Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Ones that Matter

It's been over thirty years since I sat in her classroom.  The class most high schoolers dreaded the most - speech class - was my favorite and I was always eager to get to Mrs. Aavang's room.  Even after so much time, I can still remember vividly performing "The Jaberwocky" (I can even recite some of it by heart.)  I remember parliamentary procedure, how to spell 'Shakespeare', and that I once wrote over a dozen drafts of a business letter only to miss a point because I forgot to sign my name.  I also remember a speech I gave as a radio broadcast from the Garden of Eden.  I remember the day we all came into class and she had a pink paper on her desk.  We asked her what it was for and she said, "I told you I'd tell you when I knew."  It took us most of the class period, but we finally figured out it meant she was pregnant with a girl.  Most of all, however, I remember how she made me feel.  I knew I was good at giving speeches because she showed me I was.  I knew I had a love for it as well because she let me have fun with it and to be myself in whatever form that took for me at sixteen years old.  She made me feel successful and powerful and creative and smart.  I wanted to diagram more sentences, learn more poetry, write more stories and give speeches as often as she'd allow it. 

A week ago, my own fourth graders held their first "Sharing Day".  While this was routine in my second grade class, it took extra hours of thinking and planning to adapt this familiar practice to fourth grade curriculum and students.  We decided to share our "How-To" writings, and to make it more entertaining, we invited parents and grandparents as unsuspecting guinea pigs to actually perform the "how-to's" while each student read them.  We didn't get nearly the same number of parents that a second grade show brings, but we welcomed those that did come and we applauded them for enduring several demonstrations on slime, paper mache, and board games.  But somewhere in the middle of the presentations, when I was standing at the back of my classroom taking pictures and laughing with my students I had a flashback to my days in Mrs. Aavang's class.  She once told me, "I used to just put an A on your score sheet, sit back and watch you go, knowing you'd be great." That's what I felt like watching my kids.  No, they weren't all "great", but they were all brave and creative and successful in their own right.  And I was beaming with pride on their behalf. 

They say students may forget what you teach them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.  I know this.  I know it like I know I need air to breathe.  Mrs. Aavang taught me that.  Even after thirty years or more, she continues to be my teaching mentor.  Her example will always remind me of what excellence in teaching is. 

My counter, as Christmas break begins, is full of "World's Best Teacher" trinkets and "#1 teacher" mugs.  I have cards written in kid penmanship that declare me "Teacher of the Year" or the "Best Teacher Ever."  But I know better.  I know that I still have a lot to learn.  I also know that I have had a great teacher.  One who will always be "World's Best Teacher" in my book.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Small Town, USA

I needed to go to school today.  Changing grade levels means an endless to-do list.  Thankfully, I am really enjoying the change and so the list feels more like "want-to's" than chores.  The Mister had to work this morning so it didn't make going in on a beautiful Saturday in September quite so difficult. 

Trudy loves everything about life except her crate, so I decided to take her along.  She is really only a crazy dog when other people are around and the odds of anyone else being at school at 7 on a Saturday morning were very slim.  She bounded through the house at the word, "ride" and did everything she could to jump into the Jeep without help. 

We saw shadows of the cows in the pasture as we headed down the drive.  The heron wasn't on the dock this morning, but we thought maybe we would see her when we returned.

I decided a hot caramel cider was in order this morning and swung by our local coffee shop drive-through.  Trudy was super excited to hear someone's voice on the speaker and her tail went crazy when we pulled up to the window and a woman handed her a dog treat!  (Trudy is more excited to see the person than to get the treat, but she still graciously accepted the gift!) The woman chatted with me while my drink was made.  She asked where we were headed and shared that she has a seventh grade boy at the middle school.  I didn't know him by name, but probably would have recognized him if I saw him.  With only one set of schools in our town, it's pretty easy to know most everyone that attends.

As I drove to school, the sun was now fully up and the beauty of our little town caught my attention once again.  The residential streets are all lined with beautiful trees: oak, maple, pine, ash, birch, elm... every yard seems to have more than one mature tree and it won't be long at all now before they will be bare.  The school sits on the edge of residential streets and fields full of corn and grapevines.  With woods around the backside of the building, it really is pretty in its own right. Sitting in my classroom, typing up lesson plans, I am able to look out my window at a beautiful ornamental tree, as golden leaves drip to the ground.

The Mister stopped by after work on his way to pick up hay.  He finished helping a local farmer cut hay last week and was off to collect the round bales he earned in trade.  We have more than enough now to last through the winter, more than we can even store properly, to be honest.  He will find a way to get them covered as best he can as we are grateful for the bounty with three grazers this year.

Back at home I transplanted a perennial from a porch planter to the front bed.  Trudy inadvertently dug it up shortly after I got it planted as she ran wild and crazy around the yard playing with a stick.  I filled bird feeders and cleaned leaves out of the bird bath before filling it for nearly the last time.  Tomorrow we have plans to clean up the remains of the garden.  While it disappointed us this year, one of the joys of gardening is the eternal hope that "next year will be better". 

My household list for today includes little more than a couple loads of laundry, storing boxes of heirloom dishes my dad brought last weekend and clearing the week's detritus off the counter before friends come for pizza and cards later tonight.

I'm not sure what it is today, the fall temperatures, the sun speckled through autumn leaves in the yard, the happy puppy at my feet, the smooth transition to a new grade level at school, a husband still delighted by the sight of round bales in the barn or the prospect of an evening filled with laughter that makes me feel so contented, but I'll take it with open arms.  Days like these make me feel so blessed and downright lucky to live in a small town, in Midwest America.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Beautiful August

Delilah and Elliott

We were noticing how thin Delilah's face is.  Trust us, she is not going hungry!

Beautiful Delilah


I loved this moment! 
She was trying to hard to get a pear off the tree...

...and then she just looks at me like, "What?!"
(Of course The Mister crawled under the fence and shook the tree for them.)


Elliott (2 1/2 months old)

Cutie pie Elliott

The whole herd. 
I love the color variations!

Samson and Delilah (She was eating a pear.)

Samson and Delilah

I realize the hind end of a cow isn't a pleasant place to be, but I love pictures like this!
You can really see how blonde Samson's fur can be!

Trudy, of course.

What a pretty girl!!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Loss for Words

Lately, I find myself at a loss for words.  I stumbled through my answer the first few times I was asked but even now, I'm not quite sure how to answer the question.

When asked about my son, I've always been able to answer so very proudly, "He is in fourth grade, he's playing the trumpet in band.  He still loves reading!" or, "He's in middle school.  He's actually taking high school level classes!" or "He's a junior at Central. He also attends the math and science high school as well" or even, "He's a senior at State, majoring in Computer Science Engineering.  He already has a great job lined up for after graduation!" Every time, I was able to speak to the amazing potential in this boy.  Even when he was struggling through Calculus in high school, he was still taking classes at a more difficult level.  Now, when asked about my amazing boy, any answer I respond with seems less than accurate, diminishing almost.  "He is living and working near Lansing" or "He is working for a software company near State." Nothing that I come up with conveys the same potential, the same accomplishment, the same level of work he is putting into life. 

I expect this is true of most parents and this stage of life with their grown children, but I'm at a loss for an answer.  While I understand that having a job upon graduation is still a blessing that most will recognize, my pride in his accomplishments is far greater than just that he is employed.  The fact of the matter is, I want to brag on his behalf, I want to express how wonderful it is for his hard work, especially in college, to pay off handsomely at this point in his young adult life!  To make matters worse, I expect this is the same answer I will be giving for a number of years now.  So soon, the accomplishment of a job upon graduation will wear off and at best he will come off as a twenty-something living and working in his field.  Yip.Dee. 

When I think about my own life, and what my dad must say when people ask about his kids, "Oh, Amy?  She's still teaching.  She and her husband have a small hobby farm. They are doing well."  Yip.Dee. indeed.

Perhaps it's because when asked, the expected answer is based in accomplishments.  As we age, those "accomplishments" often include having a career that pays the bills and raising a family.  But in truth, people doing both of those things could be vastly different in terms of happiness.  Isn't it happiness that we really want to use as a measure of "success"? 

So how awkward will it be when someone asks about Jacob and I go on and on, gushing about how happy he is?  Won't people assume I'm hiding something?  Or that his accomplishments don't add up to squat, so I'm rambling on about how grounded, and level-headed and responsible he is instead?  Probably.  Or there might still be the follow-up questions that imply I avoided the question, "Yes, but what is he doing?" or "How is his job going?" Not that those aren't valid questions, but again, I think his success is measured by far more than the programming he does for a software company.  At least it does in my book.

So, if you want to know how Jacob is doing nowadays, just ask.  You'll likely get an earful as I boast about what an amazing man he has turned into.  But if you want to know about his job, well, you might just have to ask him yourself.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


Delilah was NOT going to share her corn stalk today, even with Elliott!

The Mister had to explain there are only so many stalks of corn in the garden that we've already picked corn from. 

Samson loves when we come to play with Elliott as it means he gets a bowl of grain all to himself!

And then there's cutey pie Elliott!!

Not quite two months old but too cute for words.  
He's not to thrilled to see us when we first arrive in the pasture, but he does okay once he's stuck in a pen with us!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

When People Ask...

..."When will you sell him?"  or worse..."How old will he need to be to butcher him?" I just want to scream LOOK AT THIS CALF!!!

I mean, I LOVE my steak (and my burgers and my tacos and my...) but if I had to kill this little guy in order to eat any of those, I'd become a vegetarian in a heartbeat!

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Baby

Delilah and her new son

About two hours old

Samson and the Calf