Saturday, February 27, 2010

Resolved

I've been getting sick a lot lately, pretty much more than I have since I had Charlotte. She was great for breaking the cycle of my IBS, but now with the additional stress in my life, I am rereading this book that I got back when I worked at Books-A-Million. Already, I can see that I have changed a lot since I first read this book, and though adapting my diet to make it more IBS friendly will be difficult, I know that I can do it and it will be worth it. I will give it my fullest effort, but it will be hard, no doubt.

I got batteries today, so Charlotte pictures will be up this weekend.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How the NEA made my day


It is not a secret (I don't think) that I pretty much despise the National Education Association. Everything it stands for and has created has some layer of evil in it, I think, and its political affiliations are completely opposite of mine. I will always remember what my AP English teacher, Mrs. Williams, said about unions, specifically the NEA: they protect the inept. The longer that I am in education, the more I know about the NEA and the more mature I personally become, the more I tend to agree with her. I just can't shake that sentence out of my mind, and I think that it is very true in the case of the NEA and all its state affiliations - it protects the inept. This doesn't mean that all who belong to it are inept. Take me, for example; I became a member of the NEA for practical protection after an incident this school year. Just because I belong, though, doesn't mean I agree with it. In fact, the whole organization makes me disdainful at the least and disgusted at the worst. Not to mention all of its ridiculously leftist political agendas...but I digress. After all, this is the blog of an educator, not a lobbyist, and politics is not my area of expertise.


The NEA, however revolting it might be, made my day today. I came home today with Charlotte in tow, having had a HORRIBLE day. The reason that I had a horrible day can be boiled down succinctly into two words: full moon. I never believed this before I became a teacher, this nonsense that people get crazy when the moon is full. But today was a day. Everyone seemed to be tense, my students were bouncing off the walls almost literally, I got scolded for something ridiculous, and there was general madness at school. Our ITRT has a saying that somebody poured crazy into the water, and I think that may have happened today.


I came home and got the mail, and there in the letters and bills was the latest issue of the NEA magazine (which is so much better than the VEA's equivalent). And I looked through it because I always do. I always have, even when Adam was a member and I wasn't. And for some reason, today, this magazine picked up my spirits a little. Looking at professional peers of mine, reminding myself that I'm not the only one in this profession that, let's be honest, is not great right now. Not only is the economy making education impossibly challenging everywhere and especially in Virginia, but February and March are always the hardest months of the year. October is a distant third. So to look at this magazine today of an organization that I don't even support or like and have my heart warmed and my teaching spirit a little renewed was a pleasant surprise. I skimmed through a nice article about mentor teachers, read every word of an interview with the children's author Katherine Patterson (promoting Read Across America Day which is March 2...I'll need to blog a separate post on that), and perused the feature on Manassas Park Elementary School in northern Virginia. After that, and flicking through the article with Sandra Day O'Connor about teaching government in today's NCLB age, I felt much better about my day. I don't even know why. Maybe I will go back to work on Monday after all. :) At least February will be over.


No new Charlotte pictures because there are no AA batteries in our house at all for the camera. We'll pick some up tomorrow, since inevitably, I will get cabin fever and need to get out of the house for an hour.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Home (and loving it)


No, I didn't quit; I just have a sick Charlotte. She insists that she's not tired, but Mommy knows better. :) As Adam told me yesterday when I came home early, she fights sleep like a champ when she's sick.

I've been doing some home repair/renovation projects in the past week. Small projects like putting in new light fixtures (what a difference that makes!) and replacing nasty, dirty switches and plugs with crisp white ones. As I was replacing some switches yesterday, I thought to myself that I really love doing these kinds of things. I love making my home look beautiful and together, and it makes me feel less overwhelmed. When I was in high school, I would clean when I got stressed. For some reason, it soothes me.
I also read this article about a middle school teacher who stopped a gunman from shooting up the school he worked at. Wow.
Liz, I didn't mean to offend you with yesterday's post; many expectations of classroom teachers are just unreasonable and about to get worse with the budget cuts being made. That quote is a very true persepective, but that is not to imply that doctors don't have their problems to deal with. Doctors, generally, are better respected and trusted than teachers; anyone who doesn't like his job feels he can quit and "just go into teaching," and people don't usually do that with the medical profession, even though both careers require much talent, skill and drive.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thoughts from Whitney's Cubicle (where I'm working this morning)

"If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job."

Donald Quinn

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pictures as Promised




I'll take more this weekend for you.

What games are you best at?

Let's begin with the kind of games I'm not best at. I'm not best at rummy, even though I love to play it, and I usually pull it out at the end. Last time, though, with Adam and Brit, I got smoked. I was terrible the last time we played Trivial Pursuit; I got, like, one little wedge. When I play Apples to Apples with Adam's family, I lose every time, usually barely getting a card.

I'm getting pretty ferocious at Scrabble; Brit has taught me some pretty fierce strategy. I also rock at playing 2-D Mario games with Super Mario Bros. 3 being my favorite. I'll never forget when Adam and I played through that game over about a month. I beat most of the levels, but Adam beat the game in the end. I was so frustrated! :-) I like Zelda games and like figuring out the puzzles, but sometimes I don't have the patience for them - they are a little long.

Tonight we are trying out a new game with Joe and Kathy; they're watching Charlotte and we're going to dinner, then we're coming back and playing a game. It's from the makers of Cranium, so it should be a pretty good time.

By the way, we've been busy, so I'm sorry there haven't been many recent Charlotte pics. I'll try to post some new ones tonight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Identity


Who are we? What makes up our identities? What is it about our lives that we identify with? What would we be lost without? What could we discard without a second thought.
As much as I desire to identify with Christ first, it is very difficult for me to put that at the forefront of my identity. More often, if people ask me about myself, I identify with being a teacher. That is very common; for our careers to identify us. It is ordinary for us to orient ourselves and self perceptions based on what we get paid to do all day. But why is that? Why are we affected so much by our jobs? If my job were suddenly taken away, or if I were finally able to stay at home with Charlotte, how would that affect my identity? That's a question worth considering. If one moment, our jobs ceased to exist (which in this economy is not a far stratch of the imagination) who would we be? Are our identities strong enough to weather that storm, and further, is Christ's identity in us enough?
We also identify ourselves based on relationships: we're single, married, parents or not, friends, siblings, children. The same question applies here as to occupation, but it's harder. If all of our relationships were swept away Job-style, and all we had left was one person in our lives telling us that God obviously hated us (which I fear happens very often in our fallen world), that we should just give up and die, who would we be? Again, is Christ enough in our lives? Is Christ enough to sustain our identity? For most of us, I fear that He is not enough, even though we rarely consider this.
Because of course our lives are filled with so many things that occupy us and consume us. Because of course we save our relationship with the Lord Almighty for last, giving our Creator the leftovers of our lives if anything.
I'm not even talking about trust or God's sovereignty or providence. I'm just talking about identity. Where does our identity lie? Do we need to re-evaluate what determines our identity today?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stressed


I'm reading through the Shopaholic series again. I do this twice a year, usually once about this time of year when I start to get really stressed, and it only takes me about 3 weeks. The only exception that I can remember is two or three years ago, I flew through The Nanny Diaries in May as names of graduates danced through my head. The premise is the same: simple, escapist fluff to drown out my roaring waterfall of a life.

The writing SOL test is in two weeks. I have no idea how to prepare my kids, to teach them writing skills they should have been learning since the eighth grade. I've been doing this stuff with them all year, and yesterday, they couldn't tell me that a sentence was wrong because it was a comma splice. That's something I have been specifically focusing on all year, and they still don't remember that a comma isn't strong enough to hold two complete sentences together. It needs a FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to help it. McCoy says they'll perform for me in the end, but I am doubtful. They still need to be able to find the right answer.

Miss Byrdie practices have been delayed because of snow, and the pageant itself is getting off the ground slowly like always. Katie and I are both concentrating on other things anyway. Senior-Faculty Games needs to be organized (and scheduled, for that matter) and the Honors Banquet is a perpetual project until the first week of May. I'm teaching a new prep all year, so I can't just put myself on auto-pilot like I have the last couple years I was Senior Class Sponsor.

I should not be stressed on a Saturday. I should be calm and relaxed, but I'm not. I'm just waiting for something else to drop.

My favorite quote when I'm stressed is this:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.


How fitting that I'm teaching poetry to my tenth graders.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stopping by Lowe's and Kroger on a Snowy Day

I have been fighting coffee for years. For years, I had been a closet coffee drinker, only drinking it at school (which, by the way, is the worst place to drink it...it's horrible!). I started my coffee journey with Zach Glueck in high school when we would go get Frappachinnos after band camp, and then it was over until my second year of teaching. I was in a trailer that year (which I loved) with kids that I didn't always love, and the heat was broken for most of the winter. It wasn't the kind of winter we've had this year, but it was still in the 30's most mornings when I went to teach. Hence, I started drinking coffee to keep myself warm, and I discovered that it also made me a better teacher, especially for my morning classes (go figure). Then, for my birthday last year, Brit bought me a coffeemaker, and that was it; now my coffee drinking is out in the open. I still, to her disapproval, add "frou-frou" creamer, since I don't actually like coffee that tastes like coffee.

I finished my poetry unit yesterday, and as I told Rafe when he called me to tell me that we didn't have school AGAIN today, it's beautiful. It uses jazz, video clips, music and poems, and it is wonderfully crafted if I do say so myself. I even managed to work parody in, using this parody of Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." Other new highlights include using the Alicia Keys' song "Dragon Days" for its puns and comparing and constrasting Bare Naked Ladies' "The Old Apartment" with Alanis Morissette's "Your House." I'm super excited, if we could ever get back to school. My juniors take their writing SOL in about two weeks. Yikes!

During church last night, I took notes feverishly. I haven't written that many notes since the first time I came to this church and Nick preached about the Holy Spirit. There is no way that I can condense my notes into the space of this blog, but my feeble attempt at summarizing is:
  1. The sermon focused entirely on Genesis 3 - the transgression of the Covenant of Works - verse by verse
  2. If you look at Genesis 3 verse by verse, you will see the very pattern of sin we all fall into all the time, as well as the way that Satan works to undermine our security and trust in God
  3. The sin of Genesis 3 is not just the eating from the tree, but Eve's adding to the word of God, Adam's apathy for protecting his wife, and the doubting of God, all which occured before eating from the tree
  4. God is gracious, giving Adam and Eve two opportunities to own up to their sin. He doesn't just storm into the garden, guns blazing, kicking them out. He gives them a chance to admit their sin and repent (which they wholeheartedly fail to do)

Suffice it to say, it was an amazing sermon. My favorite sermons are the ones that reveal truths about stories that I thought I knew backward and forward. This has completely changed my view of the story of the Fall.

Lastly, I'm working on a project. I'm excited about this project, even though Adam can't really envision what I'm trying to do. I'll take pictures, Shannon-style and try to show you what I'm doing. That, by the way, is why my house is messier when I'm home than when I'm at school. It's because I'm home and Charlotte's home, and we live here and that makes a mess. Haha.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pensive, restless, pondering poetry (and maybe alliteration) and a birthday wish


Charlotte and I are home, again. The snow just doesn't seem to stop this year. I wanted to blog before diving into my day; primarily, right now, I'm supposed to be planning a tenth grade poetry unit.

There is so much to think about, even more so when I'm not thinking about work all day. I like it, actually; I like how my focus changes when I'm home, and it is easier to concentrate on what is most important. The funny thing is that even with work thoughts out of the equation, there are still more than enough thoughts to fill my day. There is perpetually something to be done, and while I see how being home could become mundane and lose its sparkle after a while, I truly treasure it when I am here. Who ever thought I would say that?

At the same time, I must take one trip a day to get out of the house. My friend, Kristi, (the Pampered Chef one) is a stay-at-home mom who rarely if ever leaves her house during the day. I cannot be like that. I must take Charlotte on some kind of outing every day, whether it's to Target (one of my very favorite places), Bed, Bath and Beyond (where we went yesterday) or even the library (in fact, I do have some books to donate....hmmm). The cold and Charlotte's unwillingness to learn how to walk :) make going places a little more difficult. Plus, I'm to the point of winter where I am tired of wearing a coat. Coats are bulky and restrict your movement, the sleeves scoot up and your wrists get cold; I'm basically over wearing a coat. That's unfortunate because right now it is 20 degrees outside, but it feels like 3. Three degrees! Oh well. I'm still taking the girl somewhere today before we go to church.

I'm going to post this and work on my poetry unit, which I texted Rafe yesterday is "bomb-diggity." True story. Here's another true story: English teachers HATE teaching poetry. Isn't that funny? People think that all English teachers must be like Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society (Allison?), unconventional and passionate when it comes to verse. Not so much. In my observation, kids hate poetry because of the way they've been taught it, so we, as high school teachers drudge through it because 1) the kids hate it, whine and complain about it and 2) we have to distill poetry into 20 terms that may turn up on a standardized test, but because of those 20 terms, we have to teach it. I've never really done a good job of teaching poetry, I don't think, and the last time I taught a unit like this, all of Langston Hughes' poetry hadn't been poached from 10th grade English by the 9th grade English teachers (grr...). But I think this unit is very promising...one of the songs I think I'm going to use, just for fun, is "The Ninjas" by BNL. (I tried desperately to find you a royalty-free picture of a ninja, but I guess there isn't that much demand for that kind of media request.) The chorus of the song is a limerick, which is not one of our 20 terms, but fun, and it goes like this:

The ninjas are deadly and silent
They're also unspeakably violent,
They speak Japanese, do whatever they please,
And if you tear off their masks, they'll be smilin'.
Ooh, and do you see that? Slant rhyme! Gotta write that one down...

One last thing; it is my sister-in-law, Kristen's birthday today (she's in the green below). Woo Hoo!! Kristen, I bought you a hilarious, wonderful card and have not sent it yet. It is on its way!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's Super Bowl Day

And we are not having a big party. We're not really Super Bowl Party kind of people. We'll go if we're invited (last year we went over to the Shaffs' for a low country boil...yum), but we aren't just invite a bunch of people over for junk food and watch a game no one really cares about kind of people.

I know people care about the Super Bowl. Just not anyone in our house. It's not even usually a good game (it was last year, though...) and the ads are mostly for dot com companies we've never heard of... I don't know. I just think that it's a generally over-hyped event that we watch because we feel like we must, not because we want to.

So we had church today. My pastor announced on Wednesday night that basically, no matter what it took, we were going to have church. So we had church, but no child care, which as the mother of an infant I didn't mind, but with a toddler, church without child care is a totally different story. Charlotte is fine in my lap for, like, five minutes, then she wants me to read the same book to her over and over again or she wants to get down and scoot around the sanctuary which isn't entirely appropriate for an hour-long sermon. So, I put Charlotte down and she was playing fine down in front of our pew (she dropped her Little People Mary from her nativity set, and she rolled to the pew in front of us, but it was fine), and then it happened. She was leaning forward, and she sat up quickly, cracking her head on the book ledge on the pew. I knew it was going to be bad when she waited about a minute to start screaming; babies have a way of making a vortex around them after they hurt themselves, sucking in any small planetary masses or insects as they gear up to scream their faces off. This was no exception. Adam was on the end of pew, and after we saw her do it and cry initially, he said, "Go, go, go, go," to me hurriedly, but it was too late. Three steps into the middle aisle, Charlotte screamed bloody murder, and I actually turned around to apologize to my pastor. He made a joke about it, (what, I couldn't hear because I was holding a very upset toddler) then kept on with his sermon, telling me later that he was just glad it hadn't had a domino effect like that usually does in a room with kids. All this to say that I have no thoughts or notes from today's sermon, only that the scripture sounded very powerful and pertinent to our lives at this present time.
I took this video while Brit and Adam were beginning dinner for the SUPER BOWL...anyway, I thought it was amusing, even when Charlotte gets mad at the end.


video

Friday, February 5, 2010

You'll never guess...it's snowing again...


Virginia has not gotten this much snow since we moved here. In fact, I think that we have gotten more snow this winter than our Ohio relatives. One of our friends from Canada said it best: "I moved down here to get away from this stuff!" Guess he's gotta go further south.

Thank you dear friends for your prayers. It is not over yet, but the end may be in sight, which is much better than our situation has been for months. The Lord is gracious and wonderful, a truly loving and compassionate Father, and when He gives and takes away, He does it for our benefit. We cannot know or understand His plans, but when we look back at our lives, we can see the work He's done in us and through us in 20/20 vision.


We anticipate Charlotte to start walking any time now. She's pulling up and cruising constantly, prefering standing to sitting and moving in any way to being still. When she is standing and holding onto me, sometimes she lets go and supports herself for a second and a half before losing her confidence and plopping down on the ground.


Brit and I just finished watching the movie Julia and Julie which was wonderful, and kind of makes me want to take up French cooking. The movie is two stories: the story of Julia Child writing the first French cookbook in English and the story of Julie Powell, a blogger who cooks her way through Julia Child's cookbook in a year, making every recipe. It was a fun, endearing, lighthearted film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two Trees


All right, I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent, well read individual. I was raised in the church, going to Sunday School, youth group and choir my whole life. I’ve been confirmed in the Methodist church, baptized, baptized by immersion and legitimately saved by grace through faith. I know all of the Bible stories they teach children, from the story of creation to the fall, to Noah’s ark and David and Goliath. I know about Jesus, the Christmas story, the crucifixion, Paul’s conversion and most of Revelation. All of this, my whole life, and I had no idea that there were two trees.

In the Garden of Eden. There were two forbidden trees in the Garden of Eden. All my life, I have thought that there was one tree restricted in the garden, that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life were the same. I feel like I cannot be the only one who misconstrued this information. I did not realize until last night’s sermon that Adam and Eve only broke the covenant by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So that they did not eat from the Tree of Life (and live forever in their fallen, unredeemed state and thereby damning us to the same state), God placed a cherubim with flaming sword in front of the tree and kicked them out of Eden.

I was always very frustrated with this story as a child, because I thought that I would have done the right thing. I was afraid of getting into trouble as a kid because I was good, followed the rules and did what I was told. The truth is though, that if I were in the Garden of Eden in the same position as Adam and Eve, I would’ve done exactly what they did, and probably faster than they did. My pastor said that some theologians think the were in the garden for 40 days to echo Jesus' temptation by Satan of 40 days. I like that thought, since Jesus is the second Adam.

So the question that some people have are why did God set Adam and Eve up to fail? He didn’t. I understand how people can think that God had a vindictive motivation at first glance (especially if they don't accurately perceive our glorious Lord), but they don’t have the whole story. God owed Adam and Eve nothing because He created them; we don’t owe anything to dinners or art projects we create. The trees were created with restriction to separate the creation from the Creator, just the way I dress up to go to school to separate myself from my students. Adam and Eve were not equals with God, and they could not count themselves as such. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they decided to choose their own standards of good and evil, not follow God’s standards of it. That is pride: to look at God's standards of good and evil (Himself and anything that is not Himself) and decide that we would rather determine right and wrong for ourselves. That pride, the foundation of all sins, is what came to characterize human beings, the most slimy and inherent of all sins. Who of us will not slip into pride if we stop concentrating on it for a moment? Even good things we do are done with prideful motives, however small.

The encouragement is that Christ's redemption of us was planned even in the Garden. As man was falling (and not catching God by surprise, by the way), God was already foretelling the picking up of the pieces. And He did not let them eat from the Tree of Life. Eating from the Tree of Life would have made Adam and Eve live forever (Gen. 3:22), but before human beings had been redeemed by Christ's blood. This to me was an amazing thought. Of course I knew the "you will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head" prophecy of Genesis 3:15, predicting that the offspring of the woman (Christ) will ultimately crush Satan. But the fact that God protected Adam and Eve from eating of the eternal-life-giving Tree of Life so that the human race would not be forever doomed shows what a loving, good Father we have. That is our encouragement in last night's message. He knew we would fail, He knew we would be redeemed, and He protected us from ourselves so that we could be redeemed. Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Snow Day


I'm beginning to stress a little about the snow days. As I said to my colleagues yesterday during One Day Registration, I'm not trying to plan a July graduation. Everyone laughed at that, but I was serious. :) Not to say that I don't LOVE the time off with my darling little girl, but I've never really felt the urgency of finishing the school year on time as I do this year.


I just started reading my mentee, Allison's blog, and she posted about the book we've been reading together, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper. Christian biography is difficult for me because I am very susceptible to missing the point: the point is about God's work in and through an individual, not about the individual. For me, the temptation is to become legalistic about it, turning that person into an alternate savior and role model. Sarah Edwards and Lillias Trotter, no matter how faithful and steadfast they were, were still sinners like I am, and I cannot hope in them and not Christ.

That being said, Allison and I agreed that Sarah Edwards was our favorite person to read about (unless Helen Roseveare knocks it out of the park today...which she may). The subtitle of Sarah Edwards' chapter is "Faithful in the Mundane," and I think that phrase is so encouraging. How often do we feel like our lives are boring, ordinary and mundane, with no way to glorify and honor our Lord? How could God possibly use us as we clean toilets, buy groceries and care for children? But God is honored when we do all of these things, even changing diapers, to His glory, being mindful of Him and prayerful at all times. And stories like Sarah Edwards' encourage faithful women that being hospitable, dutifully raising obedient and ultimately faithful children and supporting your husband are not menial tasks. They are beautiful pictures of the roles that we were created for. Without getting on a feminism soapbox because I know that most of my followers are kindred spirits in that regard, women were not created to be smaller men. We were created specifically for purposes which we have been called to. Women are not lesser, just different, equal but not the same. Praise God for these differences, because when we embrace them, our lives are fuller and more fulfilling than we ever could have imagined, not oppressive the way the world paints our role.

In Charlotte news, she learned to climb the stairs yesterday while I was gone. She's a little hesitant in this clip, but she's already gotten much faster and more confident.


video

Lastly, our family is in need of prayer. We are in the midst of much, and specifically we need prayer for discernment, wisdom and faithful obedience to what we discern. I apologize for not sharing more, but for all things, there is a season.