Tuesday, February 28, 2012


In Sunday School a couple weeks ago, my third grader was shoved by a fifth grade boy in his class. In retaliation, my son stomped on the other boy's balloon (a treat class had been given), breaking it with a satisfying pop.

My first response was frustration and shame. I don't want to be the mom of a "brute" - a boy who retaliates in anger. I want him to be a peaceful person. I want him to be a mature Christ-follower who offers forgiveness and grace. That's probably way too much to ask of a nine-year-old. But I don't see his friends at school lash out in anger like that - although, maybe they do at home with their siblings and I never see it. My son doesn't have siblings to help him learn to negotiate things like this. 

But there came a moment where a small part of me was proud that he stood up for himself. I don't want him to be arrogant or selfish, but I do want him to be confident enough to hold his own and seek help when someone tries to push him around or manipulate him.

As a mom, responsible (with my husband) for the social, emotional and spiritual education of our son, I am torn. How do we teach boys to be self-confident and stand up for themselves but not create brutes or bullies who use that confidence and power irresponsibly?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This year of teaching has become a lesson in reconciliation. Our school uses a system of "reminders" when students misbehave. I have had a couple incidents this year where students have earned significant reminders and they've been unhappy to receive them. In two cases, after I gave the reminders and turned the students over to the principal, I have had to figure out how to interact with that student - and sometimes with a parent - when I see the student again. 

And I see every student every day.

  • Do I avoid the student while it feels awkward, letting other staff handle him/her until the weirdness passes?
  • Do I take the initiative and approach the student and talk directly about the situation?
  • How do I gauge my own heart regarding the student? 
  • Can I separate the behavior in one moment - one bad decision - from the student?
  • How are we reconciled to an even place in our relationship going forward? 
  • How do I communicate love and acceptance in a genuine way?

So far, when these situations come up, I have chosen to not avoid the student, but not get in his/her face either. I wait for an interaction to come up organically and I endeavor to treat the student the same way I would have before. I'm sure I don't always get it right. Sometimes it feels like I'm trying too hard to pretend that nothing happened - too cheery or too friendly. Thankfully, seeing every student every day gives me a lot of opportunities to have positive interactions to offset the more difficult ones.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

SAVOR: Sixth graders

Three years ago, I taught a group of 17 students in my son's school. I was only at the school two hours a day, four days a week, but I grew to love those kids.

This year, they are 5th and 6th graders. Next year, several of them will move on to the secondary school, and I won't see them every day like I do this year.

A couple weeks ago I was talking to them about their "Step Up Day" when they spent the morning at the secondary school getting taste of what 7th grade will be like. I told them how excited I am for each of them for the great adventure that awaits them as them move "up" from elementary school. One of the students I had three years ago piped up and said, "But we won't get to see you next year."

I told them, "Oh, I don't want to think about that right now because it will make me weep." And I will cry when they graduate. I will miss seeing them because they are growing into such wonderful young men and women. I enjoy being with them and joking around and hearing about their lives and their accomplishments. 

It was a moment that I "treasured in my heart." One I want to SAVOR this year because it means I have connected with some of my students in a new way and that is the whole point of being a teacher. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Lent begins tomorrow. For years I didn't pay much attention to Lent, assuming it was more of a Catholic thing than a Protestant one. But I have come to appreciate the discipline of Lent. While I have a hard time denying myself anything I want most days, Lent allows me an external motivation to be disciplined. 

This year our family is giving up sweets for Lent - Girl Scout Cookies, chocolate, regular soda, etc. 

We love our treats. I have a little chocolate most days. But it has become too big a part of our lives, so we are going to allow Lent to train us into more discipline. The first few days should be the most trying. But I am looking forward to it nonetheless.

Are you giving up anything for Lent? Or maybe adding a practice that you want to cultivate in your life?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Love without Condition

Do you know you are loved without condition or limitation by God?

Our pastor asked this question a couple weeks ago at church. And my first answer was "yes." But sometimes it is a choice to believe that rather than a feeling. These days I feel loved by God because I feel His presence and His acceptance in my grief. I wouldn't say I am angry with God that Dad is gone. But I wish it weren't so. I wish the last year had a different tone, a different theme. I struggle with feeling alone. I struggle with the pain of loss and grief. I struggle some mornings to even get out of bed.

And I know God knows all of that. He does not begrudge me my pain, my experience. He stand with me as I walk this road. I choose to trust Him on a path I don't always enjoy and would not have willingly chosen. It helps that God has given me the opportunity to pour myself into something worthwhile this year. I know He is with me in the joy of my work and the pain of my grief. He has purpose in using both for His glory. I know God loves me because He stands, unchanging, in the face of my ever-changing moods, the highs and lows, the tears and laughter. He is constant. His love is constant. I am grateful for His love, for His acceptance. And today I am thankful for His constancy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Since my word for the year is SAVOR, I am trying to pay more attention to moments and to the here-and-now. My mind tends to work weeks or even months ahead of today and I miss things because I am thinking about something else when life is happening right in front of me. So, I'm trying to record stories of moments I want to SAVOR. I mentioned one last week. Here is another:

Every night, once my son is ready for bed, I read a chapter or two of a book to him. This is something we have done since he was a baby and it is a ritual we enjoy as a family. Once the story is done, my husband comes in and the three of us pray together and then I sing a bedtime song and we put my son to bed. [I am trying to SAVOR this ritual because I am afraid he will grow out of it all too soon, but that's a story for another time.] Lately, we have been reading in my husband's and my bedroom, so we can stretch out together on the bed for the story. 

A couple weeks ago, as we were waiting for my husband to come back to the room for prayer, my son and I were snuggling on the bed. I kissed his head and told him that I always love him and that I hoped he knew that. He looked up at me and said, "I always know that." 

As a teenager in an angst-filled home, I sometimes wondered if my parents loved me. I knew they were proud of me and expected a lot from me, but I did wonder sometimes if they loved me or if they would still love me if I stopped meeting their expectations. Some of that is a function of adolescence, but some of it also came from not hearing many "I love yous." [They may have been said - it was an angsty time, as I mentioned - but I didn't hear or internalize them.] So I have always felt driven to let my son know that he is loved. And I hope and pray that he hears and internalizes it when we say it, because I know we say it a lot. And in this one little moment, he confirmed that he has heard and recognized our love.

A moment to SAVOR for sure.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Simple May Be Better

I used to have a PDA. Then I had a Day Timer. I even tried one that was 8.5x11 in size so I could punch holes in any standard paper and add it to my planner (like meeting agendas, presentation notes, etc.)

They all left me feeling like Goldilocks. None of them was "just right."

I even tried to make my own. I designed my own pages for tracking the things I was interested in like book release days and book series and craft shopping lists and to do lists. That didn't even do it.

This year I bought this:
Ridiculously simple, right? I noticed this at the bookstore last year when I was working a less intense job because I thought the Sudoku puzzles would be something I could do in my down time. This year, when I actually bought it, I don't have time to do puzzles, but the simple to do list format is working perfectly. Every Friday I tear off the weekend page. Then I pull off the Monday through Friday pages and staple them together. Part of my Friday routine is to fill out a to do list for our weekend and start my lists for the week ahead. 

Recently I added to that a system described by Michael Hyatt for managing your workload. Items that are both urgent and important are marked with an A. You do those first. The important but not urgent items get a B and you do those next. The urgent but not important are Cs and things that are neither urgent nor important are Ds. 

This is by far the simplest planner system I have ever used, but it is exactly what I need right now. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Epic Cookie Fail

Super cute, right? We have talked about getting these cookie cutters for awhile and finally bought them when we saw them in person one day. I was waiting for a chance to use them when our youth group announced a cookie walk fundraiser. We were to bake the cookies and then members of the congregation would pay $5 for a baker's dozen. (Brilliant, by the way! A fantastically fun idea.)

So, after a long week of school and three days of basketball events and a visit from my in-laws, I found myself baking cookies on a Saturday afternoon.

We were stoked! These were going to be a great contribution to the cookie walk at church.

Then I baked them.

That's how Yoda came out. A vague blob. I hadn't planned to ice them because the samples on the box are so intricate. I don't have the patience for that. I wanted the details to just stay in the cookie. #epicfail

The cookie cutters came with a cookie recipe. We'll try that some time to see if those hold their shape better. But after 2 hours of baking blobs, I did not have time to start from scratch, so we switched to iced sugar cookies and hoped our offering wouldn't be too lame for the cookie walk. I'll let you know if we figure out a better cookie base to use in the future.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

SAVOR: Names

In some stories - fantasies and fairy tales - there's an idea that knowing someone's name gives power, either over circumstances or over the creature itself. Rumpelstiltskin for example. In real life I think there is an element of truth to this. People feel connected - feel valued - when we know and use their names. 

One of my responsibilities (joys?) at school is standing outside monitoring traffic and greeting students. Sure, when it is 20 degrees or a torrential downpour, it's not much of a joy, but most days I enjoy seeing the students and trying to be a positive part of the start of their day.

The other day, as a mom was pulling away, she said she enjoyed hearing me greet the students by name. Another joy of my position is that I see 98% of the students in the building each week in the library and all of them in the lunchroom. So I know their names. 

My first thought as she drove off was all the times I have called kids by the wrong name - and not just the identical twins, either, but calling younger brothers by the older brothers' name or just flat out saying the wrong name all together. I hate when I do that - it feels like an insult to call the student by the wrong name.

My second thought was a piece of scripture - I couldn't even remember where it came from:
"I have called you by name. You are mine."

God knows each of us by name and has called us - "summoned" us, according to the NIV (Isaiah 43:1). The whole rest of the morning this verse hung with me - and even now, a week later, it is still roaming around in the back of my head. Every time I call one of my students by name - greet them, congratulate them on something they have done or tell them I'm glad they are back after an illness, I think of how it might feel to each student to be known by name - not just one in a crowd. I think of how God cares enough about us to call us by name. 

This idea of names and this moment with this mom are things I want to SAVOR this year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Little Explorer

Last Sunday my son and I attended church with another congregation to celebrate the baptism of two of my students. It happened to also be Communion Sunday for that church. I told my son that things would be different than at our church, but he could be flexible and just "roll with it."

I looked over at him during communion and found him scraping off a small corner of the wafer to taste it (Verdict? Awful. His buddy sitting next to him actually spit his back out). Then I saw him sniffing the juice. I had to laugh. It was a reminder that I am raising a little explorer. He always asks how things work. He wonders about things that I accept without question. He wants to feel things with his own hands (like the outside of Arby's while we wait in the drive through - "But I've never gotten to touch it.")

I love how his mind works, but it is quite foreign to me. I wonder how people work - why they act the way they do or make the choices they do, etc. It never occurs to me to wonder how my cell phone works or how thunder works. They do and I don't give it much additional thought. It's kind of refreshing, though, to see things through his eyes, like an unusual communion wafer or the side of a fast food restaurant.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Scrapbooking Again

Last weekend I made scrapbook pages for the first time in years. Not necessarily my "best" work, but pages are made, pictures are archived and stories are told.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Word - Update

At the beginning of the year I planned to use "Finish" as my word for the year, but a couple weeks in I decided to change it to "Savor."

This has been a timely word - one I have thought about using before. But this year, the timing was right.

In my Stacy Julian class, Twelve, last Thursday, she talked about "everyday life," and specifically about scrapbooking it in all it's chaotic, real glory. Taking pictures and recording the details of the regular days. Pasta dinner every Monday. Laundry day. What the kitchen table looks like when you don't have company coming over.

I wrote this down from her weekly video: "Life isn't perfect. Ever. The more aware you are of the ordinary, the better you can get at appreciating it and adjusting your expectations to reality, and the more you can be satisfied."