The Jen, Again

Some of you know the story. The tale of a sweet friend, new student at Moody for mere months, and adventures had even as we both sunk deeper into the realization that it would be a long, long time until we lived remotely close to each other again. 

Jenny moved back to Texas two years ago, after a year at Moody, and time together over the past 24 months has been sparse, carefully planned, and savored. 

But a wonderful thing about the Jen is that she’s one of many- surrounded by siblings, family as kind, encouraging, inclusive as she herself is.

Two years ago, I rode a megabus with Jen and an older sister, spent a weekend at another sister’s graduation from New Tribes. I loved it. I still talk to that sister. 

And now, on Friday, another sister is getting married, and tomorrow morning, I’m driving to Ohio for the wedding. 

For a wedding, yes, but what I’m looking forward to, counting down to, is the time with the Jen, with her siblings, with these people who are welcoming, entertaining, and kind enough to tolerate my repeated crashing of their events. 

And let me just say: I’m so excited to see the Jen again. 

~ Natalia 

{Photo taken at the Maggie Daley Ribbon in February, 2015}


They Keep Me

Many of you have heard me say it before,

but I don’t mind repeating, either.

Because I want to remember the way that these 19 kids,

the nine year olds, ten year olds with whom I spend my days-

I want to remember the way that they make me laugh.

Because really, truly, I don’t remember ever before experiencing

the joy, the smiles,

and oh, the laughter

that I cherish every day in 4th grade.

These kids, they just keep me rolling.

They make me work hard, of course,

and I stress myself, push myself,

to be prepared, to be on top of things,

to be ready for the morning, 8:10am, when they appear at the top of the stairs.

But in the work, and the challenge, and the preparation,

amongst all that,

I just can’t wrap my head around the blessing that it is,

to not only have these precious, hilarious, people with me all day long,

but also to hear their jokes, their musings, their quirks.

To see them play, learn, interact.

I marvel that He made them,

that they are so very unique, creative- it’s amazing, really.

And I marvel that, for these short months at least, they are mine.

And I count every single one an unbelievable gift.

And really, I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow.


Florida Days 

It’s not like this is a normal thing we do. 

We go to Michigan, really. 

California, on special occasions. 

But now, this week, we’re in Florida, and so far, it’s been absolutely wonderful. 

Sunday brought 16 hours at Magic Kingdom, truly and honestly the happiest place on earth.

Today, we’re south, settling into a little rental condo while somewhere nearby, the ocean beats shells against Florida coastline.

And tomorrow, we’ll be there, watching waves wash over sand, over shells, over feet, all under the hot Florida sun. 


The Bread Maker

I don’t want to forget,

10pm, standing at the kitchen island,

in this house on the corner

in this little town miles outside of the city.

Too hot for fleece sweats, warm night air blows through the screen panel in the back door.

Outside, in the driveway, my shoes lie discarded in the passenger seat;

with weather like this, shoes are the first thing to go.

There are other cars in the driveway, too.

Cars of the five voices, five visitors, who’ve filled the living room,

the dining room,

the nook,

this evening.

Five guys and one professor, and their intricate board games,

their strategy cards and rules books littering the tables.

Standing at the island, my computer before me,

the sounds of the evening surround me, gently encompass me.

Games, good natured trash talk wafts through the kitchen.

Across from me, next to the back door, the bread maker sits atop the counter.

Quiet now, it cycles through the phases of baking, sometimes resting, silent, other times beating the bread, kneading the dough so violently that all I hear is the hard thump, thump, thump, and the slight rocking of the machine against the cabinets.

The mother of the house, herself a professor, is here in the kitchen, too.

She’s washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, organizing.

We’re not usually up this late, but it’s a special night, with spring floating through the windows,

and we’re savoring the cozy bustle, the welcoming pulse, of the action in the house.

I’m googling facts, compiling a St. Patrick worksheet,

when someone mentions the troll song,

that repetitive, obnoxiously catchy beat connected to the internet troll phenomenon.

And then the professor’s there in the nook, gaming cards spread before him,

singing the song I’d barely managed to forget since its last mention,

and there in the kitchen, we know what pay back looks like,

and let’s be honest, it’s a rare soul who doesn’t know the words,

so then we’re two in the kitchen, working our way through Let It Go,

building to the crescendo,

arms flung across the island,

dragging the syllables long.

And of course, we’re only adding to the hum of the house on that late Monday night,

but all that motion and life, it just swirls together,

sinking, blending into the soundtrack of an evening of games and work,

cleaning and singing,

washing dishes and eating snacks,

while the bread maker beats its mechanical pulse,

and outside,

the snow just keeps melting, melting, melting,

as spring comes closer, step by slow, relishing, delicious step.


Just a Joy

I imagine these six days are close to the longest I’ve gone between writing here. Excepting, of course, the various weeks (or longer) that I’ve spent in other parts of the world, removed from my rather aged computer, the internet, and this white WordPress page.

I’ve actually had both the internet and my time-worn computer close by my side in the past week, but the times for writing are usually used creating lesson plans for the coming days and weeks, trying my best to punctuate curricula with engaging and meaningful activities, and sleeping off the weariness of one day, preparing for another.

I once thought, based, no doubt, on somewhat limited exposure to elementary school teachers, that teaching was rather a stationary task. Of course, there may be times in which it really is, but my experience in fourth grade over the past four weeks has kept me on my toes, quite literally. This is probably compounded by how much I truly enjoy being among the 18 desks in our cozy room. I love walking up and down the aisles; while teaching, while students bend, heads low, over a math sheet, an English paper, a new book. I like the freedom to move. I’m intrigued by the tangible difference in dynamic from one corner of the room to another. I enjoy pausing at the back, balancing on the stool at the side of the room, and yes, weaving my way towards the front once more.

This week, Week Four of my 15 week stint as a fourth grade teacher, marks a shift in the extent of my role in the classroom. Beginning Monday morning, I taught those 18 wonders all but two subjects. The sweet woman who is sharing her class- her precious students- with me, daily presents me with freedom, challenge, and responsibility. It still catches my heart, makes me nearly uneasy, when she smiles, sea-colored eyes twinkling, and tells me, “It’s more your class than mine now.” It’s then, as I stand amongst all those just-turned-10-year-olds, pondering a decision, wondering what might be best, that I’m most tempted to give her the class right back. Not because I’m scared (although I am, a little), not because I’m unprepared, or overwhelmed, or frustrated (although I’ve felt at least a touch of each of those in the past weeks), but simply because who am I, what status or merit do I possess, that I’ve been given the privilege of being with these sweet, complex, funny individuals for these months.

I just don’t deserve them.

But of course, the right response is thankfulness. And humility. And awe. And hard work. And I live in all of those. And joy, oh the joy. Joy when we work on a new math concept, slaving through frustration and confusion and repetition, and yet, when the worksheets are graded they are all correct. Joy when we practice English with Madlibs, and their random answers, their bated breath while I prepare to read the silly story, is so funny to me that I can barely read through my own giggles; and what I do read is drowned out by their uproarious laughter as I read every line.

Joy, joy, joy.

When I greet them at 8:10 in the morning, and when I wave goodbye in the pick-up line, seven hours later. It’s just a joy.


Two Teachers Now

You have two teachers now, she told them on my very first day,

before I knew names,

before they’d even heard mine.

And she’s kept those words like a promise,

sharing responsibility, authority, activities with me,

throughout the school day, and after, too.

But besides the teamwork, the partnership of taking turns,

working together to build all those little souls up,

I think my favorite part

is during a lesson, during a conversation,

during a learning activity,

when I’m over here, maybe perched on the stool,

and she’s across the room, maybe at the corner desk,

and something happens,

someone says something,

and we glance up,

catch the other’s gaze over those eighteen 4th grade heads,

and we smile.

Because there’s are two teachers now,

and we both caught that phrase,

found that funny,

heard that reference,

and we’re both savoring it,

enjoying it,

smiling about it.


A Ray

Math instruction, I’m minutes in.

Talking about lines and rays

And the arrows we put on the ends of the ray,

To show that it really doesn’t stop.

And he’s there in his seat, hand in the air.

One finger: comment.

Fingers crossed: bathroom.

Open palm: question.

He’s got one finger raised. A comment.

And I consider for a moment,

Just for a moment, asking him to wait.

But then, Yes? Comment, David?

And he smiles, his dark hair spiking

Every which way; a mind of its own.

And he says, God is like a ray.

Because He doesn’t have a beginning,

And he’ll never end;

He just goes on.

And I nod, and I smile, too,

And that’s one comment,

I’ll never regret


And next time there’s a thought,

A mid-lesson finger raised high in the air,

I might just take it.

Because these little hearts?

They have a lot of truth in them.


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