Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Community Service Crack

As the advisor of our Peer Helping club at school, I get the annual opportunity to oversee our school's Adopt-an-Angel program. We have a community-support organization based on our campus, and they refer families who have contacted them for assistance over the course of the school year. They reach out to the families and ask them what their children would like for Christmas. Then we put these anonymous requests out to the students and staff of our school. In theory, they purchase the gifts they have chosen and return them in a timely manner so that we can sort them by recipient and family and deliver them in time for Christmas. The operative words here are "in theory." Because that is not what actually happens.

Most people do, in fact, follow through. Kids whose families are barely paying their bills go out and purchase gifts for even-less-fortunate families. Alumni who are just getting on their feet financially message me and bring gifts. I am always touched by the generosity of these people.

And then there are the things that actually happen. The people who buy the gifts but lose the tags, so we don't know who the gifts are for. Others wait until the last minute to return the gifts so that we are left wringing our hands, wondering if we will have to send away a child without a gift. And then there are those who just don't purchase the gifts at all, which would have been fine if they had never taken the tag to begin with. Somebody else would have bought that gift!

But the thing is, for every absent-minded, or tardy, or just irresponsible person who causes the annual rise in my blood pressure, there are many more who step in and fill the gaps. There is the alumna from the Class of '64 who wants to know what she can do to help, and provides a box full of towels for a family. There is the teacher who forgot, but comes back just in time with not only his gifts, but two sets of pots and pans for two other families. There is the teacher who is fostering and comes in with extra gifts that were given to her kids, but that they just didn't want or need. There is the student who just wants to help and shows up with a baby blanket. There are alumni who live too far to help, but send money or blankets or backpacks. And there are the many teachers who don't have time to shop, so they happily give us their cash so we can fill in the missing pieces. Somehow, magically, it all comes together.

Adopt-an-Angel is community service crack. I want to quit. I need to quit. It's NOT good for me. But that moment when little Naomi sees the piles of gifts for her family makes all of the stress worth it. The beauty of the end result outweighs all of the disappointment and confusion and stress. And that is why I keep coming back for more.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


August was a month of recovery.

For all but five days in July, I was gone. Gone to Mexico to spend time at Miracle Ranch, one of my favorite places. Gone beach camping. Gone to Minneapolis, MN to work at Redeemer Lutheran, and then to Wisconsin to paddle the Namekagan River in canoes while cleaning it. It was busy, it was fun, it was fulfilling, and then BAM!!! Home on Sunday, tests on Monday, and then on July 30 they cut my girl open and inserted two titanium rods and thirteen screws into her spine. And just like that, things got serious.

Of course, we knew this was coming. We were very good at distracting ourselves from the reality of what was about to happen. Because if we thought too hard about it, we might freak her out. We might even freak ourselves out. So we kept her busy. She even took an additional trip to Alaska with her grandparents between school letting out and the trip to Mexico. She had NO down time this summer. And since July 30, that's all we've had.

She's doing extremely well. I was worried about the surgery (of course), the pain (of course), and the attitude I would get from someone who was miserable with pain (because, you know, she's seventeen). But everything went beautifully, and we've even had minimal attitude! And now that she is four weeks post-op, she can bathe herself, dress herself, wear real clothes, and even stay home alone again. In four short weeks, she went from completely helpless and unable to walk to a near-normal teen who is a little stiff but is ready to try driving around the block for practice and spent two hours at the mall with her friends. My brain, which was the consistency of oatmeal for about three weeks from what I could surmise, is slowly reviving. So now that we are getting back to normal, it is time to go back to school.

We are so, so blessed to have the summers off with our kids, and most especially this summer so that we could be there for every step of Nikki's recovery. Soon we will be back to homework, and grading, and late nights, and ridiculously early mornings. Normally, the the loss of the lazy, unstructured days of summer stings. But because of everything that happened in August, I am grateful for normalcy, and that even includes the return to school. Perhaps it is because I visited with a friend whose daughter spends a great deal of her time in the same hospital we inhabited for five days because she has cystic fibrosis. Perhaps it is because a family at our church just lost their not-quite-two-year-old son to cancer at that same hospital. I have the luxury of looking forward to being a normal family with normal gripes. Our brief foray into the world of Children's hospital was just enough to ground me, to make me so grateful for awesome healthcare, for healthy children, for our brand of normal.

We're almost all better now. Time to get back to work.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I am a very, very bad blogger. I am perhaps a worse teacher, since I am blogging instead of reading the research papers that, no matter how much I want them to, will not grade themselves. But things are happening around here, and I feel like writing about them. So here goes.

Nikki is driving! She got her license on January 9 and has rapidly embraced the freedom that transportation brings. Also wonderful is that she is now caring for Caleb in the mornings, getting him up and taking him to school before taking herself to her school. This arrangement enables him to sleep an extra hour in the morning, which is such a blessing. Also, because of this, we were able to move him to a different after-school program. Instead of being told to sit down and be quiet, he gets to run and play for two hours until we get home. It's also saving us over $400 a month. Generally, when things seem too good to be true they are. We're hoping that's not the case here!

Since Nikki began driving, both cars have been in for service to the tune of $500 (totally unrelated to her driving). Also unrelated to Nikki, Scott was t-boned by an out-of-control teen driver while sitting at a stoplight yesterday in the van (Nikki's primary ride). It was not the accident I was expecting in the van, but I am grateful that it was not Nikki!! I generally pray in the morning and then feel good about her getting herself around, but tonight was an exception. It's raining hard in San Diego, and she drove herself to her play tonight. I started feeling really nervous, so I texted her and told her that I would drive her to the after-play Denny's feast. She informed me that she had nearly hit a pedestrian who was walking around in dark clothing in the rain. She didn't see him until it was almost too late, and she was still shaking thirty minutes later. I guess mother's intuition is real. Regardless, she will be coming home and I will be doing the driving in the rain tonight.

Caleb had a rocky start to the school year again. He struggled in math. A lot. We were concerned. We modified his assignments, I bought additional resources, and we felt frustrated a lot. Even so, we knew he would eventually get it. Then he forgot to wear his hearing aids for a week, and magically everything clicked. Although he had struggled with adding and subtracting single digits all fall, adding and subtracting double-digits, even re-grouping, was a piece of cake for him. We just got a progress update based on a standards-based test, and he scored proficient in reading, but ADVANCED in math. I will never understand how this boy's brain works, but I'm finding it easier not to panic when he gets off to a rocky start.

So here we are, finishing semester one, beginning semester two, and looking forward to more new developments. Change? Bring it on!