This is a STAGE in life… right?

I love my kids. I love my husband. I love my job. I love serving in my church. I love my family. I love my friends.

Easter 2017

Easter 2017 with Eric. Love this picture of us!

I love spending time with my kids and my husband. I don’t see my time I spend on my work outside of the normal working day as intrusive or excessive; I enjoy every minute of my job, even when some days the hours are long. I love serving in my church. I love and treasure the time I spend with my family. Unfortunately, not much is left for my friends.

As my time is being taken up more by my children’s events and activities, it leaves very little time for “friend time.” For me, if there is a conflict between my children’s events and activities, time with my husband and/or family time and an opportunity to spend it with my friends… it will always be kids, husband and family. Right now those conflicts are happening so much, I find myself disconnected from friends.

It’s my fault. However, I wouldn’t change the decision I have made to put my kids/ husband/family first. I have even seen it said that if you find your friendships fading it is because you have become self-absorbed or busy with your life, and not taken the time to invest in your friendships. I don’t disagree… but I can’t tell my kids I won’t be at their events, performances and moments. I also can’t tell my husband I would rather go out with the girls on a Saturday night after he has been traveling weeks at a time and wants to spend time with me.

So that brings me back to finding myself disconnected from friends. I don’t like that my friendships have grown apart, that I don’t have meaningful conversations with my friends on a frequent basis, or that I don’t get invited to fun nights out. That is on me.

So I ask myself, how do I fix that?

Well, you have to be a friend to have a friend, right? That requires time and investment, and I am right where I started. So I think I am resigning myself to the truth about this time in my life… it is a STAGE.

Kinder round up kris

Text from the parents of a family that Kritter gave a tour for Kindergarten Roundup. This is the school where he attends and I am the Assistant Principal.

I apologize to all my friends who may have assumed that I just didn’t want to be friends anymore because I never call… not true. I just am trying to stay one football game and musical performance ahead of my kiddos and still have a meaningful marriage.

I hope I don’t look back and regret that I didn’t make more effort to find the time for my friends. I do know I don’t regret a moment I have been present to treasure my husband or my kids.

It has been the surprise moments where I have chosen to be there for my kids that I have seen God work. Seen how they are growing up into amazing adults. They have also seen how their mom and dad love each other, because we spend what little time we have, together. So this STAGE… it won’t be long, and I am working on being content with that.

EmBug, age 14, Leading Youth Worship May 3rd, 2017

When God Provides a Window…

When Kritterman andgod-opens-a-window-meme EmBug were little we would ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Over the years EmBug has wanted to be Taylor Swift, an artist, and a “Cat Lady,” yes, a “Cat Lady.” Kritterman has wanted to be a Lego designer, an astronaut and a video game designer.

As a parent you wonder will their aspirations and dreams become a reality. Do their gifts and talents align? And then you are given a gift, a window to see the possibility. We all believe in our kids. We do our best to provide them every opportunity. We celebrate their accomplishments and we hope upon hope that their dreams will become a reality.

em-lion-kingLately our home has been a bustle. EmBug began the school year as part of the cast of the Northwest ISD Middle School Musical Production The Lion King. She had practices every day after school and even a Saturday for the first four weeks of school. All the while she kept up her school work and managed all A’s by the end of the first marking period. She loves the stage and every piece of what makes theater, theater.

Between this event and now she has had a choir concert, another theater performance Attack of the Zombies, planned and put on a school dance with her Student Council as STUCO president, practiced for an upcoming piano competition, all while prepping, practicing and trying out for All-Region Choir. She is my workhorse. She is efficient with her time and her resources. She excels at whatever she puts her mind to do.

wilemon-and-em

As a mother, though, I wondered… what is it that she really wants to do? What does she see herself doing? Recently EmBug has been talking passionately about wanting to be a secondary Choir teacher and more specifically a Region clinician. Her experience last year at all-Region Choir, UNT Choir Camp this summer and the ongoing impact of her Choir teacher Lauren Wilemon had spurred her to this new found path. I was excited for her, but I wondered if it was the environment or it was innately her.

Then God gave me a window. It wasn’t during a performance. It was at all-Region tryouts as the group warmed up. Her face was in complete love of what she was doing, she wasn’t just “warming up” she was feeling the music, she was moved by the notes and the story the song was telling, every part of her was in-tune to the notes and the song… she may have been in the middle of the gym floor with twenty something other girls around her, and yet it was if no one else was there and a spot-light was on her. In that moment I saw her as the Secondary Choir Teacher and Region Clinician she desires to be. I saw the promise of her future.

With Kritterman being a bit younger and having a sister that is passionately into everything, it concerns a mother, if his dreams and passions also being developed. While EmBug and Kritterman are very different, the same hope and desire for him to find what he aspires to be is there. With Kritterman is hasn’t been as hard to determine where his interests lie and what he wants to do. He’s my linear, mathematical, logical thinker. Anything that has to do with building Legos, solving puzzles, playing video games and trying experiments, especially with “how things work” he is “ALL IN.” So being a Lego designer, astronaut or video game designer isn’t a surprise. He too has had experiences and influential people in his life. The many summer Techno Camps where he has built and programmed Lego Robots, the opportunities he has had to teach others both in person and through video tutorials about how to build and program Lego Robots, and the teachers who have recognized and encouraged his passion for the mathematical/logical through activities and projects has only encouraged his desires to create and design through the use of technology. He excels with anything that involves design, mathematics and problem solving. He tells his dad and I he wants to be a Computer Science Engineer or a Film Director (while flying in space… he’s learned he can be the other and be an astronaut, logical, right?)

kritter-determines-the-volume-of-a-cubeAs a mother, I wondered if the math and programming is just what he is good at, or is this something he loves… is he passionate about it? Then his current math teacher Courtney Baker, emails me an image of his work where he figured out the volume of a box before he is taught the formula. He is able to problem solve how to determine the volume without being taught it. Was the strategy most efficient? No, that is what the formula provides. However, he determined how to get there, much like the original mathematician who determined the formula.

A few weeks later, after many afternoons after school spending time in the same teacher’s flex space of her classroom, trying, trouble shooting and fine tuning he programmed a “Dash and Dot” to do a behavior that was inspired by a “YouTube Video.” It was a complete synthesis and redesign of a pop-culture social media sensation transferred to a computer programmed technology device.

Once again, God gave me a window. I never doubt Kritterman’s resolve. He knows himself and his strengths. When he successfully combined the programming of the “Dash and Dot” with the influence of a “viral” YouTube with his own twist of humor, I saw how limitless his future will be. Who knows, one day he may be flying in deep space, programming computers and sharing via video with his own twist of humor using the knowledge he gained both now and through the completion of a dual major in Computer Science Engineering and Film Production.

 

It is exciting as a parent to see your children pursue their passions, it is even more exciting to be given a brief window into what the future may hold for them. It is very possible their future may look very different from what it appears it could be right now. I may have a passionate future Secondary Choir Director and future Computer Programmer/Film Producer on his way to Infinity and Beyond. It is fun to think of the possibility and at the same time I am enjoying the present and the joy in both their faces as they both fully invest in the joy of living and learning. I love it when God gives us a window and allows us to capture these moments, much like Mary who “pondered these things in her heart.”

 

 

Hitting the Reset Button…

Reset buttonSince the last post “In This Storm,” our family has experienced first hand God’s providence and care. Eric has been restored to full employment. I have been blessed to transition into a new position as assistant principal at an elementary near our home in the school district I have worked for the past 8 years. Emmarie was able to go on a mission trip to Corpus Christi (mom, too), attend UNT Choir Camp, go to Summer Church Camp and end the summer starting rehearsals for the Middle School Musical, Lion King. Kristopher became fully engrossed in the digital phenomenon of Pokemon, Go!, created stop motion videos via NISD Stop Motion Camp and continued to learn more about robotics through the NISD Lego Robotics camp.

I will not minimize that the first half of 2016 was rough. I have said many times in the first six months of this year… “I am ready for 2017, 2016 needs to make a quick exit!” However, I would not trade the life lessons: our family growing closer through the difficulties and seeing my children, husband and my own faith grow. These experiences have also helped me to be grateful and less consumed with the small “hiccups of life.”

As educators, we have two New Year’s. There is January 1st and then there is the first day of a new school year. We are lucky to have the opportunity to start a new calendar year and then a new school year. This year I am using it as a “reset button.”

We have already faced some challenges with our “new normal.” This includes Eric being in California for 10 days and missing Meet the Teacher and our first day of school. That’s not what we are going to focus on, rather, we are looking forward to the ways we can embrace the changes.

Sendera Admin TeamPart of that is me reaching out to my village of support, setting aside my default to do everything on my own, and not stressing about the small stuff. God has got this and he has already placed me in a web of support that is better than I could have ever hoped.

Here’s to the 2016-17 school year and hitting the reset button!

 

In This Storm…

plot twist

I have fallen into a Social Media trap. I post and brag about the perfection in my family’s life. I don’t share the ugly, the weaknesses, the shortcomings, the failures. It was ok for me to share the perfection. I was good with sharing, bragging, boasting of the things I had done, my husband had done or my children had done.

“Look at how ‘blessed’ I am,” is what I was saying…

But where was God in all this? Where was my reliance on my savior? Where was the being ok, if everything isn’t ok?

And then the domino of events began…

First, my husband had a minor stroke in January. Then, after that, there was a series of minor events where hopes were dashed and financial concerns surfaced. In every situation I kept saying to myself: “this is not a big deal; we can get through this; it could be worse.”

Of course, in true educator fashion, I kept plowing through events, thinking… “Once summer break is here, I can reflect, reorganize and refocus. It will all be better with a break and a little vacation.”

Then it came, Memorial Day Weekend, the small domino of events chipping away at my resolve turned from a snowball of concern to the impending doom of an avalanche. My husband was pursued via litigation by a previous employer. For the next three weeks everyday was an unknown and my unease and fears grew. I hadn’t had the opportunity to reflect, reorganize, or refocus. Vacation was off the calendar, too. Then Friday, the final blow. His present employer stepped away. No income.

So my pseudo-perfect world came crashing down. I found myself feeling vulnerable, afraid and questioning why. Why is God letting this happen?

Then sweet friends have come to my side. Encouraging me in hugs, prayers and sending me words of encouragement and scripture. It is amazing.

I feel “blessed” but in a humble and undeserving way. A way which I did not create or design. In the same way I was given Christ’s love, undeserved and without condition.

Our little family has come together, and in true humor we are yelling “Plot Twist!” (see above meme) Having faith that God knows the plan. A plan not based on our actions but His character; we are confident we are loved and cared for by a God much greater than us.

I saw a video this weekend at my church’s service. It was a lead into the message that focused on father’s. Over and over again, the message from the father’s in the video was “You’ve got this.” I don’t think I have “got this” except with the Father by my side, I know “He’s got this!”

This morning I was reading His Word and trying to find peace in this season. My sister texted me the scripture below. It is the most comforting words I have received so far… and, of course, it is His word!Ps 143 vs 1 to 12

As I go forward, I am not sure what the plan is. I will continue to post moments of things that my family have done that make my heart happy (plus I have grandparents to keep up to date on the latest about the kiddos). However, I am working on not making this about what I have done or deserve, but the true, transparent work God is doing in me and my family. I am working to be less perfect and more what is the real us. So just to let you know I am trying to #keepitreal and #keepitpositive, while giving the credit of all of this life I have to the one who provides… Abba, Father.

I will praise Him in all things. I will praise Him… IN THIS STORM.

 

 

A Window Into What I Do…

The Northwest ISD Instructional Team posing for a "fun" picture before going to the TCEA Educator Awards Ceremony. Cara Carter, our Instructional Technology Curriculum Coordinator was a nominee for "Instructional Technology Specialist of the Year."

The Northwest ISD Instructional Team posing for a “fun” picture before going to the TCEA Educator Awards Ceremony. Cara Carter, our Instructional Technology Curriculum Coordinator was a nominee for “Instructional Technology Specialist of the Year.”

Normally this type of post would be in my professional blog… “Tag You’re It,” however many of my friends and family outside of my professional circle are not familiar with my present position as an Instructional Technology Specialist. I wanted to share with those outside of my professional circle and provide a window into an exciting experience I had in early February.

The first week of February for the last two years I have traveled to Austin, Texas with my fellow district Instructional Technology Specialist (IT Coach) teammates to the annual TCEA Convention and Exhibition.

It is a week long time for those of us in instructional technology to learn, collaborate and share our experiences and take a focused time to beef up our professional learning.

It is the place that I get inspiration. I also find ideas that help me facilitate experiences like Skyping with industry experts and connecting with other educators to support one another as we implement new ideas. One such connection is in the incubation stage right now with my friend and colleague @lunaggie (Brandee Brandt).

Never miss a chance to take a selfie with George Couros. He is the #selfieking! If you haven't seen his TEDtalk on #OurVoice you must!!!

Never miss a chance to take a selfie with George Couros. He is the #selfieking! If you haven’t seen his TEDtalk on #OurVoice you must!!!

It is here I am fueled with urgency and need to get back to my campuses and share the message of how vital integration and digital literacy are to our students and their future. It is here that I become more resolute in my belief that pedagogy comes before any digital tools. It is here that I am re-invigorated, reassured and validated that passion based learning and student-led learning is the path to authentic student learning. It is here I get to connect with Twitter colleagues like Eric Patnoudes (@NoApp4Pedagogy) and George Couros (@gcouros).

Here I am among others like me, so that when I return to the four elementary campuses and one middle school I support and guide, I am ready with a toolbox of ideas and a mission for facilitating dynamic learning environments. This time provides me with the resources that help me to push others, help learners take risks, and redefine their learning through how they leverage their technology. It is an awesome job.

Thanks to colleague Tom Kilgore (@Tom_Kilgore)- founder of #txeduchat who captured me in action at the end of the PD on "Starting a Twitter Chat in Your District"... he even caught the back of new friend Brandee Brandt (@lunaggie)!

Thanks to colleague Tom Kilgore (@Tom_Kilgore)- founder of #txeduchat who captured me in action at the end of the PD on “Starting a Twitter Chat in Your District”… he even caught the back of new friend Brandee Brandt (@lunaggie)!

On this same trip I got to experience something new as well. Presenting two different professional development sessions within two hours of each other on two different topics.  Presenting, while I have done many, are still very nerve-racking. #1- the rooms are set up in a very traditional, lecture style format. I love to “work the room” and much like my teaching style… I do not like to stay at the front of the room. Typically the rooms for these sessions are set up with 150 to 200 chairs with a “lecture table” at the front and a projector sitting in the aisle at about the 3rd row. Walking the aisle is even a challenge. So for me that is a huge “mental” barrier for me to overcome, as it is directly counter to the way I like to deliver information and interact with my audience. #2- You don’t know what type of audience to expect or what experiences they come with to the session. This makes differentiating and making the professional learning as personalized and individualized as possible very difficult. This makes me nervous as I don’t want to overwhelm nor do I want to waste anybody’s time. So those two factors alone make me a bit frazzled when presenting. However, I do believe that the message I have to share is of great value for learners (both educators and students) everywhere, so I feel that despite these barriers… it is still imperative to share.

A selfie with "The Why of Genius Hour" audience at TCEA.

A selfie with “The Why of Genius Hour” audience at TCEA.

The first session was on “Starting a Twitter Chat for Purposeful PD in Your District.” The room seemed to swallow the group of 20-ish. However, the four or five that came up to chat with me afterward, were passionate and it was exciting to continue the conversation knowing that the insight and experience I had shared was now going to carry on and transform learning for others. The second session has become something of a standard presentation for me. Two years ago I traveled down the path of trying “Genius Hour” in my classroom. It was the most amazing experience. It is a message I cannot keep to myself. Every time I present I expect that its message will have run its course, but every time the audience grows and this time it was no exception. To a standing room only crowd I shared my journey, resources and passion for “Genius Hour.” It was an awesome experience and what first overwhelmed me with the size of the crowd was soon gone, as I knew I had a message to share and audience eager to hear it… this was the opportunity to once again transform learning for students and teachers.

I look forward to my next opportunity to go to the TCEA convention to learn, share, collaborate, connect and grow. I do have to say this is probably one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had at a professional convention, but hopefully you get a sense of what I do… maybe not on such a big scale, but every day I am working with learners of all ages, experiences and passions to help create opportunity for them to transform learning for themselves and those around them. How you ask? Through a philosophy of great teaching practice, a deep belief in relationship building and through the leveraging of technology.

How are you transforming learning in your community?

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