Thursday, September 13, 2012

Schooling Issues and Tough Decisions

I was a public educator for 5 years. I taught high school English in two different school districts in two different cities. I feel proud to be able to say that I worked with some incredibly hardworking and dedicated teachers and administrators who took their jobs very seriously. Some of my best friends are still teachers within public education and I would feel blessed to have any of my children in any of their classrooms. I technically am still a public educator, even though I have been out of the classroom for a number of years now. I still have a valid teaching cert and am currently employed by a local school district in a coaching capacity. At some point, when my kids are older, I intend to return to teaching. I believe public education certainly has its flaws and I have seen many of them up close and personal, both as a teacher and a parent, but on the whole I believe in public education. I believe the vast majority of public educators are doing what is in the best interest of students and don't get even a fraction of the credit or recognition that is deserved.

Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of educators (public, private, charter) that are not in in for the children. I know they aren't in it for the money, so I'm not entirely sure what they are in it for. Maybe at some point they held optimistic ideals about what they could do for education but somewhere along the way lost this vision. I don't know. What I do know is that these are the people who are ruining education. This small percentage of people who don't put students and student learning at the forefront of all of their decisions are the ones that the frustrated public refers to when they erroneously lump all teachers into the worthless category. There is most assuredly a distinct difference.

Good teachers, at all times, challenge, engage, and push students to their academic limits (both of my daughter's reading teachers last year come to mind). They teach them lessons that extend beyond the classroom, not by lecturing or demanding but through their actions and treatment of others. I feel blessed over the course of my academic career to have had some wonderful educators in my public high school. Bad teachers test their students ad nauseum and give homework and classwork or other extension activities that don't even correlate to the material they end up actually testing them on. I have a fundamental disagreement with the amount of testing some schools have opted to do. I'm sure some people are fine with the philosophy and practice of test, test, test, but when I ask to see ALL the work that my child has done to date and the only thing that comes home is a stack of tests, that is a problem for me. A huge one. The excuse that “all schools do it” is not the truth. Many do and testing as a whole has increased regardless, but I am more apt to ascribe to the philosophy if that you as a teacher are providing meaningful and engaging lessons where true student learning and retention is given the opportunity to occur then the need for constant testing is decreased. Sure, give them a spelling test, a math test, a reading test, but to test every single day is not teaching. Testing is not an accurate indicator of student achievement. It is absolutely a component but it should not be the sole factor. Ironically enough, in getting our daughter's school records in the midst of changing her schools we were able to see some test scores that previously weren't shared with us and it provided some insight as to the mindset of this particular school.

When our daughter was in 1st grade, we were told by her teacher that she had serious concerns about her math tests. This was the first we heard of it (and we didn't even hear of it until the END of 3rd quarter) and didn't make sense because all of her work was coming home with a 90 percent or better (this discussion led to the realization that homework and classwork was not being counted as any portion of her grade, only tests). In going through her records yesterday, we saw the district assessment scores. Her math scores were at 93 percent and her English was at 99 percent. A 93 poses a serious concern? This year she was tested at the start of the year for 2nd grade concepts. She scored an 89 percent and was labeled, “a slight risk.” An 89 percent is a risk? As a side note, I would strongly encourage every parent to put in writing a request to see the records that your child's school has on file (be sure to ask for ALL records). While they may act like they don't have to provide them, you have a right under FERPA to see your child's records. I think most parents would be surprised at what was kept in them. I know I was.

School is not all about test scores and school rankings. Or at least it shouldn't be. School should be about developing a love of learning and a lifelong curiosity. It should be about challenging students and teaching them critical thinking skills. School should be about instilling the value of hard work. School should be about developing friendships and learning to work through problems. School should be a place where hard work is recognized. Notice I didn't say rewarded although there are times where that is appropriate too. School should not be a place where people are rewarded simply for doing what they are supposed to do while consistently overlooking those who do so everyday. In a day and age where kids misbehave, don't do their work, refuse to try, etc you would think the kids who do all these things on a daily basis would be recognized or at least acknowledged.

School should be a place where students and their families feel a part of the community. It should be a place where students, parents, teachers, and administrators all work together in the best interest of the student. An environment that is not conducive to learning is one in which teachers are disinterested and unwilling to communicate their expectations or policies to parents. It is certainly not in the best interest of any child to have an environment where teachers don't feel an obligation to keep in any type of contact with parents, share any of the work that goes on within the classroom, or explain any of the curriculum. An environment that is not conducive is one where you ask to see your child's work and the response is, “Your kid is meeting all standards and has all A's and B's. I don't know what your issue is.” That just tells me that you have no intent to challenge my child. It tells me that you could care less about her simply because at this moment she is excelling. What makes this worse is administrators who defend their teachers at the expense of children. I worked for administrators who were pretty good about defending their teachers. However, if parents were right and made a valid point those were recognized as well. There is not a perfect school out there, but I don't think it is too much to ask for all sides to be heard. As an administrator, you lose credibility when you blindly defend your teachers even though you KNOW they are wrong. During this issue last year we were fortunate enough to have the ASSISTANT principal step in when the teacher and principal wouldn't cooperate. She was invaluable and I will forever respect her for acknowledging that we were right and defending our daughter. She is an administrator who I really do believe does what is best for children.

As parents, schooling is one of our most difficult decisions. When we send our child off to school for the first time and at the start of each new year, we do so with the hopes that our children will love school, get along with the teacher, learn a lot, and grow both academically and socially. We pray for an environment that is nurturing, encouraging, and welcoming. We pray for a staff that loves children and keeps their best interest in mind during all decisions. Because after all, teachers primary responsibility and obligation is to the students. It should not be to administrators, politicians and legislators and that is where I think much of our problem lies. I won't get into my believe that politicians need to stay out of education, but I will say that many schools, and some more than others, are way too concerned about their test scores and school “grade” and less about student learning and retention.

Parents also hope for a school wherein they feel comfortable and welcome. As a teacher I certainly understand that there is a fine line between parent involvement and too much parent involvement, but I don't think a school that fosters an environment that discourages virtually all parental involvement is one that is best for the student. I'd even go so far as to say that this type of environment is harmful. There is extensive research to support this. When students feel a part of a community they do better to put it simply. In schools where parental involvement is weak and a sense of community is lacking they tend to fare worse. If there are no opportunities for parents and teachers to interact, outside of the ONE parent-teacher conference a year, it makes it very difficult to build a sense of community or teamwork. It also takes away all opportunities for those informal “temperature checks” where a teacher could say, “Hey, your kid did a great job today” or “Hey, I have a concern.”

In deciding to change schools we were accepted for open enrollment at our top two choices. One school is within the district our home school is and the other is within the district I attended school and taught. I can say that both of these schools would be good for our daughter. The determining factor came down to what we feel would be better for our son next year. I will say that the assistant principal at one school, the same assistant principal who was so helpful with us last year, went above and beyond. She called us at home one evening to discuss the school and how she felt we would like it over there. She answered all of our questions and was wonderful. The school, outside of our district that we chose, was equally accessible. Our daughter's new teacher called us last night to welcome us, introduce herself, and answer any questions we had and to tell us how excited she was that Delaney would be joining her class. Those little things make a difference. They really do!

I send my child to school in the hopes that every day she will learn something new. I don't want school to be easy for her. I want her to be challenged. I don't want her to come home every single day and tell me what she scored on her test. I want her to come home excited about a project or experiment she did. I want her to come home curious about something she learned at school. I want her to be excited to go to school the next day, not only to see her friends, but because she can't wait to see what she is going to do and learn.

Pulling her from a school she loves and has good friends at was a painful and incredibly difficult decision despite how frustrated we have been with some of her teachers and specifically the school principal. The stress associated with it was beyond what I could have ever expected when we first started throwing the idea around last year. I registered our daughter yesterday in an office where I was cheerfully greeted by every single person who walked in. When I hesitantly asked if I could walk my daughter to class on the first few days (at her current school, parents are banned after the first week) the response was, “Honey, you can walk her to class every single day if you'd like.” When I was told that I could bring my younger kids and have lunch with our daughter whenever I wanted I almost burst into tears. I am under no illusions that this new school is perfect. They have their own unique set of issues and I am sure there will be things that we disagree with. However, the difference is I walked out of there much more confident that any issues that do arise will be dealt with professionally and with students' best interest in mind. And that is really all we have ever asked.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Round Here

Yesterday I checked the mail and in it was the name of my daughter's teacher for 2nd grade. My heart lurched a bit because it is not the teacher she wanted.  I know very little about this teacher and so couldn't provide her the assurances she needed that all would be well, other than the generic, "It will be okay.  I'm sure she's fine.  I will ask around."  My daughter stresses about these things, much like her mother.  So, I've spent the past 24 hours asking around.  The general consensus seems to be that she's "okay" and "fine."  I don't know that those are really the ringing endorsements I was hoping for, but I guess for now I will take it.  Part of me wants to fight to get her into the class that she really wants, but I also think she should try this teacher.  It may turn out to be okay, she may really like her.  I just don't know. What I do know is that for the next 4.5 weeks I will stress about it!  Which, by the way, how is the summer going to be OVER in 4.5 weeks????  I feel like it has barely started!

This year will see lots of changes.  Our son is entering preschool three days a week.  He is very excited about it and I am excited for him.  I think it will be good for him socially especially in preparation for Kindergarten next year.  But it still makes me sad thinking of sending him off to school. Why can't I just keep my kids little forever???

Much is changing for me as well.  Previous to having kids I was a high school English teacher and Varsity Basketball coach.  The coaching is essentially a year-round, full-time job in and of itself.  I loved it! When I started having kids I reluctantly gave it up because I really wanted to have time with my kids and knew that I couldn't be the mother I wanted to be and the coach I wanted to be at the same time.  Last year, a friend of mine asked for some help with her team on a volunteer basis. The athletic director was wonderful in allowing me to bring me kids, which made it possible.  I was hooked again.  I didn't realize how much I had missed coaching and being around the game of basketball.  Long story short, my friend stepped down, I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job.  That has been occupying much of my time this summer:  open gyms, conditioning, and we played in a summer league.

I am beyond excited for this year, even though I know the time demands are going to be insane.  The kids love coming with me and running around the gym.  The girls are fantastic with my kids, which I am incredibly grateful for.  And somehow, even with an almost two year old I am making it work.

So, needless to say this year will be full of changes. Hopefully all good ones and for the better.  Life has been hectic around these parts lately but I am excited about what the future holds and looking forward to getting back into the "working world" even just with this baby step at this time.

How have your summers been?  Any new developments?.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Plague o' Both Your Houses

Well, maybe not the plague, but the in the chicken pox....has infected our house. Thursday night at dinner I noticed some bumps on our 4 year old son's hands that looked a lot like chicken pox. I googled images and thought they looked pretty similar. My husband was quick to dismiss it especially considering all our kids have received the vaccines. We figured it would be pretty unlikely to still end up with the chicken pox. Apparently we were wrong. By Friday morning he had a few more spots but by the afternoon they were everywhere. Our doctor had us bring him in, because they too, were hesitant to believe me.

Confirmed. Chicken pox.

The following day our 19 month old daughter ended up with them. Her case, however, is a much milder case. She only has about 50 pox total. Our son, unfortunately, has hundreds. The doctor said his case is as bad as if he had never been vaccinated. So far our oldest is pox-free, however she woke up today with a high fever, which is was happened to the other two in the days leading to the first pox appearing. Seriously, what would the odds be that three vaccinated children end up with the illness for which they are vaccinated. That just seems really strange to me. I'm not super surprised about our son. He's on meds to help with his lung issues that have messed up his immune system. It leaves him vulnerable to a lot of illnesses which he has unfortunately had. So, for him to be this freak statistic isn't really shocking. However, to have our littlest ones get it also was a bit surprising. If our oldest, the girl with the iron immune system, ends up with the pox I swear the world is ending.

So for now we've watched a lot of movies, taken a ton of oatmeal baths, gone through a bottle of calamine and another of benedryl and seem to be through with the worst of it. The sores are starting to scab and I am hoping we can be back among the living soon!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

30 in 4!!!

A few years back when my almost five year old son was around 2 I got serious about my diet and exercise and dropped 32 pounds in about 4 months. I felt great. I got to go out and buy new clothes in brand new sizes, my joints didn't ache as much, I had significantly more energy, and I just felt so much better about myself. I managed to keep that weight off for about a year until I got pregnant with my third. I figured after I had her I would maintain a similar regimen and lose the weight fairly quickly. Oh, the folly!

Eighteen months later and I am in the ballpark of the weight I was a few years ago before I dropped 32 pounds. It sucks. I am tired a lot, my knees and back kill (I will always have knee and back problems thanks to years of playing through injuries in high school and college, however these parts hurt much less when they're not lugging around 30-40 pounds of extra weight), my clothes don't fit right, and I am just unhappy with the extra weight.

The thing with me is I suck at dieting. I always cheat and crave what I can't have. The only way in the past I have been able to keep weight off for a significant amount of time is to just restrict calories and exercise. April 1 was my self-imposed start date for healthier living. We joined a country club primarily for its pool access (unrelated to my weight loss, but a happy coincidence that it is providing a way to stay active). My goal is to weight lift and do high intensity interval training 3x/week in addition to swimming and playing with the kids in the pool another 3-4x/week.

This is only week one and I have a ways to go but already, despite being sore and exhausted, I feel like I have so much more energy. My back is killing and my knees hurt but I know that is just from not doing anything active the past two years and as the weight comes off those pains will minimize. I've been eating pretty healthy and been staying within my calorie allotment. I put an app on my iphone that has been helpful in keeping me honest in terms of what I put into my body. In five days I have dropped 7 pounds. I know that rate won't/can't be maintained but it feels nice to see results. It gives me the boost and encouragement I need to continue, knowing that if I keep at it there will be results. I gave myself an arbitrary deadline of July 31 to try to drop 30 pounds. If I don't give myself a finishing point I will find a way to push it off. So, to keep me motivated I have to view that as the deadline.

So, what about you? What are some ways you have been successful in getting weight off and more importantly keeping it off?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Relieved Reprieve

This week has been so emotionally upsetting that today when the school bell rang and I collected my daughter in one piece, I literally felt like I was going to crash and could sleep for days. I still feel that way, actually. This weekend will provide a much needed distraction from the unfortunate turn of events this week at school. Tonight, we are going with some friends to take the kids Mutton Busting (sheep riding) at the Rodeo Arena. Each Friday night in Marana, you pay $5 and they pad your kid up and turn 'em loose on the sheep. We have never gone before but I am so excited to see them ride tonight. I am just hoping my son actually sacks up and does it and doesn't stand in middle of the arena and cry like he did when we signed him up for football.

Tomorrow, my older daughter and I are going over to one of her friend's house (and thankfully the mother is a good friend of mine as well) for a Bake Party. It should be a lot of fun and nice to spend some one on one time with my daughter after the week she had and to also have some girl time with some friends.

Sunday, my husband is taking our son to see Monster Trucks. Our son has never been and he is soooo excited. I'm really excited for him as well. It'll be nice for him to have some time alone with my husband. I am thinking that while they go to Monster Jams I'll take my oldest to get a manicure and then we'll head down to the Tucson Festival of Books.

If we can get through next week (which will likely be another difficult week given the direction this whole choking incident is going) we'll have a week of peace for Spring Break. The kids really want to go to the Renaissance Festival. My husband has never been and the last time I went was 12 years ago when I first started teaching and I took my high school English students(all 150 + of them) on a field trip there. It's a blast and I think the kids will really enjoy it.

Plus I really think we need a heavy dose of distraction right now. Up until this past week I really loved my daughter's school. It's sad how the mishandling of such a serious event has changed my view about that so drastically. The problem really is the principal and sadly, until she is gone, I don't know how safe I really feel with my kid there. My daughter likes school, although this past week has muted that a bit, mostly because she is scared. She doesn't want to change schools, which I understand. While I can't comment right now about the route we have chosen to take I am hoping that in so doing, the principal will realize this is not something she can sweep under the rug and will have to address. The shit will likely hit the fan next week, but as long as I keep telling myself that my daughter's safety is the issue I think we can all get through this. I worry about retaliation, but ultimately I think we have documented this so well that people would be stupid to do that. I don't think the teachers would treat our daughter any differently. The principal is equally despised among parents and teachers alike. The teachers are likely secretly cheering me on in all of this. Yet still I worry. For now, I will put the worry on hold until Monday and enjoy the weekend with my family, whom I am so thankful for.

What are your weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lesson for the Day: It's Okay to Strangle a Classmate. The Principal Says So.

Something I have really worked hard on over the past couple of years is not making decisions when I am angry. In the past, something would happen to upset me and I'd make a decision while in the thick of things and often come to regret that decision later when the smoke cleared. My hasty decision-making when angry was such a deviation from my normal process. I am very calculated. I think things through, weigh the options, never rush decisions of importance, and basically drive my husband insane trying to talk through every possible scenario.

This struggle of mine, trying not to make decisions when upset, has never been more important than when my daughter started school. I taught for 6 years so when something happens at school I always try to give the teacher and the school in general the benefit of the doubt. I realize, from my own experience, that the perception of events often clouds the reality. With that in mind, anything that seemed iffy I would get clarification from the involved parties before getting upset or making a point of things.

Our daughter had a pretty awesome, uneventful Kindergarten year. She also has had a pretty good 1st grade year as well. There have been some incidents on the playground where she has ended up hurt. We realize that kids are kids and sometimes an inadvertent byproduct of horseplay is injury and we aren't bothered by that. It is part of childhood. However, lately there have been a couple instances of physical violence that go well beyond just kids being kids. We addressed these concerns with the teacher who assured us they were being handled and addressed. We assumed, since it is in the handbook this way, that these instances were being brought to the attention of the administration and not just being handled at a classroom level. We were incorrect in that assumption.

When I picked my daughter up from school on Monday she had red marks around her neck. She came through the gates and told me that a boy had placed his hands around her neck and squeezed. The aide on the playground saw this and apparently wrote him up -- although it hadn't made its way up to the office by the end of the day. Nobody at the school called to notify me of this. I went and found the teacher who tried to dismiss it as two kids playing, getting a little rough, and as a result she ended up hurt. She tried this tact earlier in the year with another incident and basically it took every ounce of self-control not to lose it at that moment. When I get really, really mad I become singularly focused and steely. I don't raise my voice, I don't rant and rave. There is almost this incredible calm that comes over me, which is probably a good thing. We went to the principal who had never even heard of any prior incidents of violence in which our daughter was injured. She was pretty flip and cavalier about the whole thing until I mentioned the number of times there have been outbursts like this. She looked genuinely surprised and I think at that point she was like, "Oh shit, my staff isn't following protocol."

My husband drafted an email expressing his concerns about our daughter's personal safety. The response we got from the principal is flabbergasting. Without even talking to our daughter, a student who has never been in trouble, she took the word of a kid who is on his third school this year and is regularly in trouble when he said it was an accident. Pardon my language but how the fuck is strangling my kid an accident? According to district policy his punishment should have been an automatic short-term suspension. This is his second violation that I know of. He could have more. Instead he received a conference with his mom and principal.

I took her to the doctor yesterday, The boy squeezed so hard she has a contusion on her vocal chords. We submitted this paperwork to the principal who then had the nerve to suggest our daughter did this to herself because the teacher claimed she was squeezing her neck after it happened. She apparently couldn't have possibly been rubbing it because she had just been strangled.

There has been a lot of back and forth since and the only thing the principal has convinced me of is that she is far more concerned with protecting the next Jared Loughner than she is in protecting and ensuring the safety of my daughter.

My initial reaction is to pull her immediately from the school. Logic prevailed for the moment and she returned today. I did, however, fill out open enrollment forms today for next year in case this situation or ones like it aren't resolved to our satisfaction. While I believe this boy needs to be held accountable I believe more strongly that the school does. They are charged with ensuring the safety of my child for 6 hours a day and not only do I question their ability to do this I now question their desire. If, as the principal, she does not mete out a consequence severe enough to deter future outbursts than what impetus does this child have to change? He has just been taught that he can strangle a classmate and get away with it. Great lesson.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Redshirting The Boy

So, I have written about this in the past (I also realize I meant to write NHL, not NFL....duh!). Since writing that post we made a decision, revisited that decision, and then made a different decision of which I now feel was the right decision.

A few months ago we decided we were going to have our son start Kindergarten this August. He'd be young for his grade, but he really wanted to go and academically we felt he would be okay. I didn't feel overly confident in this decision. I don't worry that he'd have any problem in Kindergarten but I did worry that maybe those little gaps of immaturity or those little gaps of being super sensitive will become bigger gaps when he reaches 1st and 2nd grade. At that point it becomes difficult to slow the train down, so to speak. I talked with the teacher who would be his Kinder teacher. She thought he'd be fine to start, but also acknowledged that I know him best and generally speaking holding younger boys back a year is never a bad idea. I talked with mothers, my own included, who sent their young sons off to school and to this day regret it. My brother she sent to school young is now a successful lawyer in Chicago, so it's not like he was not successful, but both she and my brother think things were much harder on him than they had to be and truly believe much of those struggles could have been eliminated had he been given "the gift of a year."

The more people I talked to, the more I really became uncomfortable with our decision. The tipping point was when I called a friend from college. We went through the College of Education together and she taught elementary for a number of years before opening her own pre-school. She gave me a host of reasons why giving the "gift of a year" is a good idea. The two that stuck with me were 1). She is more concerned with where students start emotionally than academically. You can always catch a kid up academically. You can tutor them, etc. You cannot teach or tutor maturity.2). You can only give this gift of a year one time. Once you start them in school there is not really any turning back. Sure, kids can get held back or just press on and struggle. But you only get to truly decide for them ONCE and what is the rush to start them?

Once my husband and I came to realize holding him back a year would likely be best and I verbalized that, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. There was instant relief. It was like I had been holding my breath all this time and I could finally exhale.

So, we are going to do half-day preschool instead to get him used to school and give him an extra year to mature a bit. I realize our decision isn't right for everyone and some people even feel kids shouldn't be held back under any circumstance, but it is what is right for our son in this particular instance and I couldn't feel any better about this decision.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tucson Rodeo 2012

Every year hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls (over 600 this year) descend upon Tucson to show us what they got. With them comes thousands of fans from all over the country to cheer them on. The Tucson Rodeo is such a big deal here that the last Thursday and Friday in February is officially Rodeo Break and all school districts in Tucson shut down. In fact, last year at a school district meeting wherein we were discussing whether to lengthen the school year one woman suggested that we give up Rodeo Break. You could have heard a pin drop. It was like those movie scenes where the record scratches to a halt. People couldn't believe she just suggested that the beloved and sacred Rodeo Break be sacrificed. When I first started teaching in Phoenix (which doesn't recognize the Rodeo as an official holiday) I was shocked we didn't get Rodeo Break off. All my life, growing up in Tucson, I just assumed everyone got the Rodeo off. My co-workers found the concept of Rodeo Break to be hilarious and got years of mileage out of that one.

Anyway, I hadn't been since I was a kid so we thought we'd take the kids today for Opening Day (it runs all week). We had such an amazing and fantastic time. The kids loved seeing all the animals and competitions. Their favorite event was the steer wrestling. Our oldest daughter, the ultimate lover of animals, was very concerned about the well-being of the animals. She would stand up and shout, "Get the bull, cowboy, but please don't hurt him!" Our son declared it the best day ever and said he wants to be a rodeo cowboy when he grows up. Even our youngest, who is generally a holy terror everywhere we go, was mesmerized by the animals and was in her element being free to roam the rodeo grounds unrestrained. The people there are amazing. Friendly, welcoming, just really down to earth. There truly is not a more family friendly event anywhere.

Here are the kids right before we headed to the Rodeo grounds.
Our eldest daughter and myself, cowgirled-up.
Our youngest. I love this picture for a couple of reasons. First, the vest she is wearing is a vest my great-grandmother made for me when I was my daughter's age. It was part of an outfit. She would be thrilled to know that her great-great granddaughter wore this today. Secondly, when I was a kid my grandparents used to take me to see the cows that were down the road from their house. I would always go ask to see the "moo cows" and there are pictures of me around this age and a bit older standing at the fence like this or in my grandfather's arms looking at the cows. Watching my daughter today reminded me of this.

The vest.
Our kids are hard-core. They left the Rodeo all tatted up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Catch Up in Pictures

I haven't posted anything in a while primarily because I don't even know where to start. To say that our life has been insane, upside down, turned around, etc. would be an understatement. However, things are settling down again and I figured I'd do a partial catch up in pictures that I love (and yes, I am well aware that I am totally biased).

Before I had children, in fact before I was even married, I ran by own basketball program at a large high school in Phoenix. I loved coaching. It is a huge passion of mine. When I had our first child over six years ago I gave that up along with my teaching job. Over the past year or two I have really missed coaching. This year I went back to coaching girls Varsity basketball at one of our local high schools here. The administration was great in allowing me to bring my children to the practices (thankfully my husband was home in time to watch them for the games...that would have been difficult). My decision to do this made life exponentially more busy but it was a terrific experience and my kids had a great time. The girls were wonderful with my kids and I will never regret raising gym rats. My daughter especially looked up to the girls on the team and they were so awesome in including her in pre-game activities (I took my daughter with me to a couple of games). She was in hog-heaven.

Our youngest daughter, A, is a spirited child. Days have been hard with her. Recently, she literally almost died and it has made me re-evaluate how I respond to her. While the days are still long and hard sometimes, I am just so thankful that she is here with us knowing that a mere matter of seconds could have meant a difference in whether I would be burying a child this month. I love this girl to pieces!!!

Our son, E, has battled asthma and other lung issues since he was 8 months old. We've had a rough couple of months. Here he is in a compression vest, something we've become all too acquainted with recently. Poor guy has bacterial bronchitis and pneumonia as well as a nasty case of thrush due to all the inhaled steroids he is on to control his asthma. Kid is a mess, but one of the most good natured, cooperative kids you'll ever meet despite spending most of his young life in and out of doctor's offices and hospitals.

E fancies himself a cowboy. He wears his boots everywhere and thinks they are perfect for kicking up dust. Unfortunately for him, his mother doesn't like the fact that the dust causes him to cough. Even when he is pouting this kid just melts my heart.
Our older daughter, D, has joined two cheerleading teams. One is her school team and the second is a team through Parks and Rec. She LOVES it. The Parks and Rec team had to vote on a team name and the name my daughter suggested, The Sparkles, won. She is beyond excited. I was a college basketball player so anyone who knows me finds it hilarious that my daughter is a cheerleader. However, she loves it and that is all that matters. (On a side note, since she spent the basketball season with me in the gym she is actually pretty impressive with a basketball so there still may be hope).
This picture seriously just melts my heart. I've found myself looking at it repeatedly. I just want to freeze them in this moment in time. I hope they are always this close and that he is always this protective of his sisters.
My serious little baby!