And I still can remember all the difficulties I faced as my Lyme progressed from annoying symptoms to full-blown pain, brain fog, dietary issues, weakness, and exhaustion, and finally, being out of work for six months.
I can remember early on, trying to keep a semblance of routine at home and make my daughter’s lunch for school. That 10-minute job caused me extreme exhaustion, and a return trip to bed for two hours.
I remember trying to exercise on the advice of medical doctors, which never went well. Later on in that winter, I tried vacuuming a 5×7 rug. I needed a three-hour nap after that.
I remember starting what I call my Lyme Bible. It contained sections with each doctors’ contact information, copies of my blood work reports, diagnoses, as well as my food diary and symptoms tracker.
I remember my husband asking me one morning, “Where is the jelly?” And I literally did not know. I couldn’t tell him, and I got upset because I knew my brain was literally fading a way bit by bit, and there wasn’t anything that any medical doctor was telling me that was helpful or hopeful.
I remember being frustrated listening to people with MD after their names giving me any number of diagnoses: Lyme, not Lyme, fibromyalgia, coxsackie, EBV, a virus…and even, “Yes, you have Lyme, coxsackie, and EBV in your blood work, but we don’t know what is causing your symptoms. Just eat right and exercise.” I’ve got letters that I’ve started that I intend to send to all these medical professionals to both ease my conscience and anger, but also potentially change how they actually address a patient’s course of treatment when they have Lyme disease.
I remember hearing about a holistic practitioner that helped a cancer patient who had tremendous results after major health issues. At that point, I was ready to find a new avenue that didn’t lead me to another medical doctor whose hands were tied against me.
I remember thinking during my first appointment, his methods seemed so strange and out of the box in terms of medical treatment as I knew it, and yet, after only 4 months, I was back at work full-time and able to conquer my full teaching day without turning into a puddle by 10:30 am!
I remember feeling so tired from work, I was in bed by 5:30, and still not rested to face the next day. Squeezing the shampoo bottle in the shower bothered my right thumb, and drying my hair with the hair dryer made my elbows hurt tremendously. Even driving would bother my elbows. And reading…forget it. After ten minutes, I could feel my mind drifting away from the words on the page.
I remember a time last year when I didn’t put the my prized under-the-counter radio on when I was in the kitchen. It’s presence changed from a comfort to just noise. The feeling of wanting music on had left me, and it didn’t bother me for many months that I didn’t put the radio on to keep me company.
Tonight, I connected my Bluetooth Pandora on my phone to that radio. I listened to a Martina McBride holiday channel, and I sang along to almost every song. It was like a drug to me; I realized how much I had missed my music and I finally had the chance to enjoy it again. I had to force myself to turn it off and go sit down when tiredness of the day trumped the music.
As I am writing this, I am thinking of how fortunate I am that my health has returned almost to normal and I am enjoying things that I couldn’t do a year ago.
Below are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way in my research about essential oils.
Not All Oils–Or Companies–Are Alike!
When I began to learn about essential oils, I learned of these two companies: doTERRA and Young Living. From my limited understanding, do TERRA branched off from Young Living, and there was a falling out and a lawsuit brought on by Young Living—you can look it up online if you want more details.
But in my mind, both get a lot of exposure caused by the split and therefore, these consultant-driven businesses are in competition with each other. This doesn’t stick well with me in my “all-natural” craw, if you know what I mean. If you talk to anyone who is a consultant for either one, they will naturally espouse the goodness of their own company and not go into detail about the rift, if you happen ask about it. I’ve spoken to consultants from both companies, and they’ve all been lovely, well-informed people when it came to essential oils. But the bad karma between the two enterprises turned me off to BOTH companies.
Being the rebel that I am, I did my own research and found reputable oils that are easily purchased at local health food markets. I can pick the ones I want to try out and avoid being locked into ‘beginner starter kits’ and other programs that are pricey.
Knock It Off!
I can’t say this enough: avoid purchasing oils that you find in your drug stores or chain stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Essential oils and diffusers seem to be the ‘in’ thing right now, and I’ve seen different unknown brands pop up in different stores . You need to know what is in the oils that you are diffusing, ingesting, or using topically. If it says “100% Pure Frankincense” on the bottle, and it’s only $4.99 at Target, you can safely assume that it’s not PURE Frankincense in that bottle! (Frankincense is one of the most expensive oils you can purchase.) If you diffuse oils that aren’t really pure, you can be putting worse things into your system than you bargained for. And who wants that?
Do Your Homework!
There are literally HUNDREDS of resources available online and in print about essential oils. I like to keep my options open and use both types of sources.
Pintrest, of course, has quick information for all your essential oil needs, but I also love to have books on hand, because sometimes, it’s just quicker to be able to bookmark a page and turn to it in a pinch. My favorite book is Valerie Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. It is very comprehensive and outlines the history of various oils as well as which oils to use topically, diffuse, and/or ingest. Valerie provides recipes to use with oils for any kind of ailment or household task or beauty regime. She also lists reputable essential oil companies in the back, which was extremely helpful to me in my research, since I was definitely waging a private campaign against both doTERRA and Young Living. (And she does list these two in her book as reputable companies.)
Basically, don’t just start diffusing because ‘everyone is doing it’. If you’re not sure about an oil, be investigative and find the answers you are looking for. Work smarter, not harder! Look for book titles online, then go to the library and check out the books that interest you. I love doing this because I can make sure the book (s) have the information I require before purchasing. I made the mistake once of purchasing a cookbook before I really reviewed it. I’ll never do that again!
In this case, doing your homework means the difference between being informed or spending money that really can be saved for a better purchase.
A Little Bit Goes A Long Way!
The oils are potent, so after you have researched what oils you want to use and how to use them safely, do it drop by drop. I learned that I could use Frankincense, Rosemary, and Oregano in combination to help combat my Lyme disease. But after applying 3-4 diluted drops of each to each foot, I felt somewhat stomach sick within a half an hour! I should have just used one oil at a time and rotated, but live and learn, right?
I also discovered that Geranium and Lavender, which smell wonderful together, are not a good combination for me when I am dealing with congestion; the two actually made my symptoms worse! But a Lemon and Eucalyptus blend were perfect for me in the bath or in the shower when I was all stuffy.
So in the case of essential oils, a little bit does go a long way. It’s better to start of with one or two drops and build up. Rotating oils is also recommended if you notice that you aren’t getting the same effects over a period of time.
Diffusers Don’t Need To Be Expensive to be Worthy
Now that you are ready with oils, you need to get a diffuser. And just like anything else on the market, diffusers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices.
Three things I learned to consider when deciding on a diffuser:
Ease of Opening
Personally, I have three diffusers. And the easiest one to open is the cheapest one that I bought at Wal-Mart, made by Better Homes and Garden. Both the outside glass cover, much like a bell jar, and the inside cover, are easily removable. Because the square footage of my bedroom is relatively small, I can put the diffuser on, shut the door, and within a half an hour, the air in the room is filled with any beautiful oil that I put inside.
The one I bought from my classroom has a plastic cover that you need to twist on and off according to arrow indicators on the outer lid and diffuser. My hands are small, so this one is hard for me to grasp and as a result, it is difficult to open and close. I purchased it because it is larger in size, and has a timer for how long you want it to run. Its size allows it to run up to 360 minutes, which is great in the classroom! But I didn’t consider how to opens (I bought this one online) and because it’s harder to open, I end up just leaving the lid in the unlocked position to avoid having to twist it open when it is time to refill.
I have another one that my husband purchased as a Christmas gift. It is made out of wood—it’s very pretty and looks lovely in my livingroom, but again, it’s a little trickier to open and close due to the design.
The square footage of my living room is much larger than that of my bedroom. The room also opens up to a stairwell, so when diffusing, it seems to require more drops of oil to reap the same benefits as in an enclosed space like my bedroom.
So, consider all these factors before purchasing and diffusing. And if you can, purchase your diffuser in person and not online, so you can actually see the diffuser and test out how it opens and closes.
Well, I hope these tips help clear the air when considering using essential oils!
With the advent of a new President, laws will be overturned, changed, and created. I began thinking about the laws of my own castle, and came up with a few for my family.
Here are a few laws I’d like to put in place for my family this year.
Whoever runs the dishwasher must empty it within 12 hours of said action. And all items in the dishwasher must be put back in their correct place. If the emptier is unsure of an items location, that person must inform the Queen within 1 hour and learn where the item should be placed. It should not be left on the kitchen counter for the Queen to later find and put away.
Clause #1:Any pots or pans that are washed and left on the stove to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #2: Any plastic items left on the kitchen counter to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #3: When the dishwasher detergent gets down to 5 tablets, the Queen must be informed so more can be purchased. This clause also includes dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, paper goods, and other home cleaning and personal cleansing items when they become low and need to be replaced. Users shall not use up all products without having replacements readily available.
Personal Belongings Law
Whatever personal belongings are NOT placed in their correct place within 12 hours of being left all over the castle, the Queen has the direct authority to do whatever she wishes with said item(s). The King and Princess have NO AUTHORITY on this matter and must abide by this law. The Queen has jurisdiction over all areas of the castle, including the kitchen counter, kitchen and dining room chairs, living room couch, staircase, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
This includes but is not limited to keys, belts, hats, shoes, winter wear, backpacks, toys, and other personal items. The owner of the item(s) may or may not see the item(s) ever again, depending on the mood of the Queen.
All folded laundry shall be placed neatly in the owner’s drawers and not left on floors, chairs or in baskets. Any laundry left in these areas longer than 24 hours will be subject to removal by the Queen. (See Personal Belongings Law for clarification of the fine for breaking this law.)
Tomato Sauce Law
If you made sauce, you must clean up the spatters on the stove upon completion of cooking. This law also applies to when sauce is reheated on the stove. The Queen shall always have non-toxic cleaners available.
All boxes shall be either burned or ripped up upon opening and emptying of the boxes. Boxes shall not be thrown down the basement stairs left to create a pile of cardboard resembling the Eiffel Tower or the New York skyline.
Royal Pet Law
Whomever is the first to arrive home must feed the Royal Pet food and water. The Queen will provide food and bowls for said job.
Clause #1: If a subject ‘forgets’ to feed the Royal Pet, that subject shall be forced to eat food of the Queen’s choice.
Clause #2: More than one incident of not feeding the Royal Pet will result in further punishment to be determined by the Queen at the time of the infraction.
Healthy Eating Law
All members of the castle must try kale and refrain from any grimacing or negative comments. Punishment for breaking this law will be determined at the time of the infraction.
Do you think they these laws will can be implemented and followed ?
My husband recently purchased an espresso maker, which prompted the need to clean out a kitchen cabinet so he could have his espresso cups easily available. This led to the discovery of many, many coffee mugs that sit in our cabinet and are never used, some of which I received as teacher gifts.
With the holidays approaching, many parents like to give teacher gifts, but I know as a parent, it gets tiresome each year trying to think of new ideas outside of the mug or candle. Here are 5 ideas that may spark your gift giving nature in a different direction this year.
Read To Grow
When I had my daughter ten years ago, this organization had volunteers come around to all the new moms with a book to keep to encourage literacy. Two years ago, one of my Kinder scholar’s parents made a donation to Read To Grow in my name. It was such a thoughtful gift, and one that stood out from all the mugs of candy that I’ve received over the years.
Check in your area to see if your local hospital has an organization like Read to Grow. Or, follow the link below and make a donation anyway! It is sure to bring a smile to your child’s teacher’s face.
Along the lines of Read to Grow, we all know someone, whether it is an adult or child, fighting a health battle. Instead of purchasing a gift that may not be meaningful, use that money towards a donation to a particular charity. Again, it is a thoughtful gift that will have lasting benefits.
If donations aren’t your thing, here are a few more tangible gift ideas that your child’s teacher will love.
Monogrammed Note Paper and Fancy Pen
Teachers write A LOT of notes! I loved it when I received paper and note cards with my name on it one year. Vistaprint allows you to customize to include the school address and phone number as well.
Gift Cards to Bookstores, Craft Stores, or Office Supply Stores
Many teachers supplement their classroom supplies with books, glue sticks, and colored pencils that they purchase out-of-pocket. Even just a few $5.00 gift cards add up and teachers definitely appreciate not having to dig into their own wallets to restock classroom supplies after the holidays.
School Supply Basket
Teachers LOVE school supplies! Create a basket with pencils, erasers, colored pencils, markers, post it notes, seasonal stickers, glue sticks, and other items that you think your teacher could use in the classroom. Even hand soap and tissues in the basket are much-needed and appreciated items that your kids use daily in the classroom. Better yet: get in touch with the Room Parent to coordinate a basket like this with one donation from each student! Every one can afford one small item and your teacher will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind this bountiful, useful gift.
It’s start of the holiday season, and just coming off of the bazillion Thanksgiving posts from grateful people, we are now inundated with posts of people’s decorated Christmas trees.
I, for one, boycott decorating for Christmas until the first weekend in December. I say “boycott” with love and affection because I just can’t enjoy one holiday by rushing into another. And truthfully, I still haven’t put away all my dishes from Thanksgiving yet, so I’m not ready to make another mess in my home without cleaning up from the one I already have right in front of me.
And besides, there’s still ONE more unnamed holiday event that I need to get through before putting up the tree and lights. Mother Nature sponsors this magnificent occasion, and yet it doesn’t get a special date on the calendar. Instead, we recognize this as an entire SEASON of colorful joy, known simply as FALL, or more delicately, as AUTUMN. And the crowning event of the Autumnal Season is that glorious holiday, Leaf Raking.
Now, I know what your thinking. How is leaf raking a holiday? Well, naturally, fellow New Englander, it IS a holiday since we go through the same stresses of holiday cheer and angst for raking leaves as we do for celebrating any other date on the calendar.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
First, there is the anticipation of the event. As the weeks roll from September to October to November, we anticipate the joy of fall, the changing of the leaves, and the cooler temperatures. Much like any other special event, I look forward to fall to temper my days and my wardrobe. Fall makes me realize what a great life we do have in New England and how lucky I am to be surrounded by maple and oak trees. Waiting for the hallmark leaf-raking event is like waiting for that suprise gift at Christmas or my birthday. It’s just looming in my future, an ever-present invisible force in my life that continues to create more excitement and wonder as the days draw cooler and darkness falls sooner. When the leaves start to signal their arrival by gracefully floating to the ground in my yard, I know that the holiday is soon approaching . The only difference between the gift receiving events and the leaf-raking holiday is that not one tree ever thanks me for my leaf raking skills, and I don’t thank the trees for their bountiful yearly gifts, either.
Next comes the actual pre-planning of when to rake so the town can collect the leaves. Just like any other celebration, leaf raking requires preparation, and in order for it to be a wonderfully remembered event, all the little details need to be attended to before the big day. Between Mother Nature and the local paper, I can determine when our leaves will be picked up, and then I can begin to plan when to start to rake. (Luckily, we don’t have to bag our leaves where we live…that would add another whole layer of planning!) Raking before rain or snow hits is extremely important. Nothing breaks the blissful leaf raking spirit than soggy leaves that have been left too long to create mold on the underlying grass. Personally, I like to savor this holiday, much like you savor a delicious piece of chocolate or dessert, and do a little raking at a time. My husband, on the other hand, likes to wait until all the leaves have fallen before participating. But this type of thinking leads to wet leaves, colder temperatures, and generally a longer celebration. Every once in a while, praying for strong winds to blow some of the leaves out of my own yard and into the neighbor’s crosses my mind when planning for the upcoming leaf raking day. But this type of prayer always back fires. Mother Nature somehow works it out with God to make the wind blow the neighbor’s leaves back into my yard, so I strongly advise not wasting your prayers on this self-serving invocation.
Then comes the actual day of leaf raking. Hallelujah! We’ve been waiting and waiting with our rakes in hand for this sacred day for months! Dressed in our fall raking clothes, hats, and gloves, I want to get the holiday festivities underway as soon as possible, much to my football-loving husband’s disappointment. He’d rather stay inside and watch the 500 football games on television instead extracting the million or so leaves that we have out from under every bush and hasta plant, between the fence, and under the patio furniture.
It’s usually on a Saturday morning when we celebrate leaf raking together, and if we’re lucky, it is a sunny one. Gathering up the holiday tools like the tarp, the blower, rakes, and electrical cord isn’t too much of a hassle, but it is at this point where celebrating this joyous event takes a drastic turn for the worse. No matter how much planning or work that is done in advance, there is always anger and bitterness that comes instead of rejoicing in Mother Nature’s leaf raking ceremony.
On the days when the leaves are dry and brittle, it is pleasurable to rake if my husband and I show up with the right attitude. But adding one little change to the environment, like a whipping wind for instance, our attitude shifts very quickly, giving just the right spark to light our short fuses. I hear Mother Nature’s silent laugh as the wind continues to howl, causing the tarp not to want to be placed on the ground and the leaves to exit quickly from where they were placed. Of course, this stressful situtation forces us to speak to each other in flamboyant language, bringing unexpected color and excited gestures to the experience. These words cause a rift to rise between us, completely changing the festive tone of the event from delight to dread.
Aside from the wind whipping issue, our own ideas of how to appreciate this particular holiday to its fullest potential often cloud our pleasure. Take this common scenario: my husband wants to lug the leaf-filled tarp one way, and I want to go another way and I wonder aloud in a sharp and fiery tone, “Why are you going thatway?” This ignites some anger and makes my husband, the lead person on the tarp, to walk faster, thus pulling the tarp in such a manner that I lose my grip on the tarp. Leaves tumble out, creating another pile needing to be raked and extending the anger jamboree.
Another common issue is that my husband walks faster than me, so I can’t keep up, and I literally have to run with the tarp in hand to the curb without tripping. As you can imagine, I do trip, and more colorful words ensue between the two of us as leaves continue to tumble out of the tarp.
Pace also impacts our raking. Typically, my husband rakes more quickly and thoroughly than I do. And because of this, we are often in competition with each other to get the leaves done our own way. I’d rather take lighter trips with the tarp to the curb whereas my husband would rather fill it so it weighs as much as a blue whale and then drag me behind, tripping and cursing. Clearly, our pace and viewpoints are no match for the glory in leaf raking.
Then the blower or rakes get misplaced, seemingly miles away from the actual leaves, making it more tiresome to retrieve these items after each turn-over of the tarp. Or one wants to use the blower instead of the rake, or both of us want the blower, and the other is putting the tarp too far away from the leaf pile or heaven forbid, ON TOP OF some leaves! The emotions overflow for hours during this holiday affair, and we are both are thankful once the nightmare of leaf raking is finally over.
The tools are slowly returned to the garage, and the merriment is over until next year. The yard still has leaves that have been missed and will have to wait until spring, because by this point, I don’t really care if every leaf hasn’t made it to the curb. I just want to sit down and watch the 5o0 football games we missed.
Here are 5 items that a year ago, I wouldn’t have put on my ‘thankful’ list. My, how times have changed!
My Nutritionist, Maureen Wasik
Maureen, without you, I wouldn’t be eating all the green vegetables and protein that I need to function like a semi-normal human being. Heck, before last December, I didn’t even HAVE a nutritionist! And thankfully, I’ve not had to go back to you since the summer since I’ve kind of surpassed what I needed your expertise for in terms of my own food intake and needs. But truly, if I hadn’t found you when I did, I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. Thank you. (I still haven’t eaten liver since that first time….I hope you understand.)
Kale and Brussel Sprouts
Kale and Brussel Sprouts, you are the two greens who have helped to turn my cells around and give me back some of my energy lost from Lyme. A year ago, you wouldn’t even be on my grocery list, let alone in my refrigerator! Now, you are my friends that I love to eat and must have every.single.week. I find that when I can’t get my fix of roasted brussel spouts with garlic and bacon, I’m missing you terribly..not in the same way that I miss chocolate, but almost. Thank you.
Green tea, you have allowed me to have one more fluid to drink besides water, and for this, my taste buds are truly appreciative. I love to have some kind of ‘taste’ in what I eat and drink, and without you, I’d be stuck drinking plain.old.water. Thank you for giving me something different to drink each day, as well as provide some more ‘green’ in my diet.
You truly know how to make a gal happy! Just a few turns of you around the pan, and my eggs easily release and taste delicious, too! You also help keep my cholesterol and blood pressure low. And it goes without saying, my kale and brussel sprouts just wouldn’t be the same without you.
My Woo Woo Guy, Dan Court
And last but not least, Dan Court, my “woo woo” guy, you have started me on a healing road with the supplements that I faithfully take. I call you my “woo woo” guy because truthfully, your methods are so “woo woo” to my own experience. And yet, your non-Western medicine methods helped me tremendously when the medical community, with their regulations and man-made medicines and by the book diagnoses, weren’t correct and didn’t work. Yes, you are a long drive away from my home, and yes, I wish you took insurance to make my wallet a bit more full. BUT….had I not heard of you from a friend of a friend of my husband’s , I believe that I wouldn’t be as well as I am.
And I most certainly wouldn’t be back at work handling my 20 scholars with the full energy level that I currently have and need this year!
Thank you for opening my eyes and getting me back on the road to wellness!
When you are living with a chronic illness, even every day tasks require pre-planning and thought…and just that thought ALONE can send one running back under the covers.
Here are 5 ways to make managing the holidays a bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
After having a bickering weekend recently, fueled only by my OWN issues with worrying about getting housework done, I started defining small weekly tasks on my calendar, like laundry, ordering groceries (see SHOP SMARTER below), dusting and vacuuming, and bathrooms. Each night is designated for ONE task so that my weekend isn’t consumed by cleaning. Tuesdays I’m not home until 7 pm, so that night I give myself a break from a chore, but the rest of the week is planned out. AND FOR ME, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! Sunday was indeed a day of rest, so I am sticking to my pre-planning habit through the holidays.
I like to be in control of things in my home, but found that I need to get better at doling out tasks for my family members to do to help around the house so I’m not feeling like the sole worker bee. My husband is great with cooking for me–he’s the grill master, for sure, so he will grill up meat for me over the weekend for my lunches for the upcoming week. And he’s learned how to make my tea, so he’ll put a pot on for me if he sees the kettle out. And my ten-year old can easily vacuum the stairs with a hand vac and organize the couch pillows if I let her know.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and sharing the load–many hands make light work, right?
SHOP SMARTER, NOT HARDER
I discovered that I could order my groceries online several years ago, and this has been quite the weekly lifesaver! I can either have them delivered or pick them up, depending on which store I shop at. I mostly order non-perishables and things like milk and eggs; meat and veggies we get elsewhere. But truly, this is the BEST WAYto get my grocery shopping done without having to fight aisle antics, crying children, and blinking lights that signal coupon issues at the checkout.
I also shop for many of my holiday gifts online and have them delivered to me at work. It’s wonderful since I can get my goodies without having to worry about them being left on the front porch in the bad weather. I can also squirrel things away from my husband and daughter.
Shopping smarter can really pay off in terms of your sanity. Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday to a local chain store near my home. The line to pay literally went down to the back of the store, and as much as I wanted the few items I selected, they didn’t warrant me standing in line for hours. So, I snapped a few photos of the items and their UPC codes on my phone, then went home and ordered them online. I received the same deals –and with free shipping–without having to wait in line!
That was a magical moment!
SANTA’S LIST ISN’T JUST FOR HIM
We have a very large extended family, and add in the kindly neighbor, the classroom teacher, the dance teacher, the bus driver… it’s plain to see, the holidays can become very expensive very quickly!
I create a holiday table in Word on my computer each year, and I don’t necessarily delineate dollar amounts per person–that seems a little too Scrooge for me– but I do itemize who I’m giving to and try to get some shopping done early prior to December so I’m not scrambling for money or gifts.
Since I do this each year, I can look back to see what I’ve given and not repeat the same gift. I also try to avoid the same candle/mug/tie gift.
Truly, who really needs another Santa mug or holiday tie?
SHOP OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
This year, if I do venture out of my home to shop, I’m going local to shop to support ‘the little guy or gal’. I’ve got plans to go to a local book sale at a library near the town I grew up in over the Thanksgiving weekend. They held a similar event over the summer, and I found some wonderful reading treasures there for myself. I’m going to try it out and see how many family members I can surprise with a literary gift this year. It shouldn’t break the bank, and I’m glad to be supporting library events instead of a CEO’s wallet.
I’m also going to gift the gift of my time this year. My sisters and I are planning on getting together with our kids over the winter break and do something together instead of the usual present in a box that never gets seen again. I’d rather create some memories that will leave a lasting impression.
I went back to work the August after an unexpected medical leave in January 2016.
It’s been good to be back, even with the challenges of a larger group of students with varying levels of specific needs.
One of the things I love about teaching Kindergarten is that I can literally shape how a child views anything–even the most mundane task–just by my reaction or how I present it to them. Work they need to do becomes “a project” or “a puzzle”. Assessments or small group work becomes “working with Mrs. T” time –-and everyone LOVES one on one time with the teacher! Even a little post-it lunch box note from Mom turns into a gloriouslove note. The kids BEAM when I gush, “OH LOOK!!!! Mommy wrote you a LOVE NOTE!!” We read it together and the child toddles off with a smile on his or her face, so happy they got a love note from home.
Sometimes, the children bring in pictures for me—beautiful Kindergarten drawings of us together, sometimes with a drawing of my faithful puppet Red Word Fred intermingled with the hearts and shapes and colors. This year, I’ve had a few of my scholars say, “I made you a love note,” handing their treasure over to me when we collect the mail at the start of the day. I gush and preen over each note, thanking the child and putting it up on my bulletin board behind my table. My bulletin board is already filled with these notes, and I decided it was time to give back the love to my students.
This past Friday, I sent each of them home with a love note from me. Since we do mail in the morning, I had to remind them they couldn’t open it up now, or on the bus, or at the YMCA program after school. They had to wait until they got home to share it with their families.
Their reactions were priceless as they were handed folded notes. Some said thank you, some sat there in awe, looking at their name and heart drawn on the front, reminding me of Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket, and others were literally just beaming with joy and smiles. I had enclosed both a note and a dot-to-dot page. I’m not sure what will transpire as far as an extra little goodie inside each week—I haven’t planned that far ahead– but my goal is to give them each a love note every Friday morning to read at home.
I hope the love gets passed around this year between home and school!
I officially went back to work on Thursday, August 25, 2016.
It was my first day of school since leaving on January 15, 2016.
And it was great.
It was like I never even left, outside of all the hugs and well wishes and “So glad to see your smiling face!” greetings. Even sweeter was a post it note from my new principal that he left in my classroom the night before, saying how welcoming everything looked and how happy he’s glad I’m able to return.
Prior to our “official” start date, I participated in the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics. Usually, it can be a five-day or longer event . This year, due to scheduling issues, it was a 3 day affair with multiple-tiered activities.
I engaged in all sorts of games that had been previously set up by the individuals in my room, both adults and children, while I was out on sick leave. And let me tell you, they did a wonderful job of challenging me! I tried my best to complete each game to the best of my ability. Some of them were more challenging than others, but all in all, I think I represented my Kindergarten colleagues quite well!
“What’s In The Cabinet?” was great fun as I discovered all sorts of materials and paperwork out-of-place. Some cabinets I just opened and then quickly shut, while others I cleaned and organized without much fanfare. This multi-tiered event didn’t put me in the running for the gold or even bronze medal, but my efforts were rewarded with several empty cabinets. I still have several that need to be tackled, but that is for another day.
“Container Crash” was not an event I wanted to participate in due to the time constraints I was under, but it was necessary to complete. For about an hour, I sorted through the 16 years worth of containers that I have–baskets, boxes, and lids of all sorts of sizes and colors. Some matched, while others remained lonely. I managed to give away a few of them to some of my co-workers, but I still have a huge store of containers stacked in boxes over the cubbies. If you need any containers or lids, either matching ones or replacement parts, let me know. I’ll give them to you for FREE! (That is certainly worth a silver medal, right?)
“Book Jam I” was a difficult event. My trade books were not in any particular order, and I was unable to properly organize them to my satisfaction in the allotted time. I did ok with the “Book Jam II“, sorting Reading Workshop books into the correct bins and finding my personal collection of board books that I like to use to start out the year with. But the BEST part of “Book Jam II” was when I masterfully placed my outward-facing bookshelves so I actually have TWO book corners this year for my little Kindergarten scholars! I think that event was purposefully scheduled to try to trick me into getting rid of Kindergarten furniture. I get a double gold medal for that one!
“Where Are The Spacemen?” is still alluding me. During writing, we use these adorable spacemen clothespins created by Really Good Stuff for teaching about putting spaces between words. I can’t find any of them! They may have gone into Mr. Pail at the end of the year, or they may still be playing “What’s In The Cabinet?” Another level to this game is “Where Is The Smartboard Pen?” I had two pens, and one is missing. Clearly, no medal for me for this event.
At the start of “Kindergarten Kitchen Nightmare“, pocket books were filled with toy food, little scratch pads had one scribble on a page, dishes were mixed in with clothing, and the babies had bed head and were all naked. I had to get everything back in its correct, loving place. By the time I was done, the table was set with a tablecloth and napkins I made over the summer, the babies were all clothed and in bed with little handmade blankets, and the food and dishes were put away in the correct spots. Another gold medal for me! Sorry, no picture proof of this, but I can honestly say, the kitchen looked wonderful by the time I was done!
“Sharpen The 1,000 Pencils” was another non-medal event, sadly. My TWO electric pencil sharpeners are busted, so I’ll be purchasing one over the weekend. Guess I’ll be participating in that one on Monday morning!
And “What Did I Order?” is a game also still in progress. I purchased glue sticks prior to the start of the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics while back to school shopping. Lo and behold on Friday, I received two boxes of glue sticks that I guess I ordered since my name was on them! Ah well…better extra glue than no glue!
“Class List Confusion” is always a challenging event for even the most seasoned teacher. A new student was added to my class list and I wasn’t aware of this change when the children visited on Thursday, the 25th. I had to make her crayon cup with her instead of it already set for her at her seat. But on Friday, I made sure to make the labels for seat and cubby, so she will be all set for the first day of school the following week.
“Paperwork Paparazzi” started out as a challenge, but ended up being a silver medal event for me. Another side-event of “What’s in the Cabinet?”, I found student work and assessments from last year in two separate locations that needed to be sorted, organized, and distributed to the first grade teachers. I also located behavior charts for students, parent information, and other miscellaneous paperwork that just didn’t find its way into Mr. Pail at the end of the school year last year. About an hour and half later, all the pertinent paperwork was correctly organized and given to the proper people.
“Bulletin Board Brilliance” was a gold medal winner for me, for sure! Not only was the bulletin board I made adorable, it is highly effective in terms of student work placement. I made little cupcakes from bulletin boarders and tissue paper. The flame above lists my scholars’ birthdays. Underneath each one, there is a clothes pin hanging by a tack. Putting up and taking down student work is a snap! An added bonus: I’ll be putting their photos underneath by the 2nd week of school, so everyone who visits will quickly know which happy little cupcake belongs to which scholar.
The best game, though was “Toss It!” I KNOW I won the gold medal on this game! I had THE biggest pile of boxes, trash, a rug, broken containers, and other unusable items stacked up in three towers of trash. Too bad I didn’t take a picture of my award-winning dump pile! (You can see a bit of the pile creeping out of the hallway in this photo.)
All in all, I think I fared pretty well in this year’s Olympics.
Here are 5 things you need to be ready for Kindergarten!
BRING A BACKPACK that you can carry that has your name on it.
BRING ONE lunch box with your name on it to hold both your snack and lunch. More than one lunch box makes it hard for four and five year olds to figure out what to eat when. Also: be sure your child can open any food containers you send without assistance. If they can’t do it on their own, then it should not be sent to school. NO peanut/nut products or candy at school, please.
WEAR sturdy shoes and play clothes! Shoes should be close-toed for safety on the playground. NO LIGHT UP SHOES, JEWELRY, TOYS, OR TRINKETS, PLEASE.
BRING EXTRA CLOTHES TO KEEP AT SCHOOL. We get messy, have accidents, or get wet at the fountain. We want to avoid calls home for replacement clothes, so please send in clothes to keep at school. Please include an extra plastic bag to send soiled clothes home in and supply replacement clothes should the bag come home.
BE WELL-RESTEDAND EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE SCHOOL EVERY DAY! Four and five year olds need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night! We are busy learning from day 1, so it is very important to get to sleep early, eat a good breakfast, and be on time for school.
I can’t wait to see you on the first day of school!