Friday, August 30, 2013

Project Holiday...or kicking Scrooge to the curb...

Ok, I have to admit that I am a bit of a holiday junkie. I begin to think about the holidays way before they even in the summertime.  The holidays are such a magical time, a time during the year when it's ok to act like a kid! The sights and smells, oh so delicious.  When august rolls around I begin to get butterflies...and then I turn on my first christmas cd! That's right you heard me, you grinches, I start playing christmas music in August. I get this strange quirk from my father, who would loudly play christmas music early in the year - loudly and for all us kids to hear.
Matchy Matchy
 I love everything about the fall and winter, which living in texas looks about the same as summer, brown and mildly cool, like 70.  Do I let the warm conditions dampen my holiday spirit? Nope, like most other texans, I sweat it out, and wear my holiday attire despite the weather. I remember my mother teaching me that a cute holiday sweater can be paired with shorts or have your festive on the top and your cool and breezy on the bottom. And when there is a chance for a blue out! Then we all dress up like we are going to the artic tundra. What? It's cold!

The true art of pumpkin carving.
I have to admit that I had lost my holiday spirit over the last few years. It had to do with my father's death, and after that the holidays didn't seem so magical to me. So much of the holidays for me are tied up in family, memories, and safety. When he passed away...I forgot those things because they were too painful to remember. This was wrong, the holidays are about remembering the past, enjoying the present, and looking to the future. They are a happy time. This year I am tired of feeling like a scrooge. I can feel that old holiday spirit mustering strength. So much so, that I have already purchased the items to create my new halloween display, and thanksgiving, and christmas...which brings my holiday closet to capacity - obnoxiously so.

This year, I have decided that I will begin the fall holidays with a homage to one of my favorite fall books - Harry Potter. Instead of creating scary things..I am using Harry Potter whimsy for halloween. No zombies, no ghoulish things, just whimsy. So that is my first holiday project...I will let ya know how it goes...
So join in on my project holiday..and let this year be the one that re-ignites your joy for the holiday season.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

There's a monster in my oven...

I love to cook. I enjoy the process and the artistry that it takes to make incredible food. I can hold my own when it comes to meats, veggies, or main course items; but I am no baker. Baked goods are my nemesis. I am frustrated by the knowledge that this one aspect of cooking has eluded me, it seems so simple...yet every time I go down in flames..literally.

One of my many failed cookie attempts

WHY? WHY? Is the question I hear myself muttering time and time again as I pull out another scorched batch of cookies. I have done things to cookies and cakes that seem to defy the impossible. I remember trying to bake a cheesecake one Christmas, only to find, minutes later, smoke rolling out of the oven. Needless to say, my cheese cake was not fire retardant...I don't believe I have ever seen anything burn so bright and so long in my life. It was beautiful really, quite festive.

I even fail at the store bought stuff. I bought some from the store the other day believing that this time I had a fail safe...I mean store bought dough is idiot proof..right? I perfectly measured my spooned out dough, checked the space between the rounded balls of scrumptiousness, pre-heated my oven to the appropriate temperature, and  I hoped that this time they would be perfect. When the appointed time arrived I opened the oven door and saw the carnage that were my cookies.  The cookies had somehow shifted down the sheet to form a pool of bubbling, semi-raw gooeyiness. To add insult, the edges of the blob cookie were burnt. Staring down at them, I noticed the blob had an unusual shape, it was almost as if something had shaped my cookies to form something. I texted my sister in law a picture of my failure and her text back gave me the answer to the curious shape of my cookie blob. "It looks like Roz! From Monsters, INC., mohawk and all!" does....
Roz, in cookie form.

 I used to joke with my college roommates that I had to sacrifice the first batch of cookies to the cookie gods in order to receive the blessing of a normal batch. Over the years I have come to believe that a hostile takeover has occurred in my oven, there has to be a monster living in my oven. It is the only explanation for my failure. Because it can't be me...oh no..never. I just wonder why this monster has chosen me? Why couldn't I have gotten the sugarplum fairy? And how do I eradicate this pestilent monster from my oven? Good questions...

So here I go to make cookies and I gotta ask, do the ghostbusters make kitchen calls?

Monday, August 19, 2013

A good teacher makes a difference.

" We cannot teach Tiffany here. She cannot read, and all of our students in the kindergarten already can. She can no longer attend our school.
She needs to go to a place that can care for her special needs."

These words were spoken to my mother in an after school meeting by my kindergarten teacher. I was sitting quietly by her side and knew by the look on her face that something was terribly wrong and somehow it had to do with me - because the teacher had said my name. My mother that evening sat down and told me that I would have to go to a different school. I cried and begged her not to make me leave. I told her that I would try to be better and that I would listen to the teacher - that I would be good. She rocked me in her arms, as she assured me it had nothing to do with being "good," and that I would learn more at my new school. My feelings were soothed a bit, but deep down the damage of that one teachers conversation had already taken root. A week later I was enrolled in the nearby school, and spent the rest of my kindergarten year trying to be "good".

The next year was first grade, and was the year that reading was the primary goal. One day, my teacher asked me to read a sentence. I remember looking down at the page in front of me, the words were all fuzzy and jumbled. I saw that the picture next to it was of a cat sitting on a rug, so I said "the cat is sitting on the rug." Not knowing that when I "read" the words I was looking right into my teachers eyes. The game was up, she knew that I couldn't read. I was put in the lowest reading level and began to believe that I was stupid, because the words never made sense to me.  As the days went by, I began to withdraw. My classmates teasing me quietly during reading time; inflicting wounds that would leave me scarred for many years. I hated school, but the love I had for books still remained. I would spend hours on my mothers lap, listening to her read. Enthralled by the pictures and so confused by the written squiggles. I often heard my mother asking my teacher repeatedly, "why can't she read? Is there anything we can do to help her?"

My mother was called in again one day. This time there were 3 teachers sitting in wait for her. I was told to sit outside the door, but I peeked around the corner to listen. Earlier in the day, I had been tested and the results were alarming. I was exceedingly smart, high functioning, and eager; but I couldn't understand simple phonics or "see" the words. Yet, I had tested too high for special education. My mother was confused, "You can't help her?" she asked. Two of the teachers shook their heads; but one remained calm, hands clasped, looking down, and keeping silent. The meeting concluded with no recourse for me; no help but to let me struggle.  Tears in her eyes, my mother came out to get me; closely followed by the third teacher -the one who had remained quiet during the meeting. She rested her hand on my mothers arm and whispered "I can help. Please follow me." My mother grasped my hand and we followed. Down to the back of the school, no talking until the door was shut. While in this teacher's classroom, my mother was given the news she needed to hear. That I was smart, that I could read in time, but I was dyslexic. The reason I didn't qualify for special help was due to my high function and ability to cope with situations quickly. In a nutshell, the school system didn't have a place for people as special as me. That's how she put it, and she smiled when she said it. She offered to secretly tutor me after school, one on one - I was to be her trial run of sorts for a new learning method called reading recovery. I was told to keep the private instruction a secret, the school wouldn't allow it, and the tutoring would put her job at risk. Then she smiled again, and said "but your daughter is worth it".

I began the next week, and, oh, this teacher was magical. The effortlessness of her style and the patience she had with me. She made learning fun again and I felt safe around her. I remember, many days later,  she said, "I think you are ready for this today. Go on you can do it."  I looked down at the page and felt my heart skip; for the first time I understood what was there. I read the sentence, then read another! I could feel the grin spreading across my face and I looked up to see the face of my teacher, hers was beaming. "You did it!" I had never felt more proud. My appetite for learning had been reignited and I soon bypassed my fellow classmates in reading and writing. This one teacher, with the help of determined parents, had unlocked the majestic world of literacy for me. I will forever be grateful for the courage it took to change the life of one child. The strength to stand up to a broken system and say "not this child."

 Teachers change lives, but great teachers can magically change the course of one students life forever. Gratefully, I was blessed with a great teacher, and here is my thank you that is long overdue.
Thank you for never letting dyslexia define me, instead you taught me how to refine it and tame it. And once tamed, oh the places I did go...
I became a teacher, and my first year I taught students who struggled with reading.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why God gave me a son...

My son, born early at 34 weeks. Love at first sight.
I believe that our children are hand picked for us. Each child has a specific purpose in our lives, just as we have a purpose in theirs. My son was given to me, I believe, to teach me things about myself and the world around me that I desperately needed to understand. These are just a few of the reasons that God gave me a son...

  • I needed to find beauty in a bug.
  • I needed to take time to splash in puddles.
  • I needed to appreciate the sounds that vehicles make.
  • I needed to understand the heart of a boy as it matures into a mans.
  • I needed to take part in a grand adventure.
  • I needed more exuberance.
  • I needed to behold the little boy in my husband.

  • I needed to know that even superheros need a hug.
  • I needed to be in awe of life.
  • I needed to see a masterpiece in a mess.
  • I needed to hear the melody in boyish noise.
  • I needed to be taught courage.
  • I needed to see innocence of spirit.
  • I needed to learn to love with abandon.
  • I needed to define my own strength.
  • I needed to be reminded of how much God loves me.
Everyday I am grateful for attack kisses and hugs. The bedtime snuggles and morning wake ups. I have been given the job of being a guide to this adventure called life, and I cannot wait to explore it with my son. "Oh the places we will go!"
In one moment he stole my heart.