Being a Sheep

There is a song that our children sing in church. It goes:

I just wanna be a sheep, baa baa baa baa
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa*

It’s a cute song and my boys love to sing it, especially because the other verses talk about what we don’t “wanna be”: a hypocrite (they’re just not hip with it), a Pharisee  (‘cuz their not fair, you see), or a Sadducee (because they’re so sad, ya see).

I certainly don’t want to be a hypocrite (although I know I am sometimes) or the other things either, but I don’t know if I can stand up and shout I JUST WANNA BE A SHEEP! either.

Every time the image of Jesus as the Shepard and his followers as the sheep comes up, I cringe a little. I know. That sounds awful, and I feel a little awful writing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the pastoral imagery, the connotations that He keeps us safe with love and guidance, and I am even ok with the whole “follow” him thing. I want to follow Jesus and his teachings. I do. I am a big believer in love and kindness.

But I don’t think I want to be a sheep.

sheep

Sheep follow blindly. They don’t question. Sheep are dumb. Sheep are thoughtless.

When I think of people as sheep, I think of that popular insult on the internet: Sheeple. You know, those people who seem to believe (and follow) every “expert” they read on the internet. The ones who blindly follow “data” without following up on it themselves. Those who don’t vaccinate, or do vaccinate, or use baby wraps, or co-sleep, or don’t co-sleep or vote Democrat or Republican, or repost articles without ever doing their own fact-checking. People who jump on bandwagons simply by trusting that what people (and the internet) tell them is true.

I know, I know. Jesus is different.

He’s a different kind of shepard. He cares about us and won’t lead us down the wrong path.

I get that. I do. And there probably isn’t other imagery that the writers of the scriptures could have used to adequately describe the idea that Jesus will take care of us if we follow him.

But honestly, that is where my faith gets weak. I have no problem getting behind the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbor? You betcha (even though I fail often, I still believe in this)! Love is the greatest? Yes, sir! Don’t throw a rock unless you are free from sin? Standing ovation.

I even get the whole, “Katie? You have to trust me. I know what I’m doing.” I get that. I don’t always act like it, but I do believe it.

But “act like a sheep and just follow with no questions just blind faith?”  I don’t think I can.

You see, I have lots of questions. If I was to be a sheep, I would be the bad sheep. I would be the one in the back saying, “where are we going? Will there be a snack because I’m hungry. What about a rest? Are we going to get a rest soon? My legs hurt. Hey, that tree is nice. Did you pick this way because of the nice view?  Do you think this wool makes my butt look big? I think I need a shear.”

I would be relentless.

I know there are Christians out there who would tell me, “just be quiet. He will take care of it.”  And I know in the Bible Jesus tells us not to worry. Birds don’t have to worry. Flowers don’t have to worry. And neither do we.

But I have questions. I have doubts. I mean, there have been some pretty terrible leaders who have told people just to trust them because they know what Jesus is all about and then those people drank some Kool-aid and well, let’s just say they didn’t end up in a green pasture.

I’m not comparing Jesus to those leaders. I’m saying those leaders thought they knew what Jesus wanted and they talked a bunch of sheep-like people into believing it too because sheep do as they are told. They think what they are told to think.

I can’t do that. I ask all the questions and have all the opinions.

“Listen, Shepard. Where do we go when we die? Why does it scare me so much? Is there a sheep heaven? Is it really like the book of Revelation says because honestly? That sounds weird. Why do good sheep fall down? Why do good sheep get made into stew and chops? Why are goats bad? Is it Ok if that goat is my friend? Because he plays a wicked guitar solo and I dig his sense of humor.”

Ok, so my questions and doubts are a little heavier that that, but you get the idea.

I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop being me with all my thinking and whatnot.

Sometimes I wish I could. I wish church would give us a little handbook that says, “Here are your opinions on all the things. Go forth and believe them no matter how anyone challenges them. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT; JUST DO IT.”

But I know I would fail at faith if that was how it worked.

In fact, as a young adult, I thought that was how it worked and I thought I failed.  I’m coming to find out now, that maybe I’m ok the way I am: full of questions, doubts, and opinions.

But is it Ok to not wanna be a sheep?

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*lyrics and music for I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

**googling free images of sheep will make you happy because sheep are rather cute, if not totally stupid.

Quarter

Dear Alice,

A quarter of a year has gone by since you arrived. In the grand scheme of our lives that is a blip. But it feels huge. It feels like forever and hardly any time at all.

3months

 

You’ve gone through a big old growth spurt. By my rough measures (aka weighing myself without you and then with you, and busting out the tape measure while you’re sleeping), you weigh around 16 pounds and are about 22.5 inches long. Seriously. You have put on more than four pounds in the last month, but you’re not tons longer, although I can tell in some of your jammies that you’re getting ready to bump up to 6 month size. Just like your brothers before you, your jammies were the first we had to go up a size in. I guess we make ’em tall!

Your legs and arms and face are all chubbing up in the cutest way possible. You eat an average of 25-30 ounces a day and take two biggish naps (one right away in the morning after your first bottle that lasts about an hour or so, and another that is longer in the afternoon) and you sleep anywhere from 7-9 hours at night. You did not read that wrong. Once you went NINE hours in between bottles. Daddy and I got nervous.

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You figured out your hands! Well, sort of. You know they are there, part of your body. You know that you are the one who moves them, but you are still working on getting them to go where you want, although you’ve got the move to get them straight in your mouth down pat!

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You seem to favor toys with a face. There is a caterpillar (daddy says it’s a bug) that jingles when I shake it. You LOVE that thing. You get your concentration face on–which incidentally is the exact same as both of your brothers and your daddy–and you smile at it and try to reach for it.

Speaking of toys you love, none of our kids have ever developed a lovie love as early as you have with your bunny. I don’t blame you; bunny is so very soft and cuddly. It was a gift from a wonderful blogger friend, and I put it in your Rock n Play with you from the minute it arrived on our doorstep.  Now, when you know it’s near you, you wrap your arms around it and pull it close to your face. Most times you fall asleep immediately. If you’re not tired, you suck on bunny’s ear. That’s gross, Alice.

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Your personality is coming through more and more each day.

As I type this you are on your daddy’s chest, tucked under his chin. You will not sleep on me like this. You need to be on your back or side when you’re with me, but on your daddy, you will snooze on your tummy all day long. But you are pretty indiscriminate about who holds you, as long as you are being held or talked to. Ignoring you is not an option. In this way, you remind me a lot of Eddie at this age.

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Eddie was a smiley baby, but you have him beat by a million, but like Charlie, you will not crack a smile for the camera (Charlie actually didn’t smile for anyone other than a little smirk now and then). Your smile is HUGE and so very sweet. Even your eyes twinkle.

When you get upset you go from fine to full-blown anger ball in about 1/10th of a second. And giant tears stream down your face. If your brothers ever produced tears at this age, it was just from their eyes watering. You have legit crocodile tears.

The conversations we have are amazing. You respond with your whole face and body AND your voice. You blow raspberries and gurgle and screech with joy! You also get shouty and perturbed. All of us have been praised for our plethora of facial expressions and it looks like you’re going to follow suit.

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Oh Alice. You are the best.

Somehow, sweet girl, you make me happy and smile when I don’t think it’s possible. I simply cannot be in a bad mood when I am with you. Sometimes I love you so much I just want to hug you and squeeze you, but I also don’t want to burst you, so I hold back.

I kiss your little cheeks a million times a day and could nap for hours with my nose on the top of your sweet-smelling head.

you are my buddy and a blur of movement!

you are my buddy and a blur of movement!

When I was pregnant with Charlie, I didn’t understand how in the world I could love another like I loved Eddie. Now that all three of you are here, I wonder if my heart will burst with all the love I have for you three.

People like to joke that Daddy and I are consistent in our cute kid factory over here; you all definitely look like siblings. But the real fun is seeing each of you grow into your personalities and talents. Alice, you have similarities to both of your brothers and to me and to Daddy, but at the same time you are developing your very own quirks and traits.

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I once thought that by the third child, the fun of a baby would have worn off a bit. I knew what developments were coming, and I was sure some of the amazement at watching them would be gone. I was so very wrong. Watching you reach for a toy for the first time was just as exhilarating and miraculous as it was with Charlie and with Eddie.

And being your mom is no less extraordinary and beautiful.

Here’s to a quarter of a year and to many, many full years to come.

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I love you, my Allie Beans.

Mommy

Open Boxes by Christine Organ

Book coverThe book Open Boxes by Christine Organ is not just another feel-good book meant to tell you how to connect with your inner spiritual flower child. It is an inspirational collection of essays that demonstrates how our every day lives are filled with beautiful grace, amazing wonder, and incredible miracles.

I will admit when I read the description of the book, I figured it would be one of those hippie-dippie books that gives me instruction about how I can meditate and self-love my way into a happier, calmer life. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn’t so much didactic as it was inspirational.

Organ postulates that our lives are like a series of tightly sealed, organized boxes that we file away, keeping separated from other parts of our lives. In order to lead a more connected, spiritually peaceful life, we should open those boxes and make connections. She organizes the personal essays in the book into the three ways she imagines the boxes being opened and shared: Grace, Wonder, and Miracles.

Early in my reading, I found myself grabbing for my pencil, marking up the book as I read, dog-earring pages to come back to. Rarely do I identify so much with someone else’s spiritual journey. Mine has always felt very unique in that it all took place–is taking place–in my own head. Organ’s journey is very similar in that she embraces her doubts.

“We have doubts and questions. We see inconsistencies, and there are times when we don’t know what to believe. But there is no shame in admitting the presence of spiritual doubts. In fact, acknowledging doubts is a critical part of an authentic faith” (73).

She also recognizes the need to be vulnerable and take chances in order to be our best and produce our best. I struggle with this in my writing as well as in my teaching, mothering, and wife-ing I know that in order to do the great things I have dreamed about my whole life, I have to open myself up. I have to allow mistakes and criticism. But it’s so hard. Organ says, “The prickliness of vulnerability is a touch of pain accompanied by the feeling of freedom that comes from having done something truly authentic, personal, and unabashed” (61).

The other areas of the book, Wonder and Miracles, are no less inspiring.

“Sometimes the weight of wonder is just too much, the awe too overwhelming, for me to grasp” (127).

From her faith journey to her struggles with vulnerability to her miscarriage and learning to embrace self-care, I kept finding more ways to personally connect with Organ. But probably the most significant connection I felt to her was in the way she describes wonder and miracles.

Every day I marvel in wonder at a million things, but at the top of the list are my children. Not a day goes by that I don’t run my fingers over Alice’s sleeping face or Charlie’s fingers or through Eddie’s hair. The fact that I have them is a miracle, and watching them grow and learn is a wonder.

She even touches on prayer in the Miracles section, but it’s not in the way you think. Organ does not talk about times she prayed for miracles and they happened.  Nope. Instead she discusses the “tricky” nature of prayer–who is it really for? What is it supposed to do? She muses that prayer is not for changing circumstances, but for giving the person doing the praying a different perspective on those circumstances. For providing a peace. She even likens prayer to a form of therapy.

I could go on and on. This book is beautiful. I personally connected to so much. Not everything, but enough that it kept me reading and nodding and marking up the pages with “ME TOO!”

If you are in a funk emotionally or spiritually, I recommend Open Boxes. Even if you are not, it’s a lovely read that will reaffirm what you know and help you to believe in the miracles and wonder of this world we live in, this life we have been graced with. It will help you mentally open boxes and see all the ways we are all connected.

Open Boxes is available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, nor are the links affiliate links. I was sent a copy of the book to read and review, but all opinions are my own.

Confessional

Alice will be three months old this weekend and I have never had a day to myself since she was born. I’m mostly Ok with this because she is my little buddy and I haven’t had the downward spiral I felt with both of the boys when I had no alone time. But knowing that this week also marks the end of our alone time together since school will be out, scares me. And I am sad I didn’t take people up on the “just give me a shout out if you want me to take Alice off your hands for a bit.”

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I had a zit on my nostril months ago. It’s gone, but now the area is flaky and sometimes painful. I read recently that this can be a sign of skin cancer. Have I ever mentioned that I am paranoid about diseases like cancer? I’ve already had a pre-cancerous spot removed from my cheek. I haven’t gotten it checked out yet because A) OMG how many times can you email your doctor before he thinks you’re a freak show and B) “Hi. I have a weird spot on my nostril.”

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I have no fewer than 25 drafts going right now. I have a huge rush of ideas and words and I can feel them in my finger-tips, yet something has been stopping me from writing. Part of it is life, but part of it is my own confidence. My own “why even try?”  My soul is tired and beat down.

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The school year ended for my district on Friday, May 29. I am officially off maternity leave. Now I await my teaching assignment for next school year. I’m praying I don’t have to move buildings again, but at this point I will be happy with whatever I get. I love my district and our students. I hate that the state forces cuts on us every year affecting our great teaching staff, administration, and mostly our students and their families.  I try to pay attention to what is going on at the state-level regarding education, but it feeds my depression.

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Eddie cries a lot. Not because he is sad or depressed, but because if he even thinks that maybe he got hurt, he cries. I am scared that he will become a target for other kids. I’m afraid other kids will see him as a cry baby.

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I am constantly asking myself: “is this normal? is this just hormones? am I spiraling? is that depression, anxiety, paranoia? does he hate me? did I say something dumb? will they still want to be my friends? Is THIS depression?”  It’s exhausting.

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Age three is my least favorite age yet. When Eddie was three, I thought we wouldn’t make it. Now that Charlie is three, I am afraid he and I won’t make it through the summer together. He is more headstrong and aggressive than Eddie ever was anyway, but with this new “three-ness” he is getting downright awful. He even bit a kid at daycare.

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I have a post in draft about my faith that I am scared to finish and post.

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I’m scared to have my boys home with me this summer. Last summer I was excited about it because the summer before was so fun. Then I found out I was pregnant on the fourth of July and about a week later all the sickness and exhaustion hit and I cried almost daily. Cortney kept saying “next summer will be better when the baby is here.” But I am not so sure. I lose my temper so quickly lately, with Charlie especially. And the boys fight all the time. They can’t just go outside and play nicely for an hour. They are in and out with tattling every few minutes. I’m afraid I will be the crabby, yelly mom.

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I am in the process of taking inventory of my classroom library. I expected some book loss, but it’s still so sad. I want to have a sure-fire way to maintain and replace books, but I know I have to depend on the kindness of others. It is glorious, by the way, how people step up and give. I know I need to let go of wanting to control knowing that books will come, but at the same time, I need books!

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I work really hard not to vent all my whiny crap all over social media, but looking at my Instagram and Facebook, I’ve noticed that it’s hiding a lot of pain with a lot of happy. Not that the happy is fake, but it’s not the whole story.

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I hate asking people to watch my kids even for legit reasons like appointments. I hate even more asking people to watch my kids just so I can have a break or so Cortney and I can go out. We’ve been out on a double-date ONCE since Alice was born.

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I worry about money (or the lack of it) constantly.

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I always feel like I am either A) waiting for something big to happen that will help us financially or B) giving up on anything ever happening.  And then I feel like a selfish ass because I guess I know money doesn’t buy happiness and all that, but I also feel like it was someone with money who said that.

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I am uncomfortable with myself lately. This is probably why I worry about money because maybe I want to buy things to feel better, and I know that won’t fix how I feel about myself. I know what I need to do to feel better, but it all seems…unpleasant. I am a giant wuss and an even gianter (yes, I made that word up) complainer.

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I don’t really know what “take care of you” means. How do I do that? Where is the line between taking care of myself and just being selfish? How do I take care of myself without being a jerk to my family? I don’t even know what to ask for.

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All of these things are so stupid. Right now I have a sleeping baby girl next to me and a cup of coffee. My husband has a job he loves. My three-year old has a smile that takes up his whole face. My oldest is about to finish Kindergarten and turn six. My life is super fantastically awesome. All of the above doesn’t matter and does matter at the same time. All of the wonderful is SO wonderful. And all of the other stuff is just peripheral, but it’s still there.

It’s still there.

Where My Writing Is

I’ve gotten some amazing opportunities lately to have my writing find new audiences. The best part is that I have been writing about something I am passionate about: teaching, writing, and reading. I hope you’ll click over and read my words if you haven’t already.

  1. During Teacher Appreciation Week, I contributed a post to BonBon Break about how Not All Teachers Are Appreciated Equally. I teach in a Title 1 school district, but we send our kids to a very affluent district. The differences aren’t just felt by students, but by teachers as well.
  2. If you’re looking for a list of summer reads, you’ll want to check out another post I did for BonBon Break: Top Summer Reads from 20 Bloggers. It was so fun to talk to my favorite bloggers about what their favorite books are.
  3. I am also so excited to announce that I am now a regular contributor over at The Educator’s Room. My first article was about Turing Reluctant Readers into Life-long Readers.
  4. Last week I contributed a list of 8 Social Media Must-Follows for ELA Teachers, but really? Most of these are great for parents too because they keep you updated on the latest books for teens and how to engage your kids in reading and writing.
  5. And today I have an article up about How to Build Your Classroom Library with No Budget. This one is very close to my heart because I am ALWAYS working on maintaining my classroom library that many of you have generously donated to.

Happy reading!

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

51OXR+YUIIL._UY250_I’ve mentioned before that part of my story as a reader includes the years I was into mysteries. I haven’t really picked up a good murder mystery since Dan Browns’ The Da Vinci Code, so I was ready for one.  Plus, mysteries are just good quick summer reads.

I was sent a copy of The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Jeffrey Hunter McQuain to read and review which is perfect because A) mystery and B) Shakespeare!

Christopher Klewe and his best friend Mason Everly, a fellow Shakespeare expert, were about to make a ground-breaking announcement regarding the Bard at The Globe Theater in London when Klewe finds out Everly has been murdered in Washington D.C. by a secret society. As Klewe finds out about the murder a reporter, Zelda Hart, loiters around and ends up joining him as he searches for answers about the killer. The search leads the pair from D.C. to Paris, London, and Stratford Upon Avon.

I will admit that when I started reading the book, I found the names of the characters pretty cheesy, but as I continued to read, I really didn’t care. The Shakespeare Conspiracy is just a great, traditional murder-mystery that keeps you turning pages. All the chapters are super short, but end on some sort of cliff-hanger that makes you say, “eh, what is one more chapter? They’re short!” Before you know it, you’ve blown through the whole book in a matter of days.

McQuain has a PhD in Literary Studies from American University and is an expert himself on The Bard. The information he injects in the story is fascinating and helps to move the plot along. The information both Everly and Klewe have about Shakespeare and the announcement they planned to make about him is fed to the reader as it is fed to Zelda via Klewe. Like other historical or literary conspiracy-based fictional mysteries, this one is chocked full of research, but it’s not weighted down by it.

The only part I find lacking (besides the goofy names) is that the characters lack an emotional connection. The reader gets that there are friendships and romantic feelings, but it isn’t done very well. It’s not distracting, however, since few murder mysteries focus on the emotions, rather they feed on the logic of the reader.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it as an easy, light summer read. Especially if you want to learn a little something about one of the world’s greatest writers.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The book was sent to me for review, but the opinions are all mine. Links are affiliate which means if you click and buy I will get a few dimes thrown my way.

Kid-friendly Ice Cream Balls

Once in a while I like to post a recipe here. When I do it’s not just a random recipe we like, it’s got a story. It’s one that the whole family enjoys. This one is no different.

Kid-friendly ice cream balls that are so simple, the kids can help make them too!

Ice Cream balls taste like my childhood. If you make this recipe, while you are eating it straight out of your hand, you will be able to think to yourself, “oh. This is what Katie’s childhood tasted like.”

My mom made these for every single family get together, but I specifically remember them on birthdays. For our birthday parties, my mom invited her three sisters and their families over on a Sunday after church. This included my three uncles and my six cousins and my grandma.

Dinner was always something huge that included meat, veggies, rolls, potato somethings or others, jello with fruit and Cool Whip, and salads. My mom would put all the leaves (leafs?) of the dining room table in and then get out a couple of my dad’s saw horses and a giant board to extend that into the kitchen. She would spread a good table cloth (and some sheets) over all of it, put out the good china, and the fancy water glasses.

My mom poured herself into those meals. She set everything up the night before, even going so far as to put place-holders all over the table where things would go: baskets for the bread, pot holders and trivets for the hot dishes. She set the table the night before and cut and chopped and had tiny containers and baggies for fixin’s ready to go the next day, because of course she still planned on going to church first.

The other thing about about those birthday parties is that we didn’t just have a birthday cake, she also made dessert.

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That’s right. We ate dinner around 12:30pm, then had dessert, then sat around feeling huge and did presents, and THEN we did cake and ice cream.

They were entire afternoon events and they are the reason I invite all our family over for our kids’ birthday parties too. Some day I hope to have enough room to actual sit and have a meal rather than serve buffet style, but that is neither here nor there.

My mom always made at least two desserts: a pie and ice cream balls.

Just recently I remembered those ice cream balls. It’s been over a decade since I’ve had one, but I can still remember crowding around with my brothers and cousins trying to quickly grab the biggest one with the thickest layer of coating.

Rather than giving us a bowl and spoon, my mom shooed us outside and we ate it straight out of the muffin liner; my younger brothers and cousins taking off their shirts in preparation for the impending melty ice cream that would trickle down their fronts as they struggled to keep up.

I had them probably twice a year, but oh man…those two times were enough to cement their taste in my brain as the Greatest Treat of Childhood.

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we ate ours in bowls…with Hershey’s chocolate. Mmm.

This week I asked my mom for the recipe. My brothers overheard and we swapped stories of their deliciousness and how great our birthday parties were because of them. As I made them I realized why mom always made them. They are so dang easy. Messy, but easy.

And now I am sharing with you.

Ice Cream Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 packet graham crackers (crushed)
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

Directions

Step 1
line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners
Step 2
in a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the ice cream.
Step 3
create 2-inch balls of ice cream one at a time. I recommend using an old-fashioned ice cream scoop to do this.
Step 4
Roll each ball in the mixture and place in a muffin cup. You'll have to work fast so the ice cream doesn't melt!
Step 5
cover muffin pan with foil and place in your freezer for at least an hour before serving.

What treat do you remember best from your childhood? What treat do your own children love?

Setting the Precedent

In a week my firstborn will be done with Kindergarten and ready to start what he calls, “the number grades.” He had a great year in Kindergarten and never once did I wonder if maybe we should have held him back because he still isn’t even six yet.

Nope. Eddie was ready for absolutely everything–even homework.

As a teacher, I am not the biggest fan of assigning homework, but Eddie’s teacher didn’t give the kids more than was appropriate for their age. Eddie brought home five books from their Just Right Library each week which he read to us nightly. In the beginning of the year, they would bring a writing packet home on Mondays and it wasn’t due back until the following Monday. And occasionally he would need to bring in things like seeds or leaves. He also had one large project that they started at school and had to complete at home by the end of spring break (it was assigned two weeks before spring break, thus giving us plenty of time to prepare).

Everything about this school year felt to me like we were setting precedents: what we expected of our children as far as getting homework done, the quality of their in school and out of school work, their behavior, their effort. This school year we discussed kindness to others and when to walk away from an argument. We talked about being respectful to adults and peers. We discussed when you need to get help from an adult.

And we also set a precedent for parent-involvement in homework.

Obviously we prize reading in our house. Most of the time getting the Just Right Library books read was not a big deal and didn’t cause too many struggles. Writing packets started out rough, though, and in the end I told Eddie if he did one page a night he wouldn’t find himself crying on Sunday afternoon. I also told him I was not going to make him do them. That if he really didn’t want to, he could bring it back undone and tell his teacher about why he chose not to do it.

He never left his homework undone. He didn’t want to disappoint his teacher.

By the middle of the school year, Eddie was more and more excited about things they were doing in school. Just before spring break each student chose an animal they would like to make out of clay in class. Then, at home, they needed to create the animal’s habitat using a box (diorama-style). The habitats with animals would be displayed above each student’s locker.

We decided to do ours over spring break since Alice had just been born, and spend the couple weeks before then brainstorming and planning. Cortney did all the morning drop-offs and most pick-ups and reported that habitats were already starting to come in and be displayed–and you could totally tell the level of parental involvement in each one.

I had to tread lightly.

As a perfectionist, I wanted to tell Eddie exactly how to create a rabbit (his chosen animal) habitat, and then maybe take over when he didn’t do it how I wanted. But as a teacher, I knew I needed him to do all of the thinking and as much of the execution as possible. I just had to help him get there.

So first we talked about it. I asked a lot of questions: where do rabbits live? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? When he wasn’t sure about something, we Googled it and read the information together.

He started telling me what he wanted in his habitat: trees, a burrow, berry bushes, and a sky. So we thought about what we could use to make those things and he started a list of what we would need with check boxes. Then we went to the craft store. He brought a pencil and checked things off as we went.

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I was very proud of him that he was taking such ownership of this project and that he seemed to want to get it just right. Not once did I have to prod and say, “come on, you need to do this.” In fact, he sort of pestered me about it. Once we had the supplies every day he asked, “are we going to put it together today, mom???”

Finally spring break arrived and one day during Charlie’s nap, I actually got Alice to sleep at the same time. We hurried to get some of the painting portions done so they could dry before we attached them. All I did was get the paint out for him. He did the rest. The next day, he worked during nap again to get it all together.

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He asked my advice, and I sat by him holding things for him here and cutting things for him there. I never told him how to do any of it other than once saying, “I don’t think you can glue that rock there and have it hold. But if you want to try, you can.”

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Once he had it all done, it was all he could do to be patient until Cortney came home so he could show daddy his finished product. He had trees (because rabbits live in a forest), a log with fluff and feathers (because that is the burrow the rabbit put her nest in), and berries (because rabbits like to eat berries for dessert). It was his idea to gather real leaves and grass. It was his idea to collect TP rolls for tree trunks.

It was also his idea to cover the diaper box in blue paper because he didn’t want his friends to see he used a baby diaper box. Apparently your baby brother and sister’s diapers are embarrassing in Kindergarten. Whatever.

This year we have watched Eddie grow and learn so much.

When he went in he could read a handful of sight words, now he is reading like crazy. He even reads bedtime stories now instead of me doing it.

When he went in he thought toots and buns were funny, but now he thinks farts and butts are funny. And poop. And he says “Oh my gosh!” and “I’m just thinking out loud here…”

He is sassier and bolder with his talking back to us, but he is also a better playmate and role model for Charlie.

And he is like three inches taller or something crazy like that.

I’m excited for him to start First Grade in the fall. I’m  pleased with the high expectations we have set both for him and his siblings.

As fellow oldest children, Cortney and I know what it’s like to have to “go first” with everything in life. To have to be the ones that are the precedent setters for the younger siblings. To be the “Guinea pigs” for strategies to deal with behavior.

We don’t want to go “easy” on Eddie because we empathize, rather we want him to know we are all a team getting through this whole thing called parenting and school and life together.

Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster

Oh my 518L04RBZJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_goodness I needed to read some Jen Lancaster. It seems like everything I have been reading has either been a super heavy topic or it’s long or it’s serious nonfiction.

I’ve read everything she’s written up to about 2012, so I went out and bought Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest her Arrested Development; Or, Why It’s Never Too Late For her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not For Dinner. I need to catch up with my Jen Lancaster.

I’m not usually a chick lit person, and I still stand behind Lancaster books not being chick lit. You know, other than I can’t imagine any guy ever wanting to read it. But she doesn’t write mushy gross romances, and she makes me laugh right out loud. So she is one of my favorites.

Just like all her memoirs, Jeneration X is a fast read. Instead of telling one long story like her previous autobiographical works, this one is more of a collection of essays all with some sort of lesson for “reluctant adults.”  Since I consider myself one of the most reluctant of adults, I figured I would either learn something (HA HA HA) or laugh a lot (YES). I laughed a lot.

Long-time fans have criticized this book as seeming like a bunch of blog posts bound together in a book, and yes, I suppose it could seem like that. But really they are essays, not blog posts. And they all have some sort of (loose) lesson about adulthood. And everyone one of them is told hilariously.

Even the posts that are about more serious lessons like estate planning and how friends are your family don’t take the serious, preachy turn they could. No, no. Lancaster would never do that. Rather she makes you laugh, nod your head and say “for sure” about whatever it is she is talking about.

If you need a quick, funny weekend read, I suggest anything by Jen Lancaster.

Binge Watching with Netflix

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I’ve watched hours of a show before. When I stumble upon a marathon of a sitcom or show I love on television, I have been known to lose that day (and night) to the TV. But just this past week I learned the true meaning of what “binge watching is.”

I just finished the first season of Orange is the New Black.

YOU GUYS. IT IS SO GOOD.

Ok, for over a year now you have all been raving about this show. Last year I had the opportunity to meet Piper Kerman (the author of the book the series is based on), so I quick read the book. It is phenomenal.

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Almost everyone at the event had already watched the two seasons that Netflix had released. I may have been the only one who had ONLY read the book. I was excited to watch the series, but it was hard with two little boys at home to find time to watch something alone. Since I was pregnant with Alice, I was just too dang tired at night after the boys went to bed.

So I put it at the top of my maternity leave watch list, after Friends of course (I know, I know…I had already seen all of those episodes a million times. Don’t judge). Last week I finally started season one. And holy cow! I don’t think I have ever been so into a show in all of my life.

Alice and I hunkered down every afternoon on the couch. At first I tried to do work while I watched, like I did when I watched Friends. I quickly learned that no, I was not going to accomplish anything while it was on.

The show is nothing and everything like the book. A lot of the characters from the book are represented (some more fully than others) in the show, and a few of the stories that Kerman tells in the book have also clearly inspired certain episodes. The show also does a good job of showing the corruption and problems with the penitentiary system in the United States that Kerman strives to show in her memoir.

That is where the similarities end. The series has WAY more sex, way more drama, and the characters are way more exaggerated. And it’s awesome!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore the memoir. In fact, I want to re-read it, but the show is amazing in a different way. Just like when I am entrenched in a book and think about it when I’m not reading it, I get caught up in the show’s plot lines. I love that the series also follows some of the inmates’ stories of how they ended up in prison. I love that it’s not just about Piper.

In fact, I haven’t started season 2 yet because I actually have work to do and I simply can do nothing but watch when it’s on.

So as soon as I meet some deadlines (ahem, this is one of them), I am going to plow through season 2 because, HELLO, season 3 will be available in in June!!!  Just in time for my kids to be home, which means I will have to figure out how to watch in the evenings or on the weekends.

I’m going to guess most of you have watched the show; have you also read the book?

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This is not a sponsored post. I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, so I receive a year-long subscription to Netflix and a device to view it on, but I am not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.

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