Friday, August 30, 2013

The Fun Part

I have been pretty honest that life at work has been brutal the past few weeks. Trying to settle in to a new old position, start a semester, and reshape a program is a bit much. Throw in 83 girls and a graduate class that is shaping up to be a tough group to teach and I've been a bit--something. I don't really have a word for it. Not overwhelmed. Not unhappy. Just...ugh. I think that's about it.

Last night, though, last night was anything but ugh. We had our committee supper last night, and I challenged my girls to raise the bar for themselves. I had met with previous chairs about sharing leadership and doing more than meeting. Last spring, there was nary a committee meeting--much less an event. It was pitiful.

If last night was any indication, though, we are in for one hell of a year in the best possible way. A senior lead a campaign to Wear Red for Ed last night, a symbol of unity with the profession. We jumped through all the hoops here, and their picture is already on the state campaign was by 8:00 last night. As if that wasn't enough, they talked about how that was nice but they needed to do more. They are discussing ways to effectively advocate to the legislature, and I couldn't be more proud.

The service committee decided fundraising was right out--that's  not real service. Instead, they are working on plans to get truly involved with a group of girls at a local outreach center. They have set the bar high, and the groundwork is being laid to follow through.

The recruitment committee is talking about more than recruiting for our program. They want to show high school students that teachers are valuable and necessary. They are stepping up to the challenge of recruiting the best to be part of their profession.

Even the social committee is planning events that will help publicize the work of teachers in fun and new ways. They are way more creative than I am, and I can't wait to see what they do.

Our communications committee is embracing all of these ideas and developing ways to spread the word about the work being done on our campus and in classrooms. I watched them share leadership and ownership and build accountability structures for actually doing the work.

Through it all, I watched girls laugh and build relationships. I saw my freshmen become part of teams and assume ownership for the work. They were one group driving toward a common goal, and I couldn't be more proud or more excited about what this year will bring.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

We Have a Zebra

Evan finally got to start soccer this week. After a complete wash out last week, he was more than a little excited to try out his shin guards and big socks.

We are still in love with the rec program. They truly seem to understand they are still working with littles--aside from the choice to put Evan's team in white jerseys and socks. The first item on the practice agenda was to choose a team name. Evan is now officially a Zebra! It may not be the most ferocious animal, but it is fast and has white on it. I can see it.

Evan was most excited about being able to play soccer monster. After two seasons of learning how to pass and everyone playing with his own ball, they are now starting to introduce the idea of trying to get the ball. Soccer monster is the perfect game to teach the concept. All but one player has a ball that they have to keep moving. The player without the ball is the Soccer Monster, and he has to get a ball. (You get the idea.) Evan was careful to explain you have to keep your head up if you are not the monster so the monster can't sneak up on you. He was also very clear that in a game you can only be a monster to the other team; you don't take the ball from your teammate. Brilliant!

We'll see what the next practice brings, but for right now, we have a very happy Zebra.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

End of Summer Safari

The blog had a moment yesterday and wouldn't let me post, but let me assure you Issa is loving second grade and all that comes with--especially being able to read whatever she wants for her homework. Life is good.
Now, for a little flashback to the weekend. The weather was particularly gorgeous, cool and sunny, so Brad and I got the itch for a day trip. Enter the zoo.
We arrived shortly after it opened and managed to grab a prime parking spot in the first row. It was an omen of the perfect day to follow.
Our first stop is always the hippos:
Isn't every one's first stop at the zoo a statue rather than a real animal? The kids love the hippo garden just outside the entrance, and I love that they actually want their picture taken!
Evan isn't quite as graceful:
But he does love climbing on the baby hippo:
After we had enough climbing, we headed into the actual zoo, and I found a new favorite animal:
We have always stuck to the same path at the zoo--the short one because we were little and always managed to get there later than we planned. Since we are bigger and arrived way earlier, we took the long route and even had time to venture into the other half of the zoo. This new route put us much closer to the animals in the African side of the zoo, and I fell in love with the giraffes. I don't remember ever being so close to a herd that was so active. I now have a dream to travel to see them in the wild. I just have never seen a more majestic creature.

After the kiddos finally tore me away from the giraffes, we ventured off to see the elephants. After watching them for a while, we explored the exhibit that shows how they track elephants in the wild:
Elephants and helicopters--Evan was thrilled.

We also climbed inside ostrich eggs:
And then we climbed more statues and saw more animals:
But the real destination was the dinos!
Last time we went, Evan was feeling a little punk and didn't really enjoy his time. This time, both kids were all about it! By the way, Issa doesn't have a dramatic bone in her body:
This was Daddy's favorite dino:
We even had two very careful paleontologists:
Right before we got to the dig site, I might have gotten spooked by a dinosaur. We had remarked how one was tucked in some bamboo, and then right as I walked past he roared. I might have jumped and screamed a bit, and my family might be almost ready to let me live it down.

After a quick lunch, we made an amazing discovery. Evan is very big...big enough to ride the carousel without Mom or Dad:
Issa was a great big sister and made sure he was settled, and he thought he was pretty big stuff:
We wandered through North America and found all manner of new discoveries at the zoo, including this geyser:
After several attempts at a group photo with only one member looking, I decided the picture above was my favorite.

We left the zoo late afternoon tired but still very, very happy. I can't think of a better way to end summer.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Little Owl

Be still my heart. My baby girl went off to second grade this morning:
 When did she get so grown up? I blinked and all of sudden she is not so little any more.

Please notice the owl backpack and lunch box:
 Little Brother was pretty thrilled for Issa this morning, too:
Last night, Issa and I had our first day of school talk...

"Baby girl, you know that Daddy and I love you and are so proud of you. Nothing you could do would change that."

"I know, Mom."

"And you know we don't send you to school to be the best or the smartest."

"I know. You send me to learn and to learn to learn."

Even as a felt that surge of "she gets it," I fought the lump in my throat. "That's right, baby, and I am so very glad you know that. We also send you to learn how to be part of the Universe. We send you so that you can practice learning from other people, practice listening to other people, practice being kind.

"You remember how you were a little nervous the first day of boot camp, and the big girls helped you. They made sure you had a friend and they made you feel better. Sometimes, you have to be the big girl."

"But, sometimes it's scary to be the big girl, Mom. What if I don't know what to do?"

"Then you just do the very best you know how at that moment. You do the next right thing. And if you don't know what the next right thing is, you talk with your teacher. And when you get home, you talk with Daddy and I and we will help you figure it out. We will always be here to help you figure it out."

She snuggled in with Baboo, and she still looked little. She was a little nervous about second grade, but she was also excited. She just needed to know the anchor was still there.

This morning, I walked her to her classroom and helped her get settled and she looked so very grown up. She was all smiles when I looked back through the doorway. She was happily coloring her owl, Hello Kitty pencil box in front of her and fresh crayons tipped out just enough to see the colors. I fought the lump and didn't cry until I was safely in the van. I think our owl is in for a fabulous year, and I couldn't be any more proud of the person she is becoming.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I Learned

This was my first experience as full time faculty at the beginning of a semester. Here is what I learned, in no particular order.

1. Holy hell.

2. No matter how ahead you are at the beginning of the week, you will behind by Tuesday.

3. Triage is not just for hospitals; it also occurs in lines outside of offices. She who is crying comes in first. She who has class in five minutes comes in next. Eventually, the line will be gone, but by the time you start a project it will reappear.

4. Holy meetings, Batman.

5. You really only need to have a syllabus and be one chapter ahead.

6. Keep a back-up box of tissues in the office.

7. Schedule changes happen, hit the fan, you get the idea.

8. I am exhausted--physically and emotionally.

9. There is a certain adrenaline rush combined with an emotional rush to the start of the year. Freshmen are teary because they are starting something so new. Seniors are teary because it is the beginning of the closing of a chapter. Faculty are nostalgic for the whole story, teary with the freshmen who become our babies, teary for our seniors who have grown so much and will soon leave the nest.

10. As insane as it all is, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fairy Guilt

Issa came to work with me yesterday and spent the better part of the day regaling every person she met--my colleagues and my students--with her fairy woes. She was not at all whiny, but she wanted people to know the fairy couldn't find her tooth and it was okay because she had a plan. Thankfully, I work with teachers and future teachers who understand the severity of this situation and made the appropriate fuss and affirmation of her plan.
This was the end result:
She put the tooth on her dresser so it wouldn't get lost under the pillow and made the Fairy a sign:
She wanted the Fairy to both know there were no hard feelings and also not miss her tooth. Who could miss a tooth with a sign that colorful pointing the way? I believe it is a tie dyed tooth.

Needless to say, that Fairy not only found the tooth but also left double the payment. Issa was delighted this morning, and we are all quite certain the Fairy will never get lost again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fairy Failure finally happened. The Tooth Fairy missed Issa's tooth. We have heard it happens to everyone, and last night it was our turn.

Issa was with me at work yesterday, and for the first time she pulled her own tooth. I was talking to a colleague, and all of a sudden she blurted out my name. That is so not like her I spun around, only to see her standing there, bloody tooth in hand. Thank goodness I work with teachers who have the good sense to make quite a deal out of this.

Issa dutifully put the tooth in her box last night, but the Fairy never showed. There were tears this morning (from two of us). She decided the tooth must have slipped under the pillow in her box and the fairy just missed it. She plans to leave the box on her dresser tonight with a big sign and arrow. Thank goodness for creative children who identify the problem and pose solutions. I think we both might survive this fairy failure...but I have also heard the Fairy pays double if she's late.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Five Bells

With the new back to school schedule, my alarm has started singing at 5:00 am. It's still dark, and I stumble out of bed and into my running shoes or onto my yoga mat.

Yep...since I started in June I have never missed a run. I might have delayed a day, but I have made every run within 24 hours of my alert. I'm still going strong. Admittedly, I'm walking more than running these days because of a bashed up knee from an unfortunate encounter with the shower (no, I have not gotten any more graceful; yes, I will get it checked out if it doesn't get better).

The alarm is ugly, but I actually love running that early. It's cool, and I get to watch the sunrise. I also encounter all manner of critters, and the world is just quiet. It's my time to just breathe and soak it in. I refuse to let myself problem solve or plan. I just and my running shoes...and I'm still in love.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting There

I feel like I'm starting to settle into the new normal. I know school starting next week will alter that normal again, but I'm adjusting to the new pace and rhythm.
Friday I was in an all day meeting, picked Issa up in time to run to the last day of boot camp, attended my first Company parent meeting (during which my head nearly exploded with information and dates), and then came home to have pizza with the family. Saturday, the kiddos and I went to the grocery while Daddy went to the "don't be a jerk" meeting for soccer. I met my freshmen Saturday afternoon, and I came home to hang out with the family a bit. Sunday, we went to see Planes, and the kids actually asked me to take a picture--a wondrous thing:
When we came home, I cleaned out my closet while Brad mowed. I finished the housework that didn't get finished this week (including paying bills and booking hotel rooms for competitions), and Brad and I had the big calendar planning meeting for the week and semester. It's doable. It's a little nuts, but it's doable. And...I'm less stressed. I think just realizing I can do it--we can do it--and that we still have family time is a huge relief. For now, though, I better get back to it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Big Sisters

We have finished three days of Issa's first company boot camp, and she is still in love. Tired--yes. Some achy feet--yes. But she is head over heels in love.

God has always been incredibly gracious to me in the big decision department. Every time I have agonized over a decisions--especially when it comes to the kids--He has given me peace and the knowledge it was the right one very quickly. Company has been no different.

This week, Issa was assigned not one but two big sisters. One is just slightly older, a girl who was a Tiny and vividly remembers how that works and feels. The other is a high school student who has truly become a big sister in three short days. I have watched her pull Issa into her lap during company meetings, knowing she was exhausted. Issa leans in and can rest for a minute. I have seen her draw my sometimes shy girl into company games. Last night, I watched her pull Issa's hair up into a bun for ballet, and I watched Issa's face shine. The highlight of boot camp yesterday: "My big sister did my hair and she only needed two bobby pins!"

All of the older girls have adopted the littles into their company family, and I am so, so grateful to watch Issa become a true part of it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holy Full Time, Batman...'s the deal. I am really, truly full-time now. Not 30 hours a week full-time. Real full-time.

I'm adjusting. I'm juggling. Nothing has crashed to the floor yet. That is about all I can say about it at the moment. This is a brutal week of trying to start the semester and start our first year in Company with boot camp--every day--from 3 until 6. Brad is taking tomorrow for me so I can do a marathon day in the office. Today, I am trying to knock as many things off the to do list as possible and survive. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Savoring Little

In a million small ways, my children remind me every day that they are not babies. Issa started boot camp for company dance last night. We bought Evan shin guards this weekend for his first soccer team outing. They are growing up.

Every once in a while, though, they are still so little. This weekend, Evan was feeling snuggley and climbed into my lap and wrapped himself around me, head on my shoulder, snuggled into my neck. Little.

Last night, we had a mighty thunderstorm roll through. The lightning made the room look like it was noon. The thunder shook the windows, and the rain sounded like thunder. Issa was so tired from boot camp she didn't budge. It wasn't long, though, before I heard little footprints thumping down the hall. Evan was frightened, and he wanted to snuggle. We settled him in between us, and he snuggled right into me. His little fingers wrapped into my hair, just like they did when he was an infant. He nuzzled into my neck, and every time there was a clap of thunder he would stiffen until I rubbed his back. Then he would relax and settle back into sleep. He was little and I could make everything all better, and I savored every moment because I know they are fleeting.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bears and Dinos and Beads, Oh My!

Yesterday, our little family headed out to our museum to feed the bears! We had gone before, but Evan was teeny tiny and Issa only had vague memories. We were beyond thrilled to be able to go again, and I am quite certain that the kids won't forget this one.
Last time, we went for an evening feeding, which is scattered across the enclosure. This time, we went for breakfast, which means we were much closer to the bears.
Our tour started with some work. Each family was given a paper mache ball to fill. We stuffed ours with sweet potatoes, frozen lettuce, nuts, and beets:
 After our balls were stuffed, we were taken inside the bears' enclosure. Miss Sherry, the keeper, showed us how they check the bears' nails and paws:
 She holds up a walnut and Gus pops right up. We think he wanted another walnut:
 We then got to help weigh Gus:
 He enters from the outside...all 391.6 pounds of him. They were very careful to point out that even though these bears were rescued and have been in captivity their whole lives, they are still bears.

We then headed out to the fenced in area outside of the enclosure. Once our food was safely placed, we headed outside before the bears were allowed inside. Gus, the alpha, was the first to come eat:
 The paper mache didn't stand a chance:
 Mimi came in, grabbed a ball, and ran back out:
 The kids with Gus:
 It was a little toasty:
 Virginia wandered in, but I didn't get a picture before she wandered back out. Yona, the bottom bear in the hierarchy and the "baby," was the last to arrive:
 He finally snuggled up to Gus and ate whatever Gus left. No walnuts for Yona.

It was amazing to watch the bears interact that close!

After lunch, we explored the dinosaur trail:
 And visited the farm before heading inside. The museum has opened a few new exhibits, including this interactive light board:
To say that we had a great day at the museum is an understatement! I am so grateful such a wonderful place is so close to us!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

We Have a Winner!

I took the kids to the library yesterday, and we got quite a surprise! A few weeks ago, Issa entered an essay contest for kids 8 and under. She refused to let me see what she wrote addressing the prompt, "Write a story about your favorite place."
As we were selecting our books, a librarian approached Issa, with her essay in hand, and told her she had won:
Issa was beyond thrilled with her prize and the recognition. Here is what she wrote:

My favorite place is the library becase I get books. I read the books. Thay are cool! When I was five I got my one library card. I get books then I check owt.

I think I'll keep her.

Eleven Years is a Long Time

Brad and I have been married for eleven years. That is not a long time; I'm looking forward to 111 more. But...many of our household items were wedding gifts from our very generous family and friends. Eleven years is a long time for them. Dishes are beginning to chip. Towels have been relegated to the bottom of the pile. We are toying with the idea of replacing some of these things, but we are use it up kind of people.
Our bedding, though, was getting to be a problem. All of it is original. The blanket was getting to be problematic. At one point, it was an incredible velux blanket. Recently, it has literally started to peal apart. Did you know there is webbing inside of those blankets? The velux can just peel off in strips. It was only peeling at the feet, but we were in serious conversations about replacing it, along with everything else on the bed. Seams on comforters and throw pillows had been mended about as much as they could be. It was time, but I dread shopping for linens. I get overwhelmed.
Enter my hero: my sister. They are moving and downsizing to a one bedroom, which meant she had a nearly new set that she no longer needed. Because she rocks, she offered  it to us:
The lighting is terrible, but see how nice it looks in our room? It matches the walls perfectly, and we are no longer picking up pieces of blanket! It looked much nicer at her place because she makes beds like catalogue people do. I did the best I can. It does make me so very, very happy!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I am always trying to think of new and interesting ways to serve vegetables at our house. I get bored so easily, and I just can't roast or steam one more thing. When I stumbled across this recipe, my heart nearly skipped a beat:
 Chicken Paillards with Arugula Salad. It was heavenly and incredibly simple. The sauce on the bottom is a little thickened chicken broth with Dijon and thyme. The chicken itself marinated in lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and thyme before being cooked in a dry pan. The salad, the lovely salad, was arugula, baby spinach, peas, radishes, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. It was a huge hit with everyone!

To celebrate such a succss, Daddy made this dessert, which I'm certain cancelled out such a healthy dinner:
Filo cups filled with extra thick whipped cream and crunched up cookies. It was loveliness.

Not too shabby for a Tuesday night.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Official!

Yesterday was my first official day as the Director of the Teaching Fellows Program. That pesky "interim" is gone, and it is no longer a year to year endeavor. The program is here to stay. I couldn't be happier!

What makes the deal even sweeter is the job has been tweaked a bit. The program really shouldn't take a full-time director. I could have filled the time easily, but it isn't needed. In a move that made me love our new provost a little bit, he realized that. So...I get to take a load off of the department and coordinate our assessment and evaluation efforts, something I really enjoy. I also get to teach a course every semester, which is a dream. In short, it's the perfect job...and it's good to finally be official.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Welcome Home Weekend!

I was in San Diego all last week for an AVID Conference. While I loved my time there, I was really ready to get home to my people. I took the red eye home Friday night, and Brad and the kids met me at the airport. Unfortunately, I saw Brad just long enough to give him a hug before he hopped on an airplane for Cleveland and a friend's bachelor party.

The kids and I headed home, I showered, and then we headed out to do our back to school shopping! This would not have been my first choice, but it was tax free weekend and I'm frugal. Thankfully, Issa was an easy shopper! So many of her supplies are for the general classroom, so she is less particular. We did have to find owl colored tissue boxes, but that was fairly simple in the grand scheme of life. We were actually finished in less than an hour, and I was one happy mama.

We headed home to put away groceries and pack her backpack (because we only have three weeks until school starts!), and I tried to function my way through exhaustion. At 4, we headed to the school for the back to school festival. A local church hosted the event, and the kids had a blast with face painting, balloons, books, school supplies, and a chance to play with friends. Even Evan saw some of his school friends there. We also got to see Ms. Howell, and I instantly fell in love. Issa bravely went up to introduce herself and let Ms. Howell know how much she wanted to be an owl, and Ms. Howell proclaimed, "Can I give you a hug? I like to hug my owls when we're celebrating and I'm celebrating that you are in my class!" I almost cried. She and Issa chatted about all of the owl gear and second grade, and I am quite certain we are in for a fabulous year. God also smiled on me and made it start to pour on the outdoor event when I was quite certain I might fall over soon. We headed home, and everyone called it an early night.

Yesterday, the kids and I headed out to the lake for Miss Steph's party. The water was warm, and some friends had brought all manner of lake toys, including kayaks and rafts. There is no better feeling than watching your children play with other adults who truly love them. They splashed and laughed all day. I finally got Evan to go out in a kayak with me, and now I think he is hooked! I didn't take a single picture of the day, but it truly was perfect.

We headed home to shower, and then we went back to the airport to pick up Daddy! We headed out for our first family dinner in a full week, and promptly came home to crash!

The jet lag has hit full force today, but here's hoping it's short lived! The welcome home weekend was well worth it.