The Beautiful Life…

This weekend I achieved a relationship goal of cinematic significance. Every sappy love story has one great kiss in the rain. Allie and Noah from The Notebook, Paul and Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Charles and Carrie from Four Weddings and a Funeral have filled our heads with the romance and emotional significance of the watery embrace.

tumblr_m3o3ln6nzd1qks92eo1_500Turns out,  much like everything else in my life these days, my kiss in the rain was nothing like I’d expected. Instead of a semi-frantic meeting of impassioned lovers, J and I giggled through our rainy kiss with the sounds of a neighborhood block party going on in the background.

Saturday night, J’s neighbor, SuperMom, and I decided to put together a little Memorial Day grill out for Sunday afternoon. We recruited a handful of neighbor families who pitched in a brought side dishes, and piled what turned into a couple dozen kids into SuperMom’s garage once it started raining. After a traditional grill out menu, the adults gathered around to chat while the older kids made up some kind of dodgeball alternative and the little ones ran laps around the cul-de-sac, jumping in every available puddle.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier.

Take a moment to enjoy your beautiful life: the silly moments, the perfectly imperfect moments, the moments you’ll never forget.

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An appeal to the mommas…

I am not a mom. I’m a cat mom, but that doesn’t really count.

I’ve never given birth, or experienced morning sickness. I’ve never rocked a baby for hours at night, tears streaming down my face from exhaustion as I plead with God to take this ear infection away so that we can all get some rest. I’ve never felt the surge of pride and fear that comes from watching my little one take his first steps.

I am not a mom.

Then three of the most amazing little humans crashed into my life full force. I felt my breath knocked out of my lungs with the noise and chaos they brought with them. They are loud and rambunctious. They vehemently defend points of view that are not based in fact. They are constantly covered in mud and have no idea what is appropriate to wear to church (I’m looking at you, Flipflops.)

And I love them. With every fiber of my being I love these small people. I love them so much it’s confusing. How can I feel so connected to people I didn’t give birth to? Up to this point, did I really understand love at all? The questions bombard me as I feel the daunting and overwhelming task of doing right by these boys.

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I am not a mom.

I would never try to replace their mom. I know that the struggle must be intense for her to be without them and the best I can hope for is to help her do her job by extension. I’m not qualified for the position, but I’m doing my best.

So I help Little One clean his room and wrap MacGuyver in a towel when he’s wet and freezing (obstacle run…it was a thing.) I made a deal with Flipflops that I would DVR some show he likes if he would get his baseball things together the night before practice.

I expected to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, tired. What I didn’t expect was the cold shoulder I’d receive from the moms. With some notable exceptions, instead of helping me learn the ropes this group of women treat me with disdain. If it were overt, I’d be much better able to combat it, but it’s hard to fight a generalized coldness.

So I appeal to all the mommas out there. Be kind to other mommas, mommas-in-training, step moms, expectant mothers, and well-meaning girlfriends. You have no idea what a difference you make.

I am not a mom, but I am trying.

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Suddenly, chaos.

I spent the weekend with J and his three (!) boys. It was the first time I met them and I was more than a little excited, with a healthy dose of nervousness sprinkled in for fun.

I thought the biggest struggle was going to be packing for a weekend of endless possibilities of activities and weather. Despite what the calendar says, “spring” in the DC Metro area has decided to sleep in a bit and winter has stepped in for an encore. Add in a less than locked-in schedule, a couple of 5K runs, and church on Sunday, and my weekend bag was having a bit of an identity crisis. I was also the only estrogen in the sea of testosterone where five men regularly reside. FIVE! That means no bobby pins, flat irons, or clear nail polish in sight.

*brace yourself chickadee*

Turns out, the biggest challenge of the weekend was a matter of pets. J and the boys are dog people; friendly, energetic, loud, outgoing, did I mention loud? I’m more of a cat person.

Dirty, blistered, sick, and bruised, I hobbled home on Sunday exhausted, but ecstatic. I survived my first excursion into J’s natural environment. I got to see him in a whole new light, and it only increased my affection for him. I’m honored that he brought me into this portion of his life and I feel really positive about how the littles and I interacted. It will take time for me to adjust to my extremely loud and high energy future, but I’m exited for the challenge.

12994310_592997390856512_6143785930623525137_nPoint of fact, you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about the kiddos moving forward. Here’s how you’ll know them:
Flip flops – 12,  loves video games, baseball, and pizza. Does not understand why we don’t wear clothes with holes in them.
MacGyver – 11, loves break dancing and taking things apart. Good at break dancing, still working on putting things back together.
Little One – 13 days shy of 8, loves hanging out with dad, board games, and doing whatever his brothers are doing.

Hope your weekend was at least half as fun as mine, but twice as restful.

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Let men be men by letting boys be boys.

I have something to say.

I expect J to open doors for me. I expect him to walk me to my car at the end of a date. I expect him to help me with my coat and offer to carry my shopping bags (which, no joke, are usually his shopping bags).

Now, I don’t have to worry about these things. He always opens the door. He comes around to let me out of the car (unless I’m driving, apparently the rules are different then). He walks on the street side of the sidewalk, even if that means moving me to his other arm. Unless I trick him out of it, he always pays for dinner or coffee or tickets to wherever. I tease him a little about his chivalry, but I never dismiss it; I always thank him. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want him to know how much these small acts mean to me.

e119a73f114933e5619ebda890cfee07In my classroom, when I want an act of physical labor performed, I ask for a young gentleman to help me. Not because I don’t think that the girls in my class could handle it, but because I want to teach my boys to be men. Men who stand when a lady enters the room and hold doors open. Men who grow up to be husbands and fathers and take care of their families no matter what, even if it means working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Men who conduct themselves in a respectable and dignified way.

But I teach middle school.

An expectation of miniature men is unrealistic, even damaging. Boys will be boys. I see it every day. Boys smirk and laugh about inappropriate things. Boys throw things at each other and tease. Boys are hyper and rowdy and can’t sit still for an 84 minute block. It’s not hate speech when boys taunt each other. It’s not a danger to the school environment when they can’t sit still. It’s childhood playing out in the classroom. But it could be irreversibly detrimental to pigeonhole spirited young men into labels of “defiant” or “hyperactive” while destroying their desire to learn.

I’m not alone on this.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in conjunction with Prager University, put together the following short video about the effects of a “female-centric” academic culture. It’s chilling stuff.

May I let my boys be boys, so that they can grow up to be men…

Happy Weekend!

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The Silent Week.

Every have one of those things happen in your life where you thought you were prepared and you did all the research and then it happens and you had absolutely no idea what you were getting into and now you’re completely freaking out?

First year teaching, man. Whoa.

I started my job on January 19, a Tuesday (Monday was a holiday.) Two days later, Snowmaggeddon2016 happened and we got a 6-day weekend. Then two more days, and a scheduled in-service day. If you’re following along at home, that means I only worked 4 days in my first two weeks. Pretty sweet.

I took over my classes on February 1 and immediately realized I was not in Kansas anymore. Two weeks later, running on coffee, adrenaline, and stubbornness, I was feeling run-down and my throat was killing me. Normally, I’d ignore this kind of thing, but it seemed to be getting worse, not better, so off to the doctor.

Strep Throat. Life: 1, Simone: 0

silenceIf you know anything about me, you know that I am essentially a walking musical. I sing in the shower, while driving, in public places, at funerals (just the one time.) I sing directions to my students and my Chinese takeout order to a very confused Asian man. Every Sunday, I minister to my church as part of our worship team and then I lead a couple dozen elementary schoolers in worship during Children’s Church. Singing is intrinsically tied to who I am.

But for one week, I went silent.

I won’t lie, it was incredibly difficult. My heart yearned to express myself in music. The greatest test was church this morning. I’m on the mend, but still wary to cause damage by belting out notes on untested pipes. Instead I had the opportunity to listen. I listened to the people around me in the service pour their hearts out to God in music. I listened as 21 6-12 year olds sang sweet songs to the Savior. In a way I didn’t know was possible, my silence allowed me to hear the voice of the church, to hear the voice of the bride of Christ. Overwhelmed and humbled, I rejoiced for my sickness and the beautiful moment it allowed me to feel the presence of God.

How much would we hear if we stayed quiet long enough to really listen?

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Stand by Your Man | How to help when there’s nothing you can do

“Sweetheart, I’m exhausted.”

His voice on the phone broke my heart a little. God, how do I make this better? I feel so helpless.

When J is in pain, I’m in pain. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s physical pain, like his hurt shoulder from a weekend of snow shoveling, or the weight of his responsibilities, I yearn to bear some of the burden. When I can’t make it better, I feel useless. After much consideration (and feedback that makes me feel like this stuff really works) I present 5 things you can do when you can’t do anything for your man. Or, you know, some much shorter, catchier title. Meh.

Pray for him

Get on your knees and plead for him. Pray that he would be strengthened, that God would protect his mind and heart, that he would not be tempted by sin in his time of weakness. Pray that you would have wise and encouraging things to say. Pray that God would use this hardship to bring himself glory. I think often we see prayer as a last resort, but it should really be a first response.

Listen to him

He may not want to vent; be ready to listen if he does. You will likely feel helpless as you are unable to do anything to ease his pain, but listening and standing by him as he walks through the valley are far more influential than you realize. Lend him strength by sharing his struggle; be sure he knows that you are always available to lend an ear.

Woman hugging a manRemind him that you are solid

During a stressful time in your man’s life, the last thing he needs is to worry that you are going to get fed up and walk away. Even if you feel like he “should know” how you feel, make a point to remind him that you are in it for the long haul and you aren’t going anywhere. He’ll know that whatever else may come his way, you’re always in his corner.

Tell him why you respect him

Women need love, men need respect. Make a list of the things you respect about him. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few things will go a long way to restoring his soul. Is he a great provider? Does he work hard? Does he take physical fitness seriously? Is he emotionally available to you? Is he a godly man?

When is that last time you told him how much those qualities mean to you, how much you respect him for all he does?

Be silly with him

No one can be serious all the time. He may be struggling through physical pain or emotional trial, but you can go a long way to lighten his mood. Send him a quick text with a funny meme, share an inside joke, or send him a selfie of a silly face. You’ll bring a smile to his face and remind him that you’re thinking of him in one fell swoop.

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Just a Trim | Cutting out the dead ends

Last week I got a haircut.

This isn’t a major event, though, embarrassingly, I haven’t had my hair cut since last May. I told my stylist/friend Lindsey that I wanted to trim away the dead ends. Nothing drastic – a good, healthy shape up. As she washed, combed, snipped, and styled, we chatted away about our lives.

12522994_10103468522584801_2390564703336504702_nWhen she was done, I felt like a new woman. There was nothing significantly different about the style – a little shorter, but not much – but as I ran my fingers through my locks, I could all but feel the freedom of trimming away the dead portions. Plus she’s basically a hair wizard.

Oh, the metaphor.

I started thinking about other areas of my life where “dead ends” are lurking. Why, for example, do I still have the contact information and full text message transcripts of the last four guys I dated (including the jerk who broke my heart) saved in my phone? Delete. Why am I holding on to a Save The Date for a wedding I’m no longer invited to attend? Throw it away. Why do I allow the shame of past mistakes to make me fear the future? Confess it and move on.

Oh, friends, how freeing it is to let go of the things that are weighing you down. What are you holding onto? What are the dead ends in your life?

Maybe it’s time to cut them off.

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The End of the Road | Internship Recap

So here we are, friends.

its-no-use-going-back-to-yesterday-because-i-was-a-different-person-then-quote-111 classes, 275 students, and 79 batches of GAK later, and I’m finally staring down the last week of my student teaching experience. After the first week, I wrote some tips for survival. They were all true and exceedingly helpful. But oh, how much I’ve learned in the last few months. I feel as though I’m a completely different person than the one who bounded into my first placement like an eager puppy back in August. So I bring you five more things I’ve gathered:

Learn names

Nothing builds rapport with your students faster than learning their names. Make a seating chart and study it. Force yourself to pass back papers. Stand at the door and greet each student by name as they come into class. Sure, it will take a while to learn all of them (especially at the second placement) but your students will appreciate your effort. I may never remember which twin is Kasey and which one is Kelly, but they know I’m trying, and they cut me some slack. Plus, I Kasey has the curly hair…ee25687bdad83ffb2d74923e46d4ad7e

Take advice…with a grain of salt

Everyone has an opinion and everyone has advice on how the classroom should function. Warm ups or no, read the objective or have students read it, individual vs. group work, the list goes on and on. As a student teacher, you are in a position to glean all the best advice from the people around you, but you are free to ignore the advice that doesn’t apply/doesn’t work. Be gracious, say thank you, and go your own way. In your cooperating teacher’s classroom, you need to be respectful of their rules and procedures, but once you’re on your own, it’s your show.

Steal everything. Everything.

Handouts, lecture notes, PowerPoint slides. Ask your mentor or content partner for their best work and more than likely, they’ll tell you to plug in a jump drive and take it all. Teachers are generous. As long as it isn’t licensed material (don’t be that person) take anything they offer. You don’t have to use everything, but it’s great to have a bank of ideas. Your county or school server is also probably rich with strategies.

Try not be offended

It’s going to happen; someone will forget about you. There won’t be enough handouts at the staff meeting or no one will tell you that you can wear jeans on Friday. It isn’t personal, but the team isn’t used to the extra body and sometimes, they’ll forget to include you. Or, they’ll forget that you don’t get department-wide emails and that you have to be told information in person. It’s easy to get your feathers ruffled – get over yourself. Assuming your team is generally good-willed, believe in the power of the honest mistake and don’t throw a fit when you feel left out.

Every once in a while, you might even be surprised that they remembered you. Like when your Testing Coordinator printed out a copy of the data-access instructions because he knew you couldn’t get to the server, or when a group of teachers throws you a going away lunch on your last day. Relish those moments and let the other ones go.

Be kind to yourself

This works a couple ways. You’ll have days that you blew it; not enough copies, your pacing was all wrong, and you snapped at a kid because you told him to stop rocking in his chair for the 573rd time. Try not to carry over the feelings of inadequacy and regret into the next day. More than likely, your students won’t remember and the only person you’re punishing is yourself. Be reflective, but give yourself a break. You’re still learning, you will absolutely make mistakes.

Which leads to the second part: take care of your body and soul. Student teaching is a lot of work, but you’re no good to anyone if you are sick and worn down all the time. Take time to sleep, exercise, see friends, or hang out with your boyfriend. Balance is key; better to start setting boundaries at the beginning, than when you’re already drowning.

Have fun

It sounds cliche, but honestly, these can be some of the best times of your life. Enjoy the ride, learn all you can, and take time to appreciate the whirlwind experience. Before you know it, it will be over and you’ll be thrust terrifyingly into first year teaching.

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Does the Universe Dare Disturb Me? Apparently.

A couple weeks ago I was leaving school at the end of an incredibly long day. It was dark and had been raining; the yellowish glow of sodium lights cast a vaguely mysterious haze over the glistening parking lot. At any moment I felt someone may step out from the shadows and begin reciting Prufrock.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Anyway. I made my way to my car, enormous teacher tote, handbag, and coffee cup in tow. Just as I was about to grasp the door handle to unload my cargo, my leading foot slipped and I jolted forward in a decidedly unladylike fashion.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I’m notoriously clumsy. My greatest hits include Falling Up the StairsWhere Did That Bruise Come From, and the holiday classic Maybe You Should Live in a Bubble. I am the queen of random marks, cuts, and scrapes. On more than one occasion, this is completely true, I’ve had a quasi-intervention where coworkers or concerned friends tell me that it’s okay to seek help if I’m in an abusive relationship. It’s bad, friends.

healthy-food_0611131I looked down at my feet, expecting to see a puddle or some kind of oil left on the pavement. Instead, what I see stopped me in my tracks. In a classic move that I couldn’t make up if I tried, I slipped on a banana peel. A BANANA PEEL. The absurdity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks and left me gasping for breath as my laughter bubbled to the surface. Somewhere between the classroom and my vehicle I had transformed from a respectable college instructor to a cartoon villain.

Do you ever have one of those days when  you think, this might as well be my life?

You win this round, universe.

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The misery of merriment…

Christmas morning started like any other.

My 30-year-old brother allowed me to sleep until 9 am (some kind of record, I’m sure) before decreeing that it was present time. Presents opened, I made Christmas scones and we munched happily while the roast was prepped and went into the oven. Then comes the lull, that time between the flurry of activity in the morning and the mad dash to get Christmas dinner on the table. In a bit, I’ll need to pull my china out of storage and wash it. There will be potatoes to mash, crudités to cut up, and veggies to roast. I’ll get swept up in the rush and the beautiful adrenaline of the holidays will lift my spirits.

But right this moment, I’m sad.

Maybe because there is a great big personality missing. Maybe because the second year is so much harder than the first. Maybe because the weather is unseasonably warm and rainy. Maybe because a small part of my heart is on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Maybe because there seems to be no peace on earth. Whatever the reason, the ennui is real.

I hope this holiday finds you wrapped in warmth and love. If, instead (or additionally,) it finds you feeling a bit sad, my heart goes out to you. Remember, always, that God’s grace is sufficient. He will carry you through this difficult season and hold you up when you lack strength. He is greater than your pain and your sorrow.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

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