Being a Substitute Teacher

Last fall I wrote that I was leaving my job, and didn’t know what was next.  If you don’t know, allow me to fill you in.

For almost a year now I have been a substitute teacher in our school district.  There are 50 schools in the district, but I only sub at the two my kids go to so that I can get to know the teachers and administrators there better, and quite honestly I believe it would be too lonely for this relational extrovert to hop all over the place never forming relationships.

When this all started last fall, Chad asked, “Are you sure?”  And I didn’t know if I was.  I’m not a teacher, I have zero interest in homeschooling, summer vacation at home nearly kills me…none of these would go on a resume.  But somehow, for some reason, there I was at orientation.

What I’ve realized is that being a substitute teacher is THE most amazing ministry I’ve ever done.  I’ve hugged kids who are crying from deep emotional pain.  I’ve hugged kids who are crying from physical pain.  I’ve hugged kids who are happy from a good grade.  I’ve tried to talk to kids to get through the big emotional wall they’ve built.  I set boundaries and reinforce them over and over.  I teach them how to be good friends to each other.  I don’t know their stories, but I don’t need to know their stories, I just love on them.

AND I’M ONLY A SUB.  Teachers go so far beyond what’s in a book.

There are days that are SO hard.  Days when I watch the clock and just want to leave.  But on those days, I remember that I’m giving a teacher the day off.  Sometimes that’s the only redeeming value of the day, but that’s still a pretty great reason to go.

People.  Thank your teachers.  Know that they are patient, and love your kids.  Know that they want so badly for them to succeed.  Know that they go early and stay late to be the best that they can be, to provide the best environment that they can.  And when they do go home, they take work with them – either literal work or mental work, thinking about their kids.


 

Anger Management

Having a blog has been so helpful for me.  I can look back through past posts and sort of get a read on where our family is now and where we’ve been.  Creating a new category called “Anger” tells me something about our current state of being…

I love my boy.  Eli is sweet and intellectual and honest.  He has a great moral compass (as long as his sisters aren’t involved).  But he has always had an anger issue.  I remember very clearly when he was about five, he was mad at me about something.  He glared at me and pulled his fist back like he was preparing to punch me.  I calmly squatted down so we were eye level and told him to think r-e-a-l-l-y hard about what he does next.  He let out a yell and walked away.

Five years later… he stomps, kicks, throws, scratched my car, broke the lock on the bathroom door, screams.  It’s quite unnerving, and worst of all, scares the girls.

I’ve stayed calm.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve given consequences.  I’ve walked away.  I’ve sent him to his room.  I’ve sent him outside.  I’ve made him run laps.  I’ve done nothing.  I’ve emailed the therapist (probably not soon enough…).

Why do I tell you all of this?  Not to air my dirty laundry or vent about my son, but to give you a real look at what’s going on.  I want to share this for that momma out there who is living in this same situation and feels completely alone.  You’re not.  I’m here with you.  I care about you and will share our journey through this.

I love my boy so, so much.  I will walk with him through this so I can help him succeed and become the man God is calling him to be.


 

Fruits of the Spirit {self-control}

Here I am, at the last of the Fruits of the Spirit.  I must admit, I’m kind of sad.  This has been a good exercise for me to be regularly searching and learning more about the Bible – learning about a topic well enough to explain it to others.  It is good.

Self-control.  This one might be the hardest to exercise on a daily basis.

Proverbs 25:28 says a person who lacks self-control is “like a city whose walls are broken through.”  Without self-control we are defenseless and open to attack.  When my walls are broken through, I am short.  I am irritable.  I have a short fuse.  Every slight mistake and inconvenience suddenly becomes an attack and I must counter-attack.

But this is now how we are called to live.

My walls must be strong, with soldiers at the ready.  Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean I am a fortress to be guarded from my children, but rather from the things they do or say that might cause me to NOT exercise self-control.  When I see these “attacks” coming, I must be ready.  I must breathe, stay calm, and remain the adult in the situation.

“I know you’re mad, but I’m not changing my mind.”
“I’m so sorry you’re upset.  Why don’t you find a safe place to calm down.”
“You absolutely get to be mad right now.  But you do not get to make a bad choice when you are mad.”
“I can’t help you unless you tell me what you are feeling.”
“I’m not mad that you spilled, I just wish you would clean up your mess.”

For real – I say these things almost every day.  They sound so amazingly cheesy when I’m not in the situation, but they help me stay calm.  These are how the Spirit is working in me to maintain self-control.  The Spirit is working in me.  I absolutely, 100% cannot do this on my own.  I pray, and pray, AND PRAY for more self-control.

Lord Jesus, don’t ever stop working in me and filling me with the Fruits of your Spirit.


 

Our Home Systems

I really love systems.  Stop laughing, Chad. I like to know that there is a plan, if you are not on board I will tie you to the boat.  Enjoy the ride.

I may have reached the systems limit in our home.

Me: We’re going to have a new system for screen time.
Ada: AH!  No more systems!  It’s too much!  We have a chore system.  A point system.  We have to earn money.  We have to do homework.  I can’t handle anymore!
Me: Would you like to hear my system BEFORE you have a freak out?

Morning System
I get up at 6 and get ready to go in case I get called to sub.
Grace gets up at 6:30.  I cook her one scrambled egg and toast (her choice).  We leave at 7 for middle school.
Eli and Ada get up sometime, I start feeding them and have them get dressed, Chad continues the process at 7 while I take Grace to school.
At 7:25 I return, then take one of the two remaining children to a before-school music class.  Chad leaves.
At 7:45 I return, have 10 minutes if I’m subbing, 45 minutes if I’m not.
At 8:30 I take the third child to school.
(I know this isn’t anything new to some of you, and some might think this looks like a breeze.  We’re still sorting it out.)

Point/Chore/Money System
It’s my favorite thing ever.  Just here.
Point System – school
chore chart

Screen Time System
No more screen time in the morning.  They don’t hear my voice, and the TV has some sort of freeze ray capability preventing any child who walks by to get dressed from actually walking by.  They stop dead in their tracks and now we’re late.
After school they have to finish homework and chores before screen time.  If they want to play outside for two hours, eat supper, THEN do their responsibilities, so be it.  But no screen time, and it’s not my fault.  Eli has started to do chores before school from preventing this from happening ever again :)

I’m really not trying to overwhelm the little people in my home, but I just don’t know how to get 5 people fed and out the door at their respective times without systems.  I just don’t.  Either I will create adults who love systems, or rock in the fetal position at the mention.  And I will save up for more therapy sessions.

One more thing.  I’m not pushing my systems on anyone, just sharing what’s working in our home right now.  Well, what’s working for me :)


 

On Purpose

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsThis month with Hearts at Home, I’m blogging about “Loving Your Purpose”.  This has always been a challenge for me – usually because I didn’t know WHAT my purpose was, and sometimes because I just didn’t want to love what I was doing.

Wiping other people’s body parts, washing dishes, switching laundry, begging for a nap…where is my purpose in this?  I’ve had these thoughts too often to count.  The problem, I think, is that having these thoughts affect my mood and behavior.  If there isn’t a purpose in what I’m doing then I won’t be pleasant while I’m doing them.

What’s my purpose in changing diapers?  Hygiene, but also building trust.  My babies know that they can trust me to keep them clean.

What’s my purpose in washing clothes?  Again, hygiene, but again, building trust.  My family know that they can trust me to provide clean clothes for them to wear.  They don’t go to work and school looking dirty.  I suppose they might sometimes, but that’s their fault for getting messy in the morning :)

What’s my purpose in breaking up ANOTHER fight?  I’m teaching my children how to build relationships and resolve conflicts.  And I’m deepening the notion that our home is peaceful.

All of the things that I do, over and over, and over, (and over), I need to do on purpose.  Each task has a reason behind it, to provide for my family, to show that they can trust me, to be faithful to God because He has been faithful.

Now that my kids are older, my purpose has begun to shift.  Sometimes I’m more of a mentor – listening, encouraging, “tweaking” (which means giving advice in a way that an 11-year-old doesn’t hear it as criticism), teaching them how to be good friends rather than telling them what to do.  My purpose seems bigger and more challenging in this phase, and also so much more fruitful.  These little people I’m responsible for can have conversations with me now and discuss their problems.  It’s such an amazing and scary and new challenge.

You have an incredible purpose.  You are CONSTANTLY reinforcing to your child(ren) what your relationship with them is.  That you can be trusted at all times in all things.

You’re doing a great job, momma.


 

My Daughter’s Gifts

My email signature is, “Lord, show me how You see them, show me how You’ve gifted them, shoe me how to guide them. Amen.”  This fall as Grace has started middle school and the new opportunities it brings, God has shown me some of her gifts.  And that I’ve been wrong about them.

My girl can sing.  She could sing on key before she could speak.  I’m not even a little bit exaggerating right now.  And the kicker is, she refused to be in choir.  In choir you have to sing the same songs over and over.  In choir you HAVE to sing, so it’s not just for fun.  In choir there are kids who don’t sing well.  She has quite the grasp on the choir environment for never being in it.

I’ve obsessed over this, insisting that she give singing a try and get better at it.  She’s wasting her gift!  Well the ugly truth is, I was only seeing this one gift and ignoring the others.  Shame on me.

Her art teacher praises her work and says she has abilities that she hasn’t taught yet.  “Either you’re born with that creativity or you aren’t.  I can’t teach that.”  Eyes opened.

The middle school musical is coming up and she is beyond excited.  To sew the costumes.  She did this in 5th grade as well.  She has a passion for this.  Eyes opened.

Her 5th grade teacher made note of some of her writing and that I should read it.  It is good.  She writes well, and reads it with such passion and enthusiasm.  Eyes opened.

Lord, forgive me.  Forgive me for not seeing what was in front of me and being faithful with taking care of my girl.

Grace, forgive me.  I promise to see more of you than just this one piece.  You are amazingly gifted and I will do a better job of guiding you in THESE gifts, that you are passionate about.


 

Fruits of the Spirit {faithfulness}

I’m working on learning more about the Fruits of the Spirit, and how to apply them to parenting.  Today I’m on #8 – faithfulness.

According to my fancy shmancy Bible encyclopedia (again, thank you to Chad’s Bible degree), “God’s loyalty to His covenant demands a response to loyalty from His people.”  We are to be faithful because God is faithful.

In Joshua, God has led the Israelites across the Jordan River and takes care of their enemies for them.  As Joshua recounts all of the ways God has been faithful, he commands them, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness,” (Joshua 24:14).

Samuel recounts a similar list, telling all of the ways God has provided for His people.  He finishes with, “Be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you,” (1 Samuel 12:24).

The first seven Fruits of the Spirit blog posts have shown me how to behave towards my children.  But this one…this one might be showing me how to behave as a response to my Lord.  He is faithful, and so I must be faithful.

That lovely Proverbs 31 woman is said to “speak with faithful instruction.”  I feel like that doesn’t mean sarcasm, or a quick reaction, or a sharp tongue, or an impatient tone, or a “WHAAAAT!?” when you hear mmoooommmm for the 218th time today.  My instruction should be faithful, because God is faithful.  His instruction is faithful.

The way I speak to and treat my children is an act of faithfulness to a God who is loving and faithful.  These are not words I take lightly, or will be able to live into easily.

Onwards, momma!  You are doing a great job.  Go and be faithful :)


 

My Husband, My Teammate

My husband is my teammate in this crazy life we lead, and he’s the only one I would want by my side.  Especially when the wheels come off.

When my dear son is angry and hurling hurtful words at me, I can count on Chad to be my protector.  In those moments he is more my husband than Eli’s father.  I know it, Eli knows it.  When he crosses a line, I inform him that our discussion is over and he will be continuing it with my husband (I use those words), he is not happy.  He’s not afraid of Chad, but he’s not looking forward to the conversation.

When my dear oldest is falling apart because I said she couldn’t go to the park in the evening with friends unsupervised, I can count on Chad to see when we all need a break.  Grace gets so wrapped up in her emotions that she no longer hears what we are saying and is instead expecting us to change our minds.  Chad calls a break and we reconvene when she is calmer.

When my dear youngest is starting every sentence with, Hey mom? Hey mom? Hey mom? Hey mom? he will interject and give me a break.

Any good teammates know the plays ahead of time.  We discuss a lot of things without the kids around so that we can be on the same page when they are.  If we aren’t on the same page about something with the kids, we will go somewhere else and discuss until we are.  Being united in front of them is invaluable and necessary.

In this crazy game of parenting, that never ends and rarely has time outs, my husband is my teammate.  And I’m the luckiest girl of all.


 

Is This the Last?

A friend posed the question on Facebook, How did you know you were done having babies, and then how do you cope with all of the lasts that come with being done?  This is one of those questions where I can only share my experience, and wouldn’t dare assume that it’s the same for everyone, but here it is nonetheless :)

Here’s the scene.  Grace was 3, Eli was 2, Ada was 6 months old.  I found myself buying a pregnancy test and my entire body shook until I got the results.  Negative.  That was the very, very clear moment when I knew we were done having babies.  I knew I couldn’t handle having a fourth as close in age as my three were, but I also didn’t want what would feel like a giant age gap.  So it was settled.  We would be a family of five.  I feel so, so guilty telling this story knowing of women who struggle with infertility.  You are strong beyond my comprehension.

And as for the lasts, many of those slipped by me sadly.  The last bath, the last nap, the last time they were small enough for me to carry them to bed.  Well, Ada still fits the last one.  I never really knew it was the last until sometime later, which is the saddest kind of last there is.  The lasts that were intentional – teaching them to use the potty so it would be the last diaper, teaching them to use a cup so it would be the last bottle – those were more triumphant for me.  Victories.

The lasts are sad because we will miss those little people.  The little babies sleeping with a pacifier, the little toddler with a bubble mohawk in the tub… these littles will someday disappear and be replaced with bigs.  And this friends, is why we take pictures.  Take pictures like it’s your job.  Who cares if they are in matching clothes or smiling, if they have food or snot smeared across their face.  Take pictures of THESE PEOPLE, exactly how they are right now, and then they will always be around.

onetiredmomma


 

 

Gaining Momentum

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsMy oldest daughter was nervous about starting middle school, so we had spent the last few weeks of summer preparing her for this new adventure.  When she got in the car with me at the end of her first day, she was happy and proud and confident.  She did it!  She successfully made it through her first day of middle school.

That evening as I thought back the stories of her day, I realized that I needed to tuck this success away for the next fear.  Someday I will need to remind her that she “made it” before, and she will do it again!  She is proud and confident.  She can do anything.  This was one of those situations where I needed the lesson as much as my daughter did.

I learn so much about life from parenting, and so much about myself.  There have been many situations over the past 11 years of being a mom that I’ve heard myself giving advice or teaching a lesson and realized, This is a lesson for me as well.

We have made it through many difficult stages of parenting: 3 in diapers, 3 in cribs, 3 potty trained, sleepless nights, terrible twos, worse threes, first days of kindergarten, 10-year-olds.  When we were living through these stages (surviving day to day in some cases), it felt as though the end would never come.  Miraculously, it always did.  We always made it through.

The topic this month from Hearts at Home is “Love Your Triumphs”.  When we love our triumphs, and make a note to remember them, we gain momentum to get ourselves up that next hill.  You’ve made it through all that’s come before, you can make it through this next one.  One hill at a time.

You are doing a great job, momma.  Take a breath, look at how far you’ve come, and take the next step up the next hill.

And in case back to school hasn’t tugged on your heart quite enough, here is a precious video from the ladies at Hearts at Home.  Enjoy.