Summer Lovin’

Well, I hate to say it but this was my last official day of summer vacation. It is uncanny how quickly these summers go by now that we are on the balanced calendar. Eight weeks for a summer vacation just isn’t long enough! But then again I am very grateful to even have a job where I can have this much time off. I haven’t posted much the last few months, so here is a recap of our summer.

Ryan took his STEP 1 Boards in early June, then started his clinical rotations a few days later. His first rotation was in OB/Gyn…which is notorious for being one of the most intense rotations. This rotation included 13 hour days, 6 days a week (and keep in mind he isn’t even getting paid!) He would barely get home in time to see Kinsie before she went to bed. Because of this, he learned pretty quickly that this is not the field of medicine for him. After this, he got to experience the other end of the spectrum, Anesthesia. During this 2 week rotation, he only worked 40 hour weeks with weekends off. It was glorious! We got in SO much quality time with him during these 2 weeks, and he even had time to build Kinsie her very own swing set in the backyard! Being able to spend time with his family is obviously a priority for him, so anesthesia is not off the table! Today he started Plastic surgery which I’m sure will be an adventure! It is still taking some getting used to having him home every night…in a good way. Sometimes I just forget that he is coming home at night! One of the hardest parts about when he lived in Muncie was at night after Kinsie went to bed. It’s definitely no fun going to bed alone every night. But now we’re enjoying our time snuggling on the couch and watching Orange is the New Black while eating popcorn. It is SO good to have him home!

This summer in Indiana was actually a bit depressing…probably 80% of our days were rainy and muggy. Not only is this depressing for someone who loves the sunshine, but it’s especially so  for a toddler who loves the sunshine and has a ton of energy! I had to be very creative coming up with indoor activities for us to do on the many days we couldn’t go outside. We took trips to public libraries, did arts and crafts, read a lot of books, and watched a lot of movies! Well…I shouldn’t say a lot of movies. We watched the same movies over and over again. Her new obsession is Shrek, so we watched the 4 Shrek movies and the Shrek musical pretty much on loop!

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Kinsie started gymnastics classes this summer! She had been climbing on everything and tumbling around nonstop, so we figured this would be a good thing for her. She absolutely LOVES it! Her favorite thing to do is somersaults, but she also loves the balance beam and the bars. She even got her first trophy last week!

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We had a busy 4th of July. First we went to the Brownsburg parade. Kinsie, Briggs and Kerigan were all about collecting the candy thrown by the floats. They were proud of their big bad of candy at the end! Later we went to the lake, like we do every year. Kinsie had fun playing with cousins, doing sparklers, and watching fireworks on the boat. Last year she wasn’t able to stay up late enough to watch the fireworks, but we made sure she did this year!

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Two of our favorite places to hang out this summer were the zoo and the lake. You all already knew that Kinsie was obsessed with the zoo and animals in general, so of course we tried to find as many not-rainy, not-too-humid days to spend at the zoo. She especially loves it when we meet her cousins there!

The lake, however, is a new obsession. We can’t even mention the word “lake” unless we are driving there. For a while, every time we got in the car, she would say “lake?” and when I’d say no, she would pout. When we say her prayers at night, she prays for the lake. When I ask her in the morning what she dreamed about, she says the lake. The lake is her happy place. She loves the boat, the toys, the fishing,…everything. We made as many trips there as we could this summer, and will continue to make weekend trips when we can even though school is starting. I don’t blame her, I love it there too!

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Even though sunny days this summer were few and far between, whenever it was nice enough, we were outside. Wagon rides, trips to the park, swimming at my parents’ pool, you name it. God must have been looking out for us, because our last full week of summer was BEAUTIFUL! I had one very happy girl! To add on to that, like I mentioned earlier, Ryan built a swing set in our backyard…complete with 2 swings (a Kinsie swing and a “mommy swing” as she calls it), a climbing rope, a bar for gymnastics, and even a balance beam. Kinsie was on Cloud 9! Every morning as soon as I opened her door, she’d ask to go swing. I didn’t mind because I could swing right along side of her!

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Some of the water fun we had this summer!

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Parks, wagon rides, and bubbles.

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Kinsie’s new swing set. Kudos to Ryan for the excellent craftsmanship!

Finally, the last full week of summer was also the week of our county fair. I love going to the fair for the good food and to see my students with their 4H projects. Kinsie loves the fair for the animals and balloons. We went twice during the week, and both times she was one happy camper. She wouldn’t stop talking about balloons until we got her one, but once she did, she strutted around like she owned the place with her balloon in hand. She loved the “hop hops” and the goats, especially when they licked her hands. I love how much she loves life!

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I’m sure you can tell that overall, we had a pretty good summer! I am so grateful for all the quality time that I got to spend with my girl. Her newest thing is always wanting to hold my hand. No complaining here! I know that she won’t always want to hold my hand as she gets older, so I’m savoring these special moments. I’m not ready to be away from her all day again, even though I know she’ll be in the best hands. She is just too much fun and so full of life. She has changed my life in so many ways and has taught me to live in the moment and just enjoy life. Thank you, my sweet baby girl. I love you more than I can ever explain!

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Here’s to the start of a new school year!

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!

Back to Work

This last week was one of the hardest, most exhausting weeks of my life. After 3 months of maternity leave and 5 extra snow days, I had to go back to work. I knew it was going to be hard, but it is impossible to describe just how hard it actually was. If you are a mom and have gone through this, you know what I mean!

I was so lucky to have 3 wonderful months off of work for maternity leave. Even though it wasn’t the best decision for us financially, I knew I would not regret that extra time with my new baby and that it would be completely worth it. I am also so lucky to have both of Kinsie’s grandmas, and her Aunt Megan, available and willing to watch Kinsie during the week while I’m at work. The fact that she was with the people who love her as much as Ryan and I do was very comforting, and I knew my girl was in good hands.

To say that I was a little emotional is a huge understatement. I was a mess! On Monday morning, after getting myself ready for work, feeding Kinsie and gathering all of her things to spend the day with Grandma Bev, I still had about 15 minutes left before we needed to go. During that time, I snuggled with my baby…and cried. A lot. Ever since she was born, I have spend almost every hour of the day with her, and now I was about to spend 9 hours away from her every day. I just couldn’t swallow that idea. Once we got to Bev’s, I snuggled with Kinsie a little more. And cried a little more. I knew she would have fun with her grandma, I just didn’t want to leave her. I finally got in my car and drove to school…and cried a little more. Call me over-emotional all you want, you probably wouldn’t understand unless you’re a mom! I was proud of myself for only crying 3 times that day!

Once I got to school, I freshened up my make up and was welcomed back with open arms by my staff. I work with all women, so most of them had been through it all before and knew how I was feeling. They comforted me with hugs, gave me advice on the best places in the school to pump, and encouraged me by telling me that it WILL get easier. And I knew they were right. Once the kids got there, we had a great day. They were really excited to have me back and we spent most of the day just talking and getting reacquainted. I stayed busy enough that I got through the day pretty well, with the help of Bev sending me pictures and updates of my girl. She was happy and having fun, so that helped me carry on.

Once 4:00pm struck, I couldn’t have left the building faster. I needed to see my baby. I needed to touch her and hold her. The 9 hour work day felt like a week and I couldn’t get back soon enough to be reunited with Kinsie. We spent the rest of the evening playing and snuggling, and before I knew it, it was time to go to bed and do the whole thing again.

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The next day, I took Kinsie to my mom’s, where I cried when I dropped her off. Again. I’m pretty sure I cried each morning until Friday. I had another great school day and my mom sent me pictures throughout the day. I could tell Kinsie was having a blast, so again, that helped me get through the day. Each day did get a little better, and I stayed so busy that the days seemed to go pretty fast, but even so, I felt like I was away from Kinsie for SO long. I cannot even explain how much I missed her and craved to be holding her.

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Some of the pictures that were sent to me while I was at work. I am OBSESSED with the selfie of Kinsie and her “Yaya!”

After a very long, emotional week, I can officially say that I made it through my first week back. It was harder than I could have ever imagined, but I did it. There were times when I felt completely exhausted and overwhelmed and needed some encouragement from the people I love. Before going back, I felt like I finally hit my stride with taking care of Kinsie while I was at home every day. But working full-time while trying to take care of myself, the baby, the dogs, and the house all by myself is a completely different story. Ryan wished he could have been home to help me, but he just started one of the tougher classes he’ll have this year and needed to study. He spent a lot of time on the phone with me reminding me that we will get through this and it is making us stronger, and even though it was hard to see at the moment, I knew he was right. Kinsie and I both had somewhat of a rough transition into this new routine, and she was a little fussier and started waking up at 4 and 5 in the morning and would not calm down until I fed her (she had previously been sleeping through the night until 6:30a.m. for over a month until this week). Throughout the week I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. But I did. I had to. I understand now why women don’t return to back at all after having kids, but that just isn’t an option for us at this point. I still love teaching, and I know that spending time away from Kinsie helps me appreciate every moment with her, and it will make me a better mother.

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This is how we spent most of the day together on Saturday.

Ryan and I are so unbelievably blessed to have such an amazing support system to help us with our current circumstances. I know that things won’t always be easy and we will have tougher weeks like this every once in a while, but we couldn’t get through any of it without the love, encouragement and prayers of our family and friends. And of course, I know God is carrying us through all of this. He has always helped me get through tough times before, so I know this time will be no different. One of my favorite quotes that I heard a few years ago says, “The deeper we are rooted in the unfailing love of God, the less we sway when the winds of life blow harshly.” This is spot on and it is a good reminder to trust in the Lord always. With His help, I know we can get through anything!

Welcome to our lives!

Welcome to the Matthews family blog! I have always wanted to write a blog, but I thought, “who would care to read about my life?” Well, now that I have a beautiful baby girl and a husband in medical school, not only did I think more people would be interested in reading about our lives, but I wanted a place where I could document our journey and be able to look back on it in the future. When I was in college, I started writing a journal, which I still write in today. Looking back at the older entries now, it is incredible to see how much I grew as a Christian woman over just a few years. I went through a lot in college, both good and bad, and to be able to go back and read my raw emotions at the time, and to see how I overcame it and how I grew, is such an amazing experience. So that’s why I finally decided to write this blog. Even if nobody reads it, I will use it as my own journal that I can look back on and show my daughter when she is older and show her how we grew together as a family.

For those of you who don’t know our situation, I am a 5th grade teacher, and my husband, Ryan, is in his first year of medical school at IU Muncie. I cannot even begin to explain how proud of him I am for everything he’s accomplished so far. We started dating when we were 14 years old, and even then, he has always dreamed of being a doctor. In college, he worked his butt off taking 19 credit hours, working full time at Wishard hospital, coaching soccer, being involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and much more. We didn’t get to see much of each other and when we did, he was most likely sleeping. From the beginning, I knew that being Ryan’s partner in life would not exactly be easy because of everything he had to do to pursue his dream career, but I knew that he was worth all of it. Once we found out he got into IU Medical School, we were thrilled, because we didn’t have to uproot and move out of state. However, I was not so thrilled when we found out he got placed at the Muncie campus, which is 1.5 hours away from our home in Avon. While this wouldn’t be such a difficult situation in normal circumstances, I was pregnant with our first child due in September. We both knew it wouldn’t be possible for him to drive back and forth every day with all the studying that would be required of him, so we decided to get him a one bedroom apartment in Muncie, and he would come home on weekends. With this arrangement, I would be able to keep my teaching job at Mill Creek (besides, who would hire an 8-month pregnant woman who would need an immediate maternity leave?), and still be close to both of our families for them to help when the baby came. This was definitely not an easy transition for me, but I did feel very blessed that he was placed in Muncie instead of Fort Wayne, Gary, or Evansville. It turned out that this was the best possible situation for him because he has a smaller class in Muncie which he has become very close to. They have been extremely supportive and helpful through our situation, which I am very grateful for! When Ryan is home with us, we cherish every second together. He is such a hands-on dad and does everything he possibly can for me and our daughter. I cannot imagine going through life with anyone else!

I constantly have to remind myself that we are incredibly blessed with so many wonderful things happening in our lives, because we really are. Even though I wanted our situation to turn out differently, I trust God completely that this is the way it happened for a reason. He has never led me wrong before, and I know that He is on my side no matter what. As long as we keep God as the support system in our lives, we have faith that He will help us get through it!

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Ryan and I at his White Coat Ceremony for IU School of Medicine (I was 8 months pregnant)