Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I am thankful for...

Good girl friends and real conversation. A clean bathroom. Meals at home. Gift cards. An honest husband. An open house. My brother. Prayer. New curtains. Coffee. Facebook. North Carolina weather. Authenticity.

I need to...

Clean the house. Lose 10 pounds. Grade lots of papers (still). Stop eating chocolate. Put up new curtains. Be honest.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 7...Guilt sets in

It's been exactly a week of vacation, and I have now hit that point of shame. It's 1:40 and I am just now eating lunch after having had a leisurely breakfast with Lauree, reading for an hour and a half, and taking a nap. I have not done anything productive.

My husband has spent the past 4 hours on the couch. When, in horror, I ask him how he feels, he exclaims, "Great! I love vacation!"

I always go into vacation with high hopes of accomplishing great things: going to the gym regularly, grading all my papers, reading dozens of books, reconnecting with all my old friends. I'd return to work a skinny, organized, well-read social butterfly.

But in my other life at work, I grumble that I can't stay at home and vacillating between napping and reality television. I just can't be satisfied.

When I actually muster up the laziness to do sit around, I feel extreme guilt that I haven't saved a small child or redecorated our bedroom, both worthwhile things in my opinion.

Anyway, I ended up feeling like such a waste that I unloaded the dishwasher. I figured if the machine did all the work, I could at least put the dishes away. But this has reduced me to cursing the stupid thing for not actually washing our dishes. Instead, it has distributed the gunk from our plates to our cups and knives, forcing me to wash everything by hand. I'm not sure why we even use the darn thing anymore.

OK, Joel is now ready to move around. We're going to the gym and to run some errands and then I'll complain that I'd rather be at home watching reruns of What Not to Wear.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A couple of pictures:

Christmas updates:
Joel and I finally decorated our tree a few days ago:

We opened our presents to each other on Christmas Eve. I just got impatient!

We spent time on Christmas with our families and ate great food.
My mom got this picture from Nigeria framed for us:

Joel's mom gave us this tablecloth from Nigeria, which I think is awesome. We have some matching napkins that we'll actually frame, I think. They're just so bright and colorful, which is great because everyone knows how much I hate white walls!

My brother and I went to see Yes-Man last night, and it was surprisingly funny.

This Christmas, I've been so thankful (more than ever) for my husband. We've been married for 5 months today! I just love having our time during this vacation and holiday. We enjoy spending time with our family but then coming home together. I don't know...it's just wonderful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"God has rarely given me an assignment that I considered to be in my league. Anything of priority in the Kingdom is out of our league. When we serve in our church, we must never forget that we are dealing with people’s lives—their internal struggles and eternal destinies. Sincerity and sweat do not always suffice. God places us in positions beyond our capabilities so that we will be at His absolute mercy, realizing that only He can succeed."

Words of wisdom from our favorite, Beth Moore.

This devotion was also very challenging.

Joel is at a friend's, so I've had the evening to myself. It's been
spent making homemade chewy caramels (they turned out wonderfully but were a pain to wrap individually!) and peppermint bark.

I have been really lacking the discipline to have quiet times daily, and I am thankful for tonight's extra time. I had no excuse. And I read some of Beth Moore's old online devotionals. I think I want to start a new Beth Moore Bible study. Know of any good ones?

I am excited about our first Christmas together. We used to have mixed feelings about holidays, because we barely saw each other in the flurry of family time. I think it will be really nice this year to have time with our parents but come back home together.

I used to be really cynical about Christmas. But I am realizing more and more how significant this time is. The hope of the WORLD, Jesus, was born. What a miraculous thing.

A lot of people have looked to Obama as the hope for our nation. Bumper stickers and TV ads and posters all advertise Obama as the change we need.

But this Christmas I understand more that without Jesus, we have no hope. We are fallen, sinful people. There is something so broken inside of us. And nobody, not even a president, can totally fix us. That change can't come from us. It has to come from Somebody perfect, and nobody is perfect except for Jesus. I think that I've really lost that lately, and never really celebrated that fact at Christmas. I am so undeserving of the grace He has given me but He freely gives. I pray that we can remember where we would be without the saving love of Jesus.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A couple of quick updates:

1) Joel and I bought a Christmas tree! We decided to go fake for our first Christmas, mostly because we didn't want the hastle of a real tree this year. But I love our tree! It's big and pretty, and we are going to decorate it today. I'll take pictures soon.

2) I'm on my way to meet Lauree, my old college roommate, at the airport. She is coming in from Seattle where she is working in youth ministry.

3) My brother is coming home today! He will be here sometime tonight. He's actually moving to NC in a few weeks, which I'm really excited about. He lives in Kentucky now, which is really too far away.

4) I saw the movie Expelled last night. It was really interesting. I think it made some valid points about the consequences of teaching intelligent design in a university setting. It is something I've thought about as a teacher. I do believe that God created the earth, and I'm ok not knowing exactly how that happened. I'm not ok with teaching my kids that there was no Creator. An elementary school isn't exactly the height of academia, and I don't teach the specifics of science. But kids certainly ask lots of questions.

5) Just got word that Lauree is still in Seattle and her flight was cancelled. Bummer!

I think I'm going back to bed then...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sobered, thankful, etc.

Yesterday my "troubled" student got in a fight at recess and got suspended. At the end of the day. Right before Christmas break.

He missed our party today.

After school, I tagged along with our principal to drop off some gifts in the neighborhood our poorest kids come from.

And that's why I'm sobered, because my students (at least 4 of them) come from homes with drug trafficking, single parents, prostitution in the neighborhood. I walked up to one of the apartments and could smell the smoke...the not cigarette smoke. My kids are surviving, fending for themselves, doing the best they can. And I was heartbroken.

But my principal reminded me not to feel pity. I can be compassionate and understanding of where they come from, but if I feel sorry for them, I'll give them excuses. And what I really want is for them to meet my high expectations, not to settle, and to get out of their surroundings. I tell my "troubled" student to "leave it at the door". His life is pretty terrible, but he can't bring it with him everyday. He won't go anywhere with it. I just pray that I can be a teacher that inspires them to know they are better than that.

I have no idea what's best for them. But what I have is tools for them to get to the next grade (hopefully) and sometimes I think it's all I've got left. I need to remember that I have Christ's love in my heart, and that pushes me to push them to be successful.

Today, I was so thankful to my kids for the sweet presents they gave. My poorest kids brought in a handpicked present. So sweet.

Joel and I have a dining room table COVERED with chocolates and breads and candy canes...so if anyone wants a snack, let me know!

We also got some nice gift cards (which we've split) so we can buy some new clothes and go out to eat. We're so thankful.

It was the handwritten notes from kids ("Mary Cristmas Mrs. Orr!") that were really touching. And the big hugs as they left. This week reminded me why I wanted to be a teacher.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I feel like everyone should have a place where they can go...a really quiet, still spot when things don't make sense.

I've had this place for a while...since high school. Ashley and I found it on a run one day. The thing is, a lot of people actually go to this spot but for some reason I like to think it's all mine.

(It's like when I was a little girl and my parents took me to Rotary Park. I guess I was in that stage when everything was mine, and I used to ask to go to "my park." My parents called it my park all the time after that.)

This place is really special to me. There is a stream, an offshoot from Shelley Lake, off the paved path and into the woods. It's not really secluded, but it's hidden enough that I feel protected there.

I don't think that God is in the trees or the water or the rocks, but I think they "cry out" of His wonder and beauty. His creation tells of His greatness and I sometimes need that place to remind me that He is bigger than all of this.

I've come to a humbling place this weekend and it needed to happen. I've let a lot of relationships almost run into the ground and I've lied to myself and believed that as a Christian I have freedoms, when really I used it as a license to sin.

Today, there was a man riding his bike along this path. There was a woman standing on rocks in the middle of the stream, playing with her dog. There was a couple, sitting on slabs of stone amid the water, huddled together, eyes closed, heads down. I guess a lot of people need this place, too.

And this stream is always flowing. And running along it reminds me of the Living Water, that eternal spring that is promised to us. And I know that the Lord is merciful and loving and wants us to delight in Him and in His creation, especially in people.

I am never cured after going to that place. But it is the only thing I know to do when there is too much clutter, too much sin, too much ugliness in me and I need a serenity that only comes from stillness before the Lord my God.

The husband has been sick since last night. We think he has some mild food poisoning. (Please pray.)

We have had some serious discussions and made some exciting/challenging decisions. I like being a "we."

We have the Lord. We have Him first because if there is one thing I know, it’s that our relationship can’t survive without Him. And we have a partnership together. And we may not have it all together and we may have a long way to go but Jesus has it all together and Jesus went all that way for us and that is the most comforting thing I could know, and I just realized it right this very second.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Yesterday was the anniversary of our engagement. We aren't huge on anniversaries, but this being our first big thing, we celebrating by...roasting marshmallows! Joel proposed to me when we were roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. He put the ring on the skewer and handed it to me, so when I took the skewer, the ring fell off in my hand!

I liked this picture of Joel:

I also made this thumbprint cookies. Joel LOVED them, and this evening they were all gone! So I made another batch.

(1 c. butter, 1/3 sugar/Splenda, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 c. flour, 1 egg. Mix all the ingredients, then roll into balls. Make a thumbprint that you can fill with jelly. I used blackberry jelly and some with honey. The honey isn't as pretty but it's delicious.)

I made them about 30 minutes ago and there are....6 left.

This evening I also took a Zoomba and a Belly Dancing class at the Y. It was a-mazing. I loved it. Especially Zoomba because the Lord blessed me with some hips and I need to learn how to move them.

Next up: homemade salsa, classroom frustrations, classroom victories. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

My "Bad Day" letter

A few weeks ago, a sweet little girl named Egypt wrote me this letter. I keep it on my fridge and read it on bad days. I genuinely feel terrible about this week. It's amazing how I'm a grown-up now and have a college degree and have times when I lose control of 8 year olds.

But here it is for your reading pleasure (this has not been edited):

Title : Ms. Orr is Awsam
Ms. Orr you are the Best teacher I have ever had and I feel so bad for you when we give you a hard time because you be nice to us and we can't be nice back. You are smart and you make me smart thank you for the fun and for the kindness and I love when you let us go on the permetheyan [Promethean-our interactive whiteboard] and let us do thing that we what to do you say yes alot and that's what makes you so awsam when we are saposs to do 5 pink ticket [our reward system] you let us do i more or 2 more you are the Best. Sometimes you try to teach and we keep on talking what makes you get frustrated and all you want us to do is pass the grade listen and be smart so we can make good grades I hope you like Joyner and your class.

It's things like that that make me love my job.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I am in Survival Mode.

Today, while the hubs was getting a hair cut, I read this article.

And it really got me thinking about things.

I am inconsistent.

And I need to really push my students.

I have become exasperated so much this week. My management skills have been off. My organization (or lack thereof) has been affecting my teaching. And I need to get it together.

I have high hopes of being an engaging teacher that challenges her students.

But I need to remember three things.

1) I can only do this with God's strength.

2) I am in only the 2nd quarter of the first year.

3) I need to remember what's at stake here. And stop making excuses. And freaking do it.

Prayers welcome.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

End of the Week

1) Thanksgiving was great. Lots of food. Mostly relaxing. I couldn't sleep until about 12:30 Sunday night and read The BFG until I drifted off.

2) I taught division using marshmallows this week. How fun!

3) Parent conferences this week have been really in depth and I feel like it's my classroom and I am in charge of it.

4) Not sure how this happened so suddenly, but I'm back to my pre-student teacher weight and that's not ok. So I am going to go back on my teaching diet (which meant I was too busy to eat snacks and all my meals were extremely healthy). I went shopping tonight and...ugh...terrible. I hate letting myself go.

5) Last night my husband came back with yummy Whole Foods dinner, a rosemary tree (bush? plant.), and a Newsweek. How sweet.

6) Over the break, we bought pecans at the Farmer's Market, and I spent two whole evenings shelling pecans.

And then last night I made homemade granola.

Here's the recipe:

* 3 cups rolled oats
* 2/3 cup sliced almonds
* 2/3 cup chopped pecans
* 2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 1/2 cup honey
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 1 tablespoon and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon and
* 1/4 molasses


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, stir oats, nuts and sunflower kernels together. In a separate bowl, mix together oil, honey, molasses, vanilla and cinnamon. Add to dry ingredients; mix well. Spread mixture onto two ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake in preheated oven, for 10 minutes, remove from oven and stir. Return to oven and continue baking until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing.

And here's a picture of the hubs and I on our first Thanksgiving!