Thursday, May 28, 2015

Character Challenge...

I'm not going to lie to you, the month of May has sucked.  I can even tell you the date the month began sucking for me, May 6th.  That is the day that all hell broke loose, and an attack on my character began.

I've never really had to defend who I am.  My character has usually spoken for itself.  Sure, I have made my share of mistakes, but I typically own up to those mistakes.  In this instance, I didn't do anything wrong, but my word meant nothing, length of time served meant nothing, who I was meant nothing.  Fortunately, I had allies, who found out my character was being attacked and came to my defense, which unfortunately also put them in the hot seat.  Never have I been in the office so many times in 1 month having to defend myself.  I will admit, I lost my temper on multiple times.  I did not always display a good Christian mouth (in fact mom, you probably would have put soap in my mouth one of the times- but I did apologize later for my language use), but I fought for what was right, and when it finally came down to what was right, it was found in my favor (it took the entire month, but I did come out on top).

Now here's the one thing I am struggling with: forgiveness.  I know that I need to forgive the person who caused this in the first place.  I don't want to.  Not yet.  I'm so angry that I had to go through almost 4 weeks of daily battles, that I'm not ready to forgive her.  I need to though, but it's hard to forgive someone when they don't feel any remorse for what they have done to you.

Matthew West has a song, "Forgiveness", and the lyrics are so true to everything that I am feeling towards this person right now.


It is definitely something I will be working on and praying for this summer, that God can help me soften my heart so that I can forgive this person who hurt me like this, especially since I have to work very closely with them in the fall.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sean McGrail...

Numb.  I am still numb.  Tomorrow, I attend your wake and Tuesday, your funeral.  It is hard for me to believe that you are gone, and yet you are.  I have cried so many tears in the last 2 weeks, and still I grieve for you, for your family, for your mom.

Your accident happened on May 1st, and I found out on May 3rd.  Our family immediately began to pray for you.  We share a friend, Stephanie, who encouraged me to go visit you in the hospital, and on Tuesday, I made my first visit.

Your mom welcomed me with a hug and thanked me for coming.  She took me by the hand and as she led me down the hall to see you, her first question was: "How is your daughter doing?"  I almost began to cry right then, because that was always your first question to me.  "How is your daughter doing? I'm praying for her," you would say those words every time you saw me.  You got your compassion and kindness from your mom.  We went into your room, you were all bandaged up, bruised, connected to monitors.  I took your hand and spoke to you.  In our last email exchange, I had promised to take you out to lunch once school was out, and I reminded you of that promise.  Your mom and I talked about you, she shared stories about you and I shared stories about you in class- your sense of humor, how you loved to listen to The Beatles.  After our visit, I promised your mom I would come back again.













I didn't get a chance to make it back to the hospital again until Mother's Day.  Things had changed by then.  You had developed pnuemonia and a blood infection.  You had had an MRI and the results were not good.  On the outside, you were looking more like Sean, but on the inside you were fighting the battle of your life.  I held your hand again and spoke to you.  One of your friends had come at the same time as me and the 2 of us shared stories with your mom about you.  I had spent all weekend looking through pictures for a certain picture I had taken of a drawing you had made on the board, so I could show it to your mom while I told her the story:  The year I had you, my co-teacher, Lisa Jett, was on a rant about someone being disrespectful in the classroom.  To lighten the mood while she was still on her rant, you got up out of your seat, went to the board and drew a picture.  When you were done, I burst out laughing.  Jett stopped mid-rant, and looked at the picture.  You looked right at her and said, "let's bring it in for a group hug now", walked over to her and gave her a giant bear hug.  The two of us laughed so hard we cried that day.  You were good at making us laugh when we needed to.  At the end of my visit, I promised your mom I would come back again.



At school the next day, I was searching through a folder, and I stumbled upon an essay you wrote your senior year for your English class.  Your English teacher had given it to me, and God had me find it that day because He knew I needed some comfort.


The last time I visited you was on Wednesday, May 13.  When I got to the hospital, I knew something had changed because I was asked for a pass code, and I didn't know it.  I had brought a small gift for you and your mom, but I had to leave it at the desk with a note.  I messaged Stephanie and she told me the code and a minute later I was messaged again by someone who had brought my gift to your mom and she had asked them to get me back.  I went back to the hospital, and as I got off the elevator, I knew something was wrong.  I caught some words being said to your mom and then she walked over to your dad and collapsed into tears on the floor.  I turned to leave, but she asked me to say.

Your mom gave me a hug and thanked me for coming.  As we walked down the hall to see you, she said to me: "it shouldn't have been 1994-2015" and the two of us cried together outside of your room.  We went in to see you, Shannon and Maggie were on either side of you holding your hands and talking to you.  I held your hand, I kissed your arm and told you I loved you before I left your room.  I gave your dad a hug and told him how sorry I was, I hugged your mom and told her how much I loved your family.  They shared pictures of you with me, pictures of when you were little, before I knew you.  Your mom showed me the letter you had just received from the head coach of Notre Dame, telling you he was praying for you.  Before I left, I promised your mom I would get your football jersey's from South for her.

On Thursday, Stephanie messaged me to start praying and to keep praying.  I prayed and prayed, and so did my family.  When I got the message that you were at peace in the arms of Jesus, I went into the bathroom and cried. I cried for your mom and dad and brother and sisters.

Seany, you were one of the kindest, compassionate, unselfish kids I have ever had in my classroom.  Your last act on this Earth was to donate your organs so that someone else could continue living.  I am so proud and blessed to have known you.  On Friday, when I picked up your football jerseys, I clutched them to my chest and walked into my classroom.  One of my students who is autistic asked me what I was carrying.  I explained, and he said: "He sounded like a really cool kid. I bet he would have been my friend."  I said to him, "You wouldn't have to bet.  He would have been your friend."

I have been a teacher for 14 years.  In those 14 years, I have lost 4 students.  This is the one thing they don't prepare you for.

Sean, you were one of my favorite students of all times.  You will always have a piece of my heart.
Sean McGrail 1994-2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

To Juli, On Your 6th Birthday...

Dear Juli,

What a year this has been for you!  You started Kindergarten, were discharged from Physical Therapy, had intestinal issues, began additional Occupational Therapy, had an MRI, saw some new doctors, began to learn to read and finally received your first diagnosis.

You have grown in so many ways.  You no longer fit in most of your 4T clothing, and we had to buy you a new pair of shoes in the middle of the school year, not because you wore them out.  You are learning to sit in a classroom with your peers with fewer prompts to be on task.  You mastered all of your speech goals that followed you from preschool, so Mrs. Hare gave you some much harder ones to master.  You are so proud to have moved up into SouthField Big Kids at church, but you are thankful that Ms. Patty lets you still come into SouthField Little Kids this year, because you love her so much.

You love your family and extended family so very much.  Every day when you see Noah walking out of school, you run and greet him with a hug.  You love snuggle time at bedtime, and we play game after game of "rock, paper, scissors" in the dark.  You love your cousins so much.  You and Brendan are still the Bubbas that find trouble around every corner, but you have also discovered Rori and learned how to play "Ameri-Girl" dolls (thank God for Auntie Jaime and her ability to find American Girl Dolls when they are on sale, or you would not have one!).  You love all your grandparents and tell stories about them all the time.
The Bubbas- Aren't they adorable?



One of your favorite places to eat is Chik-Fil-A, and you love to play in their indoor playground.  Your daddy is taking you there tonight- they are having a "Daddy-Daughter" night and he signed the 2 of you up as soon as he found out about it (surprise!).  I know you two will have a wonderful time.

The Daddy-Daughter Dance at School
You love to sing and dance to music.  When the music is on in the van, I can hear you singing along, especially to: "Thrive", "Soul on Fire", "God's Not Dead", & "Overwhelmed".  A lot of the time, in the morning, we know you are awake because we can hear you singing your version of Colton Dixon's "You Are"- "if I had no voice, if I had no tongue, I would dance for you like the rising sun..."

You like to say things like: "You're my best mom" or "You're my best dad".  On Friday, when you saw your daddy working so hard on your Frozen cake, you said, "Daddy, it's okay if you can't make it a Frozen cake. I will love it no matter what, cuz you're my best dad."

My husband has skills, doesn't he?

You have a special heart, my punkin horsie.  I love you to the moon and back!  Happy Birthday, Juli Rose!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birthday Blessings...

So, today is my birthday.  Normally, I don't think much about it.  It's just a day, to be honest.  This year, Ryan had to be out of town on my birthday, and I don't know why, but it bothered me a bit.  Maybe it was because Noah and Juli have been fighting A LOT lately, or maybe it was because we aren't on spring break like usual.  Something was bothering me all week, and I just kept praying that it would go away and I would have a good day on the 26th.  Well... I did (minus some school chaos), which tells you God is good.

My morning started out with waking the kids up at 6 AM.  Both of them got out of bed and they were happy.  Unbelievable.  There were no tears or yelling from either of them!  We got downstairs to breakfast in record time.  They even took care of their breakfast dishes while I ran upstairs to start a load of laundry.  Un-heard-of.

I walked into my classroom to a: "Surprise! Happy Birthday!"  Two students who had graduated last year had come in and decorated my classroom!  Not only that, but they had made me cupcakes, bought me flowers, balloons, a birthday crown, & a gift card to Jamba Juice!  Plus, they made me scream, because they scared the living daylights out of me (it was a good thing I didn't need to pee).  Then, they stayed and helped a co-worker and me set up our egg lab for the day.
Not only was the frosting different colors, but the girls had dyed the cupcake batter different colors too!
Aren't my flowers BEAUTIFUL?!?
The 2 culprits: Audrey & Maria
During 2nd period, a student I had the year before came in to give me a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs and Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies.  My 3rd period class conspired to throw me a birthday party!  My amazing TA baked 3 different delicious treats (they were so yummy), and students showered me with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Reese's Pieces, Gum, & Lotion- they know me all too well.  6th period the Easter Bunny (no joke) hopped into my room and wished me a "Happy Birthday" and gave me an Easter Egg.  Then she hopped back out and went back to visit the preschoolers.  Throughout the day, students added to the birthday notes on my whiteboard.  I have never felt so loved.
The delicious treats made by Judy, my TA (ignore the eggs, those were for the lab)
Part of the party by my 3rd period class
After school, when I picked up both kids, normally we go through the "hangry" phase where they both need a snack ASAP because the fighting commences as soon as they see each other (due to being hungry), but we skipped that phase.  They still had their snack, but there was no fighting, no ugliness.  We ran errands and talked about our days at school and got along.
My board at the end of the school day- I am truly blessed
God is good, and I was truly blessed today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Sunshine Turns 8 Today...

My Ray of Sunshine turns 8 today.  It is hard to believe that it has been 8 years since he was born.  Since Noah is 8, I have compiled a list of 8 things I think you should know about Noah.


1) He always has a smile on his face, which is why we call him a "ray of sunshine".  Since he was baby, it is rare to see him without a smile.


2) Noah loves his little sister, Juliana, so very much.  He would do anything for her.  Last year when we were walking home from school, Noah and Juli were walking ahead of me and I noticed Noah yelling at some girls.  When I caught up, Noah told me that 2 girls had been making fun of the braces that Juli wore on her ankles.  The momma bear in me got angry, but Noah told me, "don't worry, Mom, I took care of it".


3)  Noah loves his cousins.  He looks forward to the times he gets to play with them, especially Rori and Liam.  We wish they lived closer so we could see them more often- that means you too, Candise!




4) He loves to listen to music and sing (he is going to be very sad when he realizes that he gets his singing talent from me).  When he is in the shower, you can always be treated to a song he has sung in church or school, or a song we listen to at home.  Right now you can usually hear him singing: "Soul on Fire" by Third Day, "Live Like That" by Sidewalk Prophets, and "Our God" by Chris Tomlin.


5) He loves to build.  Noah can build anything out of Legos, Duplos, K'Nex or anything you give him.  He says he wants to be a Dolphin Trainer when he grows up, but I honestly see some type of engineer in his future.  This year it was Noah's turn to have a birthday party (every other year we have enough money for each kid to have a non-family party- we started when Noah was 5 & Juli had her first party last year) and he wanted to use the money instead to go to the Lego Store in Chicago and buy Legos.  So this coming weekend, we are headed downtown to get him some more Legos.


6) The kid loves to read.  His backpack always has at least 2 books in it to read at day care and at school.  He likes to read funny books, so he enjoys: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, How To Train Your Dragon, The Adventures of Frankie Pickle, the Lunch Lady series.  I love the Plainfield Library, because all I had to do was tell the librarian that he liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and she loaded Noah up with all these new authors for him to try and then told him to come back and tell her which ones he liked best so she could help him find even more.


7) Noah loves his grandparents, both sets, and doesn't get to see them enough (guilt trip accomplished).  In Noah's ideal world, both sets of grandparents would live next door so that he could see them all the time.  Unfortunately, one set lives about 2 hours away and the other set lives in Arizona, but he has learned to treasure the time he has with them. (The grandpas are hard to find in pictures with Noah because he is usually doing something active with them at the time).







8) Noah is all about family time.  He loves to do family movie night or family game night.  His current favorite game is King of Tokyo (the struggle is real) and he is ruthless when he plays it, and if he had his way (and Juli did too) we would play it every night.


Happy birthday, Sunshine!  I can't wait to see what this next year brings us!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

IEP, MRI, Developmental Pediatrician...Oh My!

Last week was a busy week for us.  Tuesday came with a half day for me and then I met Ryan at Juli's school for her IEP meeting.  It had been 3 years since her last meeting to start her in preschool (I still can't believe she's going to be 6!), so this meeting was her 3 year re-eval, complete with all sorts of testing that was done.  We were there for just over an hour and a half.  On the good news front, Juli was dismissed from Physical Therapy- she mastered jumping on one leg with both her dominant and non-dominant leg and that pretty much booted her from PT.  She will be continuing on with OT and Speech, as her fine motor skills are lacking and she continues to need help in speech.  They also added on to her resource time and she will now be pulled out for reading as well, and not just for math.  I was relieved they were adding the reading onto that, as she struggles quite a bit with her word wall words.  They also kept her diagnosis as developmental delay instead of going with learning disability as this will allow her to get the most help possible for right now, and we were okay with that.

Thursday, all 4 of us had to get up super early, because it was MRI day and we had to be at Lurie's Childrens Hospital (formerly known as Children's Memorial)  by 7 AM.  I felt badly Noah was missing a day of school, but our day care doesn't open until 6:30 and we were on the road by 5:45 (good thing, because we didn't arrive until 7:05 due to traffic).  The new hospital is really nice compared to the old Children's we used to go to when Juli was much smaller.  When we checked Juli in, the lady behind the reception desk immediately produced 2 big bags for both kids, containing coloring pages and crayola crayons.  Both kids sat down at one of the kid tables and started coloring.  When Juli got called back, all of us got to go back with her, where we put her in her gown and answered a bunch of questions.  Then, one of the nurses showed her how to work the remote to the television and helped her select the movie of her choice from the movie channel- Frozen, of course.  Just as we got to the "Let it Go" scene, they came and had us move back to the next room where we met the anesthesiologist, a young man who Juli instantly bonded with (before that she had been pretty glued to me).  He asked her what flavor of gas she wanted, and she chose bubble gum.  Then he asked her how many candles were going to be on her next birthday cake- she said 100.  He told her that she looked good for almost 100 years old, and Juli replied, "well, I'm really only going to be 6".  Then he asked her if she was ready, she said, "yes", jumped off the table and didn't look back at us.  He held out his hand and she grabbed onto it.  Just like that she was gone.
Up at the "buttcrack" of dawn
Coloring in the waiting room
The 3 of us returned to the waiting room until they called me back to the recovery room.  Just like the last time she came out of anesthesia, she was screaming- it broke my heart.  This time she was a bit more violent and was thrashing about in the bed while she screamed.  The nurse let me climb into the bed with her and I held her while she screamed and hit and kicked me.  Eventually she calmed down and they let Ryan and Noah come back.  Then we got her dressed and Ryan carried her out of the hospital.  Since she wasn't allowed to eat since dinner the night before, we let her pick lunch.  She chose Portillo's because she wanted a milkshake and french fries.  When we got home she took a 3 hour nap.


Watching Frozen
All done for the day
On Monday, we had a snow day, which was nice, because I was going to have to take another half day to take Juli to see her Developmental Pediatrician at the Children's clinic at Central DuPage Hospital.  The roads were awful, so the drive was not fun.  Her doctor is a very nice lady and she looked over all of the test results from Juli's IEP meeting, along with all of the papers we had filled out prior to the appointment (we had seen her several years ago, so some things have changed developmentally for Juli since then) and she spent over an hour with the 2 of us.  Some positive things came out of the visit- she agreed with me that the OT that Juli is getting through school is not enough and gave us a prescription for private therapy and she is sending us for some testing to try to answer some of her questions before she can fully determine what is going on with Juli developmentally.

It is a bit overwhelming to be back in this boat again after having 2 years of relative calm, but we want to do everything in our power to make sure that Juli can be successful not just in school, but in everything that she does.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ryan...

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!  A man who sets the example of how to follow Jesus. A man with a servant's heart.  A man who loves his children unconditionally.  A man who always gives 100% in whatever he is asked to do.  A man who stole my heart when I was 20 years old.  A man who puts up with all of my quirks and loves me anyway.  Happy Birthday, Ryan, we love you so much!