Archive for August, 2008

28
Aug
08

life

With millions upon millions of people in this world, we know that life looks and feels different to each individual person living upon this earth. Life for me is usually pleasant. I wake up (which I hate) in a warm, safe bed, I ready my healthy, happy children each morning for their day, I drive to work in my functioning car with air conditioning, and then I reach my workplace. I have a cell phone in my purse and lovely clothes to grace the figure that I toned the day before at the gym. I have what I need to begin my day. 

I just recently began teaching in a new school, with new students. I have known my students now for three days. I know most of their names and which ones already that are going to give me a run for my money.

But what I did not know,  is that for some of them life is very different from mine. (Of course, I knew this in my head going into this job, but it is completely different when they sit in front of you and share a little about their life.) Take Juan*. After five minutes of talking to him and watching him work, I knew he was one of the most intelligent students I have ever had walk into my classroom. And then I find out that he is one of eleven kids… all of which are under the age of 16. And on top of that, their family has very little. Very little means pretty much nothing. I have not seen where he lives… but I know the apartment doesn’t have more than a couple of bedrooms. On the first day of school, I asked my students if they needed anything, to which Juan replied without hesitation, “pencils.” Juan has already pushed boundaries in the classroom. It is clear he is used to adversity and that fighting is a means of survival for him. I cannot say enough that life for Juan is very different than it is for you and me.

Juan is just one student that has already changed me. I will never understand life in his shoes. But I know that he has opened my eyes to the fact that life, while for one person fairly seamless, for others can be a challenge… a fight. 

I know we have all heard that saying, “never judge a person until you have walked in their shoes,”and I must say, amen, amen.  

Please pray for Juan and the millions of men and women and children and unborn children that will, and are currently, living in a state of poverty. Please.

*not his actual name

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20
Aug
08

busy, busy

That is what we are: busy, busy. I am trying my best to remain calm while the tidal wave slowly approaches. It is a good tidal wave, filled with new things and firsts, but this particular tidal wave can pretty close to drown me and Davy alike. School starts Monday. The tidal wave will cover us, only leaving our noses exposed just slightly above the water. We will be caught in the torrent of hundreds of new names, bells a-clanging in our ears, insecurities all aflutter with the dawn of the reality, that yes, we are THE teacher. We are in charge of the livelihood of over a hundred students every day for at least one hour. When you boil it down, we sometimes see kids as much as their parents or their friends might see them. That is astonishing, the fact that my proximity to so many young and developing minds is so close and so frequent.

I have been encouraged beyond measure this week in all my staff development meetings. These meetings are often boring and seem to be a waste of our time… but this week (while some meetings were boring and a waste of time) there was a significant portion of the week spent talking about the importance of teachers having relationships with their students. I am talking important, meaningful (of course, genuinely pure) and affected relationships. The district I work for could have talked about anything this week… TAKS scores, teaching methods, lesson plans… but we talked about saying our kids names aloud, knowing their likes and dislikes, and simply noticing them when the rest of the world passes them by. I was so proud to be a teacher in these moments. 

I have always stepped into my classroom with the intention of knowing my students. But to think that six thousand other teachers were being asked to do that as well… it floored me. It is the most important thing… to know and love our students. No student will learn from someone they don’t feel cares about them. 

I am scared shitless of meeting my students in five days. But I know one thing… I intend to know and love them to the best of my limited abilities. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of them letting me in.

12
Aug
08

The stick in the middle

It’s about time I write about my newfound love affair with the stick in the middle. I am sure some of you are reading this and thinking that you should maybe avert your eyes at this point… but I promise this is a pure love that some of you might find somewhat familiar.

Around six months ago we said goodbye to my beloved Toyota Matrix, the little white speedster that it was. Two car payments had become extravagant and we were planning on buying a “used” (read orphaned) car to call our own.  We then survived on one car for a while and courted cars as it seemed fit. People have always buzzed about Hondas, they are “reliable” (read boring) and Toyotas we were told are quality (read boring again). Davy and I love cars and are sort of like serial daters when it comes to our automobiles. It is a good thing when we have had cars for more than a year… that means we are in a stable, healthy relationship with them. (Honestly, I think that the longest I have ever driven a car is for two years.) Well, after a while of being non-committal when it came to our transportation… a friend offered for us to borrow a car he was renting (hmmmm…) from a friend. We agreed… borrowed the car… and I was taken… not by the car itself… but by the stick the middle. The car wasn’t bad… actually very good… good pedigree… acceptable color… nicely tinted windows… but what captured me was not the car on the outside… or even the inside… but the stick in the middle. Sure, I knew how to drive stick… but I had never driven stick shift for such a long period of time. Tonight, as I drove down Westheimer, with the sunroof down, in my Audi A4, wind in my hair, clutching the stick in the middle… I felt empowered in a way that I never suspected possible in an automobile. I guess I get it… all those people (ahem, men) who are so titilated by the prospect of a sports car with a stick in the middle… but I don’t want to focus on them… I just want to harp on the fact that I might never go back to driving a “regular” (read boring) car. Obviously, the car with the stick in the middle was passed along to us… and I now have trouble sharing my very special vehicle… sure the air conditioning isn’t as cool as our Honda Pilot, and it doesn’t even have a CD player (only a tape deck), and the leather seats get blazing hot in the Houston sun, but I cannot, right now, envision giving up my beloved stick in the middle.*

*If anyone was offended by reading this account of my precious relationship with a stick shift car, I am genuinely sorry. But I love the stick in the middle.

11
Aug
08

notes

I officially start my new job tomorrow… there’s nothing like being the newbie.

I think Davy broke his wrist today. Poor guy.

Summer ate a whole package of strawberries within 8 hours today.

Ben is sleeping with a little lizard he named Lazy Lucy. Hmmmm…..

Just a few notes from my day.

06
Aug
08

catching up – part II – aka the “odyssey”

Well, I am being a little dramatic titling our summer vacation the “odyssey.” However, when you have a one year old and a two year old and you travel more than 3000 miles by car… it becomes an “odyssey” of sorts, or maybe just a crazy idea. Well,  the journey began one morning in mid-July when me and the kids left for Tulsa with my mom to visit our relatives that live there. 

Let the journey begin.

In Tulsa, we went to the Oklahoma State Aquarium and Ben got some quality bonding time with Mimi.

These pictures tell the story of what is in Tulsa. My PaPa lives there and these pictures are speak for themselves. I am unsure of whether he will remember these moments, but these pictures are reminders.

We also visited with cousins and my aunt and uncle… but of course… my camera skills were lacking… that is I neglected to take pictures. Davy drove up and met us and just the four of us continued on to Denver.

On our eternal drive across Kansas… we received good news… farmers were getting the memo… leasing their land to create wind energy is just extra cash in their pockets when the growin’s not good. The windmills were actually quite beautiful… in my ridiculous opinion.

This is probably one of my favorite pictures taken on the whole trip. Just a simple roadside stop somewhere in Kansas. 

We arrive in Denver in one piece. We sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” maybe a hundred times in the last hour of the drive… but we made it. 

My gracious cousin opened her home to us… and it came with a perk… built in playmates… Ben and Summer’s second(?) cousins were such great hostesses… constantly shepherding them from one thing to another.

Summer turned one on July 25th… while we were in Denver. My cousin put together a little celebration for her… it was so nice. We love you Summer Sunshine. (Her official name is Summer Emily… but she is our sunshine.)

Summer is our sweet tooth. (Along with me.)

During our time in Denver, we visited the school where I worked with the kids. It was so good to be up there again. I miss working at this school so much. While I lived there… that school and the people involved in it were my family. Here is Ben in front of Parmalee Elementary.

Summer at the park in Denver. The water was so cold!

Ben in the river and exiting the “fabulous” train. That is such a look of bliss!

We went from Denver to Breckenridge… but the camera battery died on the way… so I need to get those photos off my phone… but then we came back to Denver for a few more days… and then headed south to Pagosa Springs. The pictures below are from the last few days of the trip.

Hiking and not hiking.

The beautiful Piedra River Canyon.

And then, just like that… we’re heading home. We had an amazing trip and these two kiddos were awesome!

Also, we loved seeing our Colorado friends, Emily, Curtis, Jay, Dave, EGB, Joanne, Julia, Christy, Correy, Hayden, Maddie, Adam, Steve and the gang, Dave, Liz, and of course, Amy and David. The time we spent with all of you was precious beyond measure. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedules to hang with us. We loved it. And we love you.

05
Aug
08

Catch up… part I

July was a busy month! We spent half of the month in Houston and the other half traveling on an odyssey of sorts through the American heartland. I am going to post some fun pictures of the family over the past month below.

We celebrated my dad’s birthday at the end of June at La Hacienda, the legendary mexican restaurant near our house. (Everyone has one of those kitschy mexican restaurants they love, right?) The extraordinary thing about this particular day was the amount of BLUE cupcakes Ben consumed. Usually we monitor that kind of stuff, but I think he ate three or four that night…

Since we were in the humidifier of Houston on the fourth of July… we made the best of it. My mom clued us in on some article she had read in the local paper about a FREE Fourth of July Carnival. Was it possible, were there still free things in the world? Lo and behold, it was amazingly true! We went to a carnival armed with bouncers, trains, petting zoos, and snacks, all of which were FREE!!! FREE, FREE, FREE!!! It was by far the best Fourth of July experience I have had in a while. So fun.

This is about as patriotic as we Barrett’s get.

We also had a night with the Berg’s. How adorable are Ben and Emerson? They were captivated by some glowing lights… 

Oh yeah, did I mention we have another child? Summer got four teeth this last month… finally. Here she is showing off!

There is nothing like ice cream on a hot summer day… we spent the morning at the museum and we sat outside and enjoyed the drippiness of a nice cool treat… the photo on the right cracks me up… kids are funny smilers. Why do they confuse the word “smile” with “look constipated”?

We also spent a morning at Discovery Green, a new park located directly in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center. This is probably one of the coolest spaces in Houston. Everything there is “green,” from the playgrounds to the parking meters to the water fountains. Finally, Houston is making an effort. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it is incredibly maintained and boasts an interactive fountain area for kids. Check it out.

Just a walk in the park.

A matrix of fun.

Urban portrait.

Peeping through the looking glass to a new world.

 

Hot hot heat. Nothing like cool cool water.

 

That’s pretty much the update of our two weeks spent in Houston in the sweltering July hear. It was a great time however, because we used the time to explore the things in Houston we don’t normal take time out to see, like Discovery Green, the Zoo, the Museum of Natural Science, and other places such as those. I will say we were ready to leave again come July 15th. I’ll update you on part II of the odyssey later.