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2020

To call 2020 a dumpster fire is an understatement. Between a world-wide pandemic, abysmal national leadership, distance learning for students, police brutality, racial attacks and protests… along with personal family conflicts and staying home for 6 months straight…. my mental health is currently driving the struggle bus.

As the world starts to reopen- sometimes against the advice of epidemiologists- we’re figuring out our new normal. All of our commitments outside of our home, priorities, friends and church are all being reconsidered. What does our life really require to be happy, balanced and to make our community and world a place I want to raise our children.

My current frustration is the church and people who call themselves Christians. The fact that churches across the board have not publicly declared their opposition to Trump- who represents everything that Jesus opposed- is offensive. If your one argument is that Trump is against abortion, you need to reexamine what pro-life actually means. Trump put children in cages, denied Dreamers privileges, tried to dismantle Obama-care which provides access to birth control (hello- which would prevent the need for an abortion). He is not pro-life. At most, he is pro-birth and at the least, he is catering to conservative values to get votes.

Beyond that single issue, when I see and hear of Christians sharing pro-Trump rhetoric or conspiracy theories regarding maskS being a tool of government control, I lose my belief in the church and its place as a beacon of light to the world. Unfortunately, the church is only as good as the people who go there. Jesus has yet to return to the world to straighten us out. And I’m sure when he does, “grab her by the pussy” will not be a phrase he uses.

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Soap box

I’ve seen this post shared by three people in recent weeks. All three of those people are very vocal in regards to their conservative political views. I wonder why these conservative learning people feel compelled to remind me how to do my job. I wonder if conservatives think that liberal leaning teachers actually plan their lessons without regard to state standards or curriculum. Do they think that our end-goal is not for a student to graduate high school or score well on their standardized tests but to be indoctrinated with liberal ideologies. I’m not one to buy into conspiracy theories and so this post actively boggles my mind.
I wonder if this post is shared because teachers tend to be more liberal in our political positions. We support our union and appreciate the benefits that our union provides us. We want an accurate depiction of history taught to our students so they know where our country came from, the struggles we endured and the rights that people before them fought for. We want our students to know that our country is a place of opportunity and that through education, they can make it a better place. We willingly teach students who are in our country illegally and we treat them with the dignity and respect that any student in our classroom deserves. We expose our students to other cultures, traditions and strive for representation of all abilities and backgrounds within our classroom literature. Will my students know my political affiliation because I teach them about Hannakah and read a story about a Black family? Students in my class know that I love them first and foremost. They are valued as humans. I teach them to value and appreciate themselves and one another. That they are capable of achieving great things. Are those really the liberal ideologies that we’re so afraid of our children learning?

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Rabbit hole

Do you ever let yourself go down the “what if” rabbit hole? It’s a dangerous place. It’s happened a few times to me lately…

I bought this coat last summer. Gap online. Super clearance. It’s maternity. I thought I was 10 weeks pregnant (flash back- I lost the baby at 8 weeks), and that I was close to in the clear. I put the coat in my closet, excited to wear it during recess duty with a ridiculous baby bump during the winter months.

If I was still pregnant, I would be 36 weeks. I’d have super high anxiety thinking about having a baby and then driving down to McCall for my brother’s February wedding. I’d be balancing a two-year-old going through separation anxiety and sleep regression with a six-year-old who doesn’t like to wear long sleeve shirts or socks. I would be arranging long-term sub plans. I’d have sciatic pain and back pain. I wouldn’t be able to do Buti yoga. I wouldn’t still be paying for a D&C.

Flash forward. I’m not pregnant. However, I still have this huge coat. Yesterday it was 19 degrees during recess duty and so I wore the coat to work. It mostly fits but in order to fit a baby bump, it balloons out at the hips. It looks a little funny and I feel the need to explain the coat to anyone who comments on it. I have other coats I could wear. It makes me a little sad to wear the coat. But functionally, it’s super warm and although slightly mis-shapen, pretty stylish. And although it’s not 19 degrees today, I think I’ll still wear the coat.

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Civil rights lesson

I un-friended someone on Facebook this week. I know I can just unfollow people but certain posts I just can’t tolerate. Here’s the meme-

The “America first” attitude of people- especially people who ‘call themselves’ Christians- disgusts me. This attitude is entirely anti-Christian. Jesus would be ashamed at the entitled attitude that our country has adopted.

Instead of rant and rave on the persons post, I simply unfriended. However, the attitude behind the meme continues to bother me. Our country was founded by people who came to a new place in hopes of a better life. If we gloss over the part where white people introduce disease and steal land from the Native people who already lived here, the fact that this country is full of immigrants and yet now we feel so entitled to what we stole in the first place, that we would deny the privileges of this country to other seeking the same is… insulting? Elitist? Dare I say, it reeks of white nationalist. So instead of spout off when my opinions will only fall on deaf ears, I decided to put my efforts towards making an impact in the attitude and world view of future. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m in the perfect profession to do just that.

So this week, we dove right into Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. My five-year-olds talked about how they would feel if they were excluded from recess or snack time because they had blond hair or brown eyes. We talked about how MLK showed love to all people and how we can be peacemakers in our own world. My students wrote and drew pictures of their own dreams about making the world a better place. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how we are all different but we are all similar too. I have books, videos and projects for all of next week too. Adults may be a lost cause, but -so far- my students have this equality thing figured out.

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The grief process

I would never trade my life for someone else’s. The struggle and sorrow that others endure is nowhere near my own. And I have trauma and loss that others will never understand. However, there is something unique about going through a shitty situation- or going through it three times- that helps you to reflect on it.

My life’s curse is the loss of three pregnancies. The hidden blessing in those losses is the connection and support I’m able to offer other women ensuring the same loss. On the day that I had my D&C, another women had the same procedure. She knew about her miscarriage for days previously and after not processing the loss on her own, opted for the surgery. We messaged about the procedure, the emotion and the physical recovery.

Yesterday, I received a message from a first time mama who just had a loss. She opted for a surgical procedure after reading my posts. She said that google didn’t have any answers and that reaching out to someone who had been there helped her recovery.

Ive also been judged. Someone who has never walked in my shoes misunderstood a political post to think that I didn’t appreciate the support I received after my recent loss. To be sure, every public comment, every private message, every gift of coffee cards, alcohol and ice cream are appreciated. Every mama who has walked this valley and randomly messages me, “how are you?” is valued. I feel that generosity and kindness. Evelyn recognizes the kindness that others have shown our family throughout our grief.

We haven’t made any decisions about expanding our family. For now, I am content raising two humans. And to anyone reading this who has or is experiencing a loss, know that I see you. You are not alone.

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Miscarriage… round 3

I have two perfect children. They are not perfectly behaved, eat all of their dinners, keep my house anything close to clean or sleep through the night. They are perfect in that they are healthy and they are mine. The process that so many take for granted- getting pregnant and carrying a child to term- these two survived.

Joel and I were in disagreement over having a third child. I was in favor and he was not. I was on birth control and we had no immediate plans for another child. But apparently if you miss a pill and the stars align, you find yourself with three positive (although expired, so really, I was unconvinced of their validity) pregnancy tests, you might find yourself with child. So despite being on the cheap but high deductible insurance plan, there was no turning back.

We slowly told our immediate family. My family found out first because when you refuse a coors light in Wayne’s presence, he asks questions. We told Joel’s parents and they were so genuinely happy for us.

Due to my history, I saw my OB right away and started progesterone. I got all the tests and had an ultra sound at 6 weeks 6 days. Baby was wiggly and had a heart beat. My next appt was four weeks away.

I had no concerns or anxiety. No bleeding or cramping. I took my prenatal, drank water and exercised. I did everything right.
I went to my appt today with no worry. When the nurse couldn’t find a heart beat, my anxiety spiked. I had forgotten my phone at home and desperately tried to remember Joel’s phone number if I needed to call him. I laid back on the exam table, waiting for the doctor to come in and prayed that the baby in my body still had a heart beat. When the doctor also couldn’t find a heart beat, he immediately called for an ultra sound. I went to St. Joe’s an hour later and as Joel held my hand, all of my mounting anxiety, fear and worry was confirmed: our baby stopped growing at 8 weeks. 3 weeks prior to today.

I immediately asked for a D&C. I’ve played the game of letting my body take its course, I’ve taken the pills that ‘help it along’, and I’ve suffered. My doctor was compassionate in that he immediately agreed and scheduled it for tomorrow.

Joel’s parents took our kids to their cabin for the night- I’m not ready to tell Evelyn- my sister brought booze and the friends who knew have offered sympathy (and a Ruthie sent money for more booze… she knows my coping mechanism).

In my last Masters class, we discussed “trauma with a purpose” and I brought up having two miscarriages. I blogged about the process and continue to connect to other people through those experiences. I’ve been through that valley and although I was removed from the experience, I still had insight to share with other women experiencing fertility issues. I’m struggling to grasp why I am here again.

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We survived Disney… you can too!

We survived Disney. More than that, we dominated Disney. But don’t think you can stroll into the happiest place on earth unarmed and make it out alive. Here was our game plan-

5052120C-246F-4611-9240-A7A9B0362E5D Disneyland is expensive. If at all possible, find a Disney outlet- if you’re road tripping, there is one south of Portland or north of LA in Camarillo. Buy all your souviniers here. Evelyn saved money for the trip which we then put on a Disney gift card. She bought two toys, shirts for her cousins and a coffee mug for her day care lady,for less then $40.

You can also bring food and drinks in to the park. We brought in high-protein snacks – nuts, peanut butter pretzels, jerky- that would help us avoid the $8 popcorn. We had a sit-and-stand stroller to accommodate Elijah and the occasional Evelyn which also helped pack snacks and water bottles.

Make or buy coordinating shirts or at least Disney apparel. Walmart and Target has them for cheap, Etsy has them for God-awful amounts of money and if you’re lucky find a friend with a cricut or a silhouette machine.

It sounds cliche and awful but I loved every minute of Ava and Evelyn wearing matching shirts at all times. Micah and Elijah also had multiple days of Disney apparel. Even Shann and Joel appeased me and wore the family shirts. Half the people in the park have Disney shirts and half of those people have shirts that look just like their families. Embrace it.

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Fast pass / max pass-

Disneyland is kind of like the secret menu at In and Out Burger. It’s great, but once you know how great it can really be, it’s awesome. Fast passes are a special way to decrease wait time for popular rides. You have to take each persons entry ticket (which looks like a hotel room key), and enter it in a machine near the ride. It will print you off a ticket telling you what time to return and then you get to jump in the fast pass line, which is typically half the wait time or less. Max pass is the same deal except you pay $10/ticket and you skip the process of physically going to each ride and you do it on the app. The  app is a must-have! You can check wait times for rides, order food or make reservations and there’s a map of the park.

Rider switch- another ingenious trick at Disney is the rider switch. This enables an adult (and up to two others) who are unable to ride because they are staying with little kids, to ride as soon as their party gets off the ride (and another adult assumes care of the littles).

There were some rides- Indiana Jones in particular- that all of the adults and big kids wanted to ride. But Evelyn and Elijah weren’t candidates. So Shann took the first shift staying off with them. We took his ticket, asked the cast member at the fast pass line to rider switch. She scanned his ticket plus Ava and Micahs who were going on the ride with 5e first group. The first group rode, got off, and then Shann, Micah and Ava got to get back in the fast pass line. This way, no adult missed out and the big kids got to ride multiple times. Win.

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If you can swing it, stay at a Disney hotel or a hotel really close. Staying at a Disney hotel gets you in to the park an hour early- known as the Magic hour. It switches days between Disney and California Adventure so plan according to what park you’re going to. Staying close also allows you to leave the park, go back and take a nap or a swim and refuel for the evening. In our experience, the park was great before noon and chaos after that.

We only did Disneyland. The park hopper ticket was noticeably more expensive and with it being the kids’ first trip, we really wanted to exhaust Disney. When we go back, we’ll probably do California Adventures.

There’s a sponsored blog- Magic Kingdom Mamas- that I gathered most of my tips from. These mamas live in SoCal, have stayed at each hotel and go to the parks at least weekly. Their blog is gold.

I could probably blabber on for a few more paragraphs but this is where I quit. Joel and I had both been to Disney as kids and it might have been even better to go as an adult and see the magic through the eye of our kids- yes, even Elijah loved It’s a Small world- and niece and nephew. We’re already saving our pennies for a return!

 

 

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An open letter

Dear Superintendent,

I don’t need to introduce myself. I met you during your first month as Superintendent in Clarkston and I was asking you to approve a job share position so I could have a job. I was optimistic about Clarkston School District, enthusiastic and so thankful to get a job.
During the past four years, I’ve won a local teacher award, organized community events- which brought positive publicity to my school and our district, was on the core team to help pass a school bond and helped supply my classroom through two crowd-funding projects. This job is more than just my pay check.  It is my livelihood, my passion and my calling.
Some jobs are 8-5 and then you go home. You get an actual lunch break, you get to use the bathroom whenever you want. Teaching is not that job. It is a school carnival, late IEP meeting, come-in-on-the-weekends type of gig. And I love it. But it’s wearing.
This was a long week. There are 10 days until summer break and I’m tired. But more than tired, I’m defeated. Today, I was hit, screamed at, called parents for support only to receive none and was disrespected. My students experience trauma in multiple forms but in turn, they create trauma in my classroom. I’ve been yelled at and blamed by parents to the point of tears,  spit on and suspended five-year-olds from my class for my own safety. But I’m resilient. I come to school every morning with an optimistic attitude. I greet my students with a hug or high-5. I do my best to teach them something amidst the screaming, chair kicking and disrespect that I endure.
But you don’t see this. You hear about it second hand and think a wellness committee and a discount to the aquatic center is going to change something. You bring prospective teachers to my classroom and I bribe and coerce  acceptable behavior out of my students in hopes of hiring someone good. Because, let’s be honest, the good ones rarely stay at a school like mine.
You preach a lot of #beValued and #beTogether and so as our union heads into bargaining salary and benefits for the teachers in the trenches every day, my hope is that you’re singing the same tune. I hope you recognize the value of the teachers in your district and use the state-allocated million dollars towards teachers’ salaries. And beyond a pay raise, teachers also need support. This year, we had three kindergarten positions and next year we only have two. Smaller class sizes have been an educational golden ticket for years and we’re moving away from it. Support your teachers by hiring more teachers, hiring support staff and being present in your district.
Respectfully,
a tired,
hopeful,
teacher
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Miscarriage

Tonight as I was leaving the house, I got a text from a friend. She went in for a prenatal appointment and got news that no one ever wants to hear. You rarely go in to a routine appointment -especially past 12 weeks- and expect to hear, “your baby has no heart beat”. But this mama heard just that.

I cried. My heart hurts so much for this mama. She takes care of herself and loves her babies with her whole heart. She will have to deliver the baby and recover from giving a birth but she will have no sweet child to hold.

Although I’ve had two miscarriages, I’m still at a loss as to how to support this mama. Words seem empty. Prayers seem useless. I will bring her family food. I will hold my baby boy and have patience and love for my daughter.

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Bella turns one

Sometimes, you just need an excuse to throw a party. You want to plan a menu, let your four year old make invitations and decorations, and have three large canines tear up your backyard. Did you ever think you’d be reading a post about me throwing my dog a birthday party? I know that the initial “we got a dog” aka pigs are now flying was a bit overwhelming formsome folks. I am a self proclaimed animal dis-liker. And yet, here we are.

A few weeks ago, we let Evelyn write the guest list for Bella’s birthday. My parents and Joel’s parents both have dogs but they’re both old. So although we love them both- the humans and the canines- they didn’t make the list. This was in all aspects, Bella’s party. Bella’s bestie is by far Micah and Lauren’s crazy bird dog- June. Katie’s boyfriend has a part lab part bear part horse type dog, Tap, and although he didn’t make an appearance, Nora’s dog Marley- also a cranky old dog- rounded out the invite list.

The menu included homemade pup cakes- mostly apple and peanut butter based- dog bone shaped cookies, puppy chow and hot dogs.

Evelyn was a little upset that Bella didn’t get any presents. We told her that the experience of playing with her friends was present enough. And I think Evelyn quickly forgot about Bella as she and her friends and cousin pulled out half the toys in the back room. For me, I got a clean house and an afternoon with my friends. Bella’s party was definitely a success!

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