Simply Beautiful

Some days I feel like my students at school use up every bit of my energy.  Some days I’m worn out and just want to go home and fall asleep on the couch.

But then I see this face…

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And it’s like a breath of fresh air coming in to revive me.  There are few things in the world that can compare to the feeling I have when she smiles, giggles, and crawls to meet me when I get home.

Yesterday we took a walk with Jackson, then headed to the backyard so he could play fetch with the frisbee.  Natalie watched and pointed and kicked her legs in excitement.

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Then she wanted to get down.  She crawled and sat and explored.  Crunchy dry leaves between her fingers.  Sunshine on her cheeks.  Wind blowing her hair.

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I snapped these pictures on my phone, then I put it away in my pocket and just sat there watching her.

It was the best part of my day.  Taking it all in.  Trying to save the memory in my mind and heart forever.

Sometimes I still can’t believe she’s ours.  What an incredible gift.

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Simply beautiful.

 

For Her

One of the boxes that hasn’t been unpacked or stored yet in the new house is the one full of Faith’s things.  Some of her things are already out in special places, I’m trying to decide what to do with the rest.

Not all of it needs to be on display, but I don’t like the thought of putting it in the basement with most of our other stored boxes either.  I’ll probably have Steve carry it up to our bedroom closet.  As silly as it might sound, I feel like it would be nice to have her things close by.

Today, though, I opened up that box and pulled out a candle.  The candle that we lit for the third time tonight.

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It’s a night to set aside time especially for her, and I’m thankful for that, but even on the days when no special candle is lit, I continue hold her close.

I water the plants growing in my classroom that were gifts when she was born and I think of her.  I read her name on decorations throughout the house and I smile for her.  I listen to songs that remind me of her and I cry for her.  I let Natalie gently kiss her teddy bear and I talk about her.

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I lift her little dress out of the box and hold it close and I miss her.

If Faith were here with us she would be 2 years and 4 months old today.  Two years, twenty years, however many years until I see her again, I’ll still miss her.

Someday I won’t light a candle because we’ll be basking in the light of God’s glory together.  Someday I won’t need to hold onto mementos because I will be holding her again.  Someday I won’t miss her anymore because we’ll be together forever.

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And on that day, when we are reunited in Heaven, there is only one thing I do for her now that will still remain.

It can’t be put on display or stored in a box, but it is the thing that matters most, beyond anything else I can ever do.  Today and through eternity this one thing will never change…

I love her.

 

Why Do They Lose It?

One afternoon when I got home from school I took Natalie in the backyard to play frisbee with Jackson.  She loves watching him run around chasing and catching the frisbee.  After he tired out, I set her down in a shady spot on the grass. I realized that I had never actually set her in the grass by herself.  We’d sat in the yard together but it was the first time I just put her down and let her go on her own. At first, she was cautious and a bit confused… WP_20140909_007 … but it didn’t take long for her to start trying to figure things out.  She wiggled her toes and grabbed at the grass with her fingers.  She was very focused, exploring and taking in the experience. WP_20140909_019 And then she looked up at me with this face of pure joy.  She liked this new thing she had discovered. WP_20140909_023 It seems like such a simple thing – the grass – but to her it was exciting because it was something new to try to understand.  Something new to learn. Babies have an innate desire to learn.  Their brains are constantly busy processing new experiences and building new connections.  Everything they do is an opportunity to learn and they certainly take advantage of it.  They even seem to find great joy in it! As I sat there watching Natalie happily explore the grass, the teacher in me began to wonder… when do they lose it?  When do these babies, so eager to discover, grow into kids who cringe at the thought of school?  When do they become teenagers who appear, on the outside, to no longer find any joy in learning? Later I thought about it some more and realized that the better question is “why”.  Why do they lose it? I know that some kids (and adults) truly enjoy school.  I know because I’m one of them!  Part of why I love teaching is that I love learning and sincerely enjoy the process of learning within the setting of school. But I also know that there are many kids who dislike school or find that it is frustratingly difficult for them.  I know because many of the kids I work with express those thoughts and feelings. Maybe it’s the structure and routine.  Maybe it is the style in which information is presented.  Maybe it’s individual difficulties with the process of learning.  The list of reasons could probably get pretty long and I don’t have an exact answer as to the “why”. I don’t have an exact answer as to how to change it either.  But I found this quote and thought it could be a step in the right direction.

Speak to me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn. 

Benjamin Franklin

I try to do that with my students.  I try to involve them and engage them in learning so they feel personally connected.  I hope to inspire a spark of that joy in them again.  That joy of discovery and learning.  That joy I see in Natalie as she learns about this world around her. I hope I can do that, even for just a few.

A Woodland Playroom

It’s a gloomy morning outside, Natalie is napping, and I realized I haven’t blogged in a while… so I decided it would be a good time to cuddle up on the couch and share a bit more about the new house.

One of the nice things about this house is having more bedrooms, but since we don’t need them all for sleeping in right now, we decided to use one as a playroom for Natalie.

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The inspiration for this room came, in large part, from this beautiful quilt.  It was a gift made for Natalie by one of my best friend’s mom.  I love the colors and patterns and the sweet expressions on the faces of the birds.

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My mom found a curtain hanger with cute little owls on the end (hard to see in the picture above) and we hung the quilt on the wall.  It looks so pretty.

My mom also had an adorable set of woodland themed wall clings which tied in with the birds and owls on the quilt.

You can see the owl (with a sleepy face!) and the bear and bumble bees in the first two pictures.  This little fox is my personal favorite…

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… while Natalie is a big fan of the fawn, who she likes to give kisses to.

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There’s also a cute racoon hanging out above the other window, on the same wall as the quilt.

On the opposite wall there’s a set of hanging crates as well as a crate on the floor for easy access to stuffed animals.

IMG_8258The crates are all from Christmas Tree Shop and we used those 3M velcro strips to hang them on the wall.  They won’t hold much weight, but they can house a few decorations, as well as add some neat dimension to the wall.  (The squirrel hiding out above one of the crates is another favorite of mine!)

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For the most part the floor is clear, leaving lots of space to crawl around and play.  The closet has a shelving unit with toys, books, and some decorations.

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The set of bins on the second shelf from the bottom are also from Christmas Tree Shop (that place has all kinds of fun stuff!) and are easy to grab for Natalie to play with.  She’s at that stage where she loves taking things out of boxes, so they provide some good entertainment.

The princess books (top shelf) are another favorite because they’re the perfect size for her little hands.

Since Natalie is also a big fan of music, I made sure to put a radio in there.  I can play music from the iPod or the radio, but I can also close the closet to keep the cords mostly hidden as needed.

I love having this room to play in with Natalie.  Although we often hang out downstairs, it’s nice to have a change of scenery and some different toys for entertainment.  Now that she’s on the move, it’s also a (generally) safe place for her to crawl and explore.

I’m really happy with how our woodland playroom turned out!

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A Fresh Coat of Paint

It’s 2 months, to the day, since we moved into our new house.

During Natalie’s morning nap I spent some time working on one of the last painting jobs that remained on my list for the summer.  As I was painting I realized that I haven’t really written much about the new house.  So, since paint is on my mind, I decided that would be a good place to start!

We did quite a bit of painting in (and outside) this house.  Some of it was necessary, some of it was because we wanted to freshen things up, and some was so we could make the house feel more like ours.

As of today, all the bedrooms, the family room, and the kitchen have a new coat of paint.  Our bathroom is halfway done and I’m hoping to finish that this weekend.  The entire exterior of the house has also been painted.  Phew!

With lots of help from family, we completed all the interior painting ourselves.  The exterior we hired to be done.

The previous owners had already bought the exterior paint but then they didn’t schedule it to be done before listing the house.  So for the outside we just kept what they left, with the exception of the front door.

Previously the door was a sort of burnt orange/red color, now it is Surf Green (Sherwin Williams) and I really like how it turned out.

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Changing the door color was a simple way to give the house a different look and it’s definitely nice to see our own stamp on the house.

One of my favorite new colors inside the house is the accent wall we painted in our family room.  It’s called Rolling Pebble (Behr) and I love how it blends against the fireplace.

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A fireplace was one of the things we hoped to find in a new house, and I wanted to make it a true focal point of the room.  I think this color definitely helped achieve the look I was picturing.

It’s hard to capture in a photo, but the color seems to change tones throughout the day,  sometimes bringing out the grays and sometimes highlighting the browns of the stone.  It feels natural and cozy.

Another accent wall we did was in our bedroom.  The color is called Juniper Ash (Behr).

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I tend to be a fan of accent walls, as you may have guessed!  I feel like it’s a nice way to add some color and dimension to a room.  Plus I feel more confident picking a deeper, richer color when I know it’s only going on a single wall, haha!

We were able to get most of the painting done before we moved in, which not only saved us the hassle of trying to live in the midst of a painting mess, but also allowed us to move in with it feeling fresh and personalized.

There are decorations still to be hung and rooms still to be set up, but it’s a good feeling to look around at the fresh coats of paint throughout our house.  Even though there’s more to be done, we’ve come a long way to making it home.

 

 

 

 

The Last Summer Challenge

I can’t believe it’s the last week of summer already.  Where did the time go?!

I’m wrapping up the Summer Challenge this week and I was having a really hard time deciding what to do.

I’d love to do a challenge based on creating a bunch of freezer meals.  I know it would help me getting back into the school year, but I also know I won’t have much time for that this week with the other things still on my to do list.

I thought of a challenge based on listening to some classical music, since music is near and dear to my heart and I know that many people rarely listen to classical now.  But I decided against that since we’ve already been listening to a lot of it lately (Natalie loves it!) so it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for me personally.

I thought about a challenge based on the Sabbath and truly making it a day of rest, but this weekend is Labor Day and I imagine it could be tough to take a full day of rest given all the stuff that often goes on for the holiday weekend.

So… here’s what I finally settled on.  My challenge is to soak it all in and be thankful this week.  It’s definitely a personal challenge – very specific to what I need right now – but I hope it can be an encouraging challenge to you as well!

Lately I’ve been feeling those end of summer blues creeping in.  A couple weekends ago I was really bummed out.  I know I can’t complain, given that I had the whole summer off, but it’s hard to think about going back to school when I’ve so enjoyed my time at home.  It’s especially tough this year because I’ll miss spending time with Natalie.

I know I’m at risk of dwelling on that this week.  Of feeling gloomy because summer is coming to an end.  But I don’t want those feelings to bring me down.  I want to fully enjoy this last week!

I want to soak it all in… the cuddly mornings with Natalie, the afternoon walks, the comfy clothes, the freedom and flexibility.  I want to enjoy it and be thankful, not only for this last week of summer but also for what is to come.

Thankful for my job.  Thankful that Natalie is in great hands with my mom while I’m at work.  Thankful for family and health and the year to come.  Thankful because God is with me each step of the way.

I hope you can take some time this week to be thankful as well and that you can soak in the moments as August comes to a close.

Also… if you want to look back at any of the previous challenges and try one of those, now would be a great time!  Below is the full list with links.  Thanks for following along and enjoy!

 

Better Late Than Never

For the challenge this week I started reading The Return of the King (J.R.R Tolkien).

I read the full series back when the movies first came out, and decided to re-read it a couple years ago.  I finished book 2 while we were in Jamaica, which was January of 2012!  So, needless to say there was a long delay between parts.

I decided now would be a good time to work on the last book.  I love the story (obviously, since I’m reading it again, haha!) and have always been impressed by Tolkien’s level of detail and depth.

I’ve also found, though, that such detailed writing makes it a slower read.  Which is actually a good thing for me at this point in time!

I mentioned, in Monday’s post, that I tend to get really engrossed in books and find it hard to stop reading.  So I picked this one as something I can read a little at a time and keep enjoying for a while.

I love reading new books, but sometimes it’s fun to re-visit old favorites too.  Anyone else enjoy some good reading this week?