Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Record!

Well, here we are at the end of the year, and I thought I better write a "2014" wrap-up post.  At the end of each year I have a book of the year's blog posts printed and bound, and often, a little post that ties up any loose ends is appropriate.  So much has happened this year, what with me going back to work and all, that certainly, this year's blog book could be multiple volumes.  Well, could have been, that is, if I had managed to write any posts about it.


So this year, I give you the 2014 Wrap Up Post - the fifth of five posts written in this ENTIRE year, a new, all-time low number of yearly posts to the blog.

January -

Hm.  Actually had two posts in this month, so you pretty much have heard it already:  I started a long-term sub job and made my New Year's Resolutions.  (If you can't wait to see how I did, skip to the bottom!)

BTW - it was COLD!

February -

Took the girls to see the stage production of Beauty and the Beast.  Maggie turned 14.

March -

Maggie got her second set of braces on, we spent Spring Break in Texas, my tulips came up, and the girls got to sit on the bench as the Thunder warmed up on Girl Scout Thunder night.

April -

Planted new plants in the yard, and had a rather interesting encounter with a spider on I-35.  It apparently came with the plants, but stayed in the car when we unloaded.  It made its presence known as I took Maggie to a violin lesson, by climbing on to the steering wheel as I was going 70 MPH down the interstate.  I'll just say it is lucky everyone survived the incident, even the spider.  

May -

Participated in end of school activities, and got season passes to Frontier City

June - 

Girls did Summer Strings and Princess Week, Jerry went with the guys to Lake Eufala, and Amy and Gina came and scrapped. 

July - 

We went to Colorado / Mesa Verde with Jerry's side of the family, my Grandma passed away, and Gracie and I spent the hottest week of the year at camp! Gracie turned 13, so we now officially have 2 teenagers in the house!

 August -

Wrapped up summer vacation with a Round Top weekend of scrapbooking.  Got a job right at the end of the summer, Maggie had gum surgery, and Gracie got a very different haircut!

September -

Just barely kept up with everything that a working mom has to do!  In fact, I only took two pictures this month - Maggie at a museum that we visited so she could collect data for a history assignment, and Gracie's orchestra at All-City.

October -

This was a very busy month.  Maggie tried out for (and made) the North Central Honors Orchestra, I attended a teaching conference and had my book fair at school.  The girls both participated in a string orchestra rock concert with a founding member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mark Wood.  Over the fall break Jerry and I headed to San Antonio for the burial of my grandmother's ashes, while the girls headed to Houston for their first short-term mission trip with the youth group.  To top it all off we participated in the third annual Yellow Rose Miniature Silky Fainting Goat Show.

November -

A much quieter month.  We had things to do every weekend, but didn't do much traveling, except for Thanksgiving.

December - 

It was a whole new experience trying to get ready for the holidays as a working mom.  I have never looked so forward to Christmas break, ever.  We managed to fit in all the traditions though, including a trip to the newly revamped Nutcracker ballet.  Now that Christmas is past, Jerry and I are back in Oklahoma.  Our car was full to the roof when we arrived in Texas, so the girls elected to stay on a few days with the baby goats that need bottle-feeding four times a day, just to cut down on the amount of stuff we would have to pack into the car.  How thoughtful of them, right? 

Jerry named his first goat.  Introducing. . . Hairy Potter!

So, that is the year in a nutshell.  

Oh yes, before I go, about those pesky New Year's Resolutions from last year. . . 

I did manage to read through the entire Bible in a year.  I actually exceeded my goal of reading 52 new books for the year - I read 86.  Thank goodness for LibraryThing to help me keep track of what I read! 

As for the rest, I started out well, but working outside the home did not leave a lot of time for pursuits that did not directly pertain to the household or the job.  Before I started working though, I did manage to complete 204 scrapbook pages, enough to get me into the current decade, and try 16 new recipes, most of which were keepers.  And we did plant a garden that yielded more tomatoes than our family could possibly eat.  Not sure what this year's resolutions will be.  Perhaps to blog more often - say every other month!  We will have to wait and see what the new year brings.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

This Wasn't MY Plan

Well, look at that. . . I am managing to write a post before the end of 2014!

I feel bad for not posting.

At first, I didn't post because things were busy, although there were some funny things to post about.  The rest of my long-term sub job went well, although Gracie very nearly lost her life before it was all over.

See, the rest of the weeks of my long-term sub assignment went at the same pace as the first ones I wrote about.  One week I did the grocery shopping on my way home on a Monday, pulled into the garage, dumped the grocery bags on the counter and instructed Gracie to put the groceries away while I took Maggie to her violin lesson.  Fast forward an hour and a half.  I pull into the garage, walk into the kitchen, and the groceries are still on the counter.  Including all the dairy and meat.  I was speechless.  When I finally was able to speak, I asked Gracie what was so all-fired important that she failed to put away the groceries, and she replied:

"I just needed a little 'me time.'"

Talk about apoplectic.  I told her to run to her room, because I wasn't certain what I might do next.

'Me time'.

I had almost forgotten what that was.  

Needless to say, I put away the groceries and calmed down, and Gracie lived to see another day.

I finished my sub job and updated my resume.

I didn't post then, because I was a little sad that my job had finished, and I didn't have much to post about, and the 'me time' grocery story was still a little too fresh for the telling.

The end of the spring semester drew near, and I heard that there would be openings in our local district for three positions whose current occupants were retiring.

I printed out the updated resumes and hit the job fairs and roundtables, and anything else I though might help.  My friend that I subbed for in the neighboring district decided to stay home with her children next year, so I applied for that too.

I interviewed for some of the positions, while others closed without me getting a call.  My interviews seemed to go well, but then the phone call would come.

"We thought you interviewed well, but. . ."

"You were our second choice, but. . ."

I even got one letter that named the person they chose instead of me.  "Now, why did they do that?" I wondered.  "Do they want me to make a little voodoo doll and stick pins in it?"

I have lots of friends in the district that were rooting for me.  You always hear about how job hunting is about who you know, but that didn't seem to be true in my case.  

My lack of teaching experience began to seem insurmountable.

I decided to apply for a jobs as an assistant, just to get my foot in the door, and I didn't even get a call for an interview, just an automated notification that the jobs were filled.

Now I was in a funk.  I was getting rejected for jobs I was well overqualified for.

I certainly didn't want to blog about that.

But the good thing is that God didn't leave me in a funk.  I lay in bed one morning, listening to my favorite contemporary Christian radio station, and they talked about how what you think about yourself becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I decided that from that moment on, I would not listen to the negative voice in my head, but that my mantra would be what I know to be true:  "I am a child of God, and He has a plan for me."  I had not a clue what that plan was, but I knew it would be okay.  Even if God's plan was for me to still be at home, that was okay.

As the end of summer approached, I made plans to go on my annual end-of-summer scrapbooking getaway with my sister.  I had told her that if I didn't have a job, I would go, so we headed to Round Top, Texas, and had a very good time getting lots of work done on our scrapbooks, and eating at the renowned Royer's Round Top Cafe. (Yum!)

Just before I left, I got a text from a friend, saying that there was an opening in a rural district to our north for a K-12 librarian.  I debated about whether to apply or not, but it was a long way out for a daily commute.  I'd think about it over the weekend.

The day we got back to Oklahoma was schedule pick-up day for Gracie, so we headed to her middle school to get her schedule and have a quick cello lesson.  While she was in her lesson, I waited in the media center.  My phone rang, and I saw it was a librarian friend in our school district.  She was calling to give me a heads up on an unexpected opening.  One of the new hires lived in that rural district to our north, and she decided to take that job instead of the one in our town, leaving an opening.

That night, as soon as the posting was up, I submitted my resume.

The next day they called and scheduled the interview.

The next day I interviewed.

That evening, while shopping for school supplies at Wal-Mart, they called and offered me the position.  I tried to remain calm while I accepted, but ultimately embarrassed my youngest child by being, "A little too excited about all this," dancing down the aisles at Wal-Mart singing, "I've got a job, I've got a job!"

The next day I filled out HR paperwork.  The background check would normally take a week or more, but because I was a current substitute with the district, they had everything they needed, so. . .

The next day was my first day.

You know what?  When I was in despair, asking why I wasn't getting a job, God was being exceedingly good to me, but I couldn't see it.

Since I didn't have a job during the summer, I was able to spend it fully focused on having fun with my girls.

Since I didn't have to report for new teacher training, I was able to spend a weekend with my sister, catching up, enjoying 'me time', and scrapbooking.

Since I didn't have a job in front of me, I was spared any worry of what I was stepping into and whether I would be up to the task.

Yes, I can see now, and I see that His plan was so much better that my plan.

It always is.

And that's something I want to blog about.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Halfway There!

Well, my long term sub job is flying by. I am now five weeks into my eight week assignment. I bet it is flying by even faster for my friend on maternity leave, because my baby turned 14 years old this week, and that seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I may explore that further in another post, but for now, back to work!

I have had many people ask me how I like my new job, and I am able to tell them truthfully that I love it. I only wish it were a full-time position instead of half-time because I always feel like I am leaving in the middle of something each day. I can't even express how grateful I am that I am having such a great time, since the journey to get here has been so long and complicated. My worst fear was that I would find out that all that school and hoop-jumping would be for a job that was, well, just a job. But this job is made for me. Not that it doesn't have its moments, it does.  I have kids who test the limits, kids that - at times - don't participate, and kids that give me lots of attitude.  But this job isn't a moment, it's a process, and knowing that I have the opportunity to make a difference in the next generation is both awesome and a bit overwhelming.  It's a lot of little moments, good and bad, that develop into a relationship that can help do something good.  At least, that is the hope.

So, three more weeks, and I'm done with my long-term sub assignment. Then it will be time to add that experience to my resume and hit the pavement for next fall's openings.  Wish me luck!

Friday, January 24, 2014

My First Week as a Working Mom

This working mother stuff is not for wimps.

I went back to work this week.  A friend of mine from library school had a baby, and she had asked me to cover for her during her maternity leave in a neighboring school district.  It's a half-time job, four days a week.  I alternate working in the mornings and afternoons, depending on what grade I teach that week.  I also had the opportunity to interview for a full-time position in our school district that came available over the Christmas holidays, but that didn't work out, although I did get to interview this time.  I'm quite sure that God knew what he was doing when I didn't get the full time job - just the half-time job is wearing me out!

Because of the holiday, I worked three days this week.  On Tuesday, I went to work, about 25 miles from our house, taught, and came home.  When I got home, Gracie looked like death warmed over.  She said her ear hurt, and it was obvious that she had been blowing her nose all day, as she looked like Rudolph with her red,  red nose.  She said she was well enough for her cello lesson, so we loaded up and went.  On the way home we did the grocery shopping (after Maggie texted me the grocery list, which I had left on the counter!) Back home we unloaded the groceries, and I got Maggie started on the preparation of dinner, then loaded Gracie back in the car for a trip to urgent care, where we found out she had a major ear infection.  Back home to eat, then back in the car to go get Gracie's scripts from the pharmacy, then back home, where I collapsed.

Day two was another busy day.  I got all our finances straightened out in the morning before work while Gracie slept in.  She stayed at home while I went to work.  I came home, picked up Maggie and took her to church, then headed to my night class at a local university (oh yeah, I'm a student again too!) and then ran errands before coming home and collapsing.

Day three.  Gracie headed back to school this morning, I went to a early doctor's appointment, then off to work.  I had hoped that a tank of gas would last a whole week with my new commute, and it might have, but my mileage range when I got in the car this morning was 57 miles, and as I mentioned, my new workplace is 25 miles away.  I really, REALLY didn't want to get gas, as it was 1 degree outside with the wind whipping down the plain, but I also really, Really, REALLY didn't want to run out of gas in that weather either, so I stopped for gas.  Can you say librarian-cicle? I was extremely grateful that there were no extra curricular activities when I got home that evening, so I moved up my collapsing routine to 4:30.  I had planned to take a 30 minute power-nap, but my tiredness got the better of me, and I slept until it was time to make dinner, and then helped Gracie with her mountain of homework left from missing a day of school.

I'm sure that I will get used to this new routine, but I don't think I had more than ten minutes to myself any day this week.  For someone who hasn't had a set schedule in almost 14 years, it's quite an adjustment!  I am so grateful that Jerry and my girls are so helpful.  Maggie was a real trooper to make dinner for us on Tuesday night.  I am also grateful to the folks I am working with, who made we feel welcome this week.  I think this is going to be a great experience!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Conflicting Resolutions

The last few years I have been pretty lax on the New Year's Resolutions.  They've all looked something like this:  

"Survive Graduate School."  

or, the ever popular: 

"Become a certified teacher."  

But now I've achieved both of those goals, so it's time to get back to those more mundane resolutions.  Traditionally I make ten, and see how I do.  Some years it's better than others.  I try to make a good balance of resolutions - some that are fun, and some that are challenging.  There have been ones that I thought were fun, and would be o-so-easy to keep, like, "Get a pedicure once a quarter" in 2007.  I did manage to get one, but man, I thought that would be an easy one, and I just never made the time.  

I always try to make my resolutions "SMART" goals that I heard so much about in the corporate world.  You know, Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound, so you know without question if you actually achieved it or not.  Lots of these I've missed the mark on, but still they improved my life, such as "Try a new recipe a week".  While I didn't try one every week, I did manage 19 of them over the year, which was (arguably) an improvement over zero.  

I have one resolution that I make year after year, and that is to do 365 scrapbook pages - one a day, theoretically, although it never happens that way.  I did manage to hit the goal once, in 2006, but usually I did between 150 to 280 on the years I didn't make the full amount.  It makes an appearance on my list again this year - and I'm determined to get to 365 as my backlog is now four years deep.  So far, I've done one page.  But I do have a weekend crop coming up!  

This year's list of resolutions has some repeats, like my scrapbook page goal, but some new ones too.  For the first time I have resolved to read the entire Bible in a year.  I've played with the idea before, but I usually get bogged down in the building of the tabernacle or some long genealogy or something.  This time I'm going with a plan on YouVersion that organizes the Bible chronologically.  So far I've made it through creation and Job.  I'd never made it through Job before, but now that I've been a mom for 13 years, 40 chapters of whining isn't as hard as it used to be, (ha, ha).  

What else made the list?  Oh, you can bet there's at least one each about improving my health, reading, encouraging family members, and serving others.  One thing I've noticed though, is that some of my resolutions conflict with each other.  For instance, I got a FitBit for Christmas, so one of my goals is to move a certain number of steps on a weekly basis.  Obviously, to do that, I can't sit still for long periods of time.  As of yet, I haven't figured out a way to scrapbook while on the move, but there's still plenty of the year left, I suppose.  In the meantime, I'm perfecting reading and walking at the same time.  It would probably be easier with a treadmill, but I don't see that happening either.  Hey!  Maybe a treadmill with a craft table built across the handlebars. . .  I could train for a marathon while I scrap!  Who's with me?  

So, what are your resolutions?  


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013!

I can't believe that 2013 will be gone in a matter of minutes.  Sixty-four of them, to be precise.  I know that people say that the older you get the faster time goes by, but enough already!  

So, probably last year I made an unofficial resolution to be a better blogger.  Unofficial, because I didn't write them down in my journal like I usually do.  Normally I make 10 resolutions (which, if I am bound by the statistics I read in the Parade yesterday means I keep approximately one a year.)  This post is my last ditch effort to keep that resolution.  If you look back at my blog, you'll see posts each January that "catch up" the last year's activities.  I figure that if I get them in the next 64, oops, down to 60 minutes, it counts as being current for the year, right?  So, let's catch up. . . 

In November the girls went camping with their Girl Scout troop at a nearby state park.  I subbed when I could, managing to hit Journalism, English, Algebra, Spanish, and (yea!) Media Specialist.  I also managed to get some coveted "Professional Development" hours - (27 down, 152 still to go!)  As I still don't have a regular job, I decided that the most economical way to get these hours would be to take some education courses at the local college in our town, so I am once again heading back to college.  I will start a "Technology for Teachers" class in January that is two credit hours - or 30 PD hours.  Hopefully this will help me compensate for my lack of teaching experience on my resume. 

November also brought our first bout of freezing rain, but it fell on a weekend.  Gracie was so disappointed that school did not get cancelled.  Not as disappointed as Jerry, I think, who was counting on a bad-weather day so much that he stayed up until 3:00 AM.  When we woke up and there was no nasty ice on the road, guess who had to get up and go to work anyway!  I was glad I had made the girls go to bed as usual!  We made a whirlwind trip to the Metroplex for Thanksgiving, but it was very rushed.  The girls got to take part my small hometown's parade of lights and ride on a float for Grandma's church. 

It was cold, but they had a great time.  We also used this opportunity to take family  pictures for our Christmas card.  It's amazing how many we have to take just to get one that everyone is happy with, even though the girls aren't little anymore.  Here's our final pic: 

After the pictures were taken, we had a little fun helping rake the leaves at Nana and Granddad's: 

The three littlest cousins were ready helpers, but grown-up Maggie stayed inside, far away from itchy leaves.  

They seemed to be having so much fun, I couldn't resist getting in on the action:

Yeah, those leaves are not as soft as they looked when the kids were jumping in them.  Luckily, my knight in shining armor was there to help me de-leaf.  

Isn't he so handsome!  

Then it was December!  (Good thing too, I'm down to 32 minutes, and I've gotta have time to spell-check!)  

The first week of December we got about five inches of snow - which I didn't take a single picture of.  I did have the urge to take a picture of our neighbor's yard guys mowing in the snow.  Oh well - no mowing, no payment, I guess!  

We had lots of festive going-ons, but the snowy weather meant that we had five days of doing nothing, followed by two weeks of frantic activity trying to get everything in before Christmas.  The girls and I did make our gingerbread houses while we were snowed in (another thing that had gotten pushed to January last year!)  We managed to get in our yearly outing to the Nutcracker:   

After the performance we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  Maggie was very excited to go back there, and then when we ordered she got. . . a cheese pizza!  Really?  a 30-odd page menu, and she gets cheese pizza?   We asked her if the pizza was great, and she said, "Meh."  Why then, we quizzed her, was she so excited to come to the Cheesecake Factory?  She looked at us with an exasperated look and said, "The CHEESECAKE!"  Well, duh!  

The girls had their winter concert in December - Gracie's first concert playing her cello, and Maggie's last winter concert of middle school.  

Gracie is in the center of the photograph - she's got a smile on her face!

Maggie is in the front row, third seat.  She is first chair, second violin, and section leader.  

The kids had worked really hard, and sounded fantastic.  (I'd post a video, but I'm down to 17 minutes, and I don't think it will load that fast!)

And then boom!  Christmas was upon us!  We headed down to the Metroplex a day early, because they were predicting another ice storm, so we left the day after the concert.  I hadn't had a chance to do my holiday baking, but I had already bought the ingredients, so I took them with me and made 10 batches of cookies at my mom's house.  We spent 10 days with family in Texas, and had a great time with everyone.  Ten days is a long time to be away from home for a homebody like me though, and I was glad to be back home and in my own bed last night.  

Maggie wanted Fruits Basket Manga - She got a fruit basket of Mangos!

The Simciks!  Love Will's face!

The girls listen to a custom storybook about Princess Weekend, featuring them!

Favorite gifts from Santa Claus

Me and my family tree frame.

Foster Family, original.

Foster Family, expanded!

And thus wraps up our December, and our 2013.  And there's nine minutes to spare - guess I'll go find a noisemaker and my fella to kiss.  Happy New Year!!!  May you and yours have a blessed 2014!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween Happenings

This year we bought our pumpkins early.  Jerry and Gracie went to the store and picked out some excellent pumpkins - plenty big for carving.  Gracie wanted to try one of the pattern books that you can buy at the store.  We had always just carved freehand before, but you never know if you'll like something until you try it, so we got a pattern book.  Of course, no matter what, the first step is to clean out the pumpkins! 

As usual, Gracie reveled in the gunky-ness of the pumpkin innards, while Maggie kept up a constant stream of, "EEEWW!".  

We all initially decided to try a pattern, but Maggie changed her mind once she tried to tape it on her pumpkin.  She decided to free-hand it after all. 

Jerry decided on a cyclops pattern, 

Gracie did a pumpkin-faced witch,

And I did the cat.  Maggie's didn't quite turn out the way she had intended, and she was not happy about that, but I think it gave our lineup some much needed character.

With the carving out of the way and the girls off to bed, I tackled the next aspect of Halloween - a costume.  We had recently introduced the girls to the original Star Wars trilogy, and Gracie had expressed a desire to be Princess Leia for Halloween - although she did not want the braids on the side of her head.  We tried to tell her that was what made a Princess Leia costume, but she was having none of it.  Then this morning (the day before Halloween, she changed her mind.  She wanted to be a fox.  Normally I would not entertain a change of costume at this late juncture, but since I had done nothing to get a Leia costume together, (and I really thought a fox would be easier) I acquiesced.  I gathered the required supplies that afternoon: 

And voila!  A fox is born!  I asked her if she was prepared for everyone to ask her, "What does the fox say?" all night, and she assured me she was, and even did a song and dance for me, but she pretty flatly refused once we were at trunk or treat.

Maggie's original plan was to be a character from one of her many self-authored short stories, but when I asked her what that costume would look like, it was suspiciously like what she had worn to school that day, with a name tag that says, "Hello, my name is Pippa O'Ryan".  I told her that was fine, but that she might get some folks who wouldn't want to give her candy if she looked like a teen-ager that hadn't bothered to get dressed up in a costume. After some thought, she went as this: 

And no, she wasn't Hermione - she was a Hufflepuff disguised by Polyjuice Potion as a Griffindor!    

Ah, my little ghouls are growing up!  

First we went to our church's trunk-or-treat, where Maggie helped man the booth her Sunday School group had put together (Sesame Street Theme!) 

Gracie ran across a friend from school dressed as Si - 

And they tried their hand at the games of skill: 


Whoda thunk that Uncle Si could hula-hoop?

Once we got home Gracie realized she hadn't painted her face, so we got her all dolled up:

And then we joined our neighbors for our annual romp around the neighborhood!

We only covered two streets, but the girls still had a candy haul that should keep them sugared up until Easter.  

As long as mommy doesn't find the candy stash!