Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Last Day at Price Lab

"I am a Panther
I have walked these halls 
I have sat in these classrooms 
I have cheered, and cried 
I have worked, and played 
I have learned 
No matter where I am, I am a Panther 
No one can take that away from me..."

I wasn't sure what the last day of school at Price Lab would look like.  One part of me felt that the goodbyes had been said, the tears had been shed, and students would be ready to check out, close their lockers, and get on with their summer breaks much like every other year.  But as I checked Facebook the night before last, I began to see that school on Wednesday would be anything but every other year.  Memories of past years, quotes about goodbyes and endings and moving on, and staples of what makes our school one-of-a-kind, like the cornbread in the Grassroots Cafe or the painted bricks in the Butzier Auditorium, filled the walls of all who have been shaped by Price Lab.  And as I read these words and pictured my students all up later than normal, crying and trying to make sense of what it meant to say goodbye to their friends, their teachers, and their school, I thought back to Gary Kroeger's final send off on Tuesday afternoon, running up and down the aisles amidst a K-12 sea of orange shirts, asking students of all ages what it was they loved most about this magical, incredible place.

And most of them said 'family.'

And if an outsider were to grace the halls of Price Lab on its final day as a school, one would have seen a family, hugging, laughing, but mostly crying, and just being there for one another on a very sad day.  And just like a family is made up of unique traits, personalities, and ways of reacting to circumstances, the differences in our students, in our faculty, and in our staff were embraced and appreciated yesterday more than ever before. 

There was Blake, riding up and down the halls on his skateboard, and Emily, who stayed up late making cookie bars and writing cards for her teachers.  There was Mrs. Grey, pulling chairs out of the faculty lounge so the students and teachers congregating in the hall would have a place to sit, and Mr. Spurr, a favorite science teacher, writing and reciting poetry for a group of 10th graders in the hall.  There were popsicles and pictures, a dozen roses from Noemie, and a dozen hugs from John.  There was Alissa, who didn't stop crying the entire morning, and Rowen, whose unusually quiet presence said more to most than a sea of tears.  Although school dismissed for Juniors at an early 9:00, they stayed much through the morning, sitting amongst teachers and underclassmen in our famous 'Crossroads,' quite fitting for the crossroads they feel as they think ahead to their senior year of high school.

And as school dismissed at 11:00 and families, students, and media gathered at the entrance of our school one last time, a part of me felt defeat.  The unfair diagnosis we received in February was terminal, and although we fought like hell to keep this school alive, we lost the battle yesterday.  But, although the physical makeup of the school will no longer be around, nor will classes, or desks, or that amazing cornbread, we will.  The hundreds of people who have been touched and changed by the education, the talent, and the uniqueness of this school will live on in so many new places.  Kids will go to new schools next year, faculty to new positions, and all will use their experiences and the challenges we've faced together this semester to continue to learn, grow, and shape others.  It's a common bond we're all so blessed to share - a common bond that will forever tie us together.

Yesterday was rough, but I know that most of the time, life's challenges create some of our most powerful learning opportunities.  I like the quote: “Do not watch the petals fall from the rose with sadness, know that, like life, things sometimes must fade, before they can bloom again.”

I am sad today, but look forward to seeing all the little flowers that bloomed brightly and beautifully at a school known for its nurturing, bloom again.  It may not look the same, and it may take longer than others, but blooms will indeed show up --- in new places, with new faces, and in circumstances we can't even imagine.

I am one of the lucky ones to be touched and shaped by Price Lab School.  I would not be the teacher I am today without the people, the expectation for greatness, and the challenges that have always seemed to exist.  Although yesterday was my last day walking those halls, the faces of my students and their stories will forever be an important part of mine. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest Post - It's the Little Things

I'm so excited to be guest blogging today over at “It’s the Little Things.” This blog has a special place in my heart and is at the top of my blog list for so many reasons. I met Amanda, author of “It’s the Little Things,” during my first year of teaching at Price Lab. Amanda completed a field experience in my classroom and it didn’t take me long to wish she’d become a permanent part of my class. We stayed in touch, however, reconnected a lot more after Amanda had her adorable baby girl, Stella Vivienne, exactly one year ago last week. With our babies just six months apart, I could relate so much to her stories of motherhood, especially when it comes to balancing life as a working mama, a hip wife, a Julia Child wannabee, and a DIY-in-training. It’s the Little Thing is one of my favorite blogs to read, and is full of style, great ideas and recipes, and awesome instagram photos.

In honor of her cute 'five of my faves' posts, I thought I would blog about some of Cruz and I's latest summertime faves.  Click here to check it out :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Through the Muck

Dear Cruz, 

It's been awhile since I've written you a letter.  I'm just one half day away from summer break, on the brink of my final day as a teacher at Price Lab School.  My car is packed with boxes of office supplies, and I just took the last of my pictures of you off my bulletin board.  They were my favorite pictures from last summer break, pictures of my tan chubby boy in his Captain America one-piece, sitting with your toes in the grass at Pipac Lake, or swinging at the park against a backdrop of bright blue sky.  I always made sure to fill my office with great memories from the preceding summer break, I guess as a sort of reassurance during the tough days.  See, teaching comes with its fair share of challenges, and the pick-me-up of summer break is an always present motivator when the days get long and the stacks of papers get high.  

This summer break is perhaps sweeter than ever before.  It's been a rough semester for all of us, even though I've done my very best to cultivate a sense of normal at home.  It's hard enough being a working mama, but when you add the stress I've encountered this semester, there were times when it's been hard to forget about it at night and focus on my most important job --- raising and loving you.  I've always prided myself in being able to handle my fair share of muck - to keep things together and hold down the fort, even when life gets a bit more hectic than usual.  This semester, however, I began to feel like I was losing my footing and forgetting how to manage it all.  But, thanks to the help of one amazing daddy, and one amazing little boy, we trudged through the muck and came out on the other side --- battle wounds and all.

Today, I've made it to the top of this crazy hill.  I'm standing here, looking down at the steep climb I've managed to conquer this semester, amazed at how tall and rough it was.  And although I'm still a little skinned up and scathed from the terrain, the wounds won't last long.  While I'm not sure what the next climb will entail, for the time being, I'm going to enjoy this beautiful landscape in front of me --- just me, you, your dad, and three months of summer bliss.

I am so excited to spend this summer break at home with you.  This stage you are in, almost 20 months old, is absolutely one of my favorites.  You are this miniature person, along for the ride and excited about everything we do.  Little people are truly the most amazing gift, as they become constant reminders for us big people about how to live, how to love, and how to find joy and excitement in the simple blessings and pleasures of this life.

I watch you and am immediately happy.  I hold you and am immediately comforted.  I talk to you and immediately feel like all is right in the world. As you figure out more about the world around you, I stand amazed at how blessed I am to be part of that world.
A few things I love about you...

---the way you can completely decipher between what you want and what you don't want.  Your soft little hummingbird 'no,' and your absolute, without-a-doubt 'yea' are so cute, that I find myself asking you questions even when I already know the answer.

---your current phrase of choice - 'oh man!'  I'm not exactly sure where you picked up the southern accent that goes with it, but it only adds to the hilarity of the phrase.

---your snuggles, and the way you still tuck your arms in when we hold you against our chest.

---your fearlessness in the water.  You'll dive right in, and rub the water out of your eyes with your two little fists.  You are a little fish and oh so brave.

---the way you run.  It looks so clumsy, yet, you rarely fall.  Your face has such a look of determination on it, and your feet go a mile a minute.

---your animal sounds.  Your lion 'roar' is my favorite, and your little kitty 'meow' is precious.  

---the way you giggle when I give you piggy back rides.  You discovered a love of piggy back rides last week, and think it's hilarious to run through the house and dive bomb our bed.  That giggle of yours is one of the best sounds in the entire world.  

---your newest made-up word - 'applegate.'  It's plain as day, although we haven't the slightest clue what you mean to say. 

---the way you look in a backwards baseball cap...cute like daddy.

---the excitement in your voice when you yell 'hi' to someone, and flutter your little hand above your head.  Whether it's the daycare girls at the end of the day, the check-out lady at Hy-Vee, or a random passerby at the mall, you are quite the little greeter.  I think you could get a job at Wal-Mart. 

Thank you for being a trooper this semester, little one.  I can't wait for the summer of fun that awaits us.  For afternoons at the pool and s'mores by the campfire, ice cream cones with sprinkles, driveways full of sidewalk chalk, and sand castles on the beach. 

It's going to be a good one, baby.

Love you forever...

Your mama  


Monday, May 28, 2012

My Happy Place

Sometimes, when I attempt to complete a blog post after a busy weekend, I'm tired, overwhelmed with pictures, and unable to find the words to describe what it is I want to say.  We fill our days with as much activity as we can squeeze in them, and at night, after Cruz is asleep and the toys are picked up, I sink in a chair and wonder if I can capture the right words to accurately describe the day, my thoughts, and perhaps the most difficult - the emotions I feel at this point in time.  

Tonight, after a long weekend and the 'un'official kick-off to summertime, I don't need flowery language and extensive vocabulary to describe how I'm feeling.  No, sometimes the simple is the most profound.  Tonight, my word is happy.  Just happy.   

I'm in my happy place.  My house is clean, my laundry is almost caught up, and my skin radiates a bronze glow I haven't seen in months.  Cruz is fast asleep after a warm sudsy bath, and I'm sipping a Cream Soda and thinking about cutting me a 'small' piece of scotcheroo from the pan in the kitchen.  We had such a fun weekend, complete with lots of summertime Americana - family and barbecue, swimming and bike rides, picnics and popsicles.  And while last summer was all about exploration for Cruz Man, this summer, he's diving headfirst into all that is summer (including the water :).  It's going to be so fun now that he can really participate and appreciate some of our favorite summertime rituals, and I hope to soak them up as much as we can.

So years from now, when I read this blog and attempt to remember these days, I hope I remember the happy I felt this weekend.   

Happy in planning a summertime barbecue, complete with smoked ribs, shrimp salad, loaded baked beans, mac 'n cheese, and scotcheroos.  Beau and I were both on the kitchen floor, going through recipe books, and here comes Cruz, Pottery Barn magazine in hand, ready to 'study' with us.  Most of the time, the magazine was upside down, but he didn't seem to mind. 

Happy in Saturday morning cartoons while Mom got her kitchen cleaned...

Happy in a breakfast for Cruz...

...and breakfast for Mom and Dad...

Happy in an afternoon family shopping trip.  Tomato cages from Home Depot, a tree swing from Target, new swimming trunks for Dad, and a new summer dress for Mom.  
Happy in a Christmas present we've packed away until now.  I have a feeling this pirate water table is going to keep our water baby happy all summer long...   

(flip flops - Target, cotton shorts, shades, hat - Baby Gap)

While Beau reads directions for the first time since I've known him, Cruz decides to take matters into his own hands.

The finished product, complete with a battery powered water fountain and water canon that shoots water halfway across the driveway!  

Happy in watching Cruz waste no time getting in the water.  This kid has no fear, which only proves that Cruz is his father's son.  I was scared to death of getting water in my eyes for the first several years of my life, and used to scream in the car before swimming lessons.  Cruz?  Part fish.

Happy in watching babies sleep.  Cruz took two long naps in his crib this weekend, but decided to top one of 'em off on our bed.  I love that his hair is already starting to bleach out!

Happy in sleepy, sweaty babies in the shade while little people play in the water and big people instigate a splash fight. 

Happy in trying out my Zoku for the first time.  We went easy this time around with a simple, but refreshingly yummy mixture of apple, pear, and orange juice, and I couldn't believe how easy it was to figure out.  Just freeze the Zoku maker, pop in the plastic sticks, pour in the juice, sit tight for 7 minutes, and voila! 

I think Cruz was definitely in his happy place after trying his first ever popsicle! 

He knew just what to do!

Happy in watching Daddy and Cruz in the sprinkler.  The water was icy cold, but he didn't seem to mind...  

Grabbing a drink with Uncle Taylor...

Happy in watching the two of them together.  Little people have such big personalities, don't they?

Happy in living room time.  Looking at books and sharing scotcheroos, kissing babies, and watching (and rewatching) Jennifer Holiday's performance on American Idol.  

Happy in bringing out the ol' boppy pillow again.  It felt kind of good to see it on the living room floor :)

Happy in a Monday morning jog - just me, a beautiful morning, and my iPod.  It felt good to run outside, and even better when I was all done!

Happy in a Zoku pop for brekke.  Because it's summer and all...

Happy in taking that Zoku pop outside by the water table...

Happy in a messy nursery.  Because although I do pick up this toy compartment about fifteen times a day, it's exactly what it should be.  A barefoot boy, content in his space, playing and exploring his world of color and fun.  This picture represents our very 'lived in' life, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Happy in our inaugural bike ride of summer, complete with a picnic, of course ;)

Happy in packing for our adventure.  It may take double the time it used to when Beau and I would spontaneously decide to go on a bike ride, but I love to put time and thought into planning and packing for our day.  Like making sure Cruz has a blanket, a pillow, a sippy, and some crackers in his trailer with him, and making sure to pack plenty of wet wipes and picnic-friendly snacks for our picnic.

Cruz Man loved his bike trailer.  There he sat, propped up against his Cubbie Bear Pillow Pet, taking in the scenery and lounging with his juice cup while Beau nearly died pulling him in 25 mph wind on Greenhill Rd.  He even fell asleep in that thing, backwards cap and all, like a little prince in his chariot.   

Happy in a pit-stop at Mulligans for a Summer Shandy.  Our bike ride was hot and windy, and by the time we made our way across University and down through the dog park, a cold one was calling our name! 

Happy in a new park to explore...

...and yummy picnic food.

Happy in a tan baby in a tunnel. 

Does anyone remember the television series, The Wonder Years?  Heck, who am I kidding?  Everyone remembers this show.  Well, all weekend, I kept thinking my life looked a lot like the opening credits of The Wonder YearsYou know, the old film reel playing home videos of classic americana - grilled burgers, red and white checked napkins, football in the backyard ... And while modern day technology and blogging has now replaced the old film reels, some things never change.

So years from now, when I look at this blog and laugh at how much technology has changed ('you mean we didn't have holigrams back then?!), I'm confident I'll always be able to rewind to my happy place. 


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