One of Those Summers

On the way to football practice tonight, C said, “Hey, Mom, you know that commercial that talks about having a summer to remember?” I nodded, and he continued, “This has definitely been one of those summers…just like last year.”

I looked at him and laughed, thinking, last year we spent 13 days in Europe. This year we haven’t ventured more than 500 miles from home, how could this possibly compare? So I asked, “Really? As good as Europe?”

He gave me that grin and said, “Just as good but different,” and then he started listing things.

We have enjoyed

  • A weekend in the Dells (waterpark heaven even though he had to watch S’s basketball tournament)
  • Two extended visits with Honey and Papa (my parents – S started calling my mom Honey when she was little, and it stuck)
  • Two trips to Kings Island (where I rode every single roller coaster with them)
  • A day at the State Fair of Wisconsin (Tim even managed to get away and go with us)
  • Visits to the aquatic center
  • A couple of trips to the lake
  • Kayaking (bonus – a t-shirt that reads, “Paddle Faster! I hear banjo music.”)
  • Nightly bike rides (not every night but a couple of times a week)
  • Lots of backyard bonfires
  • Great seats at a Cincinnati Reds game (even though they lost)
  • Hiking the Kettle Moraine North Trails and trails at The Cincinnati Nature Center
  • Staying up past bedtime
  • Sleeping in
  • Getting up in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower, and
  • Reading books from cover to cover without having to stop.

Throw in

  • an awesome baseball season (he consistently got on base; even batted in the winning run a couple of games)
  • his first full week of sleep away camp which included a day at Six Flags Great America
  • a second week of camp filled with swimming, biking, fishing, archery, and kayaking
  • three days of football camp
  • Bowling birthday parties
  • Nerf battles
  • Boy and dog moments (Brownie hears him say, “C’mon boy!” and he heads to the door), and
  • Football practice starting (first day in full pads was better than Christmas).

And we can’t forget S. She filled the calendar with

  • Basketball tournaments (AAU and 3-on-3)
  • Shopping trips to the outlet malls near several of those tournaments
  • Basketball camp
  • Summer basketball league
  • A week of camp in the Apostle Islands
  • A week of Leaders in Training camp
  • Three weeks as a volunteer junior counselor (princess camp, fishing camp, junior kayak camp), and
  • Dirt track racing (watching not driving – lol).

And while I go back to work (officially) tomorrow, C reminded me that summer doesn’t technically end for a few more weeks, so we have time to squeeze in

  • The County Fair this weekend
  • Another kayak trip or two
  • More hikes in Kettle Moraine North Trails
  • At least three or four more bonfires, and
  • Maybe a Brewers game.

As he walked across the field toward his practice, I had to smile. My summer to-do list has very little checked off (I REALLY did plan on organizing the office!), but that’s okay.  In between working on my dissertation proposal and summer curriculum work, we had one of those summers.

When they were little, I had a sign hanging in my kitchen that read, “Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow. So settle down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my babies, and babies don’t keep.”

I figure I only have five summers left when they are both at home, and even fewer where they think it’s cool to hang out with their mom. They’ve already started planning next summer.

  • C thinks Kings Island should be an annual event
  • S thinks we need to take an alternate route to Honey and Papa’s house and spend a day in Cedar Point.
  • They both think kayaks would make great Christmas gifts
  • S wants us to go to Pictured Rocks, and
  • I think we need to use those passports again and cross Lake Superior into Canada.

When it’s all said and done, what do I really want them to remember? A perfectly clean house? A place for everything and everything in its place?

No, I want them to have memories that bring smiles to their faces.

I want them to have summers to remember.

 

 

 

The View From Up Here

I’m always in awe of the view at 30,000 feet. No matter how often I fly, there is just something amazing about looking down and feeling like Gulliver.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself mesmerized by the changing landscape, the presence (or absence) of vegetation, the size of lakes and rivers, the concentration of city lights. It’s crazy when you realize that ‘small’ clump of trees is probably hundreds of acres wide.

Maybe getting older is making me wiser, but as I fly across the country today, I can’t help but think about how perspective changes everything.

From this altitude, I see the big picture, but I have no idea about the details. And this makes me think about teaching and parenting and life in general. Too often we forget there are other perspectives.

Monday afternoon S ripped a favorite pair of shorts. She was bringing groceries in and caught the side of them on the porch railing. She was mad, and my, “don’t worry about it, I can sew them up,” did nothing to calm the teenage moment. For the next fifteen minutes or so, she ranted about how they would never be the same, how she didn’t have ANY other shorts, and pretty much demanding I stop everything else and fix them NOW.

Needless to say, I didn’t drop everything to fix them. In fact, the whole time she’s ranting, I’m thinking about if I have time to fix them before leaving for San Diego or if it would be easier to go online and order another pair from American Eagle.

She settled down.

The rip was worse than I thought. I can fix them but you’ll be able to tell. They’re on clearance at American Eagle. I ordered another pair. When I explained all of that to her Tuesday morning, she was fine; even offered to pay for the new ones herself.

I shook my head at the changed attitude.

But I was reminded of it as I look out my window and see the landscape below.

It was all about perspective.

It’s hard to find shorts for her that are long enough, and this pair was perfect. She knew that. To her, it was tragic. To me, just a blip on the parenthood radar.

Our perspectives were different.

If I had to do that moment over I probably would’ve looked at them right away. I wouldn’t have fixed them, but I would’ve acknowledged that it was a big deal to her. I would have recognized her perspective.

I think, sometimes that’s all we really need; someone to recognize our perspective.

A Bittersweet Moment – Our Last Day of Elementary School

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Today is C’s last day of elementary school. It seems like just yesterday S was waiting to get on the bus for her first day of kindergarten.

It’s a bittersweet moment. He’s ready to move on just like S was three years ago. But this is different. He’s our youngest.

We’ve spent the last eight school years with at least one child in elementary school.

Now, I’m not one to get sentimental about my kids growing up.

I have enjoyed every age and stage, and like them, I was ready for the next.

But it’s weird knowing we won’t be part of the elementary family next year. And yes, it is a family.

I sent this email to the staff this morning, but I wanted to share it here as well.

It’s one thing to thank them, and another to sing their praises to others. :)

We have been blessed. They have known and loved S and C on good days and bad. They are a family.

 

Dear Northview Staff,

It is hard to believe that today is the last day of the school year. Harder still to believe is that it is our last day at Northview! Where have the last eight years gone?

I don’t even know where to begin to thank all of you for the wonderful foundation you have given both S and C.

For those of you who have been our classroom teachers: Mrs. Sheahan, Mrs. Vogel, Mrs. Quade, Mrs. Jeanty, Mrs. Mulder, Mrs. Johnson, and Mr. Bartz, thank you for taking them where they were and pushing them further than they thought they could go.

For those of you that taught both S and C (Mrs. Sheahan, Mrs. Vogel, and Mrs. Mulder), thank you for recognizing them as two completely different people even though they are siblings. As the youngest of five, that is something I really appreciated. :)

Mrs. Sheahan, I “watched” you teach as S played school at home. :) Thank you for saying she would be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company rather than calling her bossy (although C thinks she’s bossy!). Thank you for being patient with my energetic little boy who really has never been little. He came home every day of kindergarten with something new to tell us, walking circles around the kitchen table while I made dinner. We still have the handprint t-shirts from kindergarten graduation and the class phone books (they still get used). You were the perfect beginning for their educational journey.

Mrs. Vogel, thank you for building incredible vocabulary with them. I will never forget sitting at McDonald’s after dance class one night when a flock of geese flew over. S said, “Those are migratory birds….migratory is a high school word,” or later that year when she said to C, “I hope when you get to school you have Mrs. Sheahan and Mrs. Vogel. They are phenomenal teachers.” Phenomenal was a Mrs. Vogel word. :) Thank you for describing C as a restless learner and recognizing that his mind was racing with questions about so many things.

Mrs. Quade and Mrs. Jeanty, your Amelia’s Notebook project made writers of both S and C. The idea of writing down events and happenings was the inspiration behind their vacation blogs last summer.  Mrs. Quade, you introduced S to the Babysitters Club books (she read them all), and we can’t see a flamingo without mentioning your name. Mrs. Jeanty, your “I wonder” boxes were right up C’s alley as it gave him time to explore those burning questions he always asks.

Mrs. Mulder, I remember hearing lots of stories about your family infused in the learning. You made both of them laugh with some of your family’s escapades. Your business card magnet still hangs on our fridge, a reminder that you had shared a part of yourself with us from the first day.

Mrs. Johnson, S’s year was filled with lots of collaborative projects. From Laura Ingalls Wilder day to adding electricity to a dollhouse, you stretched her knowledge base. I loved that you put it all together in a slideshow at the end of the year to remind us all of what had been accomplished.

Mr. Bartz, C tells your stories all the time, too. :) Thanks for sharing your own experiences with the kids.  I appreciate that you have pushed him to be clearer in his writing. We know he has voice down, but you have encouraged him to work on details and organization so that his writing tells the story he wants to tell.

Mrs. Barrett, Mrs. Kirschbaum, and Mr. Cowdy – your songs have filled our house, your artwork covers our walls, and stories of Sneak Up are forever cemented in our memories. Thank you.

Memories of duct taping Mrs. Wieland to the cafeteria wall, the 12 Days of Christmas song at the annual sing along, winter carnival, field trips, and field days have filled the last years.

For those of you who did not teach S or C directly, please know that you, too, made a difference in their lives.   From the smiles and kind words of Shelly and Mary in the office, to small interactions in the halls and on the playground, you have all made Northview a wonderful place for us as a family.

Before S started school I was asked if I would bring her to Plymouth with me. Tim and I made the decision then to keep the kids in their neighborhood school, a decision we have never regretted. We could not have asked for a better place for our kids to grow and learn.

You are an amazing group, and our children are blessed to have had you in their lives.

Have a great summer,

Jennifer

 

 

Every Moment Matters

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“The best part of teaching is that it matters. The hardest part of teaching is that every moment matters, every day.”

Todd Whitaker

I love this quote. It reminds me why I teach. More importantly, it reminds me that the best things in life require hard work.

At first I thought of it purely from an instructional standpoint – every minute of every class period matters.

But on second thought, I looked at it from a relationship standpoint – every interaction with every student matters, every day.

Oh, I learned early on that being unprepared creates chaos that throws off the whole day, but I also learned that the relationships you build with students carry a lot more weight than most people realize. As Rita Pierson puts it, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

I don’t want to downplay the academics of teaching. You have to be prepared. We’ve all had that teacher who flies by the seat of his/her pants. My best (worst?) memory is the college English professor who walked in the first day of class 14 minutes late, looked around at us and said, “Oh, my, I forgot my syllabi,” and then turned and left to get them.

But I firmly believe that no matter how well you know your content, if you don’t build relationships with students, you miss a lot of those moments that matter.

I think of conversations I have had with kids as we walk down the hall; conversations that were not content related but life related. I think about the times kids have eaten lunch in the classroom, and I learned about their families.

I think of my Texas teaching years when I played football (badly) or four-square or whatever else on Fridays because we could wear jeans, and I could be a little more casual. I remember the day one of my boys challenged the 4th grade teacher to a foot race because she said she was faster than him (she wasn’t).

I think about writing ‘Come see me,” on the top of a paper instead of a failing grade because I knew the student didn’t understand the material and needed me to reteach it.

I think about asking “What’s wrong?” or “What’s up?” instead of “Why isn’t your homework done?” and finding out about a mother having to wear a heart monitor because she kept passing out and the doctors didn’t know why.

And to take it one step further, those moments matter even when students leave your classroom. I am reminded of this often.

It’s the former student who messages me to ask a grammar question. She knew I’d take the time to explain about apostrophes on singular nouns that end in s.

It’s talking basketball with a former student who posted an awesome video of himself winning a slam dunk contest, and telling him how impressed my kids were, and then the conversation progressing into him offering my daughter advice on getting better at jump shots.

It’s the student who emails to ask me to proofread a paper…even though I was her teacher 20 years ago.

It’s running into a parent in the produce section of the grocery store and getting invited to a graduation party because “you made a difference.”

It’s dropping donations off at St. Vincent De Paul and having a former student say, “Do you remember me?” and his face lighting up when I call him by name and say; “Of course I do. You’ll always be one of my kids.”

Every moment matters. What you do. What you say. How you react. Every moment matters.

A Message to My Daughter: Be Fearless

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Last Monday I found a beautiful note from S on top of my jewelry box.  She had put there Sunday night while I was off writing my last paper for my last doctoral class before dissertation.  It was a sweet note, telling me how much she loves me even though we fight sometimes. It made me smile to read that she thought I had “achieved matriarchal perfection”.

I am so proud of the young woman she is becoming – bright, articulate, funny, athletic. She exudes more confidence at 13 than I did at 23!

I love that she reads for the pure joy of reading.

I love that she doesn’t give up when things get hard (well, except for those occasional moments when we have math meltdowns, but even then she comes back to it the next day).

I love that she can laugh at herself (if you know her ask her about the moon or taking minutes).

I love that when we go shopping she prefers Nike and Under Armour over short skirts and platform shoes.

So, as I read her letter again this morning, I thought I should write back to let her know how amazing she is and to share a little mom wisdom.

Dear S,

Thank you for the beautiful letter. Did you know I stuck it in my purse so I always have it with me? You’re right, being mom isn’t always fun. Not because you’re tough to raise but because there are so many things I want to tell you and time moves fast. So, here are a few things I hope you’ve picked up on over the years, but just in case you weren’t listening… :-)

Believe in yourself. You are an amazingly talented young woman. You have already accomplished so much because you are not afraid of hard work. Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.

Love something passionately. We’ve always encouraged you to try new things – dance, soccer, softball, basketball, piano, flute, photography. I love that as you get older you are sorting through all the options and focusing on the ones you love. Those long car rides to basketball tournaments? I wouldn’t trade that time for anything because I love to watch you play, and I love to listen to your passion for the game.  Maybe this won’t always be what you love, but for now, enjoy it.  I’ll be there for you, whatever passion you follow.

Say what you think. From little on you have been stubborn and opinionated – not at all like your mother. :) Don’t lose that. It’s okay to not agree with your friends, not to want to do what they do. Speak up, speak out,  and stand by what you believe.

Stop and listen. Listen to the words of a song, the sounds of nature, the ideas and opinions of others. Listen to the still, small voice in your head.

Be brave. Face your fears head on. Remember the first time you did the high ropes course or rode those rides at Noah’s Ark? You were afraid, but you didn’t let that stop you. Lots of things in life will scare you, but there is nothing you can’t handle (although you might need to ask for help now and then, and it is perfectly okay to need help!).

Be kind. You don’t have to like everyone, but there is never a good reason to be mean. I have been so proud of how you handle yourself when it comes to girl drama. Keep it up.

Set goals. Remember when you wanted an American Girl doll, and we wouldn’t buy it for you? Instead I cut out the picture from the catalog and you hung it up to remind you why you were saving your money. I remember your face when we went to Chicago to buy Jess. You were so proud of what you had accomplished. It feels much better when you earn things than when they are handed to you.

Be a citizen of the world. One of my favorite moments was after our bike tour in Paris last summer. We were heading back to the train station and you said, “I want to go to college where you went to college because I want to spend a semester in Europe.”  You don’t have to go where I went, but go somewhere that has a study abroad program.

Enjoy your own company. Find the value of alone time whether it’s curling up with a good book or going for a long walk or some other thing you can do on your own. Just know that you make your own happiness.

You are loved unconditionally. You’ll make mistakes. You won’t always say or do what you need to, but no matter what I will always love you.

So, be fearless. That doesn’t mean to throw caution to the wind, but rather realize anything worth doing involves risk.

You owe it to yourself to be you.

Love,

Mom

 

 

I Passed Notes In School

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I have a confession to make. I passed notes in school; lots of them. In class, in the halls, at lunch, you name a place in the school, I passed notes there.They looked like this.

picture credit to  www.heyjenrenee.com

Bigger confession: I wrote them in class. All the time.

And I got caught with those notes. Some teachers threw them away, some read them out loud (side note – that NEVER made me stop writing them, it just taught me to write more cryptically), but never did a teacher take away my paper and pencil.

So, what’s my point?  I keep hearing and reading things about how our kids are addicted to technology and how their devices make them anti-social.

I can’t even count the number of times this Look Up video has crossed my Facebook or Twitter feed (and I won’t even begin to address the issue that we are using social media to tell each other how social media is anti-social!).

The medium has changed but the kids have not.

I’m not convinced it’s the devices.

I’m not convinced kids are being disrespectful.

I think they are just being kids.

Frustrating some times? Absolutely!

But rather than writing off a whole generation as being disengaged and anti-social, maybe we need to step back and think about where we were and what we were doing at that age.

  • Did you study in study hall or goof off with your friends?
  • Did you keep conversations from your parents?
  • Did you test your wings?
  • Did you read every assignment and pay attention in every class?
  • Did you have a class that you absolutely hated but HAD to take as a requirement?

My guess is, if you’re honest, you weren’t  much different than kids today. You just didn’t have the technology they do.

And let’s face it, haven’t we all checked our phones, sent a text, or answered an email in a meeting we found boring or unproductive? Rather than writing them off, let’s figure out ways to incorporate technology into our classrooms and teach and model tech etiquette (and I don’t mean collecting devices, blocking social media, or telling them they are anti-social or addicted).

I just downloaded It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. I can’t wait to read Danah Boyd’s insights.

But I’m pretty sure the kids are alright.

Dear Google, You Should Have Talked to Me First

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Dear Google,

I wish you’d talked to teachers like me before you made that $40 million investment in Renaissance Learning.

I’ve seen the damage Accelerated Reader can do.

I witnessed it for the first time when I tutored a struggling 5th grader…eighteen years ago.

He hated to read.

He hated being locked into a level.

He hated the points associated with the books.

But more importantly, he was humiliated when he didn’t earn enough points to join in the monthly party or get to ‘buy’ things with those points at a school store full of junky prizes.

I’ve seen kids run their fingers along the binding of a book, a book they REALLY wanted read, but then hear them say, “But it’s not an AR book,” or “It’s not my level.”

I’ve watched them scramble to read the backs of books or beg a friend for answers so they can get enough points for the grading period.

And I watched it slowly start to unravel S’s love of reading.  It’s why I gave her permission to practice a little civil disobedience and Stop Reading for Points.

You see, Google, I’m a reader, and one of the things I’ve loved about teaching is connecting kids with books.

Books that spark their interest.

Books that make them think.

Books that pull on emotions they didn’t know they had.

Books that teach them empathy.

Books that make them laugh and cry.

Books that make them angry at the injustice.

Books that they come back and ask to borrow…five and six years after they leave my class.

Do you know what Accelerated Reader and programs like it are doing to readers these days?

I’ve heard of teachers being reprimanded for not leveling all their classroom books.

I know of school libraries where children have to show the librarian a card with their reading level on it before they can check out books.

I know of kids excited about books being told, “No! That’s not at your level. You can’t check it out. You can’t read it.”

I know of kids who struggle to read in the first place, having to spend an afternoon reading while their classmates who read get a pizza party or a movie or some other special prize.

I know of kids who never pick up a book unless it’s required because the joy of reading has been sucked out of them by leveled reading programs.

I’ve read about teachers who see what I see. Those who lament the Lex-Aisle.

Those who pull from their own memories of AR and how it ruined a great book.

And parents who see their children afraid to read.

Imagine, Google, if you limited your employees the way Accelerated Reader limits our students. How would that impact the creativity of your 20% time?

Oh, I read the Ed Week article that called this investment innovative, but there is NOTHING innovative about Accelerated Reader and their levels and basic comprehension quizzes.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of education in the U.S. when a move like this is praised.

To say I’m disappointed that Google views education through such a narrow lens is an understatement. For a company that has been built on innovation to invest millions into a program that levels books, awards points for low-level knowledge and comprehension, and creates bad data is a travesty.

And you call this personalized learning? What’s personalized about letting a computer system match kids with books?

You’re missing the point about what reading instruction should be, and you are helping to systematically destroy the joy in books.

If you had taken the time to talk to teachers like me, here’s some of the things we would’ve suggested you spend that $40 million on.

  • Books, lots and lots of books. Ones that aren’t leveled.
  • Children’s librarians in public libraries across the country.
  • Picture books, novels, non-fiction, series (many a reluctant reader has been hooked by a series like Captain Underpants or Goosebumps).
  • Full-time librarians in schools, especially those in high poverty areas where they seem to always get cut.
  • Um, books. Books kids can take home to keep because we know having books in the home is one of the best ways to increase literacy. (bit.ly/1fGubAj)
  • Free Little Libraries – take a book, return a book, gather in your neighborhood
  • More books! So many great authors and genres out there!
  • e-readers for schools and public libraries to use and loan out.
  • A Google library of free e-books.
  • Did I mention books?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

If you need a little more research, check out this list I’ve compiled about the downside of reading for rewards.

You really should’ve talked to me first. I could’ve saved you $40 million.

The Bright Side

Is it bad to start a teacher blog with a Monty Python clip?

I guess it’s a little unorthodox, but I’ve been humming this tune in my head the last few days as I’ve thought about how we see the world.

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had a teacher who used to have us play a game called “Good Luck, Bad Luck”. We’d sit in a circle, and it went something like this:

  • 1st person: What good luck! I got all my homework done!
  • 2nd person: What bad luck! I left my folder at home.
  • 3rd person: What good luck! My mom saw it and dropped it off at school.
  • 4th person: What bad luck! She said I had to help with laundry since she went out of her way.
  • 5th person: What good luck! I found $5.00 in the pocket of a pair of pants.
  • 6th person: What bad luck! They weren’t my pants.

And it would continue until we had gone around the circle two or three times. I’m not sure what learning target she had written in her lesson plans, but I know we loved it and it stretched us to think differently. It also forced us to find the silver lining in any situation.

Several things have happened in the last couple of weeks to make me think about how important it is to be able to see that ‘good luck’ side.

First, I spent a couple of hours messaging back and forth with a former student who is now a teacher. She was having one of those days, and when I saw her post on Facebook, rather than giving her an answer, I responded with a question of my own. That led to our private messaging back and forth for quite a while. (I am so proud of this young woman and the teacher I know she has become. Even in her frustration she was being proactive.)

Then I happened to see Jen Merrill’s  Henny Penny Challenge post pop up in my Facebook news feed. Her challenge is to post three positive things at the end of each day, and Jen does a great job of finding the silver lining.

And last week I was inspired (once again) by Krissy Venosdale. Her latest venspired post Understanding My Heart talked about those people in life who actually “get” her.

I understand that. I have those people in my life, too; can’t imagine not because

It’s easy to get discouraged.

Things don’t go as planned.

Some things are outside of your circle of control.

The negatives seem to jump up and down, screaming for attention.

While the positives wave politely and wait to be noticed.

So, here’s my challenge to you.

Find the bright side.

Point it out.

Write it down.

Share it.

You never know, it may be just what someone else needs to see.

Remembering to Say Thanks

Back in November I ran into our school board president at the local coffee shop. We had a great conversation, and as I walked away, I thought “I should really send him a note and let him know how much I appreciate all he does for the district and the community.”

But you know how it is. I got busy with work and class and life, and I put it off, thinking I would get to it over the winter break.

I never got the chance. He passed away on Christmas Day.

It made me think of all the times I’ve let the opportunity pass to tell someone I’m thinking of them, that they are important to me, or that they make a difference in my life.

Then a few weeks ago I came across this tweet.

So, I messaged Joy, she shared a google doc with me, and I wrote this post.

Lucky to Have a Friend Like You

Dena Budrecki: media specialist, technology goddess, passionate educator, colleague, friend. Where do I even begin to express my appreciation for her?

It is rare to find that colleague who matches you step for step, answers your questions with more questions, and just challenges you daily to be your best. Dena does that for me. I’ve been at this teaching thing for a long time (26 years), but I am still learning, still growing. I appreciate that Dena is right there with me.

When I am looking for ideas for a lesson, Dena is there with links, apps, and just awesome teaching tips. She isn’t afraid to throw a lot of things at me, knowing that we can sift through and pick out the best things.

When I am excited about something I have read for one of my doctoral classes, I know I can share it with her, and I get real conversation not just the polite head nod.

When I am frustrated because something doesn’t go as planned, I can complain, but then Dena helps me figure out the ‘So what…now what’ I need to move forward.

When I have an idea but need a co-conspirator, Dena’s right there, too (and I return the favor). Together we have accomplished some good things this year (reviving the Sunshine club at school, writing a weekly digital citizenship blog).

When I am grappling with a new idea or trying to assimilate what I have always done with what I need to change, Dena is there asking tough questions.

When I need an opinion on something I’ve written (blog post, letter to parent, email to one of my kids’ teachers), I can count on Dena to give honest feedback.

When I doubt myself, Dena is there to remind me of what I have accomplished and to encourage me to step outside my comfort zone.

And it doesn’t stop when the bell rings at the end of the day. Dena is my summer walking partner (yes, we still end up talking about school), she is a great dinner companion (especially when she sees I’m feeling down), and she worries about me when I’m off at class and the weather conditions aren’t the best (she calls and tells me to drive carefully).

I am blessed to have such a friend. Thanks, Dena. :-)

Looking forward to the next big adventure,

Jennifer

It was originally posted here. Check out the blog for more examples of the power of appreciation.

So, if you’re reading this and think there is probably someone you need to thank, do it. You never know how far those words go.

Eating an Elephant

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“When do you sleep??”

I get asked that a lot when I talk about my life – two active kids, bookkeeping for Tim and the farm, full-time job, work committees, volunteering, blogging, candy-making, baking (You should see the cupcake request S has made this year!), and, oh yeah,

that doctoral program.

I love it.

I love the challenge of the material.

I love the diversity of my classmates.

I love the seminar format.

I love that I am mentally exhausted at the end of each class.

But it’s not been easy.

I’ve learned to read slowly and to reread and reread again.

I’ve learned to write about what I KNOW not what I BELIEVE, and that’s been quite a mind-shift.

I’ve learned to use my time differently because waiting until the last minute doesn’t work. (Okay, yes, I still finish up papers the night before or morning of the due date, but I don’t start them then which is what I did as an undergrad…and even in my Master’s program.)

And the time away at night has its challenges.

S has gotten pretty good at making dinner.

Tim gets to share in the joys of running both kids to various practices and games.

Homework gets done, although I sometimes come home to a book and a note on the table saying, “I need help with…” so I know to get up a little earlier the next day.

But this is my last semester before dissertation.

Last semester of coursework.

Last time I have to attend an actual class.

As far as credits go, in May I’ll be 80% done.

People ask how I do it.

Sometimes I’m not sure.

All I can think of is the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I’m 80% done.

But that last 20% is research and dissertation.

It will happen in small steps.

It will go slowly.

I need to remember

(image used with permission from its creator, Sean Gallo, http://seangallo.com)

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