Do you hear what I hear? Tranquility. This year, I had to teach myself to put my work down, take breaks, and seek out peaceful moments, which is never easy in such a hustle and bustle society. My year started with a health scare from my doctor. She told me in order to get better, I needed to sleep more and eat healthier. Those were tall orders for a single, working mother of two very active children, but her words were a wake-up call for me. In August, the Fates warned me again to slow down when I had to have surgery for the second time on my right foot, this time for two bone spurs and a torn ligament. Shortly after, the hearing in my left ear started causing me problems. After visiting a couple of doctors, a few months of complaining that I still could not hear, and an MRI, an ENT discovered I had eczema of the eardrum. He treated me with oil and cleared out the dead skin. Voilà - I could hear again! Let's not discuss the freak diagnosis - I always said I was different. And so my year ended with a horrible stomach virus of which I am finally recovering. The school semester concluded on December 20th when one of my students ended up sick in my classroom and I cleaned mouse excrement from a filing cabinet drawer before leaving for vacation. Ah - just another day in the life of a teacher. I had planned a full day of shopping on Saturday, but I do not know if it was the student's vomit or Algernon's revenge, but I was in and out of bed through a good part of Christmas Eve. I am convinced I saved money, though, and it was 2013's final attempt at reminding me of the importance of rest and balance in my life.
Speaking of balance, you may have noticed that this was not written before Christmas this year. Nope. It is all part of the plan. Life is too hectic before Christmas with Halloween, Thanksgiving, birthdays, shopping, grades due, final exams, kids traversing this way and that, so I decided it would be much easier for me to write my letter after Christmas each year to reflect upon my family's events.
This summer, my parents, my kids and I boarded a plane and headed east to Miami, Florida to meet up with my sister and her family. It was fabulous! We had a great time at the beach, taking the kids to the park, visiting Jungle Island and the Seaquarium, and eating Cuban food for the first time. I even got to enjoy a Hemingway Martini on South Beach and found a home I would love to own as a summer retirement place where I could sit and write a book one day. Alas, I will keep dreaming. But, seriously, we had a wonderful vacation and hope to visit again soon.
Growing up, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in because I was extremely shy and had a different way of viewing the world around me. This often made it hard to fit in with social circles. I see this in my daughter who is now in 3rd grade and still shadows me. She is a very bright, introverted, thus often misunderstood girl who enjoys stories about supernatural beings and is a bit disorganized from time-to-time. Yes, my clone - except with Rapunzel's golden hair. Fortunately, she has had the opportunity to make some wonderful friends as she has been with the same group of kids since 1st grade. She excels in math and science, and is actually one of the top in her class in math. She was invited to be a tutor, as well, to a younger student struggling with reading skills. She meets with her weekly. In May, she finally earned a Perfect Attendance award she attempted to acquire the first few years in elementary, but missed by only a day or two each year. She was also diagnosed with ADHD this year. The diagnosis has been a blessing as the medicine helped her to transform from a child with the personality of a confused, angry teenager from the Underworld in a teeny tiny body to a normal, happy 8 year old. She is a creative, unique kid with a style all her own, which I love to observe. She still participates in gymnastics and loved taking swim lessons this summer, allowing her to take full advantage of grandma and grandpa's new pool.
My son started kindergarten this year. He may not be quite as tall as his sister - yet - but he is proud to tell anyone who asks that he now weighs 3 pounds more than she does. He is my extrovert and class clown. He decided early in the year that the required bathroom lines at school are inconsequential, and one day decided to entertain himself. The teacher found him in the bathroom passing the time with a sink full of bubbles. In class, he wrote a journal entry about how he likes to be funny, but that it gets him in trouble - sad face included. This sparked a conversation with the teacher about how being funny is good at the appropriate time. He is the right mix of ornery and sweet - a character that keeps us laughing. He views school as more of a social outlet, and often feels the work in kindergarten is too easy. However, when he is not "bored," he does enjoy learning to read, write, and particularly favors math. He also took swim lessons this summer and is still involved in gymnastics. As well, he completed all belts in the Pee Wee program in Tae Kwon Do. Once he earned his black stripe belt in August, he was promoted to the youth program. He started as a yellow belt and tested for orange in December. At home, he is usually glued to anything electronic.
As for me, my roles are Mom and teacher, which are exactly what I am meant to do. After school, I am often found racing to get my kids to their lessons on time. We also have other activities that come up throughout the year that keep us busy. For example, I had both kids baptized in November. This was my daughter's idea as she loves attending my church on alternate Sundays. Between doctor's appointments, juggling school functions and fundraisers, extracurricular activities, taking on school bullies (yes, it has begun), and nightly homework for two kids, being Mom is an amazingly exciting and heart-warming job. Albeit, when work is too demanding or two of me is required, I do call in for reinforcements - and boy do the kids and I love and appreciate my parents! In regards to my teaching profession, I am still the 9th grade Team Leader at the high school, but I am fortunate to work with colleagues who, not only offer great support, but have also become very good friends. There are days that I do not know what I would do without them. Teaching 9th grade can be a challenge, especially with the demands placed on the students, but I enjoy challenges as they push me to work harder to find solutions. And those who know me well, know I am always working. This is why my goal for the new year is to continue to find more balance in my life - perhaps a little more "me" time.
I do believe Santa fulfilled all the kids' wishes, and even Chloe the dog and Jake the cat were happy with the surprises they found. My son received The Croods in his stocking, a movie we have already seen several times, but a personal animated favorite of mine that came out this year as the message hits home for me. It is about a family who is forced to change because the end of the world is coming. Through their odyssey, they learn about themselves and their strengths. They have to trust and believe in what lies ahead. Over the last several years, this has been my journey. I have learned not to take things for granted and that I am a much stronger person than I ever realized. It has taken me a while to regain my confidence - unless someone messes about my children - and then I am fearless. But, through life is a teacher and as I age, the more I appreciate and understand my experiences. I know the unexpected challenges I sometimes face are lessons on the page of a book, and when I turn the page, bright, new adventures are waiting for me, some already written, some left for me to write. My goal in the upcoming year is to continue to seek more balance and tranquility in my life.
"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!" (Audrey Hepburn).