Monday, May 13, 2013

Blue and Purple and Green, Oh My!

I looked down at the Clearblue Easy digital pregnancy test. "You have got to be kidding me!"

I couldn't help it. The words just came right out.

I walked back into our bedroom, sat on the bed, and told my husband, "Well, I guess we're not going to Florida for Spring Break."

"Huh?" He's never been very good about waking up right away.

"I'm pregnant."

"Seriously?"

Yep, I was serious. I want to be perfectly clear: I LOVE my son. My sweet, loving, beautiful children are a daily reminder of just how much God has blessed me. However, this was not what we were expecting to happen, and at that very moment it couldn't appear to be worse timing.

Maybe I should back up. Three years earlier we were shocked to discover that we were pregnant with our daughter for very different reasons. We struggled for two and a half years to get pregnant. We had finally met with a specialist and were on our third round of treatments when we were told that the last round hadn't worked and we were going to have to try something new. Three weeks later I was pregnant. The differences in our reactions were night and day. The first time, Jeff told me we were pregnant.

"Honey."

"Yeah?" I tried to wake myself out of my sleepy Saturday stupor. I had woken up much earlier and taken a pregnancy test on a whim, going straight back to bed without looking at it. I was tired and I was tired of seeing "Not Pregnant" on the little digital readout. I figured I would just deal with the disappointment when I woke up.

"Did you look at this?"

"No. Why?"

"I really think you need to look at this."

It was like we were living in a sitcom. Several years before I had told Jeff that this sort of thing would never happen, especially when we saw the near exact thing happen on Scrubs. But it happened. To us. Just like that we knew we were pregnant. The second time around I knew before I even took the test. If we were being honest, we were not ready to have another baby, or at least the timing appeared to be awful. We had just moved, I had just started grad school, Jeff was busy at work, the house in Indy still hadn't sold (a story that doesn't go away), we didn't have renters lined up, and the extra money we got from the move was quickly disappearing. But we wanted our daughter to have a sibling and we didn't want them to be too far apart. We knew we were taking a risk, but if we had to wait six months to a year to talk to a specialist about the need to do treatments again, we needed to just completely leave God in control of our family growth. Less than a month after that conversation took place, I knew. But I forced myself into a state of denial for at least a week. I think Jeff's lasted longer than that.

Suddenly the last bedroom needed to be touched. We did the guest room first and we had started both our bedroom (another post for another time) and our daughter's bedroom. I had initially planned to make our daughter's room the nursery, but with a new little brother or sister on the way, we decided to let her keep her bedroom and we would make the last bedroom our nursery. All I needed was paint and time. A year before when we decided that we were moving I almost immediately went to Babies"R"Us to get the exact same wallpaper border that was in our Indy nursery. That moved with us, along with the curtains, lamp, and bedding that matched. My dad had refinished the last bedroom floor when doing the guest room floor, so now we had to cover yet another hideous paint job.

This time there was no ridiculously dark color to cover up and no wallpaper to remove, but the room had two different colors on the walls and a third color in other places throughout the room. The pastel blue, purple, and green was not going to suit my baby's bedroom, especially now that I knew we were having a boy.













A new ceiling fan/light, two different shades of tan split by the animal border, a fresh coat of paint on the open closet (Jeff didn't think that we needed to worry about doors yet, especially since we were having a boy and apparently boys don't care about that sort of thing), and our new baby room was ready. And this is what the room looks like now:





Yeah, it's a pretty cute room. Unfortunately, I think he may be outgrowing it quickly, especially since he seems eager to be out of the toddler bed and into his own "big boy" bed, just like his big sister. I need to hold off one more year before the animal border comes down. Once other projects are complete we can start working on a new design for our little boy. In the end, God's timing was perfect timing. We may have been shocked, but God knew that we needed him in our lives, and he knew that our son and daughter would be best friends (most of the time). And now we have an adorable room to match our adorable little boy.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Starting New Projects

While we spent a fair amount of time celebrating family this weekend, we also got a much needed head start on the next set of projects in the house. We have several projects we are working on at once, but one of the bigger projects we are starting on is the renovation of our mudroom, pantry/laundry room, and family room bathroom. Our first step was getting rid of the cabinets in our "pantry" area. We think that the room must have originally been a craft room, but for us it works perfectly as a place to store the "extras" from our kitchen as well as a stock area for groceries on those rare occasions when I have the time and energy to plan a massive coupon/sales savings trip. Maybe now that I'm done with my MA, I'll have more time for that. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking. On Friday night, this is what our pantry looked like:


And this is what the room looked like before we moved into the house

On a whim I decided to post the cabinets on Craigslist. Within 12 hours, the cabinets were sold, removed from the walls, and we had an empty room to fill. With the money we got from the sale, we were able to purchase new shelves that we could use for new, more complete storage. Jeff worked with our daughter's "help" to put together the first set of shelves and then put together the second set of shelves today. We now have extra shelf space that can be easily moved and rearranged.


Of course, the walls were significantly torn up by both the installation and the removal of the cabinets, which means this back room needs to be repainted. I like "simple" paint jobs ("simple" because no paint job is super easy, but at least this own doesn't involve the removal of wallpaper) so I'm looking forward to selecting a new paint color for the room that will serve as both pantry and laundry area. I'm thinking a very light, subtle green or blue. That is a little in the air at the moment, as we have other things to do in the room first, but we already like the transformation.

The bigger transformation is in our back mudroom off of the garage. When we moved in it was a dark, narrow passage with paneling and two large closets that we have used for storage of paint and our camping equipment. This weekend the camping equipment and paint got moved to other locations and Jeff took out the closets. The back room went from looking like this:

Before we even moved into the house





To this:




The rest of the paneling needs to come down and walls need to be repaired but the space is already significantly more spacious and starting to look brighter. It is a good start, and we're not really sure what to think about the extra space except I'm now wondering why we didn't do it sooner. I'm hoping that we'll be able to share more of our work in the coming weeks.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Does This Mean I'm Really Smart?

Done. Finished. Never again. My husband says he'll believe it when he sees it, but for now it is most certainly true. How's that for a good Lutheran phrase?

What is done you ask? My Master's degree. As of today, I am officially done. I'm not walking at the graduation ceremonies next week, and that is ok. My parents, in-laws, and husband all drove out to Nebraska 11 years ago to help me celebrate the completion of my Bachelor's degree. With a busy life as a wife, mother, and teacher, I don't have the time to spend several more hours celebrating the completion of my graduate work. Instead, I'm just going to celebrate by writing about it, and maybe finding a time to hang out with my M.A. English peeps one last time.

I knew in my first year of teaching that I needed to go back to school to get my Master's degree in English. After spending four and a half years in undergrad studying English, history, and education, I really thought I knew everything I needed to know to be a successful English teacher. Within months of teaching I was certain that I didn't know everything. In fact, there were days I felt like I didn't know anything. I was a first year teacher teaching four different English classes to four different levels of students. I was teaching material I had never studied before. The knowledge I graduated with was insufficient. It wasn't the fault of my school and my professors. There was just SO MUCH MATERIAL OUT THERE. So many books to read, so much scholarship to study, and not enough time to do it in the time allotted for an undergraduate program.

I was going to have my Master's before I turned 30. Instead, I'm going to have my Master's before I turn 34. I guess that's not bad. Life happens. I was busy being a first year teacher, then directing and teaching, then having a baby. I never seemed to have the time. I needed to go back to school to make myself a better teacher, but I had so much going on as a teacher that going back to school would have stretched me too thin.

I never made much of a secret about the fact that I didn't want to move three years ago, and it's been a dizzying roller coaster the last three years, but when we were trying to decide what was going to be best for our family and I didn't get the job that I interviewed for, it turned out that it was best for me to go back to grad school. Looking back now, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. We signed the papers on our house on a Friday, we started tearing out everything and cleaning as soon as we moved in, and the following Monday I started my first grad class at IPFW. It was a whirlwind, but by the next fall I was taking two classes, teaching two classes, and I got to spend two extra days a week with my daughter. It was crazy. I was incredibly busy, but I loved what I was doing. As life continued to happen, our son was born, I started teaching high school part time, and continued my TA position through the busiest and most sleep deprived year of my career, but it got me closer to the end. This year things calmed down a little with working full time at ONE place and "only" taking one class a semester, but it was still enough to bring me near tears on a couple occasions.

But it was worth it. I have learned so much in the last three years as a student, TA, high school teacher going to school at the same time, and wife and mother trying to balance it all. This only begins to scratch the surface.
  • Grading papers on the computer may take longer than the traditional paper and pen method, but I am a much more thorough grader and way more effective when I do so. It benefits my students more too.
  • Amy Tan is amazing and a freaking genius. I LOVE her. I wish I had discovered her earlier in my life.
  • Fight Club was a book before it was a movie. Getting Edward Norton out of my head while I was reading the book was nearly impossible. It doesn't help that I'm pretty much in love with the actor Edward Norton.
  • I'm not a huge fan of literary criticism. Seriously, who cares about Russian Formalism, New Criticism, Structuralism, and Deconstruction? Thinking that way ruins a book. I felt the need to apologize to any and every student who I made over analyze novels during the first eight years of my teaching career.
  • I belong in a high school classroom. After starting to consider a PhD my first semester of grad school, my second full semester taught me that my heart really belonged in high school. Every paper I wrote, ever article I read, ever class discussion I participated in convinced me that while I enjoyed teaching college students, I wanted back into high school. I wanted to be a part of preparing them for higher education, and for the first time in my career I started to truly understand what that meant. Teaching at the college level and being around college instructors and professors on a regular basis finally showed me what I needed to focus on as a high school teacher, and I was eager to get back into the daily grind of the high school classroom.
  • Due dates are stressful. Ok, so every student who has ever gone to school knows this, but as a student and a teacher at the same time, I truly understood this for the first time. I could empathize with my students because I was going through the same thing. Didn't change much about how I dealt with giving due dates, but it taught me the value of being flexible when the situation warrants it.
  • I don't like Moby Dick. I don't think I liked anything about Moby Dick. And no, I did not finish it.
  • Mark Twain was a freaking genius. I'm not just saying that because I love Huck Finn and I've taught it almost every year of my teaching career. I'm saying that because it is true. He was a freaking genius. One of the hardest and best classes of my graduate career was a seminar on Mark Twain. His satire is flawless and much of what he wrote about politics is still true today. My paper on Tom, Huck, and the way he uses Tom and Huck to criticize 19th century organized religion is still one of the best papers I have ever written, and one of my favorites. It also started to reform the way I view religious education of my own children.
  • Students need to be good readers to be good writers. Sounds like a duh statement, but we don't spend nearly enough time teaching high school and college students how to read. We assume that because they graduated from eighth grade they are capable of digging into their reading and getting something out of it. We shouldn't assume. We should never assume.
  • AR is the spawn of the Devil. There, I have publicly said it. I always believed it. I was always sure it was true. I did a study to prove it. I really need to redo the surveys so I can get that thing published.
  • There is a reason behind my students' most common grammatical and mechanical mistakes. Learning about the history of the English language (again) made me much more understanding of my students' mistakes, and even a little more forgiving. It doesn't mean I give them a free pass, but I do try to be more willing to work with them as opposed to blasting them for making some of those mistakes now. I also now know what to say to students when they ask me what makes a word "bad."
  • Chris Crutcher is a YA literature genius. Love his work. He captures the adolescent male mind in ways that no other author currently does.
  • Speak = perfection.
  • Apparently I can write fiction. And now I have the "free" time to do it without a grade.
There, those are some of the many lessons learned over the last three years and I am a much better teacher for it. So much so that I wish I could have a do-over on the first eight years of my teaching career, but the reality is that those first eight years also shaped the teacher that I am today. For the first time I feel like I can actually be a master teacher. I was ok, there were even times when I was good, but now I feel like I have the knowledge to be great, which will benefit my students, my school, and me. It's been a hard three years. My family has suffered with me. But it is done, finished, and now I can move on to being the teacher I was always meant to be.

Finally, I need to thank my husband, my partner, my best friend. Without his support, starting with that very first IPFW class when he had to race home after work three nights a week so that he could watch our daughter while I went to class, this would have never happened. It hasn't always been easy, especially when I was working against several deadlines at one time, but he never let me quit and he never let me feel like this process was a mistake.  I love you!