Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wedding Weekend Extravaganza

Remember how 20 days ago my brother married that beautiful girl in Washington D.C.? I surprisingly don't really have any pictures of the bride and groom on their special day, but I have lots of other pictures from that weekend of family fun and togetherness. I'll have to wait to see the professional photographer's pics for the happy couple in all of their newlywed glory. It was an absolutely beautiful day, happy and carefree in just about every way possible. I've been blessed to be a part of weddings of brides that are so low-key. I've heard horror stories of bridezillas, but every single time I've been a bridesmaid the experience has been purely laid back, fun, and just plain happy thanks to the bride-to-be. Heidi is no different.

This girl is an amazing person. To be honest, I'm not even sure I'm at liberty to tell you about her professional resume (not even kidding on this one), but let's just say she's kind of a big deal. She has lived in and traveled all over the world, proven herself in both the work force and extremely renowned academic institutions (Oxford and Yale anyone?), and yet is one of the most unassuming, humble people I've ever met. If anyone has license to be a little pretentious, it's her. She's earned it. Yet she chooses instead to be sweet, kind, thoughtful, and down to earth because that's who she is. Can you tell I like to brag about her? I do. Alex is very lucky to have found such a great match and I am so lucky to have a sister like her. Both of my brothers married girls I absolutely love. How many people can say that? That they love their siblings-in-law as much as their siblings? Again, I'm a lucky girl. But I suppose that wouldn't make me lucky. That would make me blessed. 

Here's some random pictures I snapped throughout the weekend on the East Coast.

Out with everyone the night before the wedding. We planned these outfits, obviously. 
Xan man and myself. Look at that stud. 
Bachelorette party
Cousins on the wedding day
Had to add this one. We had a lot of togetherness in the rental van.
Maybe too much togetherness, if that's possible. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stuff Students Say: September Edition

And here is my second installment of a long series with many more to come. This month includes a heartfelt letter, warning of an extraterrestrial invasion, and some theological commentary.

Me: Do you like celery?
Student: Yep. I'll marry it.

(spoken to a fellow student showing off his brand new headphones)
Ooooo you FANCY huh? 

A letter I received after my lunch break one day:
hi ms. Gesh I glad you're back from you're lunch breack because I missed you. and I care for you because you are my teacher. and I should care for and I should Listen too you because you are sweet and nice and well I just love you and you care for me and I care for you because sometime I cry and I should not should be rood to you. and I just listen to you and when I get mad I should just count too ten and I should just go back too being quit. ps. from me. 
Needless to say, I melted.

Ms Gasssh. URGENT MESSAGE. Aliens are invading the world and taking over in the year 2012. And I am not even kidding you.

If I could eat anywhere in the whole wide world it would be Old Country Buffet.

Are horses related to ponies?

Did you just call God fat? He watchin' you right now and Imma tell him TA-NIGHT about whatchu said!

(said while holding a Bible she brought from Sunday School)
Naahhh I can't read those big chapter books these days. Just the little ones for now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Other Side

I was really tired this afternoon. Not in the way that I usually am (and I definitely usually am), but in a way that made me want to fly to Alaska. Okay, maybe not the normal response to a tired feeling, but let me explain, because it really was how I felt (as ashamed as I am to admit to that).

At school, I'm kind of in the thick of a lot of stuff going on. There's a huge cultural difference between my school's neighborhood and the places I come from. My kids deal with things at 7 years old that I've never encountered my whole life. I'm definitely the odd one out, from my skin color to my family background. I always knew from the beginning it would be this way. But today it really hit me. 


We had recess outside this afternoon, and our kids ran up and down "the grassy pasture," as our school likes to call it (I like to call it "the dirt patch"), for about 15 minutes.  About 2 minutes before we had to go inside, I heard some extra commotion rising above the usual din of recess. It was coming from across the street, and it was between a mother, her son, and two men (in their thirties-ish?). Apparently the two men were from the boy's school and had just escorted him home after he got in a fight and was expelled for it. The mom was yelling at the kid, the kid was yelling back at the mom, the school officials were throwing their two cents in (although it sounded more to me like a few dollars worth) when they could possibly get a word in. The screaming got louder. Then the F bombs started flying. Then the slapping and hitting started. After talking back one too many times, the kid (a sixth grader?) pushed his mom to the limit. The men started making their way back to the school, but kept yelling like crazy as they walked and the mom and kid continued at it. 

Now this elicited a number of responses from my students, who were making their way to line up. Some of them didn't even notice and continued talking and playing with their friends. Some of them grew immediately silent, and took the commotion as a cue to break up the fun and get inside as quickly as possible. And then some of them gawked and laughed out loud at the kid across the street as he got disciplined by his mom, pointing fingers and telling their friends to look too. 

In the moment, I was just focused on getting all of my (now hushed) kids back in the door and upstairs. As I thought about it though, I replayed the episode over and over. My mind was sort of racing. The kid did get expelled from school. He had it coming right? But I would never treat my kid that way! But then again I haven't had him as a kid. And I haven't ever grown up and lived in this neighborhood and had her skin color so who am I to say something like that? But then again he got expelled for fighting, where did he learn to deal with his problems like that? And what does it do to a 12 year old when this is the nature of his relationships at home? But then again do I really have the right to make a call on the nature of his home life after a 5-minute snapshot from 20 yards away? 

And those thoughts went on. Now you get why I felt tired. This situation wasn't just this situation. It symbolized, for me, THE SITUATION. And not in the Jersey Shore sense, but more like the whole reason why this Teach For America thing exists in the first place. I don't like getting into debates when it comes to race, because race is about people and not politics. Maybe I'm reading a little too far into it all, but this afternoon was one of the first times I witnessed firsthand some of the realities of my kids' lives. Even this morning one of my second-graders shared how she babysat 4 of her little cousins all day on Saturday. By herself. Last I checked, 7 and 8 year olds need babysitters themselves. What is her mom thinking? But I don't know her mom's story. I haven't lived it. And while I do my best every day to be gracious to things I don't know and haven't lived, it's hard to know what to think and feel when the brokenness yells from across the street with a voice louder than 23 second-graders and demands your attention. I wish I was one of those inspirational people who is confronted with cultural difference and knows exactly what to do and is energized by opportunities to solve society's problems at 1000 miles per hour with a big beauty-pageant smile on her face. But I'm not. I was confused and did my best in the moment, which I'll admit was not a whole lot. 

It all goes back to the idea that there are two worlds here. There are two cultures. And there are two sides to every story. I don't have the skin color, address, or last name to understand the other side. And that's fine. I don't claim to know or understand everything. I never ever will. 

But I refuse to let that keep me from affirming those things that aren't split down the middle. There is too much in common to NOT work at it.  There are families, there are hopes and dreams, there are sports, there is food, there are laughs, and there is a God who we all share in common. There are enough fun personalities, great senses of sarcasm, and personal style in my room alone to show that there is more to an individual than what meets the eye and where he or she comes from. I guess it's both; we are where we come from, but we get to make something out of it too. We can't choose the hand we were dealt, but we get to decide what we want to do with it. 

This last part is what sort of keeps me from hopping on that flight to Alaska. Maybe it's that I feel sort of a kindred spirit with my kids: I'm not doing exactly what my background expects of me either (Have you noticed all the friends' weddings I attend?) and I'm trying to let them know that this is okay to do, to break the cycle of what's expected of you. It's a hard thing to do, but I think the secret lies in celebrating what you already are, yet never stopping at that point to figure out who you are going to be.   It's okay to be yourself, whoever that is, wherever that is, and however that is, to the best of your ability. And that goes for all people, whether they be white, black, green, blue, or purple. 

So I'm tired. But so what? That can be addressed with a large Coke during my lunch break. I don't really know exactly how to start addressing all this brokenness or even if I am the one equipped to address it in the first place. I don't know where to even start. 

So I guess I'll start with tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's Always A Good Time

First of all, yes, I am obsessed with this song. Well, and this one too for that matter. I listen to them each at least one time on my way to school EVERY day. And I may or may not sometimes do sign language to the words as I go. And this may or may not attract weird looks from passersby in traffic.

I know this weekend just happened, but I want to recognize last weekend for a moment. It was awesome. Now, in my college years, it wouldn't have been classified as all that special. I got together with friends, had a good time, and had fun instead of focusing on my daily responsibilities. These days, however, that is a huge deal. Seeing my Trinity friends is a privilege now and we all get so excited when we can get together. We made a drink we found on Pinterest, played fishbowl (maybe I'll post instructions to that game on here! You all would love it), and hung out at our friends' house. Not to mention that, but I also got to reunite with some of my Teach For America friends on the night of my birthday. We cooked out, caught up on the latest of the CPS teacher's strike (hmm...maybe I'll post some of my thoughts on that later) and then went out in Lincoln Park. We finished the night in my favorite kind of way: getting food at a 24/7 diner. I had the most delish french toast I think I've ever tasted at that fine establishment.

I'm just loving that even as I live this post-grad life, I am A) still SO excited to see my college friends and have equally as much fun when I'm with them and B) still meeting new people with which to have good times. It's kind of amazing how you can connect so quickly with all kinds of people: some who are just like you and some who are NOTHING like you. Maybe I'll do another post on that whole idea too. Okay I have a lot of posts to do because I just keep thinking about all these topics I want to write on. These people made my weekend so special. Not just because it was my birthday, but because it was just simply a time when we were all together. And it is always fun when we're together.

Basically, this is what I want to express to you: Friends are good.

Chipotle after church. My kind of Sunday. 
Fishbowl in action.  
TFA friends. These people inspire me on the reg. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012



I feel like so much has happened with teaching that I never actually give real teaching updates. Let's just say this: it's all over the place at the moment. It's funny how when big things happen all at once, you don't take the time to process them like you do the lesser things in your life. It's easy for me to write a blog post about clothes that I'd like to wear, recipes I've tried, or things I do with my friends, but not one about the single biggest thing going on in my life right now. It's almost as if, if it's so big, it's too big to unpack. It's too big to talk about. I think people do that a lot. It's easy to catch up with friends about what they ate for lunch but not about how their new move went, or how their new marriage is going, or how their job search is turning out. You leave the big stuff wrapped up and put it aside in the corner, because the process of talking it out would be just be too much. Not too hard or too good or too bad, just too much. Sometimes in my life I feel like I fall victim to this ailment, and now is one of those times. Things that I love to do, like run, pick out cool outfits, read, and blog about my life, fall to the wayside as the big stuff demands my full attention.

My birthday just happened (23 years old? Whaa?) and with that milestone also came a whole bunch of changes. This is the big stuff for me right now.

Turns out, because of another teacher leaving and others coming in for the 2nd grade level at my school, I am switching classrooms six weeks into the school year. This means a new room, a new co-teacher, a new group of 25 students. As if I wasn't NEW enough to this whole thing, right?

Needless to say, I miss my first rambunctious crazy room full of 2nd graders already. A lot. They keep sending me notes and inundated me with love and birthday cards last Friday. I want to keep my relationship up with them even as I get to know my new classroom of students. I also miss my old co-teacher, Katey, as we got along really well. But. My new co-teacher is really wonderful too. And I already am starting to learn the names in my new room. And I'm starting to roll up my sleeves and get to work on this new challenge that has fallen into my lap.

So if you have been wondering where I've been with teaching updates, wondering where I am with funny 2nd grade stories, and wondering where I am with life, this is where I've been. Trying to process the big changes that life throws at you. I think now I'll start to walk up to that big monstrosity I've put in the corner, start to peel back the paper, and unpack it little by little. Hopefully I'll get better at talking it out instead of pushing it to the side. It's time to keep working at becoming a good teacher for these new students and helping them become who they were meant to be, who they need to be. It's time to get to work and get going. Hopefully, of course, whilst wearing some cute fall teaching outfits. Hopefully :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Notes from Gate 14

I'm sitting here in the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC, about to head back to Chicago and real life after this amazing weekend for Alex and Heidi's wedding. I love airports and as I'm sitting here I decided to write up random notes about this airport experience of mine today.

An airport named after Ronald Reagan. My kind of place. 
#1. I am such a Gesch. I can't escape it. I can't deny it. I got to the airport three and a half hours before my flight leaves. Granted, my parents gave me a ride downtown and had to coordinate it with other obligations, so we didn't really CHOOSE for me to be here this early, but I'd be lying if I said a teeny tiny part of me wasn't a little gleeful at the idea of getting somewhere so far ahead of schedule.

#2. Public transportation isn't too bad. Sometimes it can be daunting, annoying, and crowded, but I've found it so helpful this weekend. Last week Thursday I took the CTA in Chicago to O'Hare, landed in DC, then hopped on the DC Metro to get to Heidi's apartment. Gotta say, the small town Wisconsin girl is starting to catch on. Plus there are super nice people on there! One guy helped me figure out where I needed to switch to the yellow line to get to the airport today out of the goodness of his heart. People helping people...that's what it's all about.

#3. Some people in this airport need to lighten up. Okay, okay, we all get it, YOU HAVE AN IMPORTANT JOB. You may or may not have control over whether you travel around in a full suit and carry all leather bags. Other things, however, you can control. Take the freaking bluetooth out of your ear for two seconds to smile and talk to the check-in desk lady. How rude. And for you Full House fans, that last sentence was in fact supposed to be read in the voice of Stephanie Tanner.

#4. Some people in this airport need to step it up. Okay no judgement whatsoever at people who like to travel comfortably. I'll let a pair of leggings go if you're on a trip. Sure. Why not. But as a general PSA to sorority girls everywhere, I'll just say that you don't need to dress up like Lindsay Lohan fresh out of rehab in order to board an airplane. The 3-day bleach blonde messy ponytail, XXXL sunglasses, neon orange headbands, and a triple mega grande latte aren't in fact necessary. If that's what you actually like to do, great! But I have a sneaking suspicion that someone told you that this was the only way to travel, and I am here to tell you otherwise. You can dress like your regular self. No need for the drama. You're just sitting on a plane. That's all.

#5. Bonding with strangers over the annoying qualities of another stranger is fun. I was sitting in my gate and a kid across the way started to yell/sing the same four notes over and over and over. After one minute of it, the people in my gate started to give each other "get a load of this" glances and give nods of agreement in our unity against this disturbance of the peace. After 5 minutes of it, someone made a funny comment out loud and we all laughed at how nobody has made their kid stop pesting all the gates in our row with this noise. After 20 minutes, when a different stranger finally walked up to the kid (who was sitting with his oblivious mother) and kindly asked that he keep it down (which stopped the madness), our whole bench high fived in our gate. I then proceeded to have a great conversation with the mom and daughter next to me flying to Alaska to visit their friend who is a teacher there. Look at that. Who would've thunk that a shrill disruptive child would bring everyone together.

#6. The airport is a great place to support your servicemen/women. As awkward as it can be sometimes, I try to say thanks to people in uniform at airports when we cross paths. I don't sprint out of my way to track everyone down, and sometimes people look like they're in a hurry, but if I pass by, I say something. Not a huge gesture, but I am really impressed that while I am running around to visit friends and family and live my life, someone else is running around to ensure that I can still do those things freely. With today being September 10th, my mind wanders to friends, family, and strangers who sacrifice for me, someone they night not even know, every day.

#7. The airport is a great place for sentimental moments. I had my own earlier as I hugged my dad goodbye before I got on the Metro. There's just a great air at the airport of wonderful reunions, bittersweet departures, and everything in between. Today I saw a guy stand and wait at the edge of security while his girlfriend waded through the maze of a line to go through to her gate. He sat there for 30 minutes, smiling and nodding every so often when she would look back and smile at him or make a face or wave. When she went through and waved goodbye on the other side he blew a kiss and then left the airport. I know that seems ridiculous, but his extra 30 minutes probably just made her day. Presh.

There's my list for today. I think it's time to book another trip.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Family and Football

I am writing this post from the lovely Washington D.C. at the moment. Wedding festivities for Alex and Heidi are in full force (yay!) and I will be posting about that surely when the extravaganza is over. For now, I want to share one of the many many reasons why my family is cooler than your family. Just kidding! But totally serious.

First off, MY VERY BEST FRIEND GOT ENGAGED! My cousin, roommate, intramural teammate, therapist, partner-in-crime, and sort of sister Karley Mae got engaged last weekend to her college boyfriend named Sam. He is an awesome guy, she is an amazing girl, and I could not be happier. Let the wedding madness begin. I'm sure there will be more wedding planning event updates as I get to help her get ready for her big day :)

Secondly, here are pictures from our family Fantasy Football draft, the day after Karley's engagement. Can we just establish how great it is that my grandma and grandpa co-manage a fantasy football team together? My cousin Jason was the mastermind of this event and coordinated us to come together and choose our team. I am STILL majorly regretting not choosing Aaron Rodgers as my #1 pick, but I was feeling extreme peer pressure from FF experts to choose a running back first. At the time it seemed like a good decision, but now I'm just hoping next year I'll have another chance with getting him on my team. The festivities went like this:

Rudi and my aunt Karen
The final picks. 

Happy girls

The happy couple
The prestigious trophy
Things can get pretty rowdy at VanDrunen family gatherings.
Good thing we had these signs to remind us to keep it in line. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to School September

September is here! Fall is coming! Commence happiness. Fall has me thinking of things like bouquets of newly sharpened pencils and other wonderful things. (For real though. I think a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils is probably more romantic than flowers. That Tom Hanks is a smart guy.)

Every year the combination of a new school year starting, my birthday on the horizon (with my delicious birthday treats to share), and crisp weather for soccer and volleyball seasons made for a giddiness that I still feel now.

I'm really excited to be in the city in the fall. Since I'm kind of pinching the budget as I transition into adulthood, I can't ACTUALLY go on a back-to-school shopping session. So I'm making a little wishlist for myself now, hoping to save up for one or two of these beauties in the future. Behold, my wishlist for my imaginary BTS spree :) If you can afford them, feel free to poach ideas! If you can afford them AND are a humanitarian, I'll pass on my address and you can ship them right on over.

This is what I'd love to be donning as I crunch leaves and sip hot apple cider after school.

Chambray shirt from the Gap
Fossil bag in cognac
Anthropologie watch (desperately need one of these for class!)

Mint Vans
Khaki trench. I'd also take Alexa Chung's general vibe and style along with it.
Great little Anthro skirt.
Some chocolate brown Sperry's. My tan ones have seen better days.