Friday, June 19, 2015

On the eve of 4...

Dear Lily,

Tomorrow, you turn 4. Four years ago, at 6:09am, you made your entrance into this world. You made me a mom. We have never looked back.

I love you, little girl, more today than I did the day you took your first breath. Every single day I fall in with you over and over again. You have the sweetest smile, the funniest expressions, and the sassiest attitude. You are 4 going on 30. You talk more than mommy and daddy combined, which is a huge accomplishment because, let's face it, mommy and daddy love to talk.

You can get very frustrated. Very upset. Very mad. You wear every single emotion on your sleeve. When you are happy, you are the happiest kid on the planet. When are are angry, you are the grumpiest kid on the planet. You are so thankful for everything. You get a sticker from mommy and it's like receiving a diamond necklace.

This year you have learned to share so much better with your brother. The relationship you share with Jackson is the sweetest, most loving relationship I have ever witnessed. When he is upset he runs to you. Just last night, after Jacob left, Jack ran to you, hugged you and said "I miss Jacob!" You do such a good job consoling him (sometimes, too good a job mothering him...). You teach him new things every day and he loves to learn from you. I hoped you would teach him to use the potty; however, tonight you said, "Mom, I just can't train Jackson. I think you need to do that." I am so glad that you love each other and care for one another. It does my heart good to see the two of you share your love.

I hope that you have a fantastic 4. You are smart and kind and compassionate. You love to mother your babies, which is super sweet. I hope that you continue to learn and grow in your passions. I will do my best to nurture your curiosity and answer all of the questions you throw my way (and there are a lot of questions!). I will love you every single minute of every single day. I will give you what you need, but not always what you want (sorry, kid).

Four will be a big year. You will end your time at the pre-school you love and move to the ranks of a kindergartner by the end of next school year. An you will undoubtedly continue to amaze me in everything you do.

I love you to the moon and back.

Your mama, xoxo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thanks for the Memories

I know, I know, all of my posts have been about Mrs. Kenney. It's been easier to process this by writing about it and talking about it, so write and talk I will.

Yesterday was the funeral. I knew it would be hard. I also knew I needed to grieve with my SK family. I had the opportunity to do just that, ugly cry and all. My heart goes out to Mrs. Kenney's family-- for as broken-hearted as I feel, I know they are feeling this in an even deeper, more acute way. I thank them for sharing her with the world, and, especially, with SK.

The funeral was harder than I imagined it would be. The minute the choir started singing the Irish blessing, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep any emotion in check. I don't think there was a dry eye in the church.

I know, moving forward, the pain of Mrs. Kenney's loss will fade a bit. I know when my own grandparents died the pain of their deaths faded and the memories and love I shared with them replaced any feelings of sadness that lingered. I know there will be little things, like when I think of calling Mrs. Kenney up to schedule a lunch date or look for her at a SK event, that will remind me of that sadness I feel. I also know that the memories and time shared with her will always be with me.

I also know this-- every time I teach, Mrs. Kenney will be right there with me. I know that every school year, I will renew a promise to myself to be a better teacher for my students. I am putting a picture of her in my classroom to remind me of the teacher, and person, that I want to be: one who is selfless, committed, and passionate.

Thanks for everything, Mrs. Kenney.

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend's life also, in our own, to the world.” -H.D. Thoreau


Monday, June 15, 2015

Catharsis

This past week has been a weird, trying, heart-wrenching week.

Last week, I found out Mrs. Kenney passed away. This weekend was really tough. I know that, eventually, the people who I love and admire and respect will all pass away. I teach English, death is major topic of discussion in my line of work (please see every work in the English 10 curriculum). I just don't think we are ever ready to face death when it actually happens. This loss was sudden and unexpected, which only makes it more difficult.

Additionally, the people who I would mourn with, my fellow SK alum and friends, aren't around. They are in a Facebook kind of way, but not in a I can hug you now kind of way. I think that makes this all the harder because mourning, I think, needs to be done collectively. Our memories. Our love. Our loss. I am attending a viewing tomorrow evening and will be going to her funeral on Wednesday. I am hoping that I will be able to find some peace, and some closure, by going and by seeing some old, familiar faces.

Today, I wore my class ring for the first time in ages. First of all, my ring is MUCH heavier than I remembered. My right ring finger got a serious workout. Secondly, I still love that there is a miraculous medal inside the ring. I adore Mary. Seriously adore her. So having that medal in the ring is something very special. I decided to wear my ring to have some physical connection to SK. Mrs. Kenney so loved teaching and SK, and any little physical manifestation of my connection to the women who I attended school with and the faculty who taught me somehow brings some comfort to me.

Moving on...I said this week was weird. The week is all of 2 days old, so I know it still has some time to prove otherwise, but this time of year is always a little strange to me. A time of transitions and letting go and farewells. Today, we said farewell to our retirees and to some of the faculty members who are moving on to other schools. Our health and PE teacher, Cindy, retired after 30+ years of service to the county. It was a joyful celebration of her teaching career, and, really, her life as she survived a terrible car accident the first week back to school (that forced her to take this year off in order to heal). Cindy is just an amazing spirit. She is a teacher who truly connects with students and brings out the best in them. She coached allied teams for a number of years and was such a gifted teacher and coach for her allied players. Her presence at school will surely be missed.

This week, I will also say farewell to my department chair, 9th grade team member, and friend. Becky hired me 8 years ago this past May. We hit it off fairly immediately and the rest is really history. I have been completely blessed to work with, and for, her. She threw leadership opportunities my way almost the minute I walked in the door. She allowed me to flex my teaching muscles with GT and AP classes...and with Accelerated English...but I can forgive her for that. When I needed to cry she let me cry, when I need to be crazy she let me be that, too (she gave me weird looks, but she let me be crazy). She was one of the first people to know that I was pregnant with Lily, and then, later, with Jackson. She's been supportive, and encouraging, and really what I needed a DC to be as I entered the teaching profession. She isn't going too far, just to a neighboring high school (that is really less than 5 minutes from where I teach), which is oddly comforting. I will be sad to see her go, but I know we will maintain our friendship, and, I am sure will still get in our planning together.

So that is my weird, trying, heart wrenching...crap-it's-only-Monday week. I am sort of all over the place with the emotions because the week is always an emotional week. There is some act of catharsis in the wrapping up of a school year, which is really amplified by the other events surrounding this week.

As a side-note....It did occur to me, though, that Mrs. Kenney's passing couldn't have happened at a more appropriate time of the year. The end of a school year. The consummate teacher finding the end of her earthly life at the end of a school year. I don't think she could have planned that better.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mrs. Kenney

Yesterday, my warm-up for freshman seminar read, "Write about a teacher who inspired you. What about him or her was so inspirational?" I gave my students some time to write and then asked for contributions.

I waited...

...and waited...

...and waited.

Crickets.

Finally, after the requisite wait time (the awkward time), I volunteered my own contribution, hoping that, maybe, it would give the kids some reason to talk. Of course, I talked about Mrs. Kenney.

Mrs. Kenney was my 10th grade American Literature teacher. I entered her class quite intimidated by her; she had been my CCD teacher at church and called me Rachel all the time, despite my name actually being Emily. She also thought, for a very long time, that my dad was a priest. Fast-forward a few years-- 10th grade English and I got a 48% I got on a vocabulary test. Mrs. Kenney kept me after class and said, "Emily, is this going to be a trend?" Let's just say, it wasn't a trend.

I remember so much from that 10th grade year, most memorably-- that you should never go behind the barn, never drink blood in the woods, and that King George III was "crazy as a hooty owl". I read, and wrote, and worked and fell in love with literature in a very profound way. As a 10th grader, I knew what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a teacher.

Mrs. Kenney clearly loved teaching. She was funny. She was smart. She was engaging. She was the teacher you read about in novel or see in a movie. She also clearly loved SK. She was at every event. She advised the yearbook. She always coordinated senior class events including prom and graduation. And at graduation she was also hiding on the sidelines, a glimmer in her eyes. She was always proud of her girls.

When I graduated, I remember returning my gown to her. I hugged her and simply said thank-you. She pulled back, looked at me, and said, "no, Em, thank you". Those words have been with ever since that day. And, now, as a teacher I more clearly understand the meaning. I now know that for every lesson I teach my students, they teach me 100 more.

It's because of Mrs. Kenney that I decided to teach English. Tenth grade American Literature opened a door for me, and I have never looked back. I work, every day, to be half of the teacher and mentor that Mrs. Kenney was. Knowing that I won't see her again, or speak with her again...it's heartbreaking. When I posted on Facebook about her passing, one of my friends wrote, "What a great lady and mentor, and you can pass her on to others". I hope I am, and I hope I can. My American Literature class surely knows about crazy old King George and they definitely know that you should, never, under any circumstances, go behind the barn.

Mrs. Kenney, thank you for the lessons you taught me. Thank you for being a mentor, a mom, a friend, and a teacher to the thousands of young women who you educated. I am glad to have known you. I am better having known you. Rest in eternal peace.

Friday, May 22, 2015

It's been...well...too long

I know, I win the award for worst blogger ever. Here's the thing, when you work a full time job, have two full time kids, and need to find time to sleep, it leaves little time to blog. We have had a busy spring, which has been a blessing-- get us to summer a little faster-- and a curse-- we have little time to catch our breath. Tom's playing in a softball league, he coached the high school team (the season ended in early May), we worked on SGA initiatives, I took on some new commitments at work, and the kids were, well, the crazy kids.

Today was Lily's last day of 3-year-old school. She brought home a piece of artwork with an inchworm on it that said she grew 3.5 inches since school started in September. It's amazing she grew so much taller, but what's more amazing is the way she is growing as a kid. Traces of toddlerhood are gone, and in their place is a little girl. She loves Peter Pan (still!), she loves to draw and paint, she loves to read, or try to read (and is learning a little more each day!), and she loves to play outside. She is so smart. And I don't mean that in an "I am her mom, and my child is a genius" way, but she is very smart. She is sensitive. She is caring. She nurtures her babies. She asks daily for a new real baby in our house. She loves her brother. She throws crazy, epic, dramatic tantrums, then turns around and apologizes for her fit. She loves school and her best friend, Evelyn. She won't be in Evelyn's class this summer, and that is devastating to her. She will, somehow, be four in mere weeks. She is beautiful. She is amazing.

Then there is my little Jack-man. Well, my not-so-little Jack-man. He is a full blown toddler. He is the craziest kid I have ever met. He is insanely silly and knows how to work a room. His hair has full blown, insane, unruly blond curls on his head. He flirts with all the ladies. He plays hard. Makes big messes. He talks all the time, but half of that is parroting what everyone else is saying. He is tall. Almost as tall as Lily. He is heavy. Almost as heavy as Lily. He is basically the size of a 4 year old with a baby face. He has been waiting his whole life to go to school with Lily. He loves to swing outside and swing "I high as a bird!" He loves to dig in the sand. He loves his big girl crush, Abby. He is so funny. He has silly bucky teeth from his love of his pash (he gave that to the Easter bunny). He loves his sister. He loves babies. He is cute. He is joyful. He is my little snickerdoodle.

This last month has been busy. I am glad we are winding down the school year and that summer is on the way. I will be starting another grad class and have two or three school projects to work on over the summer months.  I know the summer will fly by, so I am going to work on enjoying the build up to those gloriously long, warm days. I might even try to update this blog a little more often!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore, students, and making a difference

Yesterday, I wanted desperately to write about the Baltimore riots. The city that I called home for 6 years (I have lived in the Baltimore suburbs all of my life, but lived in the city for college and two years after) was experiencing turmoil and chaos after looting, property destruction, and fires were set in the wake of the Freddie Gray funeral. I decided to wait to write because it's easy to get caught up in emotions, and truly, my emotions were mixed. I put my two babies to bed with prayers for guidance and strength, but also with prayers of thanks that they are too young to understand any of what is going on. Most immediately, my thoughts turned to my students, some of whom have family members in friends who live, work, and go to school in the effected areas of the city. How would I face them with the assurance that they would need when I felt so unsure myself?

Those concerns were quickly put to rest as I listened to our students articulate their thoughts and emotions about what had happened in the city. Some felt angry and frustrated, but many felt sad and upset over the acts of violence that occurred. I was impressed by our students willingness to speak out for peace and justice in front of their peers, administrators, teachers, and community members. Our administration included community members, including parents, to the town hall held during period 1, so that they could express their thoughts, as well. I heard parents speak of how scared they are for their children. I watched small acts of bravery and courage as one-by-one students took the mic and talked. It felt safe. It felt open. It felt peaceful.

My third period class was light, only 6 students were there out of the 17 I normally teach. I didn't want to introduce Romanticism and Realism, so I decided to show them The Freedom Writer's Diary. It seemed timely as the story of Erin Gruwell and her students took place after the 1992 LA Riots. Toward the end of the section that we viewed, one of Gruwell's students reads an entry from his diary about the horrible summer that he had. He concludes the entry by saying that being welcomed back to school by his teachers and his classmates made him feel like he was home. One of my students came up to me, tears in her eyes, and said, "That part, it just reminded me of you and Mrs. Hohlfeld*. You guys make this feel like home for me, too." Well, if that doesn't just get a teacher to tear up, I am not sure what will.

My hope in all of this is that students do find sanctuary in their school. I want my students to feel included, needed, and, honestly, loved. I do value each of them for different reasons and in different ways. I hope my classroom can be that place where their voices can be heard and they can feel at home. In this time of change and turmoil, I believe that many students need this now more than ever. This is why I teach. It's why I love my job. I hope that, moving forward, Baltimore can rebuild itself and become a stronger city. I think with the voices of the kids that I witnessed it, it certainly can.

*Sarah Hohlfeld is my teaching neighbor, twin, and BFF. We have been told by multiple students that we should team teach because it would be the greatest class ever. We are certain it is really because of our awesome dancing skills.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lily's First Movie!

Today, I took Lily to see her first movie in the theater. I believe she thought Cinderella would be a live show, like a Broadway production, so she was very confused at the enormous "TV screen" in the theater. Before we went to the movie, I picked her up from school and we went to the mall for lunch. Of course, Lily barely ate anything because we needed to get to the movie, so we were very early for our 2pm showing. Lily decided she wanted popcorn because "you always eat popcorn at movies" and she also picked out M&Ms (which went untouched), while I chose Raisinets because I never eat them and I wanted her to try them (after telling me they were ick she basically ate the entire box...she also ate the whole bag of popcorn and whenever I tried to eat some, she would yell at me to stop eating).

The previews before the movie are really the thing that stuck with Lily because they previewed the movie Pan. A few weeks ago I wrote about Lily's love of Peter Pan and the preview basically blew her away. All she can talk about is going back to the movies to see Pan. The movie itself looks awesome, though I fear she might find it a bit scary. We are going to see what it's rated to determine if it is ok for her to see in the theater. She generally isn't easily scared and she loves Peter Pan so much, I think she would be crushed to not see the movie at the movies.

Anyway, we saw the live action Cinderella and we both loved it. I cried probably an inappropriate amount (because there was a lot of death and that was quite sad), but it was just lovely. The sweeping scenes were beautiful and the whole Cinderella transformation was breath-taking (seriously, I cried when she was transformed into the "princess" in the magnificent dress, but was equally impressed with her wedding gown at the end of the movie--it was gorgeous). The step-mother was awesomely wicked and the step-sisters were perfectly ridiculous and Cinderella was good and lovely. As it should be. Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother might have been the most spectacular godmother ever! Her outfit and quirkiness were just perfect!

The thing I found most lovely about the movie was that I never felt like Cinderella needed saving. She lived on the motto, "Have courage, be kind" that her mother told her (on her death bed, I might add, cue tears...) and it truly carried her throughout the movie. Prince Charming (Kit, in the movie) didn't swoop in and save her from the wickedness of her step-family; she saved herself by being a good and loving person. She was portrayed so beautifully. The Prince finds her lovely partially for her looks (she is beautiful), but he constantly talks about how good she is. Her goodness gives her beauty.

All-in-all, Lily and I had a great time together. She did a great job during the movie and promptly fell asleep in the car on the way home. I can't wait for our next movie together!