The plan for today's post was to do a "year in review" kinda thing. I even sat down, last night, with a notebook in hand so that I could go back through the year's blog post and make notes of the moments that I could recap. About two months in, I realized that if they were truly memorable, and worthy to be recapped, then I should remember them. Without the need for taking notes.
So, rather than just go month to month and highlight what I did during that time, I'm going to share my memorable moments from 2013 that are fresh in my mind.
First thing... my birthday. The day I turned 31 years old. For the first time in a REALLY long time (we're talking years, here), my birthday was made a big deal. Not by my family. Not by my friends. But by my students and co-workers.
My students showered me with little gifts, which they all worked together to coordinate in to a gift basket. I received two beautiful plates of treats delivered by the last student I would ever expect to get me something so fancy. A parent made a trip to the school to deliver me a Diet Dr. Pepper and a candy bar. And, I had my heart melted when a student coerced with the school counselor to buy cupcakes for the entire class. My co-workers also made me feel very special on that day with cards, treats and well wishes.
I will definitely say that I will not easily forget the first birthday I had as a teacher.
The next big event that happened during the same month of my birthday was the first time I walked in to my new house. It was February, 2013 that I first walked in to the house that would become my dream home. It was on a cold, rainy/snowy day. I remember it very well, and no notes were needed to recall the way that day played out.
After a month of looking at different houses, none of which had any of the items both Hubby and I could agree on, my realtor set up three showings on one day. All in the same town, all with similar amenities, all in the price range we were looking for (or close enough). After looking at a couple of houses out of town and out of our price range, Hubby had finally agreed to consider a house within city limits.
Even before stepping foot in to the house, I knew it was the one. My realtor had sent pictures of all the houses we were going to look at, but I knew which house was the house for me. In fact, I had seen the pictures many times before, when I had done my own online searches for a house. But, each time I had looked longly at the pictures, the house had been listed at too a high a price. The pictures had shown a gorgeous brick home with laminate wood flooring, an updated kitchen, four spacious bedrooms, a large living room, dining room, and den, a huge back yard, a huge front yard, and a pool.
Then, a few days before the showing had been set up, my realtor had sent me an email letting me know that the house had been drastically reduced in price - enough to be in our budget - and that we should move quickly if we wanted to look at it, because it wouldn't last long at that price. Looking at the other two houses was just for me to really compare what we would be getting for the money. I had absolutely no interest in those houses whatsoever, but I wanted to provide some choice for Hubby's sake.
I had watched enough House Hunters and heard enough stories from people to know that I would walk in to the house I wanted and feel it immediately. I would picture our belongings in the home, our family enjoying the space, a feeling of being home. And that's exactly what I felt when I walked in to this house.
Even though we looked at the house in February, it was March before our offer was accepted...after some negotiating. But it would be a few more months before we would actually have the house in our possession.
It was April that I gave my first MAP test as a teacher. The big kahuna of yearly tests. For four days, I read from prompts given to me in a workbook, and walked around the room for what seemed like hours as I watched my sweet little things color in circles to the answers of the questions. I had been a part of Benchmark testing several times before, but this was the first time that my name was attached to those tests. It wasn't just the kids being tested, so was I. I was, in a way, going to find out exactly how good a job I had done teaching those kids what they needed to know.
Finally, in May we were able to close on our house. It was May 10th, to be exact. A couple of weeks before school got out for summer, which was pretty stressful. Trying to move in and finish up the school year at the same time. For the past few months we had been negotiating, filling out paperwork for our loan, having inspections done and then repairs, more paperwork, more inspections, and finally after I was about to rip my hair out from stress.... we walked into a small room, signed our names about a thousand times, and received the keys I had been waiting so long to have. Thanks to an extremely generous loan from my grandfather, we were able to take care of paying all the costs we needed to pay on closing day, so we had absolutely nothing to worry about once we received those keys.
For the next couple of weeks, we slowly moved stuff in. And thanks to an extremely generous gift from P-Momma, we were able to buy all new furniture for our new home. New couch, love seat, arm chair, entertainment center, and rugs. She also got all of us brand new mattresses for our beds, with new pillows. She did so much for us when we moved in to our house. Something I won't quickly forget.
Shopping was one of my most favorite thing to do while the moving was taking place. I bought all new towels, bedding, and little things to make our house more homely. I was so happy to get rid of so much stuff from our old house and replace it with new. Buying our home was a new beginning for our family. It wasn't just a major milestone, it was a fresh start. To finally call a place home. To have a place that was ours. To have everything we'd wanted in a house, and then some. To feel pride when inviting people over.
At the end of May, I finished up my first year as a teacher. It was tough saying goodbye to my very first class. The students that had given me such an amazing first year. I had been very blessed when I got those kids as my first class. I never had to worry about behavior problems, stealing, lying, bullying. They were all so nice to each other and to me. They were honest, and caring, and always worked hard. They gave me the confidence to know that I was definitely where I needed to be, and that I would spend years and years enjoying my profession.
You would think that once school got out, I'd be able to focus on moving in to our new house. Yeah, I got a whole week to do that before I went on to my first ever experience of teaching summer school. Being that we were in the middle of moving, I only volunteered to teach two weeks rather than an entire month... which is how long summer school lasts.
Teaching summer school was one of the most fun experiences I've had. For two weeks I taught Jr. High kids how to play frisbee. It started out pretty rough. The kids knew me as a 4th grade teacher, and tried to test my boundries. But, it only took a couple of days of playing "mean teacher" that they started to warm up to me, and I started to warm up to them. I found out some of their interests, and adapted my summer school curriculum to something they'd enjoy doing. And Frisbee Football became the focus of my classes. By the end of summer school, I was voted "most fun teacher" and had built lots of new relationships that would follow me in to my new school year.
For the remainder of the summer, my family and me enjoyed our new home. We spent many days playing in the pool, having barbecues, having friends and family over. On the 4th of July, I hosted all of my family for a day of fun. And it really was a lot of fun. No fights, no arguments, no drama. Just kids playing in the pool, adults talking and laughing, and ending the evening off watching a huge firework display.
It was so important to me that we find a house that gave the kids a place that would provide years of memories. In my mind, the way to do that would be to find a house that gave them their own rooms, room to play, and a place where friends and family could visit and stay comfortably.
We got that.
We had one of the best summers we've ever had, and there was no need for fancy vacations or expensive day trips. We had our own vacation right in our own backyard.
The summer flew by, and before I knew it I was heading back to work. A brand new class of students, and my second year as a teacher. If I'm being completely honest, I will say that starting off my second year was far more difficult than starting out my first year. And that's mostly because I had something to compare to. If my new kids didn't act the way I expected them to, it's because I was comparing them to the class before. If they didn't know as much stuff, compared them. If their behavior wasn't near as good.... it's because they weren't as well behaved as my first class.
Once I pulled myself together and realized that my new class was not my old class, I realized that starting the new year off with a new set of students was my chance to shake it up each year. Try new things, explore new possibilities. Once I did that, I was able to get myself in to my groove...and fall in love with a new set of unique kids that had their own talents, interests, quirks, and challenges.
We have had a lot of fun together the first half of the school year. I have absolutely LOVED the fact that I've got to keep all of my students all day (something that didn't happen last year). We are completely self-contained this year...and I love it. I feel like I've got to bond with my kiddos more, got to know more about them, and have let them be more of a guide to my teaching styles and the way I deliver the content. We've had a lot of fun together, and we still have another 5 months to keep the momentum going.
In November, the first and only bad thing of the year happened. My mom was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. It was like sitting on top of a mountain, and then being whacked off by a giant plane. After spending a year full of rainbows and sunshine, my whole world starting closing in on me. Fears surfaced that I never thought I had. Fear of losing my mother. My best friend. My confidante.
I took off work to be with her while she visited with doctors and had tests performed, and after many sleepless nights or nights crying myself to sleep, we received good news... it was curable, with surgery.
A few weeks ago, we had our first bout of snow. Snow that kept us out of school for a week. Had this happened in my old house, I would have ripped my hair out and wanted to stick hot pokers in my eyes. But, thankfully, I didn't feel that way in our new home. I didn't get bored or inherit any cabin fever. In fact, I went through the first four days just enjoying the rest and relaxation.
It was also the week that my mom had to have surgery. I think that snow was sent from the Man Upstairs so that I could get through that very trying time without the stress and worry about having a sub, and taking care of my students, and trying to figure out logistics of getting to work and back and to the hospital. He was watching out for me during that time, and a week of snow days was His way of making sure that I could be with my mom. I haven't prayed so much in one week. I was able to be there the day she had surgery, and the next day, and the next. I even got to spend the night with her for one night, so she wouldn't be alone. It was a time that I could rebuild the relationship with my mom that had been a little tattered and worn. I kissed, hugged, and told my mom I loved her more in that week than I have done in the past ten years.
I also want to point out the love, kindness, and prayers that were received by my co-workers. During such a difficult time, it felt so nice to have that support behind me. It brought fresh tears to my eyes each time I opened up my phone and read a text message or a Facebook message from one of my co-workers sending their well wishes. They were such a major factor of helping get me through such a tough time, and I don't think they know that.
And finally, I just celebrated one of the best Christmases I've had in years. A Christmas in our new home. A Christmas full of surprises for the kids, and love, and happiness. A Christmas Eve spent with P-Momma enjoying our time together. A Christmas Day with my parents, despite a few kinks. Just having my mom healthy and home was a gift in itself... something she had to remind us of, unfortunately. But, Christmas just isn't Christmas without a little conflict, right?
Which leads me to this point. Sitting here, drinking my coffee, comfortable and relaxed. It's fun thinking back to how amazing this year has been. The challenges I've overcome. The obstacles I've fought through. The happiness and blessings that have found me.
It will be very hard for 2014 to top this year, but I'm all about trying. Each year has been better for the past several years, so why stop the momentum now, right?
This year hasn't all been roses and rainbows, but it's been a darned good year. We've had our ups, we've had our downs... but we've had it all together.
I have no idea what 2014 will bring. I hope it is as good, if not better than 2013. New adventures. New challenges. New goals and dreams to achieve.
Yet, one thing that will remain the same? The love I have for my family. For the time we will spend together... the memories that are yet to be made.
I'm ready to get this new year started.