Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gimme a Break


It is so so so great. So great, in fact, that this break has felt like 42 seconds long to me. The past week has gone by so quickly that I really can't believe it's been a regulation-length-week. We've been to Philadelphia, back to Chicago, up to Libertyville, further up to Cedar Grove, back down to Lansing, up again to Chicago, and now tonight I finally sit next to Brian on our couch in Villa Park, nagging him to attend to writing letters of recommendation for his students. I'm not much better, as I have plenty of unit planning and resource-hunting on my to-do list that is being ignored in its own right. We're pretty exhausted, burned out, and ready to finally sleep in for once, but it has been an awesome 8 days thus far. While looking back makes it all seem like a blur, there are great themes that stick out in my mind, defining the chaos of event after event a little more clearly into focus. It mostly all revolves around family.


I got to see Philadelphia, where Brian grew up until he was 14. One goofy part of that trip was a trip to the Xfinity Live! sports bar that quite the spectacle. We went there to watch the Eagles game (pronounced egg-uhlz) with a few of his cousins. All I can say that it was a land flowing with beer and nachos, complete with the scantily clad cheerleaders (I let my own feminist statement be known about the cheerleaders before we proceeded to watch most of the game...) and rowdy fans. It explained a lot about what it means to be a sports fan in Philly, which really addresses what it means to be a human in Philly. They are passionate about their sports. We also got a tour of Delaware County Christian School, the school in Pennsylvania where Brian attended from Kindergarten through 8th Grade. It has a beautiful campus, a great history, and a solid foundation. I love the school where I teach, and it's encouraging to see brilliant people putting their talents toward helping kids discover who they were made to be. That "great cloud of witnesses" line comes to mind when I have experiences like this. My in-laws met on that campus (high school sweethearts!), Brian's grandma used to work in the office there, Brian's aunt taught second grade there, and he and lots of his family members received an awesome foundation as students there. The current head of school at DCC used to be Brian's professor at Wheaton, so it was cool to get an inside look at a place so important to Brian's formation. The best part of the trip, by far, was spending time with the Whartnaby clan. We had a Christmas party, ate lots of chicken parmesan, and made great memories. The whole trip out east was really great for me. I got to connect with my new aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I also got to have a bigger perspective of who my husband is. I could really get a good vibe of where his roots began, thanks to the many driving tours my father-in-law provided through the different suburbs and city of Philadelphia. I love that being married means discovering more and more about the man I married with each milestone and month that passes. It only makes me love him more.


Not only were we able to see the east coast family, it was a busy week of family goodness at our midwest Christmases. We did Christmas Eve Whartnaby-style with a nativity play at their church and dinner at the neighbors' house. (I'm finding that Italian families do holiday food in the best possible way. Can you say lobster pasta, king crab, and wine all around?) Late that night we jetted up to Wisconsin for Christmas Day with my family, where my heart was full to see both of my siblings, my sisters-in-law, and Sawyer and Xander all together with my parents for Christmas morning. The last time we were all together was at the wedding, and it felt so good to all be together again. I got to see my Grandpa Gesch, Great Aunt Nelda open their presents, right next to little Xander, playing with his latest Ninja Turtle present. I heard it said in church this morning how we often spend the holidays distracted and distant, when it is just the time to be grounded and focused on the main things. This Christmas, spent surrounded by my family, helped ground me in gratitude for the blessings I have in my life. I surely don't want to take them for granted. So while this break has been hectic, it's definitely been worth it. I'll be spending the last few days of 2014 reading, sleeping, and catching up on life, thinking about the last week with a smile on my face.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Good Dads

I was thinking about my first year of teaching. On one of my first days ever as a teacher, one of my little girls, T, was crying at dismissal. I bent down and asked her what happened. Another teacher came up to me and said, "Oh, Gesch, don't worry about it, she always cries at dismissal because one day last year nobody came to pick her up after school," kind of in a nonchalant, it-is-what-it-is type of way. I was kind of shocked that someone thought it was no big deal that a 7-year-old was crying for this traumatic reason, but it's an attitude I came across often: brushing off the real emotions of children. I don't say this as an offense to the heart of my coworkers; on the contrary, many of my coworkers in East Garfield Park were some of the most amazing individuals with the biggest hearts for kids I've ever met. More so, it's a comment on the intensity of life in my old school's neighborhood: if you got worked up every time a kid got a little worked up, you'd be burned out by Thursday. And you have to last all year. A few people didn't even last all year. But there was T anyway, tears streaming down her (beautiful - and I mean that - she really is a beautiful kid) face. And I started to think about that.

As it turns out, she was supposed to be picked up by her dad that night. Perhaps it was a miscommunication, maybe it was an innocent mistake between her mother and father in a game of phone tag about who was picking up T that night. I don't think her parents were terrible people, just people who had a lot on their plate and were capable of making mistakes, just like I am. I don't know all the details of why, exactly, she was forgotten. Being left at school was a watershed experience for T, as she continued to cry at dismissal every single day after school for the first few months of school. We would get into the routine of me hugging her for basically the whole time until someone picked her up. She wasn't forgotten today, whew. She could wipe her tears. Crisis averted.

It made me think of our world, and how mistakes, large or small, may be seemingly insignificant to us adults, but how deeply real they are to kids. It makes me think of kids like T, who was picked up at the end of a long 4 hours at a police station, 8:00 pm on a school night instead of the usual 4:00 pm, horrified that nobody was coming to get her, so uncertain of what was going to happen to her, defenseless against anything.

My dad. 

As I go on through this third year of teaching, I am, ever so slowly, sussing out what the last two years of my life have really meant. I'm just now starting to process the impact that my experience with Teach For America left on my heart. A lot of it, to be honest, is depressing to rehash and think through in hindsight. I think of T and how she buried her wet cheeks into my leg while I stood on the lookout for her car. I think of how she was afraid that her dad forgot about her. I think of dads in general and how rare it is to have a Good Dad in our world, to have a dad of character, who is there for you, who always comes through. I think of my dad and of Brian's dad, and how good they are, and how lucky we are to have them. It makes me despair a little bit that dads like ours are so rare, that so many in this world go without a Good Dad. It all gives me a shot of pessimism toward our world's future.

Then, I zoom out and get a little historical perspective on how my own dad came to be the person he is. He also came from a Good Dad, my Grandpa Gesch. A hardworking, strict, hilarious, intelligent, kind, principled, faithful man of integrity. An example. A Christian leader. That's who my Grandpa is. Where did my Grandpa learn to be all of those things? By watching his own father? Actually, not at all. I never met him, but I hear that his dad was a little bit of a tough dude. In an effort to avoid slandering my own ancestors, let me just say that my great-grandfather, my Grandpa's dad, was not setting forth a loving Christian example and leave it at that. And yet, God intervened anyway, and he grew up little Wilfred Gesch to be a leader, a teacher, a believer, a father, and the patriarch of a large faithful family of Christ-followers. It's amazing how good of a dad he has become. He didn't learn it through an earthly example. He learned to be a Good Dad through following the person of Jesus Christ, setting forth a chain of events leading to an immense impact on his (massive) family. I know that my Good Dad wouldn't be who he is without the influence of his own father. It is a beautiful cycle of God's love sent down through generations by the means of  Providence and Faithfulness and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful testimony, my family.

So what does some German guy have to do with T, crying on the sidewalk, waiting for her dad to pick her up? These intersecting stories in my life give me a small dose of optimism; they point me to a larger picture of what is possible and the Hope we have in this dark world for progress, love, and redemption. My Grandpa Gesch didn't need a Good Dad on earth to understand how to be one himself. T doesn't need to wait for a Good Dad to come around. She doesn't need to have a perfect earthly example in her life to make the choice to begin something new in her own life, in her own family.

The truth is that T already has a Good Dad. He is of the heavenly sort, who already shows up and comes through when he says He will and will be faithful to His word. We all, T included, have access to this dad who will be consistent to His promises, true to what He says He will do, even if the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. This heavenly father is the kind of Good Dad who comes down to fill in the voids that human parents tend to leave conspicuously wide open. In a world full of imperfect dads and moms, it is beautiful to think of that.

So whether you have a bad dad, a mediocre dad, a good dad, or maybe even a dad who is gone from this earth, I'm sure you will be confronting that situation soon over the holidays. Family gatherings have a way of making us come to terms with our own dad and mom situation. Maybe it will be a happy time, but perhaps it will be difficult or even sad for you to think about the impact (or lack thereof) your dad has had on your life. Whatever that situation may be, perhaps it might help to think of T, and to know that you are not alone in shedding a tear or two. I hope that you and I can remember the Good Dad we all share who is faithful to us: a refuge, a strength, and an always-present help in trouble. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Things Lately

Life lately is, well, like a usual teacher's life in the last ten days before Christmas break: all over the place. We've been incredibly busy, yet not all that busy at the same time. Busy with school, with work, with obligations, but not yet busy out and about and living the Christmas-y December life. We are running around with end-of-semester student projects, Christmas programs, finals, and grading. Here's a few things going on in my life lately:

1. Serial. FE:OIWJFE:OWIEJFW:OEIJ:A:LKJWELRKF. That's all I have to say. It's so good. Sarah Koenig has me hanging on to her every word. She brilliantly, fairly, and ever-so-cleanly investigates a murder that occurred in Baltimore in 1999 through a series of podcasts. That year, a high school boy named Adnan Syed was put in prison for the death of his ex-girlfriend based on very little physical evidence, one friend's testimony, and phone records that seemed to indicate his guilt. With a little prodding, Sarah is finding more and more holes, questions, and coincidences than she's finding answers. We all get the privilege to ride along and see where it goes, the fate of this man, now in his thirties, hanging in the balance. People. Go take a listen.

2. Brian Regan. Mel's family has famously followed Brian Regan's comedy for as long as I've known them. Her dad is always good for a little quote sesh on the spot. Well, this weekend her friends were invited along with the Lawrence crew for a live show of his at The Chicago Theater. I had lost my voice at that point (see #3 on this list) and was squeaking out these raspy laughs all night. 

3. Dayquil. It's that time of the teaching year. Second graders tend to spread their slime without consideration of the state of community health, and I've finally succumbed to the barrage of germs that come in my direction daily. Unfortunately for Brian, he is realizing that having an elementary school teacher as his roommate means that he also gets the benefit of strengthening his immune system through exposure. We've been going to sleep at 8:45 at night lately. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love the extra sleep/reading/cuddle time, even if we are kind of miserable. We're miserable together! #marriageperks  

4. Harry Potter. Oh yes, for the first time. Today I told my friend Sam that I was reading the series for the first time ever. She gave me a puzzled look, saying that she always thought of me as a book-y person and could not believe that I hadn't read them before. Well, sadly, it is true. Not sadly, when everyone else was reading Harry Potter in middle school, I was working my way through the Chronicles of Narnia, so not all was lost in those early years. I got to know Digory and Polly and Tumnus and Lucy, and all was well. Now I get the joy of cheering on Griffyndor, loathing Malfoy, and living vicariously through the most curious and brave three best friends  I could imagine. I finished the first book yesterday and am absolutely hooked. 

5. Birchwood Kitchen. I've been trying to get to this place for forever! Brian and I tried going last year and ended up with the prospect of waiting for a table for over an hour. We ditched that and went to, of course, Smoke Daddy instead. Thankfully, Michal and Reese were free this morning and also wanted to try it out. It was delish and had an adorable little atmosphere. The company was the best part of the meal. 

Soon I will add Christmas Programs, End-of-Year Christmas Parties, and Flights to Phiadelphia on this list of things lately in my life. But that's next week. We'll take it one at a time over here. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Gimmies

There's this Berenstein Bears book called "The Berenstein Bears Get the Gimmies." It's all about how Brother and Sister bear (quick sidenote...Brother? Sister? Realllllly? That was clearly a last minute name selection.) get distracted with wanting wanting wanting everything they see, becoming self-involved, whiny brats. They of course get sorted out after a good talking-to from Mama Bear and the day is saved. Papa probably made a fool of himself at some point in the book, but I forgot. He usually does. 

So I've been doing this thing, where I don't buy clothes for six months in a row. I started on July 1st of this year and will refrain from purchasing clothes for myself until January 1st, 2015. This is pathetically, very difficult for me, and I'm afraid I've got a case of The Gimmies. I think Christmas specials and advertising isn't exactly helping. It's good to show restraint, though. It's okay to look, right? Check out this eye candy. It's from Madewell, Anthro, Timberland, Patagonia, J Crew, Modcloth, Anthro, and TOMS. In that order. Let's all just take in the beauty, shall we? 









Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stuff Students Say: November Edition

Hi everyone! I am writing this on a Sunday night after a holiday break, which means the oh-crap-I-procrastinated-too-much syndrome has set in. In a happy distraction to myself, I'm sharing a few gems that my kids have said for the month of November. I'll start with a Thing a Student Drew. He gave it to me, saying it was me, and that I was wearing a super hero costume with "ST" for Super Teacher. Apparently Super Teacher likes to frolic in garden fields. I like it. 


A student ran up to me while I was on recess duty and said...
Mrs. Whartnaby. She told me to S-H-U-T-SPACE-U-P. 

Boy 1: So when we get to 8th grade, we get mustaches. That's how it goes. 
Boy 2: Awesome! I'm going to make mine into a goatee! 

While we were watching The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Aslan comes back from the dead...

Student 1: I wonder what the longest word is.
Student 2: The most important word is God. And then Jesus after that because Jesus is God too so the first word covers him.

Praying out loud before lunch.
Dear Jesus thank you for Mrs. Whartnaby who works so hard to make us learn and doesn't get mad when we are all hyper so please help us to sit still. 

(talking) I need some help from the genius in the room. (yelling across the room) Mrs. W please come here so I can get your genius input! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Hi friends! I am a day late on my yearly moment to reflect on what I am thankful for, but I am in my quiet apartment at midnight and it seems to be the perfect time to do it. My Thanksgiving looked a little different this year, not in a bumbling house of rambunctious cousins, aunts, and uncles, but shared around a table with family and friends that feel like family. I was at the Whartnaby house with Brian's family, Brian and Michal, and Brian's parents (yes there are two Brians, in case you were wondering). We spent the day popping in and out of the kitchen for appetizers, food prep, wine refills, and conversation, back and forth to the couch in various seating arrangements, only to rearrange after the next wine refill. It was a good day. My father-in-law started the table going with a round of sharing what we are grateful for this year, and I went last. Of course by the time they got to me I was such an emotional mess from hearing everyone else's touching things that I could hardly utter understandable words. I'll repeat a few things that I said at dinner and add a few here, but I'm glad to continue the tradition. Here are a few things I'm thankful for this year. The first one is super cheesy, sorry but I'm definitely not sorry :)

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1. Brian. He made my list last year, but in the sense of I-have-an-adorable-boyfriend kind of way. This year, he has to be number one on the list because he has been my life's biggest blessing. He still is adorable, of course, but in him I have found my secret-keeper, my nightly dinner date, my TV buddy, my source of advice, my ego-booster, my sounding board, and my best friend. Not only that, but my chronically cold feet now have a ready-made heater to warm them up every night! (#marriageperks). The love, acceptance, and joy he has given me already in four short months of marriage is changing me into a better, more kind, more understanding, more beautiful version of me, and I could not be more thankful for that.

2. Badass wedding photos. Can I say that? Well I did. Hannah White and her husband Greg have amazing talents that have given me a gift beyond what money can buy. I've been looking at our wedding photos again lately and am so thankful to have stunning visuals on hand to remind me of that awesome day. It really is priceless.

3. My brothers. Rudi and Alex for sending me memes and funny texts to make the hundreds of miles that separate us feel a little smaller. Michael for being man enough to be my pedicure buddy. Luke for being cool about discussing world travels and also for lending me Harry Potter.

4. Hulu Plus. Hello Project Runway, Mindy Project, and America's Next Top Model. It's always there when you need a mind vacation. Thinking is hard sometimes. Reality TV to the rescue!

5. My amazing new school. Have you heard about Calvin Christian School?  Go look it up. It is a beautiful place of all kinds of kids and teachers, coming together to learn how to best serve God in this world. It's not perfect, sometimes it's messy, and mostly it's chaotic, but I absolutely am honored to be working where I am right now. It makes me thankful for the first two years of my teaching career and the struggles I faced there, because working at Calvin is so much sweeter after such a hard fight at work. I'm definitely still crying a lot at school, but not for the same reasons that I used to. These days I'm tearing up from amazing second grade thoughts, prayers, songs, and acts of kindness that move me to have complete faith and hope in this growing generation.

6. A membership to CostCo. Who knew you needed 6 bags of brownie mix in one purchase? Well now I know.

7. Family reunions coming on the horizon. For Brian's family and mine. We're headed to Philadelphia before Christmas to reconnect with the Whartnaby crew and my official first time to Brian's old stomping grounds. Also, for reunions with my two brothers and sisters-in-law (and niece and nephew!) currently located on the East Coast through their plans to visit the Midwest for Christmas. I have a big excitement building over seeing my people again in just a few short weeks.

8. My friends. Tonight I got to hang out, laugh, and eat with just a few of the exceptional people whom I somehow am lucky enough to call friends. There are some that have known me since birth, a few just since college, and some still more recently, but I have some hilarious, sweet, and quality people in my circle.

9. All the new people in my life. Yesterday, I sat around a table with 11 other people to share Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't know any of them as recently as a year and a half ago. They didn't know me either until Brian and I started dating. And yet there we sat, sharing so much friendship and faith and love amongst all of us, and I was overwhelmed with the goodness God brings to me through other people. When the world tempts me to believe the lie that I am all alone in this thing, God proves it wrong again and again with the incredible people he drops in my path. Isn't togetherness a gift? I am so thankful for it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Our Place

We won't be at our apartment for Thanksgiving this weekend, which is good because that means we'll be out with friends and family, soaking up togetherness and food and jokes and football and wine. I'm excited. As great as it is to get out and socialize, lately I've been feeling so lucky to have an apartment like ours. The cool story is that our building used to be an Ovaltine Factory. Somewhere along the way it went out of business and someone got the idea to renovate it into a bunch of loft apartments. That means we have concrete factory floors, 16 foot ceilings, and all the duct work/pipes exposed. Maybe it's the Christmas spirit, maybe it's the extra dose of helpfulness via my husband to clean up when I've had lots of nights home late from work. Either way, I love this place. I think the best part is the guy I share it with. Check out our digs!











Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Morning Epiphanies

My church sang this song today. Today I'm praying this kind of illumination for my heart all week long.

- - - - -

O Splendor of the Father's light
That makes our daylight lucid, bright;
O Light of light and sun of day,
Now shine on us your brightest ray.

True Sun, break out on earth and shine
In radiance with your light divine;
By dazzling of your Spirit's might,
Oh be our dawn, our light's true source.

The Father sends his Son our Lord,
To be his bright and shining Word;
Come, Lord, ride out your gleaming course
And be our dawn, our light's true source.

- St. Ambrose (340 - 397) 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On Choosing the Good

A lot of life is a choice.

I didn't always understand that. I came to believe, as I grew up as my late-teens/early-twenties self, that things happened in the world and things happened in your life and there was only one way to look at it: sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, and there isn't much choice in the matter on my part. That, I acknowledge, was an incredibly passive, sad, view of the world (and of providence, for that matter). This view developed over my last few years of college and first year or so in the real world. Before then, I was always this hopeful, naive, idealist: brimming with optimism and wanting everything to have a shiny bow tied around it so we could all feel good about each other and everything.

And then, of course, I lived my life. Friends left me out. People let me down. Money didn't grow on trees. My faith was on and off, at best. My job was so stinking complicated and hard. I couldn't understand the disappointment, the fears, the hard stuff that came at me, and I saw it all in a very passive manner. How could I control it if someone wanted to be just plain mean to me? What choice did I have in that matter? A lot of stuff ended up being imperfect and un-tie-up-able-in-a-shiny-bow and it was a whiny, icky, mindset to have.


But what I'm coming to feel, and know, more and more, is that those things weren't and aren't totally hopeless, I would just refuse to see the hope. I had a choice: the good or the bad. Most of my adult life has been a jumbled up mess of those two things (this broken and beautiful world almost usually is) and I always, always, always have had that choice. Which side was I going to see?

Instead of seeing hurt feelings and broken friendship as the end-all-be-all to a season of my college life, I could have leaned into that and found a deeper sense of gratitude for the friends that loved me for who I was, who didn't make me jump through hoops to feel like I belonged, who didn't make me defend who I was at every turn. I could have chosen the good, and lived in hope, even if that was a hard choice to make.

Instead of crying in despair at lunch time (way too often) during that first year of teaching, I could have focused on the student who told me that she felt so smart when I talked to her, remembering that to that one girl, my year of struggling was worth it. I could have chosen the good, and lived in hope, even if that was a hard choice to make.

Looking back, there are many moments where I passively felt despair, when I instead could have actively made a better choice, a harder one, to see the good. To see the growth, and to feel the remaking of new things. Now, letsbereal, it is way easier to wallow in the all too common routine of gossiping, finger-pointing, and the throwing-up-of-hands at the injustice and wrongdoing that comes in our direction. It's easier to whine, choose to see the bad, choose to settle on the thing that makes us afraid, and call it a day. Looking back, though, I'm seeing that it was during those hard times when I was actually growing up, being prepared for the good and hard and real things that exist in this world. Those hard times, in hindsight, have not squandered my hope, they have built it up, and I'm starting to see small moments of that old optimist coming out again. I'm no fool to think that the happenings of this world are random. These days I'm starting to see the hand of Providence intertwining itself into my life in small and big ways all along. It makes me think of that one line, the line I can always say in those times of choice:

"What that person meant for evil against me, God meant it for good."

I think I want to be better at looking past the evil and choosing the good instead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do Life Big!

Rudi, Steph, Sawyer, and Xander moved to New Jersey over the summer (the day after our wedding!)  to follow a job opportunity for my brother that came up out of the blue. While I of course, selfishly, wanted them to stay within a few minutes' drive from my apartment, I am so happy to see the amazing things happening in their lives and in Rudi's job as well. He's having a blast over there and here is just one small part of that. Check out the video of Eastern Christian students loving God through loving life. I dare you not to smile.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Past Two Years

The other day an outfit inspired a moment of thankfulness and reflection around here. It was the first Sunday in November, and I happened to be wearing one of my old-faithfuls of church outfit selections: a shirt-dress with a tie-waist that may-or-may-not-be-inappropriately short. When teaching I wear it as a long shirt over pants, and while out in public I risk the shortness with tights underneath and a long coat to give the illusion of acceptability. I like it. It's a pink and navy flower print (totally not what I'm usually drawn to in a store) but goes with black and brown and gray and fits no matter what. Brian saw it, tilted his head to the side for a second, and said, "Hey - that's what you were wearing when we met!"

Then we looked at the calendar, realized it was the first Sunday in November, and made the connection that here I was, wearing the same outfit, two years later, on the same exact Sunday of the month. Not that earth-shattering, but it was kind of a cute moment (mostly cute to me, because he noticed and remembered what I was wearing when we first met). Now, if you know us, you know that the first time we met was all of 3-5 minutes of small talk in the hallway at the school where Brian and my brother worked, half of the conversation directed toward my brother and his family and half of it towards me. During that time I was just floundering through my first year of teaching and had a great set of dark circles developing under my eyes. I had been switched between classrooms, my kids faced such severe struggles at home that managing behavior in the room was a marathon of effort every day, and the overwhelming burden of not being effective at my job was weighing me down deep into the ground. Surely there were good things in my life, too, but this adulthood thing and this teaching thing has been a transition not without its struggles for me. Working for Teach For America, while so good in so many ways, will do that weighing-down thing to you. At that point, all I could do was answer simple questions, nod, half-smile, and say "nice to meet you," before trudging home to a nap. And that was the last I heard of Brian Whartnaby for seven months.

Then the phone call happened, then the first date happened, and the rest was history. Isn't it crazy what can happen in two years? We went from friendly strangers to exciting crushes to serious dating to married; Brian is who I live my life with and around now; he is my person. There's no way I could have predicted what role he would take in my life on that Sunday two years ago.

I've been inspired by a few bloggers and other sources in the encouragement to downsize my possessions a bit and clean out my closet every once in a while. This weekend was one of those occasions, where those few pieces bought in my college years that have been hanging on for dear life were finally laid to rest in the Goodwill pile. This shirt-dress (or whatever it is) was no exception, as it was purchased on sale during my junior year of college and had to come under the scrutiny of to-keep-or-not-to-keep just like the rest of them. And I thought about how I wore it last Sunday, not knowing the anniversary of the occasion, and how Brian remembered it, and that it made me smile. It was the dress I wore when I met him. So, its position in my overstuffed closet remains indefinitely, as it helps remind me of the past two years, the progress I've made, the love I've found, the hand of God in my life, and the peace that comes in the unfolding of time seen in the rearview of hindsight.

Little did Brian or I know who we were really meeting that day, two years ago. I'm so glad it turned out how it did.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stuff Students Say: October Edition

Halloween used to not only last a day, not only last for a week, but last for a whole month. So far, that is one of the biggest differences between the kids I taught in Chicago and the kids I teach in South Holland. Sure, my kids love Halloween this year, but there was nothing like the month-long devotion to candy and superheroes that happened in my kids' brains at LEARN Charter. I remember instituting a "superhero station" for free choice time last year because my boys were begging me to let them wear their costumes for 15 minutes a day and flex those muscles. This year, however, Halloween was a half day of school, an exciting morning but still one full of work that got done, and a happy teacher who was tired, but not fried to exhaustion, dreaming in clouds of report cards, behavior charts, and peanut butter cups. Okay, so I am currently working on report cards (woof) but as a slightly less overwhelmed teacher than in years past. Even without the Halloween-frenzy, here are some gems that popped up this month:

(While I was on recess duty and negotiating a conflict between two kindergarteners)
Kindergartener 1: He won't let me play with him! 
Kindergartener 2: He wants to play Ninja Turtles with me, but I'm telling you, I have a nasty mean punch, and if we play, he's going to get hurt! I just don't want my punch to hurt him, so we shouldn't play!
Kindergartener 1: Nothing hurts me. I don't even have a fragile skull or tummy. If a big tower falls on me, I won't even get hurt!

Mrs. Whartnaby can I read during recess? I just love my book and can't wait to read it. 

You look really cute Mrs. Whartnaby. It's a combination of your outfit and your face.

Student: How do you spell "hast"?
Me: Hmm, I'm not sure I know that word. Can you use it in a sentence so I know what you mean?
Student: Like, "She HAST to do homework before she plays her game." 

(After a discussion about Alexander the Great, and how he was Greek)
Ohhh I know what Greek is! Do you watch DC cupcakes? Those ladies are Greek too! I love cupcakes so much that sometimes I eat cupcakes while I watch DC cupcakes.

Me (aghast): You send text messages?!
Student: Oh yeah. Sprint texts me sometimes. They're always trying to give me free stuff. I don't text them though. I only text my mom because we have a lot of iPhones in our family.

Technology is the best thing besides Jesus.

(raises her hand for help during math)
Mrs. Whartnaby are you a hugger?
(proceeds to get up and give me a hug) 

Are you old enough to have a child? I think you should have one because I'm sure it's fun to have a child.

I never wanna leave second grade!

(On why she shouldn't have to wear a jacket)
Ohhh let me explain. I was born in December so I'm used to the cold.

My church doesn't celebrate Halloween. We celebrate Hallow-LUJAH day! 

(On our field trip to Fair Oaks Farm, pointing to the underside of a pig)
Student: Why does it have all those pointy things?
Me (not ready for that talk): I'm not sure. You should ask your mom! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We're So Fancy

Sam called me up (and by that I mean texted me up, but "called" sounds cooler) a few weeks ago asking if I happened to be free. I happened to be. She said she had a Groupon for a cool salon downtown and wanted to do something classy. I said I was totally in. I vicariously live through Fancy Nancy half of my life, so may as well live it out for a change. We planned to get a blowout at this salon, then out to lunch at a cute champagne bar called Pops For Champagne where they charge you like 57 dollars for a glass of bubbly liquid (don't worry we found a cuter/more reasonable drink to consume).


So we first meet up at the salon, where we are led to the back room to get our hair washed. We of course begin talking about our kids and teaching and what we're going to dress up as for Halloween. Sam had plans to put together a Ms. Frizzle (it's a killer look, people) that day, and I was contemplating becoming a ninja turtle, obviously. The girl-with-perfectly-bold-eyebrows who was washing our hair heard me say "I think my boys would like the ninja turtle thing," and immediately decided that I was referring to my own biological children.

Anyway, she chirped in, saying "Wow! You look great for having boys of your own." I said "Thanks?" I'm...Ron Burgundy??? At first I felt a little lame, then I decided that dang it, I do look good for someone-who's-had-kids-but-actually-doesn't-have-kids. I informed her that, no ma'am, I will not look like this if I ever happen to have a kid, explaining that should that day ever come, I will be the frumpy hippo that comes back and asks for a blowout.


After getting our hurzz blown out (Okay confession: I've never had a blowout at a salon. I asked the hairdresser "What is it really, that you are doing today? Just washing my hair and drying it, like I do each morning?" And she replied in the affirmative. It wasn't until later that I realized she just is wayyyy better at doing those simple activities to my hair than I am. It was cool.) and styled we went down the road to get to our superclassychampagnebar. As it turns out, superclassychampagnebar is closed until later in the afternoon. We were hungry. Upon looking up, we saw none other than the sign for Chili's glaring at us like a signal from above. We decided to follow the signs and indulge in a super classy meal at...Chili's. Yikes. Could we get any more midwestern than getting all done up only just to walk into a Chili's in the loop? Nope. But we came, we saw, we ate fajitas. (The fact that chips and salsa were inhaled by a certain someone goes without saying. I still stand by the assertion that they are my favorite food ever.)

After that classy moment, we actually got to our intended destination, consumed bellinis, felt really fancy, and fulfilled the classy plans set forth for the day. Wouldn't want to class it up with anyone else. Just look at this girl's hair flip.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Story of the Purple Pants

I want to tell you a short little story. If you would like to smile, please read it. And guys, take notes.

Last week I went to the Dutch Megalopolis that is West Michigan. I was there with my whole school faculty for a conference, but I made a small detour to Hudsonville to hang out with the one and only Liz VanDrunen. We got dinner at a place called The Electric Cheetah (delish) and I wanted to change clothes before heading over there from Liz's house. I brought along my favorite miracle purple pants. These pants fit me so perfectly, they are like magic. No matter how the day feels in the fat/skinny department, the magic purple pants just happen to make whatever I have going on look good. These were purchased from H&M, on sale, for 13 bucks, and have lasted for over a year. Somehow I've worn them out to bars in a super cute way or with sweaters and boots for work in a teacher way. I can't explain it. It all just works. I meant it when I said magic pants, people!

So it was all the more tragic when, all of a sudden, as I zip up said pants, the zipper pull came off in my hand. I tried to reconnect it, but to no avail. The big bummer is they still fit like a dream, and it wouldn't really be worth it to repair the zipper because of how cheap they actually are. That 13 dollar price tag had to catch up to me at some point, and a cheap zipper is a cheap zipper. For some reason, I felt the need to inform Brian (who was back in Chicago) immediately of this occurrence. It went something like this, in text form: "Purple pants are broken :( :( :(" (See how that Advanced Writing course in college paid off? My texts are so eloquent!)

Brian responded with a text of sincere sympathy (which is the first sign of his sweetness, because he is the last person who would ever care about a pair of pants' shortened lifespan) and, after a compassionate message, another ":(" back. (Yeah, we both graduated college.) I thought that was the end of it, but was happy that I had a husband that actually cared how I felt about purple pants. I was satisfied. And kind of smitten all over again with this guy who cares about the stupid things I care about simply because I care about them.

But wait, there's more!

On the ride home from the conference, I hit a lot of traffic and ended up trudging into our apartment a tired and hot mess, listless and ready for a nap. Not only did Brian leave me half of his Kit Kat (major bonus points there) but when I went into my closet I found a neatly arranged little shopping bag. Since I've been doing the no-shopping-for-6-months-thing, this is an odd sight in my closet these days. It was from Zara, and neatly tucked inside of it was a cardigan sweater and, of course, a pair of plum-hued skinny pants. A replacement for the magic purple pants, compliments of my supercool man! He'd gone to 7 stores in the mall that afternoon trying to track down purple skinny pants and finally found ones at Zara because "wasn't that the place you said you always shopped at while you were in Spain" and because he is just that good.

And I needed to tell my blog about it, so that I remember.

Forget the purple pants. Brian, you're magic to me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I was telling a veteran teacher the other day that I still totally ride the first-year-teacher-roller-coaster even though this is my third year of doing this gig. The beginning of the year is allllll jitters and nervous energy. Then, after the first fresh unit plans are over, the cold comes and I start to lose steam, get buried in the piles of grading, and feel the weariness of 5:00 alarm clocks. When stuff starts to feel like it's too much, I think it's a good time to take stock and remember all the good things. Because there are so many good things! Here we go...what I'm currently up to:

Loving: being married to a certain Brian Whartnaby. I got him a gift for Sweetest Day (and I take full responsibility for the obnoxious perpetuation of Hallmark holidays, but I found a great chambray shirt that would look great on Brian, so sue me) and included a Kit Kat bar in the gift bag. After being away in Michigan at a conference for two days, and spending 4 and a half hours in traffic in the effort to get home, I opened the door to our apartment to find a smiling guy, a big hug, and two of the four Kit Kat pieces saved in the wrapper for me. Ahhh. What a guy.


Reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. One of my biggest beefs with Veronica Roth (okay, so maybe she doesn't know that we have a fight going on, but I surely started one) was how she switched up the narrators, having Four and Tris alternate as the first person voice from chapter to chapter. In short, this was a terrible move. It sucked. I hate to even say this, but I didn't finish the book because I was so bored by it. So I find out that Gone Girl, while it's getting all of these great reviews, also does the whole switching voice thing, except this time it's awesome. The characters reveal little pieces of who they are, flawed and believable, and yet also unreliable, with their own versions of bias. I haven't finished it yet and am avoiding all talk of the movie and book on social media so I get to see for myself how these two actually turn out.

Watching: A lot of HBO. A perk of moving and signing up for a new subscription of cable and internet is that they throw free things at you. Like HBO! After a healthy stream of The Wire and Veep (I died every episode), and it's safe to say that Brian is absolutely addicted to The Sorpranos, I am currently watching Lena Dunham's show GIRLS. I'm somewhat wary of my admission of being its viewer. The inappropriateness is there, to say the least. I'm so drawn to it, and the characters in it, though, because it has so much to say about the hopes and talents and blind spots (oh the blind spots!) of my upcoming generation of millennials.

Anticipating: DO I EVEN HAVE TO SAY IT?! Taylor Swift's 1989 Album comes out on October 27 (THAT IS TOMORROW). It's a change in image for our girl Tay. No longer the country sweetheart, those curls have officially been straightened and the pop star look is embraced. But I have to have faith that deep down, it's our old favorite girl doing her happy, confident, truthful, thing. Did I just hear someone say "hella good hair?"

Listening To: Lin's Bin, every Monday and Friday morning at 7:15 a.m. (except sometimes I'm already in my classroom at that point and have to catch the rerun in the evening) on 93.1 WXRT. If you're in the Chicagoland, please give it a listen and laugh/cry along with me at the touching statements he makes answering the deep questions of life.

Planning: Little things to accomplish my 25 Before 26. (Go to September for that post, if you haven't seen it yet). I'm starting to wake up from the daze of beginning the school year at my new school, look at my life, and take stock of things. I'm taking suggestions for wineries, recipes, and good causes because I'm excited to roll up my sleeves and get started on it all!

Working On: Taking time to take care of myself. The past 10 weeks at my apartment have been all staring at laptops and 9:00 bedtimes for me. It's time to try new things and ideas and have a life outside of school. I've been thinking of the coming weeks and how I can get out of the doldrums of teaching in the post-beginning-of-year and pre-Thanksgiving fall. First step: yoga class :)

Wishing For: the Christmas season! I know that this holiday cheer is a little preemptive, but please let me explain the reason. My school's Bible curriculum actually aligns the birth of Jesus and all the stories leading up to it to be taught about eight weeks before Christmas arrives. I've already purchased a few Christmas gifts for my family and can't wait to pick out the others. It all makes me giddy for gold old fashioned family time, lazy snowy days spent giving presents, and attending advent services at our beautifully decorated church.  Advent season reminds me that God comes right into my messy life, the one in which I make no room for him, and changes me and remakes me and creates everything to be new again. Christmas reminds me that I am a believer in new beginnings, in hopeful horizons, and the shocking power of love to come down and change everything. That's the true story of Christmas and I love to hear it again and again.

What are you up to? What are you planning, wishing, and working for? It's hectic and hard over here, but it's all good.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pig Trauma

My second graders and I (and 5 brave parent chaperones) went to a farm on Friday for the first field trip of the year. It was awesome and they loved it. I loved it too.

At one point, we were in the pig barn, learning about how pigs are cared for differently during different stages of life. At the end, we got to the piglet barn where tiny pigs were clamoring over one another to nurse from their (exhausted) mama pigs. It's never a guarantee that you'll get to see a baby being born, but we were lucky enough to be present for one. And if you have idyllic visions of Americana in your head when you think of the birth of a new farm animal, please think again. This is kinda how it went:

"MRS. WHARTNABY!! Okay that lady just put on a humungous rubber glove, smeared this gross sticky stuff all over her hand, reached in the mama pig, and PULLED OUT A BABY. It's all bloody and I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS!"

Sorry, kids. Makes you hungry for some bacon, mmm?

On another note, here is a picture of two of the sweetest boys you will ever, ever meet.


Saturday, October 18, 2014


I have a cool family. I think what makes them cool is the fact that they don't care at all if they are actually cool.

Last weekend, Brian and I drove two hours into the deep nowhere-ness of Indiana for a little family reunion out in the fresh air and wilderness. My VanDrunen (mom's) side all descended on a town of Morocco Indiana to a location that doesn't actually show up on a GPS or Google Maps app. Brian said he felt like Billy Crystal in City Slickers, and I kind of had to agree that he was right. At the end of a long gravel road, we turned the (now filthy) car into the driveway of my uncle Wayne's property where over 40 people gathered to shoot guns, drive four wheelers and gators, have barrel races, roast marshmallows, and catch up with people you love. Most people camped or slept in the barn. The Gesches (my parents) and Whartnabys (how do you spell the pluralized Whartnaby?! Whartnabies? Gahhh) preferred the Holiday Inn Express. I was happy with our choices.


I am not one to love the whole ATV/four-wheeler thing, as I am the child of an insurance agent and too many horror stories of broken necks, paralysis, and death are associated with the outdoor vehicle thing. My dad was with me on this one. My mom, on the other hand, LOVED it and was on an ATV within about 4.32 seconds of arriving on the premises. I think their stance on four-wheelers reveals a lot about the differences between my parents, but that must be unpacked at another time and place.

I got to see Karley and Liz and that just filled my heart with happiness. If I could create a world where they were my neighbors, available for morning walks to the coffee shop and bakery, on call to stop over after work for a beer, or accessible for a grocery-shopping buddy, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just can't figure out how to fold the map and meld the topography so that Hudsonville, Michigan, Dyer, Indiana, and Villa Park, Illinois are in the same cul-de-sac. Frustrating.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend happened when, mysteriously, all of the aunts and uncles left the nieces and nephews alone in the barn. We were all hanging out, chatting and snacking, when we realized that our parents had all left us. When we tried to leave the barn, a grandma was set at her post to inform us that we weren't allowed to leave. It was a surprise.


A half hour later, my Uncle Dyke (Karley's dad) in his hilarious fashion took all of Yous Kids out in front of the bonfire with a flashlight in front of his face. He proceeded to tell the tale of Scarecrow Joe, who had his head lopped off by some hooligan teenagers. Ever since then, "around this time of year, and around this time of night" Scarecrow Joe would go around with a chainsaw, cutting people's heads off and trying them on to see if it fits. Legend has it, my uncle said, that Scarecrow Joe has not found a head that he likes the fit of yet, so he's still shopping around. Then we were told to follow him into the pitch black woods.

Along the path were demented Miss Piggies, Scream grim reapers, Zombie freaks, and others all leading to the finale of a crazed clown with a chainsaw. We knew it was our aunts and uncles, and it didn't matter. I was freaked out. My poor uncle Mike was just playing along with his skeletor costume and ended up getting a pretty hefty punch in the shoulder from me, after which I stole his weapon away from him and pointed it at him instead. It was a plastic glow-in-the-dark knife, but for some reason I felt the need to disarm this creature. Sorry, Mike. It was instinct. Must be the West Side part of me that still is on the alert at all times.

Either way, it was scary and hilarious and awesome. What kind of family am I a part of? I am not nearly as much fun as everyone else; it just makes me happy to sit back and watch the joy unfold around me when we're all together. Brian commented how he loved that "Everyone is on-board with everything in this family. There isn't anyone ruining it by saying this is a dumb idea." Nobody is "too cool" for anything. I think that was a very true thing to say, and I love the on-board-ness that runs in my family. Even if it means making me perilously close to peeing my pants in fear.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spiritual Amnesia

I've known many people who suffer from amnesia, dementia, Alzheimer's, or something of the sort throughout my life. The affliction of forgetfulness in the most cruel and confusing ways. It's affected my family and friends; how terrible for them, we all say, that this has happened. But I've come to believe over the past couple of years that I suffer from it too, in my own way. I have Spiritual Amnesia of the worst kind.
Let me begin by telling you some things I know to be true, deep down to the insides of my bones: God takes care of me. God helps me through the challenges of my life. God has never and will never let me down. These are the facts.

God proves these facts to me time and time again. He has put friends, people, circumstances, opportunities, blessings, and too-good-to-be-true-coincidences directly in my path time and time and time again.

 I was feeling lost and directionless during my senior year of college, wanting to do meaningful work but not knowing where to start. He put Teach for America on my radar and I sailed through the three-month application and interview process, disbelieving that I kept getting promoted to the next round time after time.

I was feeling lonely and weird when I lived in a new city in a new apartment. He put friends, roommates, an amazing church, and family right in my way to surround me with intelligent, talented, kind people. 

I was feeling sick of the dating game and so over the ups and downs of heartbreak after heartbreak. He put Brian Edward Whartnaby in my life, completely out of the blue, for the last first date of my life.

I felt defeated and burned out from teaching at a charter school in CPS. He put connections and last-minute Skype interviews right in my path to bring me to a fantastic community and the amazing group of 24 kids that are in my class at Calvin Christian School. 

All of this has happened to me in the last few years! And that's only the big stuff! What about the little stuff?

What about finding my thoughtful, wise, and caring mentor at church? What about generous donors who funded a technology project I started for my classroom? What about the joy I find in cooking for the first time in my life? What about the new brothers and parents and relatives I gained when I joined Brian's family, and the love and support I feel from them? What about awesome trips I've gotten to take? What about the love and friendship of friends that continues to grow through the different stages of life? What about the encouraging phone calls from my dad that come at just the right time? What about the proud sight of a second grade Reader's Theater performance? What about my newfound ability to wake up at 5:00 a.m. on a consistent basis? What about finally having a school day that goes exactly as you planned it? What about the simple joy of seeing Brian working at the kitchen table when I come home from work each day? What about a sunny day with blue skies making for a crisp and perfect October day? 

What about all those things? They didn't just happen. They weren't coincidence. They were carefully orchestrated, put in my path to prove to me, yet again, that I am not alone or without help.

And yet, in spite of all of those things, I forget. I forget God.

I get bogged down in my work at school. At the fact that I am on my third year in a row of teaching a new grade-level, a new curriculum, and a new school. At the fact that I'm tired and weary down to my toes at the end of every day. At the fact that I feel guilty for being a walking zombie when I'm supposed to be a supportive, attentive spouse. At the piles of ignored laundry and dishes. At the fact that I haven't had energy to go on a run since the school year started. I get bogged down in it all. Even in my silly first world problems and superficial insecurities, I get bogged deeply down in the midst of it all and I forget. I forget all of those things that happened and more. I look up and ask God: Why don't you ever help me? Why don't you look out for me? Why am I always fending for myself? Why am I alone in this? I forget that God has always helped me; God has always come through.

And then it hits me. I have a lucid moment of awakened understanding in the middle of my complaining, exhaustion, and piles of papers: I am with you. I love you. I always take care of you. Don't you remember, Anna? Have you already forgotten?

This weekend I was with my mom's side of the family for a wonderful and rambunctious reunion. One of the best things about this side of the family is the life and memory of my cousin Nikki. She passed away 5 years ago from brain cancer, but was a big influence on all of our lives in lots of different ways. Her motto, which I was reminded of this weekend, was this: Trust in God. He will help you. Our family loves those words and remember them when we think of her.

Those words are simple to say, but hard to live. Nikki was someone who didn't forget things, especially not any one of her cousin's birthdays or what they got for Christmas last year. She had her own struggles to face, but she definitely didn't have the forgetful problem I have. Her words are hope for sufferers of Spiritual Amnesia like myself. Trust in God, Anna. He will help you!

He always has. He always will.

And don't you forget it. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

White Chicken Chili (Thanks to our girl Shauna)


Let the recipe adventures of 2014 - 2015 begin! First things first, just look at that Dutch Oven. Isn't it the most beautiful orange? My mom bought this for me last Christmas, I think in a subliminal attempt to nudge me toward domestication. Well, people, it's worth it, because pretty things in the kitchen make me want to cook (note also the yellow teakettle in the background). I feel super culinary chic with this on my stove. 


Next, look what's inside! It's super easy and pretty much just involves opening a few cans, cutting up some chicken, and, the most important part of your job as the cook, snacking on chips and salsa for the duration of the wait for the chili to simmer. I got this meal from Shauna Niequist's book/cookbook Bread and Wine, the source of many other planned experiments in the kitchen. This recipe isn't too hearty - it's definitely the kind of thing you put in a bowl and slowly add shredded cheese, cilantro, and tortilla chips to as you discuss the happenings of your day. It's not too thick, such that Brian officially dubbed it not a chili, but a "hearty soup." Duly noted, husband. I strongly recommend these thin cantina chips I found because they really remind me of the best chips ever, of course the ones from Chili's (I am so midwest and uncool, but I love me some Chili's). Want to know how to make it? Here's how!

1 pound of chicken (I used cut up boneless skinless chicken breasts from CostCo) in the bottom of your dutch oven or large pot and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Then add in a 16-ounce container of salsa (you can probably tell from the pictures that I used a red salsa - next time I'm going to switch it up with a green variety). Throw in 4 cans of white beans (I used one can of chickpeas, simply because they reminded me of all of my meals in Spain, and it turned out well) and finish with 4 cups of chicken broth. Bring the whole shebang to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes (or more) after that. 

I loved that the day I planned to make this happened to be the first rainy, sleety day of fall where you really wanted something you could stir, sprinkle cheese on, and dip super thin tortilla chips into while it steamed up and cleared your sinuses. 

Meals like these make me excited for chilly days when I walk in after work to an apartment smelling of whatever has been simmering in the crock pot all day. Not to mention walking in after work to the hottie in the plaid sitting at my kitchen table. 





Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Mark this day. 

Tonight, Brian and I swore we would never again eat at a Buffalo Wild Wings together.

I agreed; it was time. 

This, coming from a girl who would happily join in the group of her friends on Thursday nights in college for cheap wings and friendship. It was a land flowing with ranch and Honey BBQ. Good times were had by all. Jokes were cracked. Memories were made. Passive voice was used by some. 

I'm not exactly sure what happened to the place between college and adulthood, but we stopped there for dinner tonight and let me say: it was bleak.

It all started when I got home from work. I was all set to begin dinner, but Brian (I love this guy) could detect that I was exhausted. Not really up for doing anything much after school tonight. He suggested I refrain from cooking and said we should go somewhere quick for dinner tonight, so I could take the night off from making us food. (Have I mentioned how much I love him?) 

So we're driving along, and there it is. B Dubs in all of its glory. There's a playoff baseball game tonight that Brian wanted to catch. So we kind of shrug at one another and say, "Let's give it a shot." 

First of all, is it just me, or does everyone look completely depressed in there?! We almost laugh out loud as we scan the room and see a dimly lit collection of people questioning their very purpose in this world. B Dubs was putting people through this kind of existential crisis: "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What meaning is there in this life if the highlight of my day is spent at this stale restaurant?" There are bored couples, blank-stare groups of buddies with mouths agape at television screens, and, the most heart-wrenching: the overwhelmed parents. There are kids everywhere screaming and crying with parents who look like all they need was a hug (and perhaps, more importantly, a cocktail). It's like one of those biblical "weeping and gnashing of teeth" scenarios everywhere you look. People with kids: I don't know how you do it. 

So we sit down. We are surrounded by SIXTEEN TELEVISIONS. On those televisions are preseason hockey, college women's volleyball, sports talk shows (with no audio, mind you), and soccer. Not one TV has the playoff baseball game. To make matters worse for Brian, the largest screen of them all, in the middle of the main dining room, is replaying Sunday's footage of the Philadelphia Eagle's loss. Guess what music is playing in the background. Creed. I'm not even joking you guys. This is rough. 

Then our food comes out, mainly microwaved and plastered to small little paper trays. Even our appetizer is prepared in this manner. Brian hypothesizes that there are no chefs at Buffalo Wild Wings, only Microwave Technicians. Perhaps this is cause for some investigatory journalism.

We finally get our food, eat, chat, watch a little baseball, and get out pretty quickly. Already on the ride home we feel all fuzzy in our brains and kind of sick to our stomachs. It was at this point when we make the vow: never again will this Whartnaby clan dine at B Dubs. 

B.W.W.  may you R.I.P. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stuff Students Say: September Edition

It's back! I'm at a new school with new kids but the same old thing is true: they say awesome things that secretly make me laugh. Most of the time I look at them with concerned and interested looks, nodding my head along in all seriousness to the things they say, trying to come up with a thoughtful response. In reality? I'm cracking up. But only inwardly. Teachers have to be actors, I suppose, and showing restraint in the face of ridiculous comments is one of the best ways it's done. Here are the gems from my first month at Calvin.

For Christmas this year I'm asking for the ability to fly. Now that's the gift that keeps on giving. 

Ms. Whartnaby - I just wanted to be extra generous - so I am offering a Dorito to you. Would you like to eat it as a snack? 

I never sometimes have lunch.

Me: So who can tell me what the sum of this problem would be? (Called on student, who was raising his hand.)
Student: I don't have tonsils anymore! They took them out of my throat. 
Me: Okay cool! Do you know the sum though?

Does your husband always eat your cookies before you can get around to eating them?

On September 11 we were talking about how important firefighters were to our communities.
Student: So you're telling me they just went in those buildings even though they were on fire? How THOUGHTFUL of them! I think that was so nice and thoughtful. Do you think it was thoughtful??

Me: So what is the main character's name in your story? (The character's name was Elfie.)
Student: I'm not sure. It looks like Selfie though. Is it Selfie!?

(After giving them an extra 10 minutes of recess for good behavior)
Mrs. Whartnaby I just want to thank you for all you do for us! 

Me: I love how you wore your hair big like that today.
Student: Your natural hair is great too, even though it's not big. Remember to always use your natural hair, okay?

(A student's sew-in braid fell out at recess)
I'm going to take it and make it into a bracelet. Good as new!

(While reading The Trumpet of The Swan, the swan plays "Summertime" by George Gershwin)
Me: Have you guys heard of that song? (I hummed the song, and about half of them had)
Student: I don't know that one, but I do know a summertime song. Summertime Sadness! It's a classic. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Weekend Relief

My weekend was pretty full, although technically I had no obligations Friday and Saturday night. I love documenting weekends. Teachers, you'll feel me here: documenting weekends helps you remember that they exist, that they really happen, and that you do in fact get a break from the weekly never-ending-stream of work that will never be done. During the week at school I am constantly finishing work and leaving school, not when everything I would like to finish is completed, but when I think I've done enough to survive the next day.  True confessions from second grade.

This weekend I hung out with coworkers on Friday, went to a baby shower, hung out at the mall and went to pizza with Brian, went to church this morning, and left on an apple picking excursion with Reese and Danny this afternoon. With events like that packing up most of the weekend, it makes it less depressing to say that I spent 5 hours on Saturday night planning and prepping for the coming week of school. I'm starting to, slowly, picture my life in a sustainable way, in a way that I can not only tread water, but stay afloat in a regular rhythm of the week. I'm definitely not there yet, as I already am thinking it's past my bedtime at 9:45, but I'm starting to see how it could, maybe, someday, work as a lifestyle that I can maintain without driving myself and Brian (what a good sport) crazy. Until then, I'll still be loving my weekend relief.






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Warm Fuzzies

Going home to Wisconsin is so sweet. I appreciate it more and more as time goes on. Isn't that funny? Seven years ago, all I wanted was to get out of dodge and live within 30 minutes of a quality mall. Now I miss the stars and gravel driveway and fresh air and would happily chat around a fire every night of my life.

Why does it end up that way? That such an adventurous mind always wanders back to a town of just around 2,000 inhabitants, most of whom are from the same few Dutch families who also happen to know mine and everything about it. That used to be suffocating to me (I imagine in some ways it still would be), yet now I also see the good side of it: people care. In the Western Suburbs of Chicago, there are surely caring people, but you sort of need to make a concerted effort to build those communities where everyone is in everyone else's business. In some ways I think we were meant to live in that way, up in one another's business, whether we be a city mouse or a country mouse (sorry for that metaphor, I tend to think in Children's Literature most of my day). I was talking to a friend yesterday who said that it's important to build those communities around you even as adults, even if it's a little clumsy and fumbling, a little artificial feeling when trying to figure out how to live in and through this life with others. Sure, I have Brian and he has me, but we are more than just there for the other. We all need one another. And I suppose that's the thing that I love about my small town community. Everyone needs each other there: the construction guy buys his groceries from the grocery guy, and the grocery guy hires the construction guy to add an addition on his house. It's a cool thing.

One of these small town sort of connections allowed my dad to find a great deal on a used International Harvester Tractor, his current Pride and Joy. He loves that thing. It's got a great retro look, and I think it will be credited with some cool changes to the property around my house. Brian and I went to The Grove for the weekend a few weeks ago to check it out for ourselves. That, grouped with a bonfire Saturday night and a walk around our land with my mom on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, called for some serious warm fuzzes.





Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Morning Epiphanies

"Man of Sorrows," what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
"Full atonement" can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die,
"It is finished," was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

When He comes our glorious King,
All his ransomed home to bring,
Then a new this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!


Wow. Sometimes I find myself asking that: Can it be? That the guilty, vile, human being that I am, can be covered and atoned by spotless You? Hallelujah indeed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My 25 Before 26

You guys. I turned 25. Karley of course was a ridiculously good friend along with Mel and Liz and they planned me a surprise party that made me feel so freaking warm and fuzzy inside. I got a lot of comments about how this year makes me a quarter of a century. My dad said, "Hey Anna, only three more quarters to go!" I said, "Until I die? That's morbid Dad!" And he goes, "No...just three more quarters to go...until you turn...100." It's weird to have the first half of my twenties behind me, but I also love that those years have been lived. I really became myself in these past five years, made some dumb choices, made some good ones, but mostly just made my way in this world. As I did last year, I want to look at this year ahead as a year of opportunity; a way to accomplish things and never forget that this world is never finished in amazing me with new things, big and small, to try and discover and experience. Here we go, friends. My 25 goals before I turn 26!


1. Refrain from purchasing clothes until January 1st, 2015. I know it seems somewhat negative to have a "don't" as the first thing on my list, but it's the one I'm most determined to accomplish. I wanted to see what it felt like to go without buying clothes for six straight months. I've been on this thing since July 1, 2014, and plan to make it to New Year's Day. The (self-imposed) contest goes like this: I don't buy clothes (pants, jeans, tops, shirts, sweaters, shoes, etc...underwear and other accessories like tights are allowed in moderation so that I can be work appropriate haha) for six full months. If I make it to the end of the six months good on my promise, I'm going to reward myself with a small shopping day splurge. This is not meant to show solidarity with people less fortunate, as I am fully aware that my lack of spending does absolutely nothing to impact the lives of others and there are much, much better ways to support those who lack materially. This challenge came up when I was moving all of my clothes to our new place and realized that I don't always appreciate what I have. I love my clothes and want to put them to use; make them earn their keep. I love shopping almost as much, but there are better ways to spend my time and resources. So sorry, Anthro magazines, you'll just have to be eye candy for now. Whew. That was a long explanation for my first goal. The others are much shorter, I promise.

2. Go soft-drink-free for a year. No soda. No coke. No sugary-caffeiney-teeth-rotting nectar to complement my delicious bacon cheeseburger at DMK. Wish me luck.

3. Sponsor a child. 

4. Use money to bless people. I have been blown away by how God takes care of me, takes care of Brian and I together, and how generous our friends and family (and sometimes people out of the blue) are when it comes to money. Too often I'm counting and counting over and over what we've saved so far, only to forget that we could not have done it without the generosity of others. I want to be smart enough with my money so that it can be available to support other people.

5. Go wine tasting.

6. Use the broiler in my oven.I don't even know what that really means, but I see a lot of steak recipes in this great cook book I have that calls for me to use it, and yet I'm still scared. It's uncharted territory in the Gesch Whartnaby household, and I plan to chart that territory in the next year.

7. Run for a good cause. 

8. Wake up really early to see the sunrise. This is a repeat of last year, but I want to do it again. So there.

9. Have a housewarming party. I suppose my surprise party kind of christened our apartment as the first time we had people over, but I still want to host some sort of event. I love it here and want to share it!

10. Own a houseplant without killing it. 

11. Write more consistently. That means on this blog and in my journal. One of the things that makes me feel like "me" is writing things down. It's so basic of a thing, but it's important to me, and I should do it more often. I guess quantitatively that means something like 8x per month as a minimum on this blog and about 5x per week in my journal.

12. Go to a yoga class. I still haven't done it! How am I 25 years old without this being accomplished?! Up until now I've only ventured to the youtube yoga videos in the comfort of my own home, but this is the year where I will get out there and try a class or two.

13. Always have a book going. Last year I was good about reading during the breaks from school, but my reading life dropped off during the weeks and months of teaching. I want to always, always be in the middle of a book, no matter what time of year it is. I've never actually read Harry Potter, and I'm thinking it's the series I want to tackle this year.

14. Make dinner and have people over to eat it. This terrifies me, but I think is important to do before I turn the ripe old age of 26. C'mon Anna, woman up!

15. Keep fresh flowers in the house. 

16. Go on a road trip with Brian. 

17. Spend more time intentionally technology-free. I want to purposely leave my phone in the other room for an entire evening and be okay with it, on a consistent basis.

18. Be tidier. If you've ever met my dear cousin Liz, you would understand why she is the inspiration for this challenge. Stay tuned for how I figure out some strategies that work for me to keep up a clean apartment, for it shall need some creative thinking.

19. Accessorize more. The only jewelry I ever wear is my wedding/engagement ring combo. As lovely as they are (and they are) I want to amp this one up.

20. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago for a new exhibition.

21. Paint a watercolor picture.

22. Wash off my makeup every night. Pathetic that this one needs to be a goal, but yet, I am so, so lazy in this regard.

23. Try 10 recipes I have never tried before. Let me know if you have suggestions please!

24. Get my planning for school done before the weekend for a full month. Usually my Saturdays and Sundays are plagued with this slight feeling of dread that I have to get my work done. I want to pick a whole month to show myself that I can budget my time wisely and have the payoff be a very chilled out weekend.

25. Listen to the Lord. The tradition of Christianity in which I grew up was a strong, true, and wonderful one, but it didn't necessarily stress actually listening for the voice of the Lord. I want to spend more time acting out Psalm 46:10, really being still, and asking the Lord what he wants from me and for me. I want to investigate this part of my faith this year.

Join in if you'd like - what do you want to do in this year of your life?