Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day Twenty-Nine & Thirty: Thankful for Fun Days Out, and Having So Muchto Be Thankful For


I didn't get to my blog, yesterday, because I was too busy working on homework.  One thing I'm very thankful for is the fact that I only have a week left of the class I'm currently taking, because I am sooo D-O-N-E with this class.  It's driving me nuts, and I'll be very glad when I no longer have to deal with it.  Yesterday, I spent over 8 hours putting together a video about web apps and a mobile app.  Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah, I thought so too, until I actually started working on it.  The sad part is, I had been working on it before yesterday, too.

So, yesterday was an extremely frustrating and stressful day, so there wasn't much time for me to share my thanks...even though I should have made time just to make myself feel a little better.

Today is my last day for the Thirty Days of Thankful.  Meaning that tomorrow is the first day of December!  I always love doing a whole month of thankful posts, but I am thankful that I get to go back to my regular scheduled programming tomorrow.  It's nice to be able to post about whatever I want, and I'm sure there'll be lots to share with Christmas fast approaching.

If I had posted yesterday, I would have posted about my thankfulness in being able to take my kids out for some Christmas fun.  Even though that's what we're doing today.  We're going to Silver Dollar City today with a group of people I work with so that we can see the Christmas lights.  We really lucked out, because the weather is supposed to be around 70 degrees today, which means we'll be able to ride the rides, too.  It won't be so warm on the way home, as the temperature is supposed to drastically drop this evening, and tomorrow's high is only 33 degrees.  I see an indoor recess in my near future.  

But I'm not worrying about that now.  All I care about today is the fact that I get to spend some time with my kiddos and my friends, and enjoy a Christmas outing.  I'd like to add this outing on to the list of Christmas traditions, because I think it'll be nice to take a trip to Branson around this time each year to check out the Christmas scene.  

What I'm also thankful for today, on this last day of November, is the fact that I have sooooo much to be thankful for.  Looking back on this past month, I'm amazed and humbled by how many blessings I have in my life and how much I truly have to be thankful for.  I have awesome kids, an amazing Hubby, the best job on the planet, supportive and caring co-workers, a loving P-Momma, a beautiful home, a great extended family, lovable fur-babies, and everything else I've blogged about this month.  There's also so much more I didn't even get to.  I have my health, financial stability, I have overcome some really tough times in order for it all to happen.  What an amazing life I have, and I owe it all to the people in my life that have stuck by me, supported me, and helped me through the tough times.  

Last night, Peanut and I went out and did a little shopping for an angel tree participant that my grade level team selected.  Peanut suggested last year that we should start participating in buying for the angel tree, because it's a great way to give back.  I remember the days, not too many years ago, when my own children's information was hanging from a tree.  I remember the couple of Christmases that I depended on other people to help make Christmas good for my kids.  I remember saving any extra dollars I could so that I could buy them a little something, even if the gifts came from the Dollar Store.  So, Peanut is right.  Buying for a child on the angel tree is a great way to give back.  It felt really nice buy for a child I will probably never meet, but still know I've done something to make their Christmas a little better.  It has become a new tradition, and one that I plan on continuing.  My hope is that next year, I can select a couple of kids off that tree to buy for.

My life isn't always perfect.  I have ups and downs, like everybody.  Things happen that cause minor hardships and set backs.  But, when I get to spend a whole month thinking about how much I've been blessed and how truly wonderful my life has turned out, and continues to get better with each passing year, it puts everything in to perspective.  I can't take it for granted, I must stop and spend some time being thankful.  Even though it's just November when I really put it all out there, I am thankful 365 days of the year.  

Fifteen years ago when I was a pregnant teen, I was alone, scared, and sure that my life would be a constant uphill battle.  Thirteen years ago, when I was still alone, scared, and trying my best to care for two babies, I just knew that my life was going to be spent living in poverty, trying to make ends meet, and worrying about whether I'd have enough money to feed my little family.  Ten years ago, when I met a man that showed some genuine interest in me, I just knew that he'd run and I'd once again be left alone to pick up the pieces.  Eight years ago, I just knew that no matter how much I wanted it, college just wasn't going to be something I could make happen, and becoming a teacher just wasn't going to work out for me.

Look how much I "knew", right?

But, one thing I do know now, for sure, is that it hasn't been easy but I DID IT!! I pulled myself through, I beat the odds, and I never stopped fighting.  I have everything I have right now because I worked hard and never gave up.  And for all the people that told me I couldn't ever do it, I'd just like to say...

"Naa ne na nee boo boo, stick your head in doo-doo!"


I am truly thankful for every single moment of my life, and I will continue to be thankful as each minute continues to pass.  Life is good, and it's better to jump on the rollercoaster that is life than sit and watch it go by.

Have an awesome Sunday, everyone!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day Twenty-Eight: Thankful for Traditions

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I know I did.  It was so great having P-Momma, her son, and her granddaughter here with us.  I was very proud of myself and how I managed to get all the food prepared and cooked, and I didn't stress about a single thing.  I timed everything out perfectly, and was able to sit and chat in between prep and cooking.

The food was absolutely delicious.  For the first time ever, I decided to put all of the food on the table and we did the whole "pass the _____" ordeal.  What we usually do is set all the food up in the kitchen, and then people line up and fix their plates before heading to the table.  But this year, I loved the idea of everyone sitting at the table and getting their food at the same time.  While it was a good idea, my table just isn't big enough for eight people and all the food.  It was a little awkward, but we made it work and I was happy with the fact that we all got to visit and chat during our dinner.

Once dinner was over, P-Momma helped me clean up the kitchen and my house was back to normal in no time.  All the dishes, leftovers, and mess were cleaned up and Thanksgiving was over.  P-Momma had to leave shortly after, so once they were gone, I decided it was nap time.  I took a great nap, and when I woke up the kids were ready to get our Christmas tradition underway.

Which brings me to my thankfulness for today.  Today, I am thankful for my family's traditions.  The traditions I've carried with me my whole life, and the new ones that have been created in the past couple of years.  Each year we try and change something up or add a new tradition, but for the most part we have a tradition system in place that just doesn't get messed with.

Thanksgiving Day is the gateway in to the Christmas season.  Once the Thanksgiving feast is over, it's time to start preparing for Christmas.  In our house, that consists of decorating the house and then sitting down and watching our first Christmas movie of the year.  Each year, I've always been the one to put up the tree, and the kids help me decorate it.  Last night, Peanut and Butter decided they wanted to put up the tree and then Jelly and I decorated it while Peanut and Butter strung up lights around the living room.

Our tree is a beautiful tree, and I love colorful lights and lots of colorful garland.  Peanut has been trying to talk me in to giving up all of the different colors and going with a tree color theme, but I'm not budging.  The color is just one thing I won't give up.  Our tree is also decorated in all of the handmade ornaments the kids have made me over the years.  I have tons of hand-print reindeer, picture ornaments, and hand-crafted goodies all over the tree.  I refuse to let go of any of the little ornaments they've made, and I cherish the fact that I've been using them to decorate the tree for over ten years.  My hope is that one day I'll add ornaments that my grandkids make me.

Once the tree and decorations were up, we sat down and watched one of our favorite Christmas movies: Elf.  We all snuggled up under blankets in the living room and enjoyed the movie together.  It's a rare treat in my house, but a sacred tradition.  My kids don't spend much time with me in the living room, anymore, as they are too busy with their video games or laptops in their bedrooms.  So, when I do get my Christmas miracle, I cherish each minute.

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, we'll spend each weekend between now and Christmas watching a Christmas movie together.  One of those nights we'll make popcorn, another we'll bake some cookies, another we'll enjoy hot chocolate and marshmallows.  Each movie night being a little different.  Again, a tradition I enjoy very much.

On Monday, the kids will open the first window of their advent calendars.  Advent calendars are a tradition I have grown up with.  Not a Christmas went by without opening up a little door between the first of December and December 25th and getting out a little piece of chocolate.  I have the same tradition for my children, and they enjoy it.

This Christmas, we're going to have plenty of opportunities to add some new traditions to our lineup.  In years past, we've always gone to my parents' house on Christmas Day, but that won't be happening this year.  We'll do Christmas Eve with P-Momma, like always, and then we'll be spending the day at our house for Christmas.  My plan is to do a lot of baking and spending the day playing with the kids and their new toys.

As sad as it may seem that I'm no longer carrying on a tradition of spending time with my parents at Christmas time, I'm very excited to be enjoying the day with my children.  With as many not-so-nice things I could say about my mother, I will say that my parents always made Christmas special in our house.  I have always tried to do the same for my children.  And this year, I just get to make it that much more special by being with them and making sure we have a fabulous day.  We'll bake, we'll cook, we'll eat, we'll play, and we'll love every minute of it.

So, today, I'm thankful for all of the wonderful traditions I get to have with my family.  I'm thankful that I feel so blessed and happy this time of year.  I'm thankful that I can enjoy the happiness that my kids' bring me, and it's this time of year that I am reminded that no matter what happens, I will ALWAYS be there for my kids.  NO. MATTER. WHAT.

My kids and the time we spend together mean everything to me, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that, at especially this time of year, I keep our traditions alive.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day Twenty-Seven: Happy Thanksgiving!

I have to make it quick today, because I have so much to do and so little time.  P-Momma will be arriving in about two hours, and I still have to sweep and vacuum the living room, get dressed, and peel the potatoes.  The pies are baked, the turkey is on the grill being smoked, and the kids are all keeping themselves amused.  So, I'm not worried or stressing about anything.

Today it is Thanksgiving, the day to be thankful and enjoy the company of family.  Being that this is THE day of thankfulness, today I just want to be thankful that I have so much to be thankful for.  Being a part of the Thirty Days of Thankful really sheds light on how many blessings I have in my life and no matter what struggles I face, I have an AMAZING life and family.  So, rather than just picking one thing, I want to be thankful for everyone and everything I have in my life.

To me, Thanksgiving is all about family.  Gathering together with the ones you love, feasting, laughing, and just enjoying each other's company.  It's not about how big the turkey is, how many sides there are, what the variety of pie consists of, but just having a great meal with wonderful people.

I am truly thankful that I have such amazing people to share this day with.  Of course, there's my kids.  My wonderful, awesome, amazing children.  Then there's Hubby.  I don't know what I'd do on a day like today without his culinary skills.  And I am so happy and excited to have my P-Momma coming to join us today.  I've tried getting her to come to us for the past couple of years, but this year I finally get to have her here with us, again, and I couldn't be happier.

I love that woman so very much, and she is the very definition of the word "Mom".  She's kind, caring, loving, supportive, and a wonderful grandmother.  I know I've already given her a day on my Thankful countdown, but I just have to reiterate how much I truly love her.  When my own family turned their backs on me and pushed me out of their lives, P-Momma was there to pick up the pieces and make sure that I never felt a bit of upset or sadness over the situation.  She always tells me how proud she is to have me as her "daughter", and I have always longed for a mother that cares for me the way she does.

That is something to be truly thankful for today.

I'm also very thankful for the phone call I received last night from Peanut's grandmother in Tennessee.  I love the fact that she gives me a call every now and then to check in on me and see how we're doing.  She doesn't have to.  She really doesn't have to have much contact with me at all.  But, she chooses to, and for that I am truly thankful.  I can't wait to see her and Peanut's grandpa again over Christmas break... I love those two people.

I've been thinking a lot over the past twenty-four hours about how disappointed I am in my family (my mother, mostly) and how sad I am that they are not apart of my life.  But, then I get to thinking about all of the wonderful people in my life who don't bring me down, or care only about themselves.  I have some wonderful family who truly love me, support me, and care for me, and those are the people that I can rely on and they can rely on me.  They are my family.  I have a wonderful family, and I'm thankful for those people each and every day.

They say blood is thicker than water, but that's not true.  Blood doesn't have to define family.  Family is the people that you love, care for, and are the most important people in your life.

And that's exactly what I have.

So, on this day, I will not stress about the food, the decorations, or the seating placements.  I will take in every moment I get to be with my family, and be thankful.  I will give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed upon my life, and cherish the moments where I can reflect on the strength I have, the trials and struggles I've overcome, and for the path that I have yet to walk.

I hope you all do the same, and have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving!!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day Twenty-Six: Thankful for Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break is finally here, and I couldn't be more thankful for this time home with my family.  It was such a great feeling, knowing I could go to bed on a Tuesday night as late as I wanted, and not have to worry about that horrible alarm waking me up this morning at 4:30AM.  Reason #494 why I have the best job on the entire planet!!

Even though it's only five days off, I will cherish each moment that I get to spend at home with my kids and family, doing our sacred Thanksgiving traditions.

I was so excited about today, I was a little on the crazy side at work yesterday.  My kids made several comments about how "weird" I was acting, being that I may or may not have broken in to a song and dance routine more than once throughout the day.

We had our Terrific Tiger assembly yesterday morning, and I danced my way to the gym as The Eye of the Tiger played over the loudspeaker.  The kids thought it was hilarious, and it probably was.  There was no minor head bumping to the beat involved.  It was full on, Broadway style, moving and grooving down to that gym.  Once the assembly was over, it was back to the classroom for some fun learning, and more singing and dancing.

I decided to do my Peanut Butter & Jelly lesson with my kiddos.  But, before we could do the lesson, I instructed them to write the steps for me to make them a PB&J sandwich.  I explained that I'd be following their directions to make them the sandwich, so they had to keep that in mind, and that's basically all the direction I gave.  I gave them about 15 minutes to write the steps, and then the fun began.

Before we got underway, I pulled up the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song on YouTube and sang and danced my way through the song.  The kids laughed so hard, and it was a great intro to the fun that was about to come.

The first student stepped up to the table and took a seat right next to me.  I told her to read the directions to me word for word, and I was going to follow them to make her a sandwich.

The sandwich making went just like this:

Student:  Get two pieces of bread
I got two pieces of bread and laid them on the desk.
Student:  Put the peanut butter on the bread.
So, I put the jar of peanut butter on top of one piece of the bread.

The look on her face when I did this was quite comical, and the kids all realized very quickly what my intentions were with the directions they'd written.  I'd be LITERALLY following each direction.  It took her a couple of seconds to read the next direction, but I urged her along.

Student:  Put the jelly on the peanut butter.
So, I put the jar of jelly on top of the jar of peanut butter.
Student: Put the other piece of bread on top.
So, I put the other piece of bread on top of the jelly jar.

The kids laughed so hard, and we had a quick discussion about using her steps to make the sandwich.  I had the kiddos write down a few suggestions that they could give to make the steps easier to follow and then we moved on to the next student.

I had several kiddos that had their "sandwich" made in the same manner, but I did manage to make one jelly sandwich.  The student had been very precise in explaining to use a knife to smear jelly on one piece of the bread, and putting the pieces of bread together.  His downfall came when his last step read:  "Now eat the sandwich".  So, I put the sandwich in my mouth, and took a bite.  The kids laughed so hard.  He was so close, yet so far.

By the time I was done, I had smeared peanut butter and jelly on bread with my hands, I'd rolled the jars on top of the bread, and I'd placed the jars of peanut butter and jelly on top of the entire loaf of bread, and I'd squished peanut butter, jelly, and bread in my hands due to the instructions, or lack thereof.  We all had such a blast, and the kids took away a lot from the experience.  After we were all said and done, I did make the kids a PB&J sandwich using their new instructions, and it went much better.

The rest of the day was filled with just as much fun and laughter.  It was so great to end out the short week on that note.  The kids were happy, I was happy, and we were all ready for a few days off.  Each kid gave me a big hug as they left for the day, and I went to work quickly getting ready to head on home.

I didn't get to leave until I put up my first Christmas bulletin board outside my classroom.  I thought it'd be nice if that was all done for me before I returned.  But I still managed to pull out of the school parking lot before 4:30PM, so that was awesome.

Once I got home, I was able to sit down and relax for the evening.  I didn't have to worry about or do anything but sit on the couch and do some crocheting.  It was AWESOME!!

Even though I was exhausted by 9PM, I refused to give in to my normal "school day" bedtime, and forced myself to stay up until 11PM.  It felt really nice knowing that I could go to bed late and wake up whatever time I wanted to this morning.  Of course, I wasn't that surprised when I woke up before 8AM, but I refused to get up.  I laid there for about half an hour before finally deciding to get out of bed.

Today, I have a TON of stuff to do in order to get ready for tomorrow, but I'm not going to stress about it.  I'm going to clean my house and I'm going to make a few preparations for tomorrow, but I'm also going to spend plenty of time sitting and doing absolutely nothing.  I feel like I at least owe it to myself to get some relaxation out of this break.

I was so happy last night when I got a call from P-Momma telling me that she's definitely coming to us for Thanksgiving.  We're going to have a family Thanksgiving, and I couldn't be happier or more thankful.  It means so much to me that she wants to be here with us during the holidays, and I can't wait for her to be here tomorrow.  It's such a nice feeling to know that I still have some family that wants to spend time with us on Thanksgiving.  Of course, I'd be perfectly content with it just being the kids, Hubby, and me but it makes it that much more special when P-Momma is here, too.

Well, if I plan on spending some time relaxing before I get to cleaning and getting ready for tomorrow, I should probably get off here.  I need to write up some homework before any relaxing can take place, so I'm going to get that out of the way now and then it's to the couch I go... for a little while, anyways.

I hope you all have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving Eve.  I know I will.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day Twenty Five: Thankful for the School Days Right Before a Holiday

I'm so excited!  
And I just can't hide it!  
I'm about to be off work, and I think I like it... Oh, Yeah!

Yep, today is the last day of school before Thanksgiving break, and I'm just a tad excited.  I think everyone in my building is feeling the same way, staff and students.  Having a few extra days off work is a cherished event.  No getting up before the sun comes up, no papers to grade, no standing out on a cold sidewalk doing morning duty, no standing out on a freezing playground for recess duty, and SLEEP!  It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

However, I've realized something over the course of the past twenty-four hours that has given me what I'm thankful for today:  I'm thankful for the days right before a holiday, because of the teaching that I get to do.

All day yesterday, my kids and I did Thanksgiving activities.  The two days before a holiday is one of those times where we do some rare crafts, review some of the stuff we've covered in the first semester, and ultimately: Have a lot of fun.

But, what occurred to me, yesterday, is the fact that I REALLY enjoy the teaching I do during these rare occasions when I don't have to worry about the pacing guides, standards, data, and assessment after assessment.  And, the kids really enjoy it too.

For example...

Yesterday, I had printed off a short little story about Benjamin Franklin writing a letter to his daughter explaining to her that he thought the turkey should be the nation's bird.  He wrote about the eagle not really being a sufficient representation of our country, and that the turkey would be a much better fit.  There was five questions on the back of the story for the kids to answer.

Normally, we'd read the story, go over the vocabulary, and answer the questions.  BUT NOT YESTERDAY!

Yesterday, I had the kiddos break up in to two teams.  One team was Pro-Eagle, and the other team was Pro-Turkey.  Each team had to work together to put a campaign ad together in order to build support for their designated bird.  The kids started out making a list of the good things their bird had to offer the country, and a list of cons the other bird would offer.  They worked together to think of persuasive phrases and arguments as to why their bird should be chosen as the nation's bird.  For almost an hour, the kids discussed, brainstormed, and collaborated.  They also spent about 20 minutes working on a campaign poster, which they'll finish up today.

It was so awesome watching them all work together.  The biggest groups I've ever put them in are groups of four, but yesterday there were eight kids on each team and they worked together wonderfully.

I couldn't help but take a step back and think to myself how wonderful it would be if I had the time to teach like that ALL of the time.  I mean, sure I could have my kids make a poster and discuss persuasion in that manner, but I mean real, collaborative projects.  Where their goal is to work together, plan together, and ultimately have fun.

I know that most people would say that I should be doing stuff like that with my kiddos all of the time.  And, I try.  The career project was an attempt at project based learning, but what ended up happening was the "other stuff" kept taking over.  I had to keep on top of the expectations of my pacing guide, and finding resources that aligned with the standards my grade was covering each week was becoming a huge addition to my work load.  There just isn't time in my day to fit it all in.  I have tried rearranging some stuff, but there's too much pressure on that.  Nothing can be taken out and there's nowhere to put anymore in.  I tried using my reading time to incorporate the project, but again, finding the reading materials they could use for the project became an extremely daunting task.  I have so many mixed levels in my classroom, that it is almost impossible to find resources for them all to read and use that's on their level.  I managed to find a way that they could use the reading we were already doing and apply that to our discussions on various careers, but the time for the extra projects just isn't there.  That makes me sad, but it is what it is.

Today is not a day for me to vent education, but it's on days like this short week that makes me feel like a teacher that I dreamed of becoming.  Where we have time to make posters and color our math fact sheets and write poems about Thanksgiving.  Where I don't have to keep looking at the clock to make sure I make the right transition times, look at my plans to make sure I'm getting in everything I need to get in, and that my kids are showing all of their work in a way that I can assess and use for data.

Today, I'm going to have the kids write the steps on how to make a turkey.  It's a short lesson on how important details are, and how they affect directions.  I'll be starting off by doing the Peanut Butter and Jelly lesson.  Basically, the kids write the steps on how to make a PB&J sandwich, and then I follow those steps LITERALLY in order to make it.  I've done it a couple times before with other classes, and the kiddos always had a blast.  It's very funny to them when I follow the directions exactly how they wrote them, and it really helps them understand why they really need to think about what they write and how they say it.

What I'm hoping to get out of this week is a swift reminder on how I do things, and how I should be doing things in my classroom.  It is absolutely MY OWN FAULT that I let other stuff interfere with my ideas.  I have proven to myself time and time again that I can still teach to the standards with the activities I come up with, I just need to be better at planning and organization.  Seeing the kids soak up these little mini-projects does exactly that.  It does remind me that I can really have them controlling their own learning and working in a more student-centered environment, I just have to make it happen.  I just have to give them the tools to do it and a little nudge in the right direction.

And today, I'm thankful that I'm reminded of that, and that I get to share a couple of days just having a total blast with my kiddos.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 22-24: Thankful for Christmas Shopping, Thanksgiving Shopping, and Short Work Weeks

Wow, what a whirlwind weekend I've just had.  I can't believe I didn't even have time to blog.  That NEVER happens.  I don't remember the last weekend in which I didn't write my blog before I did anything else.  But, this weekend was an exception because I had so much going on and I really just didn't have time.

Being that I have to play catch-up, I'm combining three days in to one.  Today, I'm thankful for Christmas shopping, Thanksgiving shopping, and short work weeks.  I won't get to write about each of them in as much detail as I'd like, but they are three good ones to put together.

On Saturday, the reason I didn't get to blog was because I had to get up at 4AM in order to take Peanut to her first show choir competition.  We had to be at the high school by 6AM, and it's almost an hour drive for us, so we had to get up super early and leave super early.  We arrived on time and I followed the school bus to the competition to watch her perform.  Her school was the first up to perform, so we were done by 9AM.  The girls did a fantastic job and I was so proud of them.  I even teared up watching Peanut up on the stage.

Anywho, once Peanut was done, we had decided to go and do some Christmas shopping in Joplin while we waited for Butter who was wrestling.  Butter had an all day wrestling tournament, and as much as I love to watch him wrestle, I really wasn't feeling spending 6 hours in a gym waiting for him to have a match.  So, Peanut and I decided to use that time more productively.

We had an absolute BLAST Christmas shopping.  We managed to find a ton of bargains and sales thanks to the Pre-Black Friday sales all the stores were having.  Who knew it was such a good idea to go Christmas shopping the weekend before Black Friday?  We shopped at Toys R Us, Ross, stopped for some lunch at Logan's, and then hit the mall.  I was so thankful for the girl time Peanut and I were able to have, and I'm also extremely thankful that I was able to enjoy the shopping experience without worrying about what I was buying or how much it was going to cost.  We spent a lot of time window shopping, and picked up what we wanted to.  It was a lot of fun. I feel a lot better now knowing that I have at least some of my Christmas shopping done.  I was getting a little worried, being that I'm usually done by now.

Our day of shopping ended around 2PM, when it was time to pick up Butter.  By the time we got home, we were all exhausted and ready for a nap.  Being that it was after 4PM by that time, there wasn't much of a nap to be had.  But, I did enjoy a relaxing evening.

Yesterday, Hubby and I went out and did our Thanksgiving shopping.  I am so thankful that we get to have a family Thanksgiving at home and that I was able to go out and buy all of our favorite things to eat on the big day.  Hubby worked on putting an organized list together of what we are going to eat, and then we built our shopping list around it.  As of right now, P-Momma may be coming to have Thanksgiving with us, which I'd love.  I always LOVE cooking for people on Thanksgiving, and she is one person I'd love to have with us.  We managed to pick up all of our favorite fixings, and then some.  There will be quite a bit of food for us to eat, that's for sure.

All the shopping made for one very exhausting weekend.  Throw in the fact that I was getting over some form of sickness, and it took every ounce of energy out of me.  Which leads me to the fact that I'm so thankful for short work weeks.  Being that I had such a busy weekend, and very little sleep, I am so thankful that I only have to make it through today and tomorrow and then I'll have five glorious days off work.

I'm also thankful for short work weeks because I get to have some fun with my kiddos.  The two days before Thanksgiving are always fun because we move away from our normal learning standards and spend quite a bit of time just having fun and being creative.  We make some crafts, write about Thanksgiving, and do lots of coloring.  It's a great time for the kids and I both.  They are usually extremely hyper and ready for the break, so trying to teach them anything new is downright impossible.  So, it makes more sense to fill up the two days with fun reviews in the form of crafts.  It's also a great time to discuss how thankful we are for what we have.

Speaking of which, I need to think about getting ready for work.  I have to leave for a little while this morning because Jelly is going to be the Terrific Tiger at her school.  I'm going to surprise her by being there.  I'm excited!

Today, I'm thankful for such a great weekend of shopping and the fact that I have only two days to get through before I have some much needed family time.  It's going to be a great week, I just know it.

Have a great Monday, everyone!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Day Twenty-One: Thankful for Sleep

Today is not a good day.  I am sick, and I am not happy about not being in my bed getting better.  I could take a sick day, but it's so much work getting ready for a sub, I'd rather just go in to work and suck it up.  I'm not running a fever, and other than this massive headache and a stopped up nose, I'm fine.

It's been a very long week, which has probably contributed to me now being sick.  I get sick whenever I'm exhausted.  Usually I avoid the latest bugs going around, and when I do get sick, it's usually extremely mild compared to what other people get.  But, this week, I have only made it home one night before 9:30, and that was Wednesday.  Every other night, I've been walking through the door between 9:30 and 10 at night, and then crashing in to bed from exhaustion.  And since Thursday, I've been feeling like poop.  My nose is stuffed up and is bright red from all the sneezing and blowing.  My head is congested and sore.  And I feel absolutely exhausted.

The cause for the late nights have been from Butter having three wrestling duels this week, and it's not over yet.  Tomorrow morning, I have to get up bright and early for a full day of wrestling, and Peanut has a show choir competition tomorrow, too.  Which means I have to be up at 4AM in the morning so that I can have her to the school by 6:30AM.

But, getting to what I'm thankful for today, I'm thankful for the sleep that I do get.  Even the small amount.  Tonight, I plan on coming home and going straight to bed in the hopes that I'll feel better by tomorrow.  Sleep is the best medicine, and if I can overdose myself on it today, I can keep my fingers crossed that tomorrow I'll be feeling a lot better.

I'm not just thankful for sleep, but where I get to sleep.  I have a giant king size bed, one of those memory foam mattresses, a giant body pillow, and the fuzziest fleece blanket ever.  It makes for one sleeping paradise.  I wrap my body pillow around me, wrap up in the blanket, and drift off in to slumber heaven.  I had to start using my phone as an alarm clock, because whenever my old alarm clocks would go off, I'd just hit them or throw them.  I won't do that to my cell phone, so it's the only way I can make myself get out of bed without starting off with some form of alarm clock murder.

Most weekdays, I go to bed around 10PM and get up at 4:30AM.  So, that's about 6 hours of sleep a night, by the time I get comfortable and actually drift off.  Which isn't enough sleep.  I do go to bed earlier some nights, but that's impossible when there's wrestling or some other sport going on.  But I always make up my lack of weekday sleep on the weekends.  It's not uncommon for me to go to bed around 9PM on a Friday night and wake up around 10AM on Saturday.  There have been many weekends where I've slept a good 12 to 14 hours in one night in order to catch up on some of the sleep I lost during the week.  Won't be able to do that this weekend, but then I only have two days of work next week before I get five glorious days off for Thanksgiving break.

So, today, I'm going to keep it pretty short.  I'm thankful for sleep.  I'm thankful for how it makes me feel.  I'm thankful for any that I get.  I'm thankful for the opportunities to make up some sleep. Even though I probably don't get as much sleep as I should each night, I'm thankful that no matter how busy I am, I have a warm, cozy bed waiting for me when I get home.

And there's only about ten more hours that I have to get through before I can drive home and curl up in to my bed once again.  I'll be counting down every minute, I'm sure.

Have a great Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day Twenty: Thankful for My Love of Writing

We're just a week away from Thanksgiving, and I'm getting very excited for a couple extra days off work.  Yesterday afternoon, I started to not feel so great and this morning I woke up and I can't breath through my nose and my head fills like it could explode from pressure at any minute.  I'm sure it's associated with allergies or the fact that Mother Nature is having some major mood swings and the weather keeps jumping around all over the place.  One minute it's 20 degrees outside, the next day it's almost 60.

Being that I'm not feeling so great, and I really just wanted to stay in bed this morning instead of getting up to write, I decided that today I am reminded of how thankful I am for my love of writing.  OK, technically typing, but you get what I mean, right?  More specifically, I'm thankful for this blog and that it's my refuge each and every day.

I wrote my very first blog post on March 25th, 2009, and honestly I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I heard about this thing called a "blog" and I wanted to try it out.  My only purpose for doing it was to record my weight loss efforts, because I had been told how important it was to log the experience of trying to lose weight.  Well, I will say that I'm so very thankful that I decided to start blogging, but after writing 1,581 blog posts, I've yet to see the success that's supposed to come to my weight loss through keeping a journal.

Over the course of the past four years, I've actually started about four different blogs.  But, no matter what I want to write about or whatever reason I have for trying to start over, I always end up right back here.  This is where I belong.  I'm not sure what I would do if something were to happen to this site.  It has become my refuge, my safe haven, and it's where I let out everything I have to say.

Blogging is not a hobby for me, it's therapy.  A therapist I can visit every single day, and it doesn't cost me a penny.  I can tell it all of my problems, share all of my excitement, and it will listen.  Occasionally I'll receive a response, or some form of positive encouragement, but for the most part I have a silent therapist that just lets me vent, share, and get everything out in the open.

My love of writing started at a very young age.  Journal writing, specifically.  I remember being as young as 8 or 9 and writing in a little, private, journal now and then.  Throughout my teen years, I was an avid journal writer, writing down all of my adventures and secrets.  Then, I discovered that my mom had read my journals, and my journal days were over for a very long time.  I felt betrayed and that my secrets weren't safe if I wrote them down, so I realized that I was better off just keeping them locked in my brain.

As I grew older, I found my love of journal writing again, once I knew that I didn't have to worry about a nosy mother going through my stuff.  And, for the record I will state right here that I absolutely believe that kids should be entitled to some form of privacy if they choose to write a journal.  Unless my kid runs away or was in some kind of serious danger, and the journal was the only lead I could use, you would never find me snooping around and reading what my kids write about if they choose to write in a journal.

Anyway, as I grew older, I found my love of writing again.  I started writing in a journal and keeping track of my daily goings on.  I still have a couple of my journals from the time shortly after Peanut was born, and I plan on keeping them for her when she's older.

Once I discovered the world of blogging, my handwritten journal days were over.  I found it a lot easier to sit at the computer and type up everything that I had to say.  At first, I just focused on my weight loss efforts, because I really didn't want to share my personal life with the whole world.  Then, I realized how calming and therapeutic it was to write about my daily goings on.  I finally decided that if people were really that interested in what I had to say, then what difference did it make if I published my private thoughts on the World Wide Web?

What I didn't realize is the fact that so many people out there ARE interested in reading about my life.  Over the course of almost five years, I've racked up 201 followers and have had 218,475 hits to my blog.  For someone that just writes about every day stuff, I consider that to be pretty darned impressive.

Since I left the weight loss blogging world, the traffic to my blog has slowed down quite a bit.  I no longer receive near as many comments or emails from readers.  But, that's OK.  I have said it time and time again:  I don't write for other people. I write for myself.  It doesn't really matter to me if anybody reads my blog.  I'm glad that people do, and I feel honored that they choose to spend a few minutes reading what I have to say, but at the end of the day this blog is just my way of letting off some steam and saying whatever it is I want to get off my chest.

There are some setbacks that come from having a public blog.  Even though I'm pretty open and honest about whatever it is I want to talk about, I have to be very careful, sometimes, about what I write about or how I say it.  It doesn't matter that this is my personal blog, I have to sometimes censor myself and what I'd really like to say about certain topics.  That can be hard, sometimes, but I have learned to accept it and try and keep myself out of muddy waters.  I truly believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion on everything, but I just have to be careful how I word my opinions.  HA!

Anyway, today I'm thankful that I love writing and my blog.  My writing has always been there for me, and I know that I can turn to writing whenever I need to destress, get something off my chest, or just share whatever's on my mind.  It's amazing how therapeutic writing can be, and I'm so thankful for the thousands of dollars in therapy that it's saved me.

Now I must get ready for work.  It's our final weigh in for the weight loss challenge today, so I'm sure I'll be writing about that tomorrow.

Have a great Thursday, everyone!!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day Nineteen: Thankful for the Road I've Traveled

I have made a point of mentioning, quite often actually, that I haven't had the easiest life.  In fact, I've been through a world of pain, hurt, disappointment, let down, and misery.  There have been many things that I've shared about my past, and some hidden treasures that I keep to myself because I'm still not ready (some 20 years later) to share some of those things with the world.  And that's OK.  I think everybody should have some mystery left in their lives.

It's no secret that I've been through abandonment, teen pregnancy, being homeless, being in an abusive relationship. being a single mom, and extreme poverty.  The most recent member to the list is breaking off all contact with my immediate family.  This year, I made a stand against my mother because of how she treated one of my children, and that resulted in us having no contact since.

My life has definitely been no bed of roses.  Well, I suppose it has in a way.  There has been several beautiful blooms, and many sharp, painful thorns.

Yet, today, I am thankful for all of it.  Every minute of pain, joy, sadness, happiness, despair, excitement, heartache, heartbreak, and heart flutter.  I am thankful for everything bad that's happened in my life, and thankful for all the good.  I am thankful I've had to go through some of the lowest points of my life, and thankful I had so many high points.

And why am I thankful for ALL of it?

Because every. single. step I have traveled throughout my life has made me who I am today.  And I truly believe that.

When I look back on my life, there are so many parts of it that make me cringe, tear up, and sometimes even shiver with fear just from recalling certain images.  Yet, if someone asked me if I'd like all those bad memories erased from my mind, I'd tell them to get lost.  I never want to lose the memories of what's happened to me over the course of my life.  I cherish the good memories, but I also cherish the bad memories.  Because, really, those memories are just as important.

I am a firm believer in the fact that I have been able to accomplish so much in my life because of how much I've failed.  I truly believe I am a stronger and more independent woman because of how much I have been pushed down and have been made to feel like nothing.  I believe that I am the mother that I am because I look to my own upbringing and have vowed to do different by my children.

I am proud of the fact that I can take all the bad that's happened in my life and use it as a motivator, rather than an excuse.  You won't ever hear me blame my past on anything that happens to me today.  What you will hear is me telling you that I have managed to go through what I've been through and still made it out on top.  And, I wouldn't take a single second of ANY of it away, because it has all fueled my fire and led me to the person that I am today.

It's a message I try so hard to relay to my students.  Rather than using hardship as an excuse, use it as a motivator.  I've shared some of my stories with my kiddos.  Especially the stories that involve me living in my car, living in a homeless shelter, living without water and/or heat, or not eating so that my own kids would have food.  They have been amazed at some of the things I've shared with them, because in their minds poverty is all they know.  It has never even crossed their minds that they don't have to live that way forever, and that they have the power to do something about it once they get older.

Of course, they're still so young it's really hard for them to fully comprehend the power behind the message I want to send, but I am hopeful that one day it will hit them.  They'll understand what I said to them way back in 4th grade, and it will help motivate them to follow that road less traveled.

We, unfortunately, live in a society that has taken failure away from kids.  Nobody wants their children to fail, and there's excuse after excuse given for kids' behavior, academic performance, and inability to follow directions.  For some reason, it has become standard protocol that all kids succeed, everyone's a winner, and nothing bad or negative can ever happen to the kids because that's not good for their self-esteem.

Well, that's just sad.  The real world doesn't operate that way.  One day, they are going to fail.  One day, their behavior will result in WAY worse consequences than missing some recess time.  One day, their inability to read or follow directions will be the reason they can't get a job.  I think it's so important that kids understand NOW that life is tough, that Mommy or Daddy won't always be there to make excuses for them, and that they will always have to do stuff they don't want to do... but that's just apart of life.

Which is why I think I'm so thankful for the road I've traveled.  I'm so thankful for the hardships, the cruelty, and the pain.  Because no matter how hard life knocked me down, I ALWAYS found the courage to stand back up and fight back.

For every hardship I've had, I've received countless more blessings.  I can even say that behind every hardship, the blessings have ultimately stemmed from those hardships.  Some of the best memories I have about my life were in the midst of some of the worst times of my life.

Which is why, today, I am thankful for the road I've traveled.  It's been long, rocky, and often extremely uncomfortable.  But, the views have been breathtaking, the treasures I've found have been plentiful, and it sure has been an adventure.  I still have quite a ways to travel, I hope, and I'll be thankful for every step I continue to take on this adventure called life.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day Eighteen: Thankful for My Debt

Today's post is going to sound a little crazy and weird, but hear me out.  I know it's not every day you see someone that is thankful for the debt that they're in, but when I really stop and think about it, I am kinda thankful for all the debt I'm in.

About ten years ago, when I was working paycheck to paycheck, trying everything in my power to make a dollar stretch here and there, a bit of credit would have really gone a long way.  But, back then, no reputable companies would give me ANY credit, and the credit I did get I could have really done without.  I had to buy cars from those dealerships that charge exorbitant prices for no credit checks, and then the car would break down before it was paid for and I'd be right back in the hole of buying another car and starting over.  Credit card companies laughed in my face when I tried to apply for a credit card to help me get by.  And if I wanted to buy anything like furniture or appliances, I was hitting up flea markets or yard sales, because unless I wanted to rent-to-own and pay three times what the stuff was worth, nobody was financing that kind of stuff for me.

In hindsight, all of that was probably a good thing.  I mean, I had a hard enough time paying my bills as it was, so adding credit cards or finance payments to that would have been just about impossible.

But, I tell you that one of the highlights of my life was being able to walk on to the grounds of a reputable car dealership, picking out a brand new car, and finding out that I was going to be given the credit to buy it.  A year later, I was able to call up a mortgage company, apply for a loan, and be instantly approved.  Something that completely dumbfounded me.

Here I was with twenty-thousand dollars or so in student debt, and I was being able to buy a brand new car and get a mortgage for a house.  It was weird, but I can't put in to words the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment it gave me.  I had FINALLY gotten myself to a point in my life where I was "worthy" of those things.  I was making enough money to be considered for credit, a lot of it, and there's no real way to explain that feeling.

When we moved in to our house, I was able to finance brand new furniture for the living room.  Nothing too fancy or expensive, but with all the other move-in costs we had at the time, it was easier to pay it off in installments than coming up with the money all at once.  Plus, I knew I'd pay it off within the year I was given before interest would be charged.  Which I did.

I have a couple of credit cards I have for emergencies, and a couple that I use for items such as groceries and gas.  I use them because I get discounts if I use them, and then I pay off the balance each month.  It actually saves me money to use the credit cards because I can get 10-15 cents off a gallon of gas with my credit card.

But there in lies the second half of why I'm so thankful for the debt that I'm in:  Because even though I'm in a huge amount of debt with the house, the car, and my student loans, all of my bills are paid on time each month, I am able to pay a little extra each month so that it'll be paid off early, and I am not drowning in the debt that I'm in.

Debt can be a very harsh thing.  I've seen it cripple people to their knees, taken them for every penny that comes in to the house, and tear families apart.  Hubby and I have seen some of the nasty affects that money and debt can have on family members, which is why we made ourselves a promise to only take on what we can handle, and never let ourselves get to a point where we're fighting over money.

And that's what we've done.

Hubby and I aren't rich, far from it, but we are comfortable.  We can pay our bills, and still have some money left over to go out for dinner a couple times a month, to rent movies, or go out for some other kind of fun with the kids.  I am able to take my kids to the store and buy them new shoes and clothes when they need it, new athletic gear for all of their sports, and pay the bills associated with dance costumes and such for show choir.  I can afford to take care of my car making sure it gets regular maintenance and oil changes.  If something breaks around the house, we can take care of it because we have money put aside for those types of situations.  And, I'll be able to give my kids a pretty good Christmas this year.

Sure, there are times that I've relied on a couple of credit cards to get me by.  I get paid once a month, so that can be a little daunting making the money stretch that far.  But, if I do have to depend on credit cards for anything, I know I can turn around and pay them off or pay extra than the minimum payment each month.

I know there are people out there that think debt and credit are HORRIBLE things.  If you don't have the money to afford something, you shouldn't buy it.  I know.  I used to be one of those people.  I had that mindset that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with loans, credit, or financing.  But, then I found out that if I wanted to finish college, I was going to have to cough up $25,000 or get student loans. That kinda made me realize that getting in to some kind of debt was inevitable.  Then, when I was so sick and tired of going through used cars because they would only last as long as the note on them, I realized I had to cough up about $18,000 for a car with a warranty, or I'd have to finance it.  OK, so the warranty may not last as long as I'm paying for the car, but a 100,000 mile warranty is MUCH better than I've ever had.  Then, I realized if I wanted to get out of the dump my family was living in, I either had to option of pouring more and more money in to the rent pit, come up with $125,000 to pay cash for a house, or get a mortgage.

I guess what I'm saying here is that some debt is inevitable.  There is no way I'd EVERY raise enough money to pay for those things.  But, I can rest at night knowing that even though I had to borrow money to make those things happen, I can pay those bills each month and not feel like I'm drowning in a never ending sea of debt that is taking every single penny that I earn away from me.

So, today, as crazy as it sounds, I am thankful for my debt.  I'm thankful that I can afford to make the payments on all of that debt.  And I'm thankful that I have been able to experience the hardships associated with not having two dollars to rub together, so that I can be more careful and cautious of how I use the credit that I now have.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Day Seventeen: Today I'm Thankful for Central Heat

I was really hoping that today's post would be all about having a snow day, but no such luck.  I should know better than to get all hyped up over a "potential" of 1-3 inches of snow.  We barely got a dusting of the white stuff.  I'm sure I jinxed myself by being one of those people that rushes to the grocery store to stock up on "essentials" just because we're going to get a couple inches of snow.  But, it is what it is, and there's no snow day coming for us.  Yet.

What I am thankful for today, however, is my central heat.  We may not have got enough snow to get a snow day, but the temperatures are BITTERLY cold.  Right now, for example, it's 18 degrees with a windchill making it feel like 9 degrees.  The high for today isn't even supposed to get above freezing.  And it's on days like this that I'm so thankful that I have a good, working heat source for our house.  

In our old house, we weren't so lucky.  We had central heat, but it took everything that old unit had to get our house in to the "warm" bracket.  We usually just had to rely on bundling up in layers and using extra blankets to stay warm.  We did have a fireplace, so that helped, but when we weren't burning a fire, we were piling on the extra clothing.

Right now, I'm in a sleeveless pajama shirt and feel totally content.  Our heating bill won't be pretty this month, I'm sure, but the cost of warmth is worth it.

I am thankful for my heating today, but it also makes me worry about some of my kiddos who don't have heat.  Or those that have to stand out in this frigidly cold weather in order to wait for their school bus.  It never fails that we have several kiddos that come to school on days like this without a coat or not dressed properly for the temperatures.  But, then I'm also thankful that I work for such a great school that does everything in it's power to make sure that every single child that comes to school without a coat gets one.

I keep telling myself that I'm going to work through all of this yarn I have and make a surplus of hats, gloves, and scarves for my kiddos.  But, with such a shortage of time, it's almost impossible to make enough for every single student.  I know that sounds like a cop-out, and it is I suppose.  I could most definitely work harder to get it done.  I think that I'm going to set a goal for myself that over that Thanksgiving break, I'm going to make a hat for each one of my students.  At least that will keep their little heads warm while we're outside or while they're outside waiting for a bus or walking home from school.  I am going to put away everything else that I'm working on and just focus on 18 hats.  I should be able to get those done over the course of five days.

I'm getting off topic....

So many take for granted the little luxuries that we have, such as working heat, and I'm one of those people.  But, I also know what it feels like not to have it, and I easily remember those nights that I shivered in my bed or woke up and could see the breath coming out of my mouth.  I remember piling on blankets on top of my kids' beds or having them climb in to bed with me so that we could all keep each other warm.

Today, I'm thankful that I have heat.  I'm thankful that my family can stay warm during this arctic weather blast.  I'm thankful that everyone in my house can sleep comfortably, without having to pile on extra blankets.  It hasn't always been like that for us, which makes it that much more meaningful.

Now I'm kinda sad that we didn't get a snow day, because that means I have to leave my warm home and go out in this FREEZING weather.  But, then I get to be thankful that I get to come home to a nice, warm, cozy house tonight.

And that's something to be VERY thankful for.

Have a great Monday, everyone!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day Sixteen: Thankful for an AMAZING Extended Family


A few months ago, I shared that Peanut had finally made contact with her biological father (known as 'C' on here).  She hadn't met nor spoken to her father up until that time.  And for any person raising a child with an absent parent, you will know how excruciatingly nerve-wracking it is to finally allow the absent parent to make contact.

After fourteen years of absolutely no contact, it was both exciting and painful for Peanut.  She had known all of her life that she had a different father, but it had been a decision between her father and I that he leave her alone until she was ready to meet him.  And that moment happened this past summer.  He lives in Tennessee, so it was very hard for her to speak to a person via texts and Facebook.  She was ready to meet him, right then, but she knew that it would be a while before that could happen.  In hindsight, I probably would have waited until they could meet before allowing them to speak, but what happened in the interim made it all worth it.

What I didn't really think about, was that it wasn't just her father that she'd be making contact with, but his family who had not known about her.  At all.  Within a few days, Peanut and I received an overwhelming outpouring of messages and friend requests on Facebook from Peanut's father's family all wanting to find out about the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, and niece that they'd never known about and wanted to get to know.

The first person that Peanut met was her Uncle Kyle.  That's her father's brother.  She and I met up with Kyle, his wife, Mel, and their adorable daughter one evening for dinner.  From that moment, Peanut has had a very special connection with her uncle and aunt.  Peanut has gone over there to stay with them, and speaks to them quite a bit via text and Facebook.

Shortly after Peanut met Kyle and Mel, she was able to meet her great-grandmother, grandfather and great-uncle on C's dad's side of the family at a birthday party.  They welcomed her with open arms.  It was a little overwhelming for Peanut, but she hung in like a champ.

A couple of weeks later, Peanut, then, got the opportunity to meet her great-grandma, great-grandpa, her aunts, and several other family members on C's mom's side of the family at another birthday party.  I didn't attend that gathering, because Kyle had offered to take Peanut and I didn't want to interfere with her meeting her family members.  They were all very excited to meet her, and it was another good experience for Peanut.

However, with meeting all of these family members, there was one person Peanut had yet to meet:  Her father.  Not only that, but C's mom and step-dad live in Tennessee, so they hadn't gotten to meet her either.  So, Peanut and I took a road trip to Tennessee so she could meet her grandparents and her father.

The trip was amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time.  Peanut got to meet her father, and that was OK and good for her, but the special bond really came between Peanut and her grandparents.  I have NEVER in MY LIFE seen that girl curl up on the couch with anyone but me.  And there she was, just a few hours after we got there, curled up on the couch with her Grandpa.

Since that trip, I have spoken on the phone and through Facebook to Melissa and Danny, Peanut's grandparents in Tennessee. several times.  Her grandma calls to check in on Peanut a couple times a week, and her grandpa will text or call when he wants to see how Peanut is doing.  They care about her so much, and Peanut sure does know it.

Yesterday, Melissa and Danny came to Arkansas for Melissa's parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  I was invited to that celebration.  It could have just been Peanut that was invited, but it wasn't.  Which brings me to the point of this entire post.

Ever since C's family has found out about Peanut, not a single one of them has treated me as "Peanut's mom".  I'm not just the person that brought her in to this world.  I have been treated as a part of the family.  I've had great conversations with Peanut's Aunt Kim, I've spent hours on the phone with Melissa and Danny, I've taken the kids over for visits to Kyle and Mel's house, and not a single one of them have ever, EVER, treated me as anything less than family.

Yesterday was another situation that proved how amazingly awesome these people are.  We were invited to a 50th wedding anniversary, with many people I'd never met in my life.  I was introduced to several family members as Peanut's mom, and the minute they found out who I was, I was hugged and welcomed in to the family.  Peanut's great-grandmother, Melissa's mom, gave me a big hug and thanked me for coming.  Peanut's aunts, that I hadn't met up until that point, all gave me big hugs and told me how thankful they were that I reached out and allowed Peanut to meet them all.  Not a single minute I was there did I feel out of place, awkward, or anything less than another member of the family.

During this whole experience, I have expected to feel out-of-place, awkward, and just weird.  I have expected C's family to be a little weird with me, not really sure how to treat me and the long-lost family member they never knew about.  What I didn't expect is to have so many amazing people go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and to open themselves up so much for Peanut.

It's sad for me to admit that Peanut has had moments where she's regretted making contact with her father.  It just hasn't gone the way she thought it would.  They've spoken a few times on Facebook, he's met her once, and the contact has been very sparse.  That has been extremely hard on Peanut.  However, one thing she has told me is that she does NOT regret getting the chance to meet all of her family members and building relationships with them.  And, I couldn't agree with her more.  I was extremely nervous and unsure about the whole thing, but all of these amazing people that you see in that photo have made this time so easy for Peanut and I both.

Last night, we got to hang out some more with Danny, Melissa, Kyle, and Mel and Peanut was so relaxed and comfortable with them all.  She loved being curled up on the couch with her grandma, answering all of the questions that her grandma had for her.  Peanut and I had discussed going to Tennessee for Christmas, but up until yesterday Peanut wasn't so sure about it.  She had told me that Christmas is her favorite time of the year, and she wasn't so sure she wanted to be upset about a short visit with her father.  Well, after yesterday, she's told me that she DEFINITELY wants to go for Christmas, just so she can spend some time with her grandparents.  It was hard for Peanut to say goodbye to them both, last night, and now she's excited to see them again in a little over a month.

So, today, I'm so thankful for this extension to our family.  Peanut has been so blessed with some amazing people in her life, and I'm honored and thankful that they have accepted me in that "package".  Not just that, but it absolutely amazes me how quickly they have accepted Butter and Jelly in as family, too.  Jelly has declared that her favorite cousin is Kyle and Mel's daughter.  They play so well together, and act as though they've been family their whole lives.  Butter has soaked up the "manly" relationships he's built with Danny and Kyle.  Kyle has promised to take Butter hunting for the first time in his life, and Butter just couldn't be happier.

It just goes to show how wonderful all of these people are.  The relationships I have built, and continue to build, with these awesome people is something to be very thankful for.  Not everyday do you find out that you have a long-lost great-granddaughter, granddaughter, or niece.  Yet, their only complaint is that they've had to wait fourteen years to know.  Which is understandable.  Had I known that none of them knew about her, things would have been a lot different over the past fourteen years.  But, I can't turn back time.  What I can do is be thankful that they are all so excited to get to know her now, and that they have done such an amazing job of showing Peanut and me how much of an awesome family they are and how blessed we are to have them in our lives now.  And that is something to be truly thankful for.

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day Fifteen: Thankful for My Fur Babies


Today is an extremely cold Saturday, and there is a possibility that we'll see some snow tomorrow.  That's exciting, but I'm not going to get my hopes up too much because I'll believe it when I see it.  Although I'm not going to lie, I'd be very thankful for a snow day on Monday, just so I can get some work caught up and relax for a little while.

But today isn't about the weather, it's about my fur babies:  Katniss and Shadow.

Katniss is the big ball of white, and Shadow is that little black fuzz ball you see between Katniss's back legs.

Two days ago, Shadow went in to the vet's to be neutered and declawed.  Since he got home, yesterday, he's been extremely clingy and it made me realize how very thankful I am to have these two little fur babies to snuggle with on a cold night.

I'm not a big fan of declawing cats, but Shadow is a rambunctious little thing and insisted on trying to climb up my curtains and scratch the heck out of our new furniture.  That's no bueno, so the claws had to go.  Now, I feel so terribly guilty when he lunges for my chair or the side of the couch and falls because he doesn't have claws to use to climb up with.  But, he'll get used to not having them, I'm sure.


Katniss was my first Fur Baby.  I got her when she was in iddy, biddy kitten a little over two years ago.  Even though I have always been more partial to dogs, I couldn't resist her cute little face when I saw her in the back of a truck at Walmart.  I immediately scooped her up and took her home, and now that little, tiny ball of fur has grown in to a monstrous 10lbs of cat.  She's huge, and extremely heavy for a cat.  But, there's nothing that keeps my legs more warm than having her sprawled across my lap.

Katniss is very independent and spoiled rotten.  She is the kind of cat that will make an appearance and snuggle with me when it's a good time for her.  It doesn't really matter if I want her on my lap or not, she calls the shots.  And I have come to accept that I will share my bed with her, because I can either share or she'll just take the whole thing.  There is no negotiations.  She's in charge.

All kidding aside, she is a very sweet cat.  She seems to know when I'm upset or having a bad day, because she stays by my side on those days.  She will curl up in a ball on my lap and lull me with her deep, vibrating purr.  It's impossible to stay upset for very long when she's around.  I also love the fact that I can sit and crochet with her on my lap and she won't make a single attempt on touching the yarn.  That would require her to actually move, and that's not really her thing.  She's just not that in to toys, yarn, or anything that would require her to get some exercise.  She's a lot more content just watching me crochet, and as long as the yarn doesn't interfere with her resting spot, she's OK with it.

Another plus with having Katniss is the fact that Hubby adores her.  He's very finicky when it comes to having animals, so I am so relieved that Hubby and Katniss have a good relationship.  In fact, it's quite common for me to feel a spark of jealousy that Katniss would rather curl up with Hubby on his chair than her coming to snuggle with me.  But, I won't complain about that too much.  I'm just thankful that they get along.

Then there's Shadow.  The black kitten we got for Jelly after Gizmo passed away.  He's extremely active, gets in to everything, and drives everyone nuts.  The exact opposite of Gizmo and Katniss, really.  But, everyone can agree that they've grown to love his playfulness and trouble-making ways.  Well, everyone except Hubby.  Hubby adores Katniss, but he's not a big fan of Shadow's.  That's just because he's more playful and isn't as lazy as Katniss.  But, Hubby puts up with him, so that's better than  nothing.  He's the only cat I've ever had that can make you scream with frustration one minute and then two seconds later, he's being the sweetest little thing ever.  And, there's just no staying mad at him when he curls up in your arms like a baby.

Shadow is the kind of cat that will lay curled up in my arms, on his back, and will fall asleep from me holding him like that.  He's also the only cat I've ever had that insists on sleeping curled up between my neck and my chest while I'm in bed.  It can be quite difficult to sleep soundly when there's a cat so close to your face.  But, he's definitely a snuggler and wants attention pretty much all of the time.  Which is great for Jelly, because she can carry him around and play with him and it doesn't bother Shadow a bit.  He's a perfect companion for a six year old that insists on treating her animals like baby dolls.

Even though Shadow is Jelly's cat, Jelly is more than willing to share him with me.  Shadow likes to curl up with me if Jelly goes to bed a little too early for his liking.  Unlike Katniss, though, it's almost impossible to crochet if he's on my lap.  He wants to play and mess with the yarn, and I spend a great deal of time in the evenings putting him back on the floor so that I can crochet in peace.  I've come to the realization, however, that some evenings it's just easier to put the crocheting away and give him some attention.  He'll get his fill of love and then he'll go and find something else to do.  Like bother Jelly.

Both of my cats are members of our family.  And I'm extremely thankful that we have them.  They are loving, playful, and just make me happy.  Having pets isn't an easy thing to do, and I'm very thankful that we have the means to take care of them and give them a loving home.

I can easily recall the times in my life where having a cat just wasn't feasible.  With the cost of food, cat litter, vet visits, and such, I just couldn't afford it.  Now I'm very thankful that both of my cats are well taken care of, are healthy, and are given all the love and comfort that they need.  I'm a firm believer in not having animals unless they can be properly cared for, and I know that we are definitely taking care or our kitties.

So, today, I'm thankful for my fur babies.  Thankful for the comfort and love they give me and my family, and thankful that we can return the same love and comfort to them.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Day Fourteen: Thankful for Fridays


A saying that has how thankful I am for Fridays embedded right in to it.  It is Friday, and for that I am very thankful.  This week, anyway.  It's just been one of those weeks that I'll be glad it's over, and then I can recharge, rejuvenate, and reset myself in order to prepare for next week.

Fridays are such happy days in my classroom.  We wind down the week, review everything we've covered, and end the day out with a few snacks and some quiet reading.  A perfect combination after working so hard all week.  The kids are ready for it, and so am I.

So much has gone on this week, that it's hard for my head to process it all.  I've been a little sensitive and emotional and feeling a little deflated.  I hate weeks like that.  They don't happen very often, but there are just times where I feel like I can't do anything right, and I doubt everything I do and everything I am.

But, the cure for any of the times I've felt like that has been making it through to Friday.  Once I reach the end of the week, I can tell myself that I made it, I did what I was supposed to do, and that I just need to start all over on Monday and try harder at making next week a better week.

Despite some of the tough times I've had this week, there's also been some great moments.  Those are the moments I want to hold on to.

For example, hearing one of my kiddos, who has been having somewhat of a rough time lately, tell me after he made a 93% on a math paper (that I was very excited about) that it will be 100% next time.  YES!!

Hearing several of my kiddos tell me that they are doing extra activities on their spelling contract.  YES!!

Watching and listening to reading groups share connections they have to the story they're reading, and having deep, meaningful conversations about what they felt and saw while reading.  YES!!

During indoor recess time, being asked by students if they can read instead of play games or watch a movie.  YES!!

Having a kiddo who had a really rough week last week (hardly did any work and didn't do any homework), come to me, give me a hug, and thank me for being tough on him last week.  He told me he is going to keep working hard, and then ended with:  "Thanks for caring about me".  YES, YES, YES!!!!

And I could keep going.

There's always a list of awesome stuff happening in my classroom, and after a tough week it really helps to think about these things and remind myself why I do what I do:  For the kids.  It doesn't matter how horrible or upsetting a week can be, seeing those small moments happen in my classroom make EVERY second totally worth it.

The worst part is, there isn't any one or two specific things that made me feel so deflated and melancholy this week.  It's just been a collection of small things over the past few weeks that have collected and joined together to the point where I get a little teary and overwhelmed.

Reading constant bashing from people about teachers, being complained about, and reading or hearing remarks about what I could do differently in my classroom to make it better for the students that don't spend time in classrooms are all very emotionally draining.  I bring a lot of it on myself by allowing myself to read some of the junk written on social media sites or blogging sites, but some of it I can't avoid.  I know I'm not a perfect teacher, I know I have a lot of room for improvement, and I know that I make mistakes that I'll figure out and grow from.  I just don't need people blaming me or the profession of teaching for situations that are out of our control.  I don't like seeing teachers be spoken about as if they are lower than dirt and are completely insignificant.

Even though I know what I'm doing each and every day is valuable and important to the children I serve, it just blows my mind to see how teachers are perceived by a large group of parents and other adults.

But, I'm not getting off on another rant.  Today is Friday, and I'm going to let this week disappear and be forgotten about.  I'm going to shake off all the negativity I've experienced this week and chalk it up to a learning experience and as my friend Elsa would say "LET IT GO!"

So, I'm very thankful for Fridays.  For giving me an end to a tough week.  For allowing me a day to get excited about the weekend.  For helping me realize that I need to make this last day count just as much as I have the four days prior, maybe even more so.  Just because it's Friday doesn't mean it's "slack off" day.  It means it's reflection day.  A day I can see how much my kids have learned throughout the week, review what we've done, and OK...maybe have a good time as well.

Have a great Friday, everyone!!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day Thirteen: Thankful for My Education

It has been a tough week.  Not physically, but mentally, and today I want to be thankful that I embraced my education and that I love learning.

From 1987 - 2000, the most important thing in my life was school.  I loved being able to spend time with my friends, playing on the playground, and attending awesome assemblies.  I also LOVED listening to my teachers read, doing lessons, and hearing about stuff I'd never heard about before.  Ever.

Each day was a challenge and also an adventure.  I never knew what new pieces of information I was going to discover, what knowledge was going to be planted in to my brain, or what quirky ways my teachers were going to deliver their lessons.  I have so many happy memories from my school days, and they basically led me to where I am today.  I wanted to become and became a teacher because the teachers I had convinced me that teaching was the most fun, most rewarding, and absolute best job on the planet.

They weren't wrong.

But, back in those days, I was also held to very high expectations.  I would NEVER had dreamed of not turning in homework, or complaining about what I was learning, or "settling" for a mediocre grade because I wasn't all that interested in the first place.  I would NEVER have lied to my teacher, spoke back to him/her disrespectfully, or laughed when I got in trouble.

Not only would my teacher not have put up with it, but my parents wouldn't either.

My parents' expectations for my siblings and me when we were in school were just as high as our teachers'.  We brought home A's and B's.  Period.  We didn't DARE let our grades slip below that, or we would be grounded until our grades were up.  And, by grounded, I mean no TV, no video games, no playing outside, and no phone.  We were allowed books.  Books to study, books to read.  That's it.

Thankfully, I never really had to worry about that, but my brothers had to experience that a couple of times.  I loved school, so it was easy for me to do what I was supposed to do and for me to learn pretty easy.  My brothers on the the other hand didn't have the love and joy for learning as I did.  But, that didn't mean that my parents were any easier on them just because they didn't "get it" as quickly as I did or because it was harder for them to pay attention and do the work.

On a daily basis, I get to witness social media posts and articles written by parents about how bad teachers are doing their jobs.  If a child brings home low grades, it's the teacher's fault for not teaching them right or it's because schools are using Common Core standards.  If a child gets in trouble, it's the teacher's fault for singling the child out or because of issues going on at home.  And, just about every issue a teacher may have with a student is flipped around showing that the teacher should be doing something better or isn't doing something right to cause the child's issue.

I had plenty of issues when I was growing up.  There are TONS of things that I experienced as a child that I don't share on here, because even though I'm an open book, there are parts of my life I'd just rather forget.  But, one thing I NEVER did was use those issues to slack off at school.  If anything, I praise the Lord that I had school during some of those times, so that I had an outlet with which to focus my attention and distract me from the hardship that waited for me outside the school building.

Now, I'm a parent of two children that do very well in school, and one that struggles a bit more than his sisters.  He has had a plethora of struggles throughout his life, but do you think I let him use those experiences as a crutch for acting up or not doing what he's supposed to?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

In fact, any of his teachers and our principals will tell you that I'll gladly march him to the principal's office to have his butt lit up in a heart beat.  I'm actually thankful for corporal punishment, because a few swats to the behind gets him to straighten up.  I'm also in full support of taking his privileges away,  You will never hear me blame one of his teachers for his attitude or his grades.  He is fully responsible and held accountable for those things, and he knows that if his grades slip too far, he'll be yanked from extra-curricular activities, his video games, and everything else until they come up.

A complaint I hear a lot is that kids are bored in school.  They're not being engaged enough.  It's too hard for them to sit so long and pay attention.  They act out because it's the only way for them to stay awake.

Well, I can understand that.  When I think back to my educational days, there are some times I was bored.  I will say that I spent a good part of my day sitting in a row of chairs, eyes up to the teacher or eyes on my paper.  There were tons of exciting lessons and activities in my earlier grades, but there were also tons of days I spent listening to my teacher talk all day and hardly saying a word, myself.  I remember those teachers that would drone on and on and on, and I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep because all I could hear was "Wah-wah-wa-wahh" as they spoke.  And, even though I never cared for that kind of teacher, I would NEVER have thought of being disrespectful or not doing the work they assigned because I was bored.

I try and make the work I give as fun as I can, or deliver the content in an upbeat way.  I like movement, and don't expect my kids to sit with their butts firmly planted in their seats all day.  But, it's impossible to ALWAYS teach fun stuff.  There's just some stuff that is a bit dry or boring, but it's just got to be taught.  But isn't that a part of life?  Don't we all have days where we just want to stick blunt pencils into our eyelids because we're so bored we can't take it anymore?  Boring is just a part of life, and there are going to be days where that stuff happens.

Then, there's the flip side to that.  When a teacher tries to get creative or teach in a different way that requires more critical thinking and challenge, you know what happens?  The complaints start flying in that the expectations are too high, or the the kids aren't used to that way of learning.  So, what I hear from that is the boring way is too boring and that's why students don't do well, and then when the teaching is changed it then becomes too hard or different for the students to understand?  Can someone please point me in to the happy middle?

You know what I think?  There isn't one.  There are just some situations where teachers basically have their hands tied behind their back and anything they do will be wrong.

BUT, and it's a big BUTT, I don't care how I'm perceived from people outside of my classroom.  I don't care what others have to say about how I teach, or what I should be doing differently in order to make life easier for the students.  I didn't get in to my profession so that I can make life easier on the students that come in to my room.  I became a teacher because I have an absolute love of learning, a passion for education, and a desire to help children look to their futures with optimism and success.

If one of my students come to me and tell me the work is too hard, we sit together and work on it together until it's not so hard anymore.  Then, I get to see that AMAZING light bulb go off in their brain, and the look of sheer joy light up their face.  If a student comes to me and tells me he's bored, I will apologize that not everything is fun, and then ask him to offer some suggestions on how he thinks I could make the learning more fun.  I actually have tried and implemented a few techniques that have been suggested by my students.  They are ALWAYS allowed to offer some suggestions.  My students can come to me and talk to me about their grades and what they can do to increase them.  I've never had a student come to me and tell me they're making an F because of something I did.  They'll come to me and ask what they can do to raise that F, and then I'll offer them what I can to get the job done.

You see, in my classroom, they are my critics.  My students.  They are allowed to criticize, offer opinions, and complain.  Will it always do them any good?  No.  But, they know that.  They know I have a "no excuses" mentality and that falls right back on me as much as it does them.  We work together, we compliment each other.  There are tough times, struggles that need to be overcome, and kids that need to act up just for a little attention.  I get that.  I don't expect perfection, I just expect them to want it.  Try for it, work towards it, anything less just isn't something they settle on but a tool to help them progress and learn more.

What I don't want are people that have never spent a day in my classroom, or any classroom for that matter, telling me how I should do my job, what I can do to improve my job, or what I'm doing wrong.  That's just not cool.  I would never call a parent up and tell a parent that he/she isn't parenting right because their child can't follow the directions, so I don't expect a parent to tell me that I'm not doing my job right because their child can't follow the directions.

I know I went off on a big ol' tangent here, but I needed to.

But, today, I am extremely thankful for my education and the love I have for education.  I have not given up on learning.  I have not given up on being challenged and inspired to do better.  I will try harder not to let the negative comments affect me or my love for my profession.  I will keep doing what I do everyday, with the desire to reach each and every child that comes in to my room, and instill in to them the importance of education and how it will impact their futures.

Nobody can take my spirit away.  Nobody can tell me that I what I do isn't important.  And nobody can take away my love of education.

And for that, I'm truly thankful.