Sunday, December 29, 2013

Completely, Perfectly, and Incandescently

(If you've made it this far in this blog post, I'll go ahead and apologize for being gushy. You might want to avoid talking to me for the next few months if you aren't a fan of gush. You'll notice the title is a Pride and Prej reference, which is a clear indicator that I'm feeling sentimental. Reader beware.)

A week ago, Brian proposed.

A week ago, Brian PROPOSED.

A week ago, BRIAN PROPOSED!!!

That's how it sounds in my own brain, at least, as I get a grip on the new reality of my life in these past seven days. I know now in a heady, cognitive-sort-of-way that I am engaged to Brian Whartnaby, but the heart-feeling-kind-of-understanding hits me in surprising and happy waves. 

I've always felt the need to have a small independent streak, feeling slightly proud of myself as I attended the weddings of 20 of my friends and family over the past two years with a very blank left ring finger. It gave me a small sense of accomplishment that I lived my life, followed my path, and made plans on my own. I was not about to be settling down nor was I about to settle. My first year out of college seemed to me like The Year of First Dates, full of nice and well-intentioned guys (plus one or two Shady McShadesters) but full of guys that didn't click. I went out with some new people I've never met before, and even talked to some old friends and boyfriends that mutually wanted to start talking again. Nothing felt right. Nothing felt like it fit. A bunch of really nice guys with no room for me in their lives. Sometimes that was a relief, sometimes that was sad, and sometimes it was just okay. But, then, of course, The Year of First Dates continued when Brian called me up. I had just decided to stop progressing things with another person and Brian called me for a first date two days later. It felt sort of quick, but I thought to myself, "Here we go. No harm in going with a nice guy on a First Date." Well he was more than just nice, and the rest, as I suppose they always say, is history. 

Somehow, this kind, smart, thoughtful, talented, sweet, and handsome (I could go on) guy kept asking me to hang out over the past six months until last Sunday when he asked me to marry him. He took me back to the spot  right where we first met, at Timothy Christian in the hallway in front of the counselor's office. (You can get that story from me anytime) After he proposed, he had arranged for my whole family to be ready and waiting at his parents' house with his family for a celebratory toast and lunch. When my hands stopped shaking and I got a moment to look around the room, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with gratefulness for the family I have and the family I'm joining.

Today I caught a glimpse of the ring on my left hand and got a sudden smile on my face. Not because Brian is perfect, or because I am perfect, or because we have a perfect relationship, because he's not, I'm not, and we don't. But as I look forward to this new year that's coming I have to say that my past compulsion to be independent has changed in a small way. I still want to do new things, see new places, and follow new paths, just this time, I want to do all those things along with him. Why? I suppose it's just because he's the best guy I know. 

After The Year of First Dates, I'm so glad that he called. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Yesterday was Christmas. It finally got here.

It wasn't the usual explosion of cheer that December 25th brings. I'm 24 now, and so it was a chill and happy day at home. My brother, Heidi, parents, and I opened a few presents. We ate a steak dinner at home, then we all took naps. We talked about the coming year and made a few plans. We watched a movie. I never actually left the house. It was a long and peaceful day. But I'm still waiting for something.

This year, the Christmas season has been characterized not by the day of December 25th, but by the waiting. The leading up to something. The patience. The Advent season. For good things to come (more on one especially wonderful thing soon), some necessary things to come, and some other things that I'm not sure if they're coming at all.

My church really follows a cool tradition during Advent, with reverent readings and candle lightings and the whole shebang. Sometimes, in times like those, I feel the wait for what's to come to be an exciting and almost magical thing. But for the most part, in the day-to-day, I'm weary in the waiting. The term Advent, in itself, means the arrival. So I suppose I'm waiting on another arrival.

Let me tell you what I mean. As much as I am a teacher on Christmas break who does not want to even think about school, this whole waiting thing actually happens to be all about my life at school.

This year, much more than last year at least, I am aware of the challenges and home lives that make up the realities for my kids every day. I'm asking more questions and am overwhelmed at what six and seven-year-olds are accepting as normal, not because they want to, but because they have to, because they don't know anything different.

Parents in jail, parents with cancer, parents who aren't around, 
parents who are, parents who were shot last week.

Food that isn't there, gas tanks and bank accounts that aren't getting filled, 
presents that weren't wrapped.

Missed rent checks, missed job interviews, missed bus rides. 
Missed payments and the cold that kicks in when the heat is shut off.

Shootings down the street, sirens up the block, 
and bed bugs on the floor where he sleeps.

Cuss words and candy bars for dinner.

And this is the world we have for our kids? This what they wait for? 

And I know I should be positive, not thinking about only the struggles and challenges when there are so many good things to see and be thankful for, but at times waiting for this Advent can be overwhelming. I'm longing for it to be resolved, but here I sit, patiently looking ahead. I feel like Lucy when she was told that it's always winter and never Christmas.

Of course, in my own stupidity, I get stretches of time where I think I can fix things. Where I can patch it up. Where I can speed up the Advent, hurry along the arrival of The Way Things Are Supposed To Be. It's hard for a girl who was brought up as a Dutch Reformed kid to realize that even diligent work towards a redeeming cause might not produce the results that you want. So here I still wait. In one week and a half I'll go back to school and walk past the litter on the street right back up to my classroom. And I'll still be working and waiting for that world I want for my kids.

A perfect little thing happened on Christmas yesterday. My Grandpa Gesch was asked to pray before lunch. He can hardly maneuver around my house anymore and needs my dad to cut up his steak for him. But one thing he'll always be able to do really well, no matter his age or physical limitation, is pray. And he said, on Christmas, that God should help us remember to be loving to each other, to show kindness every day, and to take care of each other by giving each person around us what he or she needs. It was beautiful. And while I can't do many things, one thing I can do while I wait is to love my kids. I can't fix their entire world, although I will continue to do everything I can to try, but here in the meantime, in the midst of the waiting, I have my mission: I want to love. I want to be kind. I want to take care of people. That's the stuff that helps make the wait worthwhile.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cut and Paste

Pinterest. It used to be this cool website where I kept all of my ideas of what I want to wear, eat, and do on a daily basis. I absolutely love all of the outfits that I "pinned" to my virtual bulletin board and I can honestly say that my board devoted to Small Baby Animals has turned a bad mood around once or twice. While I suppose Pinterest is still all of that to me, it has now become my biggest source of Professional Development.

Elementary teachers everywhere: forget your curriculum, drop out of your master's courses, and just go on Pinterest. It will have the same effect on your teaching and it's free. I'm sure I'm the absolute last TFA-er to maximize Pinterest for the benefit of their teaching, but I always thought: "No, Anna, you should stick to exactly every activity the curriculum says to do because who knows what they'll say if they come in to observe and you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing." First of all, they won't be upset if my kids are engaged and excited to learn about something in a creative way...they aren't all that scary anyway. Second of all, KIDS SHOULD HAVE FUN AT SCHOOL AND I'M SICK OF STANDARDIZED TEST PREP AND I WANT TO DO FUN THINGS. So Pinterest it is. And Pinterest it shall be. Last week we did a Christmas tree activity that helped us practice using a ruler to measure to the nearest inch. And listen here. If you would have told me that throwing out some scissors and glue would make a room that contains 14 squirrelly 6-year-old boys (and let me tell you what the other 7 girls aren't lacking in spunk either) turn into a place of extreme focus, I would have slapped you.

But here we are, and now I am searching for cut-and-paste activities for every single lesson. Check out my cuties getting into the Christmas spirit. Four more days until break people. FOUR MORE DAYS!





Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside

Okay before I start my writing, can we all agree that the song to which this post's title refers is a thinly-veiled poppy version of date rape?! "I really can't stay?" "Say what's in this drink?" Terrible. Girls, it might be cold outside, but get the heck out of that guy's apartment. Put the hat back on, go home, and deadbolt that door.

....Pause for a reflection of this creepy song and a transition to fun things....

Now, onto the warmth and cheer. It has been freezing outside. I got into my car this morning and the temperature on the dash read -3. Negative three. Gah. Yet with this abominable weather, there have been some lovely little moments. And, of all places, these moments happened outside in the midst of the frozen tundra. I absolutely hate being cold yet here God put all these fun moments in my life, right in the middle of negative degrees and numb noses. Sorry that sounds sentimental, but I am sentimental. I'm overtired, and I taught Christmas activities to antsy overtired children all day, and I'm in grad class on the last night of the semester, and therefore I'm loopy and therefore sentimental. Oh well. Here are some positive moments from the past few weeks when the temperatures were in the negatives.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we took part in the Christmas parade in the tiny town adjacent to the tiny town in which I was raised. Sawyer was a little elf (very cute I might add) on the float and I was the official face-painter and sign-maker and glow-stick-passer-outer-to-the-crowds-er for my dad's business. Ah small town life. And a backseat selfie. 

It's hats and hoods and gloves time at recess. My kids love going outside, even in the cold. It makes me rethink my laziness of my "I don't wanna go out there" when it's freezing cold and consider the joy of a six-year-old going down a slippery snowy slide. And also the joy of a fur hood selfie. There's that too. 

Karley and Sam asked if Brian and I wanted to walk around The Magnificent Mile to see the lights. I hadn't been downtown in forever - funny how living in a big city makes you take the touristy things for granted - but it was awesome to stroll in and out of shops, sip hot chocolate, and soak up the Christmas spirit. And, of course, another selfie. SO MANY SELFIES. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stuff Students Say: November Edition

I am thankful for the weird stuff that my kids say. I am thankful to people like you who find it equally as amusing. Here you go, friends.

On November 1.
Is tomorrow Thanksgiving?

Right after a lecture on how she needs to show her friends how special they are by using kind words and imparting valuable life lessons about being nice. I asked her if she understood what I was saying. She replied: 
Student: Ms. Gesch you pretty.
Me: (Sigh.) You're very pretty too.

In math, when called on to answer a word problem. 
My mama finally got some money and now we buying a house!

I can't do number lines! I'm only in first grade! What do you expect?!

On a pretend phone call to her parents after school. She didn't know anyone was watching her.
Why you ain't picked me up yet!? I almost called 9-9-1-1 on you! 

Student: Ms. Gesch you got kids?
Me: No I don't have any children.
Student: So yo grandma got yours for the weekend then?
Me: No I don't have any children at all.
Student: You gonna get some soon so you grandma can watch them on the weekends?

A student saw a picture of Brian on my phone background. I told Brian about this and he can confirm that no small children from East Garfield Park have visited his apartment. Yet. 
Ms. Gesch is that your boyfriend? When you visit him at his house did you know that I visit his house too? 

Oh I know everything about Ms. Gesch. I even know her favorite color. 

Imma get two thousand dolla for Christmas.

On a bus on the way to a field trip, looking out at Lake Michigan.
I saw a dolphin fighting a shark! I saw it! Too bad you guys missed it.

Do it rain in places like the city?

This bus driver is making my feet turn to chickens.

I wish our school was Wisconsin Dells.
Me too, Deon. Me too.