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.

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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

In Every Moment…

I will be honest. I don’t balance well. I am either all assistant principal, all mom, all wife, all friend… you get the idea. I am pretty sure if someone was to look at a scan of what dendrites were firing where in my brain, no one part of my brain would overlap. I am that compartmentalized in how I operate. Is it a fault or strength of focus… I don’t know.

When I am at work, it is all about work. That would be ok except my son attends the campus where I am an assistant principal. Sometimes that means that my mom life will intersect with my work life.

So this past week one of those intersections between mom and assistant principal occurred. We had our Spring Open house at school. I was helping in my role of assistant principal… all in my “work mode” compartment of my brain. Earlier I had arranged for my son to be picked up after school instead of “having” to stay through the Open House. He had declined the offer to go home early and, to my surprise, opted to stay. I had noticed, but didn’t think to ask him why. I quickly moved to the next thing I needed to do to be present for as an Assistant Principal. I attended the PTA meeting and then started serving pizza to families… my son was somewhere. I thought he was hanging out with some of the other teacher’s kids and was content.

In the midst of placing slices of pizzas on plates and handing to parents and students, I hear a urgent but quiet voice call, “Mom.”

I look beyond the family waiting for pizza in front of me and there stands my son. He says my name again, this time with a hint of sadness and pleading, “Mom.”

I respond, “What’s up buddy? Is everything ok?”

At that point his response is filled with exasperation and disappointment, “I wanted you to come see my work and show you my ePortfolio.”

Before I really think about my response, because my brain is still in the Assistant Principal compartment, I say, “I don’t know if I can, bud. I need to stay here.”

He is angry and before I can retract what just rolled out of my mouth… he is quickly exiting, but not before I can see the frustration and tears brimming in his eyes.

Suddenly the mom compartment of my brain kicks in and I turn to my counselor, serving with me. I tell her what I have suddenly realized. Kritterman had stayed because he wanted to show me his work. He wanted me to be his mom for a moment, not the assistant principal. He wanted us to be like every other son. I need to be Kritterman’s mom… just his mom.

I try to be what I need to be, whatever the role, in every moment. However, I realize I fall short most of the time.

This would be defeating if I didn’t know that I don’t have to be ALL in every moment.

gospel-of-john-1-prologue-1118-18-638Often we are told to “be the light.” I believe this is a misconstrued spiritual notion. Recently I have read and come to understand, Jesus “is the life, and that life is the light of all mankind.” (John 1: 4) I don’t have to “be” anything. I only need to seek him. He already seeks after me. He is the light. His light, when I seek him shines through me.

Unlike my son who sought me out and needed to remind me of what he needed, Jesus already knows our need. He does want us to ask and seek him, not because he doesn’t know, but because he wants to have a relationship with us. He loves us perfectly.

He is perfectly present in every moment with us. He wants to do life with us in every moment.

What I am coming to realize is that even though I compartmentalize my life, He is there in every moment. When I walk alongside Him and let His light shine through me in every part of my life, I am more in tune to loving others. I am able to be more of what others need, not by my own strength, but because of what He does in and through me.

It is a relief to now that I don’t have to “be the light”… He is enough, and He shines through me. When I fail to allow his light to shine through me, I fail in every moment. Thank goodness for His forgiveness and grace.

Later after the PTA evening was over and I was home, I sought out Kritterman. I apologized I hadn’t been the mom he needed in the moment when he called for me. He was quick to forgive, and tell me he loved me.

What a mighty Savior we have. When we call out to Him, He is already there… in every moment.

 

 

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!

 

Kritterman’s Top 15 of 2015

Never a Dull Moment when we can Dubsmash!

Kritterman had a banner year in many ways. He took his first state standardized test this spring. Got his own phone on when he turned 10 years old and has taken on lots of new opportunities and responsibilities at school and at home. As mentioned, he moved from a one digit age into the world of two digit ages. This year’s list reflects not only his accomplishments and new responsibilities, but his ongoing passions and newly discovered passions.

Battle of the Books team 14

15. Early in 2015 Kritterman took the many hours of reading from a specific list of books and participated in Battle of the Books at his elementary campus. While his team did not win at the campus level, his dedication to read and work with a team of fellow readers further encouraged his love of reading.

14. One exciting new responsibility is helping Dad mow the lawn. That involves driving the tractor (or sitting lawnmower). In late February was his maiden “voyage” and he’s been helping Eric ever since… that is until the tractor bit the dust! Yes, we are on the hunt for some new wheels and nothing would make Kritterman happier than to be back in the driver’s seat!

Techno Expo 2015 Kritter

13. Kritterman continued to showcase his learning through his favorite medium… technology. For the fourth year in a row Kristopher presented at our district’s Techno Expo. You can read a previous post about him and his sister “#digitalLearning… It’s a Family Affair.” He continues to amaze us how he utilizes digital tools to emphasize his strengths and support other learners.

destination imagination team 2015

12. For the third year Kritterman competed in Destination Imagination with his team. They practiced for hours months before the regional competition. It is amazing how much he enjoys this truly kid driven, creative problem solving competition.

spring soccer 2015

11.Soccer continues to be a love of Kritterman’s with him playing  Outdoor Spring, Summer Indoor and Outdoor Fall seasons, with a total of 3 1/2 years of soccer. He truly enjoys being able to play on the same team, the Firebirds, with the same coach for several seasons.

10. Kritterman spent the two previous summers attending the district Lego Robotics Club and his skills have grown exponentially. He was asked by special invite to join 4th and 5th graders to be part of his school’s Robotics Club. This led to him having the opportunity to be part of a presentation at Northwest ISD’s  Night of No Limits (a Problem Based Learning- PBL Showcase). He continued to attend the robotics camp in Summer of 2015 and earned half of what was needed to purchase his very own Lego EV3 Robotics Kit so he could pursue his passion for robotics and programming at home.

72CD54EC-2D87-48D8-960C-A56152771C9B

9. While our aim is to always be at school, when we found out Kritterman had earned an award of Perfect Attendance we were both surprised and thrilled. It wasn’t our pursuit.. it just happened. So, when the end of the 2014-15 school year awards came around it was worth celebrating!

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8. Did you read #12 and #10? Need I say more? Attending his 3rd Lego Robotics Camp was his thrill… his bot did not win the battle like he had hoped but he has plans for this year. Watch out world… or at least all the other campers!

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7. This year was Kritterman’s “decade” birthday. We wanted to do it in style. EmBug and Mom were on a mission trip on his actual birthday, June 23rd, so to make a big splash a Minion Birthday Party was planned early in July for the opening weekend of the movie “The Minions” at the luxurious dine and watch movie theater, The Moviehouse.

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6. When you have your own YouTube channel, blog and have created video tutorials for robotics programming you might be asked to sit on a panel and be asked questions by educators wanting to know why technology in the classroom is important to how you learn. This happened this summer at an Educator Conference called 1:World where Kritterman with a handful of other students shared the importance of technology for their own learning.

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5. In September Kritterman took a road trip with Mom and Dad to go to the Texas Tech vs. Arkansas football game in Fayetteville. This was his first trip with Mom and Dad all to himself and he enjoyed being their focus of attention and celebrating the Hogs!

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4. Together Kritterman and Mom ran several 5Ks throughout 2015 (Reindeer Romp- December, Larry’s Run in Bentonville, Arkansas- September, and Run for Change- April). This has helped develop a new interest and a determination.

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3.Of course part of running some of the 5Ks were motivated by the challenge to run a total of 26.2 miles for the the Marathon Club he participated in the fall of 2015. He reached his goal of 26.2 miles when he ran his final 5K of 2015 at the Reindeer Romp. It won’t be long before he will be passing Mom and beating her to the finish line.

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2. How can it be said other than this boy loves Legos. No box of Legos can be left undone. Any extra cash, birthday money or Christmas money goes to a new Lego kit.

1. What do you do when you get a video of your son at a sleep over demonstrating his second time on a Pogo stick… and he has wicked Pogo stick skillz? You modify the Christmas list… 3 days before Christmas!

There are lots of other joys, celebrations and accomplishments that any grandmother, aunt or mother would want to share, but for the rest of us, if you are still reading, this list is already way to long and must come to a close. We are looking forward to 2016 and as this post is getting it’s final touches Kritterman is already accomplishing more things worthy of posting. Here’s to hoping, as a mom, Kirsten can capture the events in a more timely manner throughout 2016! If not, know we will have another list of Top Events next year… we may be too busy enjoying the moment to get it published on the blog.

It wouldn’t be a post on Kritterman if we didn’t say, “May the Force Be With You… and build on!”

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?

Laundry Basket Sleds and Snow Days…

Every kid dreams of it…. the illustrious “Snow Day.” They are not a come lately event here in Texas, so when our “Snow Day” event comes along it is like a major event in history. My kids recall events from their winters tied to a snow day. Embug might say, “Remember in 1st grade when there was already 2 inches of snow on the ground and Daddy drove us to school only for us to be dismissed early? That was the year I worked with Mrs. Friday on my reading after school.” or “Remember in 4th grade when I made snow angels in the driveway in my PJs when you told us we didn’t have school that morning? That was the year I was elected to be in Student Council.”

Snow Days hold great importance to this family. Not because we all haven’t experienced snow. Goodness knows both my time in Michigan as an adolescent and Eric’s time in Connecticut and Massachusetts provided us more than our fair share, which one might add was too far north to get a snow day! They are important because they are like a much needed pause button in the race of life. We get a chance to connect, slow down and enjoy just being together.

Below is a Flipagram of some of our “Snow Day” pics of this past winter. We actually had very unusual, and late snow events this year… yes we had more than one!

What is your “history making” Snow Day memory?

 

Mow, SpeedRacer, Mow

Kristopher mowing spring 2015Every boy has certain rites of passage. In the rural and suburbia America one such rite of passage is learning to mow the lawn. I do think it’s a bit more exciting when it happens on a riding lawn mower vs. a push mower, but it’s still an exciting time; that is, until the boy learns he is forever indentured to the green lush monster called a “LAWN.”

Kritterman experienced this rite of passage this spring. It first began with guided rides with his dad and quickly moved to solo rides and cutting the fenced part of our acre lot.

He is quite tickled with his new found skill. He truly is eager to provide this service and his dad is only too eager to hand over the keys.

It makes me so happy as a mom to see him so eager to help, and at the same time, a little sad. He’s not a little boy anymore. He will forever be a slave to the green lush monster… that is until he teaches his little boy this rite of passage.

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