Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tell-All

Because I've got a lot of random photos I need to dump somewhere and a lot of disconnected thoughts running around in my fuzzy little brain, I thought we'd do a Tuesday Tell-All for old times' sake.

*As an early Christmas splurge, Matt and I bought ourselves a new lens for the camera (although, if we're being honest, the lens was more for me than anyone!). For awhile, my frustration with photography had been steadily growing because I felt like I had maxed out what I could do with the lenses I already had. People kept telling me that it wasn't the lens, it was the photographer (and that equipment doesn't matter nearly as much as people say it does), but let me tell you this---I have noticed a HUGE difference in the quality of my images since buying the new lens, and it's made picture-taking fun again (which it hasn't really felt like fun for several months now). So if you find me taking pictures of all sorts of random things (like the salad above), you know why.

*This is the first year in my short history of being a teacher that we actually get two full weeks off for Christmas break. TWO FULL WEEKS! In years past, they've always tried to cut our vacation down to the bare minimum, which has meant going in to teach on the 23rd and coming back from the holiday on the 2nd. Before this year started though, the school board wised up and asked for input from parents and teachers, and it was decided (by a landslide, mind you) that we all prefer to have longer breaks during the year and a little bit shorter of a summer break overall. I can't wait!

*One of the things we'll be doing over the long vacation is taking a little trip down to Kanab (in Southern Utah) to volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. My husband's been puppy-hungry for years now, and it's slowly but surely gotten worse as he has semi-recently got hooked on the t.v. show The Dog Whisperer. To hopefully help keep some of his puppy hunger down (or just increase it, whatever), we've decided to spend three and a half days volunteering with the rescue animals at Best Friends.

*(We also decided to take the trip because we knew it would likely be our last hurrah before Baby comes in April, and who knows when the heck we'll find ourselves on vacation again after that.)

*The pregnancy insomnia has reached an all-new low point this week. I was so tired yesterday afternoon that I took my first nap in several weeks, and even though I was literally asleep for less than half an hour, it threw off my entire night of sleep when I tried to go to bed at my usual time later on. After tossing and turning, I finally got up and played Spider Solitaire and ate cereal and read blogs until I was slightly more tired, then I eventually feel asleep around 11:30 (which is a far cry from my usual 9 PM bedtime). Even though I'm exhausted today because of it, I absolutely refuse to take any naps until I'm on break (when it doesn't matter how late I get to bed at night).

*(The insomnia last night was only compounded by the fact that my body decided it was time to bring on the "fake" contractions off and on for several hours. I guess the good news about that was that it gave me a LOT of time to practice the hypnobirthing breathing/relaxation techniques I've been reading up on.)

*On Sunday morning, I got a frazzled phone call from our church congregation's choir director, who proceeded to inform me that our accompanist was stuck in Wyoming in a blizzard, and we were scheduled to perform our big Christmas program that very day in church. Since I was basically one of the few people in the ward left who could play the piano, I ended up taking over all the accompaniment for the day (thank goodness I'd practiced the music several times before!). While the accompanying wasn't a cause to stress me out at all, the fact that Matt and I were singing a duet together that day and had no accompanist WAS cause to stress me out. Luckily, we snagged a lady from one of the other wards who had just finished up playing in her own Christmas program, and she was able to sight read the music and accompany us on the spot. Thank goodness for talented people!

*(In case you were wondering, Matt and I sang a duet of "O Holy Night," with me singing the tenor part actually and him singing the baritone.)

*I am about two-thirds finished with my Christmas shopping at this point and am kind of dreading going out anymore. It seems like I always choose the worst times to go out and choose gifts, which means that a one-hour trip generally turns into a two- or three-hour trip. It just might happen that from next year on out, I will only be doing Christmas shopping online...

*I have a doctor's appointment scheduled tomorrow, the first since our 20-week ultrasound four weeks ago. At the beginning of our pregnancy, it seemed like we'd go FOREVER and EVER before getting to see the doctor. Now, I can hardly believe that it's already time for another one of them things. I can only imagine how I'll feel in a few weeks, when I start meeting with the doctor every two weeks, much less imagine how it will be to go in EVERY WEEK before long. Good thing that reading has finally started to agree with me again...

*And now, as your parting image--the juxtaposition of our peaceful little "Noel" scene with the top section of Matt's man movies. 'Tis the season to watch blood and zombies, fa la la la la, la la la la...

Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Teaching Middle School

 I am now well into my 3rd year teaching 7th grade, and while this year has been much more smooth-sailing than last year, I still often wonder if when the time comes to look for another teaching job, I should look into teaching an older age group. You see, there's a reason that teaching middle school has the stigma it does. However, there's also a reason that many of the teachers that start out teaching middle school never leave it.

Here are 5 things I wish I'd known before I took this job:

1. Teaching middle schoolers (grades 6-8) means that you straddle an awkward line between elementary and high school. It means that some of the teachers you work closely with will want to treat their kids like they're still in elementary (give them A's for effort! be like their mother!), and some teachers will have the opposite mindset (get them ready for high school! make them grow up!). Falling into the second camp myself, I quickly discovered that I butt heads more often than I thought I would with some other faculty members who have completely different mentalities than myself. It's not that one of us is right and the other wrong, but it is something I wish I would have known that I would be up against.

2. Middle schoolers have vastly different developmental rates, not just physically but mentally as well. Although this was a fact I'd learned frequently in all the psychology classes I took in college, it didn't "really" hit me until I was asked to teach 150 students who were developing at completely different rates. In 7th grade, I've hit just about everything on the spectrum, from kids who still pick their nose (and eat it!) and read at a 2nd grade level to kids who are reading books like The Count of Monte Cristo for fun and who can reason with me and write like they're in college (no joke). I know that teachers at all age groups will find vast variations within the students, but I think that those variations are by far the most pronounced in this particular age group. This developmental fact makes teaching critical thinking incredibly difficult because some students honestly have not developed the ability yet to think abstractly, so it's difficult to try and expect them to answer the higher-level questions as well as a student who has reached that developmental milestone.

3. Although people always bring up the awkwardness of the age group, one great thing about teaching middle school is that the students still have some fear of your authority, as well as complete and absolute trust that everything you say is the gospel truth. Because of this childlike trust, I have learned to be extra careful when it comes to sarcasm in the classroom---due to many students not having developed abstract thinking/judgment skills and due to their trust in absolutely everything you say, I've found it's far better to just avoid sarcasm altogether. Otherwise, I'll have kids going home every day to tattle to their parents how I told them that yes, I do indeed use the emergency "toilet" in the classroom whenever I'm too lazy to walk down the hall, or that no, we didn't in fact cover anything useful, practical, or important while they were gone on vacation to Florida and so they are therefore free from the responsibility of having to make any work up.

4. It's almost as painful watching kids go through adolescence as it was to go through it yourself. I am slowly becoming better at learning to laugh at the awkwardness inherent in the age group, but more often than not, my heart just cringes inside whenever I see students trying to hit on members of the opposite sex for the first time or when I see a kid trip over his too-big feet in the hall. Three years in, and the awkwardness doesn't get any less painful. And because kids at this age are so hypersensitive to what everyone else is doing socially and otherwise, you find that YOU (as the teacher) are just as scrutinized as everyone else. It's kind of like being 13 years old all over again, when you're paranoid that everyone is watching you---except that this time, everyone really is. I once had a girl in my creative writing class write the most detailed description of me and how I dressed/looked/acted and read it aloud to everyone during the sharing portion of the hour. Her spot-on descriptions both horrified and fascinated me--I had no idea I was being watched so closely all the time.

5. Because many students are not too apathetic towards school and learning (yet), you can expect more moments of unabashed enthusiasm from this age group than you could from a group of high schoolers. You can also expect more gifts on Christmas as well as on your birthday, so all in all, it's not too bad of a gig to get yourself into. Apart from the nose-picking, that is...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

11 Things That Have Surprised Me About Pregnancy

 Even though I've kept myself reasonably well-informed this pregnancy (by regularly reading books like What to Expect When You're Expecting and frequently doing Google searches on questions I have), there have still been several things that have totally surprised me about pregnancy.

In no particular order, here are 11 things that I DIDN'T exactly expect while I was expecting:

1. The lack of crying. Maybe it's because Hollywood and books and word on the street seem to all stereotype pregnant women as hormonal train wrecks who cry at car insurance commercials and weep over spilled flour, but I haven't found this to be true of my pregnancy. True, there were a couple incidents in my first trimester of serious emotional meltdowns, but I can count on less than one hand the times I've cried during this whole pregnancy. I was expecting a lot more tears, but since I'm not a big crier to begin with, I guess it makes sense.

2. The lack of rage. Once again, I'd been told that it's not unusual to randomly despise your husband's habits all of a sudden or to lash out at total strangers, but I would venture to say that I'm about the same temperament I've always been. Of course, I was never really one to have PMS too bad or anything either, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising. (But now, after writing the last two things, I wonder if I should have asked those nearest and dearest to me if I really am acting as I say I am).

3. The lack of sleep. You hear all the time about how tired pregnancy makes you, and--granted--the first trimester definitely brought a fatigue unlike anything I'd ever experienced. However, as I worked my way into my 13th or 14th week, my fatigue drastically lifted, and I've found I actually have MORE energy than I normally do. The only problem with the uptick in energy and the downturn in fatigue? I've found that, for the first time in my life, I'm becoming a bit of an insomniac. Between frequent trips to the bathroom, not being able to find a comfortable sleeping position (since I've always been a stomach or back sleeper, not a side sleeper), and just general restlessness, I can't tell you the last time I had a truly restive night of 8-9 hours straight sleep.

4. The conflicting emotions about the pregnancy. It's easy to focus--when you're first pregnant, especially--on all the physical changes your body is undergoing (and all the physical changes looming in the near future). And while some of those have been a bit, uh, interesting to get used to, I was surprised most of all by the conflicting emotions I've felt about the pregnancy itself (and about the idea of being a mother in general). Maybe this one's unique to me (because I've always been super nervous about becoming a parent), but I seem to go between extremes--some days, I am beyond elated about our baby girl and can't wait to just meet her already. Other days, I'm terrified of what this new change will bring in our lives and just know that I'll be a dreadful failure at the whole parenthood thing. On days like that, I am more than happy that Baby Girl is still firmly inside me, kicking away.

5. The baby's kicks, turns, and flips. Although I knew to start expecting to feel some movement by the fourth and fifth month, I was still super surprised when I felt the first definite movement that was not digestion-related. I remember I was driving home from work when I felt my stomach flutter, and I was absolutely certain that the baby had just done a complete flip because that's exactly what it felt like. I was so surprised I almost pulled over to the side of the road just in case the baby had any more gymnastics in mind, but I somehow kept on driving (although I turned my audiobook off because the sensation had completely put me under a spell). When the movements became more regular, I was surprised at how soothing they were--they were a daily assurance that all was well, and it was like a secret little code between this little creature in my innards and me. The movements felt a little selfish, actually, because there were so many times I called Matt over to try and feel them for himself, but he never could. When the day finally came this very week that she kicked hard enough for us to see it from the outside and Matt finally felt her for the first time, that was another surprise---the intimacy and joy of that small (but hugely significant) little movement. We were a family about to be three, just starting to bond all together.

6. The fake contractions. I didn't even know Braxton Hicks contractions existed until I was a couple months into my pregnancy, and when I first started feeling my uterus seize up like a hand was clenching it, I thought that maybe the baby had just found a particularly sensitive area or something. Now that these fake contractions are becoming more regular, they don't shock me quite as much, but the twinges and cramps are still taking some getting used to.

7. The onslaught of advice and stories that seem to be much more tinged with negative than positive. With pregnancy, I expected the extra attention--the belly rubbing (although no strangers have attempted to touch mine--yet---),the constant asking how I'm feeling, the questioning about the baby's name and gender, and the well wishes of friends and strangers alike. What I wasn't so prepared for were the many dire warnings about everything from breastfeeding to sleepless nights to labor and delivery, and when I divulged that I planned to have the baby naturally through hypnobirthing methods, you'd think that I'd just spoken heresy or something by the way most people respond. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay positive amidst all the negativity, but then I'll talk to one of my sisters (who delivered almost all of their babies by natural childbirthing methods) or to a thriving new mom, and I feel my hope renewed that parenthood might turn out to be a lot like marriage for me---I might hear a ton of negative about it, but overall it's an enormously joyous and positive experience.

8. The skin discolorations. I know this one doesn't happen to everyone, but I have developed one of the not-so-pretty features of pregnancy that's known as "the pregnancy mask," which is where parts of your face become discolored temporarily due to hormones so that it looks like you are indeed wearing a mask. In my case, the discolorations are down the side of each nose and under my eyes, so it looks like I'm constantly sunburned and/or flushed. I think my students sometimes take it to mean that I'm frequently embarrassed to be talking about verbs or pronouns or something.

9. The sensitive joints. While I've been lucky not to suffer from back pain yet, lately the joints on my ankles and feet are starting to act up hardcore. Whenever I'm going downstairs, for example, I have to be uber-careful to  step  just right, otherwise it feels like my ankle will roll to the side and I'll sprain it right then and there. I can't explain it exactly, but it's like my shifting joints are always just seconds away from popping out of place, and it's made walking around a real hazard lately.

10. The unexpected triggers of nausea. In my first trimester, I felt really pretty sick almost the whole time. Very quickly, I learned to avoid the obvious culprits (certain food odors, dirty dishes, etc.), but a very surprising trigger of nausea for me was reading (a very inconvenient truth, considering my profession). I've talked to many a woman about pregnancy in the last five and a half months, but I'm apparently the absolute only one who has ever had nausea triggered by reading before. What gives?

11. The marvel I feel at my changing body. As a woman who was never eager to get pregnant, I always thought that when we did finally decide to have kids, I would feel like my body had been taken hostage by an alien parasite and that I'd detest my new shape and all the uncomfortable physical truths that come along with growing a baby. And while some of those things have been a little weird to get used to, I have overall felt an overwhelming sense of wonder at what my body can do. No longer am I worried about my body's shape or how attractive it might look to anyone else. No longer am I beating myself up over the fact that I haven't lifted weights in however long or that I've been slacking on running. Instead, I've cut my body a break this pregnancy, and you know what? It's been a pretty beautiful thing. (Here's hoping that feeling of wonder and beauty is there AFTER the baby is born too, eh?)

If you've been pregnant, what's the thing that surprised you the most?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We've Reached the End

It's taken seven years, 15 semesters, thousands of dollars, and countless hours of work, stress, and anxiety, but guess what? Matt finally took his very last final of his whole undergraduate career yesterday afternoon.

It's bad enough to go through the stress of college yourself, but I think it's infinitely harder to stand to the side and watch your spouse go through it. In my case, watching Matt go through this ordeal was especially difficult because he disliked many of the courses he'd been forced to take since they nothing to do with his chosen field of study (physics, anyone?), so it was even worse for him to go through all the hoop-jumping that is life at a university. And while I actually LIKED school (largely because almost all of the classes I had to take were, you know, relevant), I couldn't like school for him, nor could I help him much with any of his homework or course load. Instead, I just had to stand back and let him fight his way through the madness on his own.

But in 6 weeks, it will officially be official when that special piece of paper comes in the mail--

My husband will be a college graduate with his degree in human movement science (pre-physical therapy).

So proud of you, dear! Thanks for sticking it out until the bitter end!

Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to go continue our celebrations by drinking (yet more) sparkling apple cider and eating the cookies I made for tonight's party at our church.

Happy graduation, Matt!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Pregnant Teacher

  Note: I found this post filed under "drafts" and realized I'd never published it (because when I wrote it, no one knew our happy news). Even though I'm now more than 2/3 of the way through my second trimester (and this post deals with all the not-fun symptoms of my first trimester), I thought I'd publish it anyway, for my own sake if for nothing else.
Awhile back, when "A Day in the Life" posts were all the rage in my blog feed, I'd always intended to do one. I knew that one day--when I was no longer a teacher--I would want to look back and remember what each day was like at my first teaching job.

Well, I've now waited long enough that I am a PREGNANT teacher, which means that my schedule has gotten a bit more boring when it comes to free time (since all of that seems to be taken up by naps or complaining about my nausea). Since, as I write this, we have not announced to the world at large that I am expecting, I had planned to do a post that was just about what a normal teaching day would look like for me. However, I figured that the lack of running, donating plasma, and cooking in my time at home would be a dead giveaway to some people of the happy news, so I just decided to wait and post the honest-to-goodness truth of how it's been being a teacher during the first trimester of pregnancy.

A Day in the Life of a Pregnant Teacher

5:50 A.M. Alarm goes off, twenty minutes after it used to last year. I roll myself out of bed (which I have already done at least twice in the night--once to go to the bathroom, the other to go to the bathroom again and then eat something). Depending on which urge is worse when I first wake up for good, I either relieve myself or get a hard-boiled egg from the fridge.

6:00 A.M - 6:35 A.M. Good thing I've been doing the same makeup routine for months because my brain is still half-asleep as I get ready and all I can think is, "Every morning is the worst morning" (which is something my husband said the other morning as we woke up that was just too darn true to not keep repeating). Since I've showered the night before, it only takes 5-10 minutes to do something with my now-dry hair. While I have the best intentions to be finished getting ready by 6:20, I inevitably am not ready until at least 6:30, which means that my wonderful husband is forced to take on the task of packing my lunch (and usually does the job of making my breakfast too, which has been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever since I figured out that not only did the thought of it not make me sick, but that it actually helped to downplay my nausea as well). With Sea Bands firmly in place on my wrists and my sandwich in my hand, I head out the door.

6:35 - 7:08 A.M. I am on the road to work, a 33-minute commute in good weather. To make the time pass more enjoyably and to help me stay awake, I listen to audiobooks (right now I'm in the middle of Memoirs of a Geisha) or blast some upbeat music. Lucky for me, the route along which I drive is actually decently attractive (since it's out in the country and over a mountain). Nearly every day, I think about how I really shouldn't speed so much, but when you've got a one-lane highway and no cars in front of you, it's hard not to push close to 70 the whole way (despite the 60-mph speed limit). Besides, the thrill of possibly being pulled over is enough to make me not think about how well (or not well) that sandwich is settling.

7:09 - 7:25 A.M. I arrive in my classroom and prepare all the last-minute things I've conveniently put off for right before I need them (like making copies or updating the agenda on the board). I also try and fill up my water bottle with ice cold water before the day starts since pregnancy has turned me part camel. If I have time, I also check my email to make sure I haven't forgotten anything super urgent (or haven't gotten any last-minute super urgent requests) and walk what seems to be a half mile down to the office to check my teacher mailbox (I am in the classroom in the farthest possible corner of the school). If I am feeling particularly sick to my stomach, I don't make any walks, but rather heave some deep sighs and hunch down in my computer chair (after taking another bathroom break, of course).

7:26 A.M. - 8:34 A.M. Although the school day doesn't officially start until 7:40, I have a lot of eager learners in my first class who like to come almost 15 minutes early and get started on their self-starter right away. I don't usually mind, as this is one of the few chances all day I have to get to know the students outside of their behavior during the lesson. Sometimes though, I can feel particularly overwhelmed if I have a ton of stuff I still need to do to get ready and I have a huge line of students begging for my attention before the day's even started. After the tardy bell rings, I am in full-on teaching mode and luckily don't have too much focus left over for nausea and/or bladder urges.

8:38 - 9:32 A.M. Second hour. My first three full-length classes are all Language Arts, so I basically just repeat myself for three hours straight. Usually, this is one of the few times all day that I'm feeling all right because I'm close enough to my last meal that I'm not hungry, but I'm not so close to it that my stomach is freaking out. I've also fully woken up, so I'm not so grouchy.

9:36 - 9:44 A.M. We have 8 minutes for advisory, which is the most awkward chunk of time ever to have a group of students in your room. It's too long of a time to have nothing planned, but it's too short of a time to really get into anything. So I usually just try to drag out the announcements and remind them about emergency procedures in order to fill up the time.

9:48 - 10:13 A.M. The time we refer to as "WIN" (What I Need) Time. Basically, if you need to pull in a student to get extra help, they get a white ticket and they come to you during WIN time to make up work, get extra instruction/help, etc. If a student is doing just fine in your class, they get a colored ticket, which means they can go to a choice activity like basketball, electronics, or sewing. On Thursdays and Fridays, I pull in kids who need help. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I teach country swing dance as one of the choice activities. I used to love teaching dance, but trying to show the students the dance moves while feeling pregnant-sick is just not fun. Plus my heart rate rises much more quickly than it used to, so I get awkwardly winded as I'm trying to give explanations, which is kind of embarrassing. I honestly don't know how much longer I'll be able to effectively teach that dance class.

10:17 - 11:11 A.M. 3rd hour Language Arts class. I am convinced that this hour is cursed. In my three years of teaching, I have yet to have a high-functioning, high-performing 3rd hour. On the contrary, they are always (ALWAYS!) my lowest group, as well as my class that's the farthest behind. I don't know if it's because lunch is right after or just bad luck, but I have NEVER had an easy 3rd hour. Basically, if you can imagine trying to teach algebra to a 3-year-old, you'll get a feeling for how I feel every single day for 55 minutes.

11:11 - 11:41 A.M. Lunch. I tend to feel pretty sick every time I try to cook, so I haven't been bringing my own lunch every day like I used to. Instead, I usually drive over to the hospital (which has excellent food at really reasonable prices), and I try to slowly get some of that down. I haven't actually thrown up this pregnancy, but the intense nausea is nearly constant, which has totally killed my appetite. Plus, the ever-present unsettled stomach reminds me there's always the CHANCE that I might lose my lunch, so I never enjoy mealtimes too much. Lately they've just felt like a whole lot of work with little reward.

11:42 - 12:37 P.M. Prep hour. Even though it happens every day, I can never get over how blissful that hour of peace and quiet is. You don't realize how badly you crave quiet sometimes until you're surrounded with noise, questions, and just MOVEMENT all the time. Even though I'm almost always working hard through my prep hour, I still look forward to it each day. Bless you, prep hour--you save my sanity on a daily basis.

12:41 - 1:37 P.M. My first Spanish class of the day. Overall, of the two Spanish classes I have this first session, this first class is overall a little more "with it" and gets concepts easier, but it also is the class with two of my most difficult students, so it balances out in the end. A lot of my students will tell me Spanish is their favorite class, which makes me feel good because it takes a LOT out of me. It's funny how even though a class can be filled with mostly angels, a little devil or two can turn it into quite a nightmare (at least for the pregnant teacher with her extremely limited energy supply).

1:41 - 2:35 P.M. Last class of the day! It's another Spanish class, and overall, this one's quite a bit slower to catch onto concepts, which can always be a bit frustrating. I also have quite a few non-workers in the class (although luckily none of them are real behavioral problems). Basically, I'm completely wiped at this point, and it's all I can do to not put my head on the desk and just fall asleep. It's amazing that my sixth hour learns anything at all because my poor pregnant brain is so fatigued by the end of the day that I have a really hard time expressing myself. I'm also usually starting to get kind of hungry again at this point (since I couldn't choke down too much at lunch), so both me AND the students are watching the clock pretty closely and waiting to be saved by the bell.

2:36 - 4:30 P.M. I wish my workday was over when the kids left, but sadly, such is not the fate of most teachers. Most days, I stay at least an hour and a half after the kids have left so that I can catch up on some grading, prepare for the next day, or take care of the endless stream of paperwork and random tasks that is constantly coming my way. I am completely exhausted and sick by this point, but if I didn't stay after, I would fall behind, so I suck it up and make myself push through the fatigue.

4:30 - 5:05 P.M. Commute back home. This drive can either be relaxing or rip-my-hair-out frustrating depending on whether or not I get stuck behind some car or semi going 45 in the 60-mph. single-lane highway. Since I'm usually anxious to get home, the drive is more often frustrating than not. I'm convinced this daily commute has given me permanent road rage problems.

5:10 - 6:00 P.M. Figure out dinner. Food is on my mind a lot as a pregnant lady, but not for any good reasons--basically, I never want to eat but know that I have to frequently, so I'm always trying to figure out what sounds the least objectionable and what takes the least amount of work. I seriously cannot wait to have an appetite again. What will that be like?! It's been so long since it's been around, I feel like I might not even recognize it when it returns...

6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. On an ideal night, this is my total veg time. After somehow scrounging up a dinner and forcing myself to eat it, I just allow myself to completely relax and not do anything. At first, I felt pretty lazy doing this (since the housework or laundry or most of the cooking has not been done by me for months now), but my body is pretty strongly telling me at that point that it is absolutely, completely done (and that I'd better not push it anymore---or else!). Since reading has been making me feel totally sick this pregnancy (cue sad face), these veg sessions are basically just a long string of t.v. episodes we have on DVD.

8:00 P.M. Try as I might, most nights my body just doesn't want to be up until 9:30 like it used to be, so I usually start getting ready for bed by 8 (although let's face it---I've been in the loosest sweats and a t-shirt since the second I got home). Closer to the beginning of the first trimester, I was even in bed some nights as early as 6:30 or 7. Oh, the joys of first-trimester fatigue...

8:30 P.M. If all has gone well, I am in bed by this time, relieved to have been able to make it through another day. I know the first trimester sickness and fatigue won't last forever (or at least, it'd better not!), but it seems like every night when I hit the sheets, I am truly amazed I've made it through another day. (I'm also amazed that I actually have to wake up and do it all over again the next day, but that's a different story...)

So there you go---therein concludes an ultra-glamorous day in the life of a pregnant teacher.

I just know you've always wondered what it would be like.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Glad God's the Editor of My Life

I've known for quite some time now that I really like feeling in control of my life---in control of my time, of my body, of my future, and of my circumstances. Of course, life experiences have taught me over and over again that although it's important for me to plan out the "story" of my life and how I'd like it to go and to end, I should plan on the Ultimate Editor throwing in some plot twists every now and then.

Last year at about this time, we were waiting (as we are waiting now) to hear back from physical therapy schools. It was Matt's first year applying, and though I'd heard it was highly competitive, I felt confident that he would be accepted somewhere so that we could forge ahead with the road we'd planned out. You see, I'm a woman with a constant plan--sure, there are times when I go into something and wing it, but not when it comes to our future; I had researched schools with Matt and prayed and double-checked that we'd correctly gone through the application process...in short, I had done everything I could to ensure that my husband could continue going for his dream of becoming a physical therapist.

When the news came early this year that he hadn't been accepted into any schools that first year of applying, I put a brave face on, but I was pretty bummed out. I felt like we were about to enter into a year of limbo where we wouldn't really be getting any closer to the goals we'd set up for ourselves, and if there's anything I hate, it's feeling like I'm in limbo.

Fast forward to today--

I was in church, listening to some fabulous talks on gratitude and the actions that it causes us to take in our lives and the effect that it has on us, and all of a sudden, it started to hit me--

This last year--more than any other year of our marriage--has been a time of joy, progress, and blessings. It got me to thinking of all that I'd have missed out on had we moved as planned:

If we'd moved, I would have been pregnant for the first time in a place that was possibly far from family, which meant I couldn't have the physical support of a mom, sisters, and mother-in-law taking care of me by providing frozen meals, maternity clothes, and some much-needed advice.

If we'd moved, my husband never would have been called into the bishopric, which has been an incredible experience for us both. My husband has always been a wonderful man, but having this calling, I have literally seen his spiritual and social growth right before my eyes. I have seen the Lord magnify his capacity to love and serve and learn and teach, and the spiritual blessings this has brought into our home are incalculable.

If we'd moved, my last experiences teaching at the school I'm at would have been pretty bitter. I had a very difficult group of students last year, and had we moved, I might have left the teaching profession forever. I'm still not certain that I've found "the" teaching position for me, but this year has at least helped to lighten my teaching heart, which had been very heavy for much of last year.

If we'd moved, I would have missed out on many of the precious experiences I had with my grandma before her passing. I knew her time to go would come quickly, so I took full advantage of every opportunity I could to visit with her and spend time with her.  Those are some of my most cherished memories with Grandma Austin, and I never could have had most of them if we'd moved away.

If we'd moved, we never would have had "the summer of fun and games" with all the good people we've met in this area. For several months now (and especially in the summer), we've invited people over anywhere from 1-3 times a week for games and treats (and sometimes dinner), which has allowed us to build solid friendships and feel like we truly have a lot of support all around us whenever we might need it. I underestimated the importance of still having a healthy social life once we got married, but now I understand that those relationships are still so important.

If we'd moved, I would be having my baby in a place far from family, and I likely would start to feel pretty isolated as the weighty responsibilities of new parenthood settled upon me. Here in this place where we've set down roots, I feel the support at every turn--just today, I had somebody offer me their newborn baby girl clothes and somebody else check to make sure that everything was okay and that I didn't need anything. I know there are good people wherever we'll go, but because of all the time we've spent here, our support network is strong and sensitive to our needs.

There are many more blessings that have come about this past year as a result of our staying, and I won't list them all. But I want the records to show how grateful I am that my Heavenly Father knows the beginning to the end and that He is much more able to see what I need than I am.

I don't know what this next year will bring, but whether we end up being accepted into PT school or not, I know one thing's for sure--

We are writing our story with the help of the greatest Editor that ever will be.

Matt & I Must Have a Problem with Celebrating Early...

Matt and I found out soon after getting married that it can be tricky establishing holiday traditions for ourselves since we live so close to our families. Because our folks live just over an hour's drive away, we've spent all three Thanksgivings and Christmases as a married couple with them. We consider it a great blessing to live so close to so many that we love, but over the years, we've been trying hard to establish some traditions that could just be "ours."

Even though from the beginning, people thought our "early Christmas" together was crazy, I've grown to absolutely love it, especially since it means that the actual holiday is focused less around gifts and more on family.

This year for Thanksgiving, we decided to try something different, too--a pre-Thanksgiving feast/game night with some of the good friends we've made here. If it weren't a space issue, we probably would have invited about 25 people, but our little apartment just couldn't take that much goodness, so we had to content ourselves with just under a dozen. To make it easier on ourselves, we just did a few of the basics (turkey, punch, carrots) and had everyone else bring the rest.

This was my first time ever cooking my own turkey, and let's just say, it came about thisclose to being an absolute fiasco. Friday afternoon (the day before the party), I had holed myself up in our "office" to work on editing some photos for clients, planning on going shopping for all the necessaries later that night after a friend's wedding reception. When Matt came home from school, he asked me if I'd started defrosting the turkey yet.

"Uh..." I started. "I kind of haven't really bought it yet."

So off we went in a frenzy to the store where we decided that a $40 price tag for a fresh turkey was too much, so we bought a frozen turkey for $14 and prayed that it would somehow work out. We raced home to start thawing it out in cold water and were about to head out the door to the reception when we realized that the sink wasn't completely stoppered up, forcing us to wait about another ten minutes until the OTHER side of the sink could be filled with water and the turkey placed inside its ice bath.

Coming back from the reception and dinner after, we were forced to concede  that two hours had made little difference to the bird, putting us both into a mild panic--we were trying an overnight slow cooking method favored by Matt's mom, and the turkey was supposed to go in about an hour after we got home. A large pot of boiling water later, we were finally able to scrape out the neck and innards and though the turkey was still cold and hard in more places than we would have liked, we popped it in the oven at about 10:30 p.m.

We had company staying over that night (my sister and her husband from out of town), and we worried we would wake them up when we got up at 6 a.m. to check the bird, so we got a flashlight and spoke in whispers as we both knelt in front of the oven the next morning, bleary-eyed and clueless, trying to figure out if the skin had pulled away from the legs yet (since we couldn't just stick a thermometer in, considering that the turkey was in an oven bag). After twenty minutes of solid deliberation, we decided to let it cook for an hour and a half longer, at which point we'd wake up my sister for a third opinion.

7:30 a.m. found three of us (Matt, my sister, and I) deliberating over cooking times per pound, how the fact that the turkey was partially defrosted might affect its done-ness, and how certain parts definitely appeared crispier than others. Finally, Matt just said, "I'm just taking it out. We can cook it more later if we need to."

The turkey had to sit outside for a couple hours before being carved, so we tried to not worry ourselves too much over it and busied ourselves cleaning house. Luckily, when we carved into the turkey awhile later, it appeared we were just about right---it was a little bit dry on the very outside, but the inside was cooked through and juicy, and I comforted myself that I hadn't completely ruined pre-Thanksgiving by treating myself to several hot slices sprinkled with salt. 

Turkey (almost-)fiasco aside, I think I could get used to this tradition...
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