Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Photo Time

While we were in Lyndon this weekend, a neighbor of Barb and Jeff's took some family photos.

(Make sure to check my post earlier today to see pictures from Justin's birthday party!)

These last two are my favorites.

9 years old

The kid turned 9 yesterday. We celebrated...

(I am a woman of few words today.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Real Life

First of all, if you want to get in touch, call Brad until further notice. My phone (which was sent to me less than 2 weeks ago to replace the one that dropped calls) is out of commission. :( I miss communication. Brad has been on the phone with Sprint customer service for the better part of the last hour and a half... Let's just say they're not doing much to try to keep our business right now.

Tomorrow is Friday, which is definitely a good thing, especially during the first real week of school. My kids are adorable, polite, mostly quiet. They tell me random stories, like, "We got three bunnies last night. One of them got run over by the four-wheeler, and my dog ate another one. But my dad caught the other three and now they're in my guinea pig cage. It died." Now if only they could figure out how to get to class on time... I love them already - I love them so far.

My house looks like this now. And it will for the next nine months. Actually, this is pretty tidy, but that's only because we still haven't moved the tv back upstairs yet and Brad's messiness is in the basement. All this is just mine.

And now, because I can, some long-lost pictures from our trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha this summer (with Barb, Jeff, and Justin).

I was so excited; I have this plant on my porch! And I haven't even killed it yet.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Earth's crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees it, takes off his shoes -
The rest sit round it and pluck blueberries.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Donna, with love...

II. Books!

Grandma majored in English at Bethel. Though she never actually taught, her love of reading was always obvious to us. As a little girl, I remember going to the Newton library and seeing her working there. To me, that was one of the greatest things about my Grandma (right up on the list with baking) - that she worked in a library.

When I was in fifth grade, I started reading John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark books. Grandma read them right along with me, never questioning my parents for allowing me to read books that were likely not written for 11-year-olds. We talked about whether we liked each one, and exchanged our copies.

Of course, my memories of reading at Grandma's and with Grandma go back much further than fifth grade. These books were at Grandma's house. I spent hours with this little series, Sweet Pickles. I have to admit that they are a little cheesy; each one has a moral, like "vanity is bad" from Kiss Me, I'm Vulture. This collection is only nine of the 26 in the complete series. I'm thinking about collecting the rest - they're out of print, but you can find just about anything on amazon. (I just looked; brand new copies of some titles of these books go for upwards of $130!)

I liked the stories the first one or two times, but after that, my time was limited to the inside of the back cover. My imagination got a lot of exercise when I was younger (well, it still does...), and this book, with the map of the town of Sweet Pickles, was perfect for my made-up stories. I would create a character in my head, choose a home and occupation, and spend hours making up their life. (the picture wouldn't upload correctly!)

This is another of my favorites. My mom doesn't remember it, but when I saw it in the box I was unpacking, I could retell the whole story of the kind ogre who is a great chef, but just unattractive. I knew I had to take this copy. Seriously, it's a great story about how beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and location might matter, too). You can get your own copy here! (this picture also wouldn't flip the correct way!)

I just love books.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mixed Emotions

Today was the first day with my new kids. Right now, it's difficult for me to qualify.

Since it was the first day of middle school, kids had activities in the morning and a shortened class schedule in the afternoon. I feel two as though there were two distinct and separate days.

This morning was hard; it's really the part that's been tough for me to process. Our IBB (Interest Based Bargaining - they negotiate our contract with the board) team spent last night working with the board and a federal mediator to try to reach an agreement that we can vote on. I actually went to part of the meeting - mostly both parties met in different rooms, but our IBB team would come out and consult us when they had a proposal or the board responded. I'm glad I went; I learned a lot and felt like my opinion mattered. Classified staff and administration settled their contracts a while ago. They reached an agreement last night. (I don't feel comfortable going into detail here, but you can call me if you want to know.) I have no idea how I really feel about it, or how I'm going to vote.

I know that there are big budget issues right now. I know that it's tough for everybody. I know I should be grateful to have a job. I know that, at some point, we all need to bite the bullet. I get that. I promise I do. But in my heart, I can't shake the feeling that sometimes things are just so, so unjust. Every single day I pour my heart out into 65 11- and 12-year-olds. Yes, the rewards there are enough for me. It's enough for me to look at the file I have (half at home and half at school) of notes and cards and signs from my one year - so far - of students. It's enough when they smile at my cheesy jokes. It's enough for me to spend a few minutes laughing at the silly sayings in my book of kid quotes. It's more than enough when they "get it" or do well on their state assessments.

Maybe I just need to remember that. I think I may have lost my point somewhere in that last paragraph. That, or it's implied.

On my school e-mail signature, I have a quote: "Teachers touch eternity; they never know where their influence stops." (Henry Adams)

The second part of the day...

Oh kids! I love them already. Surprisingly, I'm doing surprisingly well with names already (maybe because I've written them, typed them several times, and made a spreadsheet with fifth grade assessment scores for each indicator... so I've seen them a time or two). They were well-behaved for the first day of school. I can't say yet how they will be, but that doesn't matter. I had fun today.

For a few hours I forgot about it all. Sure, I was a little distracted, but once the kids came everything else disappeared. I lost myself in the joy of my job. I am a teacher. That's what I am meant to do.

A story:

I was explaining how wonderful these kids have it, how lucky they are... (1. because we have LA block, so they have it for two class periods, and 2. I've heard I'm a fun teacher) when a student, who happened to be wearing a spandex book cover on her head, blurted out, "Could you just get to the point?!"

Usually I don't think too quickly in such situations, but fortunately today I wasn't feeling carefree enough to take that.

"No. Not if you're going to interrupt me."

I wish I had a picture of her classmates' eyes at that very moment. She was pretty quiet after that.

Also, I came home and found two handfuls of beautiful cherry tomatoes ready for me to eat. There is a roast with carrots and potatoes in the crock pot. And my husband loves me. How can today be bad?!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We're back!

Two days of inservice down, one to go. Enough meetings already. Kids come on Thursday. I am exhausted but oh so ready.

Tonight was "Meet Your Teacher" night. I met lots of kids. I hope they are not offended when I can't remember their names in two days. I also saw kids from last year. How sad that they are not mine again. They will survive. How lucky I am to have a chance to teach and know a few more sweet kiddos.

ACMS room 611...

Have I mentioned lately that I have the best job?!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh, dear

This morning I agreed to teach adult Sunday School for a few Sundays this fall.

Technically, I agreed to "help lead" adult SS. As the conversation progressed, I realized that this particular phrasing didn't mean what I thought it meant. Oops.

The material is Faith Lessons on the Prophets and Kings of Israel... I'm not sure what to do with it. Not exactly the most thrilling content. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I think I have an idea for how to approach it, but let's just say that the materials do not appear to be designed by teachers or regular discussion leaders. It will take a bit of work.

Not only that. I could teach and talk to kids all day long. Adults are way out of my comfort zone.

So I did what I always do when I need church help (um, actually, this is pretty much the first time). I e-mailed my sister, the pastor. Sarah, if you haven't checked your e-mail, could you please?! Thanks.

But it can be good, right?! I'm a teacher, I'll figure it out. I can make it good. Uh... I'm going to be optimistic. And if you want to pray for me, that'd be great.

Next time, remind me not to agree unless I get to help decide what I'm teaching... Okay? Okay.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Long Time Coming

Warning: Long post, no pictures... also, sorry, this post is mostly vague with a lot of "you" and "someone" and "them" and "they" and "people"... it's the best I can do.

I've been thinking about this for a while... So long, actually, that I've worked on this post more than once or twice. I've even composed versions in my head as I fall asleep at night. Brad and I talk about it a lot.

I've encountered many, many people who pride themselves on their open-mindedness. Let me just say:

Open-minded is not a synonym for liberal. I know lots of people feel this way. I think really they just don't think about it, but it's... something along the lines of "because I hold progressive beliefs" or "because I'm not tied to the 'old way'" or "because I'm open to new lifestyles" ... I'm open-minded.

But these same people who pride themselves on their open-mindedness are upset, angry, even enraged and unwilling to continue a conversation, when others, who happen to hold a different view than them, make their voices heard.

Now let me just say, before I go any further, that I actually hold pretty "liberal" views on some current "hot topics," although I don't really like the "liberal" label and am not affiliated with a political party. But specific issues are not my point. Also, I have friends who fit into all different spots on the faith and political spectrums.

Open-minded means (in my definition, which I think is pretty darn good) that you listen to others who hold views/opinions/beliefs that are different from yours, without trying to convince them that you are right and they are wrong... not only that. You listen completely void of a right/wrong mindset. It doesn't even cross your mind that she is wrong and he is right. You are willing to hear others out, because you want to hear what they have to say and understand their point of view, rather than listening so you can refute all their points. You don't judge them on their beliefs.

Of course, you don't have to agree with everyone. Obviously. (It all goes back to that book I read this summer: You Don't Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism by Brad Hirschfield. (Read an earlier post about it here!))

If someone doesn't believe the same thing as you, you don't immediately dismiss them or get angry about it. You don't think less of them because they don't agree with you. That would be a little immature, don't you think?

You can be open-minded and liberal. True. But you can also be open-minded and conservative, moderate, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and so on and so forth.

At Bethel, there is a class called Basic Issues of Faith and Life (BIFL). Every single senior has to take BIFL. You can't graduate otherwise. Many people do not care for BIFL. However, it ranked in my top 3 classes of all-time (well, of my undergraduate education).

BIFL classes are carefully selected, comprised of students from different backgrounds and majors and faiths. At least, they were when I took it; I've heard differently lately. Because of this, you don't get to choose your professor. And I'll admit, I lucked out with that one... Patty Shelly.

Anyway, like I said, the class itself is made up of a diverse group. And we're talking about a very personal, often emotional, issue - faith from 1-3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Honestly, to me it was really interesting to hear different reactions to the books we were reading, some of which hit very close to home for me. (Plus we read Flannery O'Connor, who is plain amazing when it comes to religious symbolism!) During this class, I first started thinking about what "open-minded" really is.

Yes, there were times when it became frustrating. Not because of what other people believed, but because of how they recited those beliefs to the class. Truly in their heart of hearts, they believed that they had the Truth, the one and only with a capital T, Truth. It offended me, and I realized what it really looks like to be open-minded, and how self-centered it is to not be... Everyone deserves my respect. Why not?

I grew up in a place where the roots of our faith are generations-deep. My ancestors came to Kansas in 1874 because of their faith (and free land - we are Mennos, after all!), and I grew up in the church where my father and his father and his father and his father grew up, and generations before them. And over the course of my first three years at Bethel, I spent a lot of time reflecting, reading, searching, and praying, owning my own version of that faith.

Some days BIFL was a pretty charged two hours.

I learned a lot in that class about being open-minded, mostly because sometimes I felt as though my views were being attacked. It hurt that others thought I was wrong, without even listening to what I had to say, just because it wasn't what they thought.

I don't like being preached to. I don't like people who try to convince me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I am wrong. Does anyone? So I try hard not to do that. After all, it doesn't hurt me to be open-minded. Seriously - I've tried it and no pain comes from it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From Donna, with love...

Grandma Donna and Grandpa Melvin have been married for 62 years (right, family?). In that time, they raised four children, spoiled many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They also accumulated a lot of stuff. Here they are (yep, it's a picture of a picture - my favorite of them)...

My grandparents are moving. (Have moved?! Not quite sure where they are in this process.) They've lived in this little spot for longer than my lifetime. It's still a little unreal that we won't be gathering there for chicken cordon bleu every Christmas, or for Grandma's favorite meal of hamburgers and potato salad. I'll miss it.

Since they're moving - to town, meaning Kidron Bethel - they are downsizing their stuff. Sure, there's a lot that went to the new apartment, but there's a lot there: think 62 years.

Somehow (maybe because I'm one of the closest grandchildren, and one who most recently moved to my own place) I've ended up with a number of treasures from Grandma's. *Don't worry, family! There's still lots left!* This is mostly exciting for me... and I've been reflecting. There were one, maybe two, items that I brought home that produced great skepticism from my husband. I tried to explain (they're Grandma's Santa mugs, people!), but maybe you have to have memories associated with the stuff in order for it to become a treasure.

I love those memories. So here it is... my first blog series: "From Donna, with love..." about the legacy my grandparents created.

Memory #1: The House

My dad grew up in the house that we started out in (then the tornado blew it down and we built a new one, but that's another story). When my parents moved out to the farm, Grandma and Grandpa carved out a piece of the pasture around the corner for their new place in the world.

I have no memory of this, but when we were very little, Daniel got lost. Mom frantically searched the farm, and finally discovered him... bawling in the middle of the road with his trike. He had tried to ride to Grandma's, and just couldn't make it. After that, Grandma mowed a path through the pasture so we could safely walk to her house. Yes, the pasture with the bull really is safe.

I love this place. Over the course of my short life, I have more memories than I can count, of family celebrations, Christmas cousin pictures on the stairs, tea parties, fingernail painting, book exchanges (my Grandma read Mary Higgins Clark right along with my 6th grade self... then Harry Potter with Daniel), cool older cousins from other states staying at Grandma's for a few days, games of water baseball and afternoons of creating water parks, picking up buckets of pine cones for pennies, sleepovers in the camper (which somehow always found us back in the sun room), games of Midnight Ghost, two weddings, baking, baking, baking, baking, baking, baking, I wish I could explain how special Grandma's house is to me...


p.s. Klaassen family members who happen to read this blog: send me memories of Grandma and Grandpa... if you have pictures that accompany, that's great, too. I would love to do "guest posts" for this "series."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Little projects...

A few before & afters...

I'm still having a guilt trip about the spray paint I used...

Free throw pillows + free and inexpensive fabric = :)

New paint and less clutter...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Grow up?!

I haven't been able to get this off my mind since I read it this morning. Now, first let me say that I'm not trying to get political here - this post isn't about my thoughts on universal health care or any other government proposals. I am just upset about the way "adults" are handling themselves.

In my classroom, there are only three rules:
1. Respect property.
2. Respect others.
3. Respect yourself.

(Note the common theme here! Of course, I can't take credit for the idea... thank you, Allen Jantz!)

I've found that pretty much any other rule you can think falls into these categories. Seriously. We spend time the first day brainstorming. And I expect my students to abide by these all the time. They must be respectful. They must listen to others. They cannot interrupt. Even when they disagree. Sure, sometimes they forget. Some of them aren't very good at it, so we have to practice. But that doesn't change my expectations: respect at all times.

These kids are 12 years old. Just... fyi.

The article I read this morning (see link above) bothers me. Yes, we all have opinions, often strong ones, about the way things are going right now; it's a tough time, apparently.

But regardless of your thoughts on the economy, cash for clunkers, universal health care, etc... you can express them as an adult.

This article reminds me of a kid sticking her fingers in her ears and proclaiming, "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!" over her brother's words.

Adults listen to other points of view, then respectfully express their own.

Really, what does it accomplish to simply drown out an explanation? How does that prevent proposals from moving forward? My students demonstrate more respect than this. Obviously, we're not quite into such deep issues (there is that whole idea of developmental-appropriateness), but they can still listen to others and express their opposite opinion with more maturity than these people. And when they choose not to show respect, we move on. (Trust me, they don't like moving on.)

I'm not saying that you should stand by when you disagree with the way our government is running. If you don't like the way it is, that's fine. In fact, that's great. Exercise your right to free speech.

But if you disagree with what's happening enough to work out such a protest, why not spend some time working on a better way? If people spent half the energy looking for solutions that they exert on organizing and protesting, we could work this whole mess out a lot more quickly.

It's easy to tell other people that their idea won't work. It's a lot more difficult to come up with an idea that will.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sweet Summertime

I love sugar cookies. So does my friend M. whose birthday was yesterday. She told me she wasn't going to celebrate (she's too "old") but then I promised cookies - they're kind of my thing around here. And I love zwieback. (Okay, small tangent: spell-check knows zwieback. What?! Raise your hand if you love that!) I baked those today with a friend. I'm practicing, in case the whole teaching thing doesn't work out. :) Ha. Like I could spend entire days in the kitchen... and we all know that sixth grade is too wonderful to give up.

My sweet summertime is slipping away. But I'm ready to let the few days left slowly slip through my fingers. Especially if I can spend them like this:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


We're out of time. And out of energy. (We have to go back to school, after all.)

Does anyone know where I could enter to win a backyard makeover?! I'm very serious - and checking HGTV, diynetwork, and Better Homes and Gardens. I have such big dreams for this space... they might be realized in a decade or two.

The pictures don't show the half of it: no trees, but lots of holes, crabgrass, weeds. We've decided that the first step of claiming this potential-filled space is beyond us. We're calling in the experts.

That's right, paying someone else to do it. But let me explain... in order for our backyard to be nice, it has to be filled in with topsoil and graded so that water runs downhill - and so that downhill = away from the house. Renting equipment for the several weekends it would take us is probably (hopefully) more expensive than hiring someone else. We'll know soon.


Saturday, August 1, 2009


Okay, I know I just posted about going back to school, but...

When did it become August?! Perhaps while I was lazing around in bed this morning.

Happy, happy, happy anniversary to my mama and daddy!

They've been married for something like, 33 years (?).

And they have this to show for it... (because after all, what's a post without pictures!?)

Love you both, mucho.