Friday, February 27, 2015

Just Be

Life is a journey, and one of the most memorable stretches on this journey for a woman is the path to motherhood.  Whether it was planned or unplanned, I’d dare say every woman who has could pinpoint the time when she first stepped foot on this path.   It’s a defining moment and once you’ve taken the first step, there’s no turning back.

I’ll never forget the days when Brent and I first decided we were ready to start our family.  I just knew that was all it would take- a decision- and I walked around for weeks feeling like I was carrying a huge, wonderful secret that would change everything about who I was (who we were) in a matter of months.  Soon, it began to feel more like a joke than a secret, but nevertheless, I still remember the feeling I had those giddy weeks when I thought we were on the brink of parenthood.

For many women, that decision is all it takes.  Within months, or in some cases, a couple of years, their dream is realized and they’ve navigated this part of the journey we call life.  They’re in the “mom club.”  For others of us, it’s much more complicated than that.  There are roadblocks then detours, and sometimes, even after new directions, a dead-end.  Most see this dead-end as more of a fork in the road.  When all efforts have been exhausted, society says you have two choices: IVF or adopt. 

Being the over-thinkers that we are, Brent and I had discussed what we would do “if we couldn’t have kids” years before we started trying.  I’d say most people have that discussion at some point during their courtship; in fact, we would probably say it's irresponsible NOT to have that talk with someone you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with.  I’m here to tell you this: that talk is worthless before the fact.  Brent may as well have had that talk with a stranger on the street for all the ways this journey has changed me.  You won’t know until (God forbid) you’re there.

In light of my experiences the last few years, I would never, ever judge anyone for any decision they make when it comes to having children- naturally, with medical assistance, or through adoption.  When I first realized I couldn’t get pregnant, I would have gladly signed up for a rendezvous with an alien on the space station if a doctor had guaranteed me a healthy baby as a result.  I once sobbed to Brent that I would absolutely sacrifice an arm or a leg in exchange for getting pregnant.  He looked at me like I was crazy (I probably was), but that’s a man for you.  My point is that no one could understand that desperation unless they’ve been there, and because I have, I would never pass judgment.

Both because we do tend to overthink things and because our faith is such an integral part of this journey for us, Brent and I took it more slowly than most.  It was nearly two years before we visited a fertility specialist and nearly five years before we underwent a round of IUIs.  Due to this slow pace, my viewpoint on our options has been different than most people in this situation.  I’ve had a lot of time to think, to pray, to grow, and to begin healing… And it’s left me wondering if we’re too limited on the options we present when it comes to dealing with infertility.  Why do most women feel such pressure to move, to fix it, to race against the clock, and to get to the finish line at all costs?  And is it always worth the cost?

Just as I would never judge anyone for the decisions they make when it comes to having children, I would suggest we be less quick to judge those who choose not to have children, often for reasons those on the outside couldn’t begin to imagine.  For any couple, neither IVF nor adoption is a simple choice or a guaranteed path to instant happiness, as we are often tempted to believe.  There are financial burdens, emotional implications, physical challenges, and spiritual considerations to be taken into account.  It’s not all about the perfect Christmas card photo- it’s about not only your life, but your spouse’s life, and perhaps most importantly, the life of that baby who quickly turns into a child that has to be raised, not just a newborn that gets to be cuddled. 

Just because we’ve prayerfully and carefully decided against IVF and adoption doesn’t mean I don’t still deeply desire to have a child with Brent.   The fear that others may view this decision as such haunts me.  Choosing neither of these options doesn’t mean I don’t love children or (as I sometimes berate myself) that I would make a terrible mother.  It simply means that we're not called to further fertility treatments or adoption.  That’s really what it comes down to for Brent and me: a calling.  And for now, we feel called to a third option, one that few people talk about… We feel called to just be.  Science says push further, society says find a way, religion says don't give up… But to us, God says, “just be.”  Time and time again, Brent and I have discussed how we both feel this is Who God is calling us to be… a couple following after His heart, no matter what.

Sometimes you’ve pushed far enough and there isn’t a way left you can live with. Giving up on one dream doesn’t mean giving up on yourself.  Let us not get so caught up in the journey that we forget who we were when we started.  Just be…

Friday, February 20, 2015

ACC Math

In North Carolina, March means basketball.  Everyone has a “team.”   And if you’re a kid and you don’t have a team, you pretend to be a fan of your teacher’s team just so you can get in on the banter.  My coworkers and I spend the Friday of the ACC tournament doing ACC math, and the graph outside my room of favorite teams is always mounted on yellow paper and a little heavier on the Wake Forest tally than a general population survey would reflect. 

I’ve never been too good at encouraging holiday fun in my classroom.  That’s one reason I teach upper grades instead of primary grades (the older kids are a little more forgiving if you aren’t into crafts and glitter).  But if March Madness counts as a holiday, it’s hands-down my favorite.  I’ve always spearheaded the “ACC Math” push on my grade level the second week in March.  I have one coworker who isn’t from around here and she has yet to figure out what all the hysteria is about.  When I start pushing worksheets and activities with basketballs and brackets her way, she still looks at me like I’m a little bit crazy.

Maybe I am… But I’m betting some of you are too.  So for all of us who take March Madness both seriously and literally, I’ve got a new product in my TPT store.  I used actual player names and team statistics from the 2014-2015 basketball season, and I plan to update the document annually by March 1st, so purchase now and be covered for ACC Tournament week year after year (this year it’s March 10th-14th). 

Start planning now because there are 60 math problems (4 for each of the 15 ACC teams) suited best for 4th and 5th graders in my ACC Math Task Cards.  Topics covered include multi-digit addition and subtraction, long division and multiplication (including multiplicative comparisons and multiples), measurement conversion, and rounding.  Recording sheet and answer keys are included.  

Happy March Madness and Go insert your favorite team here!!!                  (…if you don’t have one…pick fast if you live in NC!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Last night Brent asked what I was working on.  “A novel unit for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I answered.  He said, “That was a book before it was a movie?”  I just looked at him, blankly.  Sometimes I forget the difference in regular street knowledge and teacher knowledge.  “Of course it was a book before it was a movie!” I answered, “Don’t you remember reading it as a kid?”  Brent shook his head so I checked the copyright on the book.  It was written in 1964, over a decade even before my older man was born.  “A classic!” I told him.

There’s something extra special about writing a novel unit for a book I loved as a kid.  I found myself rereading passages, both as I relived the way I pictured them 20 years ago and in awe of how exactly they planned the original movie to match the book (think Gene Wilder, not Johnny Depp).  This may very well be THE most fun children’s book to read and then watch the movie adaptation for—it’s just delightful the way the characters and setting were brought to life to life so accurately 40 years ago without the benefit of computer technology.

This novel unit finishes off a set of Roald Dahl units that I plan to use in my own classroom in April for a Roald Dahl author study.  I simply love Roald Dahl.  None of his books are necessarily my very favorite stand-alone children’s book, but he IS my favorite all-around children’s author.  He was a creative genius, plain and simple and his books are rich with inspiring and heart-warming themes. 

It’s always different to study a book as an adult than it was when I was younger, and this time I was struck by the fact that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a whole lot more than Oompa-Loompas and chocolate rivers.  It’s about hope and a mind-blowing turn of events for a boy named Charlie Bucket whose life had seemed hopeless.  As Willy Wonka told Charlie in the last chapter,  You mustn’t despair!  Nothing is impossible!” (p. 152)  Let this classic novel remind you…

(20% off in my TPT store through Saturday)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Through It All

They say the final stage of grief is acceptance.  I have found that the inability to conceive is a loss that demands genuine grief.  Whether I’ve wanted to succumb to it or not, emotion has driven me at times the last few years in ways that I didn’t know were possible.  I reflect on those five stages and clearly see evidence of each of them in my life:  Denial.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Depression.  Acceptance.   

I’ll admit that last one sort of catches in my throat as I read it.  Acceptance?  Some days, hardly.  Is it time?  Yes.  Does that make it easy?  No. Is it even possible?  At times, I don’t know.  Looking back, those first three stages stand out in my mind in definable increments.  Denying that this could even be happening to us those first few months, the anger once I realized it was and cried hot tears in my pillow for months every single night, then the bargaining.  If I take this medicine, it’ll work.  If we go to this doctor, he’ll be able to fix it.  Now that I’ve accomplished this, it’ll happen.  If I pray hard enough, how could He not answer my prayer? 

We all have heartaches, challenges, even tragedies that rock our worlds.  If you haven’t yet, you will.  This experience called infertility has wreaked havoc on what I thought was an unshakable faith.  Praying earnestly for a seemingly God-given desire month after month, year after year, only to be denied while so many around you are having the same desire fulfilled would cause even the strongest person to question.  I’ve found I’m far from the strongest.  A stronger person would plow through those stages of grief with constant forward progress.  But for me, these last two stages, depression and acceptance, have instead felt like being stuck on a seesaw.   

Last weekend, we took our youth group on a ski retreat and experienced some of the same worship music that we have at camp in the summer.  It’s always awe-inspiring to hear an auditorium full of teenagers sing their hearts out to Jesus, and I’m always challenged in the moment.  I find myself asking: do I believe these words we’re singing, the same way I did when I was their age, with my entire life ahead of me, and my dreams feeling more like a guarantee than a wish?

These words kept catching in my throat last weekend…

So let go my soul and trust in Him…
The waves and wind still know His name…

…And through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you
And through it all, through it all, it is well…
Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you,
And it is well…with me.”

Through it all: the denial. the anger. the bargaining.  the depression.  My eyes HAVE been on Him, because I know He holds the cards.  We convince ourselves it’s about us: our prayers, our hopes, our dreams. That’s the problem now with this seesaw I’ve been on… I sink low, and I have nowhere to look but up.  He meets me there and lifts me up and I think I’ve got this: I can accept it.  But then, just when I’m high again what do I do but look down and get scared.  What if He’s not enough?  What if I’m not enough?  What if THIS is not enough for me?  And again, I sink back down.

The problem with the seesaw is it still centers on me when instead my prayers, my hopes and my dreams should center on Him.  That’s where the first line comes in: so let go my soul and trust in Him.  I’ve held on so tightly to that seesaw, trying to pretend I’m in control… smiling and sharing when I’m on the top, crying and hiding when I’m at the bottom again, convincing myself I can handle it alone.  That’s not acceptance.  It’s pride.  And it’s a monster all on its own that keeps me from truly saying, "It is well."

Because of this pride that I haven’t yet defeated, I’m not sure I’m ready or even able to get off the seesaw just yet.  But what I do know is that God has been there, through it all, waiting for me to be ready, to be strong enough to truly accept the life He has planned for me.  And when I am ready, when I learn to rely on His strength and not my own, He’ll still be there, with the patience of a Father and the love of His Son.  Through it all.  

(listen to the song here)