Monday, July 15, 2013

Peaceful Parenting - Day One

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men."  Romans 12:18

For the most part, I feel that I am a fairly peaceable, likable person.  At work, I think I get along with everyone (as far as I know).  I was even voted "Nicest Girl" my senior year of high school.  Kinda dorky I know, but I suppose it proves my point.  

However, this easy going image of myself tends to go up in the puff of smoke billowing out of my ears when going toe-to-toe with one of the most masterful foes I've ever come across: my six-year-old.  He and I both are struggling with my current tactics so I've been doing some real soul searching lately when it comes to disciplining.  

I come from a line of feisty Dutchmen, a laser-eyed Indian, and booming Germans who tend to pride themselves on gut wrenching guilt trips and making their children cower in fear.  They're not evil, horrible people.  My brothers and I were never ever abused or unloved.  We were deeply cherished, but strictly punished when we were small.  And I guess I turned out okay, so I've been attempting to parent this same way.  I don't punish nearly as harshly, but it's still there.  But I'm not convinced that it's the best way.

While looking for some validation that I was not the only one with a kid who does this or that, I was skimming the internet when I came across, "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr. Laura Markham.  Her website is  Her website had a handful of videos and several really struck a cord with me.  I've not read her book, but I plan to.  I don't know if this is good stuff or not, but I do know that I'm ready to have more tickle fights and bear hugs than arguments and hurt feelings.  

My son doesn't need to get away with everything, nor does he need to be punished every time he turns around.  He deserves a parent that will stay calm, or take a break herself when she can't.  He deserves to be treated with sympathy and respect when he's upset.  If it depends on me to live at peace, then I'm going to keep trying.  He deserves to know that it is possible.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Okay Mommy, You'll Fit!

Quick shallow breaths, struggling to keep my eyes glued on my son while maneuvering all kinds of hidey holes, mini-slides, and iron grate ladders in near darkness, picking our way through a sea of hundreds more giggling, squirming kids.  Through the dim light, I could just barely keep up with him.  Two terrible fears of mine were clogging my brain: One - getting stuck in a small dark place, where I wasn't completely convinced that help would even be able to hear me call out over all these munchkins and Two - losing my son in this twisted mess.

The Saint Louis City Museum gave this girl a run for her money. By the way, I would not categorize this tri-level jungle gym a "museum", but I guess there were a few historical corners of this place.  If you're thinking about going you either need spider monkey ninja skills to be able to stay with your kid or absolute faith in God's ultimate protection of your family.  Because when you let your child slip off into this Alice in Wonderland labrynth  and see them pop out an entire story above you, it can be a bit unnerving. 

Needless to say... I was scared.  Scared for me and scared for Dakota.
But.  Dakota was amazing.  He was the perfect size for this place and though it was dark a lot of the time, he was having so much fun he didn't even notice.  He was totally in his element.  The best part was him leading me.  Not just him picking the direction, but he was choosing the way with me in mind.  Picking paths that were challenging, but doable.  And more than once came a little voice over the crowd, "Come on Mom, you can do it," or, "This way Mom, this way will work". Sometimes he'd take my hand or scout ahead a little then come back to show me the best way. 

After I finally hauled my cookies up through a hole in the floor under an elephant skill, I had to call it quits.  I was emotionally exhausted (and physically!).  Later, after I regained my adult composure, I scooped up Dakota, gave him the biggest bear hug, and whispered into his ear, "Thank-you for helping Mommy to be brave." A huge smile crossed his face and he simply nodded his head.  

That day I was lead through my "what-if's" by my child.  As adults, I think we tend to forget what kids can feel like when adults are pushing them out of their comfort zone.  It can be downright scary, but by letting them know we're looking for the best way for them, being positive, and yes, maybe even taking their hand once in a while, the reward is a huge sense of accomplishment and a stronger bond than before. 

And I guess I don't always have to be in control, or even completely safe to have fun. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Next Chapter

Dear special education family,

It is bittersweet to say that I will be moving into a general education position this fall.  Out of respect for the incredibly hard work that you all do, I wanted to give a bit of explanation.  
I have always had a special niche in my heart for reading and writing, and especially teaching.  However, as a young girl at Syracuse Jr. High, I was able to go down to the elementary and help my mother a few times with the "Readiness" class.  I fell in love with those kids and helping them seemed to make my life more complete.  Then, I was able to take "Intro to Special Education" with Judy.  Her heart and passion for her job solidified my desire to become a special education teacher.  I was asked to interview only a few months after graduating college, and I've been here ever since.
Last summer, I set out to become "highly qualified" in English and Math.  By the grace of God, and support of Sarah and Ryan along with other friends and family, I was able to achieve this goal.  
Then a little birdie mentioned that I could actually teach those classes with this new qualification on my licence.  I started to give it serious thought this last year after returning from maternity leave.  To be honest, it was pretty tough.  I've worked through tough years before, but when the 8th grade English position opened, I knew it was a chance to try something different, yet also (hopefully) be something I could do well.  
My family and I prayed over this decision, that it would be God's will, not mine.  When I applied, I honestly didn't know if they'd even consider me.  When Susan offered me the job, there was a quiet peace and reassurance in my heart, so I accepted.
We all know this job is stressful and demanding.  I've always thought that we needed to steal that old armed service slogan: "It's the toughest job you'll ever love."  I have learned, lost and loved more than any college class could ever prepare you for.  Each one of you have poured into my life in your own way, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I take all of this with me as I forge a new path in my life.  
God bless,

I sent this email out this last week.  Initially I wanted to send it for the people I've worked so closely with these last 10+ years.  But the more I thought about it, I felt I needed to document this in my life somehow.  Solidify it in my memory.  I tend to be more of a roll with the punches type-a-gal.  I'm one of those that stammers a little when asked my children's birth weights.  Those things tend to slip through the pockets of my mind.  Things that in the moment don't seem like too big of a deal, but later I wish I had taken the time to make it more permanent.  

So - I don't want to miss this.  I don't want the school year to start in a rush and miss this change in direction.  I don't want to gloss over where I came from and the people that got me here.  They deserve much better than that.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Have you been writing?

This quiet question came from a dear friend, but also one that I greatly respect.  I murmured a slow, "no..." and probably added some comment like, "I should be".  I hated letting her down.  

My excuse before was that I was so terribly busy and exhausted.  Which I was.  But now that I'm on summer vacation, I don't have much for an excuse.  I do write some, just with pencil and paper so no one can see except me and God.  

During the Slice of Life Challenge I had a reason to write that made sense in the outside world.  Now that I'm on my own, it has a different quality.  Before, I had some sort of an audience in mind. Now, I may have no audience.  It drives me into a quieter, deeper place.  It's as though I've stepped out of my warm comfortable home for a late evening walk - hesitant steps into the darkness with a single candle burning.  I have no intention of leaving those fond and familiar things completely, but the desire to discover something new drives me out.  I may find a swarm of mosquitos, or a perfectly still, moonlit masterpiece.  Most likely, a bit of both.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Yogurt melts
Plastic keys
Squinty smiles
Busy knees

Crawling off to adventure
The dog dish
Fridge magnets
Surviving big brother's
Best intentions

A tiny heart beats for mine
A slightly older one
To his entwined

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What He Thinks

"Punchinello?" The voice was deep and strong. Punchinello stopped. "Punchinello! How good to see you. Come and let me have a look at you."

Punchinello turned slowly and looked at the large bearded craftsman. "You know my name?" the little Wemmick asked. 

"Of course I do. I made you." Eli stooped down and picked him up and set him on the bench. "Hmm," the maker spoke thoughtfully as he inspected the gray circles. "Looks like you've been given some bad marks." 

"I didn't mean to, Eli. I really tried hard."

"Oh, you don't have to defend yourself to me, child. I don't care what the other Wemmicks think."

"You don't?" 

“No, and you shouldn't either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They're Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special."

Punchinello laughed. "Me, special? Why? I can't walk fast. I can't jump. My paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?" 

Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. 

"Because you're mine. That's why you matter to me."

Above is an excerpt from You are Special by Max Lucado.  This book has sat on my son's shelf since he had a shelf.  It was mine from college.  For some reason, he never seemed too interested in it.  [Maybe it was the wooden puppet on the cover?  No offense Max, but it is kinda creepy.] 

Dakota had had a tough night.  Just tired I suppose.  The poor guy's evening from supper on was just one big meltdown.  Mommy was doing her best to not have a meltdown of her own.  I was surprised though when he grabbed this book to read before bed.  In fact, I even set it aside thinking it got tossed on the bed while he was looking for another book.  But there came a quick, "No Mommy!  I want that one!" So I began to read, waiting intently for his response - there was none.  He always makes a comment, always asks at least 5 or 6 questions, but this time - nothing.  

So I prayed over him tonight instead of with him, sensing that he maybe needed some extra TLC.  Again, he was pretty reserved.  No profound moments from the story or our prayer time.  

As I walked down the stairs, tears started to well up in my eyes.  Sigh... it was for me.  Oh, I know that Dakota got something from our time together and was just too tired to sort it out with words, but I could feel my heart ache and soften.  Another sigh... The line, "Because you are mine.  That's why you matter to me."  

I've been letting the lies of the world suck me in - "You're doing a terrible job. Why do you even try? Why aren't you more like her or him? You can't do that.  Why would you even dream of doing something like that?"  And when I start to do that, I start to forget just how precious I am.  The God in heaven who created unimaginable far away planets and each intricate snowflake made me.  And he loves me more than I will ever possibly know.  He wants me to not let those "bad marks" shadow my life because what does matter is what He thinks.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Special Job

My first trip down to visit the classroom where my mother worked as a paraprofessional in a "readiness" room was my inspiration.  I vividly remember a teeny little guy with super duper crazy curly hair that was practicing tying his shoes.  My task as a peer helper was to encourage and support him during his practice of this delicate art.  I did so for a few days and then one day - it happened.  A little nub of a loop connected to another barely holding on by the aglet.  He. was. so. excited.  The glee that poured over that little guy began like a rainstorm.  A few trickles of grinning, a compliment from me, a whisper to see if he could show Mrs. Keiper,  gave way to steady streams of congratulations, high fives and maybe even a few sideways shoulder squishes.

These days working with my 8th graders, it doesn't happen as often, nor as exuberant.  Ha.  That - would NOT be cool.  But seeing their faces light up when they've tried ten times harder than the others and only done half as well and STILL proud - that, my friends, makes being a special education teacher worth it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Monster

  Here's me.  My little monster avatar thingy for posting my Slices of Life-ez.  At first, I kinda giggled to see them all when others posted along with me, but I was secretly a bit disturbed by my own.  I mean, she has ice pic arms, cave woman hair, a mouth like a garbage disposal and sewn up eyes - is that like I'm squinting, or knocked out or something???  

Well, I don't always look like this, but there are times... when honestly, I feel like this.  Blue, un-huggable, and closing my eyes to the truth, while spewing loud horrible things from my mouth.  What's even worse it that happens more often at home than I'd like to admit.  This ugly little creature takes over my body and mind and  I find myself doing and saying things that I desperately want erased as soon as it takes place.  It's not a creature though, it is me, a part of me that I must learn to manage.  

Whatever the reason why I've lost my softness, I know at this breaking point that I must go back and amend.  Request forgiveness and mercy from the ones I hold most dear.  Both my husband and my son grant this so easily - it's humbling.  And through this humility I am warmed and become soft once again.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It's a cruddy picture, but for the past three weeks or so, every time I've been in our girls restroom at school, there has been different one hanging up.  This one says, "Smile - Make someone's day a shade brighter".  Others have said things like, "Hey beautiful" and "You are lovely inside and out".  I have no idea who's doing it, but today it finally soaked in just how neat it is that someone actually IS doing this, especially if it's a student.  They've made me smile to myself each time I've read them.  Today though, I couldn't help but wonder what young girl might read that same message as me and find that tiny bit of love and kindness that she so desperately craves.  

We think too much and feel too little.  More than machinery, we need humanity.  More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.  
Charlie Chaplin

Monday, March 11, 2013

Light Brite

Tucked away
In my dark room
Huddled by an outlet
Leaning over my 
Gangly, criss-crossed, eight-year old legs

Tiny pegs
Neon colors
and GLOW

Electronic hypnosis
Calm and quiet 
In a riot of color

Slowly warped
Too many times
Left on
Camped beside 
My rainbow campfire

Slowly dimimished
Too many pegs became
G.I. Joe missles
and Barbie drinks

Miss this escape
Into a techni-colored

Sunday, March 10, 2013

3 Strikes - I'm Out

Cutest blog on the block, eh?  Hmmm... yep - here's a cute one!  

There was an error in this gadget.

Sigh... Okay, well let's just post something.  I've got the Blogger App on my phone, maybe I'll try it out.  

Warning: Does not match your account.

... [10 minutes of tinkering] ...

... [another 10 minutes of tinkering] ...

Ahhh... okay.  Blogger App error resolved.  Now we're cookin' with Crisco.

Let's load a couple pics from today anndd... now what... Wait.  Why can't I type anything besides a caption?

OK, forget all the fancy stuff, that's not what this is really all about anyway, right?  I'll just save what I've got and...

An error occurred while trying to save or publish your post.  Please try again.

I think I'll just click Publish and, God willing, try again tomorrow.

WRITE your slice. SHARE your link. GIVE some comment-goodness to three other slicers.

Friday, March 8, 2013


He's a beefcake
Make no mistake
Young and single
Can't wait to mingle

Riding a wave
A date I craved
Wakeboarding in the summer sun
Our life together had just begun

We're married now
Can't believe somehow
We used to live life free and airy
But it's become Little House on the Prairie

Fields and hunting
Baby buntings
Minivans and soccer balls
No way I'd ever trade it all

Wrote this poem very (very) quickly for an 8th grade class today.  A bit cheesy, but kinda fun to play with rhyme.  I tend to avoid it, however I've decided I need to let myself experiment here - to play and make a mess of things sometimes.  

And while my poem may be a bit juvenile, my muse is just wonderful.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just Write

Just write something.  Write about... your dog, your kids, your job, whatever.  It doesn't matter - just write.



That's all well and fine until you know that someone ELSE is going to see it.  

I'm lovin' this entire process though.  It's so very good for me.  How many times have I uttered that first line to a bunch of 13-15 year-olds?  Like it's no big deal, right?  

No big deal to pour your heart into something and have it critiqued.

No big deal to happen to make a poor choice for a topic for the day and write something lame and suck-y and then have it stuck in the cogs of your brain for ever and ever wishing you could delete!

Writing takes so much more courage than we give it credit for.  And I need to remember to be patient and commend my students' courage much more often.  

I also need to be more courageous in my own writing... to dare, to dream, to dance.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Slices of Humble Pie

A friend asking me to help her with something and the more I talk, the more I realize I need to shut my mouth because I need more help with it than she does.

Grumpily noticing something my husband did "wrong", and then walking into the next room and seeing all the things he did while I was gone.

Feeling very small when trying to explain a decision that had good intentions though ended up just not feeling right.

An aching silence when hearing the hurt of secrets kept from family.

So thankful for unending Grace.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Genius

Well, it's only my third slice and I'm hooked.  I wish I would've been brave enough to try this sooner.  I guess all things have their own time.  Before I gave in, I always made the excuse that I was too busy this time of year.  Secretly though, it seemed kinda, well... pointless.  Now wait!  Before you kick me to the virtual curb, when I was asked to slice this time around, I'd honestly been thinking on a forgotten lesson...  

A few years ago a very dear friend bought me a spot in a creativity class taught by Canadian artist Kal Barteski. [How cool was that!?!?]  We experimented with all kinds of fun: photos, continuous line drawings, even crayons.  Each lesson offered a video message by Kal to inspire and encourage.  One lesson in particular pointed us to a video clip of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, speaking on TED.  It may be an overly referenced clip, but it's one that's definitely stuck with me. [There's a link below if you'd like to check it out for yourself.]

I must confess I never read her book and honestly only watched the movie because Mr. James Franco tends to be easy on the eyes.  Ahem.  It was a pretty good movie, but what she said in her 20 minute chat was what really rang true.  

Her suggestion was that people cannot be a genius themselves, instead, that they have their own "genius" [as in like a genie] that provides the special sprinkles of "wow" on whatever they're creating.  I found this interesting, but not until the last five minutes or so did she hit upon a very powerful splinter of truth.  Elizabeth found in her studies that long ago, during sacred dances, the watchers would chant "Allah" whenever one of the dancers were truly spectacular.  

To these ancient people, Allah meant a "glimpse of God".  Yes.  Truth.  And for me the truth that God creates and created us in His image tells me how important it must be to create.  Before, I always viewed my time singing, acting, making cards, scrapbooking, journaling, decorating, whatever... to be frivolous.  Just big girl play time.  After making this connection though, I realized that it's so much more than that.  

Creating is a part of who we are, inherited from the one who made us.  Christ himself was raised in a carpenter's house.  Have you ever wondered what he made?  I imagine him fashioning out a raw piece of wood, smoothing his hand over a finished piece, smiling warmly at what he'd created...  

How could I have missed this all those years?  [And shame on me for forgetting it again!]

What's more impacting this time around is the revelation of the fact that God created through words... He spoke.  He didn't think, he didn't whip up a potion.  He spoke.  Words, out of all our creative vessels, hold such power.  I just hope that through my month of slicing I can give this honor of creation the justice it deserves.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

Saturday, March 2, 2013


5:30 AM
slowly starting to blink your eyes open 
realizing the sweet toasty coziness of your fleece blankets and then 
a dull thud somewhere in the upper part of the house.  
Then some thump, thump, thumps down the stairs.  
Soon there's a small creature crawling up over your shoulder 
wedging itself between you and your husband.  
While wishing you were still snoozing 
you are now nose-to-nose with 
this sneaky little stinky-breathed sleep-stealer.  
But all your grumpy grogginess is forgotten 
when he whispers these words into the darkness, 
"Mommy, can I marry you?"  

Friday, March 1, 2013

All is Well

Day is done
Gone the sun 
From the lakes, from hills, from the sky
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh...

At least thirty meek first grade voices softly sang this tune at the end of every Troop 130 meeting.  We'd all hold hands and for a few brief moments our little souls were one with each other and with God.  

I had always found it a bit odd, though, that we'd end our time with Taps, a song often played at military funerals.  Not that I'd been to any, but I'd seen it on t.v. [Probably M.A.S.H. or something like that.]  Tonight though, this melody returns from long-ago memories to haunt me.  I received a Facebook message tonight asking for contributions toward flowers for one of our Girl Scout leaders.  She's not doing well and only expected to live a few more days.  I don't know all the details except that I think she had a brain aneurysm several years ago.  I'm guessing she never fully recovered.  I honestly don't know.  It doesn't really matter.

What does matter was that she was my mom.  Not my real mother of course, but she along with the other leaders were my friends' moms.  And they all helped to raise us.  Taught us how to sing in a round, which shampoo was best for our hair type.  Showed us how to make a shelter if you were stranded in the woods and that we are constantly surrounded by the miracle of nature.  I still avoid Pantene like the plague and try to never ever miss a moment of appreciation for God's creation.  

This dear lady was no exception to teaching me invaluable lessons.  She was incredibly kind and gentle - always.  When she spoke it was with such calm sincerity that I remember it vividly.  I wanted to be around her just to get a little taste of that peace.  I'm sure that a part of her is certainly now a part of me.  And it's hard to know that she'll soon be leaving this place.  

In times like these you lean on what you've build your life on - the foundation of faith in God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  And I can honestly say - with bittersweet sorrow  - that "all IS well".  In the joy of remembrance and in the weeping of loss - God is always good and he loves us all more than we will ever know.

You know, I'd had plans for my first "Slice".  I wanted something simple, but cute, quirky, ...whimsical even. You know - make a good (i.e. safe) first impression.  But that's not always what writing is about.  It can be light-hearted, but it means so much more when its real and raw in rips up your guts.  Tonight a simple Facebook message rocked my little world.  So this post is more than a little rough around the edges, but it's a slice of my life.