day 1: a different take

First day of school!

Today I began my 8th first day of school as a teacher. At this point in my career, first days are slightly less nerve-wracking than they were when I first started out...but only slightly. I still talked too fast, looked at my first day notes more than at my students' faces (of course, having 15-minute classes on day makes their faces a blur anyway), sweated profusely, and choked on my words because my throat was dry. 

The main difference this year is that I'm part-time and don't have full homeroom teacher responsibilities. I didn't have the "are all of my kids behaving and making me look like a good teacher?" anxiety during convocation. I didn't tune out the speaker (good thing, since it was my principal!), thinking about everything in the handbook I need to point out to my kids in the next half hour. I could just relax and enjoy the beginning-of-the-year celebration.

Part-time teaching has already been an adjustment. I was planning to sleep in a little this morning (because I could!), but when I woke up at 5, I gave up on going in to school "later." I wanted to be there this morning with all the anxious and excited energy that flows in a middle school on Day 1. It's exhausting, but I love it. 

I even found myself staying for an hour after school let out to prepare for tomorrow. Did I need to stay that long? Probably not. My body was telling me to go home and take a nap. I was physically exhausted (and warm. Like, REALLY warm. This baby is an oven, I'm telling you.) I eventually left and crashed, like I normally do on Day 1. 

But tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I really won't need to be at school before 10, and I'll get to leave before everyone else does. Reality will start sinking in that I'm part-time. I don't get to teach 7th graders anymore; I'm not even teaching a drama elective this semester. I have one prep. ONE. And that's awesome! But still a little sad, since I loved full-time teaching. I loved knowing 5/6 of the students in the downstairs hallways. Now more of them will be strangers for longer. 

I'm reminding myself that it's ok to mourn the loss of full-time work, even if it's what I have chosen. I'll miss being crazily caught up and absorbed with teaching. I know I'll still have plenty of school work to do, especially when our kiddo arrives and our lives are turned upside down (for the better). But today, I'm just going to let myself miss my old full-time job.

So, goodbye, full-time teaching, until we meet again.


all things new

I've been thinking lately about how our lives are changing this year:

Housing: We bought our first house and got the keys one month ago today. We said goodbye to living with dear friends and are moving into the next phase: home ownership. We've been busily making changes, unpacking, making messes and (mostly) cleaning them up, and adding countless items to our to-do list. We're making multiple weekly trips to hardware stores and spending scary amounts of money on adult things like windows and insulation. And we're learning we have to be content with having lots of ongoing and "someday" projects.

Jobs: Philip is in the same school district this year, but teaching a new grade. He's moving from 5th grade to 4th grade, which will bring new curriculum, standards, and mentor teachers. I'm moving down to part-time, which will also be an adjustment. I'm losing my 7th grade language arts classes and teaching only 8th language arts.  I've spent most of the last decade identifying myself as a teacher, and it's strange to be letting go of pieces of that identity.

Celebrating 5 years of marriage (June 27)
Parenthood: The reality of having a baby around is starting to hit. We're taking a birth class, slowly setting up a nursery, and increasing the number of times we're seeing our midwife as our due date draws nearer. I met with a potential child-care-giver this morning, and the logistics of working part-time and being a full-time mother are daunting.

28 weeks, 5 days

We're not sure how to process all of these changes, except to keep moving and looking ahead, all the while resting in the hope that God walks beside us in all things. Bring on the future!


a fall post

November is almost gone, but I have pictures from October to share!

For our Harvest Halloween party, 
we dressed up as Little Fashion-Blind Riding Hood 
and The Big Plaid Wolf. 
I had to be on the lookout all night for This Guy.

Autumnal scenes.

I love fall.

This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for:
  • Good jobs for me and for Philip
  • A house shared with people we love!
  • The gift of seeing both of our families during this holiday season
  • That the first year of teaching doesn't last forever
  • Hope for the future
Happy Thanksgiving!


a (non) announcement.

I am almost 30, and I am not a mother. Philip and I have been married for almost 4 years, and we are NOT PREGNANT.

And I'm okay with that.

I kinda wish the rest of the world would get over it.

In the past year, I've been asked several times whether or not I have kids, how old I am, when I'm going to have kids...but the most troublesome question is Are you pregnant?

Yesterday, I got together with a few friends who I hadn't seen in awhile, and one of them thought I might be pregnant based on what people had said to her at church. Apparently there's a rumor going around. This friend was not trying to be hurtful, she was just curious. Which made me wonder, Why are people asking if I'm pregnant?

My mind raced on the way home from that visit. Did I look pregnant? I acknowledge that I don't have the metabolism I used to, and Wally (yep, I named my gut--and Philip's is named Bernie, if you're curious--) has become a little more noticeable and a little more prominent. Did people look at me and think I looked pregnant? Should I stop wearing that really cute (maternity-esque?) shirt I found at the Missoula Goodwill last month that has an empire waist and covers up my slightly-larger-than-I'd-like belly?

Maybe that was it, maybe it wasn't. If I didn't look pregnant, why would people be talking about me that way? Did they confuse me with someone else? Or is there some rule that states that people can only be married for a year or two, and then they have to have kids? Maybe the rule is that a young teacher who is married and under thirty should be trying to have babies, because isn't that the stereotype for women who become teachers? We love children, so naturally we should want to have our own as soon as possible? (By the way, I already have 104 kids. I don't feel the need to have any more right now. And while I love my students dearly, I also really really appreciate their parents who take them back at 3:15. Thank you, parents!)

Maybe I'm a little touchy about the subject. Many of my friends and relatives have had babies within the last couple of years. It didn't really bother me until people who had been married for a shorter time than we have started having kids. Why should that bother me? Not sure. Maybe I feel defensive and am creating the need to validate my own life decisions. I do feel at times like everyone in the entire world is pregnant and there must be something wrong with me because I am not.

Gossip has always really bothered me. Not that I haven't engaged in any of it myself. But there came a point where I was incredibly sensitive to the way people talked about others in their absence. I didn't find it fun, healthy, or loving at all. I guess I figured that people grew out of that after a certain age. Apparently not. And I don't think these people (whose names I don't know, by the way--I had no desire to know where my friend heard this rumor from) meant to be unkind or insensitive. But what they did was insensitive. Because honestly, it's none of their business. This is between me, Philip, and God. Sorry, people.

What if I was really happy with my career and wasn't ready to set it aside for motherhood?
What if my husband and I disagreed about the timing of having kids?
What if we're wisely waiting until I'm not the sole breadwinner in the family? 
What if we desperately wanted a baby and couldn't get pregnant?
What if we just didn't want to be parents because we felt God had called us to a different life?

And you know what? It's not really your right to know which of the above (if any) apply to my specific situation. There may be a small circle of trusted people I share that with, or maybe I'll choose to keep that between me and Philip. There are so many more constructive things you could be doing to build God's kingdom than to be idly wondering when that young English teacher at LC is going to have a baby.

Maybe you are someone who has innocently asked another person about the state of another woman's womb. Maybe you're just curious. Maybe you like sharing exciting news with other people. Or maybe you just need to mind your own business. And I mean that in the gentle reproving sort of way, not the angry-judgmental way (although that's how I felt yesterday, if I'm being honest).

So until I announce to you personally (or let's be honest, through Facebook) that I'm pregnant, don't assume. Don't speculate.
Don't question.
Just wait.

And then be joyful with me if and when I share the news. 


2012: A Year in Review

I refuse to begin this post by saying "It's been awhile", so I'm just going to dive in and post 1-2 pictures from each month of 2012.

 Philip & I took the ferry to Friday Harbor to relax after a crazy few months.

 Hiking the Fragrance Lake trail

Seattle Aquarium with friends Nick & Larissa 

 We left our beautiful waterview apartment to rent a house with Nate & Kendra

Ophy loves her freedom at our new house!

        Philip prepares our garden


 A typical weekend night at our house...

 Annual roadtrip to California

Trip to Iowa to say goodbye to our amazing childhood home...

   Al & I made the quick trip together...


 Picnic at Lake Padden with friends Conor & Laura

 Philip's cousin's wedding in Seattle


 The whole De Jong clan came to Washington for a week!


     First day of school             


        Artist Point, Mount Baker


We hosted a Harvest/Halloween party at our place

 Seed catalogue model, Bellatrix Lestrange, farmer, guy from Memento


 Philip and I hosted Thanksgiving for dear friends


Birthday dinner in California

Well, there it is: 2012 in a nutshell. I am looking forward to all that next year will bring! Happy New Year!



two things have always been certain when i've returned to sioux center for a visit. first, that i'd be staying with mom and dad. second, that i'd go to covenant and get some sort of welcoming side comment from pastor herm.

tomorrow i leave for iowa. this trip will be different than any other. i'm helping mom and dad pack up for their move. and pastor herm won't be at the pulpit on sunday.

wow. i've said that so many times, but in the past 3 days, it's really begun to hit me. how could two foundations of my life be changing at the same time?

one realization i've come to is that i need to mourn. i've been pretending like all is fine; this is part of life; change needs to happen. but to mourn is to say that my childhood home, that my pastor, has been a significant part of my life. to mourn is to say that these are special. that they have helped shape and refine this jumbled-up mess that is me.

on this early morning in june, i'm trying to pin my thoughts down about my home.

tonight i dreamed i was saying goodbye to the house. walking from room to room, reliving memories. but the dream's edges were softened. it didn't hurt. so when i woke up, it all was really sinking in, my chest squeezed tight, the lump that's been hanging out in my throat for the last week ready to choke me.

after this week, i'll never drive south on highway 75 and turn left on 4th street. i won't go all the way down to the end and turn into the driveway we built when i was nine. i won't climb the steps and go through the back door and then the other back door (all good midwest homes need a heat-trapping back entry...) i won't walk on the beautiful hardwood floors that squeak, climb the creaking stairs, or sleep in my old yellow bedroom with the white wall-to-wall-cupboards-instead-of-a-closet that Dad built for me when i was young. and the kids that take over my room will never know the pain and torture of removing multiple layers of wallpaper. they'll never see the orange flowers that were covered up by my lavendar bows.

even though my playdays are long over, i won't go up into trav's-old-room-turned-playroom-turned-guest-room and pull out the dress up clothes and bepa's old costume jewelry. i won't tear down the spiral staircase, skipping the last few stairs and swinging between the bars to crash on the dining room floor. i won't run away from Al or Trav by taking the main staircase instead of the spiral staircase. i won't play catch with Dad in the backyard or make a fort under the old pine tree. 

i won't pull the christmas candles out of the china closet drawer or help Mom set up the nativity scene in the built-in shelf on the china closet. i won't peek out my bedroom window and see the Dordt sign or see my neighbors i know well walking down the wide streets. i won't check the orange glow of the streetlight to see for the hundredth time if it's snowing yet. i won't ever rake the leaves of the dozen or so trees our family planted in the yard over the last 26 1/2 years (i remember them being tiny--when did they get so tall?)

i won't play with the ringer on the door of the front porch or open the laundry chute that's been closed off that used to house our upstairs phone with the long, twisting cord. i won't get to see our house hit 100 years old in 2014 (at least not from the inside). i won't open the attic door with fear that a bat will come flying out. and i won't ever walk in the living room and see Dad and Mom sitting in their recliners, watching the 10:00 news.

Mom and Dad's new house will never be home to me. i can say, "home is wherever they are" (and there's truth to that, too)...but yet, it's not. i've realized in the past few years how shaping place really is. 

last night, philip and i talked about the new creation. will place matter then? or will the new creation be a wonderful combination of every place we loved here? someday, i will have a Home that is much more home than 351 4th Ave in Sioux Center. until then, i'll be missing this one.

Edit: I've now returned from Iowa, from saying goodbye to my childhood home. It was good and sad all at the same time. I'm sure it won't be real until my next visit.

Also, I noticed that I can no longer see the Dordt sign from my bedroom window. We planted pine trees 20ish years ago, and they've grown so tall as to hide the sign from view.
 My bedroom
 Living room with beautiful built-ins
 Built-in china closet
 The best pine-tree fort ever (50+ year old tree)
 Spiral staircase
 Traditional pose
Goodbye, old girl.


one month

 Our bedroom
 Family room
The small part of our backyard

We have now lived in our new place for a month...and it's never a dull moment around here. In fact, Philip just dashed past me to see the raccoon that was chilling by our compost!  We've settled in well, had a couple of "family meetings," and have worked out lots of details. We enjoy 4-5 dinners together per week (taking turns cooking, which means we can put more effort into the nights we cook!) and watch TV and play games together. We have our separate private time, of course, but the co-housing situation has been going really well. I'm enjoying living with Nate & Kendra. In my opinion, it's been the best of both worlds: marriage and roommates.