Our October in Arkansas

I was excited to spend October in our new home. We have a lot of fun traditions that we do in October, so I was glad that Ryan was on an easy rotation and could enjoy them with us. We did lots of fun fall and Halloween activities, as well as traveled to Florida for vacation. It was a great month that went by fast! Here is our recap…

Visit to the Pumpkin Patch

This is one of our favorite traditions. We love the pumpkin patch, the hay rides, the apple snacks, you name it. When we first moved here, we went to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Little Rock, and one of the booths set up was for a winery. I tried their wine and fell in love (For all you Indiana folks, it’s similar to Oliver Wine). When I bought some wine from them, they told me they also have a great farm and a great pumpkin patch in the fall. I was anxious to visit, not only for the pumpkin patch, but to buy more of their wine! This pumpkin patch did NOT disappoint! I was so impressed with all the activities they had set up. The kids loved playing in the corn pit and making “corn angels,” climbing on the hay bales, sliding down the tubes, visiting the farm animals, picking out their own pumpkins and going on the hay ride. They had all kinds of scarecrows dressed up as different characters and decorations to see on the hay ride so it kept us entertained! We loved our day at the pumpkin patch!

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Trip to Florida

You’ve probably already seen the post about our trip to Florida, but this was definitely one of the best things about our month. We loved spending our days on the beach, lots of cousin time, Mickey Mouse, and having Ryan for a whole week!

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Boo at the Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo Boo was always one of our favorite traditions around Halloween, and we were so excited to find out that the Little Rock Zoo also did “Boo at the Zoo!” For this event, you had to purchase tickets, even if you are zoo members, but there was a lot more to do at this event than at the Indy zoo. There were carnival games and rides, trick-or-treating, a Haunted House, a “spooky” train ride, food trucks, bounce houses, and tons of Halloween decorations. The ONLY thing I was a little disappointed in was the fact that the event really didn’t have anything to do with the animals. In fact, most of the animals weren’t even out for display. The event focused on the activities, but it was still a lot of fun. We went with another resident’s family whom we’ve gotten pretty close with. The kids all had a great time together and it was a great night.

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Fun at School

Kinsie is still loving school! They do so many fun activities and themed days. She adores her teacher and finally seems to know all the kids’ names in her class (there are only 8 kids). Some of her favorite things she’s done at school include making apple pie, a martial arts class, and trick-or-treating. And again, I love how much they share on their Facebook page so I can see how much fun she’s having every day!


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Pumpkin Carving and Painting

We don’t take pumpkin carving lightly. We go all out every year, and we don’t just do it for the kids…Ryan and I look forward to it every year! This year, Kinsie also really wanted to paint some pumpkins, so I let the kids paint a couple of them. Last time I had Brax paint, he hated it…this time, he loved it!

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Ryan’s residency group also had a pumpkin carving night, where all the residents and their families could come and carve pumpkins together. The kids loved helping with the pumpkins, running around with the other kids, and all the snacks they could dream of!

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Then, we finally got to carve the rest of our pumpkins. Kinsie really wanted to help with as much as she could, so she helped scoop out seeds, poke the holes for the outline of the design, and even did some minor carving. Brax stuck the spoon into the pumpkin maybe once and then he was done. He spent the rest of the time reading books, climbing into the toy box and running amok while we finished carving. The kids LOVED the end results!

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From left to right, “silly guy,” Batman, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Mickey Mouse, and Stitch

Other Halloween activities

Some other activities that we did this month included spending a lot of time in Halloween PJ’s, watching Hocus Pocus while wearing a witch costume, trick-or-treating at Kinsie’s last soccer game, and making Halloween cookies!

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Trick-or-treating

The kids are still young enough that they like wearing coordinating costumes, and we are taking full advantage of it until that day ends! We love doing family costumes, and we always base it off of things that Kinsie is really into at the time. Last spring, she said she wanted us to all be trolls from the movie “Trolls.” Then a couple months after that, she wanted us to all be characters from “Moana.” Then she kind of lost interest in those movies, so we gave her some options from movies she likes. We always call Brax “Stitch” because he destroys everything, so Kinsie thought it was be fitting for her to be Lilo and Brax to be Stitch for Halloween. I found some cute and versatile costumes that I could warm up or cool down depending on how our weather was, and Ryan and I decided to join in on the costume fun again. I decided to be Nani, Lilo’s sister, and Ryan was Agent Pleakley, the green alien from Stitch’s home planet. Ryan’s sister, Megan and her dog Ali came to visit us and went trick-or-treating with us as well. It was pretty chilly, but not so much that it affected our trick-or-treating fun. The kids LOVED it. We walked around our entire neighborhood, and they were exhausted but very excited about how much candy they received!

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We had a great month! Now with November and December coming up, we know we are going to continue to be busy…which is a good thing for us! We will be headed back to Indiana to be with family for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas. We are still settling in to our new home, but we become more and more comfortable and feeling “at home” here every day. We are in love with the state of Arkansas, and absolutely love living here…but we are still missing our families. We love having them visit, and traveling home to visit them as well. However, with the cold weather season approaching, we are looking forward to spending winter in the south!

Dancing in September

September was SO busy, but we loved it! The last three months since we moved to Arkansas have kind of dragged on because we didn’t have a whole lot going on (well, Ryan did, but the kids and I didn’t). Ryan was on his Trauma rotation, which was rough. 12-14 hour shifts with maybe one day a week off. Luckily, the kids and I stayed busy which helped us deal with it. Kinsie started school, we had soccer practices and games, we had a visit from some family, and we visited our home in Indiana for 2 weeks…it was a great month!

Kinsie Starts School

We’ve been anxiously awaiting for this for a while now. As soon as we found out where we were moving, I started researching preschools. I wanted Kinsie to have a great experience like she did in Indy. I loved the Christian environment she was in there, and how much the teachers loved on her and really got to know her. After lots of research and referrals, we found the school for her. It is very similar to her last school, and we absolutely love it. Before school started, we went to an open house where she could meet her teacher and see her classroom, the kids loved running around the room and rolling on the beanbags! Kinsie has done wonderful there! Every day she tells me EVERYTHING about her day, and she is always excited to go back the next day. I also love how the school has a private Facebook group where they post pictures throughout the day so the parents can see what they are doing. This has been such a positive experience and has really helped Kinsie adjust and meet kids her age!

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Kinsie goes to school 3 days a week, so that leaves Brax and I for some special time together. He definitely misses Kinsie, but he enjoys just having some mommy time too!

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Labor Day Weekend

For Labor Day weekend, Ryan’s sister Megan and her husband came to visit. This was crucial for my sanity, as I was missing home SO much at this point. I really really needed to see some family. Ryan had one day of the weekend off, so he got to help us show them around our area. We went to the Farmer’s Market, the rock park, and ate lunch at the River Market. We also visited the Old Mill, a really neat little park that was featured in Gone with the Wind. The next day, Ryan had to work but I took Megan, Tim and the kids to the zoo. It was a hot, but fun day! We LOVED their visit. It was so nice to be around familiar faces again and be around other people we love.

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Petit Jean State Park

Whenever Ryan has a day off, we always try to take advantage of it and do something fun. There are so many amazing parks in Arkansas and we are slowly getting to explore them. One park that some friends told us about was about an hour away, but was incredible! There were tons of hiking trails, camping areas, a waterfall, and lots of beautiful scenery. We went on a 2 mile hike to see the waterfall. Kinsie was an absolute CHAMP and walked almost the whole time. On the way back, she tripped and fell and needed a little break, so Ryan carried her for about 5 minutes, but other than that, she hiked by herself…and it was no easy hike! Brax wanted to be big time like his sis and he wanted to hike by himself too…but that wasn’t really possible with how strenuous the hike was. Ryan helped him walk some of the way, but eventually we just made him suck it up and ride in the backpack. Once we got to the waterfall, we climbed up behind it and just hung out for a while behind the waterfall. It was amazing! It was a great experience that we definitely want to do again.

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Soccer

On my last post, I was a bit disappointed in the soccer program that Kinsie is in. Well, its still unorganized, but it’s gotten better! It turns out her coach is her teacher’s husband, so that helped make a connection and the coach really took more of an interest in her. She is really having fun too, which is the most important part! Ryan sometimes can make it to practice, and usually can come to the games. Brax loves watching and cheering on his sis…and giving Daddy kisses!

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Gymnastics Day

We joined a “Mommy and Me” group when we moved here, and try to attend the events whenever we can. Our favorite has been the Gymnastics day. As I’m sure you remember, Kinsie LOVED the gymnastics classes she took in Indy. She was in HEAVEN at this place. She was sprinting around the place as fast as she could doing every activity possible. Brax of course tried to keep up, and he had a great time too!

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Visit to Indiana

This was definitely the highlight of our month. This was a MUCH needed trip. I was craving my family and it was so good to spend time with them again. We had an amazing 2 weeks and did SO much. We did so much in fact, that our trip to Indiana will be its own blog post…so stay tuned! The kids loved seeing their grandparents and all their cousins. They were sad to leave them, but ready to be home and back to our routine. Luckily we’ll get to see them again in the next few weeks.

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Kinsie’s Birthday

I’ll cover this more in my next post, but my girl had a GREAT 4th birthday in Indiana. She had a very special day, and was so happy to spend it with our families. We also had a small party for her at her favorite place, the lake. We were sad that Daddy couldn’t be with us on her birthday, but he still found a way to be with us in a different way!

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September definitely kept us busy, but we needed it. So many positive things happened, which is helping keep our spirits up even on tough days. Arkansas is starting to feel more and more like home, and even though we miss everyone, we are finding ways to deal with that (Facetime is essential!) I know that the next few months will be busy, but I am really looking forward to it. October is always one of my favorite months, and we are excited to do our usual fall traditions in a new place. Stay tuned for our Indiana post coming soon!

Why Parents Should Appreciate Teachers

Let me preface this by saying that I am not concluding that all parents don’t appreciate teachers. I teach in a small community and I know from experience that most parents are very appreciative and supportive of us. We have some awesome parents who are constantly telling us and showing us how much they appreciate what we do for their children. Our PTO makes lunches for us, buys us gifts, and even reimburses us for classroom supplies. Supportive parents reassure us that we’re doing a good job, and we need that every once in a while. However, I have only been teaching for 4 years and I have witnessed a disturbing amount of parent encounters and interactions that were lacking any kind of appreciation, and even being downright disrespectful to their child’s teacher. I’ve seen parents yelling at their child’s teacher in front of all the students for making one small mistake. I’ve seen parents bashing their child’s teacher on social media because they didn’t agree with a minor disciplinary action. I’ve seen parents blame teachers for their child’s poor grades, and also for their unruly behavior. I’ve seen parents allow their own children to be completely disrespectful to their teacher because they claimed they had a “personality conflict,” when really, their child was just a defiant troublemaker. Those are just a handful of examples that I’ve witnessed…and those all happened this past school year! I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I didn’t like every teacher I had, and I’m sure my parents didn’t agree with every move they made, but we respected the teachers and we made the best out of it and took lessons from each year. I still behaved, did my homework, tried my best, and if something didn’t go well, my parents would ask ME what happened, and help ME resolve the issue, not blame the teacher. Let me also say that I know not all teachers are outstanding educators. Not all teachers love and accept all of their students and not all teachers do everything in their power to help their students succeed. Some teachers are good teachers, but are having a really challenging year whether it be due to difficult students, or even troubles at home that affects their teaching. It is definitely no easy task to be going through a tragedy or some kind of internal struggle, and having to smile and pretend that everything is wonderful and go on with your daily lesson plans. Whatever the case or circumstance, I feel that I need to set the record straight or simply remind parents why they need to appreciate their child’s teachers.

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Reason #1: This job is harder than you think!

I think that some people are under the impression that teaching is an easy career. I mean, we already learned all that stuff when we went through school, right? Well, just because you have knowledge of something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Just ask my husband, the med student. There are some brilliant doctors who teach his classes, who are clearly extremely knowledgeable about their field, but they can’t teach worth a darn. Most classroom teachers these days are trying to teach at least 25 kids with different learning styles and a ridiculously wide range of reading levels (I think my record range is reading levels of 1st grade to 10th grade…and keep in mind I teach 5th grade). Each student practically has their own individualized education plan because every kid needs something different. And not only does each kid learn differently, but each kid also responds to different behavior plans. A classroom is a constant  revolving door with kids coming in and leaving for speech classes, resource rooms, remediation classes, literacy groups, etc. On top of the actual teaching part, teachers have a lot of other responsibilities, paperwork, grading, student data, and much more to keep up with during our “spare time.” My desk is constantly cluttered with papers, piles, and post-it notes reminding me of all the things I need to do that day before I leave, what can wait until tomorrow or even next week. My point of all of this is not for you to feel sorry for how chaotic our job is, but for you to realize that we do whatever we need to do to help your child succeed! If each kid needs a different plan, a different lesson, a different behavior system, you name it…we’ll do it because that’s what we do. If your child doesn’t meet their potential, we don’t feel that we’ve done our jobs.  We don’t give up on your kids because our job is to help them succeed!

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Reason #2: We have our own lives…but we’re still always thinking about your kids!

Please remember that teachers are people too. We have families to love and care for, houses to clean, chores to complete, errands to run, bills to pay, etc. Teaching is just our job, not our whole lives. However, while many people leave work at 5pm, go home, cook dinner and don’t think about their job again until 7am the next day, teachers always bring their work home with them. I don’t just mean grading papers or preparing crafts. Every night, I think about my students. I think about if they have a parent to greet them when they get off the bus. I think about if they are getting a meal that night. I think about if they are getting tucked in at night or if they are basically fending for themselves each night (it happens more than you think). Many teachers do bring papers home to grade and other schoolwork home to work on that evening or over the weekend. I know of a lot of parents who expect grades to be posted first thing every day…but they must forget that we have families too, and we are trying really hard to balance our home lives with our job. Since I became a mom almost 2 years ago, I have struggled daily with this balance. I feel like I can’t be a great mom/wife AND a great teacher. I feel like I have to pick one to be great at, and the other I will just settle for mediocracy. I know of SO many teachers who struggle with this as well. What works best for me to accommodate both is to compartmentalize each one. When I’m at school, I’m all in…100% teacher. I hardly think about things I have to do at home. I try to focus on my students and what they need from me that day. When I get home, I’m all in…100% wife and mom. I don’t work on school stuff at home (most of the time) and I cherish that time with my family. I may always feeling behind on grading and other school work, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay because my family deserves all of me. If you want us to be at our best when we are with your kids, then we need time with our families to relax and rejuvenate, just like you do when you get home from your job. And keep in mind…even when we are at home “relaxing”, we are still thinking about your kids. We never stop.

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Reason #3: We genuinely love your kids!

Let’s face it…nobody goes into this profession for the money. And you really can’t say that people go into teaching for the summers off anymore considering most school districts are on a balanced calendar and our summers are painfully shorter than they used to be. So why did we choose this profession? Because we genuinely love children! We want to make a difference in the lives of children! I can’t speak for every teacher, but I know that most of us spend a considerable amount of time trying to get to know and connect with each and every one of our students. I try to relate with them, whether it’s through books, sports, video games, or even fishing. I do this because I want them to know that they are accepted, worthy and loved. Most of you are aware that a large portion of our teacher evaluations is based on standardized test scores. We do everything we can to teach all the standards proficiently, and even if we teach until we’re blue in the face, little Johnny could come in on test day in a bad mood, click through his test indifferently and completely screw up my evaluation. To be honest, I could care less about my kids’ test scores. I spend every day with them and I can tell if they are where they need to be academically and what kind of growth they’ve made throughout the year. The bottom line is that at the end of the year, if I could make a difference in one kid’s life, then I feel that I have done my job. As teachers, yes we care about their academics, but we care MORE about developing their character and helping them succeed in life…not because we are paid to do so, but because we genuinely care about them. Need I say more?

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In August (or July for balanced calendar schools like mine), when you are buying school supplies for your child’s upcoming school year, or when you are taking pictures of your kids before they get on the bus before the first day of school, please keep these friendly reminders in mind. Teachers aren’t perfect and you may not agree with everything they do or say, but before you run to the school to cause a big scene, or before you type a nasty email or leave an angry message with them, please take a deep breath, count to 10 and think about the things I discussed. Unless the teacher has done something that puts your child in physical danger, or has done something illegal, just give them a little bit of grace and let it go. If you don’t get along with your child’s teacher or don’t agree with everything they do, a school year only lasts 180 days…just deal with it the best you can for that amount of time and grow from it. It is good for everyone to encounter people that you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything. It helps us grow. Be a good example for your kids and teach them how to handle those kinds of situations the right way. I am a parent myself, so I know the strong internal instincts we possess to protect our children, but remember they are in good hands. They are spending 180 days with someone who will love them, accept them, protect them, and do anything to help them succeed. I hope nobody sees this post in a negative way. This was not meant to bash or complain about parents. Like I said, most parents are wonderful to us. I just wanted to set the record straight that at the end of the day, we are on the same team. You love your kids, and we love your kids. We want them to succeed just as much as you do!