Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reflection of The Last 12 hours

***REPOST from June 6th, 2015


I have had a little less than 12 hours to digest the most shocking, devastating news a teacher could ever receive.  Last night a student that would cheerfully attend my classes week after week without missing a beat died.  I am not here to recount last night's events, but to reflect on the last 12 hours and the emotions that have filtered through my brain and house.

As a staff at HLES I am going out on a strong and sturdy limb and saying that we as a staff and community are very close knit.  Our school welcomes just shy of 400 students and over 35 staff members each morning and while we do not all have the same teaching philosophy or styles one things for sure, we care for each and every one of the other members of our school.  Today was a devastating day in learning that one of our grade 8 students passed away.  It was a call that I never imagined receiving on a beautiful Saturday afternoon from one of my administrators.

A colleague had alerted us to an emergency that was unfolding in the school yard last night & wondered if any of us in the community had heard as to what happened, but when I saw the missed called on my cellphone today just after lunch from the school's phone number I knew.  I just knew it couldn't be good.  I looked at the phone for a few seconds and recited the school number in my head to make sure that was really the number I was looking at and then took the courage to listen to the message that was sent.  My heart was racing as I listened and paced up & down the hallway between the front door & my kitchen as I tried to return the call.  Voicemail…and the mailbox was full.  Next, send a text message.  My heart was sinking farther & farther trying to prepare myself for the news on the other end.

I could picture my colleague sitting in his office, trying to be strong & stoic for all of us that he was calling all the while trying to comprehend & understand what went wrong.  I tried to break the ice a little by remarking on the beautiful weather & that I really hoped I didn't need to hear from him today but it was inevitable.  I was crushed…I was in shock…I had so many questions that couldn't be answered…I wanted to help in someway but didn't know how.  We chatted for a few minutes, sharing only sparse & scripted lines that at this point are the only words that can be said.  The conversation ended with "go hug your children extra tight today & everyday".  I cried.  How can this be? How can such an artistic, dedicated, polite, quick whited member of our school community be gone? Why him? How? How come? What can I do to help?

I can only imagine if I have all these questions running through my head, what are his classmates, friends, family and other colleagues might be feeling or asking.

I have sat and questioned, I have researched, I have talked with my closest colleagues over the last 12 hours and we are all at a loss.  Monday is going to come and I will admit it is going to be THE TOUGHEST day I will have ever had as a teacher, but I will be going to school to be with my school community.  It is there that I think I belong.  It is there that I think I need to go and just sit or just listen.  It is there that I will remember this young man who had so many great talents and still wonder.

I have one week left on my maternity leave and I will spend every minute needed loving my 400 day-time children because I know he would be there loving us too if he could.

My God wrap him & his family & friends in love at this time of great need.

I am in shock.

Stephanie

Classroom Clean Out/Up

It's that time of the year again when we realize how much paper we have been hoarding for the last 10 months and what student all of a sudden has months worth of gym clothes stuffed into their locker.

As with the past years, our chief custodian is right on top of things and strips and waxes classroom floors the the days leading up to the end of the year, and again my classroom was done at the beginning of this week.  I find this extremely helpful in making me clean out my room before the final days and forcing the students to take their belongings home.  I am also able to set my classroom back up for the following year saving me time at the end of the summer. However, instead of resetting my classroom I am packing it up in boxes to move to a new school for next year.  I have been declared surplus at my current school due to declining enrolment.  It has been quite the process of applying and interviewing for positions and then landing a new challenge.

As I cleaned out cupboards and filing cabinets, I couldn't help but relate to this article by Elizabeth Moore I read recently about how teachers hoard supplies and resources "just in case".  It has made me really think before loading my boxes if I'm going to use such item or notebook and if not, pass it along.  It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff we actually collect and then typically go buy again because we can't find it in our cupboard or closet.

I am going to be starting fresh at a new school, therefore I will be attempting to only keep what I actually see myself using.  Although I am changing grades (dramatically) I will be selective as to what I "pack" into my cupboards.

Here's to clearer, more organized cupboards!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever!

Stephanie :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

#TeamAmelie's Reading…sort of!

Just a quick post that I've been wanting to write but haven't had enough words to do a post, but too many to do in a Tweet!  When #TeamAmelie was born (and even before that) I was addimit that any gift she was going to receive from anyone it was to be a book.  I wanted her from a very young age to love looking at books, listening to stories and to be surrounded by literature.  And today I think it's paying off.

I was sitting in our loft this morning trying to balance #TeamOlivier in one hand and check my email in the other when behind me is a little voice reciting her current favourite book: Colours vs Shapes by Mike Boldt.  




We have read this book multiple times a day for the last couple of months and today #TeamAmelie was recounting her own version partially from memory and from looking at the pictures.  She was SOOOO proud of herself when she noticed that I had turned to listen to her.  She immediately wanted me to read her the story so that she could finish the sentences before I could and add in her own expressions.  She makes me laugh every. single. time. we read it.

What book gets read the most often in your house?

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Career vs Home Woman

When I was 8 years old if someone asked me if I was going to be a career woman or a stay at home mom I would have replied stay at home mom without a doubt.  I was always toting around my Baby Shivers doll that looked like (and smelt like) a real baby, dressing her and taking care of her as if she was real.  As I grew older, around the age of 15-17 if you had asked me the same question again I would have switched to career woman.  I had a vision in sight and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything get between it and me. It cost and/or didn't allow me to pursue personal relationships for so long because I was going to be a career woman and didn't have time for those distractions.

Fast-forward to 2013 and #TeamAmelie was born.  At the time I had just landed my first permanent teaching gig when I first found out I was pregnant.  I can remember sitting in the parking lot of the school before going into the interview and calling DH crying because I didn't think I could go in because I was afraid I'd throw up everywhere.  Morning, afternoon, night…ok ALL DAY & NIGHT sickness had me rethinking what I had just done a few weeks earlier.  I digress…Here I am pregnant with our first child, land my first permanent teaching position and I have to decide which I want more!? I was determined to work as long as I physically could because I'm not very good at sitting & waiting for something that doesn't have a definite arrival time.  I was also determined that I was going to get back in the classroom just six months after she was born.

See, I have heard of the horror stories of starting back into a classroom part way through the year because you can't make it your own.  The students refer back to their previous teacher (your replacement, but as far as their concerned their teacher), they are set in their routines, rolling with the replacement's expectations.  How could I break this in February? Also, how was I going to stay home and live the pace of a newborn/toddler after living the pace of a 10,000 person per game hockey career & the life of a university student for the last 10 years?  Thus it donned on me…I'm going to go back to the classroom after 6 months off and DH can stay home with #TeamAmelie.  I'm not leaving her with a stranger at daycare, I know DH will text me throughout the day, and worse case scenario they both end up at my inlaws and my mother in law saves the day.

So many people told me I was crazy, that I'd change my mind once I had the baby, why would I want to get back to work- there's only misery there.  You name it, I heard it.  I didn't let that sway me though.  I loved my job, my sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and I needed to feel like I did something each day.  Don't get me wrong, I did A LOT with #TeamAmelie and I wouldn't have traded that time for the world, but I also knew where I belonged and that was in the classroom.  I ran into who at the time I would call an acquaintance at the mall one day and we got chatting about being off on leave and the adjustment blah blah blah and then she asked me "so you'll go back to work in a year and then what?" I stopped her right there in her tracks and announced that I would be going back to work in the fall and DH was going to try his hand at parenting.  For the first time ever, she was the first person who agreed and applauded me for my decision.  I could have hugged her right there in the mall!  She too confessed to me that she didn't think she could stay home for the full year because so too is a busy body and is passionate for her career.  I instantly felt a connection: someone who understood my desire for a career and for being a parent.  I don't think I could have a full appreciation for either one without the other, but I had to be honest with myself and the world if I was going to make it work.

Fast-forward again- #TeamOlivier is born two years and four days after #TeamAmelie and I still had the same feeling as I did the first time.  I worked right up to the bitter end, but this time I decided that I was going to get back into the classroom before the end of the school year.  Yes, just 4 months after #TeamOlivier was born, I will be heading back to my place of passion & comfort.  Like a script written two years ago, people questioned my decision, my sanity and at times if I was a real person. Although our intentions are a little bit different this time (ie. we will get the whole summer off together in what otherwise would have only been 2 non-consecutive weeks), I still feel as determined and passionate about my job.

Having two kids is a whole new ball game, especially at the ages they are, so balancing the home/work scale is going to take some adjustment for everyone.  When I go back in just under two weeks I will be returning just half days, to try & meet a healthy balance of career vs home woman.

I understand there are financial constraints to sharing the parental leave, and that not every father is given the opportunity to stay at home with his children; however, I think we need to be honest with ourselves and our partners to find the right balance between all of our desires whether they be at home or at work.

What would you or did you do with having children and your career? Were you as definitive as I was in knowing where your passion lied and what you wanted?  I'd love to hear from you.

Sunshine & happiness today and forever.

Stephanie :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Post-pardom Shed


So the shed has begun! It was just a matter of time before reality was to set back in and it happened like a switch this week.

One of the glorious perks of being pregnant is having beautiful, full & shiny hair, but much like everything else you gain during pregnancy it too needs to be shed.  I have thin, fine, stick straight hair so when I get pregnant I was embracing the fullness I got because my hair would actually do something when styled.  It was an adjustment to the actual drying time it took, but that was just a minor con to what I was going to have for the next ten months.

But like everything else, all good things must come to a crashing halt and it was all halted this week when I kept picking hairs off of #TeamOlivier as if he had just rolled around with a beautiful dog (that we won't ever have).  At first it was one or two hairs and then it was constant.  I only realized they were my hairs when I was blow drying my hair one morning and they were falling out by the handful.  I knew it was a matter of time before my body realized the party was over & got back to normal business. Just wish I shed pounds as fast as hairs these days! ;)

I'm off to sweep, vacuum & pick hair off everything as if it was my full time job!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Change & Routines

In all my brilliance yesterday I decided to open up my calendar and see where we were at. BIG mistake! I am now crushed and full of anxiety because I only have 2 weeks left on maternity leave before I go back to the classroom part time. I don't like change and have a hard time getting back into routine after being out of them for so long.  I feel like I just started my leave and had all these weeks and months ahead of me to relax and not think about going back.

I am not good with change or transitions.  I am secretly thankful that both #TeamAmelie & #TeamOlivier came early and that I didn't have time to say "goodbye" to my students.  I wouldn't have been able to handle that.  Instead, I said "have a good weekend" to them at the end of the week and rode off into the sunset to deliver both babies.  With "TeamAmelie I didn't go back to the classroom before the end of the year, but this time (in order to take advantage of having the summer off together) I am going back for the last 10 days.  Both times are similar too in that I have to change schools for next year.

I have been declared surplus (that's for another post) and will be transferring to Elizabeth Park PS for next year to teach grade 1/2.  My students (or their families) don't know yet and I am dreading the moment I have to tell them.  Again, wishing I could just ride off into the sunset with my boxes and avoid the emotions of it all.

Today has really hit me with what I want to get done before I head back to the classroom and have been able to stroke a few things off my forever growing to do list.  #TeamOlivier finally has his name up on the wall and next up is dismantling the growing pile of tupperwear containers thrown in the drawer and making some sort of organized sense of it all.

While I am not all that excited to think of it as my maternity leave being over, I am extremely excited to think of the notion that DH will be home with the kids and therefore with the family each night instead of off coaching other people's children (that too for another post).

So until we are all reunited for 8 weeks of uninterrupted family time on June 28th, I will take full advantage of my last two weeks of my second maternity leave because I know I won't ever get this time back.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Conquering The Fear- TORW 2015 Experience


With great anticipation that I was going to participate in the biggest race in Ottawa and be a minuscule in the figures that produce the largest running event in Canada, I came to terms that I was going to conquer this fear.  I was very open about my fear & spent hours meticulously planning  out how I was going to get there, where I was going to park, what time I wanted to be places and what was going to happen afterwards.  I watched the forecast for the 14 days that my weather app produces because that was going to be another factor that I couldn't control.  My training was sporadic over the last month, but I still felt confident that I could complete the race without wondering who's brilliant idea it was to sign up. Having a newborn & a toddler at home (during hockey school season at that) was not allowing me to get regular training in, but I felt physically capable and mentally prepared.

The morning before the race I packed up #TeamOlivier & headed downtown to the Congress Centre to pick up our race kits.  It was an inspiring yet intimidating experience that I'm not sure I was prepared for.  I got there right when it was opening and so were 10,000+ other people! I should have known from the parking lot what the actual pick up was going to be like…it was like going to the mall on December 24th and expecting to get that close parking spot right outside the door!  I lucked out that someone was pulling out of a spot as I came around the corner and it was big enough to park Marc's car easily.  Up the elevator we went to the first floor and what I saw I was not expecting from a race kit pick up…people were running as if it were Black Friday and there were only 10 big screen tv's! I just stepped back and really looked at where I had to go and made sure I wasn't going to cut anyone off who was in hot pursuit of their race bib.  The line up to get into the building snaked down the sidewalk.  Here I was thinking it would be nice & quiet because everyone else should be at work right?!

In watching the crowd I saw a lot of everything imaginable…the average person who was out to keep fit, the businessmen dressed to the nines who look like they forego lunch at the mall for a gym workout and a hot yoga class, blind or partially blind athletes with their guide dogs or chaperones helping them get where they need to be, new moms pushing strollers with wee ones and VERY pregnant ladies looking like they could give birth right then & there.  I was inspired yet intimidated by the shape & condition these runners were in.  I left there feeling a little down that I was "only running the 5km", but had to put things in perspective when I looked down at #TeamOlivier having a great time looking at everything.

Race Day Saturday:

It was a normal Saturday around our house with DH gone to coach in a hockey tournament and me & the kids playing with blocks, puzzles & baby dolls.  It was the first time I was going to run a race that wasn't first thing in the morning, so I wasn't sure what I should eat, if I should nap & it was a whole lot of time to sit & think about the race that I was already anxious about.

Much to my surprise, my plans were going off without a hitch…wardrobe worked when getting dressed, remembered all my race accessories, got downtown with good time (even ahead of expectations) and settled into the condo for a few minutes to relaxation.  About 45 minutes before the start time we made our way to the starting corals.  When we got there it was a manageable crowd…anxiety in check still.

Time was passing & the crowds got thicker…the first coral was off sharply at 4.  It was a waaaayyyyys before we even started shuffling along to move up to the starting line. With 10, 742 people registered in the 5km race, it was going to be a feat to get them all moving in the same direction.  At one point, the announcer at the start line informed us that the first runner had just crossed the finish line…and we were still 12 minutes before we were to start our coral!  YES…12 minutes!  The motivation tanked right then & there in the middle of Elgin street (not that I was expecting to win, more like just finish).  Before we knew it we were off.  I tried to keep my pace steady so that I could still have some gas in the tank to finish knowing that my training wasn't where I needed or wanted it to be.  

It was fun to run through the streets of Ottawa where I wouldn't have normally driven let alone been able to go out for a run.  The temperature turned out to be almost perfect and the decision to ditch the long sleeves before starting was a great decision.  There wasn't anything I'd change from the preparation pre race to running the race (other than my training).  Once we finished the "Runner Recovery Area" was a great size to be able to walk off the race.  Medals, food, & drinks were spaced out enough to keep the crowds moving and not all bunched up.

Overall, while my time was not a personal best (nor a personal worst) I will definitely be signing up again next year. From not thinking I could even manage the crowds to get to my starting position, to finishing the race with nothing to complain about I'd say #TORW2015 was a success.

I will be recommending the race to all my other 5km race friends just so that they can experience the crowds along the route, the armful of recovery food & drink & the sense of accomplishment that I  get to experience last night.

Well done Ottawa, well done!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie