Spreading Love, Kindness, Peace, & Joy

Sixteen days into the new year…are you spreading love, kindness, peace, & joy? We all deserve to receive the four precious gifts and we all owe it to ourselves and other to give them freely. The older I get (I’m 21, with 21 years of experience, cough cough), the more I realize life really is all about the relationships we build, the love we share, and the legacy we leave behind. I know, a little too sappy for 8:55 a.m., but I just cannot help it.

My husband and I are coming to a major crossroad. In a few short months there will be a lot more room and a lot less noise at our house. During the past year our oldest has moved into her first apartment nearby and works in healthcare and the second has started her own life journey in Florida. This summer, our third will graduate and move three hours away to begin college before joining the military. This leaves just the two of us, plus our spunky, four-year old diva. Talk about mixed blessings!

We love our children (esp. when they are sleeping) and are excited for this new chapter in our lives, but it is bittersweet and a little sad. The older three are truly grown and ready to spread their wings the youngest will now become an only child and miss her siblings. So, what is a mom to do with all this “mothering” that she still carries within her? Obviously, devote it to the youngest (and the dear husband), but there has to be more. Over the past few years, as the older ones needed us less and less (well they think they need us less), I’ve definitely become more motherly towards my students. In fact, on some occasions, I’ve “mothered” anyone who seemed down, lost, sad, needing celebrating, etc.

Reflecting on this brings a plethora of ideas to mind. Nothing groundbreaking, just a rekindling of an age-old idea. Random Acts of Kindness. For instance, this morning while checking our during an unusually large grocery trip, I notice a young girl in line behind me with about four items. Before paying, I told the woman checking us out to ring up the young lady’s items on my tab. It was like an automatic high! The young girl asked my name and said “Thank you so much”! The woman checking us out grinned from ear to ear and my heart swelled with delight. You hear stories like this often, but I’ve never actually done this. Well, let me just say I should’ve been doing this for a long time! My dear husband was a little confused as to why I was lingering to talk with both ladies, until I shared what happened. Then he was grinning too. See? Kindness is so infectious! It really does change the whole trajectory of the receiver’s day, those who witness it, and certainly the giver!

In reflecting on the interaction while driving home, I decided that this needs to be a mainstay in my everyday activities. I’m already big on manners, but what about actions? So many come to mind for planting seeds of peace and joy through showing love and kindness. Who wouldn’t agree that our world could use a little, NO, A LOT of this especially after all the heartache and turmoil we see on the news every single day.

What if we all committed to one random act of kindness (RAK) each day? Some big, some little, some costly, some free. It all depends on what resources you have available when you see an opportunity. Let the brainstorming begin!  Just a few ideas I can come up with off the top of my head. What about you? What would you add to this list? Add your ideas in the comments. The more, the better! Together we are more creative and can make a bigger positive impact on our small little corner of the world.

  1. Buy a coffee for a stranger.
  2. Donate books and magazines you’ve read, cards, games, crafts, etc. to a senior living center.
  3. Donate diapers, wipes, formula, and gently used clothing and toys to a children’s shelter or day care center.
  4. Donate food, newspaper, old towels, trash bags, etc. to animal shelters.
  5. Donate coloring books, colors, puzzles, books, etc. to a children’s ward at a local hospital.
  6. Anonymously pay for someone’s gas fill up.
  7. Adopt a local senior or college student with no close family members during holiday seasons.
  8. Deliver home-baked goodies to your local fire and/or police station, senior center, or school front office.
  9. Offer to drive someone with limited transportation to an appointment or for errands.
  10. Send a note (snail mail) to brighten someone’s day to a different person daily for one month.
  11. Call a long-distance friend or relative each week and reconnect.
  12. Send a note and care package to a random service member overseas.
  13. Adopt a missionary and send notes of encouragement, care packages, and needed supplies.
  14. Pay for a meal for someone when dining out.
  15. Tip larger than you normally would (really large).
  16. Pay for groceries or medication for the person in line behind you.
  17. Rub your spouse’s feet, shoulders, neck, etc. every day for a week.
  18. Let your child pick choose dinner and a movie once a week and put your cell phone and work away for 3 hours.
  19. Anonymously donate copy paper, pencils, erasers, hand sanitizer, stickers, etc. to your child’s teacher (or a life skills class if you don’t have school age children).
  20. Anonymously send/give flowers to someone who needs cheering up.
  21. Leave baked goodies inside your mailbox for your mail carrier or on a neighbor’s front stoop.
  22. Offer to babysit (or pet sit) for a friend or neighbor for free for a few hours.
  23. Allow someone to go ahead of you when you’re in line.
  24. Volunteer your time to an animal shelter, senior center, food pantry, or other community service organization.

I could probably sit here for HOURS thinking up creative ways to spread love and kindness, but my school work beckons. What about you? Can you add to this list? Are you ready to spread love and kindness to your small area of the world? I would love to read your ideas in the comments section.

Blessings,

Jennifer Lynn

 

 

 

 

Snack-a-Thon 2016

I’m so excited!

As a middle school math teacher, there are two certainties to my day. One, I won’t get a chance to run to the loo, and two, I may not get to eat. Oh it’s not that I’m not allowed or can’t find the time. The reality is that once I hit the school parking lot at 6:20 a.m., I’m busier than a single mouse in a room full of bored and hungry cats! It’s hard to slow down long enough to take care of myself.

This year, I’m reverting back to my old ways. Yes, this is a good thing. I “used” to be so organized with every single task that required my attention and especially anything requiring planning. Lately, I’ve been slacking so my breakfasts and lunches have been, shall we say, way less than desirable. Normally, for school I eat on the run. Literally. On the run, in the car, walking the halls, at my desk, etc. You get the idea. Quite regularly I grab whatever is handy rather than healthy.

This week I decided it was time for a change. Not the kind that clinks around in your pocket or that elusive phenomenon brought by the wind. Real change (cue lights shining down with chorus music). What my happen to my weight, my blood sugar, moods, and sanity if I washed, cut, and portioned out everything for the week?  I know. Such a novel idea!

For this week’s haul, I purchased the following:

  • Low Sugar Craisins (5 oz bag)
  • Whole Almonds (6 oz bag)
  • Tillomook Sharp Cheddar Cheese (1 lb)
  • Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins (multi-seed, 4.25 oz box)
  • HEB Delicatessen roasted red pepper hummus cups (4ct – 2 oz cups)
  • Organic carrots and celery (1 lb. bag of each)
  • HUGE box of snack size baggies

Then came the prepping:

  • Wash and cut carrots and celery into 2-3 long thin strips (entire bags of both veggies)
  • Cut cheese into small cubes (portioned into 1 oz chunks, cut into small cubes)
  • Mix together in a bowl entire packages of the Craisins and almonds (mix well, and if you have a 4-yr old like me, I let her add about 1/2 – 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips.

Next, assembly line time (channel your inner Lucille Ball only w/o the candy factory) and portion everything into little snack baggies. Little one and I had a lot of fun with this and she did a great job! I wouldn’t let her wield by large chef’s knife yet as I didn’t feel like a trip to the ER that afternoon.

Then, I made 5 larger “daily” bags containing one of each of the following snacks:

  • Cheese cubes, 1 oz portion  (yielded 16, 1-oz  baggies)
  • Blue Diamond Nut Thins, 5-6 crackers (yielded about 8 baggies)
  • Celery sticks (yielded about 5, 3.2 oz baggies)
  • Carrots (yielded about 8, 2 oz baggies)
  • Almond, Craisin, Chocolate Chip mix (yielded 19, 1/4-cup filled baggies)
  • HEB Hummus cup

Each day at school I now have cheese, crackers, celery, carrots, trail mix, and hummus. I also take a protein bar, Yakult, and water. Now that is a HUGE lunch! I actually didn’t even eat ALL of that for lunch. I had to finish about 1/2 of my snacks during my 5th period class after lunch and I saved the protein bar for late afternoon.

The BEST part?!  I saved a TON of money this way vs. buying pre-made snacks that have lots of preservatives and an outrageous price tag. Plus, I have the entire week’s worth of food/snacks ready to go so I can really eat anytime during the day as needed or time allows.  Oh, wait! The BEST part was not being hungry at all today! In fact, I had to force myself to each all my “snacks” as well as my low-carb turkey taco wrap for dinner.

I have a few baggies of cheese, carrots, crackers left after taking the whole week’s worth to school today. I have THREE WEEKS of daily snack portions of the nut mix. What a bargain!

Next week, I will most certainly mix it up to keep boredom at bay. I’m thinking natural peanut butter instead of hummus, gluten free pretzels instead of crackers. The possibilities are endless! To that end, I’ll make sure to update this post with a variety of weekly snack menus.

If YOU have a favorite go=to snack that is healthy, limited processing, etc., feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

Top Left: One day’s rations, Top Right: portioned carrots & celery

Bottom row, left to right: cheese portions, trail mix portions, cracker portions,                  and pre-packaged hummus cups.

So yes… it’s time to get your healthy snack on!

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

Banana Pancakes = Bliss

OH. MY. GOODNESS!

Today, I made pancakes from bananas. That’s right, pancakes from bananas and NO flour!!  The tall, handsome one is very, very picky so the fact that out of 12 little pancakes only two remain is a win for me! Wait, make that ZERO left. Double win!

Our little one loves pancakes and can’t seem to get enough of them. Who am I kidding? She loves ANY sweet carb she can talk me out of. Sigh. In my venture to convert her back to healthier eating habits, I have pledged to buy as little processed food as possible. So, what’s a mom to do about her beloved pancakes? Make pancakes from scratch of course!

There is always an abundance of bananas in our house. Sadly, some retire before we can eat them or turn them into banana bread. Well, now I have a new saving grace for these amazing little powerhouses of potassium. Banana Pancakes!

There are lots of recipes out there in cyberspace for these lovely dollops of tender sweetness, but I decided to try my own version. They turned out great – light, fluffy, just a “hint” of banana, and reminded me more of french toast by over all texture and taste.

Ingredients:  

  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • 2 eggs
  • 5.3 oz. yogurt (I used Dannon Light & Fit Vanilla) 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (ok, I generally use 2-3 tsp since we love vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats  (may use more if desired)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional, I like to sneak in protein & veggies when I can)
  • nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit for mix-ins (optional) 
  • butter, real – not margarine or spread
  • syrup of choice (we use real maple syrup – a little goes a long way!) 

Directions: 

In a blender or food processor, combine the first six (or seven) ingredients until well blended. Scrape down the sides once or twice in the process. Feel free to use a mixer or just whisk by hand if you prefer.

The consistency should be like regular pancake batter. If you find it is too thin, add more oats one Tbsp at a time until you reach desired consistency. Personally, I tend to cook like my grandmother and don’t measure so the amount of oats I used this first time was at least 1/2 cup, but could have been “a smidgen” more.

Add mix-ins if desired pulse a few times gently just until mixed throughout.

Heat a dollop (Tbsp) of butter in a large skillet over med-high heat (I prefer a cast iron griddle myself). You can also use non-stick cooking spray or coconut oil (solid).

Pour approx 1/8 – 1/4 cup of the batter slowly onto the skillet just like regular pancakes. I used 1/8 cup for each pancake since I wanted them to be little (2″ – 3″ across). This is the perfect size for little ones! Cook the pancakes about 3 – 4 minutes on one side. Gently flip them over and continue cooking till golden.

These will puff up just a bit, but not like regular pancakes. I also noticed while they do get firm and golden around the edges, there are very little bubbles on the surface of the uncooked side. Nevertheless, they are just as mouthwatering!

Serve the pancakes in three’s on a pretty plate. I used a very very tiny amount of maple syrup for the sugar monster (aka the little one). You can also omit the syrup and just sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with peanut butter. The possibilities are limited only to your imagination and taste buds.

Now, sit and relax. Take a bite. Close your eyes and savor the flavor. Then you too can say “OH. MY. GOODNESS!”

Busy mom tip: Make a few batches and let cool on a cookie rack, then store in an airtight container in the freezer for those hectic mornings when you need to eat on the go! 

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Have YOU tried the Konmari Method for organizing? If not, you must!

Since I was little, I’ve loved to organize “stuff”. My stuff, teacher’s stuff, anybody’s stuff. My home library is overflowing with books on organizing (yes, go ahead and laugh). Since moving in with my husband five years ago, I have been purging and organizing like crazy. Merging two households with stuff, my stuff, his stuff, kids’ stuff is a little overwhelming. Every single room, including the garage, has been gone through and cleaned out. Yet, I am never done. There still seems to be so much stuff. Some is important, some not so important. There are still lots of sentimental things we’ve both kept over the years, and I could start my own paper mill with the amount of paper in our home. No wonder I am never done. I never get the bottom of the box, the back of the drawer, or the end of the paper chase. Some days it is simply maddening!

Recently, I come across a major life changing way I organize and “tidy up”. It’s called the “KonMari Method” by Marie Kondo. In fact, I am so intrigued with her method, I purchased her book. The basic premise of her method is to go through your home, papers, memorabilia, etc. category by category. You gather everything that belongs to that category and go through each and every item. If the item does not inspire joy, out it goes!

Now, I am working my way through the book and you can certainly find a huge assortment of info on Marie Kondo’s method, including checklists and worksheets, all over the internet. Just this past week, I printed three worksheets to keep my inner list-making organizing fanatic self happy. I love to check things off a list! I started at the top of the list with the first category of clothing and specifically the subcategories of “underthings” and “tops”. The underthings category is finished and I’m part way through the tops category and all I can say is WOW! Quick, easy, and very satisfying. My underthings are not a mountain of pieces so that was fairly quick and painless. The tops category is taking me a little longer because I have so many tops. Tops in my drawers, tops in my closet. Usually I only have a few minutes of time to go through items, instead of the marathon I wish I could do. I hope to be done the tops category this weekend and move on to bottoms.

I already feel lighter, more energetic, and HAPPY! Below are a few pictures of what three of my drawers look like. I cannot wait to get to the last drawer and that overwhelming closet! So, if you love your stuff and want to get a handle on it all, I highly recommend the KonMari Method.

Items sorted by category and in boxes that fit in the drawer.

Items sorted by category and in boxes that fit in the drawer.

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Underthings Drawer #2: Organized by category and in boxes.

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My t-shirt drawer! I couldn’t even CLOSE this drawer. It is purged and the ones I’m keeping are folded to maximize space. My workout tanks are on the far right. This drawer makes me HAPPY and want to work out!

Struggling with Balance! Confession from a wanna be Superwoman…

So, I am embarrassed to note my last post was in MARCH and here it is JULY! Needless to say April, May, and June have been crazy busy! It is the truth not an excuse. Hence my revived pledge to myself to find balance for a plate that is overwhelmingly full. You see, I am not just your typical working mom, I’m a wanna be superwoman. Yes, I know. I frequently tell myself that I can do it all, just not all at once. This is a very hard pill to swallow because as a dreamer, I feel like I can do it all.

What does my life plate look like? Well, let’s see..

  • I am a full-time wife to an amazing guy
  • I am a full-time mom to 4 kids who I love, but keep me on my toes
  • I am a full-time 8th grade math teacher and math department chair
  • I am a full-time grad student working on my 2nd Master’s degree
  • I am a full-time dreamer. I want to do it all and be it all.

Why not? Why can’t I be a super athlete like two of my friends (you know who your are)? Why can’t I be a master of homemaking like Martha? A master cook like Julia? Why can’t I fulfill my secret dream to be a professional organizer? Why can’t I be a master photographer and creatively show my family’s stories like works  of art? Why can’t I stop the clock and get all those darn Pinterest projects done? Well for one, I am human not superhuman. No matter how much I wish it, pray for it, try as I might it is just too much for one mere mortal.

This brings me to today. A day when I wake up realizing my good friend Megan is so right when she tells me “sometimes it is good to just stop and do nothing.” She is so wise! Her life is just as busy, but I believe she has found balance better than most of us. What is her secret? I think it’s the fact that she is great at prioritizing and saying NO when it means letting things get out of balance. She is an amazing wife, mom, teacher, and friend. How does she do it all? From my perspective, she keeps the main thing, the main thing. Her family and wellness comes first. Then work. Then everything else is sprinkled in appropriately: fun, rest, friends, etc.

This is inspires me! It makes me realize I can do it all – just not at once! I also reminds me of the vision of putting the “big rocks” in first, then the pebbles, then the sand, then the water. My family and my health come first – “the big rocks”. Then career – “the pebbles”. Then grad school – “the sand”. Then everything else that makes life fun, sparkly, and centered – “the water”.

The big rocks keep us grounded and the water keeps us nourished and the pebbles and sand keep things interesting. Too many big rocks and we get weighed down, too much water we drown, too many pebbles or too much sand and we lose firm footing. Each of us must find the right proportions for ourselves, that is the key to finding and keeping balance so we can stand tall as the superwoman (or man) we truly are!

Thank you to my amazing friend for reminding me of the main thing! Oh, and thanks to my family for putting up with me. You are all what makes life worth living.

❤ Jennifer

A life saved…and cherished

Chloe 1

Meet Chloe, the newest member of the our family. She is the most beautiful Chocolate Lab ever! Would you believe from looking at her that we rescued her from the animal shelter? I know, me neither. Chloe is the most calm and gentle dog I have had in a long time. She does not bark (yet), jump, chew, or any other normal behavior not necessarily welcome by dog lovers. I love her soulful eyes. There is a story there that I wish she could tell me.

I was enjoying yet another very lazy Spring Break day. No really, I do mean L-A-Z-Y. You know the kind. The pj’s most of the day, no hair or make up, movie-junkie kind of day. I was scrolling through Facebook (guilty) and came across a posted shared by a friend about dogs in the animal shelter near her. My heart jumped out of my chest. There she was, cute and as sad looking as could be, just begging for someone to love her.

Chloe shelter Chloe adopted

Who could resist such a sweet, gentle soul? Not me. I spent the better part of a day-and-a-half promising my husband that I would not let her destroy the house or have bad manners. We have both been accustomed to ill behaved, destructive pets in the past. Beside, the kids really “need” a dog. Ok, who was I kidding. I really wanted a dog. I have had a dog since I was born. Coco the Chihuahua, Barney the Beagle (don’t laugh), Wishbone the Dachshund (yes, you can giggle now) where part of our family. Once I was out on my own, I ended up with three myself. Ric and Flower, both Shelties, and Miller a Collie. If you have never had long-haired dogs, just let me say they require a ton of daily brushing. I personally prefer short-haired dogs. You still have to brush them, but there are no tangles to deal with or matted hair. 🙂

For that past five years, we’ve had no other pets except for fish. This has actually been pretty freeing, but a home is so lonely without at least one pet. So, off I went yesterday to the shelter. I figured I would go check her out and realize she was too wild and possibly sick. To my surprise, she was beautiful, calm, loving, with those big brown eyes and a wet nose. Her teeth and ears are pristine and she is not jumping all over us. While a little thin, she looks like she has been well taken care of till her recent trek of wandering free. A chocolate lab! Most shelter dogs are a mixed breed. She “looks” like a full lab although only the vet with know for sure. She is less than 40 pounds and two years. Well, needless to say, I just could not leave her there! So, Cailynn and I brought her home to meet the family.

So far she is settling in just fine. She has not made any attempt to jump on the furniture, paw the table at dinner, or anything than just be well behaved. I am sure she is just checking us out. Can she trust us? Will we love her? Are we going to keep her safe and well? Obviously yes. Last night was pretty amazing. We took her for a short walk yesterday and other than wanting to chase a squirrel, she was pleasant on the leash. She went into her kennel at bedtime and uttered not one peep until 5am. She went outside this morning and enjoyed her breakfast with a lot more tail wagging than yesterday.

I think she knows she can trust me. When I sit she sits at my feet. When I move out of her sight, she comes to find me. I love how her head tilts to the side when she is trying to figure us out. I am sure the next few days will be interesting as she learns our house rules. Somehow I do not think she will be too hard to train. I just love her!

If you and your family are considering getting a pet, I strongly encourage you to check out your local shelters first. Most of us love beautiful, full pedigreed dogs from a breeder, but I think it is better to save a life and give the gift of love to an animal that is at a shelter. Maybe you love animals but cannot have a pet full-time. At the very least, donate supplies and / or time to your local shelter. Who knows…maybe you will find your Chloe.

Chloe 2 Chloe 3

Thanks to my husband, who agreed to welcome a dog into our home and
to Barb, who helped us find Chloe.

30 Days CAN Make a Difference

30 days.

30 days seem like such a short time and yet, can seem like an eternity. It is all how you view your time. We are each given the same 24 hours each day, the same seven days per week, and an average of 30 days per month. What do you do with your time? I don’t know about you, but I never seem to have enough. The sands seem to run faster each day through the hour glass.

Do you wake up each day ready to go forth and conquer or dread just having to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee? What about at night? When at last you rest your head is your heart full and your to do list empty? Or do you toss and turn being chased by thoughts centered around “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve”? I have been privileged to the bliss and the burdens aforementioned. So as I sit back and relax over Spring Break, one question becomes all the more important. What shall I do with my precious time and still get the most out of it? Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to do everything and I mean everything. What I have learned over the years is that I can’t do it all. Okay, well I can, but I cannot do it all at once.

Balance is the key. If you or I are going to attempt to do it all, we must prioritize. Who and what is most important?  If I were to make a list of what is important to me it would look like:

  1. Daily quiet time with my Bible
  2. More leisurely dinners with the whole family
  3. Weekly family fun
  4. More conversations with loved ones far away
  5. Daily, consistent exercise (with NO slacking)
  6. Sticking to a paleo/vegetarian way of eating
  7. Drink 100oz of water daily
  8. Eliminate clutter from home & office
  9. Eliminate excess / non-essential spending
  10. Do one kind / helpful thing for someone else each day
  11. Send more handwritten letters to friends and family
  12. Complete home remodel projects
  13. Get all household paperwork and family photos organized at last
  14. Plan and complete items on our Bucket List

I could probably keep going, but I am sure you are more interested in creating your own priority list. What would your list consist of? Take a few moments to write down who and what is most important to you. Then once you have that down in ink, you can start prioritizing and making specific plans. The good thing about the main list is being able to select what can be done in what amount of time and in what order you should proceed. Several items on my list in particular are simply a matter of scheduling on my daily calendar and using my time each day wisely. Other items are larger, more time consuming projects. These items will need some planning to break them down into manageable chunks that can be accomplished during a set time frame, a day or two, or a long range project. It’s a good think I am obsessed with my planner and making lists for just about everything.

The key for most people and especially myself, is follow through. I usually start out with a bang, then stretch myself too thin. Once that happens, exhaustion sets in and nothing gets done. Well then, what do I do about it? I pick myself up again, ever day, and start again. Slip ups are just opportunities to learn about myself and how I can better handle curve balls sent my way. It all depends on your perspective. Now that you have your list, what are your obstacles?

  • I may not have a large amount of time to be still, quiet, and reflect as I read a passage from my Bible, but I CAN carve out 10-15 minutes while enjoying a cup of coffee.
  • Scheduling family dinners with two high school junior (soon to both be 18) is challenging, but I CAN insist on one or two nights each week where we sit, eat, and visit as a family.
  • Time and money do not always meet, but I CAN schedule at least a monthly family fun outing (or night in) to help us slow down and reconnect.
  • I may not be able to workout 30 minutes each day, but I CAN certainly get 10 minutes done.
  • I may not follow through on my wellness plan for eating and water intake, but I CAN take charge one meal at a time. I CAN set an alarm a few times a day to chug some much needed H20.
  • Work and family make it hard to complete purge & organize the house, our paperwork, and pictures, but I CAN pick one or two small areas each week to complete. Slow and steady does win the race.
  • I may not have time to see or call my long-distance loved ones all the time, but I CAN dash off a quick note or send a card just to let them know I am thinking about them.
  • I may not be able to change someone’s life with a random act of kindness every day, but I CAN smile, wave, offer a kind word, or look for any opportunity whether large or small, to make positive difference for all those I come in contact with each day.

Can you sense the overwhelming theme? I CAN!  I can do all these things on my master list. I can go to sleep each night knowing I did the best I can do. Planning is important (that is where my planner comes in) and giving myself grace when things don’t go as planned. After all, I CAN do it all. I just might have to do it all a little at a time, over time, and enjoy the journey.

What do you have planned to accomplish in the next 30 days? Remember if I CAN, then YOU CAN!

Blessings,

Jennifer

What I wish my students knew…

It has been a few weeks since my last post. Needless to say, it has been hectic! Looking at the calendar today, I realized there are only eight school days until Spring Break. On one hand, I cannot wait! On the other, I am slightly sad this time of year as my 8th grade students will be moving on to high school in about 12 weeks.

This time of year I start reflecting on the past six months with my students and wonder, “Was I good enough?”. I look back on all the lessons, activities, testing, and the classroom vibe. I wonder (and worry) if I was the kind of teacher my students needed this year. I think about the kids from “good homes” and those who have a lot lacking in their lives outside of school.

I think about the relationships I have been able to foster as well as the students who still keep me at arms length. I rejoice and smile thinking about the students and parents who tell me often that I have made such a positive difference in their lives. I can’t help but feel sad as I think about the students who I have not been able. There are many things that run through my mind and tug at my heart. These are the things I wish my students knew.

I wish my students knew I was not always a stellar student. I was always a solid B student but was capable of straight A’s. I even got lazy at times (shocking I know) and rounded up a C or two. Now as an adult, I wish I had focused more and worked harder for those straight A’s. I hope they do not have the same regret.

I wish my students knew I have experienced how wonderful and harsh the world can be. I once was a teenager who was pretty but a little “fluffy” around the middle. I know what it’s like to feel insecure, bullied, bored, held back by adults, misunderstood, unappreciated, lonely, scared, and excited about everything. I have also worked in the “real world” at various levels of jobs. Not all were fun and exciting. Not all paid well. Oh, and my bosses didn’t care about my personal life. They only expected me to show up every day, on time, and give 200%. If I didn’t or wouldn’t, they’d find someone else who would.

I wish my students knew that I do not like to deliver bad news to them or their parents. I don’t like calling or emailing parents about low grades and poor behavior. In fact, I HATE it. I try to email out positive feedback, but it’s not easy. Teens are so challenging at times and trying to find their way. Teens don’t often make good choices. Some struggle academically. It’s my job to keep students AND their parents informed on progress. I promise, I am not trying to be a tattle – tale. Really, it’s true.

I wish my students knew how much of MY personal family time I dedicate to THEIR education. Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not live at school. Hard to believe, I know. Many of my colleagues and I do, however, spend countless hours at home ignoring our families to plan, prep, and grade. We miss many hours of family fun, not to mention precious hours of sleep, to email parents, update websites, tweet out reminders, and scour endless resources for engaging, “cool” activities. The students we do this for rarely notice, and our families who we have rare moments of fun with, notice every day.

I wish my students knew how much I truly care about them. I wish my students knew how much I worry about their well-being. It is so heartbreaking to learn about one of my students having to face a broken home, lack of basic necessities, violence, drugs, or whatever cross they must bear and care with them. I think constantly about whether my students are loved, warm, safe, and feed. I pray for positive, encouraging role models in their lives. I hope I am one of those. I am also very thankful to the families of students who are supportive, encouraging, and involved.

I wish my students knew that education is truly the way to fulfill their dreams. Regardless of whether my students go to college, join the military, or enter the workforce after high school, education will be the skeleton key that opens all these doors. I want my students to dream big, work hard, live well.

I wish my students knew that the decisions they make today will indeed follow them to high school and beyond. Every choice has a consequence, good or bad. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is so hard to get my students to buy in to the thought that what they do with their “todays” directly impacts their “tomorrows”. I hope they make thoughtful, well-informed decisions that will have a positive impact on their lives. Regrets are difficult crosses to carry. I want them to have the smallest, fewest regrets as possible.

I wish my students knew that I hope they reach their full potential. When I look at my students, I see a blank canvas just waiting to be filled. I see funny, bright, loving, children struggling to navigate the teen years and come out better on the other side. I see unwelcome behaviors as a reaction to how they perceive their world. I see tomorrow’s leaders, inventors, and teachers. The future is as wide and bright as their young eyes. I hope they embrace every opportunity to learn, create, and make our world a better place for all.

I wish my students knew that I will truly miss them. I hope my students knew that I hope they remember me as a positive influence. I spend 9 months with these kids who become MY children. I will think about them often, the good and the bad. I will wonder how high school is going. I will wonder about their well-being. Most of all, I will miss seeing the final years of the journey toward adulthood. The best part I guess is that I can think about their time with me, dream about what they might have become, and smile.

After all, every school year is a new year to make a difference. Every student is a blank canvas. Every heart is one to be won over. Best of all, sometimes they DO come back to visit and share their journey, give me a hug and words of appreciation. That is the ultimate reward and what keeps me returning year after year.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Is it REALLY better with bacon?

It is often said that everything is better with bacon. Now while I love bacon, is everything better with a slab of salty, crispy perfection? Apparently one of my dear students feels that way. Today as I was grading a recent math lab, I was treated to a really good belly laugh. To answer a question about what tools techniques could be used to solve an equation, someone got quite creative. Check it out for yourself…

bacon

Now, yes it is funny. At the same time, however, it’s a sad commentary on today’s students. Some of our students are amazing young people who are bright, energetic, and creative. Some work their fingers to the bone yet rarely see success because school has always been hard. The majority of our students are “good kids” with a huge lack of work ethic.

This semester I am trying all sorts of ways to engage and inspire my students. I’m a math teacher to 8th graders, teaching general Algebra to on-level students and Algebra 1 for high school credit to others. Last week I asked my students to start thinking of things that motivate and inspire them to do well regardless of the task at hand. I got some pretty blank stairs and you could hear the crickets.

This week I showed a short clip titled “I Choose C”. I hoped to get a few laughs (yep) and yet plant a seed of inspiration (hope so).

Today’s kids must understand that the world is not based on provided answer choices, nor is everything given to someone “just because”. Parents and teachers need to be talking with kids about their dreams, goals & planning, and HOW to get where they want to be in life. It is our responsibility as adults to be honest with our kids and model what setting goals and good work ethic looks like and feels like. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of my students or my own kids for that matter to “just choose C”. I want to see them take risks, dream big, work hard, and develop the confidence to pick themselves up and try, try again if they fail at something. I always tell my kids at school and at home to take advantage of all their resource and support systems. I encourage them to make the most of their education so that they can choose what path they take rather than have their path chosen for them.

Goals × (Hard work + resilience) – (negativity & poor work ethic) = great success.

Not convinced? Take a look at this…

image

So regardless of whether you are an adult (with or without kids) or a teen, what motivates YOU? What motivates you when the task at hand is NOT glamorous, or exciting, or what you want to be doing? How do you get yourself psyched up to get things done? Once you have started, what keeps you going? How do you stay motivated? What is it that makes your give your best? What makes you go above and beyond to do a job well done and possibly above expectations?

I’d love to hear some great, positive ideas in the comments sections below. Remember — we all need a little inspiration at times and sometimes we need to inspire others. Stay motivated & do great!

Blessings,

Jennifer