Learning to trust

Here I sit, on the eve of my first baby’s due date just having savored perhaps one of my last uninterrupted showers for a long time (as suggested by a co-worker and mother of two boys!). I finally feel ready, like this little guy can come and we don’t have many more boxes left to cross off. We are ready.

I didn’t know if I would get to this place.  I didn’t know if I would’ve had this moment.  Our little guy could’ve chosen to come an hour ago, yesterday, or even last week! What matters more than “being ready” is the deeper trust that has been growing in my heart as I’ve wondered when my baby would come in these moments of waiting, in those moments of not knowing! Should this little guy have made an appearance last week, or the month before, despite our to-do lists we would have been ready.

These last weeks have taught me a lot about trust.  Trusting that even if  the new little baby clothes weren’t put into neatly sorted drawer organizers, even if diapers had not been laid out on the changing table, even if books were not sorted onto the shelves, even if I hadn’t had a chance to make the last SMART boards or lesson plans, even if adapted spelling tests were not sorted into color coded folders, and so on everything would’ve been okay. Like freshly fallen snow that quiets the world stopping everyone in their tracks from continuing to perform and do and go to work, so does the arrival of this new bundle of joy into the world.  If he had decided to come last week or even the week before, our world would have had to stop, and it would’ve have had to be okay. And, I (we!) would have been okay! These last weeks have taught me to stretch out new trust muscles towards my Heavenly Father much like our little guy will soon stretch his tiny hands and feet in the days to come accepting that even I (and my baby, my family, my student, my long-term sub) will be okay without one more thing checked off the to-do list.  Trusting, trusting that the One who holds the galaxy in His hands, holds me and those all around me and knows just the right moment for this new life to enter our worlds.

Can’t wait to meet you baby boy, ready or not, trusting, trusting!

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? 

 

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Just 8 days away from my due date and I’m definitely getting “baby brain.” It’s hard to go full throttle into each day in second grade while anticipating such a big change for my family at home. After a slow, humdrum morning in reading it was great to celebrate the holiday with my annual “Pumpkin Day” activity and dive into my last moments with my class before I go on maternity leave.

I started the day with three brightly colored pumpkins on our classroom counter. Students oooed and ahhed when they came in and at morning meeting I began reading the story.  We made and recorded hypotheses about which pumpkin would have the most seeds; the big, the medium or the small.

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During my prep time, I cut round circles around the tops of each of the pumpkins and lay them out on black butcher paper. Next to each one, I put one plate labeled “seeds” and one labeled “pulp.”  When the students came in from gym, we mirrored the activities of the characters from the story and began the job of counting our seeds. After assigning groups the children got to work, some timidly shying away from the slimy, stringy pumpkins guts and others jumping right in hands full of muck.

 

They separated seeds from pulp, washed their hands and recorded their observations in their science notebooks. The pulp was cleared away and the students made piles of ten on the paper to begin the counting process. When the piles were complete, we walked to each group and counted, and students were challenged to count past each new hundred, 10, 20, 30, 40…100, 110…200, 210, 220…300, 310, 320, 330…400, 410, 420, 430, 440…500!

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We finished without many problems (besides hearing the sound of a pumpkin being thrown and thudding on the floor…but you can’t win them all!) and I was impressed by my students ability to work cooperatively and complete the experiment! We recorded our conclusions:

Small: 393                   Medium: 300                   Large: 587

The day ended, a swirl of black paper, seeds, empty pumpkins, ghost lollipop treats, and noisy children. After school, I graded science notebooks (a small loose end to tie up in preparation for my long-term sub) and I was delighted to find pages of hard work in science all trimester cultivating in this fun “Pumpkin Day” investigation.  In the daily moments of repeating directions, making up missed work, reteaching center activities, and reminding students to put a punctuation mark or a capital letter, I got to feel proud! Proud of students for doing great work and proud of myself for doing great work too! Though it may seem a small dent in the face of poverty and underperformance, I was reminded that I am filling my classroom with a sense of joy, belonging, curiosity and excitement where there is room to simply wonder; How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?

P.S. If you want another perhaps more profound moment of this daily work of living and loving in my classroom take a look here. My second proudest, if not my proudest part of the day was a very small conversation that I hope will have a huge impact, that made me feel like, “Wow, I’ve got this, I’m a great teacher!” One of my wiggly boys did not get to be “self-manager” this month and shed a few tears on the way to gym class. I pulled him aside, and my heart sank for his when he acknowledged that he wasn’t a self-manager in first grade and that the cycle seemed to be repeating again this year.  I looked him in the eye and told him he had 7 more tries this year and we came up with a game plan. In the hallway after gym, I noticed an opportunity to follow through on his word and I encouraged him to move away from his friends so he wouldn’t talk to them when he wasn’t supposed to. I then enlisted his friends, saying “______ really wants to be self-manager, he isn’t going to sit with you in the classroom or in the hallway but he still wants to be your friend and be with you at lunch and recess.  Can you help him?” With their emphatic yeses, I told my buddy that they were on his side and that they would still be his friend even if he didn’t sit by them in the classroom. Although, he’s skeptical, I’m hopeful that as his teammate I can help him to reach his goals. Another small gesture with profound impact! (By the way, this little guy had one of the BEST science notebooks in our class, can’t wait to show him off tomorrow in school!)

P.P.S: None of this to brag but to celebrate the wisdom, love and grace given by God in this dry and weary land and to say thank you for the joy that can come even in the midst of waiting for my babe, and in the wondering, “Does it even matter?”

 

A few small things to love

A few small things I love about today (even on a mostly crabby and grouchy day). 

I love the bowl of apples in my kitchen.

I love the ripple of a hand, a foot a bottom or whatever part I can see move across my belly.

I love the new journal and frappacino coupon I got at Barnes and Noble.

I love the scent of my pumpkin-apple candle.

I love my husband who willingly helped tidy our house before his trip so I came home to a peaceful place of rest this evening.

I love that when one of my goofy little second grade boys was caught sitting in my teacher chair, we both shared a laugh as I playfully reprimanded him instead of bursting with  actual frustration.

I love playing “silent Simon Says” in the hallway before music class, making up silly motions to capture the giggles of a bunch of 8 year olds. 

I love the furiosity of focus from both my line leader and another student to earn their line up points.

I love the silent intensity with which 20 something pencils pop into the air after Rocket Math.

I love listening to predictions and wonderings as we read Superkids or Frog and Toad.

While so much of me was so wearied by what not to like about today, I am reminded of a few small things to  love. 

Top 7 of Summer 2017 (Part 6: 198 holes of LBI Mini Golf) 

 

Score cards from 10 mini-golf courses!

Since the summer of 2007, my family has been vacationing on the 18-mile, Long Beach Island off of exit 63 on the Garden State Parkway at the Jersey Shore.  Since that time, I have spent at least one all the way to nine glorious weeks on this stretch of the Jersey Shore. From my very first time on the island until now, the time I spend there always refreshes my soul and it is my favorite home away from home.  It was also the place Cody asked me to be his wife 🙂

Three summers ago, I spent a month on the island working at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference and with the help of several of my beach friends, I crossed off my first LBI bucket list item: biking the entire 36-mile round trip to the southern tip of Holgate all the way north to Barnegat Light and back again returning back to the conference center.

This summer, Cody and I took on another challenge: to play all of the mini-golf holes on the island. Surprisingly, in the last decade of vacationing on the island, I only had played at a few of the 10 mini-golf places.  We were excited to find our favorite and participate in one of our favorite hobbies together! During our date night on Wednesday, Cody and I set out the terms of our challenge:

  1. We bike to every place.
  2. We play every hole.
  3. We rank each mini-golf place on our self-created scale to determine our favorite place (categories included ambiance, friendliness of the staff, creativity, difficulty, etc.)
  4. We determine the ultimate LBI mini-golf champ based on the scores of five categories (1 pt.-Most Hole-in-Ones, 1 pt.-Lowest Overall Score, 1 pt.-Best out of 10, 1 pt.-Best in Tournament, 1 pt.-Lowest Below Par)

Course #1&2: Mr. Tee’s. (See above) At Mr. Tees we played in our first mini-golf tournament and we were not disappointed. After slaying the first 9 holes, I choked on the second 9 but still enjoyed the competition and meeting some other avid LBI mini-golfers. (We will definitely be participating in a tournament again next year!). After the tournament round, we played the shorter holes behind the tournament course completing the first 36 holes of golf.

Course #3: Mr Tee’s 36 Hole Course. (See below) At our second stop, we were joined by my mom and Josh to play the 36-hole course in the hot noon-day sun.  I loved the small size of each hole (except for the longest mini-golf hole which ran a narrow stretch along the side of the ground’s maintenance building) and did very well. Cody on the other hand, was not too pleased with his performance, and when his bike pedal broke off as we were leaving, he had to walk to the next course while we waited for a different bike. This definitely did not help!

Course #4: The Sand Trap. (See right) We quickly breezed through this course (having played it just a few nights prior for Cody’s birthday) and I came out on top, putting me at 3-1 for courses, much to both of our surprise.

Course # 5: Island Golf. (See below) Making it past the causeway (that marks the half-way point up the island) we stopped at Island Mini-Golf and the tides began to turn, both in Cody’s playing and his enjoyment of the day.

Course #6: Sandbar Golf. We thought we had reached the furthest mini-golf stop on the north side of the island when we played at Island Golf, but discovered we were wrong when talking with an employee there. Just a few blocks away lay Sandbar Golf, unadvertised online, which would have caused us to fail our entire mission! Thankfully we made it to this hidden course, and I enjoyed the fact that each hole was dedicated to and given the namesake of a different section of LBI. (See below)

Course # 7: Flamingo Golf. (See below) At this mini-golf course, Cody and I racked up lots img_4562of holes-in-ones. The groundskeeper here prided himself in the upkeep and precision of each holes’ contraptions.  We loved that if you scored it in the windmill’s bucket or hit right into the “nitro-blaster-thing” your ball would roll into the hole every time! This man also gave us the best ball selection; I played with an emoji and Cody with a golf version of an 8 ball. (See right) No wonder this is the favorite of LBI mini-golf enthusiast, Ray Romano.

(Side Note: You may have noticed that I changed my shirt. This day was a scorcher and Cody and I had to stop for iced coffee and lemonade before running to the Surf City 5 & 10 to buy a tee-shirt with sleeves so that I would not continue to get fried).

Course #8: Hartland Golf. (See below). On our way back down the island, we stopped at Hartland Golf just a few blocks south of the causeway.  Here Cody and I tied and we remained at 4-4 in course wins, were even on hole-in-ones, and within 10 points of each other overall. This course was also memorable because after telling the employee about our journey, he gave us free soda pop tickets and an old tournament trophy (that has the wrong date and says 4th place, but we were delighted!)

After Hartland, Cody and I biked over seven miles against the ocean breeze back home for dinner (Now it was my turn to be grumpy, 5 month pregnant legs were not thrilled and I now understand why it’s better to be the goose flying in the back of the V). I constantly had Cody go in front of me to face the brunt of the wind. After dinner, we were back out to our most familiar mini-golf hotspot for the last two courses.

Courses # 9 &10: Thundering Surf. (See above) We finished up our day with the Waterfall and Cave CourseS at Thundering Surf in Bay Village. The holes are the most popular, yet most difficult and haphazard on the island (to my demise).  Cody, completely decked out in golf attire, garnished many the odd-look and stare, but came out glaringly on top in our competition. He ended up with all five points and secured the title Island Mini-Golf Champion, after I had put up a good fight all day long.

We both were champions having completed such a long and strenuous yet fun day! 

Our day, which began at 9 am finally ended at 11pm, but we were successful at playing all 198 holes of mini-golf on Long Beach Island!! It was a day on my precious stretch of shoreline that I will never forget. And despite both of us having our moments, whether from near heat-exhaustion or the competition of the day, I’m so glad to have a partner in this life that’s as quirky and up for this kind of silly-fun! It was a day for the Long Beach island memory books!

Top 7 of 2017 (Part 7-Blueberries and Baby Bumps)

img_4615How can I end my summer 2017 memories and not say something about the profound and unseen mystery inside of me?  In early March I got some unexpected news. I’d be lying to you if I said I was excited right at the start. But over the course of this summer I’ve come to cherish the miracle unfolding beneath the belly bump.

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This summer, I’ve delighted in finding out the gender of our little guy, getting countless surprise gifts from excited friends and family, and picking out paint colors for the bedroom. I’ve enjoyed feeling the kicks and twists and turns in my tummy (one time I placed my hand on my belly and enjoyed the little bumps for the duration of an entire movie!). I snagged this photo above (courteousy of Laurel Creative) while out picking blueberries with our wedding photographer and friend. Cody and I celebrated one year of  marriage this past July and have been settling into a love-life-groove that makes it exciting to consider sharing that with another person. I’ve begun pondering what life will be like with our new little guy.

I do still have questions, like: How do you give a baby their first bath? What’s it going to be like to balance being both mom and teacher? and Am I going to do a good enough job if I choose not to stay at home?

All of these questions still linger, but what I’ve learned from quiet mornings on the Adirondack chairs out back and porch swings in the front is that I will continue to listen to the voice of my Heavenly Father and to the small voice that’s inside of me through times of stillness and the silence. It’s in these spaces that I can hear the most important Voice in my life instead of listening to the crowded and chaotic ones telling me how I should be as a mom. As I embark on the start of a new school year and say goodbye to summer, I will continue to make this time to discover who I want to be as mother to my little dude as I listen to the voice of my Savior (and the Savior of my soon-to-be child).

Top 7 of Summer 2017 (Part 5-Friends, New and Old) 

One of the most special parts of this summer was the chance to reconnect with old img_4636friends and to continue to develop relationships with new ones!

First, I celebrated the upcoming marriage of my longest friend, of 15 years, through her bridal shower and bachelorette party and in less than three weeks, we will celebrate her wedding. At her bachelorette weekend down in Dewey Beach, Delaware we marveled that the dreams of two pre-teen girls planning to be in each other’s weddings would be coming true in back-to-back summers! (See right)

I also spent a wonderful day with my college friend, who has been a great confidant

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ever since graduating as we seem to share similar life journeys: graduating from Messiah as education majors, becoming teachers, buying houses and getting married all within a similar time frame. While we often connect via text messages, it was a delight to spend time face-to-face with our new spouses, enjoying a homemade lunch of quesadillas, playing “Jack-box tv” games and then being treated to dinner in their cute town of Winchester. (See left)

This summer also provided the neat opportunity to begin fostering relationships with other newly-married couples in the area. Both Cody and I enjoyed inviting people over for board games (like Settlers of Catan and a newbie Forbidden Island), dinner and a walk to Maggie’s the Italian Ice and Custard Hut just down the street.  We watched as our “Friday Night Board Game” friends got married, and helped them celebrate by making their guest book, housing the groomsman the night before the wedding and just generally being available to help them with last-minute details (like making wristlets for the mothers at the flower shop and quickly turning a slice of our Christmas tree into a ring box for them to use in the ceremony). Last Sunday, we enjoyed some last summer memories (particularly for Cody who started back-to-school training this week) by

packing up a picnic dinner of Chinese food, watermelon, candy and snacks galore and driving the ’88 Bronco to Haar’s old-fashioned drive in for back-to-back movies (even if one of them was “The Nut Job 2-Nutty By Nature”). We laughed, tossed a frisbee, ate our picnic dinner, and even played a round of Catan in the open back of the truck before settling in for the movies. They continue to be friends that we love getting to know better and getting to share the joys and challenges of being newly married, including encouraging one another in the process. I know I am just so thankful for these new friendships and can’t wait to watch them continue to grow! (See top).

Side note: Having an ice cream shop just down the road has become the perfect avenue for sharing in fellowship with others. Twice this summer, I was invited to an on-the-spot ice cream run with friends who texted, “Hey just stopping by Maggie’s and wondered if your free to join”… I’m so thankful that I have had the margin in my life to drop what I’m doing and say a resounding “YES, I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

Top 7 of Summer 2017 (Part 4-Foster’s Flower Shop)

This past spring, as my school year began to wind down, I wondered what I would fill my summer days with. I’ve learned from the past that I thrive on a schedule and would do best with part-time work to bookend my days. Last summer was full of wedding planning, the honeymoon, and settling into a new home so finding a summer job was off the table. As I began dreaming about this summer I had a few criteria in mind: something that would be refreshing, where I could leave work at work, and NO KIDS! As a teacher and soon-to-be-mama, it’s pretty apparent that I love children but I knew in order to bring my best self into another year of teaching I needed my summer to be child-free (besides the one growing in my belly!).

I don’t know what sparked the idea of working with flowers, but I do know that it was Cody who suggested that I email the florist who did our wedding flowers last summer. My wedding flowers (see below) were simply stunning and were one of the highlights of that special day. To me, it seemed like a shot in the dark to ask such skilled crafts-women, but Cody continued to urge me and after a few phone calls and emails, to my surprise I was accepted!

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Many of these summer days, I have stood in the flower shop marveling at the beauty that surrounds me, engulfed in buckets of beautiful blooms as I worked.

Sunflowers. Roses. Gerber Daisies. Hydrangeas. Lilies. Carnations. Anemone. Dahlias. Coral Charm Peonies. Hypericum. Lisianthus (effectionately known as “lizzy”). Freesia. Baby’s Breath. Ranunculus. King Protea. Italian Ruscus. Eucalyptus in all varieties. The yellow pom-pom flowers I can never remember the name of. Mountain Mint. Buckets and buckets full!


When I go into the shop, I often watch my coworkers with wonder, being heard too often saying “That’s beautiful,” or “Wow, I just love that!” unable to contain the simply breathtaking sights of their creations. Opening a giant walk-in fridge to the sight of wedding bouquets and arrangements is one that even in August I have not gotten over. I was thrilled to spend hours creating beauty alongside these other women, learned some pretty neat tricks (like how to make all the stems go in a circular order so that they can almost stand on their own!) and witnessed some true creativity that stretched my mono-or di-chromatic way of thinking.

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This summer job at Foster’s Flower Shop definitely makes my top 7 of summer 2017! I have had the privilege of watching others create beauty and have been thrilled to be invited to create beauty myself.


(P.S. This is a King Protea, and I was pretty blown away when it came in with our order the other day, and if you are as flower crazy as I am, watch this time lapse of a Coral Charm Peony transforming from brilliant coral to white!)