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!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mid-Week Confessions (and some Easter pics)

I decided I have a little time this week to do some updating, so I decided to do mid-week confessions and post a few Easter pictures.

1. I am tired of technology. Funny, since I am writing this on a computer. Really, I am mostly tired of social media, and I am considering a summer long hiatus. We will see how that pans out. I don't want to raise tech crazed kids (I see enough kids who are tech crazed at school...) and I want to take steps to make sure that they aren't worshiping at the altar of the selfie.

2. I want to simplify my life. I suppose this goes with #1. Today, the kids toys just seemed overwhelming. All of the stuff we own seems overwhelming. I want to seriously purge what we don't need and don't use. I think it would save a lot of space and probably provide enough for another family of 4.

3. I hate allergies. That isn't so much a confession, that is really just a statement (as spring is blooming (finally) and my allergies slowly begin to assert themselves).

4. I was reading an article earlier and one of the point in the article was about people who post too much about their sex life on social media. I second that. I have read blogs from married women who share details of their sex life. The whole world doesn't need to know what happens in the bedroom. Tell your best friend on girls night, not the people who you barely know on Blogger/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I blame this on Carrie Bradshaw. Thanks, Carrie.

And now...a few Easter pictures (because two separate posts is just asking far too much right now). We had a very nice Easter-- breakfast with my parents, then to church, then back to my parents for a late lunch/early dinner with my family. Lily and Jack LOVED their gifts from the Easter bunny and had great fun with their cousins. All-in-all a very successful holiday! Oh yeah, and Jack got rid of his pacifiers!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Wendy Lily

I was going to write an educational post tonight, but it's late and I can't quite gather all of my thoughts for that. Instead, I am going to write a post about my Lily girl. Lily is obsessed with Peter Pan. Her love began with Jack and the Neverland Pirates (an updated spin-off of the original Peter Pan story). When we realized she really liked Peter, I got her a copy of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan from school (it was a give away book), which she takes to bed with her every night. We have read some of it, but it's still a little heavy to get through, so we move slowly. She watched the live Peter Pan in November, she watched the Disney Peter Pan, she owns a newer updated Peter Pan. She just adores Peter Pan. It is maybe the cutest thing I have ever witnessed.

Lily has also had trouble sleeping through the night. One night we were talking about Peter Pan. She told me she wishes Peter would visit her and take her to Neverland, only her Neverland cannot have a Hook, or tick-tock croc, or pirates. She said they are a little too scary. She wants mermaids, and Peter, and Tinkerbell. I told her Peter won't visit her if she can't sleep by herself. Peter doesn't want to visit adults like mommy. Since then, she has slept through the night. She wakes up to report if Peter visited (he hasn't), but she is waiting. She also wears her Wendy nightgown and likes to be called Wendy-Lily (she does this so Peter knows that she is the one to take to Neverland).

I know this little white lie won't come true, at least, not in a real way. It will come true, though, if she holds onto her beautiful and wonderful imagination. I know, for certain, that she knows deep in her bones that Peter is real. And, really, he is, isn't he? He is alive in every child that believes in a Neverland. She told me tonight that she wants to go to Neverland, but she can't stay too long because she would miss me too much. My heart just melted. She knows. Her imagination go far enough that she can dream of mermaids and Peter and Tink, but it always comes back home. I love watching her learn and grow and stretch the limits of her curiosity. If ever a child lived in wonder, Lily is that child.

She decided that she wants to have a Peter Pan themed birthday party (in June, so this might change...). I want to get some sheer fabric and cut a Peter Pan shadow out and hang it in her room while she is sleeping. Like he did visit, but left his shadow. I want her to know that he is there and will always be there in imagination, in her wildest dreams. Some little part of her should never grow up, it should run wildly into the direction of her dreams and approach life with child-like wonder.

My Wendy-Lily in her Wendy pajamas with her doggie and her fort.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Letting AP students take the helm...

As teacher my greatest weakness is giving control to students. I like control. I like being in control. I have a deep seeded fear that by letting the students take control something will fall apart. I am sure there is something of this fear in all teachers. The deepest manifestation of this fear happened when I had long-term subs for maternity leave. What will happen with my classes?! Will they learn? It's taken time, but, slowly, I have learned to let some of that control go.

In an attempt to turn over control, I developed a project on the "isms" of 19th century American Literature: romanticism, realism, transcendentalism, and naturalism. I taught my AP class the slave narrative (or, narrative-ism, my students joked that it needed to be an "ism", too). I modeled how to review the time period, choose texts for reading, and run a discussion. I am a HUGE fan of the discussion in AP class, so my students are very familiar with formal and informal discussions. After we finished slave narratives I introduced the project. I needed 8 groups of 4 students each (yes, 8 groups, it's a big class) and each group randomly drew an "ism". I had the "isms" doubled up, which proved to work out well because it allowed students to cover a more diverse body of writing. I gave students 3 library/computer days to work on their projects. They needed to include the following: information about the time period, information about the writer they chose to research, a piece of text for the class to read, and discussion questions. Each group had to complete a 45 minute presentation on their time period including discussion time. This is how I would teach the -isms. Less me, more them.

So, how is it going? Well, my first group went today, the transcendentalists. One grouped focused on Emerson, the other on Thoreau. For going first, I was happy with the work from both groups. I was particularly impressed with their ability to run the discussion. I think being able to discuss questions that are posed is important, but, even more than that, being able to deliver the question and offer follow-up and insight about the topic is even more impressive. Going forward, I have groups who will be teaching Dickinson, Whitman, London, Crane, Chopin, and James. I have a group who will be using artwork in addition to poetry. I have students who are arguing over the merit of literary works and creating meaningful questions for the study of rhetoric. I am really proud of the work and learning that is happening.

Working with my AP class this year has truly been a grand adventure. I love teaching AP, I think the program offers an incredibly rich learning experience for those willing to put in the time and effort. I tell all of my students that once they find their niche, once they find the subject that they really love, they need to try and take an AP in that subject. I can't wait to see what the rest of the school year holds with these students. Not every moment teaching is beautiful, but when things work, being a teacher, or, really, witnessing, learning, is truly magical.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the eve of Jackson's 2nd birthday

Dear Jackie-boy,

I am sitting here on the eve of your second birthday trying to remember how I felt 2 years, waiting for you to enter our world. I was so nervous as I anticipated welcoming you into our family. I wasn't nervous about you, well, I wasn't nervous about the taking care of a baby aspect of you. I was nervous about your role: little brother. How was I going to balance 2 children under two? How would you fit into our family? How would my heart grow? In the instant that you were born, I knew that I didn't need to worry. You fit into my arms, you fit into my heart. It just grew. It needed a little extra space, because, baby boy, you were born resembling a 3 month old! There you were, though, already assuming your new role, little brother. I loved you instantly, I love you even more now.

Jackson, you are smart and funny and crazy and outright silly. You are sensitive. You are laid back. You love your sister. You have mixed feelings about Fred (who wouldn't?). When you allow me to look into your eyes (when you aren't "sleeping") I am overcome with the joy that you are mine. I can't believe I get to share your laughter and light every day. You say silly things; you tell me your name is poppy or uncle Tim or Olaf. A few days ago, you told everyone at Lily's school your name is Evelyn and you are 3. You love your "ash" (or pacifier) and walk around asking for ash (which, buddy, sounds like ass...and daddy and I joke about that...). When you want something, you go after it. Like DVDs, which you drag your stool to and then remove one by one until you find the one you want. You are just you, and I love you for that.

You and Lily occasionally have your spats, usually over a toy, but you two share so much love. When Lily is sad she will go straight to you and ask for hugs. When you are told "no" and get sad you go right to her. I hope that you and Lily will always share that love and connection, and, when facing this big world, remember to hold onto each other and walk on together. (Also, she calls you little buddy, and that just melts my heart every single time!)

Jackie-boy, I can't believe that you are two. Time truly flies buddy. It seems like yesterday that you made your big entrance into the world, like superman the doctor said (by the by, buddy, being born like superman is very cool, except it hurts mommy...thanks for that). I love you more each day. I know this next year will bring new fun and surprises. I can't wait to live it and learn it and love it with you. Thanks for being my sunshine, little guy!

Love, your mommy