Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections on Kindergarten at a Public School

Last year at this time, I was freaking out.  Kindergarten Roundup was happening at our local public school, so we took Micah because we were checking out all of our options.  Option #1 was private (Christian) school, option #2 was public school, and option #3 was homeschool (and I often flipped around #2 and #3).  We went to kindergarten roundup and I was in tears - I could not imagine sending my baby to school for 6 hours a day, under the care of some stranger I had never met.  I was worried about everything - the influences, the lack of supervision, the schedule, the food in the cafeteria, where the bathrooms were, and on and on and on.

Yesterday I saw parents at the school for Kindergarten Roundup again, and it all came back to me.

The first few months of school were torture for me.  I cried almost every day.  This was not what I wanted for my child.  Yet in my heart I felt that he was supposed to be there - even more than he was supposed to be with me at home (which would have been a nightmare, I might add).  I knew that this journey was a faith-step for me that I needed to take.  I needed to trust God with my child.  I needed to believe that God was bigger than any obstacle we might face in public school.


If you recall any of my previous posts about this topic, you already know that we have struggled the whole year.  He has been fine. He has enjoyed going to school, and he has a strong group of friends.  In fact, he is doing excellent. I, however, have wrestled with God, almost daily, for coming on 9 months now.  Despite the fact that I've been worried about the lack of instruction happening (just in his class, not in the others), God has continually showed me a few things.  I hope this encourages those of you who also might face a situation like this.

1 - Public school is not the enemy.  Certain websites told me it was.  Certain books told me it was.  Even well-meaning parents told me it was.  But I have learned that public school is not the enemy.  In fact, there are amazing teachers there, and many of them love Jesus.  Our school had massive budget cuts that took each class up to 30 students, moved teachers around, and caused some general chaos. But I still remain convinced that much good still happens there.  The students are learning, not only from amazing teachers, but from each other.  And that brings me to my second point.

2- Public school students are not the enemy.  Sure, I was afraid that my kid would come home and drop the F-bomb after hearing it from some other mouthy kid.  But that never happened.  Yes, in the first month, Micah did come home and quietly said a cuss word he had overheard.  But somehow, even though he had never heard that word before, he knew it was wrong, and that's why he whispered it.  We had a good conversation about honoring God with our mouths.  That was the only instance I heard of a child cussing (and that kid was in another grade), and my husband and I are in the class several times a week.  A few weeks ago, I took the boys to the beach where they heard a kid next to them repeat several cuss words.  They heard more from that kid than Micah heard at his own school.  Public school kids are from all sorts of homes, including good homes.  But many of these kids are also from homes where parents are not good examples, and they desperately need good examples around them.


3 - Public school has much good to offer.  You may be surprised to hear me say that after the year we've had - a year of numerous meetings with the principal and with other parents due to circumstances we have not been happy with.  YET, I will still say that Micah has been afforded opportunities that are fun and educational, and I cannot think of another environment where he would have gotten to do those same things.  He has also made great friends with most kids in the class, 4 boys in particular who love playing together. They are all good boys, I know all of their parents, and we get together outside of school too.  (His best friend in his class is a boy who he went to preschool with, who happens to live down the street, and his parents are involved in their church, too - this alone was an answer to prayer, and a way that God was reassuring me that we are where we're supposed to be.)


4 - Do not avoid public school simply because of your own fears.  This is where your faith kicks in.  Everyone has to make their own decision about what is best for them.  For us, we wanted Micah to go to a school in our community where we could form relationships and be a witness.  We have had to daily overcome our own fears and trust in God to keep Micah safe and secure.  God has answered our prayers and proven that He is with Micah at all times.  Micah has been protected, he has been happy, he has been safe - despite my fears that something could happen to him.  This year has been more of a step of faith for me than anyone.  It has grown me, stretched me and exercised my faith in ways I didn't even want, but needed.

5 - The kids in public schools need good, Godly influences.   Micah has told me about his conversations with one boy, who I will call John.  John's family is from another country and they do not believe in Jesus.  John told Micah about what his family believes, and Micah told John what we believe. This boy had never heard of Jesus before.  I overheard them talking just this week and Micah said, "Jesus is God's son!"  Now, we have never pressured Micah to witness or even spoken with him that much about it, but it just comes naturally to him - and now this little boy has heard the name of Jesus.  

I know every single child in this class, and my heart breaks for them. Today I read a quote that says, "There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own." (Robert Brault)  When I read this quote, I immediately thought of all the kids in Micah's class. I love them, care for them, and want them to know Jesus.

I also know most of them have never been to church.  But when they come to me crying, I say things like "I will pray for you!" I give them hugs and just try to show them God's love. I still remember one little girl who was being made fun of; I had her come sit by me (she was from another class), and she had a crucifix necklace on.  I just asked her what her necklace meant and who was on it. She didn't even know.  I pray for that girl now, and her face lights up when she sees me.  

Most people I share this with say things like, "Oh, wow, it's so good that you are there!"  I don't see it that way.  I feel that we are all called to reach the kids and families that God puts in our lives, and these are the kids and families that God has put in my life.  What a huge blessing and opportunity!  And it makes me sad that some Christians are too afraid to reach out - to afraid of what could happen to their 1 child if God might call them to reach 30 more.  

In saying that, I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty - I really believe that God calls each of us to make decisions based on what He wants to do with our particular family.  For some, that is homeschooling; for others, it is a Christian school. But for us, this year, it was public school.  That may change next year, and I am open to that.

But for now, I am thankful that God did call us to this place at this time, because 30 kids have had seeds planted in their hearts that may someday sprout.  I may not have changed their lives, but these sweet kids definitely changed my perspective.  Although my first choice would still be that my boys go to Christian school (for reasons I won't go into here), I still trust that God had a plan in this.  We tried to be obedient to Him, and He showed himself faithful.  

(Micah's class this Wednesday):
video

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway from Go Green Goodie Bags!  Hopefully you were able to learn about this great new product and order some for yourself.


After tallying all the entries (13 total including each entry), the winning number was #2 - RENEE!

Congratulations, Renee!  Your Go Green Goodie Bags are on their way!  If you would still like to place an order, head over to the Go Green Goodie Bag website and let Missy know that Jaimie from The Wonder Years sent you.  Have a great day everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Giveaway!

Today is Earth Day, also known as "Get Your Free Starbucks Day!" Interesting that it falls on Good Friday this year, and amazing how more people will honor Earth Day than Good Friday.  But...I digress.

I have been trying to teach my boys good stewardship of the earth.  God calls us to be good stewards of our money and all that He gives us, including the earth.  Since "the earth is the Lords, and everything in it," (Psalm 24:1) then our responsibility is to care for it the best that we can while we are here.

Some things we have done in our house to take better care of the environment are:

-Recycling. Our recycle bin is always more full than our trash bin.  It feels good to know that our glass jars and cardboard boxes will be able to be repurposed.

-Less plastic water bottles.  We bought a ceramic water jar (from a water store), and go there every week to fill up two 5-gallon water containers.  This is not only cheaper than buying plastic water bottles by the case, but also saves on waste, as we put our water in reusable water bottles (bpa-free, of course).

-Using less harsh chemicals.  I'm all for a good 409 cleaning and sparkling dishes.  But for my day-to-day household cleaning, I mainly use homemade cleaners, baking soda, and Shaklee "Get Clean" cleaner.  I'm very sensitive to smells and chemicals - my throat immediately starts hurting, my eyes water, and my breathing is affected when I use most cleaners, so Shaklee has been great for me.


-Growing our own vegetables.  I am not a gardener; in fact, I kill most plants that come into my presence.  But this year I went to our Farmer's Market and picked up little 99 cent starter plants of lettuce (6 kinds), sugar snap peas, cilantro, and tomatoes.  Thankfully the sprinklers water these plants, or they would be dead too. It is so fun going into our backyard and picking fresh produce for dinner.  Even better, we eliminate a trip to the grocery store and save money!

(On the left: 6 types of lettuce/ that 4 foot high plant on the right is cilantro
that I keep forgetting to pick.  Cilantro, anyone?)

Another item we are using in our house to try to eliminate waste is called a GO GREEN GOODIE BAG, and you have a chance to win one this week!

Go Green Goodie Bags are awesome!  I was sent a sample to try last week, and Micah quickly adopted it as his own. He now takes it to school every day with his snack inside.  I was volunteering in his class one day when he brought this, and literally a crowd of kids surrounded him and wanted to know what this little bag was and what was inside!


It is already saving me money by not having to buy ziplock bags, and they are reusable and washable, so every day we just rinse it out and reuse it!  Missy says "It has been estimated that a family of four could save $3000 per year by avoiding disposable containers and single-serving size packages."  Each bag is only $7.00 and will save you so much money in the long run.


These goodie bags are made with a cotton fabric and are lined with water- & stain-resistant, food safe nylon. They are free of PVC, phthalates, BPA and lead making them a safe place for food and baby toys. After using, shake out the crumbs, turn the bag inside-out and wipe the liner down or toss it in the washing machine and line dry. Goodie bags measure 6" x 7" and is closed using a full strip of Velcro -- keeping your goodies securely inside.


The creator of Go Green Goodie Bags is a wife & momma to two kids, and wants to help us save money and resources.  You have a four chances to win a Go Green Goodie Bag yourself!  One winner will receive one orange polka dot bag and one green floral bag.  SO cute!


Here are the ways you can win:

1) Leave a comment (be sure your contact info. is connected to your account, or leave your email).

2) Go to Go Green Goodie Bags Facebook Page and become a fan.  Leave her a comment and let her know that "Jaimie from The Wonder Years sent me!"  Then come back and let me know you did that.

3) Tweet or FB this giveaway and leave me a comment for each one you did.

Sample Tweet or FB post:  
Win a "Go Green Goodie Bag" in honor of Earth Day!  Visit www.wonderyearsof2.blogspot.com.

This contest is open to US residents only, and will end on Wednesday, April 27th at midnight.  
___________________________________________

In addition, Go Green Goodie Bags is having a SALE - buy 5 bags, get 1 free! This sale ends at midnight on April 24th, so place your order today!  Just go to the Go Green Goodie Bag website, place your order, and in the "notes to seller" section, write in which fabric you would like for your free 6th bag.

Enter away, and good luck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friends Are Like Flowers...

There is a saying that "friends are like flowers in the garden of life."  I'd like to introduce you to a few of my friends...


These ladies bring joy to my heart. We have been friends since college.  We have stood by each other's sides through the ups and downs of life...

-Marriage
-Marriage struggles
-Singleness
-Infertility
-Loss of a child
-Adoption
-Moving
-Unemployment

We have laughed together, cried together, paid each other's bills, lived together at times, gone on trips together...we have lived life together.

This same picture was taken last year with our friend Gwyne who is now far away, and we miss her.


I love having friends who you can totally be yourself around - these are some of mine.  I am thankful that they are in my "garden of life".

(P.S. One of these friends has a great website - Kelly Makes Things - head on over and show her some love!)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last Minute Easter Crafts

Eeek!! Easter just snuck up on us this year, didn't it?  It is so strange having it later in April, and for some reason it just hit me today that it is only 6 days away!  I scrambled online looking for ways to celebrate Easter, and came across some cute crafts.  My plan is to do one each day leading up to Easter, taking time each day to reflect on what Easter is all about with my children.  I hope this helps you, too, as you prepare for Easter Sunday!

Day 1- Dye Easter Eggs (I am picking up a simple kit from the 99 cent store)

Day 2: Window Silhouettes (again, you can pick up these supplies from the 99 cent store)


Day 3:  Handprint Lilies



Day 4: New Life Seed


Day 5: Make an Easter Garden


Day 6: Easter Egg Hunt (on Easter)


I was going to be really cute and clever and post Scripture readings for each day too.  I didn't actually have time to do that today, but I did run across this website that has a great Easter e-book you can download and go through with your kids, complete with Scriptures, crafts, recipes and memory verses. You can even make a lapbook with your child and download the pictures for free.  I actually downloaded the lapbook and sample chapters from An Easter Adventure tonight and loved the book.

Happy Easter Week!

Monday, April 18, 2011

High School Flashback

Today I started my new job, doing follow-up research at a local high school.  It was strange walking onto a high school campus, 17 years after I have graduated. WAIT - did I just write 17 years?!!  Excuse me a minute while I hyperventilate....
----------------------------------------------


Ahem.  Anyway.  It was a strange experience being back there.  Not that I went to this particular high school, because I didn't, but the memories still flashed before my eyes....

The memory of transferring from a private high school of 7 students to a public high school of 2500, in the middle of my Sophomore year.

The memory of lingering in the bathroom during lunch, because I didn't have any friends yet.

The memory of wondering why God was putting me through all of that turmoil, feeling so insecure and afraid.

The memory of the car accident that occurred right in front of the school only about two months later, killing four students (including a pregnant teenager) and a parent driving his kids to school.  The memory of our school shutting down for 3 days as students filled the streets to mourn.  The memory of God using me, a Sophomore in high school, to pray for others and even lead some to Christ.

The memory of making new friends, running for student council, getting involved, and then singing at our Baccalaureate service.


Memories of a time when I was insecure, but coming into my own.

Today on the job, my co-workers and I were reflecting on our experiences.  "I would never want to go back!" I said.  My boss said, "I wish I could just tell myself in high school, 'It will all be okay.'"  I replied, I'd love to say to myself (back in high school) "It will all be okay, and you will survive."

Those were some tough years, and I have to remember that as I work with the high school students now.

Today as we handed out surveys and silence fell upon the room, a student farted loudly right after we started. The room erupted into laughter.  Yep, I don't miss those days at all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heading Back to Work

A few months ago I decided to take a break from photography.  After 6 years, I have felt that I need to take a step back and figure out if I want to continue pursuing my business or go in a new direction.  I have loved it, and it has provided our family with a way for me to stay home and still bring in some income.  Yet at the same time, I have been feeling the itch to get out of the house more and learn some new skills.

It is a strange thing to try to enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom.  First of all, I feel like I am a different person now than the last time I was working.  Before having kids, I was a working woman.  I was a fast-paced, multitasking workaholic.  Now, my priorities have changed.  Work isn't as important as family now. My family comes first, and that means that what I'm looking for in a job is very specific, and I'm picky.

Secondly, After you stop working for "the man" (big business), and  you work for yourself, going back to work for a company isn't always appealing.  When you become used to setting your own schedule, becoming your family's CEO, and having everyone look to you for decisions, it takes a whole shift in thinking to submit to someone else's demands and timelines.  And honestly, you can stick me in a new job, but I won't put up with crap anymore :)

As I've looked for jobs over the past few months, I found myself hiding the fact that I was a mom.  I was afraid it would work against me, and they'd be afraid to hire me because my kids might get sick and I might not be as reliable.  I felt almost sick hiding that, because it is who I am now.  I would find myself telling everyone I know that I'm a mom, except a potential employer.

A few weeks ago I pulled out my resume and looked over it again.  It was old and outdated.  I sheepishly put on there that I've run my own business for the past 6 years, hoping that it would hold some weight.  I pressed "send" and my sent my resume to a research company looking for part-time researchers.  They called me the next morning.

As I got dressed for the interview, I realized I did not have professional attire anymore. In a frantic rush, I actually stopped at Goodwill on the way to the interview and picked up a suit jacket.  It fit perfectly, matched perfectly, and was $9.99.  Phew!!


There were 10 of us in the room being interviewed, and an additional 5 didn't show up.  I felt insecure next to these executives and others who were clearly more qualified than me.  I was the 2nd youngest person in the room, which I did not expect, but I knew they probably wanted people on the younger side, so that gave me some confidence.  The next day, 15 more people were interviewed. A few days later I got the call - I got the job!

Today I went for the training, and joined 11 other people in a hot room for six hours of learning about our new positions (I originally thought only 5 of us were hired but it turned out to be 11 people total).  We will go into the four local high schools and conduct a research study for 3 weeks.  It is short-term, but only 2 hours a day for three weeks, and we don't all get assigned every day of the study.  It is perfect for me, because Martin can work his schedule around my short hours, and after it ends, I'll be considered for other positions coming up shortly.

As I sat in the room today, all I wanted to do was pull out pictures of my kids and show them to everyone.  My heart already missed them.  After all of the introductions, I realized I was only the 2nd person in the room who had children, and almost everyone was single.  Again, it was strange navigating this business world, and trying to hide who I really am.  I am a mom who was missing my kids.

It was quite the juggling act to arrange being gone for 7-8 hours today, especially having 2 kids with totally different schedules. Yet we were able to get help from numerous friends and we are so thankful for them. However, I cannot imagine doing this every day.  I don't know how other moms do it.  I came home exhausted, and only got to see the boys for two hours before bed.  When the boys came home, I found out that Micah had been given the game ball today during his t-ball game, and I wasn't there to see it.  That made me sad too.  However, looking at the bright side, today was only 1 day and opens the door for the perfect job for me right now.


This is just a temporary position, but may lead to something more in the near future.  Are my stay-at-home moms days over?  I'm not really sure yet, but I do know that my heart will always be here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Break Fun!

About 3 days before Spring Break began, I realized we needed to plan something quick, or we would just be sitting at home with nothing to do!  We established a small budget to work with, and we were able to fill each day with something fun.  Here are some ideas for you, as well, if you have Spring Break coming up (or there is always summer vacation!):

Day 1-
Playdate
Cost: Free



Day 2-
Trip to my parents house for 3 days
See HOP at the theater
Cost: Gas + $18 for 4 tickets (check Livingsocial.com for great deals)

We can't wait until Cars 2 comes out!

Day 3:
Legoland!
Cost: $150
I went on Freecycle and asked if anyone had buy one, get one free coupons to Legoland.  A woman responded and was kind enough to mail the tickets to my parents house!  On the day we went, it was pouring rain.  We took a huge risk in going, but the rain stopped about 10 minutes after getting in the park.  The rest of the day was cool but nice, and the crowds were low. The  boys loved every minute of it.  We packed lunches and brought our own snacks to save money.

(Tip: If you want to save money going to Legoland, go to www.legolandtravel.com and type in the code 295-teacher.  This will save you $15 per ticket!)





Day 4: 
The Temecula Children's Museum (Pennypickle's Workshop)
Cost: $4.50 per person
This is a great little museum that has a ton of fun things for the kids to do.  You enter the museum at specific times and are allowed about 2 hours to roam around, which is more than enough time.


My mom (Mimi) & Micah

Day 5: 
Get together with friends
Cost: free
We had lunch together at the house, then headed over to the baseball field for some t-ball practice. Both boys are on the Angels (in different cities), and had so much fun playing together.



After having dinner together we went and saw the sunset - amazing!


Day 6:
Sleep all day & recover from all the excitement!
________________________________________
Even if you don't have any money to work with, there are still free activities in most cities that you can take advantage of.  Here are some additional ideas:

-Check the mall near you to see if they offer any free kids' programs (most do on weekdays).
-See if any local movie theaters offer discount prices for kids on weekdays, or discount $2 movies
-Go to the library and check out some new books and movies
-Go to a new park and bring a picnic blanket and lunches
-Plan a scavenger hunt through a wooded area or a park
-Invite some of your kids friends over, or plan a playdate at one of your houses
-Go to McDonalds for lunch and let them play in the playplace (I know, I know, but if you are desperate)... :)
-Get some craft kits from your local dollar store; most have ceramic painting kits that kids will love.
-Take a drive somewhere new.  In our area, we can drive up the hill and look for peacocks.  We did this last week and saw 10 peacocks in one tree!  Ask around to see if there are any farms or wildlife near you.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

And The Winners Are.....

The Ultimate Blog Party '11 was so much fun this year!  I am still slowly working my way through all of the blogs of those who left comments on my last post.  THANK YOU for stopping by, leaving your encouraging comments, and entering The Big Giveaway!

This past week was Spring Break for us, and we packed every day to the max with fun.  I was wiped out this morning, slept in until 10:30am (my husband graciously watched the kids this morning), and I am still in my pj's at 11am.  However, the first thing I did upon waking up was to head to Random.org, the "True Random Number Generator" to select the two winners of this week's giveaway.  And the winners are....
___________________________________________

Giveaway #1 - The Ultimate Blog Makeover by SH Blog Design.

SHBlogDesign

This winner will receive a custom header with coordinating background, font colors, 1-2 columns, post title image, sidebar image, custom signature, and a link button. The winner can choose any digital scrapbooking paper kit from SH Blog Design selection to use in the design.  


And the winner is....

#53-  Mindy from Beans Blessings!! Mindy happens to be a personal friend of mine and an amazing photographer!  You can visit her photography site here, and if you're from the Sacramento area, I highly encourage you to book a session with her!
Congratulations, Mindy!! I will send you an email with all of the information needed for your big win! :)
__________________________________
Giveaway #2 was for a bundle of goodies from Snippity Clip-Its: a Busy Bee Headband and Buggin' Around Bee Clips (a $15 value)!



And the winner is....

#32-  Mary from Walking the Walk!!  Mary has a beautiful blog and I encourage you to stop by and leave her a comment.  Congratulations, Mary!  I will contact you shortly also.


Thank you again to all who entered, and a HUGE Thank-you to my sponsors, SH Blog Design & Snippity Clip-Its!  If you place an order with them, be sure to tell them that you heard about them on this site. 

I will be having another giveaway in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!