How To Respond To Teacher Welcome Letters

As a mom who was once a classroom teacher, I have been on a journey of learning how to come alongside the four public school teachers who love on my four children all year long.

I purchase everything on the school supply lists as well as the extras on the wish lists, but there is an extra thing I do that I wanted to share with all of you; as a former teacher and a sub who recently served in a two-and-a-half week long-term placement in kindergarten… teaching is hard… and teachers need reminders of parental love and support all year long. Teachers need to feel love and support not just in August and September, but in January, February, and March as well.

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When I receive the welcome letters upon my child’s placement, I usually respond with a note that I am willing to help in anyway I possibly can. I can cut lamination from my couch while watching television, make copies, change bulletin boards, coordinate parties, and even pray for my children’s teachers throughout the year.

I also respond with this list I have developed, revised, and revised again throughout my five years of being a parent with school-aged children:

What are your favorite things?
Birthday:
Birthday cake flavor:
Favorite flower:
Favorite candy:
Favorite gum/mints:
Favorite hand lotion:
Favorite homemade dessert:
Favorite drink (all):
Favorite lunch place (and even order):
Favorite dinner place:
Favorite sports teams:
Favorite date night spots:
Favorite places to take your kids:
Favorite color: 
Favorite drink from Starbucks:
Favorite kinds of teacher pens:
Other favorite teacher things:
Favorite scent at Bath and Body:
Favorite Yankee Candle scent:
Monogram:
Coffee Mugs or Water Bottles:

 

This list personally equips me, as a parent, to care for my classroom teachers throughout the school year. If I am at Starbucks on my way to school before my volunteer slot, I try to remember to bring something in for my classroom teacher as well.

If I am stopping in to help make copies and I know my classroom teacher loves Diet Coke, I drive thru McDonalds before I go to the school.

When my family and I show up at Meet the Teacher, we always try to bring something off of the teacher’s favorite things list.

Then I share this list with others.

As a public school family, we are just a small piece of the larger classroom community. It takes the whole classroom community to love and support a teacher. Sometime in September, I take the above list once it is filled out by the classroom teacher, and I share it with the whole class along with a Sign Up Genius link for families to sign up to bring in a small treat for our classroom teacher every other Friday. This is a small way we can show our encouragement, love, and support for our classroom teachers who love and support our children every single day.

When it comes time for Christmas gifts and End of the Year gifts, the above Favorite Things List comes in handy too!

My hope is this Favorite Things List will equip you to love your teachers all year long and not just during back to school time. Teachers need our love and support all year long. They support our children all year long and this is a small way we can show our continuous appreciation.

At the End of Patience

Raise your hand if you are ready for school to start. Are you finding yourself at the end of your patience?

I love my children and the slowness of summertime. I love the freedom to go to the pool, ride bikes, catch fireflies, and the excuse to eat more ice cream than normal. We have had a sweet summer, but as we inch closer to the start of school the inches of my patience are slowly disintegrating.

My Close Knit Kids Are Tried Of One Another

At the beginning of the summer it was so sweet to see my four children reunited. They played well, shared their toys, and encouraged one another. After two months together, I have noticed a large increase in tattling, screaming, and selfishness.

Just yesterday, a dear friend and mentor called me and when I picked up the phone there were children screaming in the background. Last night we came home from church camp and my children were screaming in the driveway.

I Am Tired

You all, I am so tired. I mean how many times can I say my coined momma phrases with a Mary Poppins attitude?

Listening is loving.

Ask a question if you want something instead of demanding it.

If someone asks us to stop we stop. 

First is not the worst when we get in the car. 

God has given your younger siblings two parents, and you as a sibling have the freedom to not be their parent. 

You are playing too rough.

No biting.

If our brother asks us to eat a piece off the cactus in his room, you don’t have to do it.

I have lost touch with my inner Mary Poppins in the recent days, found myself to be more like Maleficent, and I have wanted to give up.

God Is Not Tired

I was soberly convicted this morning about my impatience and lethargy when it comes to hanging in there with my children for these last few weeks of summer. God has never given up on me in seasons where I have been doing much worse than eating cactus. God is a pursuing God, God is an active God, and God is a patient God.

When we find ourselves tired as parents, we can find everlasting patience in Him.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,  and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 29-31).

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

As I stepped out of my feelings of weariness this morning I refocused on God and His Word. It is a high calling to show my children Jesus, and a great privilege. I am so grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning and today can be the first new day to model repentance and faith to my children.

How Can We Walk Alongside Those Who Are Tired When We Are Tired Ourselves?

First, we repent of our shortcomings and lack of patience with our children and we remind them of the truth that God is a pursuing and patient God.

Then we point our children to truth in God’s Word. I used a short devotional today from Susan Hunt’s Big Truths for Little Kids.

Next we pray. We explain to our children that the kind of love and patience we are asking for is supernatural and cannot be accomplished in human strength. We love simply because God first loved us.

And in a few short hours, we will probably do this all over again. This is perseverance and a testimony of a real an active God to our children.

Hope For Those Who Are Tired

Today, I am thankful for a pursuing God who is teaching me to depend on His patience instead of my dried-up well of human patience. This is a truth I know, but even though I know the truth, as a human, sometimes, I fail to walk in the truth.

God is redeeming His people all the time. We simply need to come to Him. I pray I can show my children more of my  life of  dependence upon a loving and patient God rather than a worn out mother operating out of a dried-up well of human patience.

God never tires. His mercies are new every morning. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Great is His faithfulness, even when He needs to remind me of the same thing over and over again.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 28-30).

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).

My heart loves control. I like to keep my schedule predictable and I prefer to be prepared in advance for anything (I have a freezer full of meals in case I happen to die).

It is difficult for me to step out of my schedule and my comfort because I fear unpredictability. This comes from a deeply woven thread in my story; because my mother passed away when I was a teenager, I try to protect myself from the pain of losing again with human effort and control. I have a distorted belief that if I can keep everything in its neat little box and stay within the five-mile radius of my suburban bubble I can protect myself and the ones I love from pain.

I have lived this way for as long as I can remember. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was only seven years old. But now as an adult woman with four children of my own, and as a woman who professes faith in a completely in-control God, I have to take my thoughts about human control and my neat little boxes captive.

I wonder. Am I limiting my faith by staying inside of my predicability and control? How can I grow in my connection with God and my trust in His provision if deep down I am limited by fear of the unknown?

This deeply woven gospel issue is difficult for me to unravel. It takes baby steps and small ounces of faith—little by little and day by day.

A month ago I went on a church trip with my husband to Croatia. In the months of planning and preparation to leave my four children there were many moments I was arrested by the fear of the unknown. I wrote a twenty-four page guide for my children and sister-in-laws to reference while I was away. In the months leading up to the trip, I experienced several sleepless nights worrying over what may happen if I die, how my children could drown while I wasn’t right there watching them, and how my house could catch on fire. One particular afternoon I spent several hours sobbing and writing letters to each of my children upon my death.

From January until mid-June all I did was dream up all of the horrible, most terrible things that could happen when I stepped out of my suburban bubble and predictable schedule. From January to mid-June I was a slave to my fear and anxiety, instead of a faithful, trusting follower of the Good God I claim I trust in.

In preparation for the trip, I went one step at a time, and God provided for me with each and every step. I asked for help with my children and two family members committed to helping me right away. I wrote letters for financial support, and though the body of Christ, ninety percent of the money for my trip was raised.

On the day of the trip, getting in the car was the hardest part. Then getting on a plane, and another, and another. But one step at a time I went, trying to embrace faith over fear, and fighting to remember that I do not control the world.

It is Satan who wants me to be a slave to my fear and cling to my neat little boxes and my five-mile suburban radius. It is Satan who wants me to be tangled up in the wounds of my past. But God wants me to thrive as I learn to leave fear and control and trust Him. God wants me to have faith that when I step out into the unknown, He will hold me up because He cares for me. And He will hold up my children too.

It is the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed that made the mountain of fear in my heart move and slowly unravel away.

And the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed yielded greater blessing than I could have ever asked for or think up. I made dear friends in Mačkovec, Croatia. Friends who I would have never met tangled up in slavery to my fear. My children thrived while I was away and were cared for by so many friends, family, and church family.

And thankfully, no one died, drowned, or caught on fire.

On the other side of my trip to Croatia, I have a little more faith, and a little less fear of the unknown. I am thankful for the faith of a mustard seed that can move a mountain fear within my heart. And I am thankful for a God who wants to unravel me from my neat little boxes and predictable schedule. He really holds up the world. Even when I fail to trust Him.

 

Valentine’s Day Coma

My third year of teaching was the year I watched a completely sweet, wonderful, kind first grader rip open the end of a pixie stick and chug it down. Minutes later, my sweet student, she snapped. The sugar high in full force. Talking a mile a minute, I couldn’t keep up and I couldn’t help but giggle. I can only imagine the Valentine’s Day coma she experienced after her bus ride home.

Currently, I am ten years from that moment with my own four children home from Valentine’s Day parties. My kitchen table covered in tiny notes, lollipop wrappers, tiny treasures, and Fun Dips. Ninety-two if I don’t add teacher Valentines into my classmate count to be exact.

Fun Dips (side note) the equivalent, or possibly worse than, a pixie stick.

I never thought I’d be the mom to let them pile their treasures on the kitchen table, currently my four year old has four lollipop sticks hanging out of her mouth. My heart isn’t fretting the sugar high, followed by the Valentine’s Day sugar coma. In my nine years of mothering four, I’d much rather rip the band aid of V-Day candy off quickly, rather than experience the slow burn of hoarding heart shaped  candy until Easter… okay, maybe until Halloween… some years.

As I survey the ninety-two Valentines on my kitchen table, it’s my own coma I am concerned about.

I’m the mother who purchased the ninety-two Fun Dips. My children’s names are signed on each of them. A Valentine easy on the allergies, and a candy pretty easy for primary aged children to write their names on.

Unfortunately, I have a wandering heart. My heart so prone to wander over to the places where I am more concerned about what others think about the kind of mother I am instead of finding true satisfaction in the fact that I’m the kind of mom  just trying to hold this whole motherhood thing together with a little faith and ninety-two Fun Dips.

As I surveyed the creative Valentines on my kitchen table, the personalized Pinterest Crafts, the beautifully put together goodie bags, my heart compared my pixie stick like Fun Dips to what I saw before me. So easily I saw myself as worse. In my mind I saw myself as judged as the Fun Dip mom.

What is the most important medicine for me and my heart prone to wander is that I am not judged by the kind of Valentines I send to school. I think I am judged, but what I think is simply not true.

I have to be intentional to balm my mind in these moments with the truth of scripture. As I survey my kitchen table and consider my own comparison Valentine’s Day coma, I have to remember it is comparison that steals my joy as a mother.

Scripture is so clear when I battle myself in these moments, ” I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

In my own Fun Dip coma, my truth is, I don’t even judge myself it is the Lord who judges me.

This is the balm I need for my own mind as I battle comparison over the ninety-two Valentines on my table.

I am the Fun Dip mom. I am seen, I am known, and I am deeply loved by God.’

This is the truth I preach to myself as comparison may seep through the cracks. This is the truth I need in my own personal Valentine’s Day coma. Comparison is the thief of joy.

The Fun Dip mom is who I am. And that is simply okay.

Simply A Sojourner

Motherhood has given me several hard seasons. Seasons where I found myself at the end of resources, the end of ideas, the end of sanity, and just holding fast to hope in something Greater than myself. Breastfeeding for the first time, adjusting to newborn sleep schedules, toddler stand-offs, potty training, lying and crying on the floor meltdowns (both adult and child), sibling quarrels, and currently first grade spelling and third grade homework.

This month my first born had his ninth birthday. Ninth. Last year in a single digit age, last year I can consider him as a primary grade student. Halfway to eighteen, ninth birthday.

As I have gulped down the cup I have been given, I have thought about my first born turning nine. My thoughts have turned to how my time with my nine year old as his legal guardian has sifted halfway through the hourglass of our time together. And each year seems to pass more quickly than the one before it.

I have left the physical exhaustion of lifting him, carrying him, feeding him and entered into the emotional exhaustion of fighting for his heart. Of listening to him at bedtime when he is ready to talk and I am ready to pass out. Listening as he talks about his friends,  his budding interest in girls, his compassion for others, his frustrations with injustice, his struggles on the bus ride home, and his knowledge about the energy our world uses to keep the lights on.

I’ve pondered how we got here, through the sweet seasons and the stretching seasons. I’ve realized how I want to hold on to the sand in the hourglass of my time with him. I thought about how I don’t want the hourglass to be halfway empty. I want to be present and see our hourglass as halfway full. Full of memories we’ve build together in the bottom, and full of memories to come in the top. I want the time to slow down, my time with him is sifting though my clenched fingers. My time with all four of my kids is sifting away with each moment.

As I have taken a deep breath in and gazed at my clenched hands, God has brought me to a place where I now know, my job as a mother is not to hold on to the sand in our hourglass of time, gripping on to the moments like I have the power to make time stand still. But instead, release the sand I am trying to hold on to in my clenched hands and clasp my hands together in prayer. To let go of the things I cannot control and simply pray for a heart that is ready for the things in motherhood which lie before me and the things which lie ahead. I know I am not the one in control of time or seasons. In the times and seasons, I simply am an agent of God’s love to the things and people He places in my lap.

“He changes times and seasons” Daniel 2:21

Letting go feels difficult because I deeply desire to be the one in control. In the unclenching of my hands I feel God’s invitation to deeper intimacy and trust in the good and perfect plans He holds for me and for my children.

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In motherhood, I am stilled when I think of the sweet seasons and the stretching seasons and realize, I am simply a sojourner alongside my children in each of them. Each season where I find myself at the edge of sanity, I am only passing through. I am simply a sojourner in the season of holding a newborn, a sojourner sitting on the bathroom floor singing songs and reading books about going pee in the potty, I am a sojourner passing through the seasons of tough toddler stand-offs, endless picture books, spelling lists, and children who need my help with their homework.

My hourglasses of time with each of my children somehow are sifting more and more to the halfway mark, we are halfway and we are full. Full of memories we have built with one another as we have sojourned through the sweet and the stretching.

Yes, I am and will always be mom to all four of my children, but how my children need me in each season will always be changing. As simply a sojourner, all I can do is pray that God gives me what I need in the changing seasons, and hope that God is giving my children what they need as they grow into their own unique little people.

He is the Lord over the times as seasons of their lives. I am sojourning alongside as an agent of His love and grace. In the sweet and the stretching I am a sojourner, just simply passing through.