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!