Learning to Love the Laundry…

laundry picIt has been a while. There has been a lot that has happened in the last five months. So much so that I am not sure even where to start. We have seen God work in amazing ways. However, it doesn’t go without saying there have been trials;To the point that I have looked forward to the steady, regular chore of doing the laundry.

The adventure began in mid-June with Eric heading into a new job/career working with people who value his expertise and care about his entire well-being… in ARKANSAS. At the same time we were seriously considering selling our home in Texas. The job change just pushed us toward making that a reality. In the same turn we made a decision for the kids and I to stay in Texas. This would allow me time to prepare for finding a job in Arkansas in education and honor the direction EmBug is headed with her passion for the Theater and Vocal Arts and keep the course with the phenomenal programs offered in the district she currently attends school.

On top of all that another transition was us purchasing a home in Greenbrier, Arkansas where Eric will reside during the week near his job. Eric would then spend time in Texas on the weekends, and the kids and I have a “vacation home” to hang out on long weekends and holidays.

To further the changes Kritterman started Middle School and EmBug entered High School. It has been a roller coaster of changes. So when I say that I have learned to love the laundry, it is a strange, but true statement.

No matter the chaos, the laundry must be done. No matter what made the piles of dirty clothes, once they are clean they are ready to be worn again. I find myself folding the kids and my clothes from the past week and remembering the small moments when they were wearing a certain t-shirt and quipped some humorous comment, or how one certain item is in the laundry every week… and I smile, because I know in our upheaval, the kids have a piece of clothing that brings them consistency and comfort. Every time I do the laundry (usually over the weekend in about a 12 hour stint) I get a certain excitement in feeling like I am giving my whole family a chance start another week with a fresh start, just like Jesus gives us grace and a fresh start.

So, I am learning to love the laundry, my hope is that I am also giving this blog I write about our family life a fresh start. Our Razorback Ranch may have a few changes (the Razorback Ranchette in Texas and the New Razorback Ranch North in Arkansas) but the heart of our home is in our family and no matter where we are, we have the laundry I am learning to love for the consistency and continuity it represents. With that I am wanting to share our journey in simple uncomplicated ways and how God works… even in the tedium of laundry.

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

Where do you see yourself…

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” It is a question often asked of us whether it be over coffee, in a discussion with your spouse or in an interview. Five years ago I had a plan, but my plan isn’t where I saw myself… in fact it is much better than I imagined.

5-years-2017

Five years ago if you told me that I would run multiple races including several half marathons, a marathon and a participated in a sprint triathlon… I would have laughed at you. Five years ago if you told me that I would be teaching youth girls and LOVING it, I would have asked if you were sure you were talking to the right person. Five years ago if you had told me my husband would have a stroke and we would be stronger for the experience and our family would be happier than it has ever been before, I would have been overcome with fear. Five years ago if you had told me that it would take almost five years to realize the place I saw myself in five years… an assistant principal, I would have responded in anger and frustration, questioning why it would take so long.

But now I look back at the five years and am filled with gratitude both for the celebrations, accomplishments and the struggles. Gratitude for the friendship that was forged through the running with a dear friend that knew better than I did that I was capable and would run half marathons, a marathon and participate in a triathlon. I am filled with gratitude for the deep, authentic relationships I have formed with my youth girls that I have now been teaching and learning with for three years. I am beyond grateful that Eric’s stroke has not created huge limitations for him, but has provided a reset and restart on life for us all that has forged deeper bonds between us and our children and brought us closer as a family… and fear has not won! And crazy as it sounds, I am so profoundly filled with gratitude that  the time it took for me to take my next step in my career was when God’s timing was right for me to step into the role of assistant principal. It happened in perfect timing in a place that is a fit that is so perfect I often can’t believe it.

The better question might be: “What do you hope to learn about yourself and others in the next five years and how will you use that to impact the world around you?”

That is what I am trying to answer. I have deeply learned it is more than alright to have plans, but the plans I have are not always the best plans. I have learned that God’s plans are what is best for me. I don’t know what the next five years will hold for me… I have aspirations. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have aspirations, but this next five years is with less trying to “shoe-horn” my plans, and more relying on God. He has shown me to have my best interest at heart, and frankly He is due my trust and faith. He has proven to me, even when I have not been faithful to Him. So my next five years I will strive to trust Him more, live by the faith I proclaim and let Him speak through me in my actions to impact the world around me for HIS glory.

I am looking forward to the next five years… the trials and the celebrations. In every moment and opportunity He is leading me to where He feels I best fit into His design… and I love that is where I “see myself in the next” five years… and for an eternity.

plans-jeremiah

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!

 

Where did the time go?

Christmas party parker products 2015

Somewhere between the last snow day in March of 2015 and January 1st, 2016 my good intentions and many plans to blog about events, activities and celebrations remained unwritten and many images are still stored in “the cloud.”

So in an attempt to capture what was missed the next 3 posts for “The Wilson Family Stories from Razorback Ranch” blog will consist of a list of Embug’s, Kritterman’s and our Family’s top events of 2015.

Hopefully in 2016 the posts will be frequent, short and keep us smiling!

 

#digitalLearning… It’s a Family Affair

FullSizeRender[1]The district I work for, and where the kids attend school, puts on Techno Expo, a technology integration showcase, of exemplar student work (a byproduct of their learning) every year at the end of February. The last two years, in my current role as an Instructional Technology Coach, I have co-hosted the production of this event with my entire IT team.

Our district of 20,000+ students is provided this opportunity to showcase their best technology integrated work. From all of the submissions approximately 1,200 student products are selected as the exemplar products to be presented by the students on this night. This year I was part of another spectacular showcase. Even more exciting was being able to take time to be a proud mom as well.

 

FullSizeRender_1[1]This year Emmarie had two presentations. Her first presentation was with a team of girls who put together a video documenting a Science PBL demonstrating potential and kinetic energy with the use of eggs and soda. The second presentation was over her Google Site that showcased various content addressing standards through her summer reading selection. In both situations she shared not only her knowledge of the content but her skill in creating the products presented.

FullSizeRender_2[1]On the same night Kristopher was also featured with his tutorial video created for the districts Lego Robotics programs. He had gone to a specific campus to support them as they began their Lego Robotics unit and from that created a screencast to support those learners as well as future learners who may need the resource. His presentation was impressive as he shared how he created the video but also how screencasting could be used to capture student learning.

For me it was a proud moment: as a mom, as an educator, and as a member of this community. My children amaze me constantly and this evening’s event was no exception. Their commitment to learning, excellence and service is incredible. Eric and I have been blessed and know that God has and will do great things through our children.

FullSizeRender_3[1]It is amazing to watch God work through my children and see prayers I uttered sometimes years ago and sometimes moments before answered in ways I never dreamed.

What amazing ways do children in your life amaze you? How is God working through you and those around you?

Running the Race of Life…

Family Vacation to Gulf Shores June 2012

Family Vacation to Gulf Shores June 2012

I have hesitated for some time to write a post on running. Exercise for me is a necessary evil. If I could invent a way to get the benefits of exercise without actually doing the exercise… I would be happy, and rich. Lots of things come easy for me in the academic world, nothing comes easy for me in the physical activity world. I am awkward at best. Now that I have been running consistently for over two years, I think I am safe to tell my story. It looks like this may be a thing I stick with for a while.

In late June 2012 I was sitting on a beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I had been on a journey to reach a certain goal weight for this trip, and for reasons I won’t elaborate on, I had missed that goal by a long shot!. Beyond trying to reach the goal for the trip, I had also wanted to reach this goal before my 40th birthday which was fast approaching. August 4th to be exact. Sitting on the beach I pulled out my weight loss app of choice and plugged in my goal and the time line. OUCH… there was no way it would happen… at least not the amount I wanted to lose in the time frame given. Especially if I was going to be healthy, not starve myself and be a good example of how to be healthy to my very impressionable nine and half year old daughter.

I was not happy… I was sliding into 40 over my desired weight and nothing to show on how I was fighting getting older with ferociousness. So, as I often do, I backed out of the weight loss app and proceeded to lose myself in the Facebook posts of the 100s of people I am “friends.” All while the little voice in my head kept whispering… “There has got to be something you can do. You can’t just give up.”  I had given myself the conciliatory resolution that I would still lose the weight, I just wouldn’t do it by my birthday. However, that didn’t seem to quiet the whisper.

Buddy Run PosterAnd then I saw it… “Buddy Run 5K.” A fundraiser for a runner’s family. Buddy Hopkins in the spring of this year, in my community, had been hit and killed while out doing a training run for a marathon. This 5K was in my community, helping a precious family and, wait for it, was scheduled for my 40th birthday.

So on that beach I made a decision, set a goal and most importantly contacted a friend to tell them what I planned to do. I was going to use the next five weeks to train myself to run a 5K. I was going to run and complete a 5K on my 40th birthday. To make sure I did, I signed up for the Buddy Run on that beach, called my friend Sherri Daniel to ask her to run it with me, and found a Couch to 5K app to keep me on pace.

I ran that race and since then over a dozen other 5Ks, some 10Ks a few 15Ks, 4 half marathons and 1 marathon.

At the Buddy Run 5K finish line with my running partner. This is the first of many races we would run together.

At the Buddy Run 5K finish line with my running partner. This is the first of many races we would run together.

I have learned that running is not easy for me. Although I run without stopping for many miles at a time, the first mile for me is as hard as the last mile. I do not get a runners high and lately my body has acclimated to the running where I no longer get the caloric burn benefit of running. But I keep doing it…

Why? Well, it reminds me of how something you can do over and over can continue to be a challenge. It helps keep me mindful of students where school and learning (in the traditional sense) is a challenge every day  and never gets easier. It also has shown me what a community that has all levels of skill can be like. The running community is very encouraging. From the fastest record breaking runner to the slowest wogger (walking/jogging) we all celebrate one another and our quest to finish the race set before us. It has been where I have formed some of my strongest friendships (you do actually talk a lot while running). It has given me the opportunity to connect with others through the IRun4 organization where I get to dedicate my runs to my buddy Abby whose physical limitations do not allow her to run. It has opened my eyes to see things in new ways… and frankly I like the fresher perspective.

A quick selfie with my two running buddies Traci Bear and Sherri Daniel at the Cowtown Half Marathon 2015. First race we have run right after an ice storm!

A quick selfie with my two running buddies Traci Bear and Sherri Daniel at the Cowtown Half Marathon 2015. First race we have run right after an ice storm!

What plans do I have next? Well I am not 100% but I would like to branch out beyond my community for races. I have learned that I prefer locally run races over nationally sponsored races. I also like races that benefit local non-profit programs and organizations. It is nice to bring benefit to something while doing something good for yourself at the same time.

If you run or have runs in your area… do you have one you recommend? Please share and if you have a link share that too.

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?

Caroling and Candy Cane Bombing

This fall I became a life-group leader for 6th grade girls via our Church Youth Group… known by students as Fellowship of the Parks (FOTP) “Inception.”

inception

Every Wednesday after a time of worship and a message from the youth ministry team, I get to sit down and learn more about this amazing group of 6th grade young ladies. They are enthusiastic, energetic, generous, kind, considerate, compassionate, silly, goofy, dynamic and unique. At the beginning of December I challenged them to do random acts of kindness throughout the month.

RAK calendar (I used the calendar here that was shared with me on Facebook from the blog site coffeeandcrayons.com)

Every time we met they had wonderful stories of how they gave to others and their joy in giving was contagious. One of the ideas we considered as a random act of kindness was candy cane bombing. This typically is where you go to a parking lot outside of a grocery store or large warehouse retail store (i.e. Wal-Mart) and place candy canes on every windshield. While the idea itself is fun, as the adult in the conversation, I was concerned about the safety of all my girls that would participate.

To appease the eagerness to do the candy cane bombing, we came to a reasonable alternative. We would carol and candy cane bomb at the same time.

IMG_6853So in celebration of the Savior’s birth and to provide an opportunity for these girls to come together socially outside of the normal weekly “Inception” meetings, I hosted a Christmas party. We grilled hamburgers, ate cake pops and then grabbed packets of carol lyrics and candy canes. This new twist on candy cane bombing was to go to every door in the general area of our home, knock and then begin caroling. If a door opened continue the song to an appropriate stopping point then gift the audience with candy canes. If no door opened finish the carol and leave a candy cane on the door knob.

The event was a success and the young ladies loved it as much as the neighbors.

IMG_6999[1]IMG_7003[1]IMG_7006[1]Who knew what started off as a conversation about random acts of kindness would turn into an event that was so much fun that the girls asked as they left if this would become an annual Christmas event. Of course I am only too happy to continue this event, candy canes included. It not only revives the tradition of caroling that many have long forgotten, but allows me to relive my own childhood memories of caroling under the guise of providing “adult supervision.”

IMG_7225[1]

What holiday activities from your childhood would you like to see re-emerge?

Sinterklaus and Ugly Sweaters

There are many traditions that families have during this time of year. Some light an advent candle and have an advent calendar, others visit every holiday show and light display possible throughout the season, and others may do an Elf on the Shelf.

Whatever you do it is something your family looks forward to with anticipation. Some traditions are influenced by your childhood, others are new traditions that have been created as a unique part of your family. There are opinions about all of them and with the explosion of social media and blogs there is no shortage of said opinions. I have come to a point that I don’t pay attention to others’ opinions, but rather, focus on the house where my husband and I create a home for our family.

One tradition, new to me but is part of my ethnic background, is Sinterklaus Day. Sinterklaus is the Dutch Santa or St. Nick.  From what I have learned over the years Dutch culture and tradition separate the visit of Sinterklaus and the birth of Jesus. Sinterklaus Day comes early in the Christmas season while Christ’s birth is observed on the 25th. This white-bearded man, donning a long colorful winter coat, rides in on his horse late in the evening on December 5th. Dutch children leave their wooden shoes on the front porch with goodies for Sinterklaus’ horse in great anticipation. On the morning of December 6th children awake to find goodies such as succulent fruits and sweetbreads if they have been well-behaved; if not they find switches.  The idea of the wooden shoe is believed to have evolved into the American tradition of hanging the stockings.

When my Daughter Embug was born we started celebrating Sinterklaus Day. While we do put out wooden shoes, they are not shoes we wear like the Dutch children. Embug and Kritterman enjoy leaving hay, an apple and carrots for Sinterklaus’ horse. On December 6th Sinterklaus usually leaves each child their Christmas PJs for the season, Christmas ornament, Christmas t-shirt or sweater, a Christmas Movie or CD, plus a variety of yummies and winter stocking caps/mittens. This tradition has become such a part of us that Embug and Kritterman were surprised when they found out from their peers that Sinterklaus did not visit their homes. However, Sinterklaus has made his way to homes of our friends in recent years once those children learned of his practices.

Sinterklaus Day 14

In addition to the tradition of Sinterklaus, the family has been caught square in the web of the Ugly Sweater themed Days and Parties. While there are too many events to recount, one party got Kirsten and Eric caught red-handed in the knitted disasters.

Chrismas Sweater

How are you creating memories and celebrating new and old traditions in your family?

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