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Assante Opaleye Shawl

I’ve mentioned that I joined the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry.

It’s a fun group of crafters, divided into the Harry Potter houses (I am a Hufflepuff), engaged in friendly competition with each other for the House Cup.

“Students” receive points for monthly “class” assignments.  The prompts are posted at the beginning of each month, and there is enough leeway in a crafter’s interpretation to be able to fit almost any project into one of many prompts.

This has been a great way for me to “meet” other crafters who share my passion.  We also share other common interests and concerns that range from cooking (Hufflepuffs are known for our mad baking skills) to reading to parenting.

I love that the projects and the competition give me a “reason” to knit, and I’ve tried several patterns I would never have considered just to fit them into various prompts.

One of the activities we can choose to participate in (everything is volunteer) is the OWL project where we propose a long-term project, post progress reports, and complete it by a certain due date.  There are a LOT of points awarded for OWLs.

This has been my first official term as a “student,” and I just completed my first OWL!

I’m proud to show you my Assante Opaleye Shawl, so named because the Opaleye is a mythical creature in the Harry Potter series that has the same coloring as the shawl you see displayed below…

The pattern isn’t free, but the cost is minor compared to what you get back in a simple pattern and a designer who’s quick to answer questions.  The designer helped me adjust the pattern so I wouldn’t run out of yarn.

I used yarn in my stash (yay!).  The pink is called Tutu and is Cascade Heritage.  The green is called Wash and is Madelinetosh Tosh Sock.  Both yarns were divine to knit with…nothing but the best for my dainty hands.  heehee

I used size 4 needles to help conserve yarn.

It’s a different shawl for me…no lace patterning…but lovely all the same.  I’m pleasantly surprised by the result.

Never Enough

Depending on the time you are reading this, I am either getting ready to say goodbye to Chicky, or she has already headed down the road, enroute to her home in south Florida.

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you know that as our time of visiting draws near…as the days become hours…I count down.

I often post pictures, captioned with declarations of anticipation and love.

I count down every hour and minute until I am with her again.

I can picture her reading this and rolling her eyes.

She is, after all, nearly 22 years old.

I can’t help it though, for despite our roller coaster relationship, I love her dearly.

This week has been another special one for me.

As soon as she began her drive on Monday, I waited and prepared.

Once she was here, I made sure everything I did centered around her.

I did absolutely NO work…simply refused…not wanting to miss a moment with her.

There were things I needed to do…cook for Thanksgiving and clean.

Instead, I delayed my preparations so we could shop and eat lunch together.

And now, as I pen this the night before she leaves (I often schedule my posts ahead of time), I can’t help but be sad as her time of leaving draws ever closer.

It’s funny how the first part of our visits are marked with such joy, and melancholy lurks in the shadows toward the end…raring its ugly, selfish head every now and again.

Am I jealous of her life down south?

Yes.

Oh, I know she has earned the right to live life on her own, for she is now a grown up with a big-girl job…making a difference in the lives of the children she teaches and others she encounters every day.

It’s just that our time together is never enough to soothe my mama heart.

I grew up with a mother who didn’t make me feel like I was important to her.

I promised myself that I would never do this to my own children, and I hope I haven’t.

Though I haven’t mentioned Rooster, his being home right now, attending college locally, has made me incredibly happy.  My heart is a little sad as he heads to Auburn for the BIG game.  He’s hoping to score a ticket but will be in the thick of things regardless.  I’ll be counting down the minutes until he returns home.

Such is the way with me and my mama heart.

It’s a heart that can never get enough of my children…adults now and even more enjoyable than I thought possible when they were wee things.

 

Thankful

It’s very, very late, or early, depending on your perspective.

I spent all of yesterday evening baking for the family that is coming over later this morning (it’s after midnight as I’m writing this).

I began thinking about what to write for this holiday post, and of course, with it being Thanksgiving, my mind turned to the things I am grateful for.

This has been an interesting year in many respects.

There have been some highs and some lows.

The lows have been especially rough.

In May, we lost Aubie, our beloved fur baby, after having her in our lives for nearly fourteen years.  I still have not recovered, and tears quickly come when I think of her or pass by her collar, which hangs near my kitchen table.

In early June, I went through a difficult time at work and left for the summer trying to extract the knife that had been thrust into my back.  It was not fun, and I spent the entire summer healing from the wounds inflicted on me.

In August, I moved my Chicky out of my home into a house she had rented with two roommates.  It was a bittersweet time.

A few short weeks later, she experienced a season-ending injury that devastated all of us.

Mama Dot’s passing a few weeks ago was so sad as a chapter in all of our lives came to a close.

Just two weeks ago, I learned that one of Chicky’s childhood friends had been killed by a drunk driver.  My heart continues to grieve for her family.

I haven’t listed the above events to obtain sympathy, for we must all bear burdens.

I write of them to remind me and explain to you how God’s grace has led the way through the dark times.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that God opened up the way to Chicky’s first teaching job shortly after she got hurt.  She’s now been teaching one month, and though it has been difficult, she’s coming into her own, making “big girl” money and becoming financially independent.

Her rehab from her injury and subsequent final game during Senior Night (playing over twenty minutes) inspired so many people, and her surgery next month and the recovery that will follow will ultimately strengthen her.

My time in the wilderness after being so hurt at the end of the school year led to a summer of much-needed rest and introspection.  I drew closer to God and found a small group at church that forged close bonds.

Aubie’s passing made me realize how I’d taken her presence and her joy for life for granted.  I spend as much time with Pele, Molly, and Gambit now, and they are showered with even more love than before, if that’s possible.  I realized, after Aubie died, just how much of a family member she was, and I don’t want to have any regrets with my other fur babies.  I know they are animals, but they have unique personalities and contribute so much to my family in the love that they give unconditionally.

Rooster’s return home to attend college locally has been a blessing.  I missed him terribly last year, and having him come out and greet me when I get home from work soothes the sadness I feel by Chicky’s absence.  Conversations with Rooster are full of lots of love and sarcasm.  He’s an amazing young man.

I am thankful for the classes I have this year.  The students are well-behaved, don’t curse in front of me (at least not very often), and ultimately seem to appreciate my attempts to help them.

I could go on for days, but I won’t.

I will say, though, that as I think about the good and bad times, I clearly see God’s hand in all of them.

From the special song He put on the radio the morning after Aubie passed away to the email that was delivered to Chicky’s inbox days after being hurt…He was there, making Himself known, letting me know that no matter what happens, He is holding me up with His strong hands.

Today, I am thankful for God’s mercy, extended to me.

Can Never Get Enough of the Hodgepodge

Gosh.  Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving?  As you are reading this, I am in the process of converting a grocery cart of items into four desserts.  Be envious.  Anyhoo, let’s get to Joyce’s questions, which I am thankful for each week.  Y’all have a wonderful day with friends and family!

1.  Are you settling for something?

Yes.  That’s about all I’m going to say.

2.  It wasn’t that long ago almost every store in the US locked doors and turned out lights on Thanksgiving Day. This year many will be open all day Thursday, giving shoppers a jump start on ‘Black Friday’. In your opinion is this a good thing or a not so good thing? Will you be shopping on Thanksgiving Day?

Our world is driven by money, and it has made me very disillusioned about the holidays.  When I look around, I wonder how much most of it really matters.  Yes, it’s fun to buy and receive things, but if the buying (and selling) come to the point of messing up our priorities, I think there’s a problem.

I think I’m ready for a simpler life.  How about you?

3.  Speaking of shopping… I saw a recent article on the twelve best shopping cities in the world. In order they are-

New York, Tokyo, London, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Dubai, Madrid, Milan, and Seoul.

Ever shopped in any of the cities listed? In which city would you most like to pull out the plastic or cold hard cash?

I have never shopped in any of the cities listed, although I did come close to shopping in Paris.  When  I was a teenager, I visited Nice, France, and I will say that shopping on the French Riviera was an amazing experience that I have never forgotten.  If I had to choose which city to shop in, I’d probably choose Milan.  I’d love to find some good Italian leather shoes!

4.  When did you last dine by candlelight?

I last dined by candlelight many years ago when my children were youngsters.  I think we ate breakfast for dinner and lit candles for fun.  It was a different sort of evening that I’ve never forgotten.

5.  What do you have too much of?

I have too much stress…and dog hair in my house…which causes even more stress.

6.  The Hunger Games…are you a fan?  Did you read the book(s)?  Will you/have you seen the movie?  Will you/have you seen Catching Fire?  No spoilers please!

I read The Hunger Games series and enjoyed them a lot.  I did not like the first movie but am eager to see the second.  I’m hoping we will get to see it as a family tonight.  Either way, the Reading Department is taking our Intensive Reading students to see it the Friday we return from Thanksgiving.  I’ve heard the second movie stays truer to the book.  As a purist, I know I will appreciate this.

7.  Share your plans for Thanksgiving Day. The who, the where, the what…especially the what! As in what’s for dinner?  If you’re one of my International visitors, whose homeland doesn’t celebrate American Thanksgiving (the whole world doesn’t ya know!), then still tell us your plans for Thursday.

The in-laws and Super Sis’s family will come to my house for the day.  I’ve been preparing Thanksgiving lunch for almost twenty years.  It began when I didn’t want to drive the nine hours back to the in-law’s house (only to drive it again the next month for Christmas).  Our menu includes a smoked turkey from Sonny’s (a local BBQ restaurant), dressing, mashed potatoes, field peas, green bean casserole, black bean soup (for me, the vegan), and bread.

For dessert, I’m planning on making (doing this as you read right now) Caramel Pecan Bars, Chocolate Chip Cake, Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding Pie, and Pumpkin Pie.

We’ll eat around noon or so.  Come on over!

8.  My Random Thought

Chicky and Cali arrived on Monday…

I am so glad I worked hard on Saturday and Sunday lesson planning.  I got everything done and have been focusing my attention on these girls.

Chicky doesn’t get home much anymore due to having a big girl job now, so I treasure every moment we get to spend together.

Although she’s almost 22, my love for her is as raw and deep as it was when she was born.

This Thanksgiving, I continue to be so grateful for my family and friends.  I have been blessed beyond what I deserve.

Hanging Out With My Girl

Chicky’s been home for a little over a day, and if you know me at all, you know that I am probably the happiest Mama around.

Here are some pictures from our visit so far (and the prep work that went into it)…

Buying new mattresses…a horrendous ordeal that deserves its own blog post

 

Got everything ready, including the bedding that I found on clearance. The sunflowers…her favorite…were the final touch and a reminder of how much I love her.

 

Gambit and Cali are best buds…youthful energy that feeds off of each other.

 

The boots Chicky bought me…an early Christmas present because she wanted me to get a lot of use out of them. She also taught me how to put a few outfits together to best utilize the boots. #fashionnerd #dresslikeyouhavesomesense

 

Being a grandpuppy is tiring work…all that loving to endure.

 

Pampering at the nail salon. Chicky got a much-needed pedicure and manicure. I went back later to get a jump start on my Christmas nail art.

I know that Friday will arrive much too quickly, and I’ll be saying goodbye before I’m ready (I’ll never be ready, by the way).

Until then, I’m planning on enjoying every last second with my sweet, precious child.

This is Where I Run To

On Friday, after all of my students in one of my classes had finished the test I’d administered, we were taking it easy.  Students were working on their essays, and I was entering grades.

One of my girls walked over and told someone that she’s working on bringing up her grades.

I asked her how she planned on doing that, and she said that she was going to go to class more often.

I smiled and told her that was a good place to start.

Then, I told her that I’d noticed that she always came to my class and asked why that was when she was skipping other classes fairly regularly.

She said something that touched me and broke my heart at the same time.

She said, “This is where I run to.”

I looked up in surprise and asked her to clarify.

She said, “This is my safe place.”

I then asked her what made her feel safe, and she said, “I can talk to you about anything.”

Oh my word!

This precious child, who has shared, in her writing, some very traumatic experiences, chooses to come to MY class because she knows that I care about her.

She also knows I am tough, and that I will hold her accountable, as evidenced by a couple of write-ups I’ve done on her.

However, I have also shown her grace, asking administrators to go easy on her because, while I need to send a message that my eyes are on her, I also want her to know that I’m willing to work with her.

I got up and hugged her.

She needs to know that she’s not just another name on a roster.

I think she does, for my class is where she runs to.

I will always treasure these words and the sweet child who spoke them.

When You Show a Student Google Drive…

Yesterday was a long day.  I stayed after school, filling in for Barb, who is the sponsor for our school’s dance team.  She had an appointment elsewhere.  The girls are angels, so I didn’t mind.

After that, I had to run a couple of errands.

I was tired when I finally pulled into the garage, but I knew I had work ahead of me.

Mr. Principal had come into my room the day before and observed me.  After giving me helpful feedback, we determined that there was a bit of documentation lacking on the “official” website that houses teacher evaluation records, so I had to get those pieces uploaded fairly quickly so those empty fields could be filled, he could put in a final rating, and finalize the observation.

This was more time consuming than I’d anticipated.  We have four dadgum domains to provide documentation for, and I couldn’t figure out what went where.  A few hours later, I finished…I hope.

As an overachiever, I suspect I put too much online.  heehee

However, in the middle of all of that work, I began receiving emails…

From my students…

Because I’d spent time the last two days teaching my students how to access their school-issued Gmail accounts.

I’d also shown them some neat features of Google Drive and had created a document for everyone to share writing resources to.

I was surprised when, on Tuesday evening, one of my students actually POSTED a link AND an explanation as to WHY the video was helpful in learning to write.

I quickly sent out a message to that class via Remind101.  If you’re in the education field and have not heard of it, visit my link.

It.

Is.

Amazing.

As you will see.

In my text alert, I praised the student who had added the resource.

She came into school the next morning and told me that her mother, who had signed up for my alerts, had gone into her room and told her how proud she was of her.

Although I think it embarrassed my student a little, I could also see pride in her eyes as I decided to show her video to my class instead of the one I’d selected.

I also proceeded to show my other classes what she had added to the shared document and waxed poetic, let me tell you.

Several students in one of my classes began adding links to their document around dinner time.

I embedded comments on the document (such a neat feature that we will use when we are doing peer editing through Google Drive).

To my utter shock, one of my students replied to MY comment on another student’s resource!

Oh heck yes!

Folks, one of the things I am struggling with the most as an educator is turning over my classroom to my students.

Common Core demands that our students run the show…with teachers facilitating.

In fact, research shows that the more control students have over their learning, the more growth they will make.

I’m old-school, though, and grew up where students most certainly did NOT teach.  Knowledge was imparted TO us, and we were responsible for regurgitating it back to them.

Watching my students get excited about the technology and hearing them say how useful it’s going to be when we go to iPads (we can dream, eh?) is making me float on air.

I started delving into Google Drive because a techie/teacher asked if I was interested in working with him and a few other teachers to incorporate technology into our classrooms with the express purpose of improving student writing.

We are well on our way, as evidenced by the conversations that are happening, face-to-face and electronically.

I am so excited at the potential that’s in store for my students and for myself, as an educator.

A Little Bit of Gin…Rummy With the Hodgepodge

Holla people!  It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means!  It’s time for Joyce’s Hodgepodge!  I am loving the questions this week.  Well, truth be told, I love them every week!  Play along, learn about some other people, and just have fun!

1.  What lesson has failure taught you?

I’m not sure that I look at things I didn’t succeed in quite this way…as failures.  I think that I’ll use the word disappointment instead.  Hope you don’t mind, Joyce.  The lesson that disappointment has taught me is to trust God.  When I was looking for a teaching job, I received rejection after rejection, despite having a reputation as a hard worker and excellent substitute.  People kept slamming the doors in my face, and a couple of administrators told me, to my face, that they wouldn’t hire me.  I was more disappointed than I’d ever been and cried buckets.

However, I trusted in God’s perfect plan for me, and He opened a way, in His time, that eventually led to the job I have now…at a school where I feel appreciated by those I work with and supported by those I work for.

Trusting is the key.  God’s plan, despite disappointment is ALWAYS best.

2.  What decision are you glad you made?

I am glad I made the decision to stay home with my children when they were youngsters.  I was on track for a terrific career…one I enjoyed immensely…dealing with all things techy…and I gave up a good salary (for a person who didn’t have a college degree)  to fulfill my dream of being a stay-at-home mom to my children.  Although this means that I will be working forever and a day, and my daughter, a first-year teacher, is making more money than me, a fourth-year teacher, I am content that I did the right thing.

My children had what I did not – a mother who was there for them every day…a mother who attended every awards ceremony, volunteered for just about every opportunity at school…a mother who made it her mission to let her children know that they came first.

Even though I don’t often feel validated by them for my decision, I know it was the right one.  Sure, I’ve not been a perfect mother, but they can never say that I didn’t show them how loved they were/are.

3.  I’ve been a little bit surprised to see fully lit and decorated Christmas trees popping up for the past several weeks in friend’s Instagram feeds. So tell the truth-is your tree up and decorated, and if so when did that happen? If not, when will you be decking the halls?

My tree is not up, and I’m not sure I’ll put one up this year.  I gave my tree to Chicky to use in the home she is renting with her roommates.  I did that in the hopes of getting a pre-lit tree; however, this year’s Christmas will be vastly different from all previous years.  We will be spending Christmas with Chicky down south, and I’ll be gone from the 19th until probably around New Year’s to help her recover from knee surgery.

I really don’t feel like pulling everything out and decorating the house for only two or three week’s worth of enjoyment.  It’s just not worth the effort.

Bah humbug, eh?

4.  Solitaire-Poker-Rummy-Hearts-Go Fish-Old Maid…which game of cards would you most like to join?

Super Sis and I are HUGE fans of Rummy!!!  We call it 21 and played it while we were growing up.  We’re ruthless.

Playing 21 got us through the horrendous ordeal of burying our father, unexpectedly, in 2001.  We played on the plane to and from Texas.  There were lots of tears shed during those games too, and we had the entire back of the plane watching as we played hand after hand.

There are fond and bittersweet memories associated with this game.

5.  This question comes to you courtesy of a Facebook friend, who once upon a time had a blog…When you’re feeling stressed do you snack a lot or are you more the ‘can’t eat’ type?

I am one who won’t eat when I get stressed.

Truth be told, I’m not a big eater anyway.  Yes, I have a few things I like, but given the option, I’ll choose not to eat.

Being upset or stressed takes the itsy bitsy hunger I might be feeling away completely.

When Aubie passed away in May (I still tear up…even typing this now), I couldn’t eat afterward.  When Chicky tore her ACL again, I couldn’t eat.

Stress is a good diet plan for me.

😉

6.  Have you ever reviewed a product or service on line? Was your review favorable or less than favorable?

I used to be a mystery shopper, so I did this regularly for a few years.

The most recent review…sans being a mystery shopper…I did was for a restaurant.  I posted my review online.

I gave it a bad review.  The service was incredibly slow, and by the end of its tenure as a money-making venture, people weren’t even getting the right orders!  It closed not too long after I posted my review.  It’s too bad, because the food was actually delicious.

7.  What was the best conversation you had yesterday?

I got observed for the first of two “official” observations that are part of my teacher evaluation process.  I was a little nervous before my principal arrived because the class I’d chosen was acting a little crazy.  My classes stay with me for two class periods with a five-minute break in between.  We had already prepped for his visit.  I believe in honesty and promises of treats (for the students) when it comes to observations.  LOL.

As they got out their feistiness, I fretted.  They assured me that they would act properly when Mr. Principal came in.  They were even concerned enough to take their phones off of the chargers.  I allow my students to charge their phones for two reasons:  1)  Many have extracurricular activities or have to find rides home and need to talk to parents along the way and 2) If the phones are on the chargers, the kids aren’t texting secretly under the tables.

Anyhoo…the kids were very concerned that I’d get in trouble for allowing them to charge their phones, so they told me they were unplugging them.

I saw NOT one phone out the entire time he was there!!

The conversations we’d had before he arrived meant so much to me because they revealed how much my students care for me and the classroom community as a whole.

8.  My Random Thought

Chicky comes home for Thanksgiving in ONE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Need I say more?

The Pest

Sometimes I wonder how much of a pest I am.

Why ask myself this question, you say?

Well, it is because I just got off the phone with one parent and plan to call another.

Why?

Because their students consistently refuse to follow school and classroom policies.

I’ve been fortunate in that parents are usually very supportive.  However, I’ve heard, more than once, that, “You’re the only teacher I ever speak with.”

Every time someone tells me this, I pause and wonder what kind of pest I’m being.

I’ve got to admit that I am a bit surprised as well…especially when, during conferences, teachers are all in agreement about certain behaviors that I have already spoken to the parents about.

Why aren’t more teachers picking up the phone and calling home?

Do elementary and middle school teachers call home more often than high school teachers?

At a time when our children need even more accountability, parents aren’t being updated regularly on their children’s behavior…behavior that oftentimes negatively affects their children’s success, not to mention the success of every other child in the class.

I really do feel like I’m annoying parents by calling…especially when it’s the same parents EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.

Am I tough?

Yes.

Am I fair?

I try very hard to be.

Am I consistent?

Most of the time.

How do I know this?

Because 98% of my students follow protocol, and I’m not having to call their parents.

Grrr.

I constantly question myself…every reaction I have to students’ behavior…every phone call home I make.

I hope that when all is said and done, my students will understand that I was a pest because I cared so much.

Another Young Life Cut Short

As I attempt to sleep, snuggled under the covers with my puppies tucked in beside me, I find the sought-after rest eluding me.

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that a young lady Chicky attended elementary school with was killed in a car accident early yesterday morning.

She was the passenger. Early reports say that the car that hit hers was driving in the wrong direction.

When I saw the story on Facebook and read the young woman’s name, I was transported back…to a time of innocence…when school homework involved reading for thirty minutes, and parents scrambled to help the children put together dreaded science fair projects.

Play dates were the order of business after school and helped bridge the transition from school to home.

Moms got to know each other while chaperoning classroom parties, field trips, book fairs, and PTA meetings.

This was the backdrop of Chicky’s friendship with the young woman who lost her life yesterday.

Though it’s been over ten years since I saw this young lady…she, a mere child at the time, her face comes to mind easily.

I remember her dark, wavy hair and shy demeanor. Her younger brother was even more shy than she was!

Her mom was very involved in her children’s lives…hands-on…just as I was. Our love for our children drew us together, and though we moved away, I never forgot this family and thought about them periodically.

Oh, how my heart hurts for them right now.

The picture in the news article, gleaned from the young lady’s Facebook account, shows a beautiful woman, all grown up.

I don’t know what the intervening years brought her, but her picture reveals a love for life.

As I lay my head down, I am reminded that a family is going to bed without being able to say goodnight to the joy of their lives.

What sadness.

I want to put my arms around my own babies and thank the Lord for each day I can tell them I love them.

Please pray for this family and the difficult days to follow. The drivers of both cars were critically injured and need prayers. The driver of the other car, while at fault, needs prayers for forgiveness.

May God’s angels minister to all affected by this tragedy, and may we never take our children or the time we are given with them for granted.

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