Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings, Uncategorized

Substitute teaching and recess: learning in the field

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher at my children’s former elementary school for years. It’s a good gig. Flexible, most tough moments are healed with a hug or a shiny sticker and there’s recess every day.

Working at the school was especially nice when my children attended. One of my favorite memories was peeking over at my son at lunch when he stealthily said his prayers before he ate. He bowed his head and mastered the speedy 7-year-old sign of the cross touchdown style without the pointing-up-to-heaven and chest bang parts.

Simply said, substitute teaching is like being the crazy-fun aunt who visits every few months, has secret dance moves and always has gum.

Kids like a new face once in a while and most students already know I love recess so it’s a win-win. I actually thought about contacting Meghan Markle and asking if she’d like me to be her substitute Duchess of Sussex. I have the experience, I can pull off a crown and a good cockney accent (I sang an Eliza Doolittle song for Jr. Miss in high school) and being an old soul, I think the Queen and I would really hit it off.

This week I was lucky enough to substitute in a 2nd-grade class. My primary job was to shadow Maddie, an invincible gal who needed a little bit of support, physically.

My favorite moments of the day were during recess…where invaluable lessons are digested into their little souls.

Once in the recess “field”, Maddie dashed directly to her dear friend Keegan whose toothless smile seemed to say I’m glad you’re here. I pegged him as one of those friends you could sit with when you’re 40 and tell him your messy and sweet stories and he would listen with wide eyes.

My gal continually asked Keegan, “Do you remember when we met… SHORT PAUSE…it was in the hallway in first grade…SHORTER PAUSE…do you remember the face you made?” She told him he smiled when they met. She relished the memory.

Keegan gave her a quick side hug and said, “Let’s play portals!”

He orchestrated a game where each section of the field served as a “portal” (safe place) and we had to RUN from one to the next BEFORE the doors closed. I love to move but gee whiz the portals were really far away from each other. Maddie was quick and determined to keep up with her classmates and I jogged alongside like a cicada bug arms outstretched blocking flying soccer balls and tag games.

After we arrived at the fourth portal, Keegan announced there was a monster coming and we had to run! I was trying not to interject my ideas in the game, but craving a little break, I told everyone I packed invisibility cloaks in my back pocket and we could hide. That worked for about one minute. On the next GO! we followed him to the next portal and as he ran off he said, “Don’t worry, Maddie, we’ll keep the door open for you!” 

Breathless, we jumped in the invisible doorway and a new portal player said,

“Okay, huddle up! Here’s a big cauldron (he pointed to a grassy area), and if we put one of ANYTHING inside, the cauldron will give us ONE MORE…(he stuck his hand in)…see, now I have three hands!”

They went around the circle and announced their superpowers which ranged from strength to crystal transformer. Then they took turns reading secret messages written on leaves and wrote notes of wisdom with sticks in their own language.

We heard the jingle from the handbell across the field which signaled it was time to go inside. One boy hugged his friend and said, “I doubled you in the cauldron so I’ll leave you here and take one of you with me.” They all giggled as he ran off with his hand outstretched hugging his invisible friend. Maddie and I decided we should walk to the line and just like that, we were back inside – invisibility cloaks stuffed in my pocket for next time.

It’s true, most days I learn more from substitute teaching than I can ever give. In just that 30 minutes I was reminded:

  • as we age and our souls callous, deep in our hearts lie our 2nd-grade superpowers.

  • someone is always holding that portal door open for us so why not take a risk and jump over the threshold.

  • 30 minutes of play is priceless.

  • be the crazy-fun aunt.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

20 – 2-minute activities to relieve stress

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #31

I took this picture after I walked with my kids to the bus stop this morning. The trail our feet imprinted was a snapshot of each of us. One set of footprints was my daughter’s, straight and defined, mine seemingly magnetized to each child and my son’s looping around, making his own way to the same destination. The walk took less than two minutes. Two tiny minutes to solidify their after-school plans, gush over the Dogwood blossoms and tell my kids I loved them.

Two minutes.

The walk reminded me of yet another article I read in the Orthodontists office (three kids in braces). The author discussed how sometimes the little tasks in life have the potential to overwhelm our day and push big jobs further into the peripheral. These mental to-do lists can clutter our minds and impose unnecessary stress, so why not just take time to do them?

I wanted to rip out the article and pin it on my shirt like a grade school reminder for picture day. Instead, I thought better of it and simply retained what I could for sharing.

So to remember what I gained from it, I developed a mantra :

Take two minutes to accomplish tiny tasks AND savor meaningful moments.

2-Minute TINY TASKS:

When I see a job that can be completed quickly but requires more inclination than sweat equity, I count through it, literally. Here’s what I mean: I count out loud and time how long the job REALLY takes. One morning, I opened my unorganized bathroom drawer and got that annoyed vibe where instead of just cleaning it out, I want to remodel the entire bathroom. NOW.

After talking myself off the Home Depot ledge, I started my count. 120 seconds later, I had thrown out old lotions, random rubberbands I pulled from my hair when I couldn’t find a hair tie and old make up I swear I’m going to use, but realize it’s easier to look in the mirror without my glasses on than to start using makeup.

After the short 2 minutes, I felt great and the next time I opened the drawer, I felt the cathartic joy I experience when something is done. Ever count through emptying the dishwasher? 2 minutes. Making your bed, 2 minutes or less. It’s the little things we can do NOW rather than later that help make the big picture things like studying for a test, or cleaning the garage or tackling paperwork more doable.

2-Minute MEANINGFUL MOMENTS:

Now those two minutes can also bring immediate joy, like walking with your kids to the bus, snuggling with your partner or petting your dog. In those instances, the tiny two minutes IS meaningful and memorable. A WIN, WIN.

So in an effort to tackle the tiny tasks and embrace the moments that count, I’ve researched and crafted my top 20 things you can accomplish in just 2 minutes.

  1. Floss and brush. Your teeth will thank you at your next checkup.
  2. After washing your hands, wipe off the sink and mirror. Almost clean is sometimes close enough.
  3. Turn on music and dance with your spouse or kids. The natural boost of dopamine will inject your mood with joy.
  4. Put leashes on your dogs. Then go for a walk. Sometimes the 2 minutes it takes to put the leashes on the dogs seem so laborious. They’ll love you for it.
  5. Empty the trash and recycling. Then reline the trash cans. Pull in the bins for the curb also if it’s trash day. Done!
  6. Clean out your purse or backpack. Throw away receipts, tissues, and (if you’re like me) take out the 9 Sharpies. You just need two in a Sharpie emergency…one to give away and one to keep. Wipe bag with a damp cloth.
  7. Shake out all the carpets in your car. You can use a scraper or your hand to help the dirt off. Ahhh…a semi-clean car.
  8. Go through the mail you’ve piled up. Recycle the junk, file the rest.
  9. Clean out the garbage disposal. Combine one part baking soda and two parts vinegar, pour in the disposal, let sit for 30 seconds, add a handful of ice and run the disposal.
  10. Clean out the microwave. Since the vinegar is out, fill a mug with 1/4  cup of vinegar and the rest with water. Heat for 1 minute and let sit for 45 seconds, wipe the oven clean.
  11. Play 52 pick up with your kids. Who cares how old they are? Flip the cards up and let them fly. Pick up quickly and maybe you’ll have time for another game!
  12. Give one of your children a piggyback ride. Here you might care about age and size. If you’re my size, ask your kids to give you a piggyback ride instead. Good luck.
  13. Sweep the front steps. Make the entrance of your home look welcoming and happy.
  14. Untangle all of your charger and other device cords and plug in your phone. It will relieve the stress later.
  15. Declutter your email. Unsubscribe to as many unwanted emails as you can in two minutes!
  16. Check texts and voice mail. Make sure you’ve responded to calls and texts.
  17. Pay your bills online. You’ll be surprised how quickly this can be done.
  18. Comb through your credit card bill. Make sure all charges are legitimate.
  19. Sit down and relax for two minutes. Listen to your breathing. Close your eyes.
  20. Ask your children to tell you the best and worst parts of their day. I like to use open-ended questions in the hopes of having more than a one-minute conversation with them after school. Although frequently their response will still be “GOOD”. I think it’s just the teenage script they read from. If the stars are aligned, it could lead to a great conversation.

Take two minutes. To do the little things. Whether they are weighty and mundane or fulfilling and memorable. You will experience delight in knowing you accomplished them.

My two-minute walk to the bus stop and perhaps over-analysis of the footsteps in the grass brought me a day of joy knowing our kids will ultimately go the way their hearts lead them and always know their way home. 

Life is fleeting, find joy in it even if it is two minutes at a time.

Spiritual Workout – my thought for today:

I wish I could push a bobby pin through the little hole in life’s doorknob, shove the door open and reveal all the answers we are so desperate for.

Workout: Get outside today and walk or run – oh! take those dogs with you.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

How to keep the power of storytelling alive…

Throwback Thursday…Originally posted on March 2, 2018

Always, ALWAYS tell your stories.

LENTEN REFLECTION #26

FAITH IN STORIES

Last week, our son was riding bikes, exploring the woods, and climbing trees with a friend. After a while, he came home from the trails and told us a tree fell on him. A little daunting, but luckily he was with a friend who was able to lift it off. Turned out it was an old, small pine tree he was climbing when it just snapped. Thankfully, he was wearing his bike helmet and ended up with only a scratched face, and legs. On Monday at school, he was questioned by friends about the mark on his face, and he shared his story. In the group of students, one boy pressed further, “Do you have a video of it?” “No video” was the reply. “Well then, it didn’t happen.” They debated back and forth, then finally, being a professional selective listener, our son confirmed, “it really did happen” and then moved on, ignoring further hassle.

At bedtime, he told me this story and we sat and picked it apart like old layers of paint peeling off the wall trying to find the original color. My inaugural feeling on the boy’s need for documentation to prove the truth was a feeling of exhaustion. Nowadays, technology negotiates our day much like a seeing eye dog, but with swipes, texts, and posts. We click pictures of our meals, and memories, shorten words and deliver messages as fast as our thumbs can go. Conversations dwindle with our busy lives, along with the age-old craft of storytelling – exactly what our son was doing.

As young children, there’s faith in stories. Maurice Sendak takes us to a wild rumpus and faithfully floats us home with Max as he arrives home to his warm dinner.

Faith in friendship is palpable when Charlotte sits in her web and says:

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
― E.B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web

Faith requires vulnerability. Stripping the need for that which is tangible. In “Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus” Francis Church interprets faith in his editorial in The New York Sun in 1897:

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.”

The historian Stephen Nissenbaum connects ”Yes, Virginia” with not only faith in Santa Claus, but faith in faith. In the late 19th century religious doubt ran rampant among middle-class Americans. According to Mr. Nissenbaum “…God must exist simply because people so badly needed Him to.” When Mr. Church referred to ”the skepticism of a skeptical age, he was speaking to grown-ups.”

Now that doubt cloaks children too.

We make an emotional investment with every story we tell. Some may believe if a tree falls on a boy in a forest it’s true, doubters will question and want video proof. The vital action is to tell the story, be the raconteur and propel your listeners with you on a journey of faith.

Dig Deep: Go on a Rosary Run! Yesterday I did and it took my mind off the pain. 🙂 Run on!

Lenten Challenge: Pray for the doubters and cynics in the world, truly that’s all of us at times. Keep story-telling alive!