Hooray!

“When is my birthday?” P, one of my three-and-a-half-year-old twins, asked me eagerly.  I looked into her twinkling eyes and wondered how to explain the concept of 6-months-away to someone who still doesn’t know the difference between yesterday and tomorrow.

“Well,” I began, “ next is your big brother’s birthday, then Daddy’s birthday, then Grandpa’s birthday, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years, and then it’s your birthday!”

I watched as she processed this information, the serious look on her face telling me that she was deep in thought.  I could almost see the gears in her head cranking as she considered all of these events that came before her beloved day.  How is she going to react? I wonder.  Am I about to have a meltdown on my hands?  I held my breath, waiting, until suddenly…

“HOORAY!” She let out an exhilarated cry and did a somersault to show her excitement.  “It’s going to be my birthday!  I’m going to be six!”

I laughed and joined in her celebration dance.  We’ll work on that lesson another day!

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Be Kind

We have three family rules:

  1. Be Safe
  2. Be Kind
  3. Be a Good Listener

Three simple rules that cover any situation that might possibly arise.  Three simple rules that my first grade son loves to challenge when he gets in a “mood.”

“You’re a little baby,” he taunted A, one of his three-year-old sisters, during dinner.

“Am not!” A shot back.

“Are, too!” C retorted.

“C, be kind,” I cut in.  “We don’t call names in our family.”

“I don’t care about the family rules!  Baby, baby, baby.”

I took a deep breath, feeling the anger rise but willing it down.  “C, be kind.  If you’re upset with A about something, you can tell her without calling names.”

“But she’s a baby!”

“Be kind.  What. Do. You. Want. To. Tell. Her?” I managed to get out, but I was close to the edge.

All of the sudden, P, A’s twin sister, stood up on her chair.  I reached out to take her arm, worried she might fall, but she had a message to deliver. “Yeah, Bubby!” she declared. “What’s my underwear say? Be Kind!”  Then she lifted up her skirt to show us that her underwear did, indeed, proclaim our second family rule: Be Kind.

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We all dissolved into giggles around the table as P stood there pointing to her pink underwear.  Satisfied that her message had gotten across, P sat back down on her chair.  As we laughed out loud, all of our negative emotions melted away and dinner continued as uneventfully and enjoyably as possible.  Sometimes kids just need to hear it from another kid.

Unexpected

Spring break is next week and I have already noticed that my mind keeps wandering to the central Oregon trip I will be making with my family.  I’ve started checking what the weather will be while we are there, making mental notes of things I don’t want to forget, and I even got out a couple of suitcases last night (although I fell asleep before putting a single item inside either one).  I know that the same thing is on the mind of all my coworkers at school, so it only makes sense that the question “What are you doing for spring break?” has been echoing around the halls this week.

I was warming up my lunch in the microwave in the community room this afternoon and chatting with the others in the room about-what else-spring break.  As the aroma of chicken soup started to fill my nostrils, I asked one of the fifth graders who was in the room, “What are you going to do during spring break?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders in typical 10-year-old fashion.  “I think I might just go to the mountains and…”

My mind anticipated all the possible and plausible things she might say: play in the snow, go sledding, go hiking, go skiing, visit my grandma.

“…play with my goat.”  She said it so matter-of-factly, like everyone goes to the mountains to play with their goat when there is a break.  It was the last thing I expected to come out of her mouth, and apparently the other teacher in the room felt the same way.  We both burst out laughing before asking her to explain, which she did.  Her goat lives at her grandparents’ house, and her grandparents live in the mountains, thus her spring break plans to “go to the mountains and play with my goat.”

Here’s to a happy and restful spring break for teachers and students alike!

Best Friends

A few weeks ago, my best friend Lizzy and I were talking about how lucky we are to have found each other and how hard it is to find a good friend, especially now that we have kids.  So when she texted me this image today, I laughed out loud:

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Looking back, I have always been the type of person who prefers to have a few close friends over many.  In elementary school it was Hillary.  We started out as enemies when we both moved to a little town in the Colorado mountains in second grade, but after our mothers forced us to have a play date one Saturday we were inseparable for the next ten years.  Naturally, our friendship evolved over time.  Dollhouse family dinner parties and model horse play in the younger years turned into publishing “The Earth Times” magazine and joining 4-H in late elementary school.  Middle school revolved around horses, livestock, and downhill skiing.  Then in high school some of those things gave way to speech and drama in the theater program. We went to different universities, but they were just an hour apart and we stayed close all through our time in college.  After graduation we both ended up in Seattle for different reasons, so our friendship endured.  When Hillary finished law school and moved back to Colorado, though, was when we started to drift apart.  Our lives had finally taken separate roads, and now we catch up just once or twice a year.

I met Jessica when we were both RA’s at the University of Denver.  We bonded over being the type of RA’s who did it for the free room and board, not because we loved being RA’s.  Our friendship deepened because of our shared faith, love for traveling, and passion for working with children.  We have lived in different states for longer than we lived close together, but the distance doesn’t seem to be as big of a divide in our relationship as the busyness of our different lives.  I know that I can call her at any time and we will pick up like it hasn’t been two or three months since we last talked, but I miss the near-daily communication that made us super close before I had kids and she started her private practice.

Luckily for me, I found Lizzy.  We were first year teachers together, both new to Seattle.  Even though it took half the year before we hung out for the first time, once we did it was obvious we were kindred spirits.  Our personalities are completely opposite, but we had very similar childhoods and enjoy similar hobbies.  We’ve gone through most of the milestones of adulthood together: newlywed/getting married, buying homes, having kids.  To make it even more perfect, our husbands have become close friends, too, and our kids are all just a year or two apart.  I foresee our families growing together for many years to come.

Over the years I have called all three of these women by the term “best friend.”  My friendships with them weren’t isolated from the others, but each of them holds a different place in my life and my heart.  I don’t foresee myself ever having twelve close friends at a time.  For me, just a few is all I need.

Coaching Challenge

My boots clicked across the tile as I powered down the hall at my customary speed-walk pace that I find I only use when at work.  In my arm I clutched my coaching toolkit, coaching notebook, and iPad.  In my head I was mentally scrolling through all the information that might help me as I neared my next coaching challenge: 6th grade, argument essays, first year teacher…Just like in a writing conference with a student, I brought all the data I knew about this teacher and class with me to this encounter, but I didn’t know what or how I would be coaching yet.  It depended on what would happen in the moment.  That’s what made these new types of coaching cycles both challenging and exciting.  I reached the classroom door, took a deep breath, and reached out for the handle.

A few weeks ago my principal asked our coaching team to try something different for the spring.  He envisioned all of us–writing coach, reading coach, and math coach–focusing our coaching on the same thing: what the teacher is doing during independent work time, what data the teacher is gathering during this time, and how that data is being used.  To extend this school-wide focus, he wondered if we could each get into every classroom before the end of the year.  All 29 of them.  We had meeting, made a plan, and replied, “Yes, we can!”  Instead of traditional coaching cycles with a pre-conference, in-class sessions, and debrief meetings, we would conduct “drop-in, on-the-spot” coaching based on what we observed in the moment.  Something new for us as coaches.  A coaching challenge!

Forty-five minutes later my boots were clicking back down the hall towards my office, my materials in my arms again, smile on my face.  It’s a challenge to draw on all of my content and coaching knowledge to make the best decision I can on the spot to move a teacher forward.  It’s rewarding to watch a teacher try out something you suggested and find it successful.  My brain likes a good challenge–it feels good to be stretched!

Two Mountains

Two mountains loom on my horizon.  I pass by them regularly.  I attempt to climb them most days, but they are unconquerable.  Just when I think I have reached the summit, I turn around to see another ascent that I hadn’t noticed.  Before I had kids, the peaks didn’t seem so out of reach, and if I ignored the mountains for a few days I could easily roll up my sleeves and make my attack.  Now, though, if I miss a day, the mountains become insurmountable.  So I keep at it, day by day, even though I know there is no end in sight.

Homecoming

IMG_0943My six-year-old son came home today after a three-day trip with my parents and his three cousins who live in Colorado.  Even though it was way easier being a parent of two instead of our normal three while he was gone, I still missed his energy and laughter and was excited for him to be home.

“Is Bubby home yet?” my three-year-old twin girls asked me multiple times a day while he was gone.  Both mornings they thought he was still asleep when we woke up, and I had to remind them that he was with Pa and Grammy on a trip.

IMG_0944My parents’ Kia pulled up next to my van and C burst out the door, crawling over his teenage cousins.  I threw my door open and scooped him up in a big hug.

“How was your trip?” I asked, squeezing him tight.

“It was so much fun I didn’t even think about you!” he exclaimed.  But I knew from the strength of his arms locked around me that he was happy to see me, even if he wasn’t ready for his trip to end.

Sunday Afternoon Nap

We dropped our bikes on the rocks and plopped down next to them on the beach.  The blue water of Lake Washington stretched before us, meeting an usually blue sky for this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.  The day was amazing not only because of the weather, but more-so because my hubby and I were enjoying it by ourselves while the kids were with their grandparents.

The sun was warm on my skin, my legs felt good after the hill we had just climbed, and the past two days of waking up early to drive to a conference were catching up with me.  My eyelids felt heavy as I leaned back on the beach, pulling my hood up to use as a pillow.  My hubby was saying something, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I did something I almost never do-slipped into the luxurious arms of sleep in the middle of the afternoon.

Why?

You know that saying “never wake a sleeping baby?”  Well, I still feel that way about my son, even though he is now in first grade.  Last year his school district switched the elementary and secondary start times, citing research that teenagers need to sleep in later and elementary children wake up early on their own.  Well, that may be true for many school-age kids, but not for mine.  I hate having to wake him up to get to school by 7:55.  Here’s how most school mornings go…

7:00-I open the bedroom door, hoping the noise and light from the rest of the house will start to rouse C from his slumber.

7:10-I climb up the bunk bed ladder and snuggle up next to C.  “Good morning, Bubby!” I whisper in his ear and give him a big hug.

7:12-“It’s time to wake up,” I croon.  “Let’s have our cuddle time!”  If I’m lucky, C rolls over and opens his eyes.  Many days, though, he just keeps on sawing logs.

7:13-“Okay, Buddy, it’s time to wake up.  We have two more minutes of cuddle time before we have to get up.”  By now he is usually semi-awake and hugs me back for our ritual “cuddle time.”

7:15-Now it’s time to get down to business.  “We have to get up now.  Toast or cereal for breakfast?” He just snuggles closer, still pretending to be asleep.

7:17-“Alright, Buddy Boy, we have to get up now.  What do you want for breakfast?” C tells me what he dreamed about, ignoring my question about breakfast. He snuggles under the blankets again, or tells me a funny story. Anything to delay getting up.

7:18-“Cuddle time is over!  If you want a piggy-back ride to the bathroom you have to get up now.  Piggy is leaving in 5-4-3…” In the end, the piggy-back ride is what usually gets him up.  With 30 minutes to get ready, we somehow (usually) manage to make it out the door by 7:48 and to school just before the tardy bell rings.

But today is the weekend.  And on weekends it is totally different.  On the weekends, my sleepy little boy wakes up on his own.  Often before 7:00 a.m. And then he comes to wake me up.

Why?

Too Good To Be True?

We saw her standing a little ways off, chatting. Our new principal. We found out on Wednesday at a last minute staff meeting that she had been appointed to our school for next year.  Everything the assistant superintendent said about her sounded amazing: bilingual, experienced as a principal and teacher at a dual-language school,  Washington State principal of the year in 2017.  She sounded like exactly what we had asked for at this time last year, after we found out our principal was leaving and before the district’s principal-shuffle-fiasco that left us without a principal for the 2017-18 school year.  She sounds too good to be true, I left the meeting thinking.

That night at home I googled her name and found some articles and videos highlighting her work and school.  As I read and watched, I encountered a principal who was concerned about the growth and well-being of the whole child, who was engaged in the community, and who was complimentary of her teachers.  She sounds too good to be true.

And then there she was today, just thirty feet away from where we were eating our boxed lunches at the WABE conference.  She was smiling and laughing.  She looked friendly and approachable.  She sounds too good to be true.

She started to leave, and I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by.  I wiped my mouth with my napkin and crossed over to her.  “Excuse me, are you Adina?”

“Yes,” she smiled back.

“I work at Mount View Elementary.”

Her eyes got big and her smile spread even farther across her face.  She was genuinely excited to meet me and my coaching partners.  She ate lunch with us, asking us all about our school, the community, the students, the best places to live and eat.  It wasn’t intimidating at all.  When we parted ways, I felt encouraged, excited, and hopeful.  She sounds too good to be true, but maybe…