until we are able to come to grips with them and finally let go of the secrets we have held.  After all, we are not the same people we were 5 years, 10 years, or however many it is we have been holding on to our secrets.
Several discussions I've had lately are about the need we have to be able to speak truth, in love, to one another.  How it is truly our responsibility to hold one another accountable, but I don't think we do because of fear of offending each other.  Personally, I think we need to quit being so defensive all the time and listen to what others have to say about us.  We might actually learn a little something about ourselves.
Right now, I'm thinking about truth and how so many people run from it.  I'm not sure why people lie to one another...I do know there are reasons such as fear or simply because we are doing something that deep down we are  not proud of.  My thing is, the truth will all come to light one day.  I have realized in my adult life that lies tear relationships apart.  Even when you think you're doing a good job of hiding, the fact is someone else is seeing through you whether you know it or not.  You're damaging another person.  It's not just you that is affected.  It's not a victimless crime.  But more than that, I'm realizing that some people really are just that wrapped up in themselves that they really don't care about the well being of others, and sadly, I think the number of people like this is only increasing.  We are raising children to think that it's all about me. me. me.  And this transfers into adults who simply cannot put others before themselves.  That is a sad world to live in, a painful one, one that rips people apart.
I'm challenging myself, and you if you're reading this, to let go of the dark little secret(s) that have been held inside for so long.  I'm bringing those to light, acknowledging them, but also acknowledging that I am smarter that I used to be.  I'm also challenging myself to stop lying, even about the little things.  Complete honesty.  I do not want to be the cause of hurt in someone else's life, and I'm tired of others hurting me by not being honest.  Will you take that challenge too?  This world needs more people who are not willing to hurt others with their lies.

Friday, March 20, 2015


So, my oldest some is in Kindergarten.  He has now been in two fights within one week.
The first one, definitely his fault and he definitely got in trouble for it.  He was saving a seat at the lunch table for a friend when another boy attempted to sit in the seat.  My son told him the seat was being saved and that he needed to go somewhere else.  The other boy refused so a shoving match started and ended with the other boy punching my son several times.  I hoped he'd learned his lesson.

Today, the nurse from school came and found me while I was attempting to scarf down my lunch (my son attends the school at which I teach).  Apparently a different little boy was chasing my son on the playground today and shoved him a few times.  My son kept trying to stay away but this boy wouldn't let up.  So my son pushed him back.  The boy then hit my son in the jaw and scratched his neck.  He was bleeding a little but was heading back to class when I caught up with him.  He was very upset about the entire incident, probably because of what had happened earlier in the week.  He explained what happened, and later the assistant principal spoke to both boys.

I am a little torn.  I know fighting is wrong and I've always said I would teach my kids it's never ok to hit.  However, I could not tell my son that he shouldn't have hit back in this last case.  I know the principal's job is to tell them that they should also leave the situation and let a teacher know, but I honestly think that if someone is instigating physical aggression, that you have every right to defend yourself.  After all, you have that right as an adult, why not as a kid?

So, my lesson to my boys has changed from, "It's never ok to hit" to "It's never okay to START a fight".  I'm confident this will teach my boys what I believe is right.  I don't want to teach my boys to be punks who pick fights, but I refuse to teach my boys to become, for lack of a better word, ninnys who cannot stand up for themselves and allow others to push them around.

All of this to say, parenting is really hard.  There is SO MUCH more involved in it than I ever imagined before becoming one, especially for those of us who take our jobs seriously and don't just sit on the sidelines.   I have so much respect for my own parents and all of those who are actively trying to raise their children to be the best they possible can.  I believe we will one day see the rewards of this hard work.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  Gal 6:9 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I don't know if it's because this is the first week back from spring break or if life is just catching up with me, but I have been beyond tired yesterday and today. 
Yesterday I literally came home and just stayed on the couch until I had to get my boys ready for bed.  They even fed themselves a dinner of poptarts while I napped...how terrible is that?? I did manage to grade papers before bes though.

Today, I've forced myself to get started on defensive driving (not for me, but my husband...yes I'm that awesome... Or that much of a sucker). 
I am blogging since I missed two days in a row.  And I'm About to read with my oldest son.  

All of this to say that the world never stop a turning just because Mama's tired.  :)

Time to hit up some "Horton Hears a Who".

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Sundays.  I love them.  There is nothing like waking up and going to the House of God to worship and be filled.
All I want to say today is that I am so thankful to live in a country where I can worship without fear.
Tonight, I'm praying for my brothers and sisters around the world who are having to meet in secrecy.  For those proclaiming the gospel knowing it may cost their lives.  For those who are being persecuted.  I pray for you.  Admire you.  Love you.  Thank God for you.
I pray that I, too, can speak with confidence of His love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Want to be a Lady

I mean, I really want to be treated like a fragile, delicate flower.  I want to be wooed.  I want people to be careful of what they say because they don't want to offend my ears.  I want doors to be held for me and all of that.

But then, my son farts and I laugh.  Or, my three year old is hear yelling, "Mommy, I'm dooooonnnneeeee!!!!" which is my cue to come clean his bottom since he has  not quite mastered that art.
Or better yet, I go outside and begin to clean the land mines my two labs have left all over the yard.  Sweat dripping, I begin to get swarmed by what I'm convincing myself were just gnat.  God please tell me those were just gnats.

I have to clean splatter off toilets, both from #1s and #2.  Much of my life deals with gas and bowels; I'm convinced that's normal with two smalls sons and a husband.  I grew up with two older brothers, so I think I'm pretty conditioned to deal with these things.  I don't have a weak stomach and to be honest, I'm not sure how any mother does.

Yes, I'd love to be a frilly "lady", but that's not my reality.  Deep down, I'm glad it's not.  I love to get muddy from working in the yard with my oldest son.  I love to sweat.  Farts are funny to me.  Having booger problems doesn't gross me out; it more so makes me want to fix the problem.

This life isn't glamorous, but it's MY life.  And it's beautiful.  And I am beyond blessed.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Visit From Mom

I think it's funny how, as a teenager, I didn't want much to do with my mom.  Our relationship was strained, to say the least, and I couldn't wait to get out of the house.  I actually spoke with my high school counselor and worked with her to get me out of there in three years.  So, I turned 17, and a short 3 months later, I graduated high school.  A few months after that, I moved away from home.  I was a freshman in college and wasn't even old enough to "go out" with my friends.

Anyway, things happened in college that put me in a bad place emotionally.  There was always one person I could count on to be there for me, and it was my Mama.  She made several trips to College Station just to come be with me when I was feeling exceptionally down.

She's always been that person.  She dropped everything to drive 4 hours to come be with me for the birth of both of my boys.  She wouldn't have missed that for the world.  As a new mother with an infant that wouldn't sleep, she was the one assuring me that I could do this, that I wasn't a mess up, and that all I needed to do was keep loving that boy.  I can remember crying the day she left after spending two weeks with me after my second son was born.  I knew I could handle one, but I was petrified of dealing with two ALONE.

When I've had marital issues, she's always there to remind me that marriage is a covenant, and that nobody said it'd be easy.  She's always told me how beautiful I am, especially when I'm feeling particularly ugly.  She's truly always been my biggest fan and supporter.  You name it, Mama's there.

So, I get excited when she comes to visit.  She came today, and I realized how the minute I see her, I get a huge smile.  That because Mama always makes it better.

Thank you, Mama, for loving me so hard, especially when I was hard to love.  Your example of love is a constant reminder to me of how we should love one another.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pennies and Horses

My husband took all of us to the Rodeo tonight.  I finally got to see the Zac Brown Band and they were amazing.
Being in that environment takes me back to my younger years when I'd come visit my aunt who ran an arena.  She and my uncle did team pinning and their daughter was a barrel racer.  I was just happy riding on a horse doing nothing in particular.
I always wanted a horse but we couldn't afford one.  I always dreamed of having one though.  Still do actually.  

So,I asked my six year old if he'd buy me one some day.  His response was, "do they only cost pennies??".
I love his heart because I know what he was thinking.  He saves up and has several piggy banks full.  He would willingly use his money to buy me something that would make me happy.  I hope that heart never changes.
And who knows? Maybe when I retire, that's what spend my time and money doing, raising horses.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Painful Teenage Years

A very good friend of mine has a daughter who is 14, and I was reminded today of just how much I do not miss being that age.

My friend home schools her daughter, so most of her friends are from her homeschool Co-Op and church.  Well, apparently her friends hang out frequently and don't invite her.  I, of course, don't know all of the whys, but I do know how much it hurts to be the person on the outside.  My heart breaks for her because I know how emotional you are at that age already without others adding fuel to the fire.

If I can stress anything to girls her age, it's not to let others get to you.  Trust me, I know that's easier said that done, but you have to understand that girls that age are all about themselves.  They do not think about how their actions may hurts others, and even if they do, they often don't care.  Keep being who you are, love and forgive.  You are going to meet someone someday who you connect with, and this person will become your best friend.  And even if this friendship does not last into adult hood, it has been given to you for this period of your life for a reason.  This person will help you feel like you belong, like you are fun, and like you are cared about.

I think back to my teenage years and have a few that come to mind.  Most are not my friends anymore, but they were a very important part of my younger years and will always be very special to me. So hang in there young one.  And know that no matter what, your value is not based on what others think of you.  Your value comes from far Greater.

Love you sweet girl.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Breaking the Rules

I've never been much of a rule breaker.  I was incredibly fearful of my dad and saw my two older brothers get in trouble enough to know I did NOT want to make those same mistakes.  So I'm still one who gets nervous at breaking any kind of rules because I just have this serious fear of getting caught, for one.

So, last night, I broke a rule.  (hangs head)

One of my dogs, the female (Lillie) who is usually super hyper, was being very cuddly.  It rained literally all day yesterday, so the weather was perfect for relaxing.   I don't even know how it happened, but she ended up on the couch with me.  She was so still and so sweet that I did not have the heart to make her get down.  So, there she was.  And there I was breaking the rules.

It was worth it.  Maybe sometimes a little rule breaking is okay?  Don't tell my boys, please!

I have included a picture as evidence that my husband, too, has allowed her to break the rules a couple of times.  She inched her way up into his lap in his recliner.  He's staunchly against animals on the furniture, but he couldn't resist her cuteness.  This makes my heart smile.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Differences Part 2: Focusing on my Youngest Son

So, yesterday I introduced you to the trials I faced with my first born son.  I will call him B.  :-)
Today, I will talk about how different my second son, J, is from B and how it completely blows my mind.

My pregnancy with J was polar opposite from B.  It took a little longer for one thing.  4 months of wanting to get pregnant felt like an eternity, so much so that I actually starting thinking that something must be wrong.  Comical now considering I have friends who had to try for YEARS.

My pregnancy was as perfect as a pregnancy can be.  No gestational diabetes this time.  Weight gain stayed right where I wanted it.  I felt good.  I had energy.  I did get sick a few times the first trimester, but I learned it was my prenatals.  So, over the counter prenatal at night instead of prescription during the day.  Apparently the folic acid in prescription is stronger and is what tends to cause sickness.  Other than this and hip pain toward the end, everything was great.  I was taking P17 shots to try to help make it to term with this one.

I woke up one morning with some "cervical change".  I was 36 weeks and 6 days.  Instead of rushing to L&D, I took a bath.  Then realized I needed to figure out what to do with B.  Ha.  Hadn't even thought of that part.  Luckily we had some friends willing to watch him.  So off we go to take him to their house.  After we get there, I'm standing around talking with them.  The husband finally says, "Don't you think you should get to the hospital?"  I kinda laughed and said I guess go.

I wasn't having contractions yet.  The rooms were all full, of course.  So after they checked me and told me I was already 5 centimeters, they sent me to the waiting room.  I saw B's old daycare teacher and talked with her a while until the contractions started.  They came on hard.  A guy in there starting panicking and told the nurses I needed a room STAT.  I thought it was funny.  I was just sitting there breathing.

Labor was still tough.  After all, it is LABOR.  My epidural hurt this time and did not work yet again, unless I was lying on my side.  Then it would kick in.  So. Weird.  I asked if I could deliver on my side.  My doctor was out on maternity leave, so there was another from her practice standing in.  She said I could deliver however I wanted.  This baby was coming out face up also.  Apparently I have a narrow pelvis and this forces my children to come out face up; it also forces my body into labor early.  I ALMOST made it to "term" which is 37 weeks.  Looking back, I see this was J's determined attitude of "I'll do what I want when I want."

I was able to deliver him a little more easily and a couple hours more quickly that B.  But we had a HUGE scare.  During deliver his heart rate dropped also.  I knew what that meant; I'd been here before.  So I gave it my all.  He came.  He was quiet.  I was excited that I got to hold him right away, unlike B.  And Daddy got to cut the umbilical cord, unlike with B.  But then I noticed his chubby little cheeks were awfully blue.  He was still and he was not crying.  They do their initial review of him and his score is low.  I start to panic because time is passing, they're rubbing him like crazy, and he's still silent.  My husband is crying.  My dad has the most concerned look on his face, and I'm supposed to be finishing up with the last bit of labor and "reconstruction" as I call it.

I look over to the bed where they have about 4 people working on him, and I see a tube.  I REALLY panic now.  I ask if they are intubating him, and my dad assures me they are not.  They are vacuuming out his throat etc to try to clear his air way.  He's still blue.  Really blue.  I think it was right around a minute, maybe more before he let out that cry.  When he did, everything in me was sucked out.  I just laid my head down and sobbed.  I thanked God right then and there.  They brought him back to me for short while to love on him.  He was so beautiful.  Dark curly hair and DARK DARK eyes.  Big lips and long eye lashed.  And he was so much chubbier than his older brother was.  A pound and a half more so.  He was 7 pounds 15 ounces.

They took him from me again because he had to go into a 4 hour observation.  He was struggling a little bit to breathe, but nothing super serious.
After I ate, I sent my husband home to rest and leave me be at the hospital.  Mom and everyone else went home to take care of B.  About 2 hours later, there's a knock at my hospital door, and in rolls baby J.  He did so well that he was getting to come to be with Mama already.  I immediately got him out of his bed and put him in mine.  We cuddled all night.  He actually spent the first night lying in between my legs.  I used to sleep like that with my mom.  It was the only way I was comfortable having him in bed with me and not having to worry about him falling off the bed.
The nurse was a little worried when she came in and saw his bed empty and didn't see him.  I smiled and lifted the blanket to show her where he was; she relaxed and smile back at me.

He was great.  He ate well.  Slept well.  He went home with me.  It was wonderful.  He started sleeping through the night around 2 weeks old.  And I mean SLEEP.  12 hours was normal for him.  We'd be playing in the day and all of the sudden, he'd be passed out on the floor.  B NEVER slept anywhere but his bed or swing.  J would fall asleep in his high chair as he got older.  B NEVER did that.

Personality, J has tons of it.  He reminds me of Taz.  He's go go go go go all day until his head hits that pillow.  Sitting still is torture.  He loves sports and is good at just about anything he tries.  He's the class clown.  He's a super cuddler.  He has gotten in trouble a lot at daycare for being "rough".  He loves to wrestle, tackle etc.  He's boy to the extreme, and it's funny because he has a very tiny frame.  He's very skinny and muscular.   His hair used to be to his shoulders and has always been curly.  We finally cut it a little shorter when he began getting called a girl.  The curls are more waves now.  His eyes are still jet black.  J likes to eat his french fries before his chicken nuggets.

B is much more observant.  He's shy at first and is a definite people watcher.  He can often be found sitting by himself playing.  He's not as athletic, but has the build of a lineman.  He does play sports but just isn't as fanatical about any of them like J is.  He prefers art, drawing, coloring, writing, reading.  B was never very affectionate; he is more so now than before.  B likes to eat his chicken nuggets before his french fries.

These are my two little boys in a nutshell.  They are as different as different can be.  They both have amazing qualities about themselves that people are drawn to.  J is Mr. Social Butterfly.  B flashes his sweet dimples and wins you over.  My heart is full because of these two, and why they do make me feel like I'm toying with the line between sanity and insanity, I have been trusted with raising them into strong young men.  I don't take that lightly.  And I am so glad they are so different because that makes loving each of them so easy.

Psalm 149:14

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Differences (story of my first born's birth etc)

Today has been a much better day than yesterday.  My boys let me sleep until around 9:30.  I think that's the latest I've slept in in ages.  I had a horrible headache, but thank God I didn't let that cause me to cancel my workout date with a girlfriend of mine because afterward, I felt reenergized.  Funny how exerting energy can actually cause you to feel more energetic.  I have got to get back into the routine.

Anyways.  My boys have still be fighting like crazy today.  Sometimes I really think my oldest gets a kick out of making the youngest upset.  But they have also been playing together really well.  Right now, they are literally handcuffed together (play handcuffs of course) and running through the house shooting at the bad guys with their nerf guns.  Daddy even got in on the action by hiding behind the recliner and ambushing them.  I live for these moments.

I often think of how different my boys are, and it completely amazing me seeing as how they have the same blood pumping through their veins.  My oldest son has been very difficult from day one.  I knew I was pregnant with him before ever taking a test because I was sick.  Not vomiting, but literally wishing I could because I was so sick at my stomach ALL day, every day.  I would even try to make myself get sick in hopes of a little relief.  The first doctor's appointment I had was horrible.  Looking back, I think the doctor was a quack, but I didn't know that then.  She did an exam and freaked me out because I had some slight bleeding.  She immediately told me she thought I was having a miscarriage and told sent me on my way to schedule a sonogram immediately.  My mother was with me and wasn't too happy about me being pregnant anyway because my wedding was a short 2 months away.  She wanted me to focus on one thing at a time, but I know she supported me regardless.  When she came back into the exam room, I was crying hysterically.  I wanted a baby.  This baby was planned (just happened a little sooner than I thought it would).  Now this doctor is telling me I might be losing the  baby.  Mom asked what was wrong, so I told her.  She teared up but tried to remind me that if my body was miscarrying, it's usually because there is something wrong with the baby.  I know what she was trying to do, and it did calm me a little, but I was still praying that God would not take this joy from me.

So, I had the internal sonogram and saw my baby and the little tiny heartbeat.  I was in love and had to have prayed harder than ever that God let me hear and see this little heartbeat for at least 7 more months.  Again, the quack doctor told me I'm not miscarrying but I am now high risk because I have a complete placenta previa.  So, I was now fearing that I'd have to have a c-section, hemorrhaging etc etc.

I thought bed rest would be great.  It's not.  I got scolded for simply walking to go sit outside and enjoy fresh air.  I couldn't go to work.  I was constantly afraid of messing up and hurting my child.  I was still constantly sick.  Hot baths were the only reprieve and I wasn't supposed to be taking those either apparently.  Anyway, long story short, my pregnancy was hard.  I was in preterm labor starting around 7 months.  I kept going in and having sonograms because my fluid level would drop dangerously low.  If it kept up, I was going to HAVE to deliver early.  Then the level would shoot back up mysteriously.  It was weird and almost inexplicable.  I kept going in with horrible contractions, got shots to stop them and was sent home.  Finally, my new doctor (we now had been married and moved to a new town) told me I wasn't going to make it to term.  She wanted me to have steroid injections to help develop my baby boy's lungs.  I went in 3 times, 12 hours apart to have these done.  And then my water broke when I was 35 weeks.  I was actually glad.  I regret that now, but I had prayer that this baby would hurry up and be born.  I was miserable.  I gained way too much weight, had gestational diabetes, was poking my finger 4 times and day, and was sick of these contractions.  So, on November 12, 2008, I finally went into a  labor that would not be stopped.  It didn't hit me until they verified it was my water that broke and not just me having an accident on myself (yes, that happens when you are pregnant, and even afterward if you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump lol pretty much anything can cause it).  Then panic set in.  I really thought I was going to be sent home like every other time, but they assured me he was going to be born today.  Labor was horrible.  My epidural didn't work for some reason.  And he was sunny side up.  That makes labor even harder and more painful.  Eventually, I gave up.  I couldn't do this.  I threw myself back and said I was done.  My doctor gave me a heart to heart and let me know that his heart rate was dropping dangerously low.  We had to get him out and we had to do it NOW.  I cried.  I was failing at being a mom before my child was even more.  So, she helped with forceps.  I would never agree to this now, but in that moment, I was willing to do whatever to get this child welcomed into this world.  So he comes, all 6 pounds 7 ounces of him.  And he's beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.  He looks just like his daddy.  He's crying, he's healthy, but he's a little skinny.  So, they take him to NICU, my husband goes with him as they finish up with me.  And I cry.  My son was in NICU now and I felt it was all my fault.  I rushed this.  I prayed he'd be born early and he was.  Now, I would go home while my baby stayed at the hospital.

For 6 days.   6. Long. Days.

It was my routine that every hour and a half, I made a trip up to the hospital for his 30 minute feedings.  He was eating well.  He was sleeping well.  But he had to stay because he couldn't regulate his own body temperature.  My heart ached for him to be home with me.  I was exhausted from the constant trips.  I was frustrated because I was having to bottle feed more than I wanted.  But at least his lungs were healthy.  He was breathing on his own from day one.  He had 10 fingers and 10 toes, even a crooked little one just like me.  His grey eyes and dark hair.  Oh man I was in love more than I ever thought possible.  I remember seeing my husband hold him for the first time with tears in his eyes.  I remember how proud he was to be a dad, and how proud he was of the hard work I put in, even though I felt like I messed it all up.  It was beautiful and my soul needed to see that from him.

As an infant, my oldest child was miserable.  He didn't sleep well at home.  Let me correct that, he slept beautifully during the day and was up all night.  Until he was 8 months old.  You want to talk about feeling like you're crazy.  I remember sitting and holding this screaming child at night, rocking back and forth with me crying.  Again, I felt like I messed up.  New mommys "glow" and love being a mommy.  I felt like I needed to be committed.  Why, after all that we had been through, was this so hard?

Well, he was lactose intolerant.  Problem one.  Figured that out, fixed it, and it helped a bit.  One he was 8 months old, I went back to work teaching.  He went to day care.  I think that helped wear him out.  I remember the first night he slept 9 hours.  I panicked when I woke up, fearful that something bad happened.  I ran and checked on him.  He was sleeping peacefully.  That was moment to be savored.

After this, he became  a wonderful toddler.  He has temper tantrums occasionally, but overall, he was a good listener.  He was an early walker, talker etc.  By 9 months he was running and talking.   He was wonderful.  He's a little headstrong now, but I don't think I could really expect less considering both of his parents are also.  He gets it honest.

And then there is the second child.  Different from day one.  But this post went on longer than planned.  Seems like once my fingers get going, they don't want to stop (kinda like my mouth).  I'll tell my second child's story tomorrow.

But what I'm focused on right now, is how very different my boys are and how I know that was done deliberately.  I know that I can love each one and a VERY different, VERY real way without ANY fear of worrying that I love one more than the other.  They both have so much to offer this world.  They both bring so much to my life that I could never imagine feeling like I have a favorite.  And I know this was God's doing.  He knew what I needed and what these boys needed.  I just hope I can be that for them as they are for me.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring Break...where did the excitement go?

I used to look forward to Spring Break more than just about any time of year when I was teenager.  I grew up in Corpus Christi, so Spring Break meant I got to spend the time at the beach that I had been longing for.  My mornings were early.  I'd wake up, throw on my bathing suit, grab a towel and tanning oil, maybe a chair and head out.  I'd usually meet friends out there or pick a couple up.  And off we went to waste our days away out at the beach.  I can remember lying out in the sun with my radio blaring, sometimes reading a book, sometimes just closing my eyes and listening to the steady rhythm of the waves crashing in and rolling back out.  We usually played some beach volleyball and would just walk the beach looking to see if we knew anyone else out there.  My tan would be a beautiful bronze by the end of the week.  My hair a little blonder.

Today was day 1 of Spring Break 2015.  My plans were to sleep in, but my dog had a different idea.  As my husband left the house sometime around 6 a.m., she decided she wanted to come play.  So up I go to let her out of her kennel and outside.  I lie back in my bed only to have to get right back up and let both dogs back in since the other decided to bark his brains out.  I don't think all of my neighbors would appreciate that much.

So I'm up.  But at least it's quiet.  So I enjoy my breakfast: a divine bowl of lucky charms and try to find something "grown up" to watch on T.V. since this is the only time I get to do so.  All I can find is yard crashers.  I guess this will do.  As I sit, eating the brown pieces of the cereal first so I can leave all the marshmallows for last, listening to the t.v., I savor the quiet only to have it broken by the dogs doing what I can only describe as wrestling.  Two big chocolate labs, one gnawing on the back leg of the other.  The female pouncing on the male.  The male growling at her to leave him alone.  She takes this as encouragement to aggravate him more.  I just wonder when life will ever be quiet again.  There is just so. much. noise.  All the time.  Seriously.  All the time.

So, I go back to bed.  I'm probably lying down for about 20 minutes when my oldest son comes in.  He's not a morning person, so I know better than to try to have a conversation for at least another 30 minutes.  He asks for cartoons, and I oblige.  After all, the sound of t.v. doesn't bother me.  I can sleep with it on no problem.  Then, in strolls the 3 year old.  Forget it.  I'm done.  He's nothing but noise so I know my attempts at sleep and relaxation are done.  Into the bath I go.  Here comes Lillie, my female lab.  She wants to climb into the tub with me.  I'm continually having to shove her 65 pound body off the edge of the tub where she's trying desperately  just to dangle her paws in the water.  She's so cute, but she's aggravating.

I give up on a relaxing bath and quickly wash my hair.  The boys are both watching cartoons and I decide to fold the two loads of laundry I washed last night but left in the hamper.  I swear my home life is consumed by laundry.  I don't even know where this all comes from, but if I don't wash and fold at least 1 load a day, I end up buried in a pile of clothes that I swear multiplies on its own the longer I leave it in the hamper.

The rest of the morning goes much like this: I tell the boys to do something, they whine, complain, grunt etc to make me feel like what I say does not matter.  Getting clothes on is a battle.  The three year old brings out a spider man shirt and black sweats that have a lime green stripe down the side.  Did not match at all.  That becomes a battle.  You'd think it'd be an easy win but good Lord Almighty this boy is STRONG WILLED.  He HAS to have spiderman though...until he see his Houston Texans jersey.  Now he HAS to have that.  The oldest continually picks fights with the youngest.  Much of my morning is spent yelling at them to leave each other alone until I feel like a broken record and seriously wonder how long this sibling rivalry will last.  For God's sake I didn't know it started THIS early.  I get the boys to help getting their laundry put away, but of course not without much protesting from each.  Finally, it's out the door because I have errands to run.
This is the easy part.  Walk out.  Go to the car.  Get in. Buckle Up.  Right?  Wrong.

It goes more like this: walk out, grabs bikes, start riding around the neighborhood even with Mama telling you to come back.  Finally come back.  Argue around who won the race.  Make little brother cry.  Put bikes up.  Fight about where the bikes go.  Knock a bike over.  Make little brother cry again. Get youngest in carseat and buckled.  Youngest demand Mama's phone.  Argue.  Oldest climbs up front.  Argue with mom about sitting in back where he belongs.

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

Even lunch is a battle.  My boys are running through the restaurant.  MY BOYS.  I tell them to come sit down several times and they do.  Only to get right back up a few minutes later.  I am so close to blowing a gasket.  So, I grab them.  We leave.

The youngest is crying.  A few men are walking in and say, "Aww.  Someone is NOT happy."
If they only knew.  Yes.  Mama is NOT happy.  Mama feels inadequate 95% of the time, unappreciated, overlooked, taken for granted.  Mama is tired.  Mama wants a little peace and quiet.  A getaway from everything.  Mama wants Spring Break to be a time of catching up on relaxation.

This is the life I always dreamed of though, so why is it so much harder than I imagined?  How much of what I feel is "normal"?  I love my boys.  I love my career.  I love what I do.  I just wish that sometimes I was able to get a little break from it all.  I know if I could, it'd be an opportunity to recharge and give my best in all aspects.

Anyway, the dog is whining again and I still have another load of laundry waiting in the dryer.

To all the other overwhelmed moms out there:  I know it's hard to admit that this isn't easy.  I hope you know that you are not alone.  We don't all have it figured out.  Some of us can make it look like we have it all together but we are truly hanging on by a thread.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

And I know I'm not either.  Keep doing what you're doing and don't forget that it truly is a blessing to be a mom.  Hang on to the little glimmers of hope that you catch when the boys are sitting nicely together watching Monster Jam videos and actually sharing the phone.  Or when they go out back together and can be heard actually playing...together...without fighting or crying.  There is hope.  Keep setting your expectations and holding the kids to them.  Give consequences.  But more importantly, give them love.  Praise them when they remember to say "yes ma'am" without being told.  Praise them when they are playing nicely together.  Praise them when they help each other out.  They need to know that they can do something right...Just like you'd like to know you're doing this right.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Boys vs. Girls

My principal likes to have "reflection" meetings with us after we taken any district exams.  We use this time to review the areas in which we did well and not so well.  We try to figure out the "why" behind both in hopes of increasing the areas in which we do well.

Today, I had one with her.  I don't typically learn anything new, per se, in these meetings.  I usually notice things, analyze etc.  But today I learned that there is a possibility that my teaching is reaching the girls in my class more than the boys.  The girls out performed the boys significantly, which is funny considering I have FAR MORE boys than girls.

I don't know that my teaching is impacting this directly.  I do know that girls typically are more mature at younger ages, so that may play a part.  My girls overall are very driven.  They seem to care more about their work than the boys overall.  I'm sure all of this is making an impact.  There are many other outside things that may be contributing to this, things I cannot control.

But...what if my teaching IS impacting this?  Well, I can control that.  I can change my methods and try to reach the boys more.  I do know that as a woman, I gravitate toward the girls for many reasons. I don't have a girl of my own, so I do love those girls like crazy.  Another part is just from my middle school background.  It wasn't safe to pour into the boys like I would the girls.  It was frowned upon and that last thing you want as a female teacher of middle school students is people talking about how close you are to the boys.  It doesn't look good.

Elementary is different.  It's just now getting to where I'll even hug my male students in the morning (it's a bit of a norm at my school to hug each student as they walk into your room in the morning).  I have to say I was COMPLETELY uncomfortable doing so, and I didn't do it at all until recently.  It's still a side hug, but it's better than nothing. :-)

So now I'm trying to figure out how to try to reach these boys.  I know they are much more literal of thinkers.  I know their attention spans are typically much shorter.  I know they need more movement etc than girls typically.  I'm trying to figure out exactly what I can do to make sure I'm doing MY best to reach EACH child.  I never in my life would have thought about the fact that I could possible be reaching one gender more than the other has my principal not pulled up the data.  I'm always looking to improve as a teacher, so I'm glad we looked at this!

Any suggestions or comments about what works for you are greatly appreciated!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Holding On to the Positive

It's easy to get caught up in the stress this time of the year.  I teach two of the three "tested" subjects for fourth grade.  STAAR is right around the corner, and I would be lying if I said the pressure couldn't be felt.  As much as people like to deny it, we all know that part of our job security rests in the performance of our students: it's a reflection of us.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, though, that most people don't have the privilege of seeing.  I am one of the lucky few.  I have had the joy of watching one of my students go from hating to write to simply plugging away.  At the beginning of the year, she would literally cry during our writing assignments.  "I don't know how to start my paper!"  "Is this okay??" she would ask after almost every sentence she wrote.  She would always ask me to read over her paper before she would turn it in.  She learned really quickly that Mrs. Peña is as determined as she is.  I always told her that I would most certainly read over her paper once she was confident in what she was turning in.  I encouraged her to read over it herself and to ask others in the room to do so.  At the beginning of this year, I had to all but tell her what to put into her graphic organizers because she was defeated before she ever began.  "I'm not good at writing!" she'd try to convince me.  I hugged her tight and told her, "I've heard the stories you tell.  If you can talk, you can write."

Yesterday, we had to do TELPAS writing.  She is not one of my ESL students, but they all have to complete the writing assignment so as not to isolate any students.  This is literally all my students did...write to a prompt.  My girl, the one who struggled to complete her writing just a few months ago, got to work with a smile on her face.  She didn't ask for help finding a topic on which to write.  She didn't ask me for help in finding supporting details.  She completed her pre-writing COMPLETELY independently.  The next thing I knew, she whispered my name and held up her paper.  Before I looked, I told her, "I can't help you with this."  She responded with an indignant, "No, Mrs. Peña!  Look at how much I've ALREADY written!"  Her face beamed.  Her paper was completely full.  Oh my word.  My sweet girl.  I smiled and even now as I sit here typing these words, I have tears in my eyes.  She has overcome so much and she doesn't even realize it.  She doesn't need me to get her started now.  She doesn't need my reassurance that her writing is "good" because she knows it is.  She no longer sheds tears but glows with a confident radiance of child who knows she is capable.

She finished her revisions with no guidance.  As a matter of a fact, she finished everything without a peep.  When she came to turn in her final draft, I just knew I'd have to tell her to go back and revise, but she already had done that!

Now, I, of course, want her to pass her STAAR.  I want her to more than pass, but to soar with flying colors.  BUT, in my heart of hearts, if she has a bad testing day and doesn't do well, I'm still proud.  She has still touched my heart and made this teacher believe in what I am doing again.  Thank you sweet, sweet girl for pushing through the hard times.  Thank you for not giving up and for believing in yourself.  Thank you for listening to this woman you could blow off and for buying into the truths I've been trying to pour into you.  Don't let this world rob you of your confidence.  Don't let them try to convince you that you can't, because baby girl, you CAN.

~She believed she could, so she did.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mama Bird

It's easy for me to think that blogging is not for me.  I live an ordinary life.  I have an ordinary job as a 4th grade teacher.  I'm the mother to two ordinary little boys.  I have a routine.  It's not exciting.

But then, when I stop to think, I realize that one thing I'm preaching to my students is that you can write about ANYTHING.  When you write a personal narrative, you can choose to write it about a small event that may have seemed meaningless at that moment, but perhaps it made you realize something significant.  You can write poetry about literally ANYTHING, serious, funny, real, fake...

So I'm doing that today.  I'm taking something seemingly ordinary, and I'm writing about it.

Today, we were blessed enough to be able to take our kids outside for recess.  The weather has been rainy or REALLY cold for us southerners (yes, down in the 40s!!).  So, we have all had just about enough of Just Dance for inside recess.

As I was standing there monitoring the kids as they were playing, I noticed a congregation forming over near the fence.  If you know anything about 9-10 year olds, congregations are rarely a good thing.
So, being the excellent monitor that I am, I walked over there (actually I was really just nosey and wanted to see what was grabbing their attention and make sure nobody was being hurt).  As a came near to the several kids who were couching down, I began to hear a REALLY loud noise.  It was a constant kind of screeching.  One kid noticed me coming and starting saying, "Mrs. Pena!!  Look!!!  The mama bird laid eggs!!"

I immediately cleared them all away.  Luckily the eggs were on the OTHER side of the fence.  They were fairly large for this bird, but they were just lying on a little dirt dug out spot in the grass.  No nest.  Poor Mama bird was the one making the racket.  She was frantically pacing near the eggs, squawking with all her might trying to warn off these intruders!!  Daddy was in the background, ready to join in if needed.

I started talking to Mama and told her to calm down, that she was doing a fantastic job and that I wouldn't let any of these kiddos hurt her babies.  She chirped back a few times, still uneasy.  I stood a few feet away with my back to the bird and eggs now and made sure the students left her alone.  As some of the boys would some running near the fence again due to their ever so competitive football game, she would begin squawking again!  It warmed my heart to see this little Mama doing everything she could to protect these babies.  I would turn to her and tell her not to worry.  To reassure her that her efforts were paying off.  She eventually calmed down enough to walk back over to the eggs and lie down on them.

I couldn't help myself by turning and talking to her a little more, encouraging her on and admiring nature's way of doing what needs to be done to survive and protect.

It made me think of my own efforts as a mom.  How many times am I doing all I can to be the mama that I want to be?  How many times have I became frightened that I was messing up and going to ruin my kids?  Or felt like I was just ready to give up because this being a mama business is no easy task? Then...how many times have I had another mama swoop in and reassure me that my efforts are not in vain?  To encourage me on?  To calm me down?  Or really to come and help me out?

Thank you to each and every woman who has poured into me and let me know that I am a good Mama.  We are a community and we all need to encourage one another on. Because Lord knows this is the hardest job ANY woman will ever have.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted to name him Jericho.  As a matter of fact, my husband and I had decided on this name until he changed his mind at the last minute.  Many of you may know the story of the walls of Jericho and how they crumbled simply because Joshua was obedient.  I didn't realize until last night how much of a picture that name represents.

As I sat with my group of friends reading and learning of the problems we face, I came to the realization that the walls we build, while we think they are for protection, are in actuality secrets we bury deep inside.  Secrets we are afraid to reveal for fear of shame, judgement, smeared reputations.  People wouldn't truly love me if they knew _____ about me.  So we bury.  We hide.  We pretend.

Sister, I'm here to tell you that these walls alienate.  They cause you to distance yourself from others.  You say you won't let someone in because you won't allow them to hurt you.  What you are really doing is robbing yourself of the opportunity of building lasting friendships based on honesty and vulnerability.  Acceptance and love.  Think of when you did build a strong friendship and you shared your every secret.  Wasn't that friendship as precious as gold?  Wouldn't do you anything to nurture and protect it?  Why would that be any different as an adult?

We have got to stop silently (and sometimes not so silently) judging others.  We have to also step out and trust that those we love will love us regardless.  They will see our hurts and hurt with us.  They will see see our mistakes and see how we have learned from them and celebrate that with us.

When we learn to practice obedience, to be honest with ourselves and others, and to allow our own personal army help tear these walls we have worked so hard to build, we will then truly experience a freedom like we have never imagined.  We will love and be loved.  We will forgive and be forgiven.  We will accept and be accepted.  We will teach and be taught.  We will heal and be healed.  After all, stuffing all of this inside becomes exhausting, and I, for one, am ready for rest.  All it took was Joshua saying, "Yes I will."  Will you do the same?

James 5:16 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Sweet Astro

On March 2, I woke up and began my normal daily routine.  I immediately let my three dogs out.  The two boys, Astro and Luke, plow eac...