Thursday, April 10, 2014

Celebrating: (Goodbyes are Hard)

When I Grow Up.... 


 When you're little, you wonder how you will ever know what you really want to BE one day. OR, if you are me, you find it easy to imagine you will be everything someday. When you're at the library, you fancy you will love your job scanning book bar codes while you drink in the smell of books all day long. When you're at Wal-Mart, you look forward to your turn to push so many buttons, and decide you will be an especially smiley checker-outer. In fact, in kindergarten, I found my awareness of ALL of the things I could possibly be so overwhelming, that I remember telling my peers that I'd already occupied some of the careers I thought I'd probably like to, but wouldn't have time for later. (Ex: At 3 I was a doctor. At age 2, I was a dentist...) One brave 5 year old called me out on my creative tale, and I'll never forget the friend sitting beside me who stuck her neck out for me and declared, "I believe Amy Beth. She would never lie." I am still friends with that girl today. (Of course, the integrity of our relationship began a little rocky... on my end. I feel bad about that. That is neither here nor there.)

The point is, in middle school I spent a lot of weekends selling pie to raise money for my church at community auctions. I learned that I love working directly with people - even for short and sweet exchanges. Shortly after I discovered a passion for political science. I thought I might be a future president of the United States. And maybe I will. But then I got really excited about music - I felt sure the Lord was calling me to pair that passion with the thing in me that can't stand to learn anything great without passing it on. I think they call it teaching. And so I did. I got a Master's degree in music education, got a job at a middle school with super kids all ready to build a good band program, and we did it. I loved it! And then... I felt sure God was calling me to be a Mom. I became a mom, and I LOVE it. And then I felt sure that I couldn't do a good job trying to divide my heart, my time, my conscience... So here I am. Signing away the most ideal teaching job I could ever have had. I don't know if I've ever done anything harder. Goodbyes are hard. I am so grateful for the years I got to spend developing a God-given gift, the people I enjoyed it with, and ultimately the kids I got to teach and build relationships with - the very best part of all.

Celebrating... Not Grieving 



(A very special group of 8th graders after "Ethiopia Day" at lunch)

 This blog is a little bit because I enjoy sharing with you, but it's also such a special form of documentation for me. I may have had the privilege of teaching the very best students who will ever pass through that middle school. I guess I'll never know. (Yes I do.) I have so much to be grateful for. SO many unbelievable teaching stories, and so - admitting I could never capture them all here, in my next few posts, I'd like to share a few...

1) My first day of school EVER as a teacher: 
I am calling role in my first EVER class. (It's a class of 6th graders who would also be my first class to graduate.) There are first day of school butterflies in the air. They're squirmy and nervous and I'm nervous. I am trying to memorize their names and faces TODAY, careful not to mispronounce (and thus scar) a single one of them, and I get to the name "Cassandra." I wonder how this student pronounces the vowel in her name, so I ask, "Do you go by CassANdra? Or Cassandra?" She shrugs. I'm worried I've embarrassed her. "Either is fine! I just want to get it right today so I know what you want to be called in the future!" She shrugs again. There are snickers. I'm a little frustrated. "How would you like me to pronounce your name?" She shrugs again, and rolls her eyes slightly. I am befuddled. I give it one more go: "What does your Mama call you?"
She answers, "My Mama calls me Sassy."
True Story.

2) "Take Out the Trash"
1st year of teaching: I teach 6th grade brass in a room that adjoins the band room, but has no teaching materials, phone, etc. In that class I have a student who's been placed in band although it wasn't his idea or interest. He has an IEP 3 miles long, and struggles with huge emotional explosions that result in erratic behavior. It's week 3 or 4, and I recognize this student is escalating. I try to calm him down, but he is reacting with defiance and I see quickly that it is not going to happen. Step 1 on his emergency plan is to call the guidance office. Problem is, in this room I teach in, there is no... wait for it... phone. I give soft and clear instructions to this student, now standing in front of his seat, looking at me like a bull ready to charge. I turn out the lights, and continue giving calm directives, now asking the rest of my class to remain silent and seated, and I back toward the door that connects to the band room. When I reach the band room door, my room is frozen - my students seem to be holding their breath, and my upset and misguided cherub appears to have stalled on his vision for what he should do next. I take a big breath, spin around and run like a banshee through the band room, grab the phone, dial, yell, and sprint back! I slide through the door, and the room is still frozen - all of my students are sitting silently in the dark room just like I asked them to. All but... one. I, too, freeze. I scan the room quickly. He is nowhere to be seen. I scan again. "Where is he?" I calmly ask. They just point. To the large custodial trash can by the door. And sure enough. He is in it. 
I wonder if I will ever survive this year.

#3) "Don't punch the baby"
 I love illustration. In music, we are often working to achieve abstract goals, so analogies, metaphors, and the like are extremely helpful. When you're working with middle schoolers, they are triple effective. This was the perfect job for me. In the same breath, as every good band director knows, analogies can get you in trouble. Sometimes you are mid-productive-thought when you realize something has gone horribly awry. Such was the case the day, "Don't punch the baby" was born. I was demonstrating contrast. The importance of good tonguing, especially when given specific articulation. I was illustrating a phrase; the artistic musical sentence one might use to sing to a baby. (I cradled hypothetical baby in one arm.) But in the next phrase, the band had accents. I began demonstrating a good accent; noting the initial blast of air. "It's like a punch!" I was saying. Each note begins with a "punch!" I was gesturing emphatically as a good middle school teacher does for their students; but I'd forgotten to put the hypothetical baby down. Immediately, I realized my middle schoolers would never forget this moment. It was a little funny when I was shocked to realize what I had done. It was extremely frustrating when I could not silence the repeated phrase as they walked in and out the door and passed me in the lunchroom, but then it became a little funny again later in the year when they'd murmur to students who'd been thoughtless or forgetful, "Dontpunchthebaby," or wove the phrase into my Christmas card. Needless to say, our band's accents were unbelievably clean that year. I can't know what mental images were going through their minds while they played them, but boy - we got the job done.

With every anecdote I finish I'm flooded with memories of 5 more. I'll weed them down, but look for some more in the coming days. I am so grateful to have gotten to know some amazing young people, and for these memories that will be ours forever...

(My final performance in the middle of my maternity leave with 8th grade at their spring concert.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Year Home

Sunday March 9, 2014

**Dad was thinking he'd enjoy 10 last minutes of sleep, when he is brightly greeted: "Hi, Dada." He opens one eye to see Zeke smiling around the thumb he is sucking on one hand, holding his blanket in the other. Dad makes room, and Mom drops Zeke onto their bed. As Zeke lays his head back across Dad's chest, he tugs at his blanket that is wrapped up beneath him. He tugs and tugs until he has enough blanket to cover himself and (half of) Dad. After he adjusts it, he gives Dad's blanketed chest a "pat-pat" before snuggling back down to suck his thumb and rest**

**Mom's scurrying around the kitchen to get dinner in the crock pot when she feels two little arms wrap around her leg. She takes a minute for sweetest Gabe hugs, and sends his cute little self back around the counter to play. Seconds later, she hears the *scoot, scoot* of the bathroom stool across the kitchen floor. It stops right beside her, and Gabe climbs up onto it, ready to "help." Mom pauses to realize nothing better can come out of this moment than finishing dinner with her busy little sidekick, relishing his determination to be with her.**

Most adorable Mighty Men, how did we get here?? What glorious thing did your Daddy and I accidentally do, that our Heavenly Father would entrust the past year to us? You have brought more joy to our lives than we have ever known, and we give all the thanks to Him. Hard to believe a whole year has already flown by. Sunday we celebrated your first "Gotcha Day!" Long before we could have imagined the fun it would be to interact with you every day, God put a song on our hearts. Praise Him - it's the same song resonating through our lives today:

"We Belong Together"

(The first time we got to sing it to you, at the care center in ET)

(Singing it after being home for just a week!) 

 (Where the journey began; this song shared our vision, and we were amazed as friends and family came alongside us to get you home. Happy Gotcha Day!)


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The engagement.

In honor of treasured Jane Austen stories, original versions of British movies, shared blankets and tissues and too much popcorn, the heart for Dickens and all things rich and beautiful and real. *Ahem* Allow me....

On a very important March afternoon, when the long winter let up so we could feel the coming spring, many people were headed into the nation's capital. A girl and her friend. A boy and his family. More friends and excited family members. All but one traveled with a secret. Across the bridge and into the big city, just over the water rose their gallant destination: the John F. Kennedy Center. Swiftly inside, quietly up the stairs, handshakes and hugs... there were huddles and glances and lots of electronic messages. The sun started to fall behind the skyline, and with every passing minute it took more seriously the coming event, deepening its hues for the drama that was to unfold.

It was one of those evenings where the surprise of warm fresh air rang of magic, and the anxious waiting crowd noticed special sights; row teams and tow boats, "Marine 1" cutting just overhead - perhaps the president himself flying down the Potomac.

He set out three albums along the terrace railing - one for every year he'd known her, with facebook correspondence, journal entries and photos chronologically ordered. He tugged at his blazer, felt the ring in his pocket, and slipped around the corner where he would watch, and wait.

All of the family was gathered at the opposite end of the rooftop - careful to remain unseen, but watching with excitement.

 And then she arrived. Donning a classic ivory topped black ruffle dress and her remembered Grandmother's pearls, she and her friend stepped onto the terrace.

Her friend led with nervous energy. They meandered exactly toward the hidden groom a ways until the friend spied him, and steered her back to the planned route - a nice dose of suspense for the groom and onlookers. Her friend explained she'd been instructed to lead the girl this far. With loving excitement and relief, I believe her parting words were, "You're my best friend. I love you," and she backed away to watch the girl discover and explore what now lay on the railing before her.

The girl was confused, and excited. She knelt down and opened the first album. A date, a photo, scraps of conversations and memories past of she and the boy. She took her time flipping through it. As she began to understand the message within, and the thought of the whole thing that was really taking place here tonight appeared fuzzily in her mind, she took her time and tried to let it all sink in. She moved to the next album. Another collection of experiences shared from another year.
She gently pushed a tear off of her cheek. With each photo or entry, it grew clearer; both what was being expressed, and what she was ready to say.

It was after she moved to the final album that he quietly strode toward her, first taking her hands in his, then speaking the things he'd planned to say. 

The sun was almost gone behind them and they were small little figures to the eager family watching from afar. Right around them, a couple of pairs noticed, others walked right by, missing the magic altogether. 

He was dropping to his knee. 

And then, a long embrace. Celebration! They strolled up the terrace, affectionate and happy. There was still one more surprise. He pointed across the river, directed her attention away from the large group waiting for them as they got closer. The family turned around, enjoying the fun of making the suspense last just a little bit longer. But then, a stray nephew toddled out from the group. His mom turned after him, and glanced up to find her eyes already being met by the girl, again surprised! Lots of laughter as the group turned around... I'd go on about the many embraces and "welcome to the family" talk, but as they say, one picture is worth a thousand words. Here are several.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turning 2: Growing up, Up, UP!

A week ago my twins turned 2. 
They were home. 
Cary and I got to wake them up, 
put candles in their pancakes, 
remind them of the love they will always have from their heavenly Father, 
from their family, 
delight in watching them, 
and dream with them about the plan He has for their lives.

So much cause for celebration. 

In the background of all this celebration was the memory of this time 1 year ago. Mixed in with the celebration of life, there was heartache. Separation. Unknowns. Amplifying our joy this year was the memory of scars we'd choose to endure 100 times over for the joy the completion of this adoption story has brought us. For what it taught us about our adoption story.

  Saturday, many of our loved ones gathered to celebrate that with us. 

Friday, February 14, 2014


Many Valentine's ago, my Dad (who I probably inherited my sweet tooth from) surprised my sister and I with the BIG Russell Stover's heart-shaped box full of Valentine's goodness. It was such a thrill to hold something half your size full of candy just for you, that we were beside ourselves. After that, he bought us a giant heart full of the good stuff every year. (Yum!) Just last weekend we got to see Dad for a brief lunch (super grandads will drive 3 hours one way just to have lunch!) and before he pulled off in his pick-up, he pulled out 2 giant heart-shaped boxes for my sister and I: favorite Valentine's surprise for the win! To say a special thank-you, I decided to capture each happy moment of reaching for one of those chocolates this year - both the best chocolate-butter-cream-melt-in-your-mouth moments, and the pass-the-icky-strawberry-cream-to-your-husband ones, culminating in the last delightful chocolate truffle. #savethebestforlast

Thanks, Daddy. Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Guest Appearance

We've almost made it to 2 without introducing the boys to tv, although we did take them to see "Frozen," their second movie in the big theater (where I spent half the movie saying "Watch! Watch!!" while the boys were mostly interested in the carpeted stairs), and we've had them playing in the tv room a lot the past couple of days so that we could introduce them to Olympics. #notintersted.

I mention this because one morning last week I was putting together the boys' outfits for the day, when Gabe spotted a hooded Elmo onesie hanging in the closet. It's a hand-me-down he's worn before, and he was all about wearing it RIGHT NOW. The outfit is warm and snuggly, so I was happy to put it on him, and then he marched himself to the mirror and was very pleased with his red reflection. He kept smiling and pointing, and I told him he looked like Elmo. (A character he's never seen.) He was pleased.

Zeke had been contentedly playing legos all this time, but while Gabe was giggling and pointing and I was repeating, "Elmo! You look like Elmo!" Zeke looked up for the first time. He was struck with Elmo wonder. He stood. He stared. His eyes got big, and then his arms went straight out - like Frankenstein. It was hilarious. Gabe thought so too, giggling as Zeke started marching toward him. I couldn't believe, clear as day Zeke started saying, "Elmo. Elmo." -like it was a word he'd practiced 20 times before. Just as he got within reach of Gabe, Gabe's enjoyment of Zeke's fascination wavered. His smile faded, and he took a couple steps back. Zeke marched onward, arms outstretched like a zombie: "Elmo. Elmo." Gabe stumbled backwards again while Zeke kept marching toward him, and then spun on his heel and ran for it! I grabbed for my camera, SO sorry I had already missed so much of this hilarious moment. By the time I got it turned on Gabe had made it through the bathroom and into the next room! This is where our video picks up...



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Day

A funny thing about being a stay-at-home mom is there are no breaks. This first hit me over the holidays, when I rejoiced as Christmas "break" approached. I've counted down to it for the past 22 years of my life! This year was no exception, but three weeks later I was exhausted, and wanted my money back. We had a super time and I'd do it all again, but my pace only quickened as every now and then the house was descended upon, and all the perks of holidays were only add-ons to the the mom-job I have every day. When yesterday schools closed making it an official "snow day," I wanted in on the celebration. We decided it would be a snow day for the boys and I, too. We let go of our daily schedule (a little), and I kept a list of the ways the boys wanted to use our morning time. While I felt like a full and busy morning, it turns out the boys mostly wanted to read a lot (you won't have to guess their favorites), and watch the snow from the window. Here goes...

7:20 - up! Window Watching, Eggs and waffles, Blocks,Window Watching, Haydn's Symphony #44, Dancing, Out comes the tambourine, Blocks, "Pete the Cat," "My First Touch and Feel Book," Diapers, Blocks, "Pete the Cat," Rocking (this is Gabe rocking himself by lunging forward and back in the big rocker - he was happy there for like 8 minutes), Zeke toy vacuuming, Safari hats, "Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me," "Pete the Cat," "Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me," Wrestling, Window Watching, "Snack! Snack!" (Teddy Grahams) "Pete the Cat," 10:40 - Dressed for snow. 

And then, Daddy the Hero appeared (from his secret hiding place where he worked all morning on his qualifier) and we made some beautiful memories as a family out in the snow for the first time!