The dragon destroyed the castle!

Tonight I had the privilege of hanging out with two very cute young men. We read books, sang songs, and played with blocks. At one point during our fun, a ferocious dragon came upon the castle we were building and destroyed it! Aaaahhhhh!!! It was extremely frightening…I’m so lucky that I had the brave young prince there to protect me!

Soon after our adventures in the castle, we calmed down and got all snuggled up in pajamas. And, after a trip to the toilet, a not-so-delicious book, and a hushed ‘night, night’ the dragon was off to dreamland. Three minutes in the rocker later, and the brave young prince followed close behind…

Now the house is quiet, and all is well as these two lovely boys are having brand new adventures in far away lands! Nothing says joy in the day-to-day than getting a little snuggle time in with these special little bears…

Night, Night!

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Some days are harder to spot…

Today was a long day…not because of anything terrible, but simply because the kids were exceptionally loud. With no seeming ceiling.

So, after meeting up with a good friend, and thinking for a while…I have to say that today’s joy in the day-to-day is a simple cup of tea.

I meet with my friend every Thursday…most days we have a book that we’re going through, others just to hang out and enjoy some quality time. Today when I arrived at her house, she informed me that she had to venture out on a walk with her almost 3 year old son…while usually I am game for this, it was a colder day than recent and I have been extra tired. I decided that I would just chill out at her house, borrow her internet, and catch up on ‘networking’ for the day. After about 30 minutes of chatting, she says that if I were to go with them on their walk she would be willing to walk to Starbucks.

I jumped up, put my coat on, and was ready to head out the door. Now I’m sitting at her kitchen table, with a nice, warm cup of comfort…winding down from the noise of the day.

Sometimes that’s all I need: a nice, hot cup of tea…*sigh*

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Giggles and Growth

Today’s post will be a bit shorter than most…due to myriad things, but mainly to exhaustion…but, I do have two moments of joy from my day to share with you all!

The first happened this morning. The way my school is set up, the kids enter class anytime between 8:00 and 8:45…I always have two girls that are my first arrivals, and usually are the only ones for about 10 minutes. They happen to be sitting in a group together at the moment, and are usually quiet and working…so I get last minute planning and such done for the day as they self-manage well. This morning, as I was sitting at the back table searching for ideas on my iPad, I hear this soft little giggle from across the room. I looked up, more curious than anything, and see the girls working while quietly chatting about something. I go back to my search, and hear the giggles again a few minutes later. Again, curious, I looked up and overhear one of the girls saying, ‘Stop. She’s going to notice.’ I just shook my head, smiled, and went on with my day. These are two girls that I don’t worry about…they’re great kids, and I’m happy that they’re connecting!

The second moment of joy is happening gradually. We are currently in our third round of reading assessments for the year, and while all of my kids have gained at least one level, some have not grown as much as I would have liked or hoped. But, I have a few students who have just blossomed this year and are growing so much! They have passed the initial levels I reasoned them to be at, and I am having to retest them at higher levels. This is never a problem in my book…and I’m excited about the kiddos that they are! Two were EAL students just last year…and the other started much lower than the rest, and has quickly caught up and is starting to surpass some of her classmates.

I know it’s only the second day of actively looking for joy in the day-to-day, but I already feel a slight turn in my perspective and attitude. I just hope and pray that He will continue to solidify this change in me…also that it would last and shine through to those around me!

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Silver Linings

I meet with my cell group every Monday evening. We always have great discussions and are always on the look-out for ways to go deeper with Him, and challenge/hold each other accountable. One way that we do this is by taking what we are studying and making ‘I will…’ statements. These are practical, tangible things that we can do every day to walk out our faith and learning.

This week, I have decided to actively look for joy in my day-to-day, i.e., look for the silver linings. As a tangible way for me to keep track of my progress with this, I have decided to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ and use my daily joy as inspiration for my daily slice. I appreciate all of you who have been following coming along for the ride, and keeping me an honest person. 🙂

Joy comes in so many different packages! Sometimes it is obvious, and others it needs a little closer look. I am choosing to write about two joyful moments today…one from each end of the spectrum.

First, I found joy today in the enthusiasm and commitment to a difficult task that my students demonstrated today! We (my grade level team and I) did our provocation for our next PYP unit this morning, trying to get the kids thinking about how they work in groups and how groups need to work together in order to accomplish a task. To get them interested and thinking, we gave small groups of students the directions for how to make origami animals (also to connect it to the previous unit…). While the ultimate goal of the assignment was not to finish the animals, boy did our students work hard to get them done…and done right! In the end, we were not able to get all of the origami animals completed as the directions were not the easiest…yet, my students all asked if they could keep trying. Of course I said yes, and I even offered my help (which did not turn out to be that helpful) during recess (this was also a cleverly disguised excuse to get out of my classroom and into the sunshine!)…When we STILL could not figure out the directions, several of those students asked for me to send the directions to their parents via email so that they could continue to work on them at home! I was floored by their attitudes, and am happy to oblige!

My second moment of joy is a bit more disguised…a bit harder to find…and requires His help in re-adjusting my attitude! I occasionally have cause to send money back to the states in order to cover various costs without having to dip into my savings. I am coming up on one such time, so I headed straight to the bank after work (as they keeper harder hours to get business done than the states) to exchange some RMB into USD as I have done countless times in the past. Upon hearing my request for just such an exchange, I am promptly told that this is not possible as that option is now only available for persons looking to travel (even though another reason for my needing to exchange money is my upcoming spring break trip). I am not fully comprehending this decision or the reasons behind it, so I ask if they would mind talking to a coworker in order to figure out the reasoning behind the sudden policy change. They agree, I make the phone call, my coworker translates, and apparently this is no longer an option for residents that have an option of receiving partial pay in USD. I am now out 45 minutes of my day, and have no USD to show for it. After getting home and reflecting on this odd (and apparently fairly recent) development, I found my second joyful moment: I am thankful that He has provided for me enough that I don’t have to send money home on a regular basis. I am in a place where I don’t have to worry about this…so I am grabbing ahold of that perspective, and choosing to count my blessings instead of grumble about being inconvenienced.

It also gives me the challenge of how to be creative with my time so that I can get to another bank in order to exchange and send home money before next month! 🙂

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Have you ever…

Have you ever been so tired that you physically cannot stop yawning?

Well, today was that day…and what did I get to do? Reading Assessments!

Normally I don’t mind reading assessments…in fact I like to do them as they give such valuable information. They were a bit rough on me today though, as one of my kids sat and took 15-20 minutes per question to think of a response…and then his response was ‘I don’t know.’ That makes an exhausted day a whole lot longer and a whole lot harder to stay awake.

I am thankful, though, as I am getting the assessments done fairly quick-ish-ly, and my kiddos are pretty self-reliant while I’m at it.

But…for the sake of my sanity…I am going to grab a short nap before the night’s activities.

Here’s to more energy tomorrow! 🙂

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Rachel Nelson Reed

My friend’s parents are in town this week, and it has been fun talking with them and getting to know a little bit more about how my friend turned out the way she did. Her mom is a very kind woman who reminds me a bit of my late grandma, Rachel Nelson Reed…

This is in her memory.

Growing up I was blessed to have 3 sets of grandparents. Not only that, but all 3 sets lived in the same city that we did for most of my life…one set even lived two doors down from us! Back then it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal…now I know how blessed I truly was!

Grandma and Grandpa Reed lived in a blue house on the corner with a large pine tree in their front yard. Their home always had a particular smell, and you knew that if you hung around long enough you would eventually get fed. How many times did I come home from school, drop my stuff in the living room at home, and head straight for Grandma’s pantry? This probably happened so many times, that I would never be able to count them now…it was habit.

Once I had ejected myself from her pantry with a sweet or two in hand, Grandma would invite me to sit down at the table and proceed to ask me all about my day. How was school? How are your friends? What do you have going on this weekend? Anything that we might be interested in coming to see or participate in? At times I would brush her off, say that everything was great, and head to the couch to watch TV. Other times I would rant and rave about the latest drama while she patiently listened and nodded along. All the while, she was gathering precious insight into my life and how she could be praying for me and supporting me in my endeavors.

How I wish I still had those opportunities to sit and talk with her! I would be more intentional about what I shared, and would ask her about her life and how she was doing. I would go to her for spiritual advice and guidance, and would share my struggles and new insights. But…this has not been a possibility for almost 7 years now.

In November of 2007 my sweet, caring, concerned Grandmother fell ill and was taken home to be with Him. While I am thankful and happy to know that she is dancing with joy in His presence, I miss her here on earth. I miss those afternoons of walking two doors down, and chatting at her kitchen table. I miss her smiles and patience when school work was just too much. I miss her calm replies when life seemed to be spiraling irrevocably out of control. I miss her wisdom, her smiles, and her instant sweet tea. I miss my Grandma, and am thankful for the time that we had.

Rachel Nelson Reed was a kind and loving woman. I only hope that people would see small pieces of her in me. Love you, Grandma!

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Get Out of the City!

Every once in a while I need to just get out…and get me some nature. Today was one such day…and it was fantastic!

A few co-workers and I went on a day hike in the hills next to Taihu Lake today. We bussed it out there, wandered around the small village, then ate lunch and started climbing. Now when I say climbing, I really mean climbing! In CO, hiking is a great workout, but you tend to wander your way through several switchbacks on your way to the top…This is not the case in China. Here it is a full on climb up the side of the mountain! We summited in about 45 minutes, and had fun checking out the temple at the top. I was blown away by the way the sun glittered off of the water in the lake. It looked like one of those shimmery, holographic photos that you can buy back in the US. It helped that the water and the sky were ver nearly the same color…which added more magic and mystery to the whole scene. The way back down the mountain was just as quick and just as steep! We had to really concentrate on where we stepped so as not to catch one of myriad loose rocks and fall! It blows my mind that the entire time our guide is walking in a suit!

Once back down, on the other side of the mountain…we sat by the lakeside resting and chatting. Soon enough we were back on the bus, headed back to the city. It was a short jaunt into the peaceful surroundings, but it was very much needed and appreciated! He is a wonderful painter!

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Life…you win some, you loose some

Tonight my post is going to be a short one as I’m sore, tired and in desperate need of giving in to unconsciousness. It was one of those days where everything seems to be going fairly well…the kids are working hard to get stuff done (even though they’re working on the same thing pretty much all day), you get to learn how to play (and realize how not-so-easy it is) badminton after work for a refreshing change, and you’re on your way to see a good friend when life throws some unexpected excitement your way.

Suffice it to say, I was on my way to a friend’s house after work on my scooter. I was driving the same route I always do…and being as careful as I always am. Next thing I know this guy, who is clearly talking to the person next to him and not looking at where he is going, drifts into the path of my scooter. I laid on my annoying little horn, but it was already too late to do much of anything…and next thing I know, he hits me head on.

While we both walked away (myself with a few minor bruises and knots), our bikes had become rather entangled…so I had to sit there with several Chinese people all around me clearly acting like it was my fault and I should pay top dollar (or yuan in this case) for it. I immediately called a good Chinese friend to come to my aid as I had no idea what was happening and don’t speak enough of the language to manage this type of situation…

…Approximately 1.5 hours later, I walk out of the police station, 600 RMB poorer, my bike looking worse than it actually is, and coming down off of an adrenaline high. I’m alive, I’m considerably better off than I could be, I’m exceptionally grateful to my friend for coming to my rescue, and I’m going to bed.

Goodnight.

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It looks blue…

Tonight’s slice is inspired by a wonderful little critter in my class. He has this knack for fighting for power while being almost too cute for words…

The Ocean’s Blue

While working hard at ten ’till two
This little guy says, ‘It looks blue.’
‘Wait a minute,’ came my reply
‘I see you trying to be sly…
Is this how kids in grade two write?
I think not, now go make it right.’
He turns to go, then stops to say
‘But what to write? I’ve thought all day.’
‘A little more than the ocean’s blue.
A little more I expect from you.’

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TIC

Just now, as I was about to sit down and read for a bit I heard in a very loud and proud Chinese voice, ‘Nah, nah, knocking on heaven’s door!’ Over, and over, and over. This went on for about a minute (about the time it took for the elevator to descend)…and whoever this aspiring singer was did not care who heard. She was jammin’ and there was nobody gonna say different.

This is just a typical day of life in the ‘Hai. People here do the oddest of things, with complete abandon! They walk around in full pajama glory, they dress up their significant other in uber matchy outfits, they think that Christmas music is good enough for year long listening, and they spit all over…And just when you think that you’re accustomed to the randomness of China:

‘NAH, NAH, KNOCKIN ON HEAVEN’S DOOR!’

This is China! This is my life.

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