when i first realized i was grown up...

Maybe it was that first Wednesday when I went to school without first strapping on a backpack, walking in trying to appear confident but wondering why I still felt like I should be sitting in the hard plastic seats. Or possibly it was that Thursday evening when I cleaned the house for no other reason than because I wanted to. But I believe it was many accumulations of such small and big moments that have happened over the years of my life that have throttled me, without warning, into the arena of adulthood.

My friends and I used to say that "growing up is for quitters," that we should hold fast to our innocence and joy of being teenagers. I thought I had. I thought I was still gripping the rope of dependence but that first time the car broke down and my husband was at work made me realize I had unknowingly let that rope slip through my fingers and as it unraveled at my feet I saw that I was up to my neck in the water of responsibilities that I didn't think I was quite prepared for. The sea of adulthood surrounded me and for awhile I grasped for a lifeboat, a new rope, even water wings would suffice. But maybe that kick in the rear I received when I was unpacking boxes in our new apartment in a city I couldn't even pronounce like the locals made adulthood take its true shape. Although I don’t know that I needed a major event such as that move, since lustfully tasting the words of Steinbeck and Shakespeare continually remind me I have passed teenage magazines and romance series.

Maybe my maturity face-lift came that sunny day I realized I would rather walk with my husband around a golf course than go shopping. But I've also learned this refining and maturing happens through trying, struggling and frustrations, which I seem to be greeting daily as of late at the attempt of teaching hormonal adolescents to write with the passion of the gods, and at the attempt of trying to be better today than I was yesterday. But those days that I feel like an adult come and go. It's sort of like how on Friday I enjoyed conversation over coffee with my similarly aged friend, Micah, but on Saturday found conversation with my mother just what the doctor ordered. And it's sort of like how I still enjoy some koolaid from time to time, but most days let the bitterness of coffee say to me, "It's official. You're old."

I mean I have to be grown up, right? Borders bookstore is my favorite hang out, but then again I do insist on taking a peek around the corner in the children's section, and if no one is looking, sit on the fuzzy orange bean bag and read "Where The Wild Things Are" one more time.

But please don't get me wrong, I still mainly feel like an underdeveloped girl as I walk in the shadow of woman whose very scents smell like comfort, confidence, and motherhood. When I look in the mirror, I put my hand over my heart and it still pounds with youthfulness and still believes in prince charming and the shoe fitting and a ball room dance at the end of it all. But through the small and big moments that have happened over the years of my life I believe there has been many important ones that have given me that "Oh, crap I’m really all grown up" feeling. And those moments are when my independent heels must dig into the dirt a little deeper. These moments may not be noticeable to the naked eye, but it happens when the burger isn't cooked and I have to be the one to take it up to the counter and say, "Excuse me but could I get another?" It happens when my pants are just a little too long and my grandma is just a little too far away and I have to crudely, but independently, hem them myself. It happens when the power goes out in the city and we are blessed with the gift still and so I open my home to others and cook and clean and dig my heels in at the thought that I can do this, and deeper they go into the soil of adulthood and change.

Those days of independence are the days I can easily taste my adultness and what my character has developed into, proving I must have accumulated some of my parent's wisdom through osmosis over the years. I know I am grown up when I finally realize that every day when the sun comes up and peeks through my bedroom window that I have to be the one to get myself out of bed.

Some days I feel like a goofy girl who believes with every fiber of her being that the world is not a bad place, that all her dreams will come true, and that the road to Oz is paved with gold. Other days I feel like the almost 24-year-old woman that I am who is frantically trying to hold it all together in order to keep the dream alive. And even though I have seen everything from Jamaica's hurting outcasts to a down-syndrome girl learning to walk with my own eyes, I am fortunate enough to have those rare days when I wake up, feeling all the ages I've ever been, and whisper to myself under the covers, "Growing up is for quitters."

Yes, I am mostly all grown up, too mature for my own good, but I am not quite an adult.

As I attempt to take on woman hood, and adulthood, and parenthood, and spousehood I find myself held captive by my ability to return to my innocent imaginings of youth. Sure, everyday I am reminded that I am growing up still-- after all I did find my first gray hair this week-- but I know that I still have a long way to go. So although I am no longer searching the horizon for a lifeboat and am kicking my feet with a bit more confidence, I have decided I am okay with not being a kid anymore, but I've discovered this doesn't stop me from being the girl I am. And as I dig in my heels with the confidence that adulthood brings my way, I am discovering the very ground I walk on is made up of the barbies that used to be strewn across my bedroom floor, and the dress up clothes in the trunk downstairs, and it is made up of that first painting I made in preschool and that Christmas play my sister and I put on for our parents. Yes, I am an adult now and as much as I want to say "growing up is for quitters," I realize growing up is for those that are brave; for it is the brave-hearted that realize they cannot face back and move forward. It is the brave-hearted that realize that each step is one that is uncharted and unsure. But it is the brave-hearted that are not afraid to hold onto all the ages they have been, the good, the bad, the broken hearted teen, the smart-mouthed daughter, the curly headed lump of a toddler, because only then will one truly be brave enough to face the unknown waters of adulthood.

And I'm almost ready to be that brave-hearted woman.


belated giving of thanks

I am thankful for (in no particular order):

having my screen door open on november 28th
having a basket full of clean clothes and a fridge full of left overs
a friend who is willing to drive 7 hours to spend what would have otherwise been a lonely holiday with me, all the while knowing that i wouldn't do much to entertain her but coming none the less
an incredible new niece
an incredible new nephew
(this may be a stretch but...) literally PILES of grading that still needs to happen as it reminds me of the students i get to teach and be thankful for everyday
a husband who has known me since i was an awkward 13 year old and loves me just the same
a sister who bossed me around when i was little but taught me more than pretend school
good skin (aka bare minerals makeup) and straight teeth (aka parents who paid for the braces :)
that brent and i both have jobs
that i have a job i love
my mom's innate ability to welcome others
my dad's innate ability to protect me from all harm
a legacy of Christian grandparents
the most caring and serving and loving in-laws ever
sisters-in-law that treat me as their own and make me laugh until i cry
8 healthy, fun, and intelligent nieces and nephews
a husband who does not have a temper but instead a heart that is 80 times bigger than most
family vacations
an aunt and uncle who took me in like their own child
about 15 other aunts and uncles who would have done the same
my family's sense of humor
that paige and torri have become my sisters too
that i got a few of my dad's creative genes
having the experience of moving away from home
coming from a home i want to go back to
good coffee
good pens ;)
grace (yes, i am doubly thankful)
my mom's cooking
that my parent's read to me when i was little
only having college debt and no other
the church family that helped raise me
a mother-in-law that taught my husband patience
a father-in-law that taught my husband to open doors
more grace
my college roommate
the ra's i worked with in college
gravel roads and deer season
good writer's who have inspired me

and i am thankful that all of the above have mixed and stirred to the desired consistency of who i have become.


one of those posts where i try to catch you up on my life

Brent's birthday was a fun day. He had the day off and we hung out, did a little shopping, went out to eat, and watched a movie. It was nice to be able to spend time together in the middle of this busy time!

Also, thanks to those of you that commented on the blog post for his birthday. He said this really meant a lot to him (and if you missed commenting, you still can! Just go to the last post and comment there!)

I knew this was a long time coming...but I finally had to purchase soap! But don't worry, I have two of the foaming dispensers so this will last a VERY long time! I figure 2 years was a pretty decent stretch :) Thanks for those who made this possible!

I made crepes! I LOVE crepes, but didn't know how they would turn out without a crepe maker...they turned out just great in a skillet! Yum!

Updated my table's center piece. This felt a little more fall like.

Painted a new canvas

Displayed some wedding photos in a new way

And now to what most of you were waiting for in the first place...Caroline pictures! Kali made a quick trip up and I was able to get a few good shots of this sweet baby girl. My squeeze is turning into quite the little chunk!


my love

No, this is now a post about buttered noodles, or babies, or bubble baths, or books. It's not even about pens!! Although I do enjoy all of these things, if I added them up the sum would be no where close to what this is about. Tomorrow marks a special day-- it is the day Brent was born.

Now, before you all bail on me because you fear this is already a bit cheesy, please hang with me.

For those of you that don't know, I used to write letters to my "future husband." I began in junior high ad by the time I got married I had quite the collection. Some of the letters contained trivial details of my life, some were questions, some were dreams of our future together, and others were wonderings. Some of these wonderings included: "I wonder when your birthday is? If it's today, I wonder how you are choosing to celebrate? I can't wait until we can celebrate together."

As I folded up these almost foolish, adolescent wonderings and put them in a box, my life, my future, was unfolding before me. I was over at a guy's house-- whose name happened to be Brent-- hanging out with some of my best friends. I remember being nervous about which card to give him-- I wanted him to think I was clever and fun, but not childish; that I appreciated him, but didn't want him to know I liked him. So I picked a humorous card, he laughed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I moved into the kitchen to help him cut up the cake and bring it to our friends who were spread out in the living room of a house I didn't know would become a part of me... a house whose breathing I would eventually know by heart.

While cutting up the cake together, he jokes with me about scrapping my college plans and attending his college. My heart jumps as I analyze the potential of what this means and why he would want me to go to the same school as him....but he quickly says, "Because if I get someone else to sign up I get $100 off my tuition." Oh. And I serve the cake.

We end up sitting on opposite couches to watch a movie (Finding Nemo had just come out on DVD) and as animated sea life flutters about on the screen before me, I can't help but glance at the birthday boy. I wonder if he has done the same to me. After a final round of "Happy Birthdays" and cake we all part ways. I tuck this night away in my bag of memories and go back to my wonderings.

I didn't know that his next birthday I would be invited back to this house, and that he would hold my hand. I didn't know then that a few years later I would spend his birthday with his ring on my finder, or that later he would be the one to read my birthday wonderings that had been tucked away in a box for so many years.

And I didn't know then that tomorrow I would be celebrating the birthday of my love.

I am so glad it was him I was wondering about all those years.

Brent: That birthday at your house was five years ago...I'm so proud to have celebrated with you every year since. You are deserving of a great day. At only 24 years of age you've proved yourself trustworthy, selfless, humble, hard working, generous, courageous, and so very kind. Thank you for making me laugh when I want to scream, for letting me cry when I want to pretend everything is okay, and for loving God first, over me. You deserve a truly wonderful day. Thank you, Beck and Joan, for bringing this incredible man into the world, and thank you, Brent, for choosing me as the lucky one who gets to eat birthday cake with you for many years to come!

I don't know if you remember but... "Happy Birthday" "Happy Birt
hday" "I like corn on the cob" -"Pay no attention to Stephanie"

I love you, Brent. Happy Birthday!

(Please leave Brent a comment to wish him a happy birthday, and as a bonus present for him, let him know a trait in him that you admire or appreciate! Thanks!) One of Brent's all time favorite pictures of us


why i write...

You may recall last year when I was so excited to share what my students wrote in response to the "why I write..." prompt that I gave them. Well, my new students wrote their responses today, and I will be compiling some of the best and most inspirational ones and will post those as soon as I can.

I decided that I too would jot down a few of my own "why I write..."s. I of course did not have extensive time to do this as I was quite busy managing the classroom and doing other tasks, but here are the few I came up with:

I write because I grew up on a gravel road.
I write because my pen is a friend that won't ever let me down.
I write because it is my passion; my secret love affair.
I write because it makes me feel accomplished and proud.
I write because my family once told me I was good at it.
I write because of the smell of fresh cut grass.
I write because my students inspire me.
I write because of the empty cereal bowls my husband leaves that the table.
I write because I want to remember how to feel words move through me.
I write because of music.
I write because of silence.
I write because I want to scream.
I write because I want it all back.
I write because I'm trying to move forward.
I write because to see the pen move across the page is therapy.
I write because I have too much love to share.
I write because of the lives others have had to live.
I write for those who have no voice.
I write for those that are broken and lost.
I write to feel sunshine.
I write because if you cut me I will bleed.
I write to remember 707 S. Sloan St.
I write to remember what it felt like to be awkward at 13.
I write to forget what it felt like.
I write to keep my toes tapping.
I write to encourage others.
I write to see that smile on his face.
I write because I can't control my words.
I write to try to control something.
I write to show beauty through tears.
I write because he left us too soon.
I write because of the taste of butter.
I write because I can't sleep.
I write because it helps me sleep.
I write because in writing I am more myself.


i teach

This week has reminded me why I love teaching-- the good the bad and the ugly-- i enjoy it all!

We have been doing a type of "writer's workshop" this week, where the students write a piece, and then we do mini lessons every day that they then are able to go back and apply to their writing. At the end of the week we type it up, and highlight where all of the strategies we learned were applied. It works surprisingly well because they can SEE how their writing changed throughout the week...and they love highlighters. (Easily impressed).

For those of you that are already yawning just listening to what we did and thinking, "Man I hated Language Arts' classes!" Here were a couple lessons that I absolutely LOVE doing with my students.

Tuesday was the day we focused on the 5 steps of the writing process: Pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. I tell the kids I am going to give them an analogy of the writing process, and tell them that for my pre-write I need to gather my supplies. I start pulling out ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and strawberry syrup, and sprinkles. Their eyes widen and I have their undivided attention if for no other moment during the entire school year! I proceed, comparing the drafting stage to actually putting my sundae together, revision, removing strawberry syrup, adding sprinkles, and moving around the whipped cream, then move to editing: I clean up the mess (spelling, punctuation etc....), and then I ask them: "So if the next step is publishing, what will come next in my analogy?" Most kids say "You eat it!" and I ask, "If I wrote a book and am the only one to read it, is that publishing...?" And then their eyes light up: "YOU HAVE TO SHARE IT WITH US!" So I dished up 110 bowls of ice cream on Tuesday as they worked on creating their own analogies. The beautiful part is that they GET IT! And for the rest of the year they can all repeat the steps of the writing process and apply it to their own writing! Awesome.

Another fun lesson from this week is my "show don't tell" lesson. Most of you probably vaguely remember that phrase from your writing classes, but may not exactly know what it means. What I do for this brief 10 minute lesson is walk out of the classroom, and after about a minute storm back in and act completely mad. I yell, I slam papers and markers and the kids all look completely petrified. They have no clue what to do with themselves and they are dead silent. During this time I pass out papers and finally I start laughing and let them know it is all part of the lesson. They all give huge sighs of relief and then I ask them to write down descriptions about me when I came in the room. I tell them not to write "She was angry" but to say exactly what I did that made them know I was angry. After about a minute, we write a paragraph as a class that SHOWS how I was angry: "Mrs. Irwin stormed into the room, barking out commands like a drill sergeant, smoke billowing from her ears. She smacked down papers in front of the innocent children quivering with fear as she stalked around the room like a disgruntled bear and even the air was afraid of her fire-breathing presence. Her scrunched up nose and beady red eyes made her look like the devil himself." (This was an actual paragraph they wrote! As much as I hate the descriptions, it is incredible writing!) I then write: "Mrs. Irwin came in the room and was angry and I was scared." I ask them which one gives them a better picture, and "SHOWS" them what was happening. They have a lot of fun with it, and are able to return to their own writing and write some awesome showing scenes.

This wasn't much of an update or really anything special, but it is a glimpse into my never boring life as a middle school teacher! Here is a poem by David Puckett entitled "Middle School Learning Is..." that I think is relevant to this post:

Middle school learning is...

gum hiding
pencil breaking
toe tapping
hair tossing
seat squirming
pocket searching
make-up checking
window watching
note writing
mind changing
note crumpling
allegiance shifting
girl dreaming
boy dreaming
day dreaming

Middle school teaching is...

aiming the learning gun
at a moving target.

in the past of every successful human being
stands a middles school teacher
with a
smoking gun.


discombobulated thoughts

  1. Today was one of the single most GORGEOUS days I can remember in a long time. It is up there with a day I remember from spring of my senior year of college-- that day was even gorgeous enough to motivate me to run?! Today, I was motivated to wear shorts and a smile all day.
  2. My friend Jenny was in town this weekend (long story short, I sort of played match maker and her and my co-worker, Jeremy are now madly in love. I know after I post this there will be more requests for my match making abilities, but I want to keep my batting average at perfect and will stop with this one. It is also a weird thing that it actually worked), visiting Jeremy. Last night the two of them and Brent and I went out to eat on the river (weird that I sometimes forget I live on a river?) and then Jenny and I spent the night together reminiscing and laughing and talking books and coffee. I miss that.
  3. Cities are loud and dirty and busy. I hate loud and dirty and busy. Ergo, I hate cities.
  4. I made apple crisp for the first time this weekend (Kali, yours was awesome and it inspired me!). It was awesome. If you come to visit, yes you, I promise to make apple crisp and serve it warm with a big spoon of vanilla ice cream.
  5. I ran into a student at the store today. For my teacher friends/family that read this blog: Do you always get that momentary flash of excitement and a "HEY MRS ____/ MR ______" and then watch it quickly fade into a more hesitant smile and begin to see the confusion in their eyes flicker as they realize how weird it is to see you out of context. And then realize that you are blowing their mind simply by being in public and not asleep on your classroom floor for the weekend like they most likely imagine you to be?
  6. Today I ran into Kohls (is Kohls not the best store EVER?) and was quickly trying on some clearance pants (awesome fit...who knew?!) and whilst in the dressing room heard a conversation occur between mother and daughter: Daughter: Mom, I really NEED that wallet. Mom: No, you have 5 other wallets. I'm not going to buy it because I know in a week you won't like it. Daughter (voice becoming progressively more whiney): But MOOOOM...pleeeeaaaasse. I LOVE it! Mom: Then buy it with your own money. Daughter: It would be ALL of my money! Can it be an early present? ..... And it continued. I seriously was trying to stifle my laughter which was occurring for 2 reasons: This particular argument was hilarious, but more so, because it reminded me of many, many, many dressing room melt downs my mom experienced with me. Sorry mom! But who knew that those experiences would forever link me to you as I now think of you whenever I over hear a dressing room fiasco!?
  7. I'm currently eating buttered egg noodles with a little Parmesan, a lot of butter, and a dash of salt. I'm pretty sure this is what God will serve us in heaven.
  8. I was cleaning this week (because of #2) and realized something strange: I found myself enjoying it a bit. I think this is because I feel like this is a gift that I'm able to give others who walk into our home, and something I can give/do for Brent. There is a relaxing nature to clorox and vacuums that I just can't quite put my finger on :)
  9. I had a conference this week and I was out of my classroom for three days in a row! Whew. That is never fun. It is a lot of work to be gone. Thankfully I had a great sub, and my kids are awesome. I felt like there wasn't too much "clean up" that had to occur when I returned. The conference was put on by my school district and it was centered around implementing the "thinking strategies." Essentially: How do I teach my students to think about their own thinking and learning in such a way that I will become increasingly less needed? There was some worthwhile information and discussions, but the most helpful tool was observing another teacher. I think every career should have at least 1 day a year where they observe someone in their same position who is completely passionate about what they do and gives 110% everyday. It is re-energizing.
  10. I am going to wrap this up and heat up some apple crisp :)


subject: i am a dud

I'm pooped. But I'm alive. It's 7:30, this is all I can muster, and I am now going to bed.

And now a brief picture for you to enjoy in my absence of writing:


photo shoot #8703 for Caroline and Aunt Kelsey

I wanted to get a few more pictures up before I headed back to Louisville today. These are mainly for Nana and Papa but I thought there may be a few others out there that would enjoy them. She was in a great mood and so we changed her and snapped as many pictures as possible. The long gown was Kali's baptism dress that our Aunt Mary made (it may have been mine as well? Not sure.)