Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rewind 2014

Looking back for my January Magic 8 Ball predictions I realized I actually never actually posted my 2014 predictions.  Most of the predictions are the same they are every year including, “being on time, making cognizant choices in exercise, food, sleep, making the time with the boys count, to think before I speak in anger

I posted my favorite pictures from 2014 yesterday, but included my top favorites to break up what is always a long wrap-up post. 

Some goals included tangible evidence and often a picture to validate existence:

-$15 weekly flower budget and included my first ever opportunity to actually do the arranging for a friend’s event

- Time spent with Brian.  I saw him more times this year than in the last few combined.  Everyone should have a Brian in their life.
- showed appreciation to those that make my life full in small ways.  Sometimes signed, other anonymous ways. 

- I looked for ways to teach giving and humility to my boys, often it was very, very small ways, but it was an opportunity I looked for consistently in 2014.  This was a very big goal met and one to be taking into 2015.

-Recognized that when something is not working, maybe drastic change was needed.  Fall 2014 school year started as a sprint when I needed the energy for a marathon.  Added responsibility at work including taking on the position as the AP Dept chair at my school.  

When a spate of really severe insomnia hit, I changed my daily schedule to reflect getting up at 4:30 am, being at work at 6, and going to bed no later than 10pm.  After several months of a new schedule I am less tired, have slept more, and the insomnia dissipated.   

In 2014 we turned 39, 39, 8, and 4.  I posted 94 entries, fewer than in years past, but the new schedule meant sleep was my priority. I read 29 books, also much fewer than last year. We didn’t take a family vacation, but we did head to Florida for our annual trip to see Grandmommy (Heather, Ben, Ian.)  We had the chance of a lifetime to be part of two separate teacher seminars, one at Historic B Reactor in WA state with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the other a week at the Reagan Presidential library in LA (Heather.)  We got to hear former President Carter, Ken Burns, and Nick Kristof at the National Social Studies Conference (Heather.)

We went to DragonCon again for nearly a week (Bill), HeroesCon in Charlotte (Bill and Ben), camping trips both with Y Guide and also as a family (Bill, Ben, and Ian.) We had 4th birthday parties at Durham Science and Life (Ian) and 8th birthday parties at Dave and Busters (Ben.)  

We loved BMX camp (Ben) and Y-Kindercamp (Ian) , we managed to make it a whole year without one visit to an Urgent Care or ER (Family), we loved trips to the “waterslide hotel” (Heather, Ben, and Ian), went on girls weekend to the  beach and to Vegas (Heather), we went on our annual Mom/Ben trip to DC area (Heather/Ben), we played soccer (Ben and Ian) and our team when to the division championship (Ben), we went many repeat places for Camp Mommy and tried some new ones too (Heather, Ben, Ian.) 

It was a quiet year filled with many normal, busy with middle age life with kids days.  I’ll take that this was not a year marked with a cycle of deep depression or physical illness for me or the ones I love.  On the health front, I recognize that insomnia is a trigger and recognizing the start of a depressive cycle proved helpful not to slide into a familiar pattern.

As 2014 closes, many dreams were realized, others deferred, even more took a different course than planned.  It was another year in which routines became a surrogate companion. 

As 52 weeks unfolded I can say that I am thankful for my health, the health of my family, the ability to work, and the gift of time spent with Ben and Ian.  On the heels of a 40th birthday I have few regrets that life was not well lived in 2014.  

As tradition, my BEST in SHOW 2014 Edition

Best books readCommand and Control (reading this not only for interest but also so ask really good questions about nuclear safety at B reactor),  Reign of Error,  I Want To Show You More (short stories), and A House in the Sky.  I am about to finish the Snow Child, a stellar read and likely top contender for next year.   

Honorable mention:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Bonus points for using parts when teaching the American West in my US History since Reconstruction class as the “plight of the modern native American.” Best YA book I've read in the past few years. 

Person I most want to have coffee with at Starbucks- Sarah Koenig from Serial.  I think this is my new litmus test for friendship, "have you, will you listen to Serial?"  I didn't binge listen but rather used it as the reward for grading.  My favorite line from Episode 11- Rumors, "They (people who believed Adnan did commit Hae’s murder) came looking for a monster and they didn't find a monster.  Some people came looking for a victim and they didn't find that person either, They don't know what to think or make of me. The reality is I'm a normal person." 

SO GOOD.  Make a resolution in 2015 to listen to the 12 episode premiere season.  

Best TV:  Once again, House of Cards.  Between still framing to gape at Robin Wright’s flawless clothing in a palate of my fav white, black, and gray AND the surprises of season 2 it was nearly a religious experience.  I drug out the entire season throughout the spring.  I *may* have said on any given Friday morning, “by the end of the day, I will be spending quality time with the Underwoods

Bonus points to the number of students I convinced to watch the pilot and then binge watch the rest with an ongoing conversation about the parallel to what we were learning in AP Gov't.

Honorable MentionGood Wife minus killing my man candy Will off.  Seriously, why? 
I *guess* I'll have to stick around for superior writing and a strong female lead that is not afraid to show us her vulnerability.   

Most excited for 2015 TV that A Path Appears, adaptation from the book in late January. This is the follow up to Half the Sky, also a superior book and documentary adaptation. 

Best movies- I once again saw few movies in a theater or even at home this year. I loved going to the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham in April with my friend Ellen. We saw the documentary The Case Against 8.  Hearing from the plaintiffs (and subjects of the movie) along with the filmmakers was this side of amazing in a Q & A event after.  Not a dry eye in the audience.  Added bonus as NC now recognizes that gay marriage as legal as of fall 2014.

In particular I loved films Life Itself,  Dallas Buyers Club, Gone Girl, 12 Years a Slave

Honorable mention for the The LEGO movie. For someone who hates kid movies, this one was a winner to watch again, and again.....

I am most looking forward to seeing in 2015  Wild, Inherent Vice, Selma, Dear White People, The Last Days of Vietnam

My Secret Kryptonite- I started keeping a prayer journal when I started attending church again 3 ½ years ago.  As I look back through the year of journaling the week’s message I notice themes of prayers.  Some answered, some repeated, some just helped by writing down.  Of the many things I am thankful for, it is the way in which Crosspointe Church speaks into my life in ways that are not always apparent. 

Best local Camp Mommy location (repeat from 2013)-  Three Bears Acres- Can we say ask a kid to dream up everything they could ever want to do outside and then grant their wish? When we have friends in town and the weather is nice, it is my go-to place to visit. 

Best new Camp Mommy location-

Out of Town- Air and Space Annex in Washington DC.  Uh, hello they have a hangar that can fit an ENTIRE space shuttle. 

Local- The Carolinas Aviation Museum. Paired with an IKEA Charlotte visit, you have a Sunday road trip.

What kept me going on the long days filled with many moments of brotherly love fighting.   

Moment of right timing- The realization that I have both an exit plan and legacy to leave behind in teaching.  I am so proud of the work that our school is doing as part of an outreach to students through our AP Capstone program.  When interviewed for the AP Dept chair position, I outlined how I wanted to grow this unique opportunity by targeting our feeder middle schools. I wanted to build a pipeline of students to enter high school ready to be challenged by the new Capstone seminar and research methods classes.  

My main goal is to identify students, especially those that may not be currently in classes that push them to their potential.  As a true believer that education is the vehicle for success in life I am happy to preach the benefits to parents, students, and other area school principals.  I appreciate my administration's faith in me to oversee this program to fruition.    

As one of only 150 high school national selected to launch these new AP classes I see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Watching the planning for these classes unfold this past fall and then populating classes with actual (and successful) students in fall 2015 is what I hope will be my legacy to leave behind when I retire.  On that front, I am doing everything I can to retire with partial benefits at the first opportunity I can which I hope will be in 10 years at age 50 and 20+ years of state service.   

Parenting Fail of 2014- I’m going out on a limb that as I read back through entries, there were not incidents of children pooping in the bushes or coming out of the park bathroom naked like in years past.  Was it a perfect year, nope.  Have you been around four year old Ian lately?  He is right in every incidence, keeps bartenders hours, and did I mention that he continues to be fearless in every way possible.  

Thanks Internet, but no thanks. In cutting time wasting, in 2013  I abandoned Twitter outside of flagging news articles to read and Pintrest for unattainable Martha-like lifestyles.  I continued to abandon both in 2014.  I did add Instagram but I normally just cross post as a picture sharing site to Facebook.  I still don't play any online games.  I feel so 1988, but the payoff is more time = more sleep = more happy

Thank you Internet... So worth reading and/or listening-
Ebola Series by Sheri Fink- The black and white photos part of Entry 6 are some of the most beautiful/scary/heartbreaking pieces of visual storytelling of a reality of so many that died in 2014.  The series is top notch reporting from the same author as my 2013 top book, Five Days at Memorial.  
Serial- I’m quite sure Mailchimp killed Hae. Seriously, listen.
The Moth- I started listening to their podcast while walking the dog.  Some are hit and miss, but almost always I find at least one great story. Storytelling live in front of an audience adds a whole new layer of worthy listening.  

Moment for 2014- Tossup between the chance to hear President Carter in Boston and the 19 days I spent in July at teacher seminars on the West coast.  I am so lucky to have been part of the teachers chosen for not one, but two competitive national programs. I am that eternal student who would never leave school if allowed.  I am thankful for the opportunities afforded to be continued to learn for the betterment of my classroom as well as myself.


Our family as once again weathered the hard among the many, many moments of unbridled happiness throughout the year. We live our lives at maximum volume with loud, crazy days.  I am reminded that checking the enough box is ok, and perfection is an illusion of unattainable status.  

I take into a new year confidence that with patience comes answers. I have the knowledge what is to come in 2015 will happen regardless of anything I attempt to do to control.   I'm leaving 2014 behind and hoping for a 40th birthday year around the sun filled with goodness and light.

Happy new year, happy new dreams to you and yours in 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Favorite Pictures of 2014

Tomorrow I will post my annual yearly rewind, but today I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures I took (many with my cell phone, but some with our bigger digital Sony Nex 5) during 2014.

January- If you are going to burn all your spring break days building snowmen, better make it a good one.

Runner up- the "mo' money pinata the boys selected for my 39th birthday"

February- NINE,yes NINE days of school missed due to snow and ice. At least it was pretty.

I love stealth gifting to friends.  From a post about a different kind of Valentines Day.  

March brought insanely warm weather, like rolling down hills warm weather

March also brought a meet up at Hawks Nest Snow Tubing with Uncle Brian.  Tell me this child is not ready for dorm life circa age 18

While a quick candid of of my brother Brian, a resolution for 2014 was to see him more.  I did :)

April 2014- Ben:  Hey mom, those trees are pretty, want us to take some pictures if you will let us climb them?  Mom:  How fast can you put on a nice shirt? 

Also in April- My "Eat Ice Cream Advertising Poster child" turned 4

May- My first real gig doing flowers for someone other than my $15 weekly flower budget. I must make this my retirement plan.  

I celebrated Mother's day by taking the boys to the "Gotta Be" Festival in Raleigh. Eating fried dough AND spinning at top speed in the giant strawberry ride?  Hell yeah.

May also brought the return of warm weather, hours outside exploring, being boys, being ourselves.

May also was the final full month of school, sometimes you need a reminder why you work the crazy hours and spend more waking hours a day with someone else's kids.

My students had an average 21 points over the national average passing rate for the AP Gov't test and the 2nd highest AP scores in our school.  I'll take the time/money invested to rent out a local restaurant's patio seating the weekend before the exam any day to get this type of motivation.

Some of the 60+ public policy papers reminded me at the end of the day, they are really just overgrown 8 year olds, needing direction and editing.

June- Ben is 8!  And EIGHT is GREAT in every single way.

June also was the start to Camp Mommy Summer edition.  First up, one of my favorite pictures of the year from a weekend trip to see the Hunter family.

June also saw the start to summer camp season. From a picture posted Ian's camp on a walk in the woods to find a fairy.  One of the counselors sent me this picture of the sheer magic that is being 4 years old.

June also saw BMX camp.  Ben loved camp so much we went back with his friend Mary for another week this summer.

June also saw our annual summer trip to see my high school friend's lake home.  What I didn't post were the pictures of me, Melissa, and Laura attempting to pull almost 40 year old self onto a water trampoline.

Nothing says SUMMER like a slice of watermelon as large as your head.

When we got home Bill had made a water activity board the boys spent many a hour playing with the rest of the summer.

Summer also saw many sleep overs with best friends that included trips to pick up am doughnuts. 3rd grade is all about how much time can be spent with said BFF.

July was a continuation of camps for the boys but 19 days of child-free fun.  First up was a trip to Washington state with the National Endowment for the Humanities in dept study of the storied history of the Atomic age at B reactor.

Next up, Los Angeles for a week at the Reagan Presidential Library.  One of the participants had rented a convertible for the week and well... if you are going to soak up the California sun cruising along the Pacific Coast highway, you might as well do it in a convertible.

Yes, that is a REAGAN sweatshirt on me.  Take a picture.  Oh wait, someone did.

In August we headed on our annual Mom + V Boys road trip to Florida.

We also stopped over both ways to see Uncle Brian.

September saw the beginning of 3rd grade for Ben and 4 year old Preschool at Preston for Ian.  Given we all have to be up so early we never take First Day of School pictures until once home, tired, and yes no one wanted to wear shirts for their pictures.

Well... except in one

October was the end of soccer season.

I love Ian's expression (from spring soccer, but still awesome.) He was very proud of his very first medal/trophy and wore it to bed.  My little boy is catching up to his older brother at break-neck speed.

Ben''s team, the Jaguars went to the tournament finals in their bracket.  Both boys loved playing and mom loved that they were worn out after every practice and game. 

The whitest that jersey ever was was on the 1st game day.

In November, we attempted to get some holiday card shots.  It was one of those days that we had packed too much into the afternoon, but wanted to try and get the leaves at their peak.  With Bill's editing software and about a gazillion shots, I liked some of the pictures we ultimately used on our cards.  

December brought Santa visits at a killer local hayride with lights a plenty. I loved that we got our Santa pictures early in the season for free no less, leaving me to enjoy other Santa events without trying to get a good shot.  In fact, after Hill Ridge Farms visit, I just left the camera at home. 

 I can only imagine what he is telling him

It was a hard call, but my favorite picture of the year was from an warm weekend trip to the beach with the boys.  We ate ice cream while watching the tide come in from a swing, won the beachside water ballon toss, walked on the beach, at cupcakes for breakfast.  
*All that plus we waterslid our butts off over a long weekend.   

I look at this picture and I see lots of happiness that was shared by us in 2014.  I see the two biggest reasons my heart grows as they grow.