The reason play-dough makes me pause

ingredients for play doughAs a preschool teacher, one of the “Rights of Passage” is being able to make play dough. This gooey mixture of flour, salt, oil, water, food coloring, and cream of tartar is an art form all its own. No matter how perfect my measurements, it never comes out the same every time.

This tool is used to create all sorts of imaginary friends, foods, and creatures.

As I begin the undertaking of making play dough, I find it best to be prepared for each step. Making a plan for myself, I thoughtfully lay out my ingredients, careful to measure according to the recipe, knowing my outcome will be different from the last time, no matter what. Instead of being frustrated by this, I embrace it, regardless.messy play dough

The steps of this process are specific, and if one is missed, it can leave you totally exasperated with a big mess on your hands.

The same can be said of being a preschool teacher. Each child is a little different. They all have their basic needs which are the same: food, water, shelter, safety (thanks to  Abraham Maslow).maslow's heirarchy of needs Each comes from a different home, and a different background. No two will turn out the same. We need to take the time to look, read the history that parents provide us, and truly listen to student and parent when they talk.

It is easy to look at the play dough recipe and rush through the process, skipping integral steps along the way. Sometimes, this can be done, and the turn out is good play dough. Other times, this is done, and leaves you with a liquid or crumbly mess.  The same can be said of parents and teachers. Sometimes we want that next step to be here. We crave knowing when they will sleep through the night, roll over, walk, say mama, be potty trained, write their name, read a book, go to high school, go to college. It often feels like life is a series of next steps. When we look at the next step too much, we may be unable to see the simple steps being taken in the right now.

perfect play doughWhen play dough is made correctly it is soft but firm, is not sticky, has a smooth consistency, and can be used to teach little fingers how to pinch, roll, and make a mistake and then move on from it. It also can be used to create a masterpiece, left to dry and become concrete, and given as a present that will become a memory for a lifetime.

The same can be said about teaching. If it is done correctly, it is soft, but firm, not attached, but loving, and will teach little minds to think, be confident, Make connections, and move on from trials with grace. It also will create a pattern of memories that will become concrete in thinking, reading, and dealing with others that will last a lifetime.

Play dough and teaching go hand in hand.

creative play doughNow I am beginning to understand how this once bane of my existence as a preschool teacher is a tool that has helped me to become a better teacher.

love play doughWhen I work with a student, I am always looking for the right consistency to use with them. I have to stop, look at the recipe, and make sure I am not skipping any steps. This isn’t always easy.  It requires planning, reflection, and implementation. Reflection as a teacher is key to helping my students succeed, and learning about their family, home, and past helps me realize which ingredients have already been added so I can mix appropriately, kneed the dough of their beautiful young minds, and help them create those memories which become learned to shape their future.

It is not about the product but the process!
It is not about the product but the process!

What life lesson could you learn from a simple recipe?

Play dough – cookies – brownies – stew – lasagna -fudge

Share with me, so we can all learn from each others life lessons!

How do you do it? A question I hear a lot!

a schedule to keepI often get asked, “How do you do everything you do?”

Truthfully there are times that I don’t even know how I do it.

I try as hard as I can to get everything done for everyone, and often I fall a little short. For the most part, things go smoothly, but then a business trip for my husband, or a track meet for the boys throws a monkey wrench into the mix.
Here is how I (mostly) keep it all together:

  1. a morning coffeeCoffee – I suffer from migraines. I have tried many different remedies over the years, and the easiest and most tried and true for me is two cups of caffeine in the morning. This plus a protein filled breakfast like eggs with veggies and cheese or (on a day where we are running out the door) a protein shake made with almond milk and  peanut butter. A good start to my day is imperative to everything working together.
  2. a calendar lookCalendars – Steve and I have calendars that connect to each other. My school schedule, the boys piano lessons, track practices and meets doctors appointments, even what day our dog gets her heart worm medication is all on the calendar. Without the calendar, we  would be lost. I used to use a paper calendar, but sharing that was next to impossible, and we were missing appointments. Once we shared a Google calendar it helped us to be on the same page with our commitments. Steve is the king of inserting into a calendar, and I let him because, well, I loathe it!
  3. Communication – Plain and simple. We do not schedule ANYTHING without checking with each other. we schedule our nights with friends and dates in advance. We have to because our commitments are many right now.
  4. Ignoring spam emails – I have over 2000 unread emails, 99% of them are from a store/stores I have shopped in at some point in time. I just do not take the time to delete them. so they go unread. It kills my organized everything has to be done side, but it has taught me to be okay with not getting everything done.
  5. Choosing to help the boys with their work before mine – My children need their mother. When I am home, their homework comes before mine. Even if I have a final exam to finish, they come first. I have spent hours working on a writing project with one boy and then stayed up way late writing my own paper. I have to put them first because they need me.
  6. Staying up late/waking up early – I stay up some nights until 1 or 2 in the morning to write a paper, read a text book, or plan a lesson. I also have woken up with my husband at 4 AM and while he heads to the Gym (crazy, right?) I will write a blog post or a paper, or plan a lesson for the next week. Sleep is something that alludes me, however, I get plenty of it during vacations, summer, and Saturdays (sometimes).
  7. a school scheduleChoosing a school schedule that does not interfere with the boys schedule– This is super hard. I try to pick a schedule that has me away from home for just one whole night, or online classes where I can work from home, or before I was teaching during the day. As I near the end of this degree, I am having to take classes three days a week away from home, and one of those days is Saturday from 9AM-2PM and it is a biology lab. I wish I hadn’t saved that till the end! My second degree will take place online 100% and will be one class at a time for 5 weeks at a time. so much more manageable. I start that in August.
  8. Spending one afternoon a week at school to write lesson plans (so I don’t bring them home) – This is huge. I spend usually Thursday afternoon at school cleaning up my classroom materials, planning stories and crafts, and organizing my collected work from my students. This has been instrumental in my teaching being a non-stress in my life. I enjoy teaching, and this method of planning has been key to a successful year so far! I often am willing to pay for resources from Teachers Pay Teachers to reduce my stress in planning. very helpful to not reinvent the wheel.
  9. Spending as much available time with my boys – When I do have time at home with them, I enjoy playing a video game, a board game, building Lego sets with them, and even a game of Minecraft on our tablets together. I try to meet them where they are, and spend as much time as possible building positive memories. we even enjoy 30 minute reading breaks together when things are getting crazy!
  10. Planning ahead – but not over-committing – We plan our family and friend events in advance, so they are set in the calendar, but we do not over-commit. we try to be fair and have time with everyone, however lately, we have focused on our nuclear family more. The boys were needing some family of 5 time, and that was important to recognize. We also keep family events low key by making them: potluck, board games, casual, and come and go as you can. With so many family members in our extended family, it can be hard to fit everyone’s schedule.  The boys commitments are minimal as well. They all take piano lessons, and run on the race team for our local youth sports league. These are manageable, and Steve is a runner (more than me) and I can read music and play piano, so I can help with those practice sessions. Simple is the key to not over-committing.
  11. a me time collageMaking time for me – This is crucial. With teaching, and being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, and a coach, I need to be sure I do things for me. It is always hard to take the time as I feel selfish saying, “I need some time for me.” It is necessary however to do so. How do I enjoy spending my “Me” time? I love to read and even enjoy an audiobook when my time to hold a book is limited, I used to run more but now I have a trainer so I go for a workout and sometimes a run, I love to play board/card games and these things are brain breaks for me but involve family, I like to color in my amazing coloring books I got from my best friend, I like to get a Starbucks and walk around Target looking for nothing,  I love to bake for others as we do not eat a lot of sweets here, and I love to watch a movie. I also spend time with my friends. I truthfully have one amazing friend who has been key to me staying on course. I go to her house and stay until midnight, she comes to mine and stays until late. she is the inspiration and support for me growing my blog, and really finding myself in it. Time for me often includes time with her as she is my best friend, and I need her around to keep me sane, knock me off of my pedestal, and to need me in return. being needed is a wonderful feeling, and I am glad that I have a friend who I can lean on.
  12. a moment aloneMy husbandSteve is a rock. He manages the calendar, takes the boys to the doctors, the dentist, pays the bills, grocery shops, does laundry, and cleans the house. He has picked up all of the things that I dropped. He also works full time. All the time. He is always answering an email, preparing a quote for a customer, or handling a situation with a tech or engineer. He has so much knowledge, and is so much more organized than I am, and I am fairly organized. He knows where I put my keys, where the boys need to be, and what I wore yesterday (when I can’t remember). He holds me when I cry over nothing in my closet looking right. He puts up with my clothes all over the bedroom because putting away my laundry is something I haven’t had time for. he laughs with me, makes my coffee, kisses my forehead while I am writing, and brings me snacks. He also entertains the boys, and for Christmas purchased every workout item I asked for without a blink, even though he had already purchased me the iPad I had been begging for (mine was obsolete and dying, and I was being a brat, I know this). He has been the stand holding me up while I have been barely standing up. The stress of my studies this semester was the worst, and he guided me through it with patience, understanding, and love. I am not worthy, but I openly accept it!
  13. a boy thingMy boys – My children are old enough to do a lot of things for themselves. They do laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, feed and walk the dog, sweep floors, clean mirrors and windows, make breakfast for themselves/each other, prep most of their lunches, and read, do homework and practice piano without question. They realize that mom is in school and busy, but that I love them more than anything. They know I love early morning snuggles, tickle fights, a good session of Minecraft and talking about Star Wars or Legos or both! I pray they understand that me completing my degree is as much for them as it is for me, and I hope they see my studying as a model for the hard work it takes to get good grades and work for what you want out of your education.
  14. My family – My mother and father have been supportive of me going back to school as a mom. They have helped with the boys when Steve has a business trip, read papers for errors, and been council on what my next step should be. my brother and sister have hardly seen me as I have not been around a lot with school and the boys, and they are able to communicate with me and let me know that they get it. my nieces and nephew I don’t get to spend as much time with as I like, but when I do, they are my priority, having fun, making memories. My mother and father in law have helped as well, taking turns with my parents in helping with the boys when school has kept me from being mom. It is actually amazing how a family can lean on each other and  support each other through something that should be simple. College as a mom in your 30’s is not easy, and you need a village. I have given up being the mom that can volunteer for  school events, or field trips. I have given up weeknight bible studies so I can be home or at class. I have stopped some of the things I love, but my family has supported me through it, and I love that!
  15. a end of day momentWine -I enjoy a glass (or 2) of red wine. It helps me unwind at the end of the day, reflect on all I have accomplished, and realize that I am an adult, “adulting” really hard, and I deserve a small break at the end of a long day.  I sometimes replace wine with tea, but I get the same effect.

 

 

 

The reality of it all is that I do not get everything done in a day. A lot of things fall between the cracks. A lot of things never happen. I forget birthdays are coming up, or a special show I was supposed to record, or a promise of a book read at night that I don’t make it home in time for. I cry a lot about that, but I cannot let it hold me back. No one can do it all. and if they tell you they can they are lying to your face. It is not easy, It sucks most days, but at the end of the day, you do the best you can, ask for forgiveness/acceptance/love, and you move forward, it is all you can do!

How do you make your busy schedule work? Do you have any tips for others about how to make a busy schedule less busy? do you need support through something? leave a comment let me know, and maybe someone else can offer support!

Blessings for a happy 2016!

Love

Melendy

Blog it Forward

cropped-mamaisonlyhuman-blog-label-1.jpgI logged into facebook tonight and was greeted by a beautiful challenge from a friend. It was not directed at me, but when Chelley posts something that touches my heart, I try to respond.

Well today’s message was striking as it was about giving back.

We try to give back often, and visibly for the boys. At Christmas time it can be hard to keep the giving spirit for them when everyone is asking them what they want. My boys always do something for their teachers every year. A gift card, a hand made present, a picture they drew.  This year we did something completely different.

The boys were asking about the children we sponsor, and how to help them. They were asking on the day we received the catalog for Christmas giving. They looked through it more vigourosly than the Toy ads. They decided on three rabbits, money for education in the US, money for education outside of the US, seeds for one family to plant a harvest, and four soccer balls. These gifts will go to children who live in places where poverty is flourishing. These gifts will be the first of many.

The boys wrote notes to their teachers letting them know the donations that were made in their honor.   To my surprise, the teachers responded happily, and with notes of true gratitude. My boys came home with  such joy that their presents made their teachers happy. They couldn’t wait to give again.

They obviously do not have such a giving spirit every day. I hope this small teaching moment, repeated often, will allow them to see the good they can do for others.

It is not just money though. reminding them to hold doors, use their manners, and be respectful are just as important. I pray that if they see someone struggling with a bag, finding change, or even with a dead battery on the side of the road, that they will use available resources to help that person.

How can you give back? Pay it forward? What will you do?

 

I am challenging Lisa who has three boys like me. We have known each other for almost 10 years, and truly live parallel lives. We even share a birthday! We both love to give to others, and I know she will be willing to blog it forward!

 

I am also challenging Paula who is someone new to me. She follows my blog, comments, and seems to be working hard to overcome her fears and struggles with working out. I am sure she will take the challenge to pay it forward!

Feel free to join me and many other bloggers in “blogging it forward”

Head Here to see how you can help!

 

Happy holiday season!

Love,

Melendy

 

Perception of my mom…

My moms favorite flower is a yellow rose. Ironically, it symbolizes friendship, which I am so grateful we have.
My moms favorite flower is a yellow rose. Ironically, it symbolizes friendship, which I am so grateful we have.

Perception.

~the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
~a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
~intuitive understanding and insight.
The way a person sees an event or actions.
Each person has their own perception. No two people see things the same way. How boring would the world be if we did? Somehow in our own perceptions we need to be able to bend our view to the views of others.
Sometimes even our friends can teach us a thing or two about perception.
In having a conversation with my friend about parents I realized each of us was raised in a different way.
My friend unfortunately lost her father at the age of 13. It was and still is devastating. He was her daddy. He loved her the way only a dad can love a daughter. He protected her, and guided her. She misses him. I could never begin to comprehend losing my father like that, because I didn’t. That does not mean I can’t be friends with her. It means I have to bend my view to reflect hers in moments of intense emotional conversations.
not great pictures of either of us, but 12 hours apart, we are wearing the same outfit. Subconsciously I remembered what she wore, and picked it when I got dressed the next day. this happens way too often.
not great pictures of either of us, but 12 hours apart, we are wearing the same outfit. Subconsciously I remembered what she wore, and picked it when I got dressed the next day. this happens way too often.

We started talking about life while she was nursing her daughter. It hit a spot with me. I love my mother dearly. We are both teachers, we both have the same personality, and we both even end up wearing the same outfit on occasion. Very often we end up wearing the same color pallet on the same day, and even comment how we almost wore something else, and we both say the same thing. We have a bond that is close. Psychologist Erik Erickson would say this bond was formed while nursing. The whole Trust vs. Mistrust stage of life.   Unfortunately, my mother tried, and was unable to breastfeed me. She never told me. She never harped on it. She didn’t have the internet to search for my symptoms, find a friend, complain to the world and then get support. She just fed me. Breast or bottle, she fed me. Thankfully, because I am here. I only know this as an adult because I asked when in school we talked about breast vs. bottle. I asked again as an adult nursing my first child.  I wanted to know if nursing felt for her the way it felt for me.

I had sleep apnea as an infant. This meant that I stopped breathing in my sleep. To this day, I have problems breathing through my nose. This obstruction would make nursing difficult for sure because while you nurse, your nose is your primary source of oxygen.  My mother spent months sleeping upright in a recliner, with me on her chest, so that I wouldn’t stop breathing in my sleep. She sacrificed her own mental health for my life. During the day, she walked around with a smile on her face. She brought me to preschool and dance and the zoo. She is my mom. She did what she needed to do. She never once brought this up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what my mom sacrificed for me to live.
As a teen, and even into young adulthood I resented her for a long time for nursing my sister and brother and not me. I have even gone as far as to blame my weight issues on her lack of breastfeeding efforts to her face. The say “Ignorance is bliss” I say that “they” (whomever they are) do not realize how powerful knowledge is. How powerful empathy is. The depths of knowledge we gain as we age are unlimited.
I gained perception…
I know better now.
I was her first.
She tried, and cried, and decided to love me to life. I choked when I nursed. I cannot imagine how much that scared her. So, she held me, slept upright with me,  sang to me, and fed me a bottle. In turn,  I survived and was loved. As a parent now, I would wish nothing else for my own children. The love a mother brings is special. It is different than other love. The pressure we have as moms today is huge. I imagine the pressure then was no different. Just different.
Perception…
As I journey further into motherhood, and teaching, I realize that the moments my mother frustrates me the most, are the moments she is holding me up to be certain I don’t fall. I often revert to teenage brat who does not need my mom to tell me how to do it. The moments she is choosing to speak up, are the moments I am screaming with my fingers in my ears “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!”. The moments she tries to show me how to do something, I am three and screaming “I do it myself!”  And yet, she keeps talking, she keeps holding, and she keeps showing.  After all, that is what our moms do.
I wish I could do it over.
I wish I could grab that three year old, swoop her off her feet and say, “Do you see your mommy crying in the car? That is because she has to go to work and leave you with her parents and she just wants to be with you!”
I wish I could grab that 13 year old brat by the shoulders and say , ” you are so ungrateful!” ” your mother is working two jobs full time and finishing her Masters degree and she dry walled a room in the basement while your father is ill so you could have your ‘privacy’ you so desperately asked for!” “Thank her, love her, do you know what she sacrificed for you?”
But I can’t.
I thank her now. I drive her to the doctors when she needs a ride, or just a companion.  I talk with her on the phone for hours about nothing because we both need a bent ear.  I buy her books for school because we both love them, she buys them for me as well. I go on vacation with her because I can. We drink “Blue Drinks” and dance in the pool. I want to be with her now, because I overlooked all of those years. I did not want to be with her, I resented her presence because unfortunately that is what children do when they are teenagers. We both are a lot alike. Stubborn and brave.
Perception
Now I choose to spend my time loving my parents. Being present. Making phone calls. Just listening. Why? Because I get it. I don’t get it. But I get it. As our perception changes, so do our parents and our children. In reality, we change.
This picture is the one I see when I think of my mom and me. She loved and does love me. I see it here, and I see it in everything we do.
This picture is the one I see when I think of my mom and me. She loved and does love me. I see it here, and I see it in everything we do.

There is No Pause Button

palm trees just feel like home.
palm trees just feel like home.

We are egotistical creatures. We protect ourselves. Relationships with others can be hard and confusing.  I have always struggled with friendships. I worry if the person really likes me, or if they are playing a cruel game. I worry they laugh about me behind my back. Most of this stems from real life situations, childhood scars that I haven’t taken the time to open up and pour a healing balm of knowledge on. Some are just my own insecurities.  I find it hard to trust others. My relationship with my best friend, the only who knows everything, the one who supports everything, is not this way.

Our friendship has been fast growing, and a really important part of my healing. She believes in me. She pushed me to write, to grow my writing, and myself. She has pushed me through races telling me to “suck it up buttercup.” Those words were true, and are today. I may have taken a pause for vacation, but that does not mean that the rest of the world did. That would be my ego, thinking that I was responsible for the world.

The world did not pause. While we were away, something wonderful happened. My best friend, who lives a 5 minute walk away,  sold her house, and purchased a new one. I am beyond thrilled that she has found their forever home, and that it is almost a reality! This new house is much further away, and not one I can walk to. It is a short drive away though. I am glad she will be close enough for a visit, and I know her friendship isn’t going anywhere.

on the other side of these flowers was the shell of a baby sea turtle who did not make the journey to the sea.
on the other side of these flowers was the shell of a baby sea turtle who did not make the journey to the sea.

I am only sad because I wasn’t here. She has been preparing for this moment for over two years. A wonderful Realtor, a beautiful house, and fresh baked cookies at every open house. She has dreamed of their forever home for a long time. We have purged over online listings, driven past houses in the dark, and dreamed of what we would do to change our dream houses. This is the moment you look forward to. I wasn’t here.  I couldn’t go over with a bottle of wine and a packing tape gun and help her work. I couldn’t even answer my phone when she called to tell me the news. I was there on the beach…I wasn’t here with my friend.

In my mind, this was a turning point moment in our friendship. All of the old feelings came back. Is she mad? Was she hurt? How do I make up for being 1300 miles away when she had the happiest news of her life? (okay maybe 4th happiest with two children and a spouse!) Then she called. As we were heading home, she called. She wanted to know when I was coming back, and when we could see each other. I was relieved. I still have not seen her as our schedules are crazy right now, but, I know she wants me to be a part of her life.

So grateful for this lady in my life!
So grateful for this lady in my life!

When we work within relationships with other people, we have to remember that there are many points of view. If we always look from our own, we may miss a moment that is important to someone else. I was worried, she was elated to have made this step. I thought she would push me away because I wasn’t there. She drew me in. We cannot let our perspective cloud our ability to see the other side of the fence.