Monday, April 30, 2012

DIY: Cool Cubes!

Ok, so you may start seeing some more DIY posts...I've been working on some things! I'm super excited about this one. 

So at the beginning of the school year, I used some of my "teacher funds" to buy these:

They're pretty awesome...four cubes with dry erase surfaces. They're great for the classroom! Unfortunately, they also belong to my school. Since I won't be there next year, I won't have access to them. Also sometimes I find myself wanting a few more cubes. I looked at them one day and thought to myself..."Hey, those are literally just colorful foam squares with white surfaces on them...pretty sure I can do that." And thus began the wheels in my head.

First, I needed something light. With my kids, I couldn't use something like wooden blocks or even heavy plastic...someone would get hurt. The solution? The new computer printer. Finally the school got a new color printer that doesn't print streaks! Better yet, the printer came packed in Styrofoam:

Using my pocket knife and scissors, I hacked 6 cubes out of the various pieces, 2 small, 2 medium, 2 large. Then I dug out some scraps of brightly colored fabric and covered them, using my handy glue gun to secure them. 

I cut some squares of card stock and sent them through the laminator. (Laminated papers double as dry erase surfaces!) 

Using the glue gun again, I affixed the card stock squares to each of the cubes. The end results:

Im super excited! I didn't pay a cent for these guys. Ironically, I grabbed a bag to put them in, and it happened to be a Cheesecake Factory bag. 

Crazy?? The colors match! Anyway, these are great to use in the classroom, and now I have a set of 6!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I'm not a principal, but I've got principles

Sometimes when my pastor and his wife are out of town, our women's ministry leader gives the sermon. She also happens to be my mentor (I got lucky.) Her message yesterday was compelling, and I feel like I should write some of it down.

"Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body." --Colossians 2: 8-9

High-sounding nonsense. I'm fairly certain sometimes that's all my students hear. But I have to say, I can find myself very distracted by high-sounding nonsense. In my yoga practice, I have to make sure I'm on the right side of the line with what my yogi is saying. It goes something like this:

Yogi: And now, bring the awareness back to your fingers...
(Inside my head): Dang it, I could totally lie here forever. He's going to turn on the lights and it's going to be like waking up ALL OVER AGAIN. 
Yogi: Begin to feel your body moving...
(my head): relaxed...
Yogi: And find your inner god and offer blah blah blah....
(my head): ahh inner--wait, what? I'm just going to talk to the real God, who is living inside of me. There's a difference!

If you know me you know I like organic, natural, hippy things. It's a great place to find high-sounding nonsense. (The NIV says "hollow and deceptive philosophy".) 

To stand against these "big-sounding ideas" (NLV), we've got to become people of principles. My mentor asked us to write down some of our principles. Again, welcome inside my head: "Uh, ok. Jesus...obey Him...uhhh don't steal...but I guess that falls under obeying Jesus because He says not to steal..." Before I knew it we were on to the next point. I was still trying to figure out how to balance vague principles like "follow God" and overly specific ones like "don't glare at the fourth grader who talks out of turn". So, this will probably be a work in progress. But pulling from some of my favorite verses, I think I have some figured out. So, here we go...for lack of a better name, Natalie's principles:

Seek justice.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly with my God. 
Think about what really matters.
Honor my parents.
Encourage others in their faith.
Look after the poor, widows, and orphans.
Stop complaining.
Behave in a way that invites questions.
Be ready to answer those questions.

I'm sure there are more/should be more...but again I don't know how to get more specific. And because I will most likely lose the paper she gave out to take notes on, I'll write them here.

Being a person of principle will:
enable us to stand in the face of temptation
enable you to stand in the face of trials
keep you from giving in to pressure
help you stand in the face of mockery and trial
enable you to stand against threats
enable you to stand in the face of turbulent emotions
enable us to reach out to others in times of need

Yeah I want all that. Count me in.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moving On

This week during my favorite class, my 8th grade, I told them I wasn't coming back to my job next year. It doesn't impact them a whole lot since they are graduating, but I wanted them to know.

I've had a lot of people, especially co-workers, ask what I'll do. I know what they're thinking; the skepticism running through their minds is not far off what would be running through mine in a different situation. And probably not far off what's running through yours as you ponder the foolishness of quitting a job without an offer in the current economy.

This whole school year I have felt two subtle but firm movements inside of me. (That's a metaphor; I'm not pregnant...just to quell the rumors before they begin.) The first is quite human: a dissatisfaction with what I'm doing. I'm not trained nor gifted to work with small children. My strengths lie with older kids, and I love them. I'm also only employed for 32 hrs/week. (In case you're wondering, that's tricky to live off of.)

The second thing is a familiar knowledge that God is bringing me to something new...again. The summer before I moved to the DR I felt inexplicably that something was coming and I had to start getting ready. Spending time with friends and physically organizing myself. If you don't remember the summer of 2009, that also was a really bad time to quit a job, and my parents were very leery. I didn't tell a whole lot of people because if I am completely honest with you, I have to confess I am sensitive to others' judgments of me, even though I probably don't appear that way.

I have the same sense that it is time to move on again. I can't explain it and if you don't know Jesus it will make absolutely no sense and you'll think I'm a fool. Even if you know Jesus you may still think I'm unwise. That's alright. I trust my Dad. He guides me with His counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny (Psalm 73:24).

So for now, when people ask me where I'm going to go or what I'm going to do, I smile and say, I don't know. And that's true, but I guess I could tack on that I'm going to do whatever God has next for me. It absolutely makes me a little bit nervous in my stomach, but I also have a calm certainty about the situation.

The day I told my bosses I was leaving I felt slightly nauseous...until after I talked to them. Then I felt that peace in my spirit, which then combined with the dismay of the 2nd graders at my door told me I was making the right move.

Even if I look at it from a non-spiritual paradigm, I believe that I'm too young to get entrenched in a job I don't love. I feel like I've worked hard enough and shoved myself through too much schooling to settle for something I don't enjoy that doesn't pay what I need to be making. The night I quit, I came home and found these quotes on Pinterest:

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." -MLK Jr

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it." -Steve Jobs

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor." -Mark Twain

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that." -James 4:14-15

All very different guys, but similar messages.

So yes, I am making what looks from the outside like a questionable decision. Maybe not just the outside; even my mom has her eyebrows raised. But I wouldn't be who I am today or have been the places I have without making questionable decisions. Besides, my life has already been written for me, and I know the Author. He won't let me down.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

One year with Zhi Sai

This past Tuesday, my family had the privilege of recognizing the one year anniversary of our 6th family member. That went fast! (In some ways.) What a year it's been with Zhi Sai. I know each one of my family members has different perspectives, but I can only speak for mine.

It has been both exactly what I expected and nothing like what I expected. I expected some adjusting issues; I didn't know what type. I expected sister moments; I didn't expect that they would involve pandas and my old room being painted pink. I expected arguments, but I had no idea it would be about wearing jeans and putting shoes on when it's 30 degrees outside. I expected to grow, but I didn't know how much God would teach me through ZS.

Here's what having her around has taught me, at least the part I can put in words.

From a learning perspective, it's fascinating to have a second language learner in the house. It's also interesting watching the cultural differences that we've encountered. And some of them may just be her personality, who knows, but we are constantly baffled by some of her behaviors. But in that, I'm forced to accept that other people have different ways of doing things based on where and how they were brought up. I respect her way of doing things, even if I think it is silly or inefficient, because they are hers. My middle class white American perspective is not better or worse than hers; it's just different. And that's a good thing to look at.

And how do I handle that? Do I get angry and annoyed when she does "weird" stuff? Or do I learn to let go a little, give up some control. Someone once said life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do with it. I can let the things that bother me about her make me frustrated with her, the concept of adoption, and Chinese people or general. Or I can stretch a little everyday, become more flexible. Become a better person.

Forgiveness. Wow, what she has taught me about forgiveness. She can be offensive without even realizing it. When I encounter that, again, I have a choice. Hold onto it and harden slowly, or forgive without hearing an apology, because I know I have offended God and others countless times, and they have shown me forgiveness. There are times that I have gotten angry with her and she turns against me because of that. My tendency would be to leave her in her anger, but God's grace must be working because I'm learning to go to her and apologize for my part and tell her how much I love her.

The first few months were pretty tough. She spent a lot of evenings in her room crying, muttering in Chinese, and looking at pictures of her friends back home. I desperately wanted to communicate to her the big picture, that life here would be better for her. That eventually she would make friends. She would get an education and have the opportunity to go to college and learn about Jesus. Even if I could speak Chinese, I don't think she would have understood.

But don't we do that with God? When we're going through something hard don't we sometimes cry and ask for our old lives back? And I wonder if He thinks, I wish she could see the big picture, and how this is going to make things better in time. I doubt Zhi Sai trusts our judgment about what's best for her...maybe sometimes we trust God's judgment about what's best for us. She can't see the end, and neither can we.

I think what it all comes down to is that I'm learning about love. I really, really want Zhi Sai to give me a big hug (which she won't do). I want to get snuggly with her and watch chick flicks. I want to go shopping and help her pick out clothes. I think it will happen in time. It just might not be soon. And if it never happens, that's ok. I still love her. In some inexplicable way that has nothing to do with her being especially kind or loving, I adore her and think she's fabulous. And I'm in awe that God has put this inside of me, which I know He has because I don't naturally have a gentle or unconditionally loving personality. It gives me the tiniest glimpse of how He loves us without much in return. She hurts my feelings sometimes, but that's ok. With her, I see the big picture: a girl without hope or a future was given one. And that's what God does with me; He gives me hope and a future.

So here's to you, baby sister. You are a blessing to me and others around you. Life will be a little trickier for you here...but you'll always have my hand to help you. Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer update we are again, at that awkward place where I update my blog and apologize for not having done it sooner. Again I'd like to point out that since my last post I have completed almost three graduate classes (9 credits). Which, by the way, is a PAIN. This M-F 9-4 class situation is a pain. BUT after tomorrow I will be HALFWAY done my Masters degree!! Woot. Just so you're all aware, I fully intend on making a big deal out of it when I graduate. You will think there has never been a Master's degree given out before.

Anyway, let's move on, since also after tomorrow I can officially start summer vacation! Things I hope to do this summer...slash am definitely doing:

-beach with the fam in a few weeks
-going to SEATTLE! to visit my twin with Kels
-move out??
-help a former coworker with her twins
-make some jewelry with my coworker and former art teacher :)
-get Brewer out here PRONTO
-another Bikram Yoga!
-Take 15 classes at Merritt...also a Groupon purchase!
-Learn to slalom ski...oh WAIT I DID THAT YESTERDAY!
-weekly prayer/craft meetings with my Erikins
-hang out with my cousin returning from Kenya in August!

Ok I think that's enough for now...I actually have to go call Krysten back...later kids.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bikram Yoga

So this has absolutely nothing to do with Father's Day, but I did say I would blog about my yoga adventure. On some fateful day in May, Groupon offered 5 sessions of Bikram (pronounced "beek-ram") for $20. Since yoga can get pricey and summer was coming up, I was quite interested. Bikram yoga is also known as "hot yoga," and I don't really know the technical differences except that it's yoga in a 105 degree heated room. Supposedly all the sweating detoxifies your body.

Since I'm obviously intrigued by new experiences, I was pretty excited to buy my yoga mat and get started. I even made a bag to carry my yoga mat in! I rolled over to Cockeysville (which, to be fair, is a far roll) and tried not to look too ignorant about what I was doing. I stuck my stuff in a locker, grabbed my water, towel, and mat, and headed into The Room.

The first thing, in my opinion, that you notice about The Room is the smell. There's no way of sugar-coating the fact that it's pretty bad. I can't explain it. I don't think it's like that everywhere, though. Maybe just that location. Anyway the obvious second thing, or maybe you realize it simultaneously, is the heat. No brainer, right? But it's also humid, and since there are no windows, it feels stuffy too; the air has nowhere to go. So I thought I'd be all cool like the other folks and lie on my mat and wait for 15 minutes until class started but there was no way. I set my towel down and went back to the bathroom and pretending to look for something in my locker until the last possible second.

Once class started, the instructor informed us that we'd probably start to feel sick and lightheaded, like we were going to pass out, but we wouldn't. I nodded and thought, Do you know where I lived for a year? I can handle anything.

And about 30 minutes later, I reversed my position on that. I was pretty sure that she was wrong; I was going to pass out. Or die. The yoga itself isn't the problem; it's the heat and humidity that gets to you. Also the sweat that runs into your eyes burns. But dang it I was going to stick it out, and I did. And if sweating detoxifies you, then I'm pretty sure I got a lot of toxins out.

After class was over and I staggered, blurry-eyed into the hallway and the bathroom to retrieve my things, I could only assume that this is how one feels when they've smoked some bad weed. As I left I checked with the instructor just to confirm that the sweating is good for you...I wanted to really make sure that there was some benefit to this situation.

I won't lie; I wasn't really sure I should drive home, but there were things to get done so I sailed off trying to refocus my brain. Let me tell you, that's one of the best showers I've ever had.

So. The conclusion. The next day I noticed I didn't feel as hungry as usual, and that kind of continued for the next few weeks, which cause me to lose weight since I wasn't consuming many calories. Now that could be due to a ton of things: stress, the ludicrous amount of vitamins I'm taking, whatever it is that is currently effecting my joints, but I like to think it was the yoga. So was it hot and miserable? Yes. Did I see benefits? I think so. Will I go back? Definitely. I payed money for those classes and I fully intend to use it up. And if it alter my appetite, all the better. Would I pay $17/class (the normal price)? Not unless it radically alters my health.

I'm also wondering if I should just get a yoga video and set it up outside on my deck on a hot, humid July day to get the same effect...

Friday, June 10, 2011


There are no words in English nor in Hebrew to express how I feel today. There were certainly days (more than I care to admit to) that I wasn't sure I'd make it to this point! But here we are, and the school year is 2.5 hours from being DONE! I cannot believe it.

I'm not completely off the hook; I still have classes to complete. But I think not going to work all day will make a huge difference. I am so enjoying my current class, educational assessment, and how applicable it is! Really all my classes have been great; I highly recommend College of Notre Dame of Maryland, to be changed to Notre Dame of Maryland University this fall. It's a great place. And there's definitely something to be said for learning things you are doing at the same time.

Without further ado, some summer plans:

-Finish Educational Assessment
-1 week of Human Development
-1 week of Leadership I
-Smith A104 roommate reunion July 4th weekend! What!
-trip to Michigan?
-trip to Seattle?
-see Natalie Brewer?
-sit by as many pools as possible
-read the books required for my ACSI certification
-beach with my family

That's a lot of I'd better stop before I stress myself out.

Note: I need to update on two things at some point, Bikram Yoga and my health. Forthcoming!