goodbye 2012.

Well, folks, it’s the end of 2012. Looking back on this year, I think it was probably one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, years of my life. I graduated in January from school and felt really lame for being a waitress with a college degree. Aaron left for three months in March and it was a time in my life that I would not care to repeat. We spent a summer praying and crying and begging God to find us new jobs outside of Illinois. We celebrated our first year of marriage in Galena, IL. And then in August, we packed up and moved to Arizona and it has been an incredible adventure living here. I am a teacher, which brings it’s own set of challenges and rewards. Aaron is a social worker to severe mentally ill adults. We are both using our degrees, which brings an incredible sense of accomplishment in ourselves and provision from the Lord.

And tomorrow is a new year! Wow, I can’t even describe how excited I am for this year! In March, I will be camping in the Grand Canyon. In June, I will be flying out to Illinois to visit with my sister and mom and meet my newest niece/nephew! And I know that there will be many more adventures for me and Aaron in the coming year.

I hope and pray that your 2013 will be blessed, happy, peaceful, exciting…and lovely.

check your calendars!

Do you have a calendar? Like, one that you hang on your wall and look at every morning, or write different appointments and birthdays on it? Thinking about our world and how we use our iPhones and computers to tell us when and where we are going and using Facebook to remind us of friend’s and family member’s birthdays somehow depresses me. And yet, thinking about a calendar with puppies or kittens on it equally depresses me.

Call me crazy, but I have become obsessed with wall calendars. My mother-in-law gave me one last year, and as each month passed, I fell more and more in love with it. Now that the year is almost ending, I find myself scouring the internet for a new one. (And yes, Aaron has been mercilessly making fun of me for my new hobby).

Anyways, calendars are wonderful because they are pretty, they are only a commitment of one year at a time, and I find it so special that you can keep it and take it out in a few years and look back on your daily life. So, I just want to share my favorite calendars that I have found lately….I hope you get one, or it inspires you to find one that reflects your own personal style!

My personal favorite! Snow & Graham Calendar

Art Grid Calendar (I seriously love this one, too!! How cute are those whales?!)
And then this one. Seriously out of my price range, but I can’t help drool over it. 
And in case none of those fit your personal aesthetic (I feel like a real blogger, using that word!), check out this one, this toaster desk calendar, this pug calendar, this one, and finally, this beautiful little gem. 
I really hope you invest in a calendar for 2013. Maybe you won’t use it to keep dates and birthdays in order, but I promise that every time you look at it, you will feel a little squirm of happiness at the piece of art hanging on your wall. And it’s so practical! 
That’s all 🙂

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given.

-Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, dear friends and family. We rejoice that today our Lord, the Savior of the World, was born! Hope your day is merry, bright, and cozy.

The Westerfields

My 2nd Grade Cheating Ring

*Names have been changed/omitted to protect the innocent guilty*
Some days, it feels like you spend all afternoon following the rabbit down the rabbit hole and it turns out the rabbit hole is a huge mess. This exact thing happened to me today.
It all started when one of my kids comes up to me and says, “Mrs. Westerfield, Isaac keeps asking Erin for her password to get on ST Math and Erin keeps saying no, but Isaac keeps asking.”
You see, every day I have math centers–I split my kids up into three groups and while one group is with me, one group is doing an independent activity, and another group is on a math computer program called ST Math–and every day my kids type in their 16-pictures-long password to get onto the math program. This math program happens to be pretty important to our school: it provides data to the teacher and the school in order to prove to the state that we are improving as a school. Also, each student is on a different activity, depending on their level and how quickly they get through the levels. So, for example, they all start out on subtraction. But some kids are really good at subtraction, so they forge ahead. Some kids are on subtraction for awhile, because they need more practice. The computer program is constantly reading how well the students are doing and responding to their answers. 
So, when this sweet kiddo comes up to me to tattle about Isaac trying to get on Erin’s username, at first I’m not too alarmed. Sometimes, Isaac is a twerp that way (a very lovable twerp). I’m talking to him, trying to figure out the whole story, when another girl, Emily, chimes in, “Mrs. Westerfield, Lanie (another little girl in my class), also gets on my ST Math all the time.
Chrystal: “She gets on mine too!”
Jessica: “Lanie gets on mine too!”
Lanie: “But Jessica gets on Gary’s and John’s all the time.”
John: “I only gave her my password once.”
Gary: “Jessica asks if she can get on mine and I always say yes. But I haven’t gotten on anyone’s!” (He said that last fact like it was something to be very proud of.)
And the next thing you know, it was like a train wreck. Every one was telling on everyone, and everyone was admitting to somehow being a part of this whole cheating ring happening in my classroom. I couldn’t believe it. Only three kids out of my entire classroom had nothing to do with it. It literally took me an hour to sort through all the stories and accusations and confessions. 
Here’s what I learned: Apparently, there are many ways to accomplish getting on another student’s username. The first way, of course, is to simply ask for the password. The other way, is to watch what your neighbor is putting as their password and follow suit. And finally, the last way is to not completely log off of ST Math and when the groups switch, the next persons gets on the computer and just keeps going. 
Keep in mind, these kids are 2nd graders. 7 years old. When I was in 2nd grade, I wasn’t nearly so crafty. When I asked them for the love of God, why?! were they doing this, they almost always replied that when they didn’t want to do the level they were on, they could find someone who did. Ain’t that the darndest thing.
So, we had a really long talk and I decided that they lost their computer privileges in January and informed them that they lost my trust (which some found incredibly devastating). As I think about it more and more, I am finding the humor in it. They honestly had no clue that they were messing up huge amounts of data, they were just doing what their cheeky little brains thought was a brilliant idea. Finally, the last 15 minutes of the day, I received 13 heartfelt apologies without any prompting from me! And I told them that I completely forgave them and that there are no hard feelings–but they had better believe that this naive first-year teacher isn’t going to let a cheating fiasco happen twice! 

a secret.

I have something to share. It makes me ashamed, but I have to talk about it to get any closure.

All across America, there are coffee and tea stains sitting in various church sanctuaries where Aaron and I have sat. It began at the first church that we ever started attending together: College Church of the Nazarene (North Campus). We were still dating and Aaron would bring his coffee or we would get a cup at the church and hustle inside before the service started. At some point during the church service–usually in a transition time from standing up to sitting down–bam, coffee cup spilled. More than once this happened.

Next, we started attending River Valley Christian Fellowship. It very specifically says that no drinks are allowed in the sanctuary. Aaron constantly assured me that it would be alright. Well, sure enough, after a few weeks of attending I once again knocked over a coffee cup. I couldn’t stand the shame, so we moved over to the other side of the sanctuary so we wouldn’t be recognized. And yet, I still didn’t learn my lesson. Aaron brings in a cup of coffee, I somehow manage to knock it over. EVERY SINGLE TIME, it felt.

Now, after doing this maybe three times at River Valley, I finally introduced the policy that prohibited us from bringing in beverages to church. I really put my foot down. It was just getting to be too much. We were running out of sides to sit in the sanctuary! People would soon know us as The Spillers. For the rest of our time at River Valley, we had a spill-free experience. I felt really good about the new-found freedom of not bringing any drinks to church. No drinks = no chance of making more stains in our beloved sanctuary. It was really a fool proof (or should I say…spill proof?) plan.

Well, that all brings me to today. We had yet to bring any beverages to our new church, which was working out really well for us. No spills, no severe looks from our neighbors, all was fine and dandy. Until, Aaron decides that he wants to bring a to-go cup of hot tea. I forgot all about my policy and said, “Make me one too!” Everything is going really well until we get up to pray for someone in our church. We head back to our seats and I can see Aaron’s cup in the distance. I truly was so focused, chanting in my head, “Don’t knock it, don’t knock it, don’t knock it, Janel.” But it’s like my feet had a mind of their own! Boop!  I saw the cup tip over slow-motion-Matrix style. At first I thought that nothing was going to spill out because this certain lid was the type that screws on. There’s no way any tea would fall out! Oh, how wrong I was! There may as well have not even been a lid! While Aaron is whispering “Quick! Hide it!” I think I may have loudly exclaimed, “I seriously just did that!!”

Yep, as if actually spilling tea everywhere wasn’t bad enough, I made it known to the world that I had, once again, been the instigator of a stain that will live forever in the multi-colored, textured carpet of a church.

I guess I mostly feel bad because I really think people look down on you if you spill a drink in their church. They paid for that carpet! How dare I soil it with coffee, tea, or any other caffeinated beverage! And I completely agree. If I sat next to less responsible people who spilled their beverage during church, I would probably look down on them too!

As a disclaimer, Aaron wants me to inform you that he has never been the one to knock over a drink. Completely true. It has always been me. He also wants me to inform you that I have never given him my beverage after spilling his. There. That not only makes me a terrible church member, but a less-than-perfect wife. 😉

Phew, I feel slightly better. I hope that if there are any church members from those churches reading this, that they will forgive me. And I promise I will never bring a drink into church again. I have truly learned my lesson this time!

Being Suzy Homemaker

I love meal planning. When Aaron and I got engaged, one of the things I looked forward to the most was being able to plan all these glorious meals that I saw on Pinterest. They would be nutritious and beautiful and organic and I would blog about them and show pretty pictures and everybody would ask me for my recipes.

And then reality set in. The reality of working full time and having a gazelle-intense budget and just being tired. And so all my Pinterest-y fantasies got thrown out the window.

I have no doubt that there are some women who are superheroes. They probably work longer than me and harder than me and maybe they get paid less or they have children to feed and they still manage to cook things like beef stew or pork roast or something phenomenal. Plus dessert. But, I am not that woman. Maybe one day, but not today. Or tomorrow. Or probably this year. This is the year where I get my bearings being a real-life teacher and cook the same things each week. This also happens to be the year where I lasso Aaron into the kitchen and force him to cook twice a week (in spite of the anxiety on his face, I think he secretly enjoys it…he really is so wonderful).

And so, out of desperation, tiredness, hatred of my mini-kitchen, and because I can, darn it, I have created the most simple meal plan in the universe. It goes something like this:

Sandwich Sunday

Salad Monday

Taco Tuesday

Pizza Soup & Sandwich Casserole Whatever-Aaron-Wants Wednesday (this is the day that clearly caused the most anxiety 😉

Pizza Thursday

Breakfast Friday

Fried Rice Saturday

Ta da! You can steal it if you want to. Originally, I wanted Fried Rice Friday, but Friday is Aaron’s day to cook and he wants to make breakfast. So fried rice got moved to Saturday.

I know, it’s pretty pathetic. I promise if you ever come over for dinner, I’ll make something really special. I’m just waiting for the day when Aaron tells me enough is enough and demands something that takes more than twenty minutes to make (and to be honest, I really wouldn’t blame him).

Working ladies across the world: what do you do to keep meal times simple, nutritional, and inexpensive, yet super delish? I need your secrets!


Peace begins with a smile…. -Mother Teresa

Some days are just so good. The coffee is so perfect. Your morning drive is graced by the sun hitting the golden mountains. My kids were so sweet today. We were all on the same, peaceful wavelength.

One thing I struggle with as a teacher (and maybe out in the real world too…)is making my voice and demeanor peaceful. I am naturally rambunctious. Loud. Sometimes it’s great, like when I need to shout across the playground. Or when I am trying to get my kids excited about something super un-exciting. Or when singing a song and dancing. But most days, I work hard to soften my voice. To speak peacefully. While my heart may be at peace, I want to show it with my voice and actions.

I can’t tell you how much I love those kids. I call them my kids and I really wish some of them were my own. I worry about them a lot. Like when one of my little girls got MRSA. And when another one was absent for three days because of domestic violence in her home. Stories like those happen all across America, all across the world. I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to leave the teaching field. Children with terrible homes and hungry bellies will keep coming to school every year and someone has to love them and teach them to be peace-makers in a tragedy-ridden world. And I will always want to be that person.

My goal for my classroom–for my life–is to create a peaceful, lovely abode.


Rattlesnakes, spiders, and bees, oh my….

Let’s talk about the animals in my room.

No, I’m not talking about the class pet (I don’t have one…just a plant). I’m talking about the living creatures that occasionally find their way into my classroom.

Now, let me tell you a little about my room. First of all, I work in a very beautiful school. Lovely white walls and wooden beams make it look almost Hispanic-Catholic-Mission-ish. But, if you were to go out the back door, across the rocky playground, and past the cement toilets, you would come to my classroom: a double wide trailer disguised behind wooden panels and a covered verandah. That’s right, a double wide trailer. I’m not sure how I got the short end of the stick when it came to classrooms, but it happened.  I honestly had no idea that my classroom was half the size of everyone else’s until a few months after I began working. And I just want to say that I thank the Lord everyday for bringing me to this job, seriously.

However, being in Siberia does have its perks: my class is rarely bothered by administration, wandering students, and the like. We have a super easy fire drill route. And I’m the closest to the buses, so we get in line first almost every day.

But the part that I can’t stand is the part where every other day I am killing something. No, not a child, but a creature. I could be positive about the situation and believe that they like my room because I have created such a lovely environment. But that would be a lie.

My very first day at Ft. Thomas, the principal told me that the day before, a baby rattlesnake had been found INSIDE my room. Every time I think about that situation, I thank God I was not there.

Then, there are the spiders. Oh, yes, the spiders. And not just tiny little guys that occasionally get slightly bigger than tiny. I’m not even talking about daddy-long-legs. I’m talking about big, fat, mamma spiders with bodies the size of quarters! Luckily, my kids are fearless. When they see one, they say things like, “Oh, by the way, there is spider over there, Mrs. Westerfield.” Meanwhile, my heart is starting to palpitate and my hands get sweaty and my knees are shaky. My reaction is always the same: I take off my shoe and squash it, all while continuing to teach. Ha.

And finally: bees. I have had three bees wander into my classroom so far this year. They are so sneaky. I work very hard to shut my door as quickly as possible to keep those bees out, but somehow they find their way in. Bees by far create the most havoc because they are so tricky to kill, I feel like I’m sparring. But each time I have taken off my shoe and popped the little sucker.

So, moral of the story is this: when a teacher, wear shoes that are easily removed.