Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dear Little One


Dear Little One,

We’re 1/3 of the way to meeting you! I never imagined that you’d be in our life a year ago. You are the best surprise I’ve ever received. I’ve always dreamed of being a mom, and now that I am, it’s even better than I could have imagined. And I haven’t even got to see your sweet face yet! I don’t know who you’ll look like, what your personality will be, or what your future holds. Pondering these things fill me with utter joy, yet terrify me at the same time! 

I’ll tell you this a million times through your life, but you’ve brought immense joy to so many people already. People who haven’t seen your face love you more than you’ll ever know. You have an extra special guardian angel in your Great-Grandma Jackie. God gave you to us when He did just so your daddy and I could have our one last special moment with her. In the weeks after her death, you brought such joy to our family. You gave us proof that even in death, life still goes on. Beyond our family, other friends were overjoyed to know about you. You were the good news they were longing to hear. 

I tell you this so you know how deeply happy you’ve made us and how much we all love you. 

Your daddy has a new light in his eyes. It makes me so happy when he hugs my tummy, which is slowly starting to grow out. He helps me so much when I’m feeling tired and worn out. (I love you, but you seriously exhaust me, kiddo!) He’s patient with me when I’m emotional. He does all of this and more, because he loves us so very much. You’ve given him a new sense of purpose, just as you have with me. 

We’re excited to have this Christmas season to rest and see our family, but we can’t help but grow in excitement for next Christmas! We can’t wait to celebrate your first Christmas and truly start our own family traditions with you. Even if you’ll be little, we can’t wait! 

For all the good things I think about, I worry a lot too. I think about the bad what-ifs. I think about the world you’ll grow up in and wonder what challenges you’ll have to face that your daddy and I didn’t have to worry about. I worry about if you’ll have good friends, if you’ll make good choices, if something bad will happen. I can’t stay there long because it takes away my joy. And it’s silly to worry about things so far in the future that I really cannot control. Then I worry about when you will be an adult and have your own life and if you’ll still need me like you do now. I think about how your Nana always told me that I’ll never quit worrying about you, because she still worries about me, Aunt Gina, and Aunt Emily. I know your DiDi worries about your dad and Aunt Lizzie, too. It’s a mom thing, I guess.

I think about all the people you won’t get to meet, and I get sad that you’ll never get to bake with Grandma Hladik, eat Mimi’s kolaches or chicken noodle soup, hear Grandpa Hladik, Grandpa Rudy, Papaw, or Grandpa Coulter tell you their old stories. You won’t get to have dessert with Mamaw or Grandma Jackie. You won’t get to fall asleep on Uncle Joe’s lap, or hear Aunt Carol’s melodious laugh. You won’t get to have fun aunt times with Aunt Michelle. 

As I think about this, I hope that your soul is with them right now and you’ll know of their deep love for you, too. I hope that when we get to meet you, you’ll come to us full of their love. 

Of course I pray that you’ll be healthy and strong when you are born. I pray that God will always protect you from harm. I pray that you’ll always stay close to God and grow to have a deep relationship with Him that will be passed to generations beyond me. I pray that you’ll continue to bring joy to the world, that you’ll make the world a better place, that you’ll care deeply for all who come to you, that you’ll stand firm in your convictions, that you’ll work to end injustice and bias that exists in the world. I pray that you’ll be the best parts of your daddy and me. I pray that we’ll have the courage to let you grow up to be the person God has created you to be, not the person others tell you to be. Most of all, I pray that you know how deeply, unconditionally, irrevocably you are loved by not only your family and our friends, but most of all by God himself. 

I love you so much more than you’ll ever know. 

Love, 
Mommy

Monday, December 10, 2018

First Trimester

I left off on my pregnancy journey right before my first OB appointment.

The appointment was my 8-week checkup to verify that I am, indeed, pregnant and don't have some other bizarre medical malady that would make me think otherwise. My OB is a lovely Irish Catholic man, who (I believe) is a great fit for our family. He is kind, funny, and very informative. He is also a devoted family man, which means that he knows how pregnancy works, both as a medical professional and as a father.

We didn't get any earth-shattering news at the first appointment. He mostly checked to make sure I was taking my vitamins and to see if I had any huge questions that I needed him to answer. I had a terrible allergy attack the weekend prior to that (more on that in a moment) and I was unsure of what I could and couldn't take, so I asked him and ended up receiving a list of all medicine I am allowed to take right now. It is a short list, so I try to avoid taking anything extra if at all possible. At the end of my appointment, I had my first sonogram. Thomas was able to be there, so we both got to see our baby for the first time and hear its heartbeat. To us, it was a mind-blowing, earth-shattering, life-altering moment that brought us both to tears. To the ultrasound tech, it was just another day in the office. It felt like he rushed us a little, and didn't totally give us lots of information beyond our "complimentary" picture. It was fine, but ever so slightly disappointing. After the ultrasound, I had to have blood drawn, which was not unpleasant, but definitely not enjoyable to me. So it goes.

As far as my symptoms go, I have had an okay pregnancy so far. Many of the women in my life who are also mothers have vouched for almost all of them, but it always feels a little jarring to experience some of them when you're used to being an otherwise healthy person.

Of course there has been a little nausea, but never what I would describe as morning sickness. My nausea mostly manifested itself as dry heaving, which was loads of fun (sarcasm implied). I haven't had many food aversions, thankfully. My nausea was likely at peak during the aforementioned allergy attack. Otherwise, the nausea just was shown by feeling a little iffy when I didn't eat breakfast soon enough.

What I've lacked in nausea, I've MORE than made up for in mood swings and fatigue. I like to think of myself as a pretty "together" person who is more patient than most. NOT anymore. I can go from feeling mellow, to slightly agitated, to totally pissed off, to being a weepy basketcase within a 10-minute timespan given the right circumstances. My tolerance for any excess nonsense or ridiculousness is at subzero levels most days. Some of this is okay, as most would say I put up with too much. I don't like it because I try to be as kind as possible. I don't want anyone to think I'm a mean, spiteful person, because I'm not! Thankfully, everyone in my life has extended me much grace in that matter. I've had to be careful with certain things, often unlikely suspects, that make me suddenly burst into tears. Certain songs on the radio that remind me of people I love will make me cry. Random commercials make me cry. Everything makes me cry. I watched the re-broadcast of President Bush's funeral the other night and burst into tears multiple times, especially during his son's eulogy. No regrets, but I cried more than the average person probably did when watching it.

When I'm not an emotional wreck, which isn't too often, I'm excessively tired. I used to be a night owl; now I do okay to make it to 10 PM without crashing. At the beginning of pregnancy, I would come home, eat dinner, crash on the couch between 6 and 7, sleep until 9-10, wake up, get ready for bed, then sleep another 7-8 hours. It was a lot, even for me who loves a good nap and most things sleep-related. I received some relief in the week after my first OB appointment. It turns out that my bloodwork came back showing sluggish thyroid levels. The sweet nurse explained that that was the likely cause for my excess fatigue. I was put on thyroid meds. It took awhile for me to notice, but I'm slowly regaining energy! Taking the medicine has been an adjustment. I've never had to take any medicine except for when I was sick, so it's taken some effort for me to make the necessary adjustments. My medicine has to be taken on an empty stomach (aka first thing in the morning), then you have to wait another hour before eating. You also need to have a 4-hour gap between taking the medicine and taking antacids or iron/calcium supplements (aka my prenatal vitamin). The biggest challenge is taking my medicine early enough that I can still be able to eat anything for breakfast before leaving for work. My new normal is having an alarm that goes off every single day around 6-6:30 AM. I hate it (and Thomas probably does, too, on the weekends), but if it means that I have more energy and be healthier overall, I'll do whatever it takes.

I have gained some weight, but thankfully not a lot as of yet. I only say that because I am not planning on telling any of my students until after Christmas break, which is in about 2 weeks. I can get away with not telling them as long as there's no noticeable weight gain. Cardigans have been my best friend in masking the small weight gain I've had thus far. When we return from break, I'll let my students in on everything, but not just yet. They're notorious for fixating on insignificant details (somewhat due to their diagnoses), so I'm just planning on making it easier for everyone and waiting.

I have told some of my coworkers. I haven't told many, if only because I don't usually see them during the day. Our building is large and we are all spread out. My classroom is tucked away from most foot traffic, thus few people know. I also don't go down to have lunch with other teachers. They usually tend to nag and gripe about school stuff, and they sit close to students. I don't need any extra negativity in my life, so I avoid it. I'm also not energetic enough to go downstairs for that, so I stay in my room. It sounds depressing, but it is actually the perfect amount of time for me to mentally recharge before my afternoon classes.

I have also told Tonisha and almost all of my other close friends. Tonisha found out almost as soon as I got off the phone when I told the rest of my family. I've sporadically called, texted, or messaged almost everyone else. Thanksgiving gave me a good opportunity for that. We told the remainder of Thomas' family right before Thanksgiving. It's a been a flurry of well wishes and joy. It's baffled me just how much joy this little baby has brought to the lives of so many people. I can only hope and pray that he or she will continue to bring joy to the world as they grow older!

One thing some people might have realized is that I'm talking all about my pregnancy here on the blog, but I've yet to post anything on Instagram or Facebook. That has been completely on purpose. Thomas and I decided that we aren't going to post anything on either platform until after the baby is born. I have no reason to believe that anything will go wrong, but I also just don't want to open the news up to that many people. People can be such thieves of joy, and I'd like to ford that off for as long as possible.  Maybe it's selfish of us, but I think it's all for the best. So far, people have been very understanding and supportive of our choice. So, why am I posting here on the blog on not on social media? I have a fairly small following on my blog. Most of the people who know me and read it are likely people I'm comfortable with knowing. Maybe it's contradictory, but it's our decision nonetheless. Also, I've been avoiding Facebook even more these days. It's full of negativity and trash that just aren't good for my mental health, so I've been staying away. I have connections to too many people to just outright delete it, but I try to limit my time on there to once per week.

I've had one more OB appointment since my first, when my doctor went over some of my bloodwork and options for genetic testing that exist. I'll go again this week. Fingers crossed that I'll get another sonogram and get to see my baby again!


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

October (part 2)

I left off with telling my parents about our exciting news.

It turns out that the night we wanted to call them, they got even more exciting news. Gina's middle son, Andrew, was nominated as the 4th grade carnival candidate. Pioneer people understand the excitement of this, I'm sure. The carnival happened to be that night, and in great news, Andy's class won! My parents were pretty excited about that when we finally had time to call them. It made for an easy lead-in to our news, with which they were utterly overjoyed! We were all equally emotional during that conversation, but I was right. Talking to my mom made everything better because I knew that she knew everything I could immediately need to know about being pregnant. I also had to stop looking stuff up online by that point. Everything was super contradictory and confusing for someone who was emotionally vulnerable and unsure. (I.E. Am I taking enough folic acid? Is my prenatal vitamin sufficient? What foods should I eat or avoid? What OTC medicines can I still take? What symptoms should I be feeling? If I do/don't feel certain symptoms am I more prone to miscarriage?) After a frantic text to my super pregnant co-worker Shedonna (who knew just because I couldn't contain myself and needed someone at work to know), she told me to promptly step away from any mommy blogs or online forums. Just wait til my OB appointment and ask him for sure, which is what I have done ever since (besides consulting my mom), and I've been much happier.

Steve and Diana made it home from Spain that Friday afternoon. I was equal parts ready and not ready to see them. I missed them terribly and felt better with them at home, but was scared how they'd react to our big news given the past week. (Thomas and I opted to tell them immediately in case something happened. Also so I didn't have to keep coming up with excuses about not having wine at family dinners or excusing myself if I didn't feel well.) The night they returned, Ross and Juliette invited us all over for dinner. We didn't have time or find it appropriate to share our news before dinner, so we waited until we got back "home". Thomas and I still had to pack up our belongings from the past week of staying there before we could go home (for real).

When we told Thomas' parents, they were jet-lagged, having been awake for upwards of 23 hours at that point, and emotionally drained. Their grief hit them more intensely upon arriving back in DFW. (Understandably so.) There was a natural segue to this conversation, so Thomas led the way. Their initial reactions were ones of shock that quickly gave way to excitement. They weren't expecting the news, but were overjoyed. Steve marveled at the timing of it all, as expected. He's a master of finding the poetic nature of life, which is one of the reasons I adore the man.

We were chugging through the next week as we waited for Jackie's funeral, which was almost 2 weeks after she died, on a Saturday. Elizabeth was able to fly home from Spain that Thursday night, which ended being a double blessing. You see, the day before she got home, Elizabeth received word that one of her dear friends committed suicide. My in-laws were close with the family, so it shook them pretty hard when they were already grieving one major death. Furthermore, Elizabeth's 21st birthday was also the same day as the funeral. It was one thing after another for everyone, but we pulled together.

Thomas and I had a good opportunity to tell our news to Elizabeth that Thursday night. Yet again, she was jet-lagged and emotionally weak. That didn't stop her from receiving our news well, thankfully! To the contrary, she was overjoyed to know that in the midst of all of her pain and sorrow, there was still a shred of goodness left in the world. I think she has embraced her future of being an aunt/godmother quite well! I'm so excited to see her take on this new role--she'll be a natural!

The next day (a Friday) was Jackie's visitation service at the funeral home. My mom and sisters ended up being able to make the trip down to be there with us all. It was so good to see them, but it was an added challenge because my sisters didn't know yet. I really wanted to tell them then, but I also wanted to be able to tell my nephews and brothers-in-law along with them, so I waited. I finally got the big hug from my mom that I had been needing all along. We snuck sidebar conversations about my pregnancy when and where we could! My mom was also excited to congratulate Steve, Diana, and Elizabeth, especially since it was their first go at everything. Granted, she had to be furtive about these conversations, but I think it made her enjoy it all the better! The visitation was nice because it wasn't structured. Friends and family members were able to come and go, chatting with whomever they wanted for however long they could. It was nice and comforting. Emotions were high, but it was okay.

On Saturday (aka the funeral/Elizabeth's birthday), it was a slightly different story. Thomas, who had been coping like a champ for the last two weeks, wasn't feeling it as much that day. I think the thought of parenthood had been a good escape for him, but being faced with the finality of the situation caused those emotions to finally surface. It was probably a good thing, all in all. Jackie's funeral was beautiful. It was held at the funeral home and officiated by a cousin who is a preacher. (That side of the family isn't Catholic.) Ross and Elizabeth gave beautiful, moving eulogies. Thomas and Michaela read a couple of Scripture passages. The whole DFW area had been soaked with rain the entire week prior to the funeral, so they weren't able to do a graveside service that day, per cemetery regulations. Thus, afterwards, there was a nice reception at the funeral home, followed by a dinner at a restaurant for all of the immediate family, plus Mom and my sisters. It was a nice way to unwind after the stress of the last few weeks. We also got to turn to celebration mode for Elizabeth!

Our Sunday was pretty unstructured, which meant that Thomas and I could take time and show Mom and my sisters around a few places in town. This included our church, my school, and a couple of other places. We had a blast together, as usual. By the end of their trip, Mom and Gina decided they felt fairly confident navigating around our area, which made me feel better. Seeing them leave that afternoon was tough, but made a little easier by the fact that Thomas and I had previously planned to visit the next weekend, so that was fine. Also, we knew that we could tell my sisters then.

Yes, our plan was to tell my sisters, brothers-in-law, and nephews when we arrived in OK. If you know anything from the rest of this story, you could probably infer that we didn't do that. We told them a few days sooner! I was really chomping at the bit to tell at least my sisters, as it killed me not being able to text them and ask about various symptoms. Jakub's birthday was that week, so that was the perfect time to video chat and let everyone else know. I started by telling Jake that his birthday present wouldn't arrive until June. He was disappointed, but otherwise ambivalent. Then Andy piped in and tried to guess what the gift was. I prompted him to count how many months there were until June--9 months, including October. I realized then that the boys didn't quite get the significance of 9 months, but Gina sure did! Everyone was overjoyed! Emily put all the pieces together from her weekend in Dallas, and said she had her suspicions all along. (Who would've thought that me not having alcoholic beverages for a few nights would've been that much of a giveaway...)

My first OB appointment wasn't until the beginning of November, so I'll have to make a separate post to sum up that and the rest of my first trimester...and November on the whole! I can't believe it's almost gone and it's almost December! Time is REALLY going to fly now!

Friday, November 23, 2018

October (part 1)

I’m not really sure how to start this post, but it has to start somewhere, so I guess I’ll start with the beginning of October. The entire month was a blur, so I’m doing my best to remember everything. 

The first thing that happened was that Steve and Diana had a weeklong trip planned to Spain to visit Elizabeth. This meant that Thomas and I were left to dog and house sitting for them. This happened to coincide with homecoming week at school, which was a flurry of chaos all it’s own. All in all I had a blast with the dress-up days, usually making it my goal to not wear anything I’d usually wear to school on a typical day. (I think that’s every teacher’s goal for dress-up days, just saying.) We we’re planning on ending the week with a trip out to Quitman to check on bees. Also, my parents were joining us. Good times were on tap! 

Getting things packed to housesit and to go out to Quitman was not an easy task, but we were fairly successful. My Friday at school was the first time I’ve ever been a part of homecoming in Texas. Not going to lie, I think it gets a little blown out of proportion. I mean, girls were wearing mums that were bigger than they were. Guys wore mini-mums (aka garters) that were a little more appropriately sized. The week was full of guys theatrically asking girls to the dance in displays that I would expect from a marriage proposal. (Aside: what happened to guys just manning up and asking a girl to go to the dance with them like a normal human being? Not everything needs a “proposal”...yes, I’m super cynical about this; not sorry.) 

We had super short classes that day, and also had a long picnic outside, followed by an epic glow-in-the-dark pep rally that both were pretty great. Somewhere in there I got my flu shot, because that’s what you do in October when the company comes directly to your workplace and files with insurance. I was beyond tired at the end of the school day, so I came back to Thomas’ parents’ house (hereinafter referred to as “home” for simplicity’s sake) and napped on the couch before it was time to head out to Quitman. 

Soon enough we hit the road, excited by the fact that my parents were already there waiting for us! We had a great dinner that night of pizza and salad, followed by me passing out on the couch from exhaustion. We really had almost nothing planned for the weekend, aside from just enjoying carefree time with my parents. Thomas, me, and my dad were all off work on Monday, so it was slated to be an extra long, carefree weekend! 

It really was, too! Saturday’s only happening was going to Mass and dinner at a catfish place on one of the nearby lakes. The food was almost all fried and completely delicious. Sunday we planned on having a mini-Oktoberfest, complete with bratwurst, sauerkraut, and homemade soft pretzels a là Thomas. Before that, Dad helped Thomas make some small, but important, adjustments on Steve’s tractor. I think Dad secretly enjoyed working on a tractor even when he was away from home. He was probably just not sure what to do not having his massive tool selection that he’s used to having at home, but they made do. Mom and I later ventured into town to get a few things from the grocery store. 

Thomas was about to go start the grill when he noticed a missed call from his uncle Ross. He called Ross back, briefly finding out that he needed to get in touch with Diana (his sister) who was (obviously) in Spain. (Another aside: Steve, who works for AT&T and masterminds the family cell phone plan opted for himself and Elizabeth, who was going to be in Europe for 4 months, to have international phone plans. Diana opted not to have one, relying solely on WiFi and Steve.) Spain was 7 hours ahead of our time. And Ross called around 5 PM. Some simple math could tell you that getting ahold of Diana was likely a big challenge for Ross, hence why he contacted Thomas and apparently Elizabeth, too. Some time later we found out that something happened to their mother Jackie at dinner that night. She was at her assisted living and had started gurgling while eating. She was rushed to the ER, and Ross had some important things to discuss/relay to Diana. Also recall that Jackie is 84 and has degenerative Parkinson’s. We didn’t think much of it until Steve called Thomas back some time later telling him that we should strongly consider going back to Dallas that night, as Jackie’s prognosis was grim. 

It was on the verge of pouring rain, Thomas ran out of lighter fluid, and my parents were insistent that we go home so Thomas could be with family. All of this to say that our weekend with my parents was cut short by a day. We packed the house up in record time; also, Zoe’s typical whining was almost nonexistent. It was an odd evening. My parents opted to just drive back to the farm that night, promising me they’d stop when/if they were too sleepy to drive. We hurried back to Dallas about as much as one conceivably could when they’re 2 hours away, with a dog and an ice chest of food in tow. 

We finally made it to the hospital around 9 PM. Ross, Juliette, and their 2 younger children, Michaela and William, were circled around Jackie’s bed, visibly shaken and upset. Jackie rested quietly in bed, as doctors came in and discussed their treatment plan. This plan included a slow IV drip of fluids, so as to reduce her dehydration but not induce the risk of pneumonia or some secondary illness. Her vitals were weak, but still steady. We really thought the ER doctor was hasty in diagnosing her, but we weren’t sure. Around 11 or so, Thomas and I went “home” trying to get some rest after the whirlwind day we’d had. 

The next morning, I wasn’t feeling great. I really hadn’t been feeling great all weekend, but had chalked most of my symptoms up to effects of my flu shot. By Monday morning a few of my symptoms didn’t seem plausible for flu shot effects. I dug a little deeper, did some checking and finally figured it all out—I was pregnant. 

(No, this isn’t how I wanted to announce this, but it isn’t the same out of context, so there.) 

I was so incredibly happy that Thomas was with me that day, as I had a lot of emotions to process. We scheduled our first OB appointment and just reveled in the fact that we are going to be parents! I think we experienced every emotion possible that morning, but were ecstatic nonetheless. We were surprised by the news, but not totally in hindsight. 

We had spent so much time thinking about our news that we were quickly brought back to reality by a frantic text from Steve, directing us to get to the hospital ASAP. Jackie was rapidly declining. We felt like we were keeping a huge secret from the world going among Thomas’ family, knowing our news, and not telling anyone. My pregnancy emotions definitely showed up that day, as I cried more than I thought possible. Thankfully everyone was emotional, so it wasn’t too off base. 

During our afternoon there, Ross had one of their pastors come by to pray over Jackie. By a miracle made possible by God himself, Steve happened to FaceTime in with Diana and Elizabeth just as we started the prayer service. Each of them took a turn saying their tearful goodbyes. It was then that I realized our baby wouldn’t have the chance to meet his or her great-grandmother. That’s when I really broke down and had to excuse myself for a moment. Thomas and I made a resolution to tell Jackie before we left that day, even if she was in a morphine-induced coma. 

A few hours later, Jackie really wasn’t doing much, so Ross told us that it was perfectly fine if we just went home and took care of things. He promised that he’d call us if anything changed or happened and that he wouldn’t leave her side. Thomas and I asked for some privacy with her, which was when we shared our happy news. We took it on faith that she heard us, understood, and smiled a big smile deep within. We felt a deep sense of comfort and relief as we left, knowing that his grandma could take this happy news with her to the gates of Heaven. 

We did a few things, ate some dinner, and were sitting on the couch when Thomas’ phone rang. He shot up, paced around, and I knew by his reaction what happened. Jackie passed away peacefully that night, surrounded by Ross and Juliette and holding their hands as she breathed her last. The day was full of poetic contrasts. Even more so than Sunday, we really had a whirlwind day that Monday. We were nowhere close to being ready to go back to work the next day, but we had to be. 

Thankfully the next few days passed uneventfully. Diana briefly got an international plan to make it easier for her to talk to Ross about funeral plans for their mother. Steve and Diana opted to stay on their trip for the duration, as changing their flight back to DFW would’ve been too difficult and costly at that point. 

We started thinking about when and how to tell everyone in our lives about our big news. Jackie’s death put a little bit of a tangle in our plans, as we didn’t want to appear insensitive or as though we were trying to steal the spotlight. Also, we knew everyone was deeply grieving, so we didn’t want to get in the way of that. Meanwhile, two of my pregnancy symptoms quickly came to light, extreme fatigue and rapid mood swings. I came “home” from each day of school, practically collapsing on the couch. I really wanted to wait to tell my parents until the end of the month, but that changed after one night when I literally broke down bawling at the hands of a can opener that didn’t properly open a can of beans. It ended with me dramatically collapsing on the couch in a heap of tears, wailing out how I needed my mom, or Thomas’ mom, or almost any mom, but really just my mom. I needed to hear her tell me I could do this, that it’s okay to be an emotional wreck, that she loved me and was happy for me. I needed her hug and encouraging voice. We didn’t call my parents that night, because I really wanted to collect myself a little more than that when I told them the news. Also, I really thought I could soldier through and make it til we’d see them next. I was wrong—I called the next night and felt a million times better after doing so.

(To be continued...)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Best of August/September 2018

(Side note: I thought I published this like a month ago, but I guess I didn't. Ooops. Oh well...)

Hey there! I'm back to tell you all about the last month or so of my life! Yes, school has started, hence my lack of posts.

My school journey started on August 1, when I reported for new faculty inservice. This was the last part of what the school had promised me when they hired me back in February. You see, since we primarily serve students who have learning differences (like dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, or ADHD) they want to give us a better idea of what those students need. The first day of inservice included a short simulation of learning differences and how they manifest themselves. It was eye-opening and left me with a deep sense of empathy for my students and for Thomas, who has multiple learning differences himself (dyslexia, ADHD, and slower processing speed). From that point on, much of the information they presented wasn't quite as applicable to me if only because I had taught here for long enough to have an understanding of how everything works. I was happy that they recognized that I didn't necessarily need that portion of the training, and they let me work on my classroom instead. The following Monday was when the rest of the teaching staff returned to campus. We spent 2 more weeks in various training seminars, before we all ended up feeling a little stir crazy and ready to just get started already. I was beyond happy to be reunited with my teacher friends, especially my fellow department member, Shedonna! She has become a huge light to me since I was hired, and I treasure her friendship deeply. In exciting news, she is expecting twins (one boy, one girl) towards the end of this semester. I'm excited for her and her husband, but also sad that I won't get to see her daily for a while.

In between meetings, our weekends were full of activity. The first weekend of inservice included a small get-together among Diana's family in which we celebrated the July-August birthdays for McKenna, Jackie, and Steve. We also had a chance to have dinner with Jay, who was in Dallas for meetings, along with Jan, Bob, and Jean. It's always great to catch up with family!

The next week brought lots of change and excitement in my household! It's been difficult to keep this under wraps (not pregnant, spoiler alert), but I can finally mention this. Thomas has been in the market for a new (or gently used) vehicle since January. To say that he has been researching his options and planning for this would be a huge understatement. This had consumed his idle energy for the better part of the year, but we had to wait until we were financially "ready" to take this on. (You're never ready, FYI.) Well, after having looked extensively on a couple of dealerships' websites, he finally found something he was interested in. He brought it up, and asked if I'd mind driving to the dealership and just looking at it. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do at the moment (because school was 2 weeks away and my epic to-do list returned), but I obliged. Of course, driving down there and "just looking" turned into a test drive, which turned into him getting super attached. (I liked it too, for whatever it was worth!) Had it not been 30 minutes before the dealership closed for the night, we probably would have bought it then and there.

We got home from the dealership and officially decided we wanted to buy it, which prompted Thomas being the most antsy I'd seen him since the days leading up to our wedding. The next morning he called the salesman first thing and claimed it for us, which was good because he had supposedly received another call indicating some interest in it. It was a Friday, so I got out of meetings and back home as quick as I could so I could pack (because, of course, we had a trip to OK planned for that weekend, too). Thomas picked me up and we made our way down to the dealership, which was a solid 30 minutes away in the rush hour traffic. To spare you any more details, we bought the pickup that night--a bright red used Chevy Silverado.


No sooner did we sign our lives away in the financing room, we hit the road for OK. Because of our purchase, we left around 7:30 or 8, when we usually leave around 5 or 6. Thus, we had to make a pitstop at Whataburger so we weren't totally starving! (Aside: I think that is how we unofficially celebrate big moments in our lives, so I guess we really are Texans!) My family members who were still awake upon our late arrival (a little after 12:30 AM) were excited to see the pickup! The rest of the weekend was slow and relaxed. One highlight was making a trip over to Stillwater to get some OSU gear for my classroom and Thomas' pickup. Mom and Dad joined us, which was great. While in Stilly, we were able to stop in and see Sharon at her store. As I may have once mentioned, Sharon was a secondary mother to all of us at St. John's. She coordinated all of the Sunday night dinners, and she is an altogether lovely person! The remainder of the weekend was pretty low-key, besides Thomas showing off his new wheels to everyone on the compound and taking people on rides.

Pretty sure we celebrate all major milestones with Whataburger, because Texas, I guess.
Also, that's about the only time we go there..
While I'm in the vein of OK, my nephews have all been back in school for about a month. Cody and Wyatt are repping the family in the junior high. Wyatt is ecstatic to be gone from the grade school. I think he had outgrown it. Then again, most 7th graders feel that way, right? Kyle is big man on the grade school campus as a 6th grader. Andy is a 4th grader, Cole is in 1st grade, and Jakub is in pre-K. How wild to think that all 6 boys are in school. Even more wild to think about all of them riding the bus together in the evening! The driver probably thinks they're more of a small mob than anything!

Jakub and Cole

Be still my heart, love these selfies!

With Uncle Thomas
As for Thomas' old car, we ended up selling it to Thomas' aunt and uncle, who gave it their daughter, who's starting her junior year of high school. She's ecstatic to finally have a car after months of having to borrow one of her parents' or carpool. It was a great deal for us and them!

Michaela & Thomas
The weekend following our OK trip was exciting for the Lieses, as Steve officially began his new beekeeping hobby. He spent his birthday picking up his 6 hives of bees at the beekeeping supply store and transporting them to the farm. Thomas offered his assistance at one point, but Steve didn't think he'd need it. It turns out he was wrong, as wrangling the hives was more effort than he bargained for, especially in the oppressive Texas humidity. He incurred a few stings, but informed us that those are much less painful than wasp stings, to which he is much more prone. Thomas, Elizabeth, and I made a trip out there later in the weekend to see the progress. (Also, Thomas was antsy to help and learn more.)

It turns out that the bees are relatively low-maintenance, besides the fact that they're trying to get established to the area. Since it's later in the season, there isn't much nectar or pollen readily available. This has led to them having to be fed to compensate for that. I have learned about 2 ways the bees are fed: sugar water and pollen patties, that can be placed in the individual hives. The sugar water is the more necessary aspect, and Steve has quickly learned how to streamline that process. The feeders are nothing more than 5-gallon buckets with small holes drilled near the rim that allow the water to drip into the little rim at the top. The buckets (which are covered with food-grade lids) are sat upside down atop some cinder blocks. Think of it as a small-scale water trough for bees. The feeding process is relatively simple, all things considered. They have acquired 4 large turkey fryer pots that they use to heat the water atop a burner. Once the water is warm, they add sugar. Since they're working to establish the hives, the sugar concentration is much higher than it typically would be. All of these efforts are necessary so the hives will establish their winter honey supply, which they need to sustain themselves. Steve is hoping that they'll be able to back off on the sugar-water relatively soon, but that remains to be seen. (He currently buys sugar in bulk at Sam's and uses it in 25-pound increments.)

They inadvertently matched. Of course we had to take a photo...

One of the hives!
In other news, of course, school has started for me. All in all, it is much easier to start a school year from day one than in the middle of the year. I appreciate having students who are fully "mine", even if they come with their own set of challenges. It is a welcome relief to have started my year out on a good foot. After the first week, a husband and wife who both teach here hosted a small get-together mixer for the high school staff. It was great to relax a little after our first week back. In exciting news, Thomas was able to join us, which opened the door for him getting to meet many of my coworkers. We also went to one of the football games a couple of weeks ago, and it was great for him to be able to meet some more of my co-workers. Now, he has met a good portion of them, and it makes it easier for me to explain goings-on at work, if only because he has a little more context.

First day of 2018-19!
I think I vaguely mentioned this at one point (?), but if I haven't, here's some news: Thomas' sister, Elizabeth, is spending this semester studying abroad in Spain. Thus far, she's been able to make trips to London and Portugal. She started classes last week and seems to be doing well. She has sent lots of update emails to regale her travel stories. I think she has a Switzerland trip planned relatively soon, as well as Germany. Steve and Diana will also be traveling to visit her in the next month, which they're all excited for.

Labor Day was nice, although very low-key. Thomas and I had dogsitting duties, while Steve and Diana were away on a dove hunting trip. (Well, Steve dove hunted, that is.) Since they were out of town, we also had bee feeding duties. It was the most quiet Labor Day we've had in a long time. Granted, it's bound to be quiet when it's just two people and a 14-year-old dog on a 25-acre farm in east Texas. Highlights of the weekend included dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant, unseasonably cool weather, and Thomas feeding the bees. He also did some maintenance on one of the trails out there. I accomplished lots of lesson planning--joy. I also used that time to catch up on writing letters to some of my friends. It was nice to have a quiet weekend to recharge.

Thomas was starting the feeding process

Sugar water cooling

Thomas replenishing feeders near the hives.
I was terrified since he wasn't wearing a beesuit, but he was just fine. 

I got bored waiting for him to move buckets. In case you forgot what I looked like, too. 

Enjoying Steve's utility tractor!
Since then, we haven't done much. We visited our friends Ryan and Hadley and watched the OSU game with them. Thomas' cousin William was confirmed, so we attended that service and a luncheon afterwards. My women's group has gotten big enough that we have decided to split into two groups, one meeting on Mondays and the other on Tuesdays. As it turns out, I haven't meetings consistently since maybe May or June. I've slacked a lot, but I think that moving it to Tuesdays will be helpful to me. Since we spend so many weekends out of town or otherwise occupied, I'm usually wiped out come Monday night. Also, the meetings started a little later than what worked for me, so I often sat out in the name of hopefully having an earlier night. I think the move to Tuesdays (at a slightly earlier time) will work nicely for most everyone in our portion of the group. A trip to OK is in the works for us later this week, as well as an inservice day. (Not sure what we could need to inservice on after 2.5 weeks of that, but we'll see!)

Have a great day everyone--thanks for reading!

PS: I have lots more to update since this post was a month late...all in due time!

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Dream Come True

Take a gander at this picture. At first glance it likely doesn't look as though there's anything off about it, right? Just looks like a tractor in a yard somewhere on a farm, right? Well, mostly, yes, you are right. You see, this picture was taken on a momentous day for my family. This was the first time Cody was able to work in Dad's field on the tractor. This was a day he has dreamed of for a long time. I was happy to be in Oklahoma at the time, so I could take part in witnessing this big day.


From the time he was a baby, Cody has always had an innate desire to be a farmer and work with his hands. I remember him being a baby and being contented by holding actual tools, not plastic pretend tools. He was always tinkering around and "fixing" things. When he was old enough, he loved riding with my dad or Scotty in tractors, combines, or any piece of farm equipment anyone would let him ride on/in. 

As a small child, Cody obsessively tracked the whereabouts of the farm implements, often giving my dad the third degree as to why he moved something around in the yard while he was gone to daycare or school. He was always close at hand when Dad fixed anything, happily learning how to operate the air compressor, how to check tire pressure, how to operate the grease gun, greasing implements so my dad could go in the field. As he grew older, he learned how to check oil, how to refuel the implements (with lots of help/supervision), how to cut the twine on haybales, how to feed cattle, how to operate the bale stingers on the feeding pickups. Then he learned how to drive the feeding pickups through the pasture, he learned how to operate my dad's old white pickup (the one with the standard transmission that was the bane of my sisters and my existence), and he got small lessons on how to drive the tractors from the house to pasture, to help my dad move machinery around. 







Now, this small child is a young man. He's on the cusp of 14 years old, and is well over 6 foot tall. He is strong and able-bodied. He is half-grown. While he is still a teenager at heart, he possesses a maturity that few of his peers can match. He is an old soul, yearning to be an adult, but still hanging on to the fun, carefree times of his youth. He reminds me so much of Scotty, his dad, with his playful spirit matched by his dutiful, helpful nature. 

*****

For those of you who didn't have the privilege of growing up on a farm, I should stop and explain a little piece of how farm life works, especially in the life of a young person. There is always work to be done, whether it's in the field, feeding livestock, maintaining equipment or work buildings, so on and so on. It is a wheel that constantly turns. Getting backlogged in work can be costly and inefficient. If something isn't ready by a certain point and the weather turns, you could have to wait days, if not weeks, to resume the work. In that time, market prices can change, availability of certain goods could be affected, or the work could simply become much more difficult than originally anticipated. All of these things can be costly and detrimental to any good operation, no matter how big or small it is. Since there is always work to be done, that means that it requires all hands on deck at all times to assist in this. Work doesn't discriminate among age or gender. As soon as you're old enough and mature enough to be of good use, you will be employed to help. Typical notions of waiting until you're of legal age go by the wayside (within reason), based more upon maturity and timing than anything. Everyone helps somehow, or nothing gets done, and that's simply not acceptable on a farm. That means that it's okay for children to help feed a herd of cattle. It's good for kids to have a working knowledge of tools and the machinery used, especially in case of an emergency that could disable the adults in the situation. Help can be direct (by helping in the midst of the operations) or indirect (by helping to make sure everyone is fed, well-hydrated, and that other necessary household chores get completed). No matter how it looks, everyone helps. Furthermore, nothing fun or relaxing can happen until you reach a certain point in the work, which can further incentivize helping with the work. Hopefully this will help you to understand the story I'm building up to a little better!
*****

One day, there was some field work that needed to be done. My dad made the suggestion that Cody do it. He's made the suggestion for a couple of years now, but it wasn't as easily dismissed this time. My mom and Emily (probably Scotty to a certain extent, also) were nervous at the idea, but everyone tentatively agreed. Cody was dispatched to the field to sit with Jeremy, who was making the opening rounds, to learn specifics. He spent the evening on the tractor, soaking it all in. It was decided that he'd make his solo run the next morning, finishing up what Jeremy had started. 

The morning came, and Cody came over, donning his Wranglers, work boots, ball cap, and blood institute t-shirt (my dad's unofficial farm work uniform) and was ready to begin. We talked for a while before his antsiness spilled over into a plea to go out and prep the tractor with my mom's help. Out they went, to refuel and check oil. My mom drove him out to the field to give him a better roadmap of where to go and to answer his last-minute questions. We peppered him with the battery of reminders..."Be confident, but have a healthy amount of fear/respect for the machinery," "Don't be in a hurry and make careless mistakes," "Watch what you're doing," "Don't be afraid to stop and call someone if you need help," "Take your time," "Don't turn too sharp," "Watch the fencelines," "Keep track of how long you're out there so you don't run out of fuel," "Keep an eye on the temperature gauges," so on and so on...until we got to the point that he finished our sentences for us, assuring us that he would be conscientious at all times and would consult when in doubt. Meanwhile, Emily checked in with Mom and me to ensure Cody's safety while not letting him know of her concerns (so he wouldn't get too nervous, I'm sure). 

Off he went to the field, making lazy circles in the terraces, doing his part to continue the cycle of farming that has taken places for years, becoming another generation to carry on the work of his ancestors. Before long, he completed the first field and took a short lunch break. 

After lunch, it was time for him to move to the next field. He was confident that he could start it, but equally happy when my mom offered to go out and help him open it up. It was good that she did, as the ground was a little tough at one point, and probably would've been a little more than he was equipped to handle on his own. (My dad may have gone out there to help at one point also, I can't quite remember.) Through the afternoon, he came in for fuel and to rest for a few moments. He didn't linger for too long though, as he likely wanted to return before someone else offered to take over. We just knew he wanted the "bragging rights" of being able to know he did the work all by himself. By late afternoon, Scotty and Emily came home from work and marveled at seeing their "little boy" living his dream. I could feel their pride (and residual nervousness) pouring from them, as well as my parents. Eventually, Cody was beckoned back to the house for the evening. The fieldwork would have to be finished the next day, which he was promised he could do. 

Everyone had a subdued sense of pride, awe, and sentimentality that day. We knew the next chapter had officially begun. We knew that Cody was fulfilling a goal he had since he was a little kid. It was a great day to be on the farm, and I'm glad I was able to witness it. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Rest of Our Summer

It seems like we were just setting out for our trip to Colorado after school was finished. Now, here we are, and school is right around the corner. Believe it or not, I've had plans of talking about our summer adventures for a solid month or so now, but time has escaped me as I was trying to soak up every last bit of summer. Now, I return for inservice next week, have a long list of to-dos that I should be doing, and I'm sitting down to write instead of focusing on any of those...go figure!

Upon our return from Colorado, we had about a day or so to unwind and unpack before we spent the following week at Steve and Diana's house dog/housesitting while they spent a week in Colorado. It was weird not staying at our apartment for about half the month of June. Nonetheless, it was also nice to be at their house, since it's just like home. As we settled into being back in town, I also picked up tutoring again. As easy as it was to do my tutoring work, it was also a little demoralizing to keep teaching after I had been on vacation for a week. I think the girls were also antsy to finish so they could get on with their summer also. When Steve, Diana, and Elizabeth returned from their trip later that week, we all regaled our travel stories to one another. It was nice to have everyone back together again.

Zoe is doing well, in case you were wondering.
She and I have bonded some after all these years!
Somewhere in there, Thomas and I made a quick overnight trip out to Quitman to check on everything out there and retreat from the city. Also, Thomas was antsy to see the tractor Steve bought to maintain the property. Thomas accompanied Steve when he bought it, but we were in Amarillo (at the start of our trip) when it was delivered. I have to admit that it's nice having a little piece of farm living out at Quitman. I've said it before, but it's still true: having Quitman makes me a little less homesick on the weekends we can't get up to Oklahoma. It's no replacement, but it's still nice. I'm also happy that our future children will get to experience those places (my parents' farm and Quitman) as they grow up, so they can have a better understanding/appreciation of the world and nature. I'm happy they'll be able to learn about raising wheat, cattle, and (soon) bees!

View from the great room at Quitman.
I never tire of this view!
Let's see, what else did we do?

We attended a Chris Stapleton and Eagles concert. That was pretty awesome, even if we had nosebleed tickets, I had horrendous blisters on my feet due to poor footwear choices (and a long walk to the stadium from our parking lot), and a loud drunken woman behind us who constantly professed her undying love for Don Henley! It was interesting at the concert, as Don Henley initially started off by inviting everyone to shut off their phones and enjoy the evening. I'm sure this was so they could ford off people recording it for copyright reasons, but it led me to make an interesting realization about society. You wouldn't believe the number of people surrounding us who spent the better part of the concert buried in their phones and/or on social media. It was a little frustrating to try to watch the concert in the dark arena while we saw the glow of cell phones surrounding us. Nonetheless, Thomas and I had an amazing night soaking in all of their amazing music. (Disclaimer: All the pictures I took at the concert were at the very beginning or the very end.)


Chris Stapleton--what talent!

What a great performance from the Eagles!
A few days after the concert, we were able to have our good friends Alex and Haley over for dinner. It's funny how life works. Haley and I first met back in the spring of 2014. I got in touch with her via a contact card she filled out after Ash Wednesday Mass at St. John's, stating that she'd be interested in joining a lenten bible study. It so happened that she was also an education major and one of the kindest people I'd met. She was one of the most faithful attendees of my bible study. Now, she and her (now) husband live about 20 minutes away from Thomas and me! What are the odds? I'm so grateful for friendships like these, especially since Thomas and Alex get along so well. It makes getting together such a treat, even if we don't get to do it very often. Haley and Alex got married a few weeks ago, but their wedding was in Missouri and the same weekend as another wedding we were invited to, so we decided that if we couldn't be at their wedding, we'd have them over for dinner! It was such a lovely evening full of laughs, great food, and lots of wine!

The following weekend was the annual women's group retreat with my church group. One of our group members, Eleanor, was gracious enough to offer up her family's ranch near Paris, TX, for the weekend. It was the perfect accommodation for all of us. The ranch was fairly extensive, I believe almost 1500 acres, and had lots of cattle and horses. We drove out that Friday evening and began our Saturday with a walk through the pasture. Thankfully we set out early, as it grew to be increasingly hot and humid from there. We had a few reflections (including one that I gave) before we spent some time in recreation. During our rec time, we drove around on their fleet of 4-wheelers, which was a lot more terrifying to me since my wreck. I remember having a 4-wheeler as a child and not being scared of it, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't feeling it that weekend. It was a really good thing that they also had a larger ATV (like my parents' Kubota RTV) that I could also ride on, as we planned on 4-wheeling out to the edge of their property that was along the Red River, where we swam. All of my farm kid instincts kicked in as we drove through the winding pastures to get to the river, as it entailed opening/closing a variety of gates. (I also had to explain gate code to my city-slicker friends...i.e. the passenger is always the one to open the gate, NEVER the driver.) We ended the retreat with attending Mass in nearby Paris, where the parishioners were baffled by the sudden influx of women! I think they all thought we were in some sort of a religious order, which would've been plausible had we not had two women in our group who were visibly pregnant! All in all, it was a great weekend of fellowship.

View from the back porch!

Obsessed with this beautiful wrap-around porch!

The "Eiffel Tower"
Meanwhile, Thomas was not having as much of a relaxing weekend. He made a quick trip up to OK to accomplish a few tasks. My parents just had a couple of steers from our herd slaughtered for our annual beef supply. Now that Thomas and I are married, they entitled us to half of one steer. They also gifted us with a belated wedding present of a deep freezer. Thomas also wanted to have the hide of one of the steers tanned. All of this together spelled out one big debacle for Thomas. After lots of planning and trying to find the most efficient route of accomplishing this, we settled on the following plan: Thomas would go to Oklahoma, leave his car there, borrow one of my parents' pickups for the week, and bring back the freezer, our beef, and the hide, which we would later take to a nearby tannery. To help him accomplish this feat, we opted to also borrow Cody. In a story that I'll likely hear about from the two men involved for the rest of my life, apparently it took them about 2 hours to get everything unloaded and up the 3 flights of stairs. All in the sweltering Texas heat and humidity we all know and love. They were not thrilled, but were sweet enough to take care of all of that. Now we have a deep freezer (which I love!) and a plethora of beef! Woohoo!

The upside to this was that Cody would end up spending a good deal of time with us until we could get back up to Oklahoma! I was so happy to see him, as I hadn't seen any of my family since early May. Cody had grown even more than the last time I saw him. Now, he's easily the same size and build as Thomas! I miss my little guy, but I'm so proud of the young man he's growing up to be. Cody and I went on lots of adventures together during the week, including a couple of trips to Sam's, where we befriended a sample guy named Al. He (and Thomas) also was called in for extra help moving some things for Thomas' aunt Jean. In exciting news, his visit coincided with the 4th of July, so we got to celebrate the day together! It was great having him here and getting to hang out with just him. I know that his life is only going to become more busy as the years go on, so I'm glad I got to snag him this summer! During Cody's week here, I also FINALLY finished my tutoring gig. It was bittersweet to finish up, but I was happy to get my summer back.

Cody, basking in the enjoyment of some fried alligator.

We snagged a picture with the lobster tank Cody was eyeing during supper!
(See what I mean by how much he's grown!!!)

He's not one much for smiling in pictures, but he'll still take pictures with
Aunt Amanda, so I'll take it! :)

Who's who? Thomas or Cody? See what I mean by my confusion!
(Cody on left, Thomas on right)

Cody and I baked some PB/banana blondies! Yum!
(He plated this dish...how awesome is that!)

So excited to visit Cabela's
(If he had facial hair, he could almost be Thomas' twin!)

Nothing like a boy browsing through fishing lures!

4th of July selfie!
Love my crew!

On our way to a 4th of July pool party!

Cody LOVED the pool!



It's a good thing I was able to finish up tutoring, as the last part of the great freezer move hinged upon that. You see, the tail end of the plan was for me to take Cody home the following Thursday. The next day (Friday) was the rehearsal for our friends John and Amanda. Thomas was a lector in their wedding, so we were asked to attend the rehearsal, which was in Edmond. Thomas drove up to Edmond (in my parents' pickup) Friday afternoon. I, in turn, met him at the church in Edmond and we came back to my parents' house that night. We had both of our cars up in Oklahoma, which led to me being able to have an extended stay with my family after the wedding festivities were done. Whew! Lots of moving pieces, but we made it work! It was great to be reunited with my family after a couple months away. I missed all of them so incredibly much.  We spent lots of time enjoying the shed room with lots of girl talk among my sisters, mom, and me. I loved not having to worry about making every last second of an already short weekend count. It was nice to just "be" with everyone with no big agenda.

I'm a little out of order, but I'm tossing in my OK pictures also!
Cole and Andy
(and obligatory bunny ears!) 
Jakub, happy getting to love on Uncle Thomas and steal his hat!


Wyatt's awesome garden!
Proud of the initiative he took in getting it started!

Goofy little boy smiles like this one melt this aunt's heart!

Photographic evidence that Wyatt and Jakub are basically twins!
(All the funnier, considering how much Gina and I resemble one another!)

Jakub swiped Wyatt's glasses, and further proved my theory that they're twins!

Me with Cole! Love this sweet smile!

All of my favorite women in one picture!
Loved our time together, and miss them every day!
John and Amanda's wedding was an absolutely wonderful celebration. They also met through St. John's, so their wedding was a mini reunion among lots of our friends. One of the best parts for me was getting to see Rebecca, who was one of Amanda's bridesmaids. It turns out that Rebecca will be joining the convent up in Michigan next week, so the wedding was really one of the last opportunities that I had to get to see her for the foreseeable future. I didn't expect this to happen, but we both ended up getting pretty emotional as we said our goodbyes that night. I never really get that emotional with my best friends (shocking, right?) , because we always have an understanding that we'll see each other soon. That, and we always stay in touch pretty well. Not the case this time. Since Rebecca is joining the convent, she'll be giving up a lot of her material possessions, including her cell phone for the foreseeable future. Our main form of communication will be letters, but I have no idea when that'll come. I also don't know her mailing address, so I can't really make that happen yet. And she'll be in Michigan. Ugh. I'm so happy for her finding her life's calling, but I'm also sad that she's gone. It's a good thing God can handle me being frustrated with Him, because I've been all over the board with this situation.

Gorgeous centerpieces! 
Some of our St. John's crew!
Front (L-R): Kevin, me, Thomas
Back (L-R): Fr. Stuart, Rebecca, Maria, Sierra



Love this man!

The happy couple and new St. John's newlyweds!!!
Love these two!

Thank goodness there was shadowing around our faces, that way you couldn't tell
we had been crying our eyes out for five minutes before this! Love her and our friendship.
Praise God for great friends like her and finding our vocations!
When I returned from Oklahoma, Thomas and I were on the verge of our first wedding anniversary! We had a fun weekend! It was kicked off by us getting massages, followed by a lovely fondue dinner. I'd never had fondue before then, so it was a great experience for me, albeit very time-consuming. I'm told it's all part of the experience, so there we go. On our actual anniversary, we went to church. On our way to church, we just so happened to turn on the radio to hear our first dance song playing. Mind you, our first dance song is a somewhat obscure older song ("Swaying to the Music" by Johnny Rivers), so this was quite the surprise! One of the reasons I love having an XM radio! (We heard it on The Bridge--channel 32 for subscribers!) After Mass, we had our priest say an anniversary blessing over us. That night was a nice dinner in, consisting of steaks, a pan sauce that stole the show, and a summer vegetable medley, straight from Wyatt's squash garden and Ada's tomato garden. Of course, we capped it off with our cake topper, which still tasted great! Funny enough, we had spent the better part of the year lamenting how much space it took up in our refrigerator freezer, wishing we could just get it out of there already. When we finally got the space back, it didn't matter, as we now have a deep freezer with tons of space. Go figure...

Our cake!
Since our anniversary, we've been able to spend a good deal of time hanging out with Thomas' parents and sister. We had them over for dinner one night, admittedly to help us eat a roast and our cake, but also to celebrate our anniversary! We're trying our best to make the most of our family time, as Elizabeth will be studying abroad in Madrid this fall. After Christmas, she'll return to STL, where she'll start into more of her advanced physical therapy classes for the spring semester. Next summer, she'll also have to stay in STL to take some required classes, so we won't get to see her as often in the coming year. It's tough to think about, but also exciting for her as she progresses in her studies!

One of the more recent exciting things for us is that our dear friend from St. John's, Bertels, came to visit us. Okay, Bertels is actually his last name, but no one ever calls him by his first name, so there we go. He happened to be in town to attend a Rangers game with another friend of his and decided to come visit for an afternoon while he was here! It was great to see him and catch up. There is such great power in community, especially as you grow older. It's great to remember that no matter where life takes everyone, you'll always have the bonds of friendship to sustain you!

I've also been involved with a couple of professional development seminars. One was an online webinar sponsored by Texas Instruments, in which I learned how to better utilize their graphing calculator technology in my classroom. Another was to learn how to integrate Google Classroom. The Classroom seminar wasn't as informative as I'd hoped, but I still gleaned some good stuff from it. I also had to do some training on dyslexia and learning differences as part of my "new" staff training that I'm a part of. It was very intense, requiring lots of reading and online training modules, but I finally finished that this week. It felt good to check those things off my list, and even better to be better equipped to teach my students who all have these learning differences.

Lastly, Thomas and I have been trying to make it through the heatwave. Having a third floor apartment hasn't been great during this time, but we've made it work. I'm not sure why it took us this long to pursue this avenue, but this week, we FINALLY broke down and invested in some blackout curtains. We have lots of large windows in our apartment that probably aren't the most energy efficient, so we went out on a limb to try this. It turns out that they really have helped to keep our apartment a good 5-10 degrees cooler than before, so we're counting this as a huge win!

I think that just about sums up our summer. Here's to me being optimistic and hoping that I'll update sooner next time. I likely won't, but it's worth a shot. I always come back, so have no fear! Can you believe I've been writing on here for almost 8 years now?! Go me!