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Meet Emily
31. Floridian. Teacher. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mommy of Two. Gator. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Dreamer. Blogger.

Perfecting the art of wearing many hats...

Teaching

Change Your Mind

When I was pregnant with Andrew, my mom told me that being a mom would make me a better teacher. She said it would help me relate better to the students. What she never mentioned was how it would help me relate to the parents. Maybe that went without saying. I’m not sure.

What I know is that I used to be a pretty harsh critic. I had opinions on everything. Well, in fairness I still do. It’s just that being a mom has also opened up a great big world of other opinions, different opinions, contrasting opinions… you get the idea.

Old me: “My child will NEVER use a pacifier.”

Mom me: “Unless of course it’s the only way they stop screaming.”

Old me: “My child will NEVER use hand-me-downs.”

Mom me: “Holy crap why on earth not? Have you seen some of this stuff? It’s freakin’ awesome. And free!”

The list goes on– no creepy dinosaurs, no cartoons, no french fries, no indoor playgrounds. It all kinda goes out the window. Some of it against my will (indoor playgrounds are just gross, french fries unhealthy) but other things I had to be willing to change my mind about.

And then Andrew started school. And whoa I feel bad for every judgment I ever made against parents as a teacher.

See for the life of me I could never understand how any parent would send their kid to school with food on their face, unbrushed teeth, unbrushed hair, an untucked shirt, a shirt with a stain on it, mismatched socks, no belt, missing homework, missing permission slip, no lunch. I was harsh. I see that now. The sad truth is I’m not the only one like this. I’m willing to bet that if your kid’s teacher is not a parent he or she has also thought some pretty rotten stuff about you too.

I wish I could go back and apologize. Maybe this can be my apology.

Today I sent Andrew to school with his shoes on the wrong feet. His hair wasn’t brushed either but then again it’s hard to tell when his hair is brushed. We had a rough morning. He was distracted by every toy from his bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the car (toys mind you, that I should have put away last night but that’s for another post) and we were running late. It never even occurred to me to check to make sure he’d put his shoes on correctly. My friends were quick to assure me that this was no big deal and that teachers had seen far worse. This, I can’t deny. I sent my kid to school with funky shoes but with a full belly and a kiss on the cheek and an “I Love You” for the road. So life isn’t all that bad. But I’m not just a mom. I’m a teacher mom. I’m supposed to know better, right? The old teacher me would have kindly helped the child fix his shoes and then wondered silently how that kid’s parents let him out of the house that way. It made me realize that the old teacher me needs to stop after the helpful part, nix the judgment part and realize that the parents of my students are parents just like me and we’re all just doing the best we can. Those little things mean the morning was rough or the kid was uncooperative or mom was in a hurry or overslept because she is working 3 jobs but not that the child is unloved or the parent irresponsible.

I’ve come to realize that getting older means accepting when you’re wrong and learning to change your mind. And really, what better lesson is there than that to teach our kids? Mom was wrong. It’s okay. The world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Life goes on. You grow up, you get smarter, you realize that those little details matter far far less than you thought they did and you live to fight another day…. though hopefully with your shoes on the right feet.

Who Am I Now?

Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. Technically, before I was a wife, I was a teacher too. For the last 7 years a huge part of my life has been my career. I spent 3 of those years and a large sum of money earning my Master’s degree in the field of education. I devoted most of my waking thoughts and sometimes my dreams to teaching. I used to resent it when people would say things like, “Wow, you’re a special education teacher, that takes a special person.” I wondered if they were mocking me. Now I realize that the sentiment I once resented is actually true. I learned this after spending years around other teachers. I realized that yeah, it’s true, it takes a person with a lot more patience than most of the human population can muster– and sadly, quite a few other teachers too. So I’m far from perfect as a teacher. I make mistakes, I worry about them. I go home and lay awake at night and think of ways to fix my methods. I have been told that’s what makes me good at what I do. I feel connected to my job and my students. I feel a sense of duty to give them the best I’ve got. I feel a sense of devotion to the Lord for guiding me to teaching. It’s not something I could ever just give up.

So next year when I’m not a teacher anymore I have to wonder a little bit about what will happen.

Oh it will start the same. Friday is the last day of school and I’ll finish cleaning up my classroom and spend a good 4-5 hours working on files and paperwork. Then I’ll tackle the remaining to-dos on my seven page list. And I’ll pack up my stuff and I’ll go home. I’ll spend the summer taking Andrew to swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and art class, and violin. I’ll keep on tutoring my very favorite student of all time and life will seem pretty normal.

Until August that is.

When I should be hitting up the stores for the best deal on bulk school supplies I’ll instead be buying school supplies for just one, my own one. When the first day of school rolls around I’ll be sitting at home, or I don’t know, maybe having a baby since past precedent suggests my kids like to come at the least opportune times . But I won’t be in the classroom. And as freeing and exciting as that feels, it’s also quite scary. Who am I if I’m not a mom wife and teacher? What does it mean to be a mom and a wife? I know people resent the term “just” a mom as much as I once resented the other phrase but I can’t help but seeing it that way. Is this what I want? Yes. I know that it is. After all, it’s only a year and I will get to put my children first. I will get to put my husband first. I will get to truly become good at being a wife and mother, something I’ve felt that despite my best intentions always fell short because I had to balance it with a career. But I am not satisfied to “only” do what’s easy and please don’t hate me my fellow SAHMs but being a working mom is ridiculously difficult, and crap I only have one child! I know plenty of people who have MORE than one and they are running all over the place to soccer practice and whatnot. Yes, it’s harder than staying home in many many different ways. (Not trying to start anything here but think about ALL the things that have to get done during the course of the week. Now remove 40+ hours and try to still get it all done.) What will it feel like to pour all my efforts into my 1 (WOW 2) children? What about the other 20 back at school? Am I letting them down? Have I BEEN letting my own child down? I’ve never been satisfied unless I’m splitting at the seams with stuff on my plate. In high school it was 3 sports and 2 musical ensembles plus being an officer in a club or two. After college it was working 80 hours a week in 2 jobs. When I had a newborn I was also taking graduate classes and then working full time along with it. I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t know life any other way. I don’t know, maybe it will be a lot harder than I think. But I get a taste of SAHMamma-hood every summer and I don’t really think so. Maybe having 2 will be overwhelmingly difficult. I don’t know.

So these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about the past couple months since I made the decision to stay home. My students still don’t quite understand that I’m not coming back right away. They ask me about the things we’ll do next year (I teach the same kids for 2 years before they move on). It breaks my heart to slide around the true answer. But it melts my heart to tell Andrew I’ll be home for him, that I’LL be the one who he spends his days with now. That I’ll take him to school and pick him up; that I’ll go on field trips with HIM and not 20 others. That I’ll make real dinners for my family instead of whatever is fastest and easiest. That I’ll finally stay on top of the laundry and not drown in piles of clean but unfolded clothes.

I want to grow a garden, and decorate our new house, and try new recipes, and find the creative soul who once resided in my body, who has been shoved aside for lack of time, lack of energy and lack of patience that gets all used up during the school day. I have a vision of the person I want to be. I’ve just never given her a chance to make her way out… at least not for a really long time. And I’m sure that 22 year old and this 30 year old are pretty different people.

So who am I right now? I’m still a teacher, after all that never stops and let’s face it, my kids will never get away from it. I’ll be here teaching Andrew to read, and to speak using grammatically correct sentences, and to write his name and alphabet. I’ll teach our little newbie his/her (it’s a secret!) first words and watch his/her first steps and all the firsts many of which I missed before. Maybe I’m a little afraid of how easy it just may be to forget everything about the career and fall head over heels in love with being “just” a mom. Maybe I’ll discover more about myself than I ever thought possible on this year long journey.

In the mean time, I’m hanging up my career woman hat. I’m pulling out my flip flops, my sunscreen and my mamma bag filled with stickers and bubbles and an extra pair of Buzz Lightyear underwear. I’m packing up a cooler and I’m taking my son on a picnic. Because that’s something moms do and for the first time in my life, that’s what I am. No more, no less.

Mommy, where’s the sun? :: Giving Kids Better Answers

I’m a firm believer in finding answers. I never take “I don’t know” as a response from my students or myself for that matter. When my students ask me a question I don’t know the answer to I look it up, usually right then and there. I’ve come to love the Internet for its vast expanse of knowledge. It frustrates me when I can’t find what I’m looking for but having spent thousands of hours doing web research for school or just myself I know that most if it’s out there.

And I’m a firm believer in giving good answers to kids, too. A friend of mine recently commented on a commercial, I think for McDonalds, where a parent was giving their child a bizarre and blatantly wrong, totally off the wall explanation of where food comes from. Why is the real answer so difficult to explain to kids? (“It grows on a farm.” Yeah, now that’s a difficult thing to grasp… come to think of it, McDonalds food probably does require a longer and more complex answer since it’s not actual food) Doesn’t it take a lot more energy to make up a stupid response than it does just to give the right one? And for goodness sake, with the Internet at our fingertips, literally attached to most of us (in the form of a phone) at all times, if we don’t know the answer why on earth can’t we look it up?

So the other day, Andrew asked me where the sun went at night. Immediately I thought about the answer most kids would get– “the sun is sleeping”. But then what happens in preschool when the topic comes up again and all of the sudden the whole “sleeping” thing is proven to be what it is– a load of crap. So I thought about it for a second and I told him that the sun was giving light to the other side of the earth. He repeated me verbatim with a very inquisitive tone in his voice. And the teacher in me couldn’t resist the urge to elaborate.

“Yes Andrew, the sun is very very far away in outer space.”

“Oh, outer space, yes! That’s where rockets go! 5, 4,3,2,1 BLAST OFF!!” (I have no idea where he learned this but he did have a concept of space)

“The sun is very big too, it just looks little because it’s so far away.”

“Uh huh!!”

“Do you know what else is in space? The moon and stars and comets and other planets.”

“WOW!”

Now, I realize he didn’t fully understand all this but it opened a whole dialogue that would be completely lost with a vague and ridiculous answer. He must have been thinking about it too because he asked me about it again today since it was raining. This time though, I asked him why he couldn’t see the sun and he thought about it for a little while and then answered, “because the clouds are hiding it.” I didn’t explicitly tell him this in the other conversation but he figured it out. It’s moments like that that make me so proud to be his mom and make me wonder why anyone would think the wrong answer would serve a better purpose. Maybe that’s why kids in this country are so lacking in science skills.

Funny thing is that I know my few readers will agree with me here, and the people who maybe should read this and give it a little thought won’t (because I don’t know those people) but in general I think we can all do a little better about giving our kids the accurate answers to things. They really do understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I guess results in the same outcome– nothing.

I have had so much to say for so long and yet never find the time or display the decision making ability to sit down and actually pick a topic and blog. I  have  many friends with blogs and they are so good about updating. Guess I could make it my new year’s resolution to blog more but truth be told, I don’t really believe in resoultions.

So instead I decided to pick a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a really long time and that’s to discuss the work outside the home vs stay at home mom dilemma. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it’s interesting how life’s twists and turns take ordinary decisions and help you find more focus and clarity when you least expect it.

I won’t lie. Some days I hate working. Hear what I’m saying. I hate WORKING. I don’t hate my job or my students or my colleagues or getting up early or any of that. I hate leaving the house while my son is still asleep and knowing that he is growing up and learning new things and exploring the world and I’m not there to see it.

And I think the reason I’ve decided to talk about this particular topic now instead of the 1000s of others I could have picked that have strayed across my brain over the last few months, is because the decision to continue working outside the home after having a child is particularly trying after a holiday or break. I just got to spend 2 weeks reminding myself about what I miss when I’m at work.

So the easy answer is, “If you want to stay home so badly, then just quit.” But it’s no where near as simple as that. For one thing I just spent 3 years and a lot of money earning my Master’s degree in education. I think I owe it to myself and my family who made many sacrifices for me to actually USE my degree.

The other thing is that in the world today, with the economy such that it is, I could not fathom being able to justify leaving a good job with health benefits, quote frankly, no matter how bad it is (which it’s not). There are too many people without jobs for me to just up and leave.

So I come to the conclusion that I reach over and over and over again every time I let my head go to this space where I have this debate in my mind. I have decided that when it comes down to it, really comes down to it, I’m good at what I do. And leaving my job would be selfish. So I would get to spend time with Andrew, so I could stop feeling guilt about not being there. At school, I get kids who can’t read and I help them read. I’m not a miracle workers but I’ve seen enough to feel like I am doing something. I am making a difference. I mean heck, if you are going to leave your child for the day you sure as hell better be doing something worthwhile, right? I guess I just decided that my students need me more than Andrew needs me. And that’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes when I miss him so terribly during the day but this is what I have chosen. And I respect all those moms who have chosen to leave careers to stay at home with their kids. It’s an admirable thing to do. But for now it’s not for me. Not when I have 20 other kids who need me too. If I sound a little defensive it’s because I get the looks from the SAHMommy crowd. I’ve heard the subtle jabs at my decision to work. I’ve felt the unspoken pressure and the guilt guilt guilt. I’ve heard argument that staying home is soooo much harder (Um… no, it’s not. I still have the same amount of crap to do at home and 40 hours less to do it). And I’ve come to the realization that people can say “to each her own” all they want but that sometimes it comes across in such a mildly transparent way I feel like shaking them and saying, “Go ahead, tell me how you really feel!” I wish people would be a little more respectful of my decision. Sadly, the people who have made me feel this way won’t even read this since they’re not my friends.

In the meantime, I just have to jam as much as I can into the few hours I get with Andrew when I’m home from work. I guess in the end it’s the quality of the time you spend together more than the quantity. And when I have a hard time believing that myself, I just look at my calendar and remind myself that there’s just 92 days until summer, and I get to be full time Mommy again.

The Other Side of Special Ed

Today is a kind of ironic day.

You see, this blog has evolved into not your average mommy blog because I talk a whole lot (in the earlier entries) about being a teacher and I’m a special education teacher so it has that twist to it too… but I’m not trying to sell my blog to you. No it’s just interesting because today was the first day of school and I met my new crop of awesome kids who struggle with learning disabilities. Each new year starts as a challenge but one I feel more and more equipped to handle. I’m love my job because it’s not a job, it’s a ministry. I was called to do this and so I do.

I love my students. I love the challenge of finding new ways to meet their needs. If you don’t know much about learning disabilities let me just explain quickly that kids with LD have a normal to above average intelligence. We’re not talking about a low IQ here (although some do have a lower IQ to us it’s just a number). It’s just that strictly speaking, Special Education (or Exceptional Student Education as it is referred to in my certification) covers two types of children– those like my students…

… and those like my son.

Today I took Andrew for his 2 year check up. He’s 35 3/4 inches tall, weighs 29 pounds and has officially met all his 2 year old milestones and most of his 3 year old ones. You read that right. My doctor said that essentially I have a 3 year old and that in his years of practice he’s only ever met one other child who was as advanced as Andrew is right now. And as a parent I’m not going to say I’m sad to hear it but I’m not doing a happy dance either. I’m kinda taking a deep breath and a step back and realizing that as much as it’s totally awesome to hear that right now, I also know that if his learning trend continues as it is currently, we will have challenges ahead, too. We will come to see the other side of special education.

Some parents pray for a healthy child, or a strong child, or a beautiful child. Well I prayed for healthy but I also prayed for intelligent not because I would have loved him any less if he were to be in any way challenged but because we strongly value education and want the same opportunities for him as we had ourselves. But there is also this other side of it because as a parent first of all, no one wants to hear about the challenges of raising a smart child so there’s not a whole lot of people I can ask for advice. In fact some times it’s hard to be around other kids his age because I worry people think we are showing off. People routinely think he’s older than he really is because he carries on full conversations, orders his own meals at restaurants, says his complete alphabet, counts past 10, recognizes his name in writing and has a shockingly good memory. I’m proud of him but it makes for some awkward moments at times since most completely normal 2 year olds don’t do all these things. But the bigger question is what do we do with school? I’ve been told by more than one professional that we need to start thinking seriously about his education. We have already picked a preschool which he’ll start next year (yikes!) but will it be enough? Our pediatrician told us today that he’ll be the kid in first grade who’s bored out of his mind and I know full well that a bored child is not a happy (or well behaved child). So I guess right now the thing to do is digest the info we’ve been given and try to find the next step. I’m so proud of my little guy but I always knew he’d keep me on my toes. I want to be able to give him everything he needs and commit as much of my effort to his education as I do my students.

Transitions Part 2

So this is the continuation of my graduation story which begins in the post below. Even if you don’t feel like reading all of it there are some cute pictures– scroll down.

Before I start on the next part of the story, I saved one other picture because I didn’t want it to get buried down at the bottom. Every now and then I get a picture of him (in this case, A took the picture) that I just adore beyond measure. This is one of them

Okay is that not too cute for words? I’m going to get this blown up big and hang it on his wall, lest he ever start to think about attending another University.

And on with the story…

Well it’s now nearly 11pm May 1st and I haven’t really slept since, oh, I guess it was Thursday night. Yeah, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I remember listening to Andrew breathe in the pack n play a few feet away. And I watched the clock as it turned 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am… well you get the picture. I may have dozed off slightly between 5 and 6 but then it was time to get up, dress, repack the room and reload the car. We did in fact manage to get 4 people, one of whom being a 20 month old, completed dressed in nice clothes, with everything loaded by 7:08 am which I think is pretty damn impressive. A even got pulled over on the way back north but managed to squeak by with a warning. I had just finished getting my cap situated on my head and my hair looking okay when the FHP guy stops us. He takes a look at us and goes, “Y’all headin’ to a weddin’?” Umm… it’s the new look. Mortarboards instead of veils. It’s all the rage. Eh, I guess that’s being pretty rich of me to joke considering he let us go without writing what would have undoubtedly been a very hefty ticket.

We made it there in time and then began the nerve wracking “radio silence”. Okay so not really but in the instructions for graduates which I read no less than 10 times, it said not to bring anything and not wanting to lose my phone I figured it was safer in the car. So we picked a meeting place (the giant oak tree outside the O Dome) and I hopped out of the car. Now here’s the insanely stupid part, one I’m almost afraid to admit. I go to pull on the gown and didn’t realize it had these funky sleeves with deep pointy pockets (like, picture Death minus the hood and the scythe). I went to stick my hands in and realized it was stitched and thought, “Oh crap, they forgot to put holes in mine!” (Yeah remember how I hadn’t had any sleep 🙂 ) I quickly realized of course it had holes and THEN what a perfect place those sleeves would have been to put my phone! Sheesh!

Well I wandered around for a while and then it hit me that I didn’t know a damn person in the place. Wow talk about lonely– sit through God knows how many hours without talking to anyone? I started looking around for someone who looked friendly, determined not to be completely boring the whole time. But everyone seemed to be in a huddle with their friends. I wandered over to the basketball practice courts and found my spot next to the other light blue hooded people with the College of Education. I was standing near a woman, someone who looked outside the traditional college age range. She was alone, too. Then she offered to fix my hood for me. I told her I was so thankful because I didn’t know anyone. She said she didn’t either, that she’d done her whole degree online. Well long story short (ha who am I kidding?) She was not only my classmate from my final course but also my PARTNER in the final section. Talk about small world and random chances!

The ceremony started and we processed out. The pictures aren’t much to see… I’m just a little dot. They did all the Doctorate degrees first (which took forever) and then started on the Master’s degree candidates. Here’s me walking across the stage followed by a zoomed in version of the same picture.

Have you ever tried so hard to remember something that it made the memory slip out of your mind even faster? That was kinda how it was for me. It felt a little like slow motion walking across the stage. Now I realize at this point I’ve been typing these posts for nearly an hour and you’re like, geeze lady all you did was get a Master’s degree. But it was kinda more than that. And this is where I’ll tell the other part of the story in the most cryptic way possible.

See, I’ll get back to the graduation stuff (there’s not much more to tell really) but first I want to head down a different path for a minute. See back in 2004, I found out that there was a job available at my school but I lived in NJ. I had been married just around a year and things were going well in that aspect of my life but I was lonely and depressed about not having a real job or purpose in life and A was TDY almost constantly so I was completely by myself most of the time in a strange state with nothing to do besides work at Pottery Barn. So when the job opened I knew in my heart that I had to have it and A was nothing but 100% supportive, willing to live away from me to make it work. So from the very first moment I started at my school I took a leap of faith to get there.

And in many ways every single aspect of my career and this path that I’ve been on with getting my degree has all been about faith. And those times that I wasn’t sure I could do it, it was all about faith. So this past week, when my boss approached me with, I don’t even know what to call it– a proposal of sorts, I felt again that I was being led by the Holy Spirit. Now those of you who know me, even those who know me really really well, know that I don’t get outwardly religious often. It’s a very private thing for me. But this particular moment felt so strong that I’m certain my prayers for guidance were being answered on the spot. You see, not knowing who exactly reads this and having promised secrecy I will not go into the details of this proposal but suffice to say it requires yet another leap of faith.

So as I turn back to my graduation story, understand that this isn’t about graduation much at all as it is about the closure of one life chapter, the transition to the next chapter and the faith involved in the whole process. Because as I look back on every major life milestone I’m finally starting to see how everything pieces together and that may very well be a miracle in and of itself.

So I walked across the stage and believe me when I say I’m not exaggerating this or trying to be dramatic but I felt like everything slowed down and got quiet.

I had told myself, “listen to where the shouts are coming from, then you’ll know where they’re sitting” but I didn’t hear anything at all. I shook hands 4 times and said thank you to each person. I was smiling. I didn’t trip and fall. The rest is a haze. I do know that I felt what I did not feel the other 2 times I have taken part in the grand tradition of graduation. I know that THIS time was different because the chapter really did end and I really do feel done and truthfully that is the most I could have possibly asked for.

The rest of the ceremony felt long. It was terribly hot under the gown and I was tired, no, exhausted, but happy. After I found everyone and we walked back to the car. While they were waiting, A took a few more pictures of Andrew in front of the Bull Gator. He had been so excited last night when I told him that today we’d see more Gators. In fact he woke up asking about them.

“Touchdown!”

And of course more Chomp (Can’t wait to bring him to his first game!)

Then we went and took a few more pictures after. This was a neat drive by photo. I jumped out of the car and A took the picture from the window as he was driving. Impressive! And here’s where I’ve gotta say he did everything in his power to make today absolutely the best! He definitely succeeded beyond my wildest expectations!

I also have a picture here after my undergrad graduation. I need to find it at some point.

Sign on campus

And one last one of me 🙂

This evening, A surprised me. We went out to dinner and instead of it just being us I showed up to find my whole family was there– EVERYONE! This is what I never got the first two times around. I got everyone together all in one place plus two very dear friends. I couldn’t ask for more than this.

They say nothing’s perfect. But today was. And I can only hope and continue to pray that the start of this next story, this next journey of faith, will be as wonderful and as filled with hope and promise as today.

Transitions

Well it has been the type of day you never forget and I mean that in a really good way.

This promises to be a long entry, mostly because this is for me and I don’t want to forget it.

I guess you could say it kinda all started back in 1999. It was the day before my high school graduation and though it was not altogether unexpected, I received the news that my grandmother had passed away. She had been sick and it was not so much a terrible shock as it was a sense of emptiness of losing someone close to me. We went to her funeral 2 days after I graduated. By that point I had decided I was done with everything related to high school and I didn’t want to think about them anymore. I didn’t even bring my yearbook to get signed– not a single signature in my senior year yearbook. I thought about my grandmother and her funeral and heading off to college and graduation itself was a blur.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years. After what remains to be 3 1/2 of the most amazing years of my life spent in Gainesville I graduated on December 21, 2002 in what proved to be a bittersweet (mostly bitter) cold and windy but crystal clear winter day. I recall the exact outfit I was wearing, and the friends I was sitting next to. I remember the stress of moving my remaining possessions home with me after the ceremony ended and I remember many family arguments. I don’t even remember at this point, what they were about. All I know was that after 3 of the happiest years of my life living in a place where I finally felt like I discovered the who I really was, I just remember the stress and the arguing and the going home and feeling completely empty. It felt like I’d just spent all this time finding the true me and then losing it all over again. Every time I went home during college for Christmas or the summer it was always a transition period, a limbo between happiness for being home and longing desperately to go back. It’s not so much that I was a different person in each city. I certainly was not. But just that there is an irreplaceable feeling of pulling off I-75 on Archer Road and driving into town and feeling like anything is possible. That’s the magic, the pull, the addiction of being a college student.

And when I left I knew I wasn’t done. I knew one day I’d go back and that it would undoubtedly be at Florida because even though I nearly went to U of Maryland, somehow I always knew I could only be a Gator. And I knew I needed another shot at graduation and having real closure on that chapter of my life. So when I applied for my Master’s degree program, in the back of my mind I knew from the split second I got my acceptance letter that I would attend the final ceremony. I would understand it more fully and appreciate it more deeply.

So when the time finally came to graduate I knew this was my last shot at getting it right.

And I’ve gotta say that’s a lot of pressure to put on one single event but it was perfect in every way.

Yesterday we left on our drive to Gainesville. This was to be Andrew’s first visit. I knew when I had him that one day he’d get to visit my former home and I knew that graduation would be the perfect first time. We started at the bookstore. Oh how I wish the new bookstore had been around when I was there on campus. There is an undeniable feeling of academia everywhere on campus but nowhere else do you feel it as much as when you’re surrounded by BOOKS.

I had had these anxiety ridden dreams that I would get there and they would have no record of me. I guess that’s part of doing an online degree program. I knew the people really did exist somewhere and it certainly helped that I could recall the buildings and places as well as the basic policies and procedures but the fact remains, until yesterday I never once spoke to a person face to face and so I was a little worried I had somehow made a mistake. There was even a dream once where I imagined it all. It’s not like there is more proof when you physically attend class. No actually I’ve left a digital trail 10 miles long from this program. But sometimes when you don’t deal with people in person you start to disassociate yourself from the whole process. I guess I’m not really explaining this too well. It’s pretty hard to describe. I wonder if any one else who has done this felt this way. I tend to think they have.

But worries were needless (as they often are for me). And my cap and gown (and hood!) were ready and waiting. I got my portrait taken and I also had one taken with Andrew and A. Afterall, they were such a huge part of this whole thing. I know all my children will be special and God willing that I have more, I know that Andrew, aside from being my first precious child, will always hold the unique place of being my graduate school baby. He went through this whole thing with me. And in some ways, suffered my stress, my anxiety, my workload right along with me by missing time he could have spent with me had I not been preoccupied with finishing. Today was every bit as much about him as it was me, at least in my mind. So anyway, I got the pictures done and picked up a cap and gown and off we went to visit Century Tower, for those who didn’t know me then, A proposed under Century Tower, on a cold rainy Saturday in February in front of all my friends. It was and remains to be the most amazing surprise, no, the most amazing ANYTHING anyone has ever done for me.

So naturally, we had to go there! Here’s A showing Andrew where it happened:

Then taking a seat on the bench along the side.

Then we walked through UMA to the area where the band used to warm up on Game Day before the march to the stadium. We had to wait for 3 girls to get done with their “photo shoot”. I definitely felt a little self-conscious when we were standing there waiting for them because I don’t really look older to most people without any points of comparison but I felt 29 when I’m standing there next to these 22 year olds in cocktail dresses who were most definitely without children. Actually, I guess self-conscious is the wrong word because I felt more proud than anything.

Finally it was our turn to take pictures. At first Andrew was very tentative around the ah-gee-ya (alligator). It had not occurred to me that he would not understand it was fake. He didn’t cry or fuss like he was scared but he was not in a hurry to touch it either.

“Mommy! Ah-gee-ya!”

“Are you sure about this?”

Finally, I convinced him it was okay to touch it and we sat on the Gator which is a pretty generic picture but hey, we needed to have one.

So then I wanted to get a picture of him hugging the gator. Now I can’t really explain why I thought this would be so cute but I wanted the picture. So A decided to show him it was okay to hug the gator.

STILL not convinced he gives it a shot…

The hilarious part (at least for me) was when he finally stood up, satisfied that it was indeed safe to hug (and on his own accord, kiss) the gator, and he turns to me and say, “ok Mommy, Ah-gee-ya sleeping”

OOooooohhhh my dear child!! He now thinks the gator was safe to touch because it was sleeping. My dear God in heaven, please do not let my child ever come across a living Gator. He will undoubtedly rush up to give it a kiss on the snout!

Of course he did some Chomp too…

We finished with the pictures, walked back to the car and then went out to dinner. I have got to say, Gainesville has so many more restaurants than it did when I was there. I don’t think I would have been able to survive with that many good places to eat. I was so dirt poor as it was the first time around. We ate at Fridays or Chili’s a lot because that was pretty much all there was. Now there is every restaurant I’ve ever heard of and plenty I haven’t. We picked Carrabba’s for pre-Graduation dinner. Andrew was getting very tired though so we ate fairly quickly and headed back south to Ocala because I waited too long to get a hotel room and they were completely booked solid anywhere near the city.

Just as we arrived at the hotel it started to POUR down rain and I do mean pour. We got soaked carrying everything up to the room but when all was said and done the 4 of us (my mom was with us too) got in bed for the evening and I had the sense that I was mere inches away, after having come miles, for this final event.

To Be Continued….

I Actually Did It!

When I started this process over 3 years ago there was a big part of me that never saw myself actually finishing. I remember sitting there with a stack of GRE words in my lap night after night thinking, well I’ll just keep at this but I won’t get into the program. And then I did, I got in.

And then I started my first class. I’ll never forget that day, September 24, 2007, because we were in Washington DC where A. was receiving an award. But all I could think about was my class starts today! And I poured everything I had into it. It was HARD and time consuming but I loved it. And I kept thinking, well this is great but how long will I be able to keep this up? Surely I’ll never actually finish. And that was a little scary to think about considering I’ve never quit anything in my life.

But I just kept on trucking… through a struggle with infertility, then getting pregnant and working late at night until I was practically passed out in front of my computer. Then there was the summer before Andrew was born where I did nothing but tutor and study, tutor and study, sometimes up to 14 hours a day with my big swollen feet propped up on pillows and a certain person in my giant belly kicking my books off my lap. Then having a child and reading chapters in textbooks while I pumped or nursing while I typed. He was 5 weeks old when that particular course started. I don’t even remember what it was called much less what I learned in that one.

Then I went back to working full time, doing after school tutoring and singing in the church choir. Oh there was dance in there too (something that finally had to give). I started getting up early and going into work by 7:30 so I could work for 25 minutes in the morning. Then I’d stay an extra 15 minutes in the afternoon which gave me 30 minutes to work if I had all my other stuff in order. I have become exceptionally good at squeezing every second out of a break and reading textbooks at stoplights (don’t worry Oprah, I’ve stopped).

I’ve helped raise a family (and received a lot of help too) while having a husband who travels a large percentage of each month. I have had to step away from synchronous sessions to go assure my toddler that yes Elmo, AND Mickey Mouse, AND Blankie are all safely in bed with him. I have been asked dozens and dozens of times, “what time did you come to bed last night?” with a tone that suggests I might have lost my mind to stay up past midnight working on an assignment.

I trucked on through classes I loved and a class or two I hated. I have relished the insight, the ideas, the knowledge (as cheesy as that sounds) that I have gained from every single class I have taken.

I did not ever think this day would come but tonight, I submitted my final assignment. I have completed my 12th and final course to complete a Masters of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Educational Technology. I have received a perfect score in 11 out of 12 classes and a 98% in the other course (yes, that pisses me off tremendously but hey, I had a 5 week old!) In two weeks I get to go back to Gainesville and walk across the stage one more time, one last time. And then this chapter of my life closes.

I’m finished!

What’s next?

When Motherhood and Teaching Collide

My mom used to tell me that becoming a mother would change me as a teacher. Of course motherhood changes you as a person first and foremost but she assured me that it would make me see things differently. I accepted that she was probably right and went on my merry (tired) way.

I can honestly say I didn’t give that idea much thought until now. When I returned to teaching I went right back into my groove. It took a few weeks to get adjusted to starting in the middle of a school year but now here we are in the middle of October and I feel like I never really left for any sort of maternity leave.

But I do think being a mom has changed me.

Maybe it’s in the way that noise doesn’t get to me the way it used to. I can block out a noisy classroom a little too well and my kiddos have helped me do the alternative– block out a crying baby. I also found that I am more patient. Maybe it’s because my students are so much more capable of doing “grown up” things like helping out in the classroom and helping each other. I like watching them, and I like imagining what Andrew will be like when he is their age.

I find myself putting myself in the shoes of the parents. When Andrew is in school, I know I’ll want his teachers to take good care of him so maybe this is my way to “pay it forward”.

Today is the end of the 1st quarter and I got my list of pink slips so I could take them into consideration when writing report card grades. Pink slips are what we give out to a student who is not behaving appropriately. In years past, I have written upwards of 80 pink slips in a quarter. I think once I even wrote over 100. Granted we have an EXCELLENT group this year but this quarter I wrote 4. Yes, FOUR. That’s like, unheard of. I guess that goes back to the patience thing.

But what made me sit down to write this? Well today while writing up my lesson plans for next week I actually took the time to plan {gasp} HALLOWEEN activities for my students. I despise Halloween but for some reason I’m excited about it this year and I don’t have to think hard to know why. It’s because I want to make it special for my little lion who will be able to walk from door to door this year and who I know with each passing year, will come to enjoy Halloween more and more. I used to ignore the holiday altogether but now I’m starting to understand that even though I hate it, it’s important to kids and if I’m going to be a good mom and a good teacher, what’s important to them has to be important to me too.

Random Thoughts

This will be random, I assure you.

So I got the RSS feed working again. I posted about it on Facebook so probably that is not news to any of my readers. I hate the fact that I get so completely obsessed with getting things right to the point where I am all consumed with it until it’s done. I have grand plans for redoing the layout of this site, not really because oh so many people see it but because I want to do it. But then I think about what will happen when I can’t figure something out and how stressful that will be. So for now it’s staying the way it is cause I don’t really want to pester Dottie when I know she is so busy with her dissertation.

I am also kinda at odds with myself over the fact I have made this blog public through Facebook. On the one hand, people can find it and read it. On the other hand, people can find it and read it and know it’s ME talking. The anonymity I had before was pretty helpful with getting my thoughts out. One of the things I’m struggling with lately is not something I really want my coworkers to know about but a few of them can read this through the link on FB and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

But I’ve decided I’m going to talk about it anyway because really, the chances are probably slim they will read this and my overall dilemma already HAS an answer but it’s just something I need to talk through anyway.

See the thing is that I really want to have another baby. I think most of my readers already know this about me. I REALLY want to be pregnant again. Pregnancy amnesia is honest to goodness a real thing and I have easily forgotten that lot of being pregnant sucked. I remember the amazing sense of knowing that a child was growing inside of me and I want that again. This revelation is not really so much a big deal, it’s just that I keep wondering if what I’m doing is the right thing? Letting someone else care for my child while I work is just something I’m having a hard time dealing with lately. I think the summer proved to me that I’m actually pretty good at being a SAHM (Stay at home mom for those of you not up on your mommy lingo). My initial horror at being “stuck” at home all day diminished quickly and now I’m thinking about all the fun things I could be doing with Andrew if I were still at home. I keep thinking about this time last year when I wasn’t working and how wonderful it was to wake up and know I had the whole day to spend with him. Why didn’t I appreciate it then? Why was I in such a hurry to go back to work?

And then there is that feeling that overwhelmingly wins out which is that I can’t possibly leave my job. My identity isn’t just mother, it’s teacher too. (A. would ask where the heck wife comes in here?) I have no real complaints about my job and I love what I do. I kinda just wish I could do both. I wonder if having a second child will overpower this feeling. If I’m being honest, I don’t want it to. But then again it’s not something I really think you can mentally control. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s really your heart that decides these things. All I know is that right now my family feels incomplete. That feeling in and of itself creates a lot of guilt. I would never want Andrew to think that he isn’t enough for me. I just want him to have brothers and sisters. I see myself with not just one child but several. The job thing, the graduate school thing, the not even being sure I can get pregnant again thing all adds up to a lot of mental controversy.

And speaking of graduate school… I’m 2 classes from being done. These two classes might kill me though. First of all, this class I’ve got coming up starts in a week. From the sound of the initial letter I got, it’s going to be a real doozy. I have no control over whether or not I take it, it’s a requirement. It’s now or never. Then, I thought I’d have the first part of the spring off from school but they changed my final class to being a 16 week course instead of an 8 week course. I’m sure in the long run that’s a good thing but it kinda feels like adding an extra class. Blah!

When I first started preparing to go back to school, I was so consumed with taking the GRE and getting into the program that I never actually gave much thought to finishing it and that’s kinda strange for me because I’ve never really quit at anything. I’m not even sure at this point why I decided to get started with it except that I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I’m pretty competitive that way (“Really? YOU? Competitive?” you ask). So anyway, here I am nearing the end and the thought of going through 2 more semesters actually makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a rusty spoon. (How’s that for a mental image?) But alas, I WILL finish this program. I WILL graduate next May. I WILL NOT quit!

So there’s your dose of random for the evening. I can’t imagine that many of you got all the way to the end of this post but if you did thanks 🙂

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