“Teachers don’t poop…”

I just started my 14th year in the classroom. Even in that time, teaching has changed so very much. I work, on average, 10-12 hours a day. I’m typically buried in paperwork. The requirements and demands coming down from the state are endless, and often make no sense. The academic, physical, and emotional needs of my students are draining and more often than not keep me awake at night. This career is exhausting.

But…then there are the kids. My absolute favorite part about my job is the kids! There is never a dull moment when you are working with tiny humans. They tell me jokes that crack me up. They wow me with their creativity. My students shower me with daily hugs and stories about all the things that are important to them.

They get crayons stuck in their ears. I have heard myself say, more than once in my career, “Please don’t lick the windows.” They are squirrely and sassy at times but also have moments that melt my heart. Some days they will NOT stop talking, and others they are the most captive audience around. They are certain that ice from the nurse can cure anything. They will crawl on the floor picking up every little speck of dirt for the promise of a piece of candy.

I love the energy that they bound into school with. I love that they can still leave me speechless with the things they come up with. Today was one of the conversations that I will probably never forget. While standing in the hallway taking a whole class bathroom break, I asked one of my “responsible” students to monitor the class and hand out Dojo points so that I could go to the end of the hall and use the restroom. When I returned approximately 37 seconds later (as a teacher you have to go fast) one of my students said “Mrs. Taylor, what do you do when you go to the end of the hallway?” I replied, “Ummm…I use the bathroom.” Another student chimed in and said “D’uh…teachers pee too!” A third student chimed in, rather loudly, “And poop!” By this time the whole class is mesmerized by the topic of my bodily functions. A fourth student jumps into the conversation to proclaim, “NO! Teachers don’t poop!”

I didn’t really want to explore my bathroom habits with twenty-five nine and ten year olds…so I just quietly shook my head (as I often do) and went on. I mean really, what is there even to say at that point. Just move on. Did I even for a moment to expect that we would be discussing my bathroom habits today? Nope… Tomorrow I am sure there will be something else that catches me by total surprise.

I love these kids so much – already. We are building a classroom family and they bring me more joy than I could ever express. Even when I’m sending one to the nurse for jamming a crayon in his ear. Even when I have to try to explain to one why “No, I will NOT smell your hand.” And even when I have seen my thirty-second wiggly tooth of the day (and my stomach is lurching).

So yes, teachers work really hard and often feel underpaid and disrespected. We sometimes feel we are being tasked with the impossible. We are tired and overwhelmed and burned out. BUT, we do love the kids, and we are so blessed to get to do what we do! We can be frustrated and still love our jobs all at the same time!

Anywho

It’s a dreary, rainy day here. I am all about lazy, slow Saturdays…but I’m still holding tightly to summer and was hoping to relax poolside all weekend. So for now, I’m embracing my inner couch potato and relaxing inside of the quiet, empty house. As I searched the kitchen for something to fix for lunch, soup seemed appropriate for this rainy day. I picked out a can of clam chowder. I love clam chowder. I haven’t had a bowl of it in a long, long time. As I pulled the steamy, hot bowl out of the microwave, I was suddenly overcome with emotions that I couldn’t quite understand or explain. (I mean, I DO love to eat…but normally do not get giddy over food).

And then it hit me. My grandpa used to make clam chowder all the time. Not just any clam chowder. Owen made the best giant pot of clam chowder I have ever tasted. I miss my grandpa. He was truly one of a kind. Owen Edward Lykins could do just about anything. His signature dish was indeed clam chowder, but he also made the fluffiest scrambled eggs I have ever tasted. I remember sitting in the kitchen with him once while he was making those famous eggs. He told me that the key was cooking them slow on very low heat. He said, “It it doesn’t take you at least 45 minutes to cook eggs, they just won’t be right.” He was always full of wisdom and quirky phrases that we still use in his honor everyday.

When you asked Grandpa a question – any question – to which the obvious answer was “yes” he would retort “Does the Pope wear a dress?” When finishing one of his stories and switching subjects, his go to phrase was always “Anywho…” And oh the stories. He loved to tell his stories. Even if he had told the same one over and over, he would tell it with his quick wit and gusto. My grandma would often roll her eyes and remind him that we had all heard the story, but it did not slow him down. When Grandpa was thinking on something, he would always say, “I’m going to urinate on that.” Isn’t it funny the things we remember from the people who aren’t with us anymore!?

As I ate my canned clam chowder (I’m sure Grandpa was rolling over in his grave) I was overcome with sadness. It hit me that when I ate my grandpa’s clam chowder, I didn’t know that it would be the last bowl of it I would ever eat. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember when that was. But I certainly didn’t know it would be the last. I would give anything to be sitting in the kitchen watching Grandpa cook and listening to his stories (even if I had already heard them a hundred times before). I miss the way he loved his family. I miss watching him spoil his dog – even carrying her around in his half-buttoned shirt. I miss the way he used duct tape to “fix” anything and everything in his house and garage. On the day of his funeral, the hem of my pants came loose right before it was time to leave for the funeral home. In true Owen fashion, I “hemmed” them with some trusty duct tape. And I know he would have been so proud.

I am thankful that a simple can of soup made me slow down today and remember my grandpa for a few minutes. I am thankful of the reminder to love each other hard and appreciate the people in our lives because here’s the thing…we never know when one of those reminders might be the last.

Always sporting his red bow for special occasions

Game Day

Last night we went to East’s football game. I love football season. I love the game so much. But I have to be honest, it’s hard for me to go to any football game where my #22 is not on the field. I still have not gone to an Edgewood high school football game since Zach’s last one – in October, 2015. It may sound silly, but I just can’t imagine sitting in the stands at Kumler field and not seeing my boy out there.

Both Paige and Meaghan are a part of Lakota East’s amazing marching band – and I love watching them do their thing on Friday nights! They amaze me with their hard work and talent. But watching the game – even the game that I love – is just, well, different.

I’ll never forget taking Zach to his first pee wee football practice. He didn’t start in Kindergarten as many of his friends did. Rather he waited until 4th grade to try out this sport that would forever change all of our lives. As we pulled up to the practice field, he was fighting tears. He changed his mind twice as we were getting out of the car. He held tightly to my hand (not cool for most boys that age) but fought off those fears and went out there to join his team. From that day on, Zach was obsessed with the sport. He practiced on his own in the backyard. He watched any and every football game on tv. He studied the playbook. He played imaginary games in his room long past bedtime. He became a football player.

Pee Wee 4th grade

His love of the game continued through junior high and high school. He was one of the most dedicated, passionate players I have ever seen (yes, I am biased…but it’s true). Zach was also a very talented baseball player, earning Player of the Year his sophomore season in high school, along with many other honors through high school. As college approached, he looked at several schools to play baseball, but also received some football offers. I truly thought all along he would choose baseball but when it came time for a decision, he went with his first true love. He said to me “Mom, there is just something about the hype leading up to a football game. I’m not ready to be finished.”

Zach went on to play four years at Otterbein University where we were able to make so many amazing memories. We tailgated weekly and made so many new friends through his journey. Saturdays in fall were my absolute favorite. Still are. Just a little different now.

As excited I am for another college football season, I still get emotional thinking about the fact that my favorite football player of all time will not be suiting up! I will watch all the games. I will cheer hard for the Buckeyes. But I will always be thinking of all of the cheers and tears that a lifetime of football with my only son brought me. Thank you #22!

The final season

Just call me Mimsy

This summer I gained a new title…Mimsy. My son and his wife made me a grandma! Zach and Katie live in Columbus, about two hours away from me. They went to the hospital on the evening of June 15th. I knew (thought) that it would be a slow go, being there first child, but by the next day I was hovering over my phone waiting for an update. Zach was very good about sending the play by play to our family group chat…”she’s at 10 cm.”…”she’s ready to push…” But after that, it was radio silence. I paced. I ate (I’m an emotional eater). I called my daughter. It felt like a century went by before I got the call. That moment in time will forever be etched in my memories. I was sitting at the house alone. Jason Aldean music was playing on the Alexa in the kitchen. My phone rang and Zach delivered the news I was not so patiently waiting for. Baby boy was here. He and momma were both healthy and doing great. He came into the world at 7 pounds 8 ounces. He was 21 1/4 inches long. I was a grandma! The phone call was brief as Zach went to be with his wife and new son. When I hung up, I sank into the couch and sobbed. I gushed the happy tears. Alone in the moment I didn’t even know what to do with all of the emotions. I have never felt anything like what I was feeling in that instant. I thought there could never be a better feeling than that.

Parker Williamson Smith

Until the moment I finally got to hold him in my arms and introduce myself to him. The plan was to wait until Zach, Katie, and Parker were home and settled in before I went up. I remember those days of being brand new parents and feeling completely overwhelmed with a whole new reality, wondering if you’ll ever sleep again, and having constant people in your house. As hard as it was for me to wait, I wanted to respect their time as a new family. I had planned to go up a few days after they arrived home. However, the morning of my planned trip, Covid struck our household and my plans were sidelined. I was devastated, but also thankful that our daughter’s results had come back so quickly and that I hadn’t exposed my son and his family. Thankful – but beyond disappointed. So I waited some more. Thankfully Zach and Katie sent tons of pictures and face-timed often.

After a five day waiting period, and two negative Covid tests, Carty and I hit the road to Columbus. My anticipation made the drive pass quickly. The moment we stepped in the door and I saw my son holding his son, the tears came again. When people tell you there is nothing like being a grandparent…well, now I get it. Seeing the man that I gave brith to and poured all of my heart and soul into, now doing the same with his own child left me breathless. Holding Parker for the first time was all that I ever dreamt it would be. He was absolutely perfect! Zach and Katie were so at ease with their new roles as parents. I was amazed at how natural it all seemed to come to them.

Meeting Parker

I know that people become grandparents every day. I’ve watched two of my siblings experience it before me and listened to them tell me how fun it is and how much they love their family additions. I knew I would experience all of those same feelings. What I did not expect to feel so deeply was the overwhelming awe and pride in watching my son be a daddy. Words are escaping me right now as I attempt to share those feelings. This man, who I spent all of my time and energy raising and shaping and molding was now responsible for another life. He was taking care of this tiny human. And he is so good at it. Watching Zach and Katie love on their son was and is, by far the most amazing part of this whole experience. I love being a Mimsy! But I also love being momma to Parker’s parents.

The Smith Family

Trying to process

I finally had to turn the news off this evening. My heart could not listen to one more minute of the school shooting. My head could not comprehend what I was seeing and hearing. And then I think of all of those moms and dads who have lost their world today – and they can’t shut it off. My tears blur my eyes even now as I type these words. As I try to process this horrific tragedy.

I think of the families who have lost small children, but I also think of the entire school community, and the town. I think of my own children and the world that they live in – so confusing and sad. And I think of my students. My classroom family. Those 50 children with whom I have shared the last nine months of my life with.

I picture their faces and try to begin to fathom what those teachers are feeling right now – the ones who made it out alive. How are they even beginning to process any of this? How will all of these classmates who lived through today’s hell ever, ever be able to walk into a school again?!

This time of year is always hard on me. One the one hand, I am very excited for a little break and some relaxing. I already have my summer “to be read” stack of books piled up. But one the other hand, I have a very hard time saying goodbye to my students. We have spent so much time together since last August. We have laughed and cried. We have learned so much about each other and about ourselves – together. There have been days when I just didn’t think I could make it – it has been a very challenging school year – but I did make it. I am not ready to let them go just yet. People don’t realize how much our classroom, our students, become like a family each year. And each year, we have to say goodbye. Goodbyes are hard.

And yet, next year they will poke their heads in my classroom and say hello and run and hug me when they see me in the hall. Those poor eighteen students who senselessly lost their lives today will never have that chance. Those teachers who were excitedly counting down to summer break with their students will not be going home tonight.

I just can’t understand why these innocent lives were lost. I just can’t bear this pain. I feel so helpless. All I know to do is to pray for peace and healing for these families and for this entire community. I pray that God will provide them with the will and the strength to go on. I pray for our country and our world.

I have two days left with this year’s class. You’d better believe that I am going to hug them tightly. I’m going to make sure that they know that they are loved and that it has been my honor to have shared these last nine months with them. And then I’m going to cry some more.

The Time is Now

The meal is planned. Groceries bought. Tables set. Forks counted (I always worry I don’t have enough silverware!) The baskets are filled and I am ready.

Easter Dinner has always been the holiday that I host in my family. I love everything about it. I love the newness that spring brings to the world. I love that we get to slow down and reflect what the holiday is truly about and how blessed we are that the grave was empty.

Since Chris and I married and brought our two families together Easter is even more special in that we host for my family AND his family. Both families come together and we are all in one place breaking bread together. The older I get, the more I appreciate time together with all of us.

I was thinking that life is so busy and that there is just not ever enough time…but that’s really not it at all. If I’m really honest, I just don’t let myself slow down enough and MAKE time for these special moments with family. And I should. Not because it’s the “right” thing to do but truly because when I am with my family I am truly happy and at peace.

My son and bonus daughter live a couple of hours away, but that is not an excuse for not jumping on the highway and making time to see them. My parents live only about 30 minutes away (and even closer to where I work) but I only stop and see them about once a month (maybe). Why do I wait for a holiday to make sure that we spend precious time together? I don’t want to look back in a few years and wish that I had more time with the people I love.

The time is now. Time to make that call. Time to clear the schedule and jump in the car. I am going to talk to my family – real conversations – and soak up every minute I can with each of them. These are not just words…I will not let them just be words today because I’m feeling nostalgic of holidays past. No! I am going to put action to these words. I’m just sorry I have not made time sooner for those whom I love.

In this season of rebirth and newness, I am going to renew my relationships with all of my family and make sure that the time doesn’t slip away from all of us. Who do you need to make more time for in your life? Cause here’s the thing…we are not promised tomorrow – make sure you spend your time wisely today!

What I Can Do

Several years ago I read a book called Strengths Finder 2.0. At the end of the book was a quiz that helped the reader learn their top personality strengths. To be honest, I thought it felt a little hokey when I did it, but after answering a long, long list of questions, I felt like the results were spot on. My top “strength” was empathy. It’s days like today that it feels more like a weakness.

There are so many people in my world who are hurting. Friends and family are dealing with major illnesses. They are facing internal battles that seem to have no solution. They are staring down financial struggles that feel insurmountable. They are searching for something to fill them at the bottom of a bottle. And my heart hurts for every single one of them.

At night I lie in bed and cry for all of the pain that I see in the lives of those I love, and in the world around me. My chest aches, my mind spins, and the weight of helplessness smothers me. I would give anything to be able to take all of the worries and pain away from all of those I love.

But I can’t.

What I can do, however, is pray. And make sure that those around me know that I am walking with them through their battles. I can make that phone call, or send that text. I can mail the card, or sit and listen. I can embrace this strength and love hard.

So much more

It’s spring time again, and for school, that means another year of state testing for my students. In the past, I would have been filled with anxiety – hoping that I had done enough to prepare my students to perform on the standardized tests that they are subjected to each school year. After years of worrying about the scores that come from one (or two) days of tests that truly only provide a moment in time snapshot, I am no longer worried. These scores are not at all a reflection of who my students are, or what kind of teacher I am. A rating of proficient or better is only a label placed on each of my students that is solely based on how well they can navigate the passages and questions on one test. But these numbers are not who my students are. These score reports do not even come close to describing my students. My students are readers, and artists. They are dreamers and athletes. My students are comedians and tricksters. These children energize me and teach me. They make me laugh, and some days they make me cry.

This year, we have become a family. We have created a classroom community and have formed bonds through books and stories and lessons. We have made memories in the little moments. We have become writers. My students and all that they are could never be defined by one number. They amaze me everyday with their resilience and persistence. When things get tough, they repeat back to me our classroom mantra – “We CAN do hard things.”

Now, I have to be completely authentic here and add that not every day is sunshine and rainbows where they all listen to directions the first time and always follow expectations. We have had our days where lessons flop, arguments abound, and behaviors get the best of us. But we are a family in room 214, and family sticks together.

So tomorrow, my students will arrive bright and early, ready to tackle this test, knowing that they CAN – but also knowing that in my eyes, they are so much more than a test score.

It’s not my ugly

Sitting here staring at my computer screen with so much on my heart, but searching for the right words. When I started this blog several years ago, I did it for me. As an outlet for all of the things that life throws at me. I did it for me. As a way to process my feelings and frustrations about family and friends, work and play, highs and lows. This is more than just a social media outlet to blast out my “highlight” reel. I always promised myself that I would be real. My posts would be authentic and would share the good, the bad, and the ugly of real life. There is so much good in my world and I am a blessed wife, momma and soon to be mimsy, and I have some really special friends who truly lift me up. But I am also at times a messy wreck of a human being who struggles with confidence, has a hard time trusting, and feels hurt and betrayal very deeply. It would be a lie to only post the happy moments and not share the ugly.

One of my biggest struggles that I have lived with my whole life is the feeling of not being valued. Of being unseen – invisible. Of being taken for granted, not appreciated, and used. These feelings run very deeply. I have some thoughts about where those come from, and why they are such triggers for me – but that is for another time and another post. Today, I am broken. I am so wound up in these feelings that I cannot free myself of them to find any peace. And quite honestly I’m not sure what else to do but get them out here.

In the past, I would crumble and cry when I felt betrayed or disappointed in the actions and words of another. I would unpack my suitcase of pity and set up camp. I’m not sure when that changed, or what changed it, or perhaps this situation is different – but I am not sad or depressed or crying tears of despair. Today I am seething with anger and frustration. I am not hurt – because I am strong and have been hurt enough in the past that I almost don’t feel it anymore. I am mad. I am angry that I have been taken advantage of and used. I am livid that I have been treated the way I have been – unappreciated for my passion and heart and disrespected because of someone else’s insecurities.

As I type and cry I can feel it already – the sense of clarity and calm that expressing myself brings. I am going to be okay. I will learn from this and refuse to be pushed by a situation like this again. Life’s lessons aren’t always easy to take in the moment…but what understanding they can bring when I allow myself to feel all that I am feeling. I can’t just “let it go” without first processing it, understanding it and truly taking time to allow all of the emotions. But wow what an eye-opening process it is. No, I can’t just let it go – but I can see things for what they truly are, and then light it and let it go. I will not let my anger cause me to say things that I know to be true but will fall on deaf ears. But here’s the thing…I will use these feelings to help me become more of the person I know I am and I will not let it change me into someone I don’t want to be.

So thank you. Thank you for helping me see the reality of it. Thank you for pushing me to be so angry that I had no choice but to stop and work through it all – and learn the lesson that I needed to be taught. The lesson that this isn’t really about me. This is about you. And I can’t process your ugly for you. That’s your work to do.

It’s about trust

I am the worst passenger. I’m not sure why its called being a “back seat driver” because I’m rarely in the back seat when someone else is driving (especially Chris), but regardless of the title, I own the role. When I’m in the car and not in control, my anxiety takes over. I’m working on it. The other day we were driving down 75 into Cincinnati. As we approached downtown and the lanes to merge to either go downtown or continue south all came together, I was gripping the door handle with extra force. A semi merged in from the right and for an instant, I was certain I was about to meet my maker. Obviously, I’m still here, but I haven’t stopped thinking about how I felt in that moment. Even though I get nervous in that kind of traffic, there is still a whole lot of trust involved. Traveling at a high rate of speed in multiple lanes, we trust that all of the other drivers are going to do what they are supposed to do and keep everyone safe. And while that semi driver made my heart skip a few beats, I knew that I had to trust that he was going to stay in his lane and not come over into mine. I also knew in my heart that Chris was in control and would get us to our destination safely.

I think that this has stuck with me so vividly because its kind of where I am at with my faith right now. I know in my heart – and in my head – that God is in control and that he is guiding my steps. But at the same time, I often allow my anxiety about life to take over and I end up white-knuckled throughout each moment of my day. I am allowing all of the traffic and what-ifs of day to day life control me, rather than trusting in the fact that my God is the one who is truly in control.

And here’s the thing…IF I can ride down the highway and trust that Mr. Semi-driver is going to stay in his lane, why can’t I walk through my days trusting that God is going to provide? He is faithful to His promises and He will never leave me or forsake me. It’s time that I take my hands off of the death grip I’ve been keeping and open them up to all that God has promised me.