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Meet Emily
36. Floridian. Teacher. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mommy of Four. Catholic. Gator. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Dreamer. Blogger.

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Giving Up Shopping for Lent | Final Update

Happy Easter (a little late)! Lent is over! I saw this through to the end but then forgot to update. When I was asked by the 5th person how things went I figured it was probably best to write a final post.

So did I make it? The strictest answer is no but I still think I did a pretty darn good job of it. I did buy a few things. I kept to things that were either a) absolutely necessary (medicine for when I came down with the flu, shoes for a certain son of mine who grew a size during Lent.) b) a deal on something I needed in the future that was too good to pass up (school uniforms) and c) a few basic food essentials- namely bread and eggs. And I was doing so so well but then I went a bit astray. You see I saw bunny ears for cars, you know like the reindeer antlers you see around Christmas? Well I made a stupid whim purchase– $9.99 on Amazon and a day and a half later I was the proud owner of a very dignified and grown up adult like costume for my already mom-i-fied minivan. Yup, that’s where I fell off the wagon. It happened with only a week to go too.

All things considered, I think this was appropriately challenging and an effective sacrifice for the spirit of Lent. It was hard and it led to a lot of self-reflection. It made me realize how often I browse and it was freeing not to be tempted by wanting stuff. It was also time saving to skip the grocery routine. I’m happy to say that while we ran out of many things we did not run out of food. In fact I was a little disappointed that we didn’t clear out more so I bagged up a bunch of things and donated them instead. I saw the bottom of the deep freezer for the first time in many months and we ate a lot of things that would have otherwise continued sitting on the shelf of the pantry indefinitely.

What things did I miss most?

I missed sweets. There were no cookies or fun snack foods for the last month or so (with a couple exceptions of other people bringing us stuff because they are super nice like that.) That’s a very decent diet plan actually. If it’s not there you can’t eat it and feel guilty about it. We ran out of chips, crackers, goldfish, and pretzels too.

What things did we truly need to replenish?

Running out of bread was a no go. I didn’t realize how often my dear oldest son eats a PB&J before bed. Since overall, he doesn’t eat enough I didn’t want to discourage that. Plus, when you run out of other lunch type foods, sandwiches are really the only option. So we got fresh bread a few times. We also ran out of eggs which we eat a lot. Could we have done without? Yes, but it may have prevented the kids from eating as much as they should. We ended up fine on milk. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded more bananas and apples but they also ate ALL of the fresh ones I bought after this whole thing was over and none went to waste so maybe that was a good lesson? Time will tell.

Did the kids get annoyed about not having things?

Not really, no. I had given them a lot of warning about this so when things ran out they ran out. There was some fighting over the lasts of things but they were fine. Actually it really limited the asking for things because they knew I wasn’t setting foot in a store or ordering anything.

Finally, where was the first place I shopped?

We went to Lowes on Good Friday to purchase some basic home repair items and then we went to Target and loaded up on fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese, eggs, bread, meat, and other things like cat litter. I definitely didn’t go crazy or anything. I find that while I still love shopping, I didn’t miss the list making and meal planning at all.

Overall, I hope to do this again next year and this time not slip up but try to make it the whole time without any unnecessary spending at all!

Thanks for following J

Giving Up Shopping for Lent | Update 4

Well it’s been over a month since I started this endeavor. I confess I did fall of the wagon so to speak, just a little bit, last week. As my husband joked, yeah, you really went to town there! I got a fantastic coupon for school uniforms which have to be purchased regardless so it seemed foolish to waste that. So those have been ordered. I also purchased a baby shower gift for a dear friend and I bought a lighting transformer because my dad is helping us install landscape lighting and that was the only thing keeping us from moving forward. I took my mom to the mall this weekend but bought nothing myself. On the same trip I took the kids to Toys R Us to use up their gift cards because there is varying information on whether or not the stores are closing and it also seemed foolish to take chances on losing the money so off we went. So, frivolous? No, but shopping nonetheless. I have still not stepped foot in a Target store in over a month and I find myself really looking forward to going to one again. I think over this last month I have realized that truly not shopping at all is next to impossible because things just pop up that you can’t predict however, I do like the look of my bank account at the moment which has had so few transactions that I have to open it to the 30 day view to see anything. That’s pretty cool!

Today I did a planned shopping trip for bread, milk, and coffee creamer. I knew we’d need to do that eventually. The sort of frustrating thing is that we have yet to come close to using up all the food in our pantry or deep freezer. I really wanted to clear those things out. I think one way or the other I’m going to make sure we finish that stuff even if Lent is over.

Until next time!!

Giving Up Shopping For Lent | Update 3

This is hard y’all. I have always loved shopping and even when I don’t really have the money to shop I have still enjoyed browsing. I love walking through stores and getting ideas for future projects. Good, bad, or indifferent, I get a small thrill from buying something fun and new no matter how small (Target dollar section is my favorite!) And more than anything, I LOVE a good deal! So this past weekend we had a swim meet in Sarasota and I was driving through St. Armands Circle just itching for a stop into the amazing stores they have down there. But no. I didn’t. I also came across a fab deal on Amazon but no, I didn’t buy that either. Be proud! Haha!

I did find however, that any time you take a road trip, even a small one, purchases are fairly inevitable. Because hotels were $200 a night, we opted to drive back and forth from home each day but that allowed me to justify Starbucks because, yawn, I gave my entire weekend to my son’s swimming. I also said on a whim that I’d buy him the state championship t-shirt if he surpassed his goal time which he did by a lot- in fact he set a personal record in 5 of 6 races. So does that count as shopping? Perhaps not exactly but I can’t possibly justify it as a necessary purchase. We also stopped for ice cream because, well, he asked if we could and sometimes I just want to be the mom that says yes. So I did. And we had an incredible weekend. I don’t feel badly about the few spending choices but then again I do because this is supposed to be hard and not something where you give in just because. In the moment, I weighed keeping with this goal vs making happy memories with my kiddo. I went for the happy memories.

As far as food goes, we still have a deep freezer full of food- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our refrigerator is pretty low on everything. Our main freezer is also running low but definitely has a week or two more of food in it. Our pantry looks full but there are a lot of things that don’t really go with anything else unless you’re on one of those chef shows where you get random ingredients and make a gourmet meal. Since I’m not that talented in the kitchen I’m not sure what to do with the random stuff except to use it as a side with something else. A person who shall remain nameless went and bought us bread and eggs which we were out of. I didn’t ask nor did I do the shopping. But I guess that’s kinda cheating. So far the kids haven’t really noticed that we have run out of some things. They tend to be more “see it, eat it,” type kids and don’t seem to care what we have or don’t have. I have no doubt we’ll be able to get through at least another week or two, probably more, with what we have. Until next time…

Giving Up Shopping for Lent | Update 2

Well accountability in this form sure is a powerful motivator!

This week continued to go well as far as shopping goes but I did have to make an exception. I went ahead and bought more carpet cleaning solution for our machine. Most everyone in our house suffers from allergies and I felt that it was more important to get the carpets cleaned now than wait it out for another month just for the sake of avoiding a purchase. So Amazon came to the rescue (which was actually helpful since I didn’t have to enter a store) and our carpets are freshly shampooed and definitely cleaner. I’ll chalk it up as a medical necessity.

Along the same lines, I will be making a stop tomorrow to get more allergy medicine since I ran out and being a functional adult is definitely a necessity as well.

We are still nowhere close to running out of food. The kids have wasted some things that infuriated me and it hasn’t hit them yet that those crackers they spilled all over the floor are a snack they won’t be having later. I want this to be an effective motivator against waste but so far it hasn’t made a difference. On the other hand, I love seeing the pantry clear out a little and we definitely ate some things that would have otherwise continued sitting on the shelf until they expired.

This was weekend number two of no grocery list making, no shopping, no food unloading and having that time back in my weekend is spoiling me.

So there you have it, total purchases so far = 1 for carpet cleaner. Browsing is way down as well. I use it as a time filler and it’s as much a waste of time as spilling a sleeve of crackers is a waste of food. This week I expect to need to purchase the allergy medicine and the salt for the water softener. So far so good.

Giving Up Shopping for Lent | Update 1

Well today is Sunday so it’s my normal grocery day. I didn’t make a list, I didn’t load the kids into the car, I didn’t spend an hour+ at Target getting groceries. I didn’t spend time unloading and putting them all away (or yelling at the kids to do it).

And it was GLORIOUS!!!

Do you realize how much time I gained by not doing all that? Oh my goodness!! I also didn’t make a plan for the week of meals and I’m a little nervous about that but I know we have so much stuff in the deep freezer that I can’t get near the bottom so there’s food to eat in there, plenty of it.

I keep getting questions about milk and fresh foods but my answers remain the same. I haven’t worried about that yet at all. I did realize that we will run out of salt for our water softener and I’ll need to buy more in about 2 weeks. I also need to clean the carpets and I don’t think there’s enough solution to do the job so I might have to get some of that too (or just wait to clean the carpets). So far it’s stuff more than food that I’m thinking about needing to buy. It’s really making me focus on what we really need vs just what I think we need. The kicker there is, I already thought I was pretty good at that. I know how to budget and pinch pennies. I was already not spending a ton but now it’s even less. I’m proud of that!

I am also trying REALLY hard not to be swayed by advertisements. I have given up Facebook for Lent twice now and I’m not this year but I really get sucked into the Facebook ads that are marketed directly to me. They know my weaknesses, damn them! So forcing myself to ignore that stuff has been tough. I never even buy the stuff but I always browse. Maybe that’s why I’m writing now, all my free time!

So that’s your update for now, more next week!

Giving Up Shopping for Lent

I haven’t really used this platform regularly in a while but then on February 13th I announced that I was giving up shopping for Lent. My post read:

For the sake of accountability… This year I’m giving up shopping for Lent- that’s ALL shopping including groceries. I took one last shopping trip to Target today to get stuff for Easter Baskets and one last click in my Amazon Shopping cart and we’ll see how far this takes us. I’m not sure we have 6 weeks worth of food in the pantry but I know no one is going to starve. This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever given up for Lent. Wish me luck!

Not just to be clear this isn’t something I took lightly. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I also got buy in from my family because realistically it can’t be done if they’re not on board but they are and so we began this little test of endurance and sacrifice Wednesday and it will continue until Easter, April 1.

Oh the questions! I didn’t really except more than a few “good luck” comments but I got several questions publicly posted as well as privately from people who had read my post and wanted to know more. I offered this follow up to my original post:

We have exceptions. 1) any medical necessity is a given 2) any school necessity including things I may need for my class. But necessity is key. Sorry book fair (unless the kids bring their own money) 3) if we really truly run out of food of course I’ll get more. But we have a ridiculous amount right now and I’m tired of the kids wasting food. They need to become more conscientious of the waste. Plus, the apocalypse ready level of food we have currently is making it hard to know what we have and stuff is going bad. We need to become more aware of what we have and this seems like a good way to do it. No one will starve. We can get creative. If I need to get some staples part way through then so be it.

This really boils it all down. The point of giving up something for Lent is to actually give something up and for me that’s a lot of things- it’s the thrill of shopping (I love you, Target!) as well as the time filler of browsing for things online, things that I will want and then know I can’t/won’t buy for whatever reason usually because I simply don’t need it. But for the kids it’s understanding waste and realizing when they run out of something it’s gone until April. I want them to understand the first time they go to the pantry and don’t find what they want, that I’m not going to get more of it in a few days, that they will have to wait.

I got questions about milk, bread, and fresh fruits/vegetables. My answers:

Milk: We drink almond milk which has a longer shelf life than dairy milk. I purchased enough to last 6 weeks IF it is not wasted. If we run out I have some shelf stable almond milk to supplement but no one really likes milk that much anyway so it won’t be missed.

Bread: I’ll admit this is one of my biggest worries because one of my dear children would survive solely on PB&J and it’s our go-to quick snack. But when the bread runs out he will still be able to eat peanut butter on crackers, pretzels, or dried apples.

Which brings me to fresh fruits and veggies: Well considering I have 6 rotting bananas on my counter right now and recently found 3 very shriveled up apples in the refrigerator, I don’t think my kids are appreciating the fresh fruit and vegetables too much as it is and it’s being throw out. We have lots of frozen vegetables and I mean LOTS. I’m not worried about this. It’s called a sacrifice for a reason. Their meals will still be nutritious even if the green on their plate was frozen first. Oh, and since all 4 of them eat at least one meal or snack at school, all of which include fresh fruits and veggies, they will still be getting it daily.

So that’s the run down for now. I figured this is as good a place as any to post updates on our progress. In 3 days I have spent zero $$. I did browse online but stopped myself from buying what would have been an awesome deal. I was proud of myself. I can tell this is going to be VERY hard.

2018

Here it is 2018 and the last time I posted it was the last day of 2014. So much has changed since that last post that I feel like an imposter here, looking in at someone else’s life. For one thing, we doubled the number of children we had to four. But the world has changed. It is no longer prudent to put yourself out there the way I used to. It opens you to unwanted criticism, hateful judgment from perfect strangers, and general wrath from people who look through the window of your life as though they have some right to peek inside- and I suppose when you are sharing your story for the world to see, they kind of do. In any case, I used to enjoy writing and sharing my life here. I like to think that I was a blogger before blogging was a thing tons of people did. I built this from the ground up, teaching myself along the way. And for now I’m moving on. I will keep my life more private for my children, and for myself. If you’ve stopped by here and we know each other or even if we don’t, say hi. I can’t promise new posts any time soon but it felt like an update was needed. Until next time…

An Unreachable Goal of Perfection

I love to sit in the evening and scroll through Facebook looking for interesting articles or silly quizzes and things of that sort. The other day I came across a Buzzfeed list called “19 Secrets Teachers Won’t Tell You“. I read through it. Agreed with some of the things, got a little chuckle and moved on. I didn’t even bother to repost it. For whatever reason however, I decided to look at the comments. I should never look at the comments because in virtually all cases, comments on public articles are utterly horrifying. These were no exception.

There were dozens upon dozens (at the time, probably hundreds now) of people tagging teacher friends asking them if the list spoke truth. Others were calling out teachers for being horrible human beings should the list be true. Others still, saying that any teacher who doesn’t love all his/her students equally should be out of a job. It was basically criticism after criticism. Now the list itself was a very poor representation of what teachers feel on most days but I think just about any teacher could have said or written some of those things on a bad day and that’s where people who comment these mean things really lose me.

Why are teachers held to such a ridiculously outrageous expectation of perfection? Nothing less will be acceptable. Not only must you get kids on target in all their subject areas, you have to make sure they get along, don’t participate in bullying behaviors, feel loved, eat all their lunch, and get into the best college and lets not forget those teachers who also have shielded their children from crazed gunmen and tornadoes, too. There is no gray area here, it’s not a sliding scale. To some, this is an all or nothing thing and if you’re not doing all these things you’ve failed miserably and should look for a new job. And you know what? As a teacher I was okay with these expectations. They are things I’d have put on myself even if others didn’t. But according to these people commenting on this article you also have to love every student every moment of the day, you cannot ever vent to others when you are frustrated, you may never have a bad day where you put in a movie for the kids, you must be filled with joy when you see students outside of school and on and on. Say what? Are these people asking for a human to teach their children or some sort of robot? News flash– these things ARE true. Not always but sometimes. Do parents of multiple children not occasionally feel frustration towards one child while not with the others? Are there not days that even the best of parents think (not say, not act, but think) that they love their child but don’t like them very much in that moment? As a teacher there were moments of frustration. What made me a professional was that I could and did still show my students the respect they deserved. But now, according to these people, I wasn’t allowed to think the frustration either.

And these thoughts are what led me to thinking about my current job as a mom. The message we get as moms is a complete 180 from what is expected of teachers. Having a bad day and are frustrated with your kid and yelled? Don’t worry, it’s okay, all moms have bad days. You still love your child. Not feeling well and put your kids in front of the TV? It’s okay, moms need time to themselves too. Moms don’t get sick days. You just have to do what you need to do to get by. Your child is 7 and not reading yet? Don’t worry, all kids are different and grow at their own pace. They will get there eventually.

Why are these the messages that moms are given yet if you turned it around and replaced mom with teacher it would be deemed completely unacceptable? We are forcing this already greatly under-appreciated profession into a realm of expectations that is so wildly unrealistic that it is driving teachers to leave the classroom and seek other careers entirely. And it’s a terrible shame. So my request is this. Next time you get upset at something a teacher says or does, ask yourself it it’s an expectation you’d want held to you as a parent. And if you can’t honestly say you never would or could do whatever that thing was, then cut the teachers some slack. They are human too.

Flash Forward

The other day I had a moment the likes of which I really can’t recall ever experiencing before. It was the sort of thing that happens in movies where the character is watching a scene unfold and then suddenly, without warning, the scene shifts as you enter the character’s imagination and they are seeing not the present but the future. I had a moment like that.

Let me set the scene for you. Tuesday morning, it is so muggy and hot, Allison’s hair instantly curls into ringlets the moment we get out of the car. I have Molly tucked away in her Tula and we walk together, me and my girls, into the preschool for the first day of school. Allison’s backpack contains exactly the following: 1 folder- purple, 1 butterfly lunchbox. Allison insists on walking in with it on her back but it’s clear that it’s too heavy– that water bottle and ice pack are enough to throw her balance. I offer to help but she replies “I’ve got it”.

We see her friend who is walking with her mother into school as well. This little girl is only the second person Allison has ever identified as “friend” and I’m thankful she’s chosen well in both instances. The girls wave and the moms break out cameras to snap a few quick photos.

Then the moment comes. We continue walking into the building along with other parents as we carry our heavy bags (mine is my purse with camera, Allison’s her backpack) and suddenly I was no longer there, instead I was walking into a dorm room in the middle of August feeling the cold air conditioned air burst forth into the humid summer. We are loaded down with boxes and Allison’s ringlet hair is longer, her body taller yet still just as slender and toned as it is now. She is starting college.

I could feel my eyes start to mist but not because I was dropping my baby girl off at preschool but because I blinked and she was starting college.

And I know. I just know with every ounce of me that I’m going to blink and 15 years will pass and she will be all grown up, the daughter I thought I’d never have, off on great adventures and changing the world one fiery, independent, fiercely loving moment at a time.

Best of Allison 454

“Filter” courtesy of Florida summer. (Really, my lens just would not unfog.)

What I Miss Most About Teaching

When I was three years old, I had my very first, first day of school. I don’t recall a thing about it, not even a vague recollection of an old photograph but I do know it was the first of a very long series of first days of school.

 

After I graduated from college in December of 2002, I spent 2 months as a substitute teacher and had yet another first day right there in the middle of February 2003. By August of that year I was working in the Kindergarten room of the daycare on the Air Force base where we were stationed. And there I experienced yet another first day. By 2004 I had my very own classroom and so began my career—the only career I’ve really had and with that came 8 more first days of school. I missed the one in 2008, having given birth a mere 14 hours before. I missed the one in 2011 as well—if memory serves, Allison was born on the 2nd day of school that year. And last year I didn’t teach but was hugely pregnant on that first day. And this year I am none of those things, neither classroom teacher nor pregnant. And so I believe this is either the end of one era or the beginning of a new one because next week school will start and my role will be as parent and nothing else.

 

Not that being a parent of school children doesn’t have it’s own host of responsibilities. But this isn’t about that.

 

There were a lot of things about teaching that I don’t miss one bit and I’ll get to that because it’s worth discussing. But first I want to share what I DO miss about teaching and what comes to mind during this time of year when it feels very very strange to walk through the aisles at Target and purchase supplies for only two children and not 10 or 20 or 30.

 

Things I miss about Teaching

 

  1. I miss the anticipation of the first day back, not the first day with kids but the first day you walk into your classroom after a summer off. It’s quiet, and empty and bare. Mine always had this musty stale air smell and was usually terribly hot inside after not having conditioned air circulate through it all summer. I was lucky enough to be in the same classroom all 8 years. I left my personal items locked in a closet. Opening my door to my classroom was like greeting an old familiar friend.
  2. I miss the sense of purpose and direction the first few weeks of school brings. I always had my goals lined up and ready and with a fresh 180 days I was always optimistic about what we could accomplish. I looked forward to putting into action all my ideas from the summer.
  3. New stuff!! Ah, nothing feels quite like a brand new notebook, or freshly sharpened pencils, or dry erase markers fresh out of the package. There were boxes of crayons with all their tips perfectly sharp. There were new backpacks not yet frayed or dirty (or peed on by cats—one student had a cat who regularly peed on his backpack!) Everything was new and clean and ready!
  4. Meeting the new students and seeing the old ones. I loved this part. I loved trying to figure out the dynamic that particular arrangement of children would bring to the classroom. And also, being in special ed, I started every year reading the files of the new students so I knew why they were at my school and I saw it as a great challenge. My favorite kids were the ones who didn’t like school. My first goal was to change that and help them like school again (or for the first time).
  5. You always know the day of the week and the date on the calendar. Always. As the bell ringer in my school—yes we did it by hand—I always knew what time it was too. It was several months after I left that I stopped feeling my body remind me it was time to do something at 45 minute intervals through out the day.
  6. Learning new things. This should speak for itself right? You have to stay on top of world events, latest advances in science, pop culture news, latest trends for whatever age group you work with, and then of course academic things. It was never ending and it was wonderful.
  7. The last thing I can think of right now (and know there are so many more little things but these are the big ones) I am having a hard time putting to words. Yes I’m mom now but I enjoyed being a teacher too. I don’t want this to sound egotistical which it will even though I don’t mean it that way, but being a teacher means having kids look up to you. Kids think their teachers know everything (I always assured them I didn’t) and that gave me a sense of duty to them. It gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t want to let them down. I guess what I’m saying is that I liked the responsibility.

 

In fairness, there are things I don’t miss.

 

  1. There is never ever enough time. All those goals you start off with he first day of school? Well I never finished them all. I got very close a couple of times but that was only after I’d been teaching long enough to know better how to set them. I’m one of those teachers who start on the first day and keeps teaching until the second to last day (come one, no one teaches on the last day of school). There are never enough resources either. I think teachers in general excel at making do with what they have but in an ideal world there would always be more access to things that would make teaching better/more efficient/more exciting.

 

By the same token- it’s a career that is highly politicized and not well respected by some government officials. School districts frequently have to justify why they shouldn’t have to make certain cuts, which inevitably happen anyway.

  1. Disicplining was my least favorite thing to do. I was either too strict or not strict enough and my downfall was that I didn’t find that sweet spot in the middle often enough. If I ever go back to teaching this will be what I work on the most.
  2. Patience. Teaching takes a lot of patience and sometimes, oftentimes, I used all mine up by the time I got home. My kids never saw the best of me because I’d used it all up on my students. My kids got to see grumpy, tired, snappy mommy.
  3. Parents can be hard to deal with. I will leave it pretty much at that. No I’ll say just a bit more. If anyone reading this has school-aged children but has never been a teacher I ask this of you—trust your child’s teacher more. Trust that they have your child’s best interest at heart. Trust that they are doing the best they can, and trust—this one is tough I know—that your child is different with them than they are with you. That last one is so hard. It’s not an us vs. them situation. Parents should be on the same team as the teachers and I feel like these days it’s so adversarial and it shouldn’t be. Teachers put everything into their jobs and sometimes it feels that teachers are not under appreciated, they are not appreciated at all. This is by no means all parents or all students or all situations but it wears you down and it makes it hard to give your very best every single day when you know someone is just waiting for you to slip.
  4. The expectation of perfection. I’m human. You’re human. Enough said.
  5. Few opportunities to work from home. These days more and more companies allow their employees have more flexible hours or the chance to work from home all or some of the days of the week. I’d love to teach for Virtual School but it’s incredibly hard to get a job. Some people will probably point to having summers off and yes, that’s wonderful, but you are still pretty locked into the school schedule and working from home isn’t an option.
  6. I’m not going to say a 7. I want there to be more good things than bad things even though really, neither list is complete. I can’t imagine going back right now and being a mom of three and a wife and a teacher. I can’t imagine how I would get my kids to two different schools and myself to a third and still take care of all the shopping and cooking and day-to-day living. I know people do this every single day and I think I would make it work but I also think I’d also be a zombie and not good enough for either my students or my children. But I hope someday I will find my way back into a classroom. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and I’ve enjoyed some and hated some but my heart is in a classroom and I think it always will be.
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