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Unique Gifts

This morning at church, we sang Little Drummer Boy.

I’ve sung this song more times than I can count, but today, something in the lyrics struck me.

First was the fact that the little boy didn’t think he had any gifts that measured up to the baby’s kingly status.

I identified with that feeling.

How many times do I compare myself to others?

It doesn’t take much for me to feel inadequate…a staff meeting…a passing comment made by a coworker…a blog post written by an educational guru.

As I moved beyond the first couple of lyrics, my reflections changed.

The little boy produces his drum, and plays for the baby, who smiles at him in return.

My gifts often feel so small.

I measure myself by what others do…or at least what they say they are doing.

I count myself unworthy because of who the recipient is.

God doesn’t care, though.  He only cares that I use what He has given me.

I can’t say that I offer my students the same kinds of lessons that other teachers offer their students.

I can’t say that I serve in the same way that other Christians serve.

What I can say is that I wake up every day loving my children.  I try to make sure they feel that love through texts, messages on social media, and regular voice-to-voice conversations.

My classroom lessons are concise and follow a logical sequence.

More importantly, though, my students are loved…from the band aids I provide to the “real talk” I engage them in…my gifts are time and the refusal to give in when the going gets tough.

Those are the gifts I lay before my King.

I hope that one day, He will smile at me too.

A Girl, Her Cleats, a Diploma, and a Single Tear

Friday evening, I had the honor of watching my girl graduate, with honors, from Southeastern University.

The ceremony was held at a large, impossible to navigate to, church in Lakeland (Siri thought it was on I-4 instead of just off of it).

The church was festive, decorated with Christmas lights, wreaths, and trees.

This graduating class consisted of about 192 young people.

Southeastern University is a Christian college that walks the talk it puts forth.  Every part of the commencement ceremony honored God, from the opening prayer, to the congregational hymn, to the speeches that were given before diplomas were awarded.

Quite honestly, this didn’t feel like a college graduation but a Sunday morning worship service.

It was warm and cozy, with graduates sitting in the first few rows and supportive family and friends sitting behind them.

Chicky’s best friend, M, drove from UCF, the college she attends, to watch Chicky graduate.  She’s a lovely young woman whom we’ve had the privilege of knowing for almost ten years.  She and Chicky played travel soccer together for most of those years and only separated when their college paths put them an hour away from each other, playing for different schools.

We consider her a member of the family, so it was with great joy when she sat beside us.

I thought I wasn’t going to cry during the ceremony, but when the music started, and I saw Chicky walk down the aisle, a single tear escaped and rolled down my cheek.

I couldn’t help it.  It was a tear full of pride in my beautiful daughter…for all she had dreamed for and accomplished through hard work and sheer determination.

M and I had quite the fun during the proceedings, let me tell you, and whispered conspiratorially about what we would do when it was Chicky’s turn to walk across the stage.

It wasn’t long before her time came, and it was with great pleasure that I hollered when her name was read.

Chicky, ever the clown, made one of her silly faces and put her hands in the air while making some sort of gesture, the kind of cool gesture that only young folks look good doing, and walked across the stage…

All the while sporting her favorite shoes…

Her soccer cleats.

It was a plan hatched by her and K, Chicky’s roommate and teammate for the last three years.

Mary, K’s bonus mom, took photographs of the girls as they walked back from the stage…

My Chicky is on the right.

Please take a moment to inspect the length of Chicky’s graduation gown.

She, being Little Miss Know-It-All, decided, when ordering her gown, that she’d better go up to a 5’6″ one because she was planning on wearing heels.

Folks, the girl is only 5’2″.

When she tried on the gown before leaving her house, it nearly reached the floor.  It was also extremely spacious around the shoulder and torso area.

It would seem that 5’6″ people are a little bigger in other places too.

What Chicky failed to realize was that no matter if she was wearing heels or not, her body would remain the same size, and that gown would hit her body in the same way it would if she were wearing heels, slides, or soccer cleats.

Please note that the women in my family aren’t exactly known for our common sense.

Ahem.

Regardless, it was a marvelous evening filled with a lot of laughter.

K’s family is precious.  Chicky is so fortunate to room with a gal who has supportive family.  I feel as though our family keeps growing with every friend Chicky invites into her life, and we are blessed for that.  K’s family treats Chicky like one of their own.

Thus, it was no surprise that we went out to eat together afterward, extra friends tagging along.

The Mr.’s parents were also at Chicky’s graduation, able to watch the first of their grandchildren obtain a post-secondary degree.

This morning, before we began our drive home, we met Chicky and K at Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  It was one last chance to see the girls; we shared a time of sweet conversation and more laughter.

I snapped photos, which Chicky agreed to with a minimal amount of complaining.

Mary, K’s bonus mom, later commented (after I texted one to her) that the girls looked older today.

Yes, they sure did.

Although Chicky has been teaching for over a month now, and K will begin working on her Masters degree in January, both girls have firmly planted their feet into the adult world.

It feels strange to say that I am the mother of a college graduate.

I don’t feel old enough, that’s for sure, and I’ve been told I don’t look old enough either (these same people have never seen me before I put on my makeup).

All I know is that I give all of the glory to God, for it wasn’t me who reared a successful child…not on my own, that is…but God’s grace that allowed me to, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Pomp and Circumstance

It’s hard to believe it, but as you are reading this, I am on my way to South Florida to watch my Chicky cross a stage once again.

This time, we are honoring her as she officially graduates from college with a degree in Elementary Education.

She’s been finished for over a month and has been teaching that long as well, but this ceremony is extremely important as it provides closure to four years that went by in a flash.

It seems like only a short time ago when I bid her a very tearful farewell the first August I left her at Southeastern.

You might remember that post.

It was so difficult to watch her walk into her future, uncertainties abounding, and so many hours away from me.

She bravely took those steps and each and every one that followed.

Some were easy and fun, while others were much more difficult.

Her first semester was certainly a challenge as she adjusted to a rigorous soccer schedule and academic classes that would kick anyone’s behind.

She hung in there, faced each obstacle with grace, and finished her program a semester early.

I don’t know that I’ll cry as she accepts her diploma tonight because, unlike the tentative steps she made four years ago as she entered the unknown, she’ll be crossing the stage with confident strides…the walk of a young professional, fully prepared to do the task now in front of her.

I am so thankful for the last four years, the wonderful college where she spent them, and the people she met along the way – each day…each experience a gift from the Lord.

Chicky,

As you walk down that aisle, and as you make your way across the stage, I hope you know that I am so proud of you for finishing what you started.  You are a goal-oriented young woman and always accomplishes what you set out to do.

I am grateful for the good decisions you have made…for the promises you kept to yourself and to God…for the young adult you’ve become along the way.

I love you with all of my heart.

<3,

Mama

Oh No!

“Oh goodness,” said one student as she entered my room today…”Mrs. AuburnChick is wearing her heels today.”

I love that my shoes announce the sassiness that is about to commence.

Ho-Ho-Hodgepodge

As evidenced by a few of the questions, Christmas is drawing nearer.  Am I ready?  Not really, but everything will come together in the end, as it always does.  Meanwhile, I hope you’ll play along by linking up with Joyce.  Thanks, Joyce, for the fun questions!

1.  Are you doing anything special to mark this season of Advent? If so please share.

I think I’m becoming a bit of a Scrooge the older I get and just can’t seem to find myself over-excited.  I think that over the last four years, work has drained me, leaving me with little energy or time to do the things I used to to mark the holiday season.  So, that’s my long-winded way of answering in the negative regarding this question.

2.  Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen…and of course you recall, the most famous reindeer of all…so, which reindeer name best describes you this week?

I’d love to say Vixen, but I can’t say that my outfits have had that WOW factor.  😀

Instead, I’ll go with Prancer, because prancing around my classroom, getting kids to stay on task, seems to be the name of the game ever since we got back from Thanksgiving break.  Learning?  What is that, the kids wonder.  Their minds have jumped ahead to Christmas vacation!

3.  What’s worse-too quiet or too loud? Which have you had more of lately?

Too loud is definitely worse and what I’ve had more of lately thanks to kids being unfocused and a bit too chatty (see question #2).

4.  This question comes to you from Zoanna over at A Penchant for Pens-thanks Zo!

When you are administratively gifted, how often do you find yourself not trusting less gifted people to do what they’ve committed to do?  If you are not so gifted that way, but are reliable, how do you feel when the stronger person (in that area) goes ahead and covers it before giving you a chance to come through?

I am the type of person who takes care of business when I say I will.  Thus, I have little tolerance for those who do not.  I tend to follow up…quickly…to ensure that things are getting done in a timely manner.  It does irk me if someone who has tasked me with something goes ahead and does it.  Don’t ask me to cover if you don’t really think I can!

5.  What is your most dreaded task relating to the holidays? Your most looked forward to holiday task?

My most dreaded task is putting away decorations, which I won’t have to worry about this year because I have not decorated.  Shocker, I know, but true all the same.

My most anticipated task is wrapping presents because it’s when I learn what the Mr. has purchased for people (bad, I know, but I trust his judgment enough to turn over shopping to him).

6.  Facebook has released its list of the ‘most talked about’ topics of 2013. Pope Francis took the number one spot.  Does that surprise you? He was followed by election, royal baby, typhoon, and Harlem Shake. Your thoughts? What was your most talked about topic in 2013? (Facebook, around the kitchen table, or wherever it is you talk)

The Harlem Shake made the most talked-about list of topics?  Wow.  The others listed do not surprise me.  Mankind is a nosy species, that’s for sure!  My most talked-about topics would be a toss-up between teaching and my children.

7.  What’s something you consider a necessity that others might view as a luxury?

Getting my nails done every pay check is a mental necessity that others often view as extravagant.  I care not what others think.  Going to the nail salon provides downtime that I need.  I work a lot of hours, both at school and from home, and I don’t really treat myself to things.  I don’t like to shop, except for books for my classroom, and I don’t do many other things for myself.  Having my nails look pretty makes me feel good.  I feel no guilt or embarrassment.

8.  My Random Thought

For a few years now, we’ve had a problem.  Pele, our now-oldest dog (Aubie was the oldest before she passed away in May) has insisted on sleeping on the couch.  It started when he was a puppy and we allowed him there.

I know…bad, bad, bad.

When Molly came into our home, she followed suit, and I’ll admit that it was fun to watch the dogs chase each other around the house and over the couches.

Yes, I am a redneck, and Martha Steward would be having a heart attack.

At some point, we got tired of getting up from the couch with an entire skin of fur on our backsides, so we banned the pups from the furniture.

It was a long, difficult adjustment, but Molly finally learned her lesson.

Pele did not.

He’s not the brightest bulb, let me tell you.

I resorted to putting dining room chairs on the couches to deter him.

Did I mention that Martha Stewart would be having a heart attack?

Last week, I had an idea…very random but so typical of me.

I pulled pink packing wrap from a box I’d had for years, covered my couches with them, and waited to see what would happen.

Guess what?

The dogs did not disturb the wrap!

Not the first day, nor the second, third, or fourth.

It’s been about a week, and the wrap continues to do its job.

In fact, Molly is scared of it when I move it to sit down.

SCORE!

The wrap is so much less of a pain than picking up two chairs, turning them over, and laying them down, only to pick them up later when anyone wants to sit.

Did I mention that I have moments when I surprise myself with my brilliance?

😀

Conversations With My Students

Oh the joy of teaching teenagers.

One would think they would be easier that elementary students.

At least mine don’t throw rocks at me, eh, Chicky?

😉

The conversations are the best, though.

Take, for instance, yesterday during my last class.

The kids were taking notes on persuasive rhetoric (because I am an overachieving teacher and throw big words out at them…words like Ethos, Pathos, and Logos).

All of sudden, one of my boys who is probably one of the most random young men I’ve ever met, asked, “Mrs. Auburnchick, did you have friends when you were in high school?”

Ahem.

He went on to say, “I bet you were emo.”

Um, yeah.

It’s probably at this point when you’re starting to worry about me, eh?

If you must ask, I tend to be a bit energetic.

I am not ADD.

I promise.

If I am, it’s because my friend, Barb, gave it to me.

But emo…no way.

The only times I’ve cried in front of my students are when Chicky called to tell me her ACL was torn and when the Mr.’s grandmother had passed away.

I am human, after all.

Anyhoo…

I was taken aback and assured the young man (after I tried to get us back on track) that I was friends with many people from high school on Facebook.

So there.

😛

One of my girls came to my defense by saying, “I bet she stayed away from drama.”

Yeah.

Sure.

Teenage female…high school…drama.

Whatever you want to believe, honey.

Still another young lady piped up and said, “I bet she was reading all of the time.”

DING DING DING DING DING!!

And the winner is student #4!!!!!!!!!!!

I assure you that I tried…desperately…to keep my students focused on the most interesting of topics…persuasive writing.

No, I did not answer my students’ questions and looked at them with THAT look that meant I was frustrated.

We did get through our notes, but I was worn out afterwards.

How many more days until Christmas vacation?

Heck.

How many days until retirement?!

Fusion Music – Grammar Style

I spent the entire weekend lesson planning.

On average, it takes me between five and six hours to make lesson plans for an entire week.

Saturday, I spent about nine hours planning for the upcoming week, and  Sunday, I spent eight hours planning for the week of the 16th.

I wanted to get that second week done because the guys and I are driving down south to watch Chicky be awarded her college diploma!  I didn’t want to return late on Saturday and have lesson planning to do.

One of the skills I’m working on with my students is essay writing.

I teach tenth graders, and they will be taking our State writing assessment in February.  Part of my school’s score and my own VAM depends on their writing scores.

We are writing one essay…revising it several times while focusing on each of the six writing traits.  We’ve covered two already and are working on sentence fluency, which involves writing sentences of different lengths and with different types of beginnings.

It’s quite the task, let me tell you.  I don’t even remember not being able to write as a youngster.  Kids today do not have the writing skills we had growing up.

Thus, I’ve been doing a lot of research, pulling supplemental instructional material, and hunting for videos that will explain things in a way they understand.

That’s when I came across the video I’m going to post below.

When I watched it the first time, I giggled the entire way through.

Why?

Well, first of all, I love Kelly Clarkson.  Her voice is powerful, and she’s just a cutie patootie.

One of her songs that I love for its strong message is Miss Independent.

Well, in my search for sentence fluency videos, I came across a parody of Kelly’s song.  Whoever created the video did an excellent job!

I’m not sure how my students will like it, but I can assure you that I, at least, will be amused each of the three times I will have to watch it (once for each of my three classes).

I love grammar, and I love Kelly.

This is the perfect fusion of both!

From Last to First

Source: USA Today

I love the way USA Today opens up its article about Auburn winning the SEC Championship last night:

From last to first. From winless in the Southeastern Conference to confetti-splashed champions. From dysfunction to destiny.

You guys know I am a die-hard Auburn fan.

My students often give me a hard time about my allegiance, but I do teach mostly Alabama and FSU fans, so what can you expect.

😉

Last year was particularly brutal, so I, along with the rest of my family and Auburn fans everywhere, held my breath when the 2013 season began.

I can’t say Auburn was impressive at the beginning.

It took several wins in a row to build trust.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but after only a few short weeks, Auburn fans began smiling…genuinely…as we watched our guys, so full of character, come back time after time to win improbable games.

My Rooster was fortunate to attend the Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama games…nail-biters to the end.

He came home exhausted and nearly voiceless from stress, fatigue, and excitement.

As the mother of an athlete, I’ve watched hundreds of games and sat through many, many close finishes.  My heart has fluttered with nerves for the mamas and daddys watching their young men out on that field.

I cannot tell you how much I admire the Auburn players and coaches.

They dared to dream when hardly anyone believed in them.

They dared to defy the odds, disproving so-called “expert” predictions.

Led by a fearless group of coaches, they attempted the impossible and pulled rabbits from their hats.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget this season.  It ranks up there with the 2010 season when we won the National Championship.

In some ways, this year has been even sweeter because of how the team rebounded from the previous season when the stands were often half-empty and fans left at halftime.

I am definitely in the minority where I live…in a state dominated by Florida college football loyalty and, for some odd reason, Alabama too.

I am so proud to call myself an Auburn fan.

Thanks, guys, for showing, by example, what it means to pick yourself up and not allow anyone to label you as failures.

You are a wonderful example to the struggling readers I teach, and I nod my head in respect to your accomplishments this season.

Ruh Roh

Yesterday afternoon, I was in desperate need of a nap.  The week after Thanksgiving Break is notorious for being a rough one on teachers.  Kids don’t want to go back to school, and teachers don’t really want to either.

The Mr. wanted to go to Best Buy, but I insisted on my nap first…

An hour and a half later, head foggy from nap-brain, we grabbed Rooster and headed out.

The Mr. was on a mission…

To look at TVs.

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

The TV in the living room has been on its last legs for awhile.  We’ve had it as long as we’ve been in this house…at least nine years…and the colors were starting to go bad.  Yellow sidebars were creeping in from the left and right sides of the screen.

Despite this, I loved my TV, as evidenced by a photo I posted a couple of years ago when I was reunited with it after giving up television for Lent…

You can see, though, that it was large and boxy.  It jutted out in the back, which made finding the right place for it difficult.  It took up a lot of space.  Still, the picture was large, and I loved it (again, the proof is in the pudding…or rather, picture).

Anyhoo, he wanted to look at TVs and actually had been looking for a while.

He had a good idea what he wanted because he’d been pricing them.

He talked to a sales associate about a TV he’d seen on sale elsewhere, and that’s when I started getting nervous.

You see, I’d heard the Mr. tell the associate that we could put the purchase on my Best Buy card.

You get interest free if you pay for large purchases in full over a certain amount of time…usually between 18 and 24 months.

There was a problem that the Mr. wasn’t aware of.

I didn’t have enough room left on the card for the hefty purchase…

Because I’d done my Christmas shopping for a certain “someone” at said store just a few days ago.

Um.

Yeah.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me…actually shopping early for a change.

But I couldn’t tell him that.

So, I pulled Rooster over and explained the dilemma.

He chuckled as his eyes widened in understanding.

The Mr. continued talking to the associate, and Rooster and I began giggling.

The Mr. was not amused and began rolling his eyes and getting mad at us.

We couldn’t help it, though, and I tried to explain that it was an inside joke.

I later learned that the Mr. thought we were making fun of the associate.

We’re not mean like that.

Only Chicky and I do things like that.

Hey, Chicky…“Meow.”

Sorry.

Inside joke.

Back to my story.

The Mr. still had no clue what was going on except that we were being obnoxious.

As soon as he walked away to look at TVs some more (big purchases are never easy in my family), I pulled the associate aside and explained what was going on.

He suggested I take a walk “to the ladies room,” conveniently located beside Customer Service, and get some help with my balance.

Sigh.

I did and returned.

The Mr., by this time, was looking at a different TV, but he had wizened up.

He told me that he knew there wasn’t room on my card and asked what I’d purchased.

Sigh.

That’s when I had to spill the beans, completely ruining his Christmas surprise.

Bigger sigh.

That didn’t thwart the Mr., and he made the purchase…albeit with a bit of juggling.

The sales associate was having a good time at our expense, let me tell you.  It certainly was a funny situation!

We got our new TV home, and Rooster set it up for us…not that we couldn’t have, mind you, but doing things like this helps him earn his keep.

😉

Look at what we now have in our living room…

Oh word, but this TV is AMAZING!!

It’s a little smaller than the one I had, but it can do SO MUCH MORE!!!

We have Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus, but I’ve only been able to watch shows on my computer or through my Wii, which is a pain because the Wii cuts out sometimes.

No more!

Now everything is accessible through my “Smart” TV.

Ahem.

I can also do my social networking stuff while watching TV!!

The picture is so clear!  I had not realized how bad the other TV was until the new TV was turned on.

Just look at Sami Brady.  She’s definitely hiding something (when is she NOT?).  You can see every worry line on her face with the new TV!

When all was said and done, our little Ruh Roh turned out to be more like a Whoop Whoop!

Priorities

Yesterday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the ringtone assigned for Chicky, indicating that she was calling me.

Of course, I will admit that I, at first, thought she needed something.

She is, after all, a young adult who has been supported by Yours Truly for the last 21+ years of her life.

But no…she was calling just to chat.

:::And the internet world pauses a moment…shocked into silence:::

I was thrilled, and we had a lovely conversation.

She didn’t need one single thing.

Not money.

Not soccer shoes to be mailed.

Nada.

As we chatted, the conversation went from an update on her teaching (she has a very challenging group but is making it through each day), my gandpuppy, Cali, and her upcoming graduation.

Then, she gave me some news.

News that made my heart jump for joy.

Are you ready?

Read

On

Down…

CHICKY GOT CABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:::And the internet world goes silent in shock that this would actually be the subject of a blog post:::

Hey!  What can I say?  I’ve gotta write about what’s important, and let me just tell you that having cable to watch while I’m nursing her back to health after her knee surgery is VERY IMPORTANT!!

I mean…

How else am I going to keep up with Days of Our Lives, Survivor, and The Blacklist.

I mean…sure, I could hunt for the episodes online, but that’s not near as much fun as watching them REAL TIME and not having to avoid social media for fear of spoilers.

Plus, DOOL episodes don’t become available online until the day after they are aired.

I’m expected to be patient?

Sheesh.

Chicky laughed when I fist-pumped (she couldn’t see that, of course) and exclaimed loudly in triumph.

She even got a DVR, so I can record shows while I’m there!!!

I can just see us now…snuggled together on the couch…her brain all mushy because of the rad pain meds she’s going to be taking (knee surgery really bites, let me tell you)…Cali snuggled between us…

Watching Food Network…Cupcake Wars and whatever else strikes our fancy.

I’m telling you…it’s all about the priorities…

…staying down south for a while, taking care of my girl, cable television cranking out its mind-numbing stuff in the background.

If only I could remove the surgery bit from the picture, I’d say the priorities are a-okay!

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