Saturday, June 23, 2012

Top 10 Things you need to know about Reluctant Teen Readers

If you have a teen that is unwilling to read. Inspire them! After 5 years in a reading classroom, this is what I've learned. This does not, however, apply to everyone. Every single student is different, but hopefully one of these tips will help you, help your student.
  1. Most reluctant readers have never, ever found pleasure in a book because they've never found a favorite author, genre, or book (period).
    • What to do about it:
      • Most teens, especially girls, love taking personality quizzes. I mean magazines are full of them and I've noticed it's one of the first places they'll go. Here's a personality quiz that determines what genre might fit you best. It's a great place to start: What Genre Fits You Best? See if you can get your teen to take it.
        • If not, ask yourself, what do they do during the day? What interests them? Begin researching books.
      • Once you have that information, you have fuel for a fire. Begin reading some top teen picks in this genre or books that might interest them. Here's an excellent place to start:
      • If you like it. Sell it. YOU HAVE TO BE QUICK AND SNEAKY! Here's what I did that got a book a long waiting list: Book Talks. I'd spend a few seconds, seriously, talking about the summary, and then read an intense part, BUT LEAVE THEM HANGING. Do NOT tell them what happens, simply tell them, "Well, I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!"
      • Set the book down (make sure they do not know where you read that from) and walk away. It might be there for a few days, or not, but LEAVE it alone and don't say anything! You do NOT want to become naggy.
  2. I've found that many reluctant readers do not visualize the book in their head while they read. No wonder they hate it so much! No pictures in their head = booooooring!
    • What to do about it:
      • Read a book and talk about what the characters and setting looks like in your head.
      • Talk about what you saw as you read an intense scene... like a fight.
      • If a student has never visualized before, it's because no one has taught them that it's a thinking process they must do in order to enjoy reading. It's like a movie unfolding in their head and they must learn how to think. I do this through Think Alouds, where I'll read, stop, talk about what I see, read, stop, talk about what I see, etc. If your teen will sit and read a book with you, this is the most effective way to teach them how to think.
  3. Most reluctant readers have never spent time reading because they may not think they have time, or it isn't part of a families schedule, or a families priorities, etc. etc.
    • What to do about it:
      • Change your priorities! Make it part of your day! Begin with a short time period first and as it becomes a schedule they're used to, gradually take on time. Take 15 minutes where everyone is required to read, something, magazine, newspaper, whatever. The requirement is you must sit quietly and read, BUT YOU MUST JOIN THEM AND MODEL THE BEHAVIOR YOU'RE TRYING TO GET FROM THEM! Yes, it will be difficult at first. Yes, it will be a fight. You will probably hear, "This is so stupid!" STICK TO YOUR GUNS.
      • We began everyday with 10 minutes of individual reading time (I wish I had more time dedicated to that) and it took A LOT of practice to make it a procedure the students just did.
  4. Most reluctant readers do not know how to find what they're intersted in reading. They do not know how to navigate a library or a book store, for example. For them it's overwhelming!
    • What to do about it:
      • Take them to a library or a book store and teach them the ropes.
        • "If you're interested in this... go there..."
        • "If you're interested in checking out this type of books... here's where what you look for..."
        • "I'm interested in ____________, so this is where I'd go to find what I'm looking for...."
      • If you go to a library, most card catalogue systems are on the computer. Find it, and go through it together. If you're unsure, that's a librarians job: to help you! So ask.
  5. Motivation. Reading is hard, once they realize that it's a thinking process where they're required to connect, predict, visualize, etc. They don't want to do it because it's time consuming.
    • What to do:
      • Motivate them with something they enjoy. Like, spend 30 minutes reading you get 30 minutes past curfew. Spend 20 minutes reading and I'll make your favorite cookies. Spend an hour reading every day this week and I'll buy that game you've been wanting.... Finish this book and we'll make time to take a day at Elitch Gardens. Make it worth while.
      • For example: In my classroom they were required to earn so many AR points, I'd check them periodically and if they were making progress, I'd hand out candy. Candy works wonders, even for teens. :) I gave out free homework passes, points towards a free day, etc.
  6. Most reluctant readers have never been successful when it comes to reading.
    • What to do:
      • Create opportunities where they are motivated, once they are successful the motivation factor should become less and less because they'll just pick it up on their own. 
      • Show them how to find a book they might be interested in reading. The more interest the have in the topic, the more likely they are to finish the task.
      • If they complete a reading task, make a big deal of it. Reward them for a job well done!
      • Talk through the book with them (which means you'll have to read it too). Most reluctant readers do not understand that their viewpoint is valuable. Sometimes they've been criticized for thinking differently or outside the box, they have to understand their insight is valuable and it's ok to be wrong.
        • For example, in class we work on predicting. Most reluctant readers are hesitant to do this because, "OMG! What if I'm wrong?" Well, who cares. The point is making the reader think about what's going to happen next, if you're wrong you'll be that much more surprised.
        • The other, more depressing and long lasting aspect, is when your student was called stupid for making a prediction or answering a question. This is where you need to help your student gain confidence on his/her ability to answer questions and participate in a discussion. This is something you can do, do not criticize. Help him/her learn the academic language that most people use to discuss a book or text by simply using it. Perhaps even give him a sentence starter: I believe... I wonder if... What would happen if... etc.
  7. Most reluctant readers struggle. I love how Kylene Beers stated that struggle in her book When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do, "The struggle isn't the issue; the issue is what the reader does when the text gets tough."
    • What to do:
      • Independent readers try to figure out what's confusing them, they use strategies and tools to get them through a particularly rough part of the text, but they persevere. They ask questions, guess meanings of unknown words, reflect, make mistakes and are still confident. Struggling readers do not do any of that.
      • What they need is a tool box. Not a literal tool box, but something tangible so they know what tool they can use to fix what's confusing them. Teach them what good readers do, do not focus on what they're not doing.
      • Before Reading Good Readers:
        • Preview the book (read the summary, look at pictures, thumb through the pages).
        • Think about what they know about a text before reading it.
        • Predict what they think will happen.
      • During Reading Good Readers:
        • Predict what they think will happen next.
        • Connect the text to their own life, to something they've seen, heard or read before (books, movies, magazines, news, etc.).
        • Ask Questions.
        • Visualize
        • Infer
        • Compare/Contrast
        • Find the Main Idea
        • Know the sequence of events
        • Self Monitor (For example: they say, "Wow that was a really tough paragraph, I'm going to go back and reread it." or "I don't understand that word and I think it's confusing me, I'll look it up or ask the teacher.")
      • After Reading Good Readers:
        • Reflect (Did I like it? Would I recommend it? I wonder why...)
        • Discuss (Reading is a very social activity! If you like it, you'll want to talk about it and share it!)
  8. Many reluctant readers pick books that are way to hard.
    • What to do:
      • Stick to the fist rule. As they're reading make a fist. For every word he/she does not understand stick out a finger. If there are 5 or more words on one page they do not understand. Pick a different, less challenging book.
  9. Most reluctant readers do not connect.
    • What to do:
      • Struggling or reluctant readers do not see how a text relates to them. If it doesn't relate to their own lives right now, they want nothing to do with it.
      • This is where you need to do your homework. What does your student like? What would he/she find interesting? Find a book, magazine, comic, whatever, that relates to their interests.
      • What movie did they enjoy? If they liked I am Legend with Will Smith, for example, they'll like The Maze Runner Series because there are people in the book called Cranks that I pictured as the zombies in that movie. Eeek.
      • YouTube is a favorite of mine, so is music. If girls listen to music all... the... time... they'll love the book Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. Excellent, clean, teen love story. While I read any book that I think Teens might like, I try to find YouTube videos or songs that relate to the book in any way, it helps them connect.
  10. Most good readers have a place where they can't wait to go and relax. It's like their own reading utopia. Most reluctant readers do not have a reading utopia.
    • What to do: Create one. This is a picture of one of my reading utopia dreams, the only thing it requires is a quiet place, popcorn, a pillow, and a love sac:

I hope this helps inspire you to buckle down and get to work on helping your student read. It will be hard, frustrating, and at times a tad daunting. Don't give up on them! Parents are the best or worst advocates for reading! Keep at it, despite the "I don't want to's..." or "I don't feel like it's..." because I promise you that it will benefit them in more ways than you can possibly count.

"The road to knowledge begins with the turn of a page..."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I saw this somewhere (probably a "share" on facebook) and I wrote it down (it looks like quickly) on a sticky note. Today, as I was cleaning our basement and getting ready for some more remodeling projects, I found it. I couldn't help sharing because it amazes me! It just proves that God is in control and there is a meaning behind every placement, every word, every story, and it all points to HIM.

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117.
The longest is Psalm 119.
The center of the Bible is Psalm 118.
There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118.
Add these and you get 1188.
The center verse of the Bible is Psalm 118:8 which says,
"It is better to take to refuge in the Lord than to trust in man."


Pregnancy Poetry

I announced our pregnancy with this poem on Facebook...
What is my secret?
I’ll give ya some clues so that you may know.
It’s been a hard secret to keep, so here I go…
I am tired, afternoon naps are always desired.
I am nauseous, usually in the evening, laying in the fetal position is usually required.
I am moody, I’m so sorry if that’s been taken out on you.
But for 12 weeks straight I’ve felt like I have the flu.
I am always eating, otherwise I’d be sick.
Most of the time my silly stomach doesn’t know what to pick.
Cheetos PUFFS, Goldfish, Granola Bars, and Apples seem to be what I most desire…
When I have heartburn it feels like my chest is on fire!
I have the most sensitive nose, and the slightest smell makes me want to flee.
I have a rounder belly, which already forced me to go on a clothes shopping spree.
I am so excited and so is Kyle.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s okay, for some it may take awhile…
We’re going from four family members (dogs included) to five.
We have A LOT to do to get ready, but to have it completed by September 14 is the date for which we will strive…
I have 12 weeks down, 28 to go.
By then, I know, I’ll be BIG from head to toe.
What is my secret?

I had so much fun with it, I thought I'd do another -updated- one.
I am 26 weeks, 5 days today.
10 weeks ago I was finally getting over the first trimester blues.
Even the thought of food made me turn a greenish hue.
Thankfully that's no longer true.
I love food, seem to always be hungry, and not a lot makes me green these days.
There's really only one item to keep at bay... Coffee.
Cucumbers and pickles are my favs, Kyle says I permanently smell like dill.
I wake up in the morning and think, "Yum, a pickle," I can't seem to eat my fill.
Cereal is also what I live on.
Cheerio's, Lucky Charms, Kix, Honey Bunches of Oats, you name it I'll eat it.
Even for a snack I'll grab a bit.
There's a lot going on in there...
She's on the move, ready to go somewhere...
When Marley and I were cuddling on the couch yesterday I think he felt her move.
His head shot up and immediately changed positions, obviously disapproved.
At 21 weeks the doc said, "It's a girl, probably..."
Well, she'd better be a girl, the nursery's all pink and bubbly!
Thanks to generous donations she has 8 totes of pink clothes, up until she's 2 years old!
They were soooooo cute to hold and fold.
Kyle kept saying, "She's going to look so pretty!"
I couldn't agree more, they're all so itty-bitty!
We're doing so much to the house to get ready for her.
I have a feeling the next few months, weeks, and days will flash by in a blur.
I'm about 6 months along, which means I have three to go.
Our to do list is lengthy, but we'll get it done I know.
We anticipate so many changes to our lives.
But we can't wait for the day our little girl arrives!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kitchen - Before & After

When we moved into our home in 2009 we knew we'd have to make updates. However, I'm learning to despise living in a remodel project. It's a mess! It's amazing the things we have been able to check off our BIG to do list, but the more projects we tackle the more that seem to come up. It's never ending.

BUT once we finish a project there is deep satisfaction from a job well done. We worked so hard on this kitchen. Let me show you the process...

If you read my Pretend You're a Professional Interior Designer blog back in May, you'll find that I tell you to pick one item that gave you inspiration. I've always wanted a red kitchen, but not because of just any item. Since I was a year old I've been collecting Mickey Mouse items. Let's just say I'm a tad obsessed. So the inspiration for the red came from this Mickey Mouse flower pot that I used as a utensil holder.
So when it was just me, my kitchen was red, black, and white because I decorated it using all my Mickey Mouse stuff. Well... when Kyle and I got married he kindly asked me if we could have a more "grown-up" kitchen. I conceded telling him I'll just use the stuff for our future nursery, he agreed. (I wonder if he's regretting this now?)
My living room and kitchen are pretty much connected, so I decided to use the same inspiration I found there, creating some uniformity from one room to the next. I went to my all time favorite store, Hobby Lobby, for some Live, Laugh, Love particulars. I found what I was looking for, and then some - I had to pick, and it became my new inspiration and I was still able to have my red, black, and white kitchen. :)
The top one says, "Live like there's no tomorrow."
The second one says, "Laugh a lot. When you're older all your wrinkles will be in the right spot."

After I had my inspiration, everything else just came together. First thing I did was research. Black and Red are so bold and dark. I wasn't sure how the whole thing was going to turn out. So I googled "black and red kitchen" pictures. I found this kitchen with my exact color scheme (the light yellow is in my living room, which -remember- I was trying to connect) and decided to do it, because I LOVED it: Kitchen Inspiration

So I went ahead and painted the walls. (This was when we first moved into the house, back in 2009.)

Ceiling = white.
2 Walls = Red
Behind Cabinets = White
I also painted the microwave white, where there was that fake wood accent (yuck).

Next, (which ended up being in the summer of 2010, one year after painting) was the big project... the cabinets.... I went in with the mentality that it "couldn't be that hard." Well, it wasn't, but it was a pain- in- the- buttocks. The most important part of the process was the first couple of steps:

1. Clean and ZipStrip.
2. Prime.

Those two steps were the most time consuming. Here's some pictures of the process:
Started cleaning and priming.
Cleaning, Priming, and Painting the doors on the porch.
After the primer dried, I painted it black. At this point there was no turning back. I was a little scared of such bold colors. Boy am I glad I stuck it out.
Letting it dry...
More drying...
I removed the shelf above the sink to open the room up a tad and use open shelving. I love how it turned out.
Now for the top, clean... prime... paint... clean... prime... paint.

After a few days of drying (drying really slows ya down) came the hardware. I chose a brass color to tie into the living room and the counter tops, which we decided (budget wise) to keep. I really don't mind because it just works! As you will see from my pictures, this is where I was going insane. I was putting the hardware in and then hung the doors...

I hit my ultimate frustration level (after I dropped a cabinet door on my foot, dinged a door pretty good, and lost my screwdriver)... lol.. it's funny now!
Thankfully, it was an easy fix with wood filler, prime, and paint. You honestly can't even tell, thank GOODNESS!
I'm finally done with that crazy project, on to the next one: the floor. (This project we completed Saturday, so it's been a 3 year process...)

We weren't sure if we'd be able to install tile and still be able to open the back door. So we decided to stick to linoleum. It still looks nice, plus it was a lot cheaper. When we began ripping the floor up Kyle realized that they put this funky floor on top of the sub floor???? I've never even heard of that, but we had the linoleum, and not the time to investigate it further. So we ripped off the original floor and went to work from there.
It was a nasty, disgusting job!

Getting somewhere...
Our living room became storage for our kitchen appliances.
The fridge blocked the doorway from the living room to the kitchen. Marley was NOT a fan.

Once the floor was completely ripped out, we laid the new floor out on the lawn to cut it.
Haha, old floor... new floor...
After measuring twice, cutting once, we brought it in, hoping that -Kyle- had done the calculations correctly (that is not my thing... sometimes 2 + 2 = 5 in my world.) BTW, he did.
We're done! There are a few minor projects we need to complete yet, but the major projects are DONE! Yay!
 I think the best way to end this kitchen remodel is with the before and after pictures...

I know you can't see me, thank goodness, because this project was exhausting, but I have a HUGE smile on my face. I love my kitchen.

Psalm 18 & 19

Everyday I read a Psalm. God said David was a man after His own heart and to have insight into David's struggles, worship, and prayer time, to me, is an immense blessing. David is a great example on how to pray and how to worship!

After reading Psalm 18 & 19 again, they are fast become two of my favorites.

David was so good at worshiping!

"I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised..." - Psalm 18:1-3

"This God - His way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God? -
the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless." - Psalm 18:30-32

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." - Psalm 19:1

It's amazing poetry!

"The law of the lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb." - Psalm 19:7-10

David knew how to pray!

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." - Psalm19:14

My goal is to worship and pray as David shows us through the Psalms, not just today, but for the rest of my life, growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ. My prayer is the same as David's,

Oh awesome God, you alone deserve the glory!
Let my words and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight.
You are my rock, my strength, my redeemer.
I love you, Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Little Marley Man

I made up this song that I sing to Marley, saying his name over and over again and his favorite word: ball. It goes to the tune of "My Little Buttercup" that the 3 Amigo's sing as they are hanging out in a bar. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's this ridiculously hilarious movie (mostly ridiculous), but you have to know the tune to know how the song goes: My Little Buttercup.

My Little Marley Man has the sweetest growl
My Little Marley Man won't you stay a while
You and I can play fetch with a squeaky little ballllllllll 
Oh, Dear Little Marley Man 
Sweet Little Marley Man
I Love You.

Whenever I sing him his little song, his ears go wild and he usually runs to get his ball. I'm sure, to him it sounds like this:

blah blah Marley Man blah blah blah blah 
blah blah Marley Man blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah balllllllll
blah blah blah Marley Man
blah Marley Man
blah blah blah

But he seems to like it, even if I'm off pitch... and he has no idea what I'm saying.

Little Marley Man has been a blessing in my life. I saw this shirt in a mall that had paw prints all over it and asked the question, "Who saved who?" That's so Marley for me. I got him from a little town in Fairbury. He was the smallest of the litter, a tad dirty, and oh so small. He fit in my hoodie pocket!

Everyone wanted to carry him around that first night I got him, Joe (one of Kyle's fraternity friends) figured he was a girl picker-upper. He was so irresitably cute!
I had moved to Nebraska earlier that school year (I got him in March of 2007) and I was lonely. I hated it. This small town isn't the most inviting town for newcomers. Everyone seems to have their clicks and I never felt welcome. I was desperately trying to find a job elsewhere but nothing was working out. It seemed as though God wanted me there, at the time I had no idea why (See my post on I'm Not the Same as I Once Was, Thank God, to see why). I think God put Marley in my life to keep me sane...

We were instant friends. I took him along when I worked at school all hours of the night and he'd sit on my lap as I worked, or followed me around as I prepared for the next days lesson.
Sitting on Mommy's lap.

He is a cuddler.

 I found he loved toys - he became my entertainment.

This was only the beginning of a wonderful relationship and the entertainment....

Marley is a miniature rat terrier, but the only thing miniature about him is his size. The longer I had him, the more I got to know his amazing personality. He's a tad weird sometimes. He has a certain way of doing things. And he has bounds of energy. His little legs do not slow him down one bit. In fact, Kyle and I ran a 5K one evening and took Marley along. I was a few paces behind Kyle, but Marley would run with Kyle, sprint back to check on me, sprint ahead to run with Kyle, sprint back to check on me... he ran double what we ran and still had energy to spare!

He has so many weird and wonderful quirks, perhaps that's due to his endless amounts of energy! I thought that the best way for you to get to know him is to list those weird quirks of his. So here's Weird Quirk #1: He HATES it when his toy "ends up" in a box or a basket. He gets so frustrated he yells at the toy... YouTube Video: Marley, Get Your Toy!
Weird Quirk #2: He HATES getting baths. He runs around the house, rubbing on everything. I'm assuming this is an attempt to make himself smelly again.

Weird Quirk #3: Whenever Kyle comes home from work, he immediately finds his toy and begs Kyle to take him outside to play. He'll run and play fetch until we literally have to pry the ball out of his mouth (which as you can see is a tad big)!

Weird Quirk #4: He watches tv with Kyle (he likes the more exciting stuff like National Geographic and the dog shows) and he'll run up to the tv, bark at whatever so kindly popped up, run back to sit with Kyle and repeat the process over and over throughout the show.

Weird Quirk #5: Everyone who walks by him is there to see him. Even when our neighbors, Doug or Jennifer, come home from work, they come home to see him. He's their official greet-er.

Weird Quirk #6: He's definitely a little momma's boy. When he wants to be picked up he'll put his front paws on my legs and dig. If I have shorts on he leaves these little claw marks up and down my legs. At first I thought it was cute, now I'm finding it a tad annoying, and am trying to break him of this habit.

Weird Quirk #7: He sits on the back of the couch, spread eagle, looking out the window, waiting to hear the sound of Kyle's truck coming home from work.

Weird Quirk #8: He smells his farts. Seriously. I'll hear a little squeek and see him whip his head around and sniff his own butt. I have yet to catch this on video, so I have no proof, except Kyle's word, but I swear the day I do get it on video is the day I submit it to Funniest Home Videos.

Weird Quirk #9: He HATES the wind most of all. We'll go on walks (remember that 50 mph wind is a normal thing here in western Nebraska, so he pretty much hates his life) and he'll walk belly to the ground, trying desperately to find a place to get out of the blasted wind. The cutest part of the walk is when he takes his paws and tries to fold his ears down. They don't stay down, of course, so he does this multiple times.

Weird Quirk #10: We have to get toys that are hairless. He'll eat the hair and make himself sick. Plus we find little nips of hair alllllll over the house. We can't even buy tennis balls. You'll know he's found a toy with hair when you see hair stuck to his nose, and he's trying his darndest to get it off his tongue. The big joke is that we have to get Marley hairless balls.

Weird Quirk #11: He has a guilty conscience. If we leave him for any length of time, he goes to the basement and poops. I find this more annoying and frustrating than weird, but my point is, we know he's done this when he won't greet us at the door. Our first question is, "What did you do?" He slinks over to us, crawling on his belly, tail tucked, and rolls on his back, as if he's begging for his life. Sure enough I'll find a little poop pile in the same dang spot! Ugh.

Weird Quirk #12: He FREAKS out (sprints, jumps, whines, barks, cries) whenever you say any of these words: hungry, bye-bye, walk, treat, toy, outside, or even if you say... "Want to...?" Kyle and I have had to find other ways of saying these words (he's learned to spell) like Hungry is "the H word" and walk is now perambulate. That way we can have a conversation about him and make a decision without him freaking out, and keep from breaking his little heart if we decide not to do one of the above mentioned words.

Weird Quirk #13: We have to watch him closely outdoors. He likes to rub in the smelliest, nastiest thing he finds. One time he found a dead fish swarming with red ants, Kyle just picked him up and threw him in the lake, took care of the ant problem. But... he... was... mad... he hates water and he loves being smelly. Two strikes against Kyle, which leads right into the next quirk.

Weird Quirk #14: Because he's a momma's boy, whenever he's upset he runs to me, begging to be picked up. If he's hurt, or mad, or scared, I'm who he runs to. Sometimes he puts his cold little wet nose in my armpit. Yeah, we're buddies.

Weird Quirk #15: He INSISTS on sleeping under covers. He just burrows right in...

Weird Quirk #16:  He especially loves squeaky toys. If Kyle hides under a blanket and squeaks that toy, Marley digs and digs and digs for it! He doesn't give it up! We found a fun way to keep him entertained - just put his squeaky toy in an old sock or tie it up in a blanket - it's a puzzle he loves trying to figure out.

Weird Quirk #17: One time, he found a poor ground squirrel, destroyed it by ripping off its head and plopping it at my feet, as proud as can be. I swear he's always looking for another opportunity to repeat that!

Weird Quirk #18: He has to wear coats in the winter when we go outside, otherwise he shakes and shakes and nearly freezes to death. (He has 3 to choose from...)

Weird Quirk #19: He's like a cat. He'll lick his paws, and then wipe his paws over his face in an attempt to bathe. He has super stinky breath, so I doubt this actually works, but it's cute to watch.

Weird Quirk #20: Whenever he's in a crazed playful mood Kyle and I joke that he has "CrAzY eYeS." He looks very much insane. He puts his butt up in the air, hops around, takes off running (tail tucked, ears back), does this amazing jab step, turn around thing, heads straight for you, and does it over and over again. I'm tellin' ya... "CrAzY eYeS"

Weird Quirk #21: He plays soccer using his front paws with a ping-pong ball. Very entertaining. 

I have to stop... this could be ten times the length it has already become.

Despite all his weird quirks, Marley is a light in our life, Kyle and I love him so much! Maybe it's because of his weird quirks that we love him so much. Either way, he is a one-of-a-kind dog. Everyone in town knows Marley, he's just so - likeable. He's brought so much joy and laughter into our home that life without him would suddenly become bland. 

So I guess the question, Who saved who? no longer stands. My Little Marley Man saved me those first few years of loneliness. Everyday he shows us the meaning of unconditional love and the joy of living.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stay at Home Mom? ME?!

Kyle and I had one conversation about how we'd love to have kids someday. We talked about how God is in control and everything is in His timing, so if He wants us to have kids... we'd have kids! One week later, no joke, I knew I was pregnant. We're so excited... and a tad nervous because our lives are changing.

I graduated from Doane College in 2007 certified to teach 7-12 English/Language Arts, and before graduation I accepted a job as a reading teacher at Kimball Public Schools, which I've been doing for the last 5 years. During that time I've completed my masters in education through Doane College in Curriculum and Instruction, created the curriculum for the KPS JH/HS reading course, and worked long hours. I loved my job because I loved seeing the lightbulb moments, I loved developing a relationship with my students, and I loved my colleagues.

BUT I made the decision to be a stay at home mom. It was the hardest decision I've ever made. The green envy monster still comes out when I hear my fellow teachers discussing next year. I find myself coming up with ideas for next year on how I could do this better, or how the kids really seemed to enjoy this so I should bring it back, or pinning an idea I find absolutely marvelous on Pinterest.

I'm a teacher down to my core.
I can't help it.
It's what I do.
It's what I was meant to do.
So why'd I quit?
Good question...

I set up this chart writing down reasons to quit and reasons not to quit:

Reasons Not to Quit
  1. I wasn't usually the first one there in the mornings, cause I'm definitely not a morning person, but I was usually the last one to leave. When I walked into my classroom for the first time 5 years ago they had nothing for me. They had books, sure, but no curriculum, no supplies. Nada. I built this program from the ground up. I was there until 10 p.m. most nights my first year there. This program was my baby. I watched it grow, developed it, learned a lot because of it, and grew, grew, grew as a teacher daily.
  2. I LOVE my kids. I can't help it. I call them my kids because that's how much I care about them.
  3. I LOVE my coaching positions. I was the head JH basketball coach and an assistant HS track and field coach. Both positions I absolutely loved coaching because I love the sport and I love watching my kids compete. (Even though I got more nervous than them before they competed!)
  4. We had adopted a discipline plan for next year, which I knew we desperately needed, and I had been hoping for, for the last 5 years. The year I leave is the year I miss learning it, incorporating it into the school environment, and watching to see if it actually works.
  5. Losing my pay check would make life a tad difficult month to month. We'd be living pay check to pay check.
Reasons to Quit
  1. I don't want to miss her firsts. First smile, first step, first tooth. I want to be there for it all.
  2. I can always go back to my career, I won't get the first years of my baby's life back.
  3. Being a mom is being a teacher. I will be teaching my children about the joys of reading, about trusting in God for every single aspect of their lives, about science, and counting, and, and, and, and the list could go on and on!
  4. Finding a daycare, that we trust, in our area was becoming difficult. The few people we did trust raising our child for 8 hours a day were either full or not doing it next year. Our options were limited.
  5. The thought of handing our newborn baby to someone else for 8 hours a day nearly broke my heart. How could I do my job effectively if my mind was constantly on my baby?
  6. I.E.P. meetings. I understand how important they are and do not suggest getting rid of them. It was just a part of my job that I DID NOT ENJOY, especially when it took me out of valuable class time to attend.
  7. Parents. I hate dealing with most parents. Most parents expect the school to deal with discipline issues and when issues arise and the school tries to deal with them, they throw a hissy fit! They sooner listen to their child than an adult teacher. Seriously, why would I lie that your child made the choice to not to do every last assignment I handed out? When I gave classtime to do it, he did nothing. Thus failing him. I killed tons of trees giving him more and more copies, held him in for lunch and after class to make sure he understood the material, gave him every opportunity to get it done and nada. How is this my fault? There is a lack of respect across America for our teachers and that was getting on my very, last, nerve.
  8. Junior Highers. They're hormonal. Needy. And can be down right nasty. I needed a break or I'd be adding another gray hair to my collection. They demand a lot of time and energy. There was no way I could do both jobs: mommy and JH teacher. If I was coming home too exhausted to clean, cook, pay attention to my husband, then there was no way I could tack on "mommy." I'm a perfectionist in some ways and I'd want everything to be perfect. I knew I couldn't expect that if I kept my job.
  9. How would I handle a sick baby, work, and exhaustion when those moments came up... ????
  10. Every mom that I talked to, who stayed home, told me over and over and over again, "It's worth it. You won't regret it." I talked to current stay at home moms with degree's, teachers who had been teaching for 30 plus years who stayed at home and came back, moms who are getting their careers started again after being a stay at home mom, I wanted to see what they had to say and 100% of them agreed that being a stay at home mom was the most rewarding job.
#3 and #10 did it for me. Kyle and I had many discussions about this and came to the conclusion that once our children are all in school I could go back. He felt more comfortable with me being home with our child and I couldn't agree more. The more it came down to it the more we knew that we had a responsibility to God first, each other second, and our children third. As the list continued my career, no matter how hard I worked on it, if God wasn't calling me to it, came farther down the list. The Bible has a lot to say about how to raise Godly children, and I felt like, the more I dived into it, that I was now being called to be a stay at home mommy.

It was a leap of faith.
We know we're going to struggle financially.
But God said he takes care of the birds in the air.
I knew I'd miss being a teacher.
But God said to teach our children His word, to write it above the doorways, to make Him known every where.
I knew I'd miss my kids.
But God is giving me a beautiful daughter that I will love and cherish more than I can possibly imagine.
It is a leap of faith...
But I know God will take care of us.

Come August I have a feeling that part of me will regret my decision.
Come September when I hold my newborn for the first time, I have a feeling that those feelings of regret will all but disappear.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"The Vow"

"The Vow" by Kim and Kricket Carpenter is an amazing true story about the adversities Kim and Kricket endured not two months after they shared their vows in a beautiful wedding ceremony. On their way to a family Thanksgiving they were in a horrific crash, that nearly ended Kricket's life. In fact, the power of prayer and because of Kim and his families faith in God, she recovered. The recovery process wasn't fun or pretty, or even romantic, because Kricket had no memory of meeting, dating, or even marrying Kim. Due to her strong relationship with Jesus Christ, and after trusting her family and friends that she had, in fact, married Kim, she stayed true to her vows even though she didn't remember saying them. This is a beautiful story of two people who give God the glory in their lives, trust Him with everything, and tells us a story that should not only inspire us to keep our own vows but give us hope in the fact that God promises to those who believe in him that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Psalm 94:14) That is such a beautiful promise.

Movie Trailer:

As I was reading this amazing book (and looking forward to watching the movie!) I was reminded of the book of Romans where Paul writes to "to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints..." (vs 1:7). Paul's purpose for writing this book is to tell these believers in Rome that "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (vs.1:16) Over and over again Kim and Kricket give glory to God, showing and proving they too are not ashamed of the gospel. Because of their choice to give Christ the glory in everything they do in their lives they have hope! God does not promise us life will be easy or fun, in fact, while Christ was on this earth He told us that we would be hated because of Him. Every day we will have to endure something, but who do you go to in times of hardship? Go first to God, rely on Him and you will experience the endurance, character, and hope that Kim and Kricket talk about in their book. Take encouragement from them knowing, just as Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 "...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Don't just hear it from me, listen to what they have to say!

The True Story behind the movie:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Good-bye Nachi, Such a Good Girl!

She was a December puppy and was she ever a wonderful gift to my family. I remember dad bringing her home with tiny casts on each leg. Her owner paid for her surgery and then gave her to a loving family so that she could have a good life. She was born with severe arthritis and with a beautiful face - her eyes would melt anyone's heart. Due to her beautiful qualities she was meant to be a breeder for show dogs, but because of her arthritis she was never to be a mother. Her gentle nature would've made her a good one and that makes me sad, but had it not been for her arthritis my family would never have known this amazing dog.
Our Niece Alexi using her as a chair,
she didn't seem to care.

She was amazing on so many levels. She expected everyone she saw to say hello by walking right up to them and sticking her nose in their hand. She was ever so patient with little ones. She wagged her tail as you read her a book. Even if you didn't want it she'd ALWAYS greet you with a lick. Whenever you told her what a good girl she was she'd wag her tail, her whole butt shaking along with it, further emphasizing her excitement. She LOVED to swim. Her funniest trick was diving after rocks (as you can see in the posted video).

Chasing the sled.
We'd go sledding with Nachi chasing us and playfully nipping at our coats, making us giggle uncontrollably. She LOVED to hike and explore, her nose led her on many adventures.
Hiking and LOVING it.
More than any of this she loved us and she loved food. She would get so excited when we asked her, "Nachi, are you hungry?" That is more than evident in the video. We tried so many times to get her to bark when we asked her to "say please" but watch how well that went, she'd get too excited, especially when it had anything to do with food, her favorite... she's so funny.

So yesterday when she wouldn't eat her meal, or even a piece of ham we tried to give her, we knew something was wrong.

We had to put her down this morning and although my heart broke saying good-bye to her I know we gave her a home where she was loved. For nearly 12 years we have been blessed by her unconditional love. Kyle and I took her in for the last few years of her life, trying to make them as comfortable and memorable as possible. She has been an amazing friend. She will be missed.

I think little Marley Man will miss her the most. We not only took Nachi in to give her a few last good years, but also because Marley needed company. He wasn't eating. Once she entered his life, he ATE! This was a small miracle where we give Nachi credit, whatever it was about her loving and gentle nature affected EVERYONE who knew her. Including Marley.

Good-bye Nachi, you have been a dear friend, such a good girl. Rest in Peace.