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.

Our Little (?) Sweetheart…

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

In the fall Embug attended her first school dance. This girl loves a good party, especially where there is lots of good dance music. So when it was announced there would be a “Valentine Dance” we knew she would be going.

Now that she had gone to the first dance, she had even more ideas on how to prep for this one. The search for the perfect dress began early in January. I had many an email, text and conversation with her over just the right RED dress. I loved all of her choices. All modest and reminiscent of the Audrey Hepburn classic look. She had one she really wanted but every site we went to purchase it was sold out. Finally we found a suitable second… which was way less expensive, too.

She had the dress, curled the hair, invited friends to go with her and was ready for a night of fun with 100s of her closest middle school friends.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

It was great to see her so excited to go and happy after the fact as well. It is bittersweet to watch her grow into this amazing young woman, so full of hope and expectations of what life will bring. I’d like it to slow down a little, but we all know that won’t be happening.

So I try to savor each moment. Take it in and cherish these times. I sometimes wonder if these times of reflection and savoring is what Jesus’ mother Mary was doing throughout His life that was momentarily captured in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” I also wonder how much did she know in advance of the sacrifice that He made on the cross. I can’t imagine in moments of joy like this “Valentine Dance” could one experience the knowing of future loss at the same time. How blessed I am to experience the joy of seeing my daughter excited, expectant and gleeful without the knowing of future sadness.

Some may want to know what the future holds, I for one am thankful for the moments of joy that the present has brought. Moments of my not-so-little sweethearts life journey that bring a smile to her father’s and my face.

 

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?

A Time to Talk and A Time to Stay Silent…

Kritter Basketball JayhawksThis is Kritterman’s first season to play basketball. Learning the fundamentals have been his focus. Passing, dribbling, standing his post, defensive and offensive moves. While the glory comes in making baskets, that was a skill that when in the heat of a game was more difficult for our little man.

So fast forward to mid-season. Our local sports association had agreed to play with another local sports association to give both associations kiddos more games to play. Part of that agreement resulted in our association traveling to their home courts to play a tournament. What wasn’t shared with the coaches or our association’s Basketball Commissioner was that when they planned the match ups for the tournament… they put their kids aging the youngest on their teams a full year older than our oldest on our teams. So, for example, your 2nd grader age 8 would be playing a 4th grader age 9 1/2.

It was daunting for all of the boys on the team. The shortest boys on the opposing team were still four to six inches taller. This huge difference in size was not lost on the boys. However, they rallied. Did I want to call attention to this obvious miss-match of age and by default skill? Of course, but in the moment, I had to make my kiddo believe that he could do the impossible.

I would like to be able to say that the Jayhawks won both games they played in the tourney that day, but they didn’t. However, there were some amazing things that happened. The boys NEVER gave up. They played hard all the way to the end of both games. Even Kritterman had his moment… he shot for a basket and made his first one for the season in the second game. We were so excited we jumped up and screamed with joy. He had chipped his tooth right before the second game in a random accident… we were sure he wouldn’t bounce back, especially with the uneven pairing of the opposing team of giant 5th graders with his 3rd grade team.

So it wasn’t a fair match. Did it frustrate the boys? Of course. Did I want to right the wrongs of the situation? Sure, what parent wouldn’t? But sometimes there is a time to talk and other times it is a time to stay silent.

When have you stayed silent and let the life lessons rise to the top, that if  you had spoke up, would have been thwarted?

A Boy and His Books…

This year Kritterman surprised us when he spread his wings and decided to be part of his elementary campus’ Battle of the Books club.

Students were given a list of books to read over the summer. In mid-fall they were asked to sign up to compete. They were asked to take an entrance test to earn a spot on a campus team.

Battle of the Books list 1In the fall of 2014 Kritterman did just that. Most 3rd graders do not make it on a campus team the first year… but he did. From mid-November until late January he and 6 other teams of six to seven students per team met. Teams consisted of 3rd, 4th and/or 5th graders. Kristopher’s team was mostly newbies and had the most 3rd graders with a couple of 4th graders and no 5th graders. In late January all the campus teams would compete to determine the team that would represent the school in the district Battle of the Books.

Battle of the Books team 14Odds were that his team would not be the campus team to move on to the district competition. However, they fought valiantly. They were a cohesive team, respected each others strengths and supported one another.

Kritterman was saddened by the loss, but is more determined than ever to return next year and come out on top.

Sometimes defeat is all the motivation needed. Now Kritterman has the experience paired with desire to not allow defeat again.

How has defeat turned into determination for you or your children?

20 Years and Counting…

FullSizeRender (2)Eric and  I celebrated our 20th anniversary back in July.  We have moved to 4 different towns during that time. Had 7 different addresses, and become parents. All that moving around and child rearing can result in some friendships becoming more distant, and even lose complete contact with wonderful people.

However, there are just some people you can’t lose… no matter the how much you move around. As luck would have it, they sometimes move in the same places. The Johnson’s are those people.

FullSizeRender (4)Eric and I met Bruce and Janice the summer we were engaged to be married in Ozark, Arkansas (our first community to reside in as a married couple). Once married we attended several events at their home. Janice taught me the finer art of garage sale-ing and showed me how to “Design on a Dime” before HGTV ever thought of it as a concept for a television show. To top it all off, my first year of teaching, I taught Janice’s oldest son Cody. Our lives were intricately woven.

Fast forward five years, Eric was transferred to Waco by his employer. We loved the little town of Ozark and the people we had met. However, we were headed to a new life in a new town. We figured our interactions would be few if any with the Johnson’s and the rest of our Ozark friends.

Fast forward six years, we left Waco (with one child and another on the way) and headed to a new opportunity in Dallas/Fort Worth. Three years after that I returned to teaching at Haslet Elementary in Northwest ISD. A year later I discovered Facebook. Through a former friend still in Ozark via Facebook we learned that Janice and Bruce were living in the very town I taught in, Haslet!

FullSizeRender_4Quickly we reconnected. We have been going to most of their New Year’s Parties and other social events since then. This year was no different… except now our children have come to expect this celebratory tradition.

FullSizeRender (3)Some paths only cross for a little while, others weave back and forth and by creative design are intricately woven. That is the path that has formed between the Johnson’s and the Wilson’s.

FullSizeRender_3

What paths in your life have crossed the paths of others and become a part of your intricately woven life journey?

It’s a Razorback Tradition

Razorback Texas Bowl

This Christmas Break we had the opportunity to take the kids to the Texas Bowl in Houston at the NRG Event Center.  This was especially exciting for Eric and I, who got to relive the old rivalry from the Southwest Conference days.

Experiencing the pre-game events, running into former head football coach Ken Hatfield made this family’s Razorback Football traditions even better. The kids were all in…

From the 5 hour ride down, to the stop at Bucee’s (going down and coming home), to the entire event, there enthusiasm never wavered. Even when we stopped at Whattaburger some time after midnight for an after-game victory snack.

Our Razorback game-watching family tradition continues, and this event will be one of the best memories in a long line of games that have already passed and the many games we will experience in the future.

What traditions does your family bond through? How has it become a part of your family culture and fabric?

Traditions, Santa and Visitors…

Christmastime is full of all kinds of traditions. Some traditions continue for generations and others for a season.  The tradition of believing in Santa is for a season and all indications say this was the last year of true belief.

We began the our Christmas Holiday break with Eric’s mom and step-dad, or as the kids know… Grammy Kelly and Gramps Dale, visiting from Florida. We were so excited for their arrival and visit, as they had never seen our new home in Haslet, nor had they been back to Texas since they moved away 7 years ago.

To make their stay extra special we had planned all our meals around a Texas Christmas theme.

12 Foods of Texas at ChristmasIn addition to the yummy planned meals we enjoyed the comfort of a warm fire almost every day. On Christmas Eve we baked and decorated cookies, attended Christmas services at Fellowship of the Parks- Haslet, ate our traditional Christmas Eve meal at our hometown Joe’s Pizza and Pasta and drove around the area enjoying the outdoor Christmas lights.

Upon returning home we put out the reindeer food (dried oats and cookie sprinkles), plated the cookies and milk (egg nog at our house), and read the Christmas Story. Every Christmas Eve we relive the story through the nativity poem/interactive manger scene “What God Wants for Christmas.”  In years past I would read the story and the kids would create the scene as the story unfolded. This year, the kids took over and read, unpacking the manger scene as they went. It was a precious site to see and while the tradition has evolved, the change a bit bittersweet, the tradition that was once mine to initiate, has  now become part of Embug and Kritterman’s own fabric of Christmas traditions.

Once we were all nestled all snug in our beds… Santa arrived stuffing the stockings and leaving presents under the tree. In his haste to depart a boot print of soot remained on the hearth and a subtle reminder that the bell still rings for those who truly believe.

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