Monday, November 30, 2015

A Lot Can Happen In 7 months...

7 months, holy blog strike?!  I seriously never anticipated that long of a unintentional break!!  So A LOT has happened in 7 is a brief recap, and I am sure in the next month I will catch up, hopefully!

I finished my first year of substitute teaching, and Eric and I went to Florida for our 10 year anniversary.  Subbing was a wonderful experience, like unforgettable and huge learning curve.  Our 10 year trip was a nice break in the action, and a fun getaway.  When we returned it was the last week of school for Miss Molly and Miss Lucy.  Lucy finished her first year of preschool, and was relieved to have survived!  Molly graduated from the 2nd grade and had a fun last week at school.  I was able to be at a lot of different last week of school activities, which I love.  Molly had a fabulous teacher for second grade, one we miss terribly!  She is an awesome, loving, caring, generous lady who deserves so many accolades, yet hardly acknowledges how amazing she truly is.

I started grad school this month.  My intent was to obtain my teaching license in K-3, and possibly a reading endorsement.  I enrolled in 6 classes.  The first class started in June, and lasted 4 weeks.  I loved it!  I loved getting back into school.  Sure the papers and the whole do 16 weeks of work in 4 was incredibly hard, but it was exhilarating, too.

June was also the month Eric's dad was officially diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  He had been misdiagnosed for a couple months before, we were told he had bronchitis that wouldn't go away.  Not true.  By the time the diagnosis had come the cancer had spread to his lungs, throat, shoulder, brain, and lymph-nodes.  We were looking at time, not recovery.  He started radiation right away.  This diagnosis flipped our world upside down.

June was also spent at the pool.  We got a membership to a local pool for the first time ever.  The girls enjoyed it a lot!  So in between papers and studying we tried to spend as much time as the weather would allow at the pool.

School work intensified, I was not enrolled in 5 classes in 4 weeks.  This was the most stressful time of my life.  I was in 2 online classes, and 3 classes in the actual classroom.  I went to school Mon/Wed nights from 4-9, and Tues/Thurs from 11am-9pm.  It was brutal.  I have never studied harder, worked harder, or lost as much sleep as I did taking these classes.  At times I was the oldest in my classes, and probably the furthest from being in school.  But when it was all said and done I felt so proud of myself.  I got all A's, made the dean's list, only to...continued in August.  

The girls spent 2 weeks at my mom's house during July.  It was the perfect timing, too.  I could not have imagined being in the thick of work trying to entertain them and not feel guilty for working on the computer for hours on end.  My father-in-law still was battling cancer.  He started chemotherapy in July, and almost died from it.

I wanted to soak up as much of August as possible because I was enrolled in 6 more classes plus observation for the fall semester.  To be honest I was really stressed about making it all work, and feeling like I was pushing the timeline too quick, but kept trying to get over it.  We went to the pool, visited my FIL as much as possible, and then one day I got a call out of the blue offering me a position as an elementary school counselor.  I was so blown away and shocked.  I didn't even know this position was available, let alone I never applied for it.  I do not have a school license, just a clinical license.  So I am not officially "qualified."  I was hesitant at first because I was working so hard at becoming a teacher and didn't want to say goodbye to all my efforts over the summer.  I came in to interview on a Monday morning, like 2 weeks before school started.  I was offered the position on Tuesday morning.  So I accepted.  Eric and I felt like God swung this door wide open for a reason.  I don't know what the reason exactly is, but I figured I might as well walk through it and experience everything I can working with preschoolers-6th graders.  My school is outside the town we live in, it's considered a county school, and it's smaller than our city school.  I love it, and I love the people I work with.  The kids are amazing, and I seriously could not be happier.  I enjoy coming to work everyday and it honestly does not feel like work.  I still counsel kids, but also because it is a smaller setting, I teach guidance daily in the classroom.  So I still get my teacher fix.  It's like the best of both worlds.  It's been one of the biggest blessings ever in my life.

August was a downhill month for my FIL.  The day I interviewed at the school we got the call that he was going to pass away that night.  We all gathered and prayed, cried, and prayed some more.  I spent the night with my mother-in-law at the hospital.  I held my FIL's hand and cried.  He didn't pass that night, he actually got better for a couple of days.  The emotional roller coaster of the situation was starting to wear us all down.  He wanted to continue with chemo, which each time he would get another around of it, he would end up in ICU.  We eventually opted for no more chemo.

Molly started 3rd grade, and Lucy started a pre-k program that is affiliated with our school district.  Both girls love school, and have matured a lot in a little bit of time.  I start as a full time school counselor and think what have I gotten myself into, ha!

We are in the full swing of morning routines and after school pick ups.  In order for me to take this position we needed to find childcare ASAP.  Eric's dad was supposed to watch Lucy this school year, and I would pick Molly up after school each day.  Well plans have changed.  We found a wonderful babysitter for Lucy whose daughter is in Lucy's class at school, and Molly got into our after school program even though there was a wait list.  Everything fell into place in a matter of days, so we felt like this was another affirmation that taking the job was the right thing to do.

Molly was elected into student council.  Like a good politician's family we waffled if she should run or not.  With her anxiety we were nervous if she didn't win, what the fall out would be.  She wrote a speech and practiced it, and was confident of running and winning.  Thankfully she did win, and she takes her position very seriously!  She has loved being a part of something bigger, and feeling like she has a part to play.  It's been great seeing her become more responsible and active at school.

Lucy and Molly both played soccer each week, that was until Molly fell and broke her arm.  She did that the first week of school.  Molly fell off the monkey bars, and snap goes the wrist.  That was a first for us.  And a first for me.  I was the parent that didn't go to the hospital, Eric handled it all.  I was unable to be reached at school, so by the time I got the message Eric and Molly were already getting x-rays and it was all taken care of.  That was a hard day for me.  I am used to being the one who is always there, and I wasn't that day.  Eric is more than capable of doing it, it was just a hard mom moment for me.

Lucy played a full season of soccer and loved every minute of it.  She was actually way better than we thought she would be.  Lucy has a killer instinct in her.  Molly was able to play in the last tournament of the season, which was fun.  Our team came in 2nd place, we were so close to 1st!!

Lots of the, school, school, church...

Our church celebrated our first year of life!  It was awesome.  Most new churches do not make it a year, so the fact that we did is reason to celebrate.  A lot has happened in a year.  Our year celebration was bittersweet because Eric's dad passed away a couple days before it.  Celebrating was hard because his dad was so stinking proud of our church, even when he couldn't stand anymore, he still greeted people from a wheelchair at the door.

Losing Eric's dad has been incredibly hard.  Incredibly hard.  He was an amazing man that seriously was the definition of humble and generous.  So many people came to the visitation and funeral.  It was awesome to see how many people he had impacted his short 67 years on earth.  Eric performed the funeral and did an incredible job.  His dad left a strong legacy and I pray people come to know Jesus because of him.  We are still grieving and will be for a long time.  Lucy has had a difficult time with not seeing my FIL daily.  They were pals, buddies, and did a lot together.  I am so glad they had a whole year together that she remembers.  I am so glad we lived with them for 9 months, and I spent every day with him during that time.  And I am so glad we were all together at the end.  The most important things in my FIL's life were God and his family.  I hope we make him proud by sticking together.  Man I miss him so much.

I am cashed for now.  I just gave you all very broad details, ha!!  I will catch up with November soon, and then December.


Friday, April 24, 2015

My Last Day of Middle School

Today is my last day at the middle school I am subbing at.  I have been here almost 3 months!  Eric asked me last night if I would be sad leaving today.  Honestly, part of me is and part of me isn't.  The thing about subbing is it's not your "real job."  It's someone else's office or classroom, they aren't your kids, you follow someone else's plans, etc.  Being a substitute is great because of the flexibility and not having to worry about writing lesson plans, but it's also hard because it's so temporary.  At least for me this is how it feels.

I have come to know a lot of kids at the middle school, and I know I will often wonder how they are doing.  I have bonded with one kid in particular who just experienced a significant loss in his life. Talking with him takes me back to my 14 year old self when my brother just died.  I will miss him and our chats.  And I will always wonder if a certain visitor to my office will graduate high school or not.

As for 6th grade girl drama, I will not miss that, ha!  Actually, all the drama makes me sad because at some point in their life they have been failed big time by someone who cared about them.  A lot of the drama comes from hurt and anger, and not knowing how to deal with those emotions.

Working in a middle school whether you are a full time staff member or substitute takes a lot out of you.  I think middle school is tough.  Teachers deal with a lot, and so do students.  It's a huge transition for everyone.  You plant a lot of seeds in middle school and you never know what type of fruit you will produce.

I am already booked to sub next week, too.  There goes my dream of some time off!  But next week I am back with elementary students, which is more my cup of tea.

Subbing at the middle school level has been a huge blessing, learning experience, and great opportunity for me.  I am incredibly thankful for my time here, and also I am excited to sleep in a little later, too.  Middle school starts so early!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April Goals

Last month I posted about my goals for March.  While I would love to tell you I checked every single one off the list, I would be a liar.  But here's what setting goals did for me-I actually felt more motivated and challenged through the month.  I felt more purposeful and planned, too.  So although, I kinda blew it in March, I am going for it again in April, well what's left of it at least!

Recap of March Goals:

1. Teaching Licensure Program Enrollment- I am accepted, enrolled, and registered for classes this summer and fall.

2. Financial Aid- Everything is filled out and turned in.

3. Run 50 miles this month- This one is laughable!  I think I might have ran 15 miles...I will say I hurt my ankle wrestling with the kids, so it's been swollen and sore, so I really haven't pushed it too much.  But I do go to 3 workout classes at the Y each week.  So I have been doing that.

4. Have 2 new couples/families over for dinner- This one was not for the lack of trying, darn schedules!  But we were able to reconnect with old friends and have dinner with them.  We are still trying this month to have new people over or go out with new friends.

5. Meal Plan- We have done pretty well, I would say 75% success rate.  

6. Date my kids- I accomplished this one.  Each girl got special time with me, and we had lots of fun!

7. Catch up on my Bible reading plan- Yes, I finished!  It was a lot, and it was hard work, but I completed it and earned my little badge on the YouVersion app. 

Now onto some goals for April...

1. Eat clean (80/20) and workout 4-5 days a week- my 3 workout classes I take at the Y are great, although I take 2 in one I need to up my game with the other days.

2. Read 2 books-
Up At Night by Pete Wilson- I am on the launch team for this book
The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids by Sally Yahnke Walker

3. Go one a date with my husband- we are really bad at this, and we are going to Florida for a week in May for our 10 year anniversary, but I would love to go on a date with him before that.

4. Print pictures off from Lucy's birthday- I am down right awful at printing pictures.  For Lucy's birthday we had a photo booth with Anna and Elsa, and I told the parents I would get them copies of the pictures I took, umm that was in December.  I need to do this!

I think that about does it for April.  I am taking 6 classes this summer for my teaching certificate/masters in education program.  So I am really trying to simplify life and enjoy it now, because come June 1st, whoa watch out.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Parenting is Tough, but Worth It

It's Friday, Friday, Friday...let that song run through your head.  I know, now it's stuck.

Today is the last school day before spring break, all teachers, staff, and parents say AMEN.  Even if you don't have big plans for break I think we all can agree the break from routine and signing assignment books is a welcomed one.  Our weather has been awful.  We get rain, clouds, snow, more rain, more snow, more spring break feels like it has taken forever to finally arrive.  And our forecast for break is a cold one, but at least we can stay indoors and have a movie marathon or something.

Have you been following the Today Show and all their parenting blogs, on air spots, and what nots?  I admittedly have not read most of the articles, okay, okay, I only read Jen Hatmaker's posts for the website.  It's really got me thinking.  Parenting is so hard, and so tiring, and so fill in the blank.  And yet parenting is worth it, and so rewarding, and fulfilling.  Last night we were out with friends eating dinner and we brought the girls, and I am not going to lie, there were numerous times throughout dinner I thought to myself; "why didn't we get a sitter?!"  I know I am not alone.  And even though it was painful for me to watch them with their less than stellar manners, I am sure our friends were clueless that our kids were breaking every rule and warning I gave them in the car and on the way into the restaurant.

Parenting is sacred work.  It really is.  My faith has had to grow along with my parenting.  There are some days I literally pray to God, please shut their mouths, please wash a sense of drowsiness over them, dear Lord, I can not be the nice mom anymore!  Then there are times when they don't realize I am watching them and I thank God for their kind hearts, their ability to include others and share.  A huge sense of gratitude floods my heart, then one of my kids will look over and say; "Are you crying?  Why are you crying?"

Sometimes when I go to bed exhausted at night because Molly has had another round of anxiety overcome her, or Lucy has decided she is going to exert her strong will until she is blue in the face, I wonder what my kids will remember.  Will they remember the times we scrapped plans and went and did something fun, or will they remember me for constantly nit-picking their messes, or loosing my cool every Sunday morning before church.  Will they know I would walk all over the world for them, or lay down my life for them.


I pray my kids look back some day and think wow, we were loved really well.  Eric and I try our best, we fail a lot, a lot.  We are learning every single day what a parent is, how a parent acts, and what parents do.  I wish I had some magical book or potion to make life all better, to take away the hurts I unintentionally cause my kids, or my husband.  But I don't.

What I do have is each new day to show love to my kids and husband, and to let them know through my words and actions how much they mean to me.  How truly grateful I am for them.

I often have to remind myself that God gave me Molly and Lucy for a reason, I was made to be their mom, I am the one for the job.  It's through that great faith in me, I place great faith in God to help me raise these girls.

I used to be the perfect parent, before I had kids, I knew exactly what I would do in every situation that arose, and how my kids were not going to act like those kids, and my kids would do this and not that.  Wasn't I cute at one time?  Oh I have the loud kids, the tough and rumble kids, the not always polite kids, those kids.  But those kids I have also love with an intensity like no other, and are loyal, kind, and have good hearts.  And those are the best kids to have.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Today as I was getting ready to head to the middle school I am subbing at I thought "you can't teach kindness, it comes from the heart."  

I have been really challenged the last couple of weeks with being kind.  More specifically what does kindness look like, when is it being nice vs being kind?  Working with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders everyday I see what kindness does not look like, and rarely see what it does look like.

The funny thing about kindness is it truly does not matter your background, your income, your living standards, your education, your {fill in the blank}.  Kindness transcends all of that.  But it can't be taught, it's felt with the heart.

I am sure you are wondering how you can't teach kindness?  And I thought that too, but day in and day out I see examples of kids not being kind to others and I am sure their parents thought somewhere along the line they taught them how to be kind.

Kindness is a choice.

You have to choose to be kind.  Kindness happens when there's nothing in it for you.  You show kindness no matter what the outcome is.  Niceness is often mistaken for kindness.  Being nice comes naturally, being kind is hard work.  Niceness is politeness, and kindness is loving, and sympathetic.

There are a lot of kids who are kind, you just don't hear it or see it, because they aren't concerned with how the outcome of a situation will effect them.  They show kindness because there's something inside of them that guides them into action.  And that's a gift.

We have plenty of nice kids out there, which the world needs niceness.  But we have fewer kind kids wandering around because what does kind get you- not a lot in the sense of the world and popularity.  But what kindness leaves you with is an all-fulfilling desire to always be kinder.  


Monday, March 16, 2015

Talking With Roger

On Saturday night Eric and I spoke to 12 couples about love and marriage.  It was originally scheduled for Valentine's Day, but due to bad weather it was postponed to Saturday night.  The place we had the banquet at was in this back room of what appeared to be a run down Dairy Queen.  We were surrounded by white lattice, fake plants, decorations from every holiday you could imagine.  It felt like we stepped back in time, way back in time.

The majority of the couples there were well into their 70's.  They all had been married for 40 plus years.  Eric and I sat at the head table along with the pastor of their church and his wife.  I sat on the end and across from this gentleman named, Roger.

Roger began the night by asking me lots of questions, the getting to know you type, and then Roger filled me in on his life.  He was married for a couple of years and his wife unexpectedly passed away leaving him with a 3 month old baby.  He had a nanny for the baby but knew he needed and desired another wife.  He had the church pray for him and then he told me "I had to tell them to stop praying because I had 21 girlfriends."  I about died.  Roger worked at the same place for 45 years.  He loved working there, I could tell by the tears in his eyes when he recalled countless stories that happened over those 45 years.  The kind people at that place still treat him very nicely and I am sure they are thankful for his dedication to their business.

Roger also told me about his health issues, past and current.  He has a 16 year old girls heart in his chest.  This story was difficult for Roger to tell me.  You can tell he wrestles with the guilt of that 16 year olds heart pumping in his 78 year old chest.  But with each pump he is doing his best to live life to the fullest and make that girl proud.

Dialysis happens 4 times a week.  Roger now has Wednesday's off, and he told me how much that frees up his schedule to go out and meet with people.  Roger loves to talk, there is no doubt about that, but he mostly loves to share Jesus with all the people he talks to.  He used to go to truck stops and drink coffee with truckers and travelers and witness to them.  Roger would plaster tracks and Christian literature all over truck stops and road side rests.  That was his ministry, that was his calling, and although life and health has slowed his down, he still considers it his calling.

Roger loves to garden- vegetables, fruit, and flowers.  He takes flowers with him to the hospital when we receives his dialysis treatments.  He hands out flowers to chemo patients, nurses, and other family members sitting in the waiting room.

And don't get him started on collecting antiques, because he will talk your ear off.

Despite everything Roger has been through he would always end his sentences or stories with "God is so good."  "I am amazed God used somebody like me."  "God is faithful."  "I don't know why this was/is my path in life, but I am so glad God is walking it with me."

Roger likened himself to Job during the night, telling of his wife passing away, his cattle all keeling over in the pasture, and just plain wanting to give up.  But through God, with God, and always because of God, Roger made it through.  And he is still making it through.

I feel like Roger could have been my grandfather, we just clicked and bonded over our cubed steak and mashed potatoes.  I enjoyed talking to him so much, and hopefully I can go visit him on his farm.  He was a true definition of a faithfilled person, and I learned so much about joy and hope from him on Saturday night.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Enjoying the Ride

Today I wrote in my journal that I needed to "just keep calm and enjoy the ride."  What ride you ask...well life, but more specifically this ride that has me going back to school.  In the words of my wise father "what, 2 degrees aren't enough?"  I guess not.

I am embarking on going back to school to become an elementary teacher.  I have always wanted to be a teacher, like always.  From playing school, to decorating fake bulletin boards, to geeking out over school supplies every year, to now.  The desire to teach and be with kids has never left me.  So why didn't I just go to school to be a teacher when I graduated high school- great question.   At the time counseling seemed more appealing?  I honestly do not know this answer.  I do not regret counseling at all, I met awesome people through the program in college, and all my counseling experience over the last 6 plus years leaves me smiling, shaking my head at times, but truly smiling.

I have lots of fears going back to school.  Like a lot.  What will happen to our family time, am I too old (I know 31 isn't that old), how much work will it be, financially (oh my word this causes me anxiety), and what if I mess up, what if it's harder than I thought.  The list goes on and on.

But I am also excited to go back to school.  New opportunities, new chances to learn, new people to meet, new experiences, and ultimately I want my girls to know you are never too old to achieve a dream.  I can go on and still have a good 30 years of teaching once I am finished with school.

Often times in life I just want to hurry it up.  I want to get from point A to point B and not stop to smell the flowers along the way.  If Jesus' only reason to come to earth to die for us was truly the only reason for his existence why would he spend 33 years meeting and discipling people.  Wouldn't he just want to get it over with?  People say all the time it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.  And for this organized Type A personality the journey is often the hardest.  While journeying you are committing yourself to possibly heartbreaks, disappointments, frustrations, feeling lonely, wanting to quit.  Whereas if you just hurry it up and get there already you miss out on healing, joy, peace, excitement, and new experiences.

Trust me, I usually just want to get there already, but right now I am forcing myself to enjoy the ride.  I have to force myself to slow down, and trust that God has me on the path that he wants me to be on.  I have to fully rely on him because if not I would control every single bend and fold in the path. Right now my hands are tied on moving any further in the program.  We are waiting on one last piece of paper to arrive and nothing can happen until that gets in the hands of the right people.  And trust me, it is killing me to wait!  But I am also learning in His time, not mine, and it's hard.

The journey can be long and draining, yet so rewarding and fruitful.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Goals

As much I wanted to start writing again I feel lost.  I start and think that's way too boring, or nope, not really going anywhere.  So as I reading some of my favorite bloggers and their recent posts I came across of my favorite blogging friends, Erin @ Home With The Boys and saw she was talking about goals.  And since I have pretty much blown all of my goals I set in January, I figured I would click over and read what she wrote about her March goals.

Goal setting is huge in being successful.  Whether you want to lose 5 pounds, learn a new skill, become more organized, you need a plan.  And most importantly you need to tell other people your plan.  When I decided I wanted to train for a half marathon I told everyone I knew.  Trust me, I got lots of looks and lots of smiles that deep down inside made me think I couldn't do it.  I printed off my training guide, hung it on my fridge and went day by day.  Anyone that came over could see my plan and see my goal was to run a half marathon.

I am not hugely successful in setting goals and keeping them.  I have the best of intentions, but follow through has always been hard for me.  I am good at making to-do lists, and keeping my calendar up to date with our schedules and appointments.  But big things like goals and breaking my routine, it's hard.

So I figured if I can make my to-do lists and stick with those, then making smaller goals, or more achievable goals might be easier.  I am so glad I had a free moment to read Erin's post about setting small goals that you can achieve each month.  But more importantly than setting the goal is giving yourself grace if you do not reach or meet that goal.  Life is busy, you are not always going to hit a home run, but at least you always step up to the plate and swing.

March Goals

1. Teaching Licensure Program Enrollment- I am half way there!  I just need one more transcript to show up, and then I can sign up for classes on March 16.

2. Financial Aid- Meet with a financial aid counselor...apply for grants, scholarships, befriend rich people :)

3. Run 50 miles this month- that doesn't seem like a lot, but for me right now in my season of life, it is.  Subbing 3 days a week, and being a mom/pastor's wife...time eludes me and when I do have time I am trying to not fall asleep.  I have been taking classes at the Y that I love, but I need to get some pavement pounding cardio back in my life.  I need it, and I miss it.

4. Have 2 new couples/families over for dinner- Eric and I all the time tell people we meet, "Hey we should have you over!"  Then we never do.  We want to, we really do, but it's hard when it's not already built in your calendar.

5. Meal Plan- I have actually been doing decent at this, but I want to keep it up.  It makes the week go so much smoother when we don't waste time standing in front of the fridge asking what's for dinner.

6. Date my kids- I usually take Molly and Lucy with me everywhere.  But we are running errands, or going to the Y, or going to something for them.  I want to actually take them out one on one and do something special with them.  Lucy has the benefit of being with me more since Molly is in school, but she would love to do something special away from the house.

7. Catch up on my Bible reading plan- I was dumb and picked a big plan to participate in during Lent, and man oh man, I am so behind!  So I want to catch up and finish the plan.

Well, I think 7 is enough right now since I am not super used to sticking with anything!  I look forward to reporting back in April to let you all know how I did.  And feel free to join in and let me know if you made any March goals!

 I’m linking up with Hayley at The Tiny Twig for her monthly Goals with Grace post! Check it out to be inspired and share your own goals! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just So I Can Remember...

Every year my mom prints off my blog from the previous year for one of my birthday presents.  And the book I received this year was tiny, like itty bitty.  Granted last year was the year with the absolute most change in our lives, so we were busy.  But I was a little saddened that I didn't celebrate some of those changes more.

I remember my math teacher telling me once "If you don't use it, you'll lose it."  Well, referring to most math, I have lost it :)  But I think the same is true for anything in life.  For me, I haven't been using my voice on this platform, and it was easy for me to lose it.  I love looking back at those books from previous years to see what my kids did or said, or special memories we made.  I love writing and sharing our story with anyone who will listen or read it.  I get so worried about content that I end up shelving all my post ideas.

I now have lost almost 2 months of this year so far, but I am reclaiming 2015 as my year of blogging memories, funny stories, what I am learning, and anything that I darn well please.  So excuse me if some of my posts in the next couple weeks are from 2014, I want to be able to look back and remember some of the fun things we did, and also be able to answer my kids questions about trips and holidays.

Right now I want to just write about my family.  My family is my heart and I love them so much.

Eric- Eric is busy with leading our church, Movement.  He has a pretty stressful job but he is so good at it.  I am excited that our girls have a pastor as their dad, or maybe I should say a dad as a pastor. Either way, our kids are learning so much from him.  How he handles people, situations, adversity, and life.  Eric pretty much never misses an event or activity that they have, and if he does he sits down to explain to them why he might be missing it, and why it's important he meets with this person or attends this meeting.  He spent the last 8 weeks as dance dad.  Molly and Lucy had activities at the same time, so he took Lucy every Thursday to dance.  In about a month he will take on his role as Molly's soccer coach for the 5th season.  Molly loves that Eric wants to be her coach, and working with 7/8 year old girls helps grow his patience his level, ha!  Watching Eric go from a groups pastor to the lead pastor has been challenging and like a roller coaster.  We have learned a lot, tried a lot, failed a lot, and grown a lot.  But I truly wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

Molly- Molly is the most sensitive, empathetic little kid I have ever met.  As much as I appreciate her sensitivity (it all comes from me) I am also trying to find the balance of empowering her with some more confidence.  Since Molly does struggle with high anxiety, not having a lot of self confidence makes for some long days.  Molly has excelled in school so much this year.  She has always done well in school, and she loves school, but for some reason 2nd grade is where she has just taken off.  Molly is reading at a very high level, so our school district has paired her in some high achievement groups which she loves.  I lead a group that Molly gets to participate in with some of her classmates, and it's so much fun.  We are learning all about critical thinking and how to not jump to conclusions.  It's been a good lesson for me to re-learn each week, too!  Molly is currently participating in Upwards cheerleading, and playing indoor soccer.  Cheerleading is new for her, and she loves it.  She's not the most coordinated kid, but she tries 110% every single time.  What I love most about Molly is that she tries hard at everything she does.  She is intense in everything- she loves her friends fiercely, she watches out for Lucy all the time, she works super hard in speech and school.  We still have lots of ups and downs with Molly as far confidence and anxiety goes, but she's really an awesome kid.

Lucy- What to say about Lucy?!  She is hilarious, her jokes, facial expressions, and little things she does, she is always cracking us up.  Lucy was the perfect edition to our family.  Lucy loves breaking the ice with someone or breaking the silence in the room by saying something way too mature for a 4 year old, or saying something that involves bathroom talk!  One thing she loves to say is "that was awkward."  And she usually uses it in the right context too!  Lucy picks up on things super quick, she only has to hear it once and she keeps it locked in her brain.  So we have to be super careful with TV shows/commercials, and music!  Not that we watch or listen to anything bad, but her brain is a sponge.  Lucy has been attending a preschool 3 mornings a week this school year, and it has been a great introduction to school for her.  Next school year she is going to a preschool/4K program that our school district offers.  It will be 5 mornings a week, and it will prepare her for kindergarten the following year.  I am super excited about the change in schools for her.  I think the school preschool will fit her a little bit better, and the real Lucy can shine each day at school.  Lucy is starting tennis this week and secretly, okay not so secretly I am excited to see her in a little tennis skirt!  She has never played tennis before, but we needed a break from gymnastics and dance.  Then in a month she will play indoor soccer.  Which will also be fun to watch.  We think she will enjoy sports, but we don't really know.

Then there is me...
I am currently long term subbing for a guidance counselor on maternity leave.  I work at one of our middle schools 3 days a week, and then I still work for our church on Tuesday's.  Then every other Thursday I volunteer at Molly's school.  It's been a big transition for me to go from possibly subbing 1 or 2 days a week to permanently being somewhere 3 days a week, all day long.  Eric is a rockstar and has added so much to his plate while I sub long term.  I am not sure if I will be here another month or until the end of the school year.  It's still up in the air a little bit.  I always thought I would love to be a school counselor, and I loved the year I spent interning with an elementary school counselor, but honestly this subbing position has solidified my dreams of being a teacher.  When I entered college I debated between counseling and teaching.  I have always wanted to be a teacher, but for some reason God took me down the counseling path.  I am grateful for all the experiences that I have had in counseling, and grateful for this experience right now at the middle school, but my heart really feels pulled towards teaching.  So much so I am looking at going back to school to get my license to teach.  I actually have an appointment next week with our local university to see what I need to do to make my dreams come true.  Teaching for me is a calling, just like ministry is for Eric (and me).  I know education across the board is going through lots of ups and downs, and people are getting out of teaching.  And right now I have my rose colored glasses on, but none of that discourages me, at least not right now.  I have LOVED subbing this year.  I love the kids, and the bad days and good days, and fun that each class has when doing an activity.  I look back and see who was the most influential in my life, and most people were teachers.  I feel like I am doing what I am called to do every single time I step foot into a school.  And maybe some of those feelings will go away over time, but right now I am at a point where I need to pursue this.  I am tired of saying what-if and I am ready to say okay, let's do this.

And for good measure I will throw Movement in...she's like part of our family, too...
Movement is going well.  We are 4 months in and still rocking it each week.  This winter has been brutal on our attendance, just like every other church in America.  What's hard for us is that we are reaching people who are not used to coming to church each week, so when it's below zero outside, why would they make church a priority?  Sickness has also hurt us this winter.  I have missed church more in the last 4 months than I have in the last 10 years, it's crazy!  Everything of course hits Saturday night or Sunday morning.  I am so so so thankful we have family here to help out, and who don't mind hanging with a puking kid, or a kid with pink eye.  I seriously could not imagine planting Movement without help from family.  Our volunteers show up each week and work hard.  I am still overseeing the kids ministry which is going well.  I feel like the kids love coming and are learning.  My kids volunteers are awesome, so I am super happy with that!  We are always looking for ways to connect in the community, and let people know we are here for the long haul.  We are very much looking forward to spring and summer to get back out in the community and be visible again.  Winter is hard, but it's almost over!

That's us in a nutshell right now.  Every day is a new day to make a difference and impact some one's life.  I pray we never miss an opportunity to extend kindness or make someone feel important.              

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Living With An Anxious Child

I just looked at the clock and realized why I am fielding tons of questions right now.  Molly starts cheerleading tonight, and while she is excited, she is also anxious.  I have already been asked 20 times what she should wear, how does she need to do her hair, will the other girls be wearing the same thing, who is going to be there, what will the cheers be like, and so on, and so on.  I know anxiety in children is normal, and actually anxiety isn't always a bad thing.  It's good to look forward to something, and to get excited about a new opportunity.  But when you have a child who suffers daily with anxiety you often feel like you are alone on an island or about to slam your head against the wall.

This topic has been heavy on my heart lately, so I wanted to share with you all how we try to deal with Molly's anxious tendencies.  And I am writing this not as a clinical counselor (since I am one), but as a mom who gets tired of answering 901 questions, and wondering if I am the only one.

It all started this past Spring, Molly's anxiousness had grown.  For a very long time Molly was a happy go-lucky, extrovert, never met a stranger, leader of the pack type of kid.  Then we moved from WI to OH, and that part of Molly seemed to stay in WI.  Once we got to Ohio Molly changed.  And some of it we understand being the new kid, knowing not a single sole, we were living with grandparents until we knew what we were doing and where.  I totally understand that her environment and circumstances that she could not control affected her, a lot.  And I still carry A LOT of guilt for all of that.  However, her anxiousness didn't ramp up until we had been here for a couple of months.  It started with her tummy hurting, she felt sick, she didn't want to go to school, she didn't want to wear the style of clothes she had been wearing for the last 6 years of her life.  She just wanted to blend in and not stick out.  Then we started getting calls from the school to come pick her because she felt like she was going to get sick.  We did this song and dance for about a month.

We finally broke down and took her to the doctor, since not one time did she ever really get sick.  Our doctor confirmed what we figured- her anxiety was causing acid reflux, and that's what made her feel like she was going to get sick.  So we decided to start her on reflux medication instead of anxiety medicine.

I remember crying and crying because my 6 year was a dealing with what 30, 40, 50 year olds deal with.  We had the guidance counselor at her school chat with her because we couldn't "fix her."  I never felt like a more ill-equipped parent and counselor.  The counselor couldn't find anything, there were no red flags we were missing.  Her teacher was great and tried to help any way she could.  But in the end we had to teach Molly coping skills and pray she made it through the day.

Here is what we try to do with Molly to help curb her anxiety...

1. Answer questions to the best of your ability- This one can be hard because sometimes I don't have the answers.  For instance, cheerleading tonight, I have zero clue what it will be like or who will be there.  So when I don't have the answers, I am just honest with Molly and say I don't know.  Which sometimes upsets her more, but usually what we do is make a plan of attack.  We talk about what could happen, who we might see, and how it's okay to try new things.

2. Validate their feelings- I often have to tell Molly it's okay to feel this way, it's what you do with that feeling that counts.  I struggle with anxiety and I know how paralyzing it can be.  I share my struggles with Molly, and tell her how I was nervous and scared to do something but I did it, and survived.  We might not like everything we try, and we certainly don't have to keep doing something we don't like, but at least we tried.

3. Have a secret signal- When I was younger my dad and I would always motion "I Love You" to each other with the hand motions of pointing our eyes, then our hearts, then to each other.  My dad taught Molly that when she was about 18 months old.  Whenever Molly would get scared or anxious from that point on we would motion back and forth "I Love You."  That's my way of telling her I see you, I am here, and you will be okay.

4. Push your anxious child past their comfort zone- As a parent it's our job to help our children not just survive in life but thrive.  Sometimes I have to push Molly a little bit to do something new, or talk with someone.  Typically she does great with this.  And she has no clue that I am encouraging her to do something out of her zone.  I signed Molly up for soccer camp last summer because she needed the extra help of the coach and also because it would challenge her to get out of her box.  The first day she was so nervous to go, she knew no one there.  I felt terrible driving away, thinking I had made a mistake, but by the end of the week she had a great time and even earned the most improved player award.

5. Don't mistake their anxiousness for vanity- I am not sure if boys struggle with this or not, but Molly is obsessed with looking in the mirror, like all the time.  She is constantly checking herself out.  But truthfully, she's not vain.  I don't even think she knows what being vain means, I think she is so nervous and anxious about what others may think of her, she needs to make sure she is put together.  I know that sounds like she is being vain, but if you knew her heart, you would know she's not.

6. An anxious child's imagination is often their reality- Molly plays the worst case scenario game a lot, and eventually it becomes her reality.  Last year in school she was terrified to answer questions in class because what if she got it wrong and kids made fun of her.  So her fear paralyzed her.  Molly sometimes gets worried she won't be able to finish all of her lunch in time at school, so she often doesn't eat lunch.  We are constantly going through the what ifs, coming up with game plans, and working out the "okay so this happens, what's so terrible about that"'s exhausting.

7. Be open and honest about your child's anxiety- I don't tell every single person we meet that Molly suffers with anxiety, but the people who spend the most time with her I absolutely open up to them.  Molly's principal knows that Molly has anxiety issues, and her teacher probably had anxiety after my first meeting with her.  What being honest about your child does is it allows those around them to see them for who they really are and not some weirdo that has issues.  Molly's teacher this year has pulled things out of Molly that no one has ever been able to do before.  Her teacher understands the anxiety Molly has so instead of ignoring her or babying her, she gives her responsibilities and makes her feel important.  She has tapped into something inside of Molly and it has made a huge difference.  Molly is a more active participant in class this year and isn't afraid to try new things at school.

8. Pray for your child- Whether your child struggles with anxiety or not, you should pray for them, and with them.  I am often praying with Molly when she is anxious about something.  It might not "fix it" but it shows Molly that our strength and comfort comes from God alone.  Molly's faith has been tested, and I am sure she has no clue, but I want her to begin to know and rely on God to calm her nerves.  I can teach her coping skills and they may help, but ultimately her peace needs to come from God.

Having an anxious child sometimes feels burdensome.  I look at our happy, care free little neighbor girl and wish Molly could be more like her.  But I also know some of the anxiousness Molly has experienced has helped her become more empathetic towards others.

If your child struggles with anxiety, more than normal, please know you are not alone.  There are a lot of parents who are exhausted from answering multitudes of questions and reassuring their child that they will indeed be okay and survive.  Hang in there, we are in this fight together, and we will survive.       

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