Tuesday, April 23, 2013

High Stakes

Today begins the week of STAAR testing for my students.  My 7th graders test today and tomorrow. My 8th graders tomorrow and Thursday.  We have worked all year for these days.  Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Teachers, including myself, may say they aren't teaching to the test, but it's kind of hard not to when this is how your students' learning will be measured, your teaching will be measured, and your school will be measured.  A lot rides on these next three days...our students' future classes, grade levels, and our school's status with the state as a quality institution of learning.

Students, if you think you are the only ones nervous about today, you are mistaken.  Your teachers have worked hard to prepare you and we want you to feel confident in your abilities.  We know you are ready; like nervous parents, we wish we could do it with you so you aren't alone.

We also have our own pressures today.  What if someone keeps their cell phone and doesn't tell us?  What if someone draws a picture of the questions after the test?  What if someone bleeds or vomits on the test?  What if there is a tornado today?  What if I don't read the directions correctly?  What if I don't return the tests in alphabetical order by number?  What if someone walks by and catches me sneaking a look at Facebook or email?  (hehe)

We will be victorious in these next three days.  I work with some amazing students, teachers and administrators.  But if you think we haven't had nightmares leading up to this, you are sadly mistaken.  If you think STAAR testing doesn't scar kids and teachers a little bit more every year, think again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Super Saturday

The Raynsfords had a pretty nice Saturday this weekend.  We started out at the Main Street Arts Festival downtown.  My handsome husband found a photographer that he really liked and we decided as a family (Brian, Hanna and me) that we should buy two of her pictures.  She is from Portland, OR and her photos are from that area.  One reminds us of the wooded path you take at Fallen Leaf Campground in California and one is a tree with its roots exposed on a cliff over the sea.  Hanna says they both look like Finland.  Seemed like they were meant to come home with us.  So, I guess we are art collectors of sorts.  

The weather was beautiful and it felt so good to be outside.  I will dream of this weather in September when it is so hot you can't take a deep breath.

Brian took Hanna up to see his office and we discovered that his partner needed help with a case, so Brian brought us home and he went back to work.  Hanna and I went to my sister friend Ann-Marie's birthday party.

And the highlight of our busy day was our first Skype with Jaime, our Kiwi girl for next year.  I love that we are getting to know her so early because we can include Hanna.  We will only have our second princess until June 8th, so she will miss meeting Jaime in person.  This way Hanna can greet Jaime the way Sam was able to greet her.  I like the full circle feel of it.  

We talked to Jaime, her mum, and her brother for 3 1/2 hours!  So much for her being shy as she warned me she might be.  It was lovely being able to talk and see each other.  Emails just aren't quite the same.

She laughed to hear our accents.  She's already teasing Brian and Hanna and I willingly piled on.  Good thing he is a really good sport.  

Sunday has been a pretty good day, too--lunch with the whole family and I vacuumed my fabulous new carpet.  I made a pound cake for Brian to take the office.  And Indiana Jones is on tv.  

I think I can almost take on STAAR this week without a care!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Living, Learning, and Being Loved

Hey there, everybody!

Have I got a lot to tell you!  I saw that it's been about six months since my last post.  I had big plans to write all about our adventures with Sam, our Aussie girl, but we stayed pretty busy.  Not doing anything earth moving, just being a little family.

We liked Sam so well, we were blessed with a Finnish daughter, Hanna, for this semester.  She is attending my alma mater and having a great time.  And we have enjoyed Hanna so much, we have already lined up a daughter from New Zealand for the whole year, next year.

We are growing our family one beautiful daughter at a time.  In the process, we have learned that we get to choose ALL of our children.  Having the girls in the house reminded Brian and me that we aren't spring chickens, and we really needed to start our family.  After some tests, it has been determined that I can't have my own kids.  You know, the old fashioned way.

That took awhile for this little perfectionist to accept, I can tell you.  I felt defective.  I was crushed that I would never pass on my blue eyes and fiery spirit--genetically.  I have long felt that Brian and I would make very pretty babies, and I didn't like being told that wasn't going to happen.

I don't really do "No."

I try to talk about what's going on pretty openly; the more I do, the easier it gets.   It is humbling in more ways than I can tell you to know that I will still be a mom--just not the way I always thought I would.

As crushed as I was at first, I feel grateful now.

I am so aware that God definitely has a plan for this little family, and while it isn't what I expected, I know that wanting to take Sam into our lives was the beginning.

Brian continues to be the most amazing man I have ever known.  He says this isn't something that happened to me; it happened to us.  He thinks adopting our kids will be quite an adventure.  Our parents and friends agree.

That has been the best part, by far.  The support system we have is unbelievable.

We haven't begun the formal process quite yet.  There are still things to talk about, things to prepare.  We think 2 brothers would be pretty awesome.

So, our journey takes another crazy turn.  Once again, our little marshmallows were squished, and once again, we bounce back.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Food and Loving

I've been away from the computer again for awhile.  Trying to get the hang of my new school year and parenting a teenager.  I've been trying to think of just the right post and I finally hit on it tonight.

I have looked for and tried some new recipes lately, some things that would be tasty and quick to make, some quintessential American food for Sam to try.  I have had some wins and more losses in my quest for yummy food for the fam. 

When deciding what to make for the week, I pulled out my family cookbook that my mom and I put together several years ago with recipes that our extended family offered.  As a good Southern girl, I love making memories with food.

Immediately I was drawn into the memories that either the contributors or the recipes themselves brought to mind.  I decided on my grandmother's shrimp casserole and my cousin's chicken enchiladas this week.

My grandparents and my cousins have always been such an important part of my life.  Since my grandparents have left this world for a better one, I don't get to see my cousins very much..our lives don't intersect as often as they should. 

As I made the shrimp casserole last night, I drifted off to memories of my grandmother, holidays and the times I had made this casserole before.  My grandmother was a very gracious, lovely Southern lady.  I can still hear the distinctive way her drawl lilted out my name when she called me.  No one says my name the way Nonnie did.  Normally when a person says my name, it sounds kinda bitchy.  And more often than not, my friends call me Raynsford instead of Heather anyway, so hearing my grandmother call my name from the past made the casserole taste that much better to me.

Last night I made it for Sam, Brian and my brother-in-law, Eric.  A simple casserole, easy to make and very tasty.  I trusted what I knew to be a good meal, and it was excellent.  And it makes great leftovers.

Tonight I went for the chicken enchiladas.  Sam still hasn't had Mexican food...I know, I know, my parental rights as a Texan may be revoked any minute for just admitting that she has been with us for a month and she still has not tasted the manna from Heaven that is Tex Mex.  But, Brian is not a huge fan (my adorable Yankee husband, you know) and we try not to eat out more than once a week. 

So, I opened the Howe Family Cookbook again and turned to Kristy's page for the enchiladas.  Another easy recipe.  More great memories of my sweet cousin.  She and Brian regularly trade good natured barbs at family functions and it is always fun to watch.  When they really get going, get your popcorn.  And as Sam has been playing tricks on Brian recently, Kristy is quite pleased. 

When I pulled the enchiladas out of the oven and they looked so tasty, I had to laugh at myself.  Here I have been looking all over the internet for great recipes, when the best ones have been in a book on my shelf for years. 

I can't wait to pick more for next week.  No guess work needed, no fingers crossed that it will taste good.  The family recipes will remind me of the love that surrounds me and make great lunches the next day. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A New Chapter

Today, Brian and I add a new chapter to our story.  We become parents...at least for a few months.

Today, Samantha, our teenage exchange student from Australia, arrives.  She will be with us until January.  I am pretty excited.  And intimidated.  And elated.  And a little bit scared.

Sam is a beautiful young woman who will attend one of our local high schools.  As her mom reassured me, she is not interested in boyfriends, but let me assure you that the boys at her high school will be trying to change her mind!  Brian may have to start cleaning his guns on an even more regular basis.

Add to that the simple fact that Brian and I are accustomed to living a pretty selfish life.  If we don't feel like cooking, we don't.  If we feel like going to have a drink downtown, we do, either together or separately with friends.  We leave for work when we please and we stay as late as we want ( or as long as the dogs' bladders can hang on.)

We haven't had to consider someone else's needs besides our own, beyond babying our pets.  I think this experience will grow us up...fast!  I am grateful for the experience, and pretty stoked about stepping into parenting way past the diaper phase. 

I realize that teenagers present a whole new set of challenges.  Curfews, mood swings, boys, shopping, laundry.  Sam doesn't eat or drink junk, so even our eating habits will have to grow up a little bit.  We do pretty well now, but I have a feeling that we are about to get a whole lot healthier.  So we lose a few pounds and gain a beautiful daughter?  Yes, I think so!

I am amazed at Sam's courage and her parents' courage as well.  To send your 15 year old across the world to a couple that you have emailed for a week must be about the most frightening thing you could ever do.  We are honored to host her; and if you know me, you know it's been hard not to go hog wild decorating and buying her things even before she gets here.  I have restrained myself and bought her one welcome gift.  And next week I want to take her to pick out her new comforter for her bed.  And she'll probably need some curtains, too.  And maybe a new lamp.

When we have kids of our own (fingers crossed), Brian will have to put me on a VERY short financial leash or I may bankrupt us buying things! 

Sam arrives tonight at 8 pm, and our world will be in that moment, forever changed.  We can't wait!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Line Up

Sorry I haven't been posting lately.  It's been a crazy summer, but that is nothing new.  I guess sometimes you just need a break.  I noticed that this is my 150th post, and I suppose since this is such a special day, that is very fitting. 

Three years ago today, Brian and I were married.  Since we have been together for 15 years total, it seems a little strange to say three years.  I have loved him my entire adult life.  And so much life has happened in these three little years, it seems like such a small number.  But oh so significant.

Have I ever told you how we met? 

I was a junior at TCU, working at the Blockbuster Video on W. 7th and University.  (It's a Chipotle now.)  The FW police officer working security several times a week with me thought I should meet a nice guy.  He called three of his buddies from the Gang Unit to come by for my perusal.  At first I thought he must be joking, but it wasn't long before the first pair of partners strolled in.  I thought I would die of embarrassment; what was I supposed to say to them?

They stayed for a few minutes, shooting the breeze as I was deciding how I might kill my helpful little friend and hide the body.  Then the next two called to say they were on their way.  Oh wonderful.  "One of them thinks he's seen you before," Axel told me.  This puzzled and intrigued me. 

As soon as he walked in, I realized that he had seen me before and he had not escaped my notice either.

My routine when I arrived at work was to go to the Subway in the same shopping center for a drink.  One fine day a few weeks earlier, I nearly bumped right into a handsome devil in a uniform ordering his sandwich.  I wanted to speak to him but didn't want him to think it was the uniform that did it for me, so I took my order back to work, regretting not knowing what to say.

Turns out, he would have liked to talk to me that day, too.  Go figure. 

Not wanting to turn my nose up at Fate twice, I told Axel that Brian is the one I would like to know better.  He made the necessary call, and the rest is a very long history. 

So, in a manner of speaking, I found my cop husband in a line up 15 years ago.  How's that for a little bit of irony?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Full Circle

Today was the last day of school. Whew. It has been a good year, good students, but it is time for a rest. I was honored this year that two former students sent me graduation invitations. I am always humbled that the kids remember me so many years later to send one to me because after graduating three times myself and getting married, I can tell you that invitations ain't cheap! And those kids are worrying about college odds and ends and who knows what else. To remember me during this time is a big deal. And they may realize it, and they may not. It is a sign that I actually made a difference. It is a sign that someone in that sea of little adolescent faces was listening. Heily has asked me to her AVID ceremony tomorrow to give her the medal she will wear over her graduation robe on Sunday. I am the teacher she believes made the biggest difference in her education. Way back in 6th grade. I remember her as the sweetest, most determined to succeed young woman I had ever met. You could see it in her eyes. 97 was not good enough if 98 could be had. Cody and his three best buds, three brothers, have come back often for big bear hugs over the years. And they lift me p literally off the ground and spiritually with their huge grins and their plans for the future. Tyler Junior College, TCU, and Texas Tech. A framed, signed poster from TCU hangs in my classroom. These boys were in the classes that wrote to the players that got us the poster. Now, one of the boys starts summer classes at TCU next week. And the one favor I will ask is a new signed poster to hang next to my first one. Students like these make look forward to what may be next year. Thank you, my darlings.