Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Last Day of Teaching

I got an unexpected card in the mail this week: It was birthday wishes from my 10th grade honors class.   The message on the card read, "Some people have talent, some people have charm, and some have wit.  You have all of these plus...us."

 It made me smile, and it made me miss them.

I never blogged about my last day of teaching.  It was a great day.  At the beginning of each class, I told the students to get out their tissues because I was going to get sentimental.  I said, "You just might shed a tear."  (They laughed at that suggestion.) I then told them how much I loved being their teacher and how they all had such bright futures ahead of them.  After a few more sappy words, I pulled out a big frosted chocolate chip cookie that said "Thank you" on it, and they rejoiced, and that was the end of sentimentality.

We ate and talked and partied.  A few of my 7th period boys got up and did a dance for us to Britney Spears' "Toxic."  (So random!)  In 8th period, we played "Would You Rather."  In 5th period, I'm sorry to say that they had to finish their Scarlet Letter presentations, so our party was quite brief.  (Sorry, Honors kids!)

I was surprised that at the end of every class period, one of the students said, "Are we allowed to give you hugs?"  I didn't expect that even the macho boys would want to hug me, but they did--so I let them.

At the end of the day, the bell rang, and everyone left, and I sat at my desk and looked around my classroom and thought, "Can it really be over?"

And then I felt very very sad.

A few days later, at my "work" baby shower, one of the teachers gave me the name plate from off my classroom door.  She said, "We thought you would want to keep this as a momento."  It was meant to be a thoughtful gesture, and I am appreciative, but I must admit, it hurt my heart a little bit to realize that my students won't even see my name on the door anymore.  Overdramatic, I know, but I felt so...I don't know...easily replaced and forgotten?

But then I got their card in the mail, and I realized that they haven't forgotten me--and I certainly haven't forgotten them.  I still tell stories about my students on a daily basis.  Yesterday, someone asked me (jokingly of course), if I remember the day of my birth.  That reminded me of a certain student who approached me after class on the first day of school, and said, "You're originally from Colorado?  I am too!  I love Colorado."  I responded, "Oh yeah?  When did you live there?"  She said, "The first two weeks of my life, and I remember it so vividly and fondly.  I even remember the hospital where my mom gave birth to me."


She was not kidding.

Oh, I will miss them.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Graduation Weekend

So behind on blogging!!

Ryan and I made it to Colorado (more on the move and the road trip coming in a later post), and we have spent the last few days frantically searching for an apartment.  We are staying with my dad for now, but we need an apartment ASAP, so we can get it "home studied" and approved for our upcoming adoption.  It's been a hectic couple of days!

BUT...before I get into our Colorado adventure, I need to wrap up our Buffalo adventure...which means that I need to write about Graduation Weekend!

The festivities started on Thursday night with a fancy banquet honoring all of the graduating seniors:

The sexy wives...right, boys (oh yeah, you're all doctors now, so I should call you "men")?
The boys men
Ezra and Tom squatted down, so Chris and Ryan wouldn't feel short. :)
While we were at the banquet, our parents were flying into town, and on Friday, we took them to Palmyra, New York.

We went to the Mormon temple:

And to the Sacred Grove:

The weather was gorgeous and absolutely perfect.  Don't believe me?  I'll prove it:

That night, we went to see the musical Wicked at Sheas theater downtown.  It was soooooo good:

Saturday was the big graduation!  Congratulations, Dr. Ry!!

Buddies from the dental class
Beecher, Jason, Ezra, Chris, Thayne, Ryan, Creed, Scott, Bron

Proud parents
Proud wife!
After church on Sunday, we decided to have a few friends over for dinner.  It was a great time.  We gave them some little "gag gifts" to remember us by.  In attendance:

The Schroeders
The Daytons and Deb
The Hawes

Taylor and Henry in teeth costumes with their future pedodontist
Monday, my dad and Ryan's dad had to leave mid-day, so that night, we had a party with Ryan's mom Sally in her hotel room.  We ate treats, watched the Justin Bieber movie (yes, we did--I know we're pathetic), and went hot tubbing.  I love my mother-in-law!!

I love taking photos using the timer!
It was a very very fun weekend, and I'm so glad that our parents came to town to celebrate.  They also helped us pack and clean our apartment, and I don't know what we would've done without them.

Sorry this blog post reads rather like a report...stories to come in the near future!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Final Hurrah

My friends from school threw a baby shower/going away party for me.  I loved it.  I am going to miss these ladies A LOT:

From left to right:

Kary: Her baby boy is due in June! :) She and I co-advised the literary magazine together this year, and we had fun!

Julie: Her baby boy is due in August, right after ours.  It makes me happy to see her so cute and pregnant because it gives me a gauge for how our boy is growing.  She is so delightful and has been a great friend.

Melissa:  Melissa has been on maternity leave this year, but she decided to come back to finish the school year for me.  So she is currently teaching my classes, and the kids are thrilled because she is awesome.

Lisa:  Lisa and I started teaching at the high school the same year, and we became fast friends.  I will miss our outings to Panera and TGIFridays.

Kristen: We co-advised the literary magazine for a year.  She has been one of my biggest supporters during the past two years of fertility treatments and adoption drama.  We shared a free period this year, and I would vent to her every day, and she has the best advice and words of comfort.

Danielle: We job-shared this year.  She taught two classes in the morning, and I taught three classes in the afternoon.  Danielle is brilliant and I learned so much from teaching with her.  She encouraged me to teach one of the Honors classes this year, and it was a great experience.  I will miss our "steamed milk dates" where we discussed literature and life.

Awesome self-portrait
Sherry:  I've written about Sherry before.  My first three years at the high school, I taught the "blended" classes which have a high concentration of students who have Individual Education Plans.  Sherry was my special education co-teacher.  We planned and taught together, and we became great friends.  I will miss laughing together about our crazy students!

And here we are getting excited about the baby!

My favorite gifts were from Sherry because she made reference to some of the novels that we have taught together.

The note with this little ducky robe read, "Now you can answer with confidence when your son asks you, 'Where do the ducks go in the winter?'."  Name that novel!

The note with this ensemble said, "I hope there's a little bit of McMurphy in your son's personality.  Better brush up on your poker...'Hey ya! Hey ya! Hey ya!'"  One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, anyone?

Many other favorite colleagues attended the party, but unfortunately I didn't get a photo with everyone.  I have had the best work environment in the world these past four years.  I will miss it!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Package for Katie

When my friends from church threw a fabulous baby shower for me a few weeks ago, many of the guests brought a little something for Katie.  We felt like I shouldn't be the only one getting showered with attention, gifts, and love when she is the one doing all of the hard work!  My friends showered her with lotions, lip glosses, necklaces, candy, and all sorts of little surprises and cards:

After the shower, it was really exciting for me to sort through everything and wrap it all in pretty tissue paper:

Then I went a little overboard and drew flowers all over the box:

I mailed the package at the end of April, and I started to get really nervous when Katie still hadn't received it after 10 days.  Did it get lost in the mail?!  I hadn't wanted to mention anything to her about it because I wanted it to be a total surprise when it arrived, but when I talked to her on Mothers' Day, I asked, "Have you gotten a surprise box in the mail lately?"  She told me that she hadn't but would let me know when she did.  I didn't tell her what to expect--I just told her that it was on the way.

Several days later, I woke up to an awesome text message. (I hope Katie doesn't mind if I share it.  I think it is so sweet and really telling of her selfless personality.)

"I wanted to let you know that I finally got the box and how grateful I am!  I feel like I'm in some dream world where even though I don't know any of these people, they are so willing to send me something too in addition to what they have already given this baby, which is being there for you and supporting you.  It all just seems too good to be reality.  You have amazing friends, and I can only hope that one day I'm also blessed with such caring, sweet people in my life.  I wish they had given me addresses or emails or something, so I could thank them all personally.  Please tell them how much I appreciate their kindness to me, to you, and to this baby.  Hope you have had a good time with all of the relatives in town, and I'll talk to you soon.  Good night. xoxo!"

Well, Katie--you may not have everyone's email addresses, but many of the baby shower guests read this blog, so consider them thanked.  I'm sure reading that text message will mean as much to them as it did to me.  It is totally our pleasure to do something to support you--we are so glad you loved the package.  You are amazing!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

We've got a Doctor in the House

Yesterday night, Ry became Dr. Ry.  I couldn't be more proud of him!

His parents and my dad have been in town for the weekend, so I will have a lot more stories and photos to post later this week (or maybe next--we are moving this week!), but I wanted to at least give Dr. R a shout out today and say, "CONGRATULATIONS!!  YOU DID IT!"

Click on the image below for an enlarged view of his yearbook page. To read what he wrote, click on the enlarged image for an even more enlarged view.  

I love that Dr. Ry.  He is cute and smart.

Many thanks to all who have helped him along the way.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Missing my Mom on Mothers' Day

Today is a special day.  It's Mothers' Day.  I have always liked Mothers' Day, even though I struggle with infertility.  I think maybe the reason why is because I love an extra opportunity to talk about my mom.

Every year on Mothers' Day, I write a letter to my mom.  I started this tradition the year after she passed away, and I look forward to it every May.  I tell her about my year, and I tell her about how everyone is doing.  Last year, I wrote about my ectopic pregnancy, my laparoscopy (which I'd had three days earlier), and our hopes for adoption.  It was kind of a sad letter.  This year, I think the letter will be much happier--thanks to Katie.  (I love you, Katie.)

I miss my mom.  I miss her deeply, and I think of her every day.  I am envious of people who have moms--not in a malevolent way at all, just in a "wow, they are lucky" way.

If my mom were still here, she'd be coming to visit us this week to celebrate Ryan's graduation.  (My dad and Ryan's parents are coming!  We can't wait.)  She and I would talk every day on the phone.  She would know about all of my students and all of the ladies who go to my church, and she would send me articles to use for my lessons at school and at church.  She would have come out to see me a few months ago when I was so sad about failed adoptions and fertility treatments.  We would've gone to lunch and to get pedicures or something.  She would've sobbed for my pain.  And when we got the phone call from Katie, she would've sobbed for our joy and called all of her friends and told them our good news.  I'm sure she already would've bought a closet full of clothes for our forthcoming little man, and I bet she would already be sewing his Halloween costume (she loved to sew costumes).  When the baby is born, she would've been by my side those first few weeks, teaching me how to care for him.  I would've watched her cradle and kiss him and sing him "Edelweiss," the lullaby she always sang to us.

I don't often allow myself to think about what life would be like if she were still here--because when I do think about that, my heart starts to ache.  It's easier not to think about it.

But God is good, and He has not left me to struggle through life without mother-figures.  I have my mother-in-law, who is a wonderful support, mentor, and friend.  I could not ask for a better mother-in-law.  I have my aunts.  I have my friends, both young and old.  Wherever I've lived, amazing women have always taken care of me.  I am so blessed that way.

As I write this post, I am holding a little blanket in my lap--it is one of my most prized possessions.  Just before my mom died, she made a baby quilt for each of her daughters.  She wanted us to have a tangible piece of her when our first babies arrived.  I was with her when she picked out the fabrics, and I watched as she sewed the blankets with help from my aunts.  I absolutely love how mine turned out:

My mom loved to make these "clover leaf" blankets, which, in her words, are perfect for wrapping a baby up "like a burrito."

The inscription reads, "With Love, Grandma Sally"

In just three months, I will wrap our baby boy in my mom's blanket and snuggle him close and sing "Edelweiss" to him.  

And when I do, I know that, somehow, a piece of my mom will be with me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feeling a Goodbye

I am sitting at my desk at school, and I am tired.  This morning, my desk was largely cleared of piles and rubbish (a colleague even commented, "Wow, this is the cleanest I have seen your desk in four years!")--but now, after a busy day of teaching, it is a disaster zone again. 

In front of me on the desk:

-a pile of vocabulary quizzes--two are graded, the rest remain untouched because I got distracted by organizing my lesson plan binders.
-a carved coconut head and a copy of Empire Falls, given to me by a tearful colleague whom I will dearly miss.
-four one-dollar bills, collected in my 7th period class as part of an effort to order pizza tomorrow for my "going away party" (the rest of the students swear they will have money tomorrow).
-a very chewed-up pen.
-a sticky note containing my current "to-do" list.
-a pile of The Scarlet Letter presentation outlines that I need to grade and return tomorrow.

Scattered across the floor of my classroom:

-a splayed out pile of the research papers that I collected today (and will need to grade sometime in the next month between graduation, moving, and a friend's wedding).
-a box of 125 copies of the school's literary magazine  (I am the club adviser).
-a speaker and microphone for tonight's poetry reading for the literary magazine (won't get home until about 10:00 p.m.).
 -a wrapped present for a colleague who is having a baby (never had a chance to give it to her today).
-my purse (with all of the contents spilled out on the tile because I accidentally kicked it when carrying in the box of literary magazines).

As I write this, I realize that this is the second blog post in two weeks that I've written in the format of a list.  It feels like my life right now has become a series of lists:  1. Finish a five-year teaching career to which I have given my whole heart and soul.  2. Pack up our little apartment on Rounds Ave and say goodbye to friends who have become our family.  3.  Watch my husband graduate from dental school and marvel at all he's accomplished.  4.  Drive across the country and find a new home that we hope to love as much as we've loved this one.  5.  Complete adoption paperwork as soon as possible and prepare to become the mother of a tiny, precious human being.

It's a lot to take in all at once.  Maybe the lists are helping me manage not only the many events that must take place in the next several weeks--but also the deep emotions that will accompany those events.  I am desperate to make sense of what I am feeling--to be able to capture it in words.  But I can't write about it--it feels too big--and I can't cry about it because, for some reason, I just don't cry.  I wish I did.

In the opening chapter of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is standing on a hill overlooking the football field at his boarding school.  He's just been kicked out for poor grades, and he knows he won't be returning next term.  He stands all alone in the freezing cold, watching his classmates down at the game enjoying themselves.  He says, in a way that only Holden can,"...Anyway, I kept standing next to that crazy cannon, looking down at the game...Only I wasn't watching the game too much.  What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of good-by.  I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them.  I hate that.  I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave aplace, I like to know I'm leaving it" (4). 

I know just what Holden means--and I'm just hoping that tomorrow, and in the coming weeks as the life I know and love changes so much, I can feel my goodbye.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wow! What a baby shower!

My friends from church threw the most beautiful, amazing baby shower for me.  They really outdid themselves, and I felt so loved.  I am lucky to hang out with girls who are talented artists and cooks, and I reap the benefits.  These are the ladies who made such a perfect night possible for me:

Candice, me, Laney, Rozannah, Tiffany, and Natalie
I gave them each a special gift the night before the shower: an awesome teacher sweater, vest, or turtleneck to go along with the "school" theme.  I must say, we looked lovely on the big night:

I found out later that there were even more ladies who made decorations and food, and I am so thankful to everyone who helped.  I should have brought a teacher sweater for everyone who came to the party!

I wish that all of my friends and family from across the country could have been there to celebrate with us, but since they couldn't, I thought I would give you a play-by-play of what I experienced and saw at the shower.  Sorry if this is post is long with lots of photos!

When entering the home, this is what I saw:

A wreath made from my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Tiffany, you are amazing.
The "homework assignment" was to write a bit of advice for me about how to be a good mom.

Guests had the opportunity to type their advice using a typewriter on an old-fashioned school desk...I know, too much, right??

Deborah getting started!

They hung all of the advice on this little "tree."
The best part about the advice tree was that they had contacted one of my colleagues at school and asked her to get some parenting advice from my students.  It was so cute, funny, and touching to read what my 15-year old students had to say!  A few of my favorites:

"Mrs. Nielson, when the baby cries, just put it in bed and walk away.  Also make Ryan change all of the diapers." Zach

"Get your kid a TV and video games.  They're not as bad as you think they are."  Joe

"Remember to always teach him Atticus-like qualities--though I doubt you could forget to do that!  I know you'll be a great mom." Rachel

"Remember if your little boy (Atticus?) gets a little too rowdy, there's always a leash." Gabby

"Mrs. Nielson, you have been one of the best teachers I've had because of all the great stories you've told us and all of the advice you've given this year.  I hope you tell your child all of the things you told us." Nicole

After reading the advice tree and getting choked up, I walked into the dining room and saw this huge spread of milk and cookies, the classic "after school snack" for all of the baby shower guests!

Yes, those are styrofoam lunch trays!
Thank you everyone who brought cookies!

Little milk cartons, just like elementary school.

And walking into the kitchen, I saw this:

A closer look
Decadent caramel apples!!!  There were more than just four--they sliced them and kept replenishing them throughout the night.  
The little pennant banner on the cake matched the big pennant banners hanging around the room.  They were made out of the pages of a children's book.  Rozannah, you are the best.

Pin-wheels made out of the same children's books.  Seriously the cutest thing ever.

Oreo truffles in the shape of tiny apples.  Thanks, Rachel S!

I wandered around and marveled over all of the decorative touches (and this wasn't even all of them--some of the little handmade creations weren't photographed.  I told you these girls are amazing!  I felt like I was in a Martha Stewart magazine!):

Banner made from old-fashioned children's ABC cards.  

The most beautiful topiaries ever, thanks to Deseree.
And then the guests started arriving!  (Sorry to post so many photos, but I never want to forget these ladies.  I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of everyone.)

You can sort of see the cute pennant banners in this photo.
Then I got to open lots of presents!  It was so fun!   I felt so spoiled and grateful:

After this shower, the baby boy will be well-dressed!
And after all the food and chatting and fun, on the way out the door, the guests got a little cookie to take home:

Thank you, Megan, for making all of these!
Amazing, right?  Are you as speechless as I was??  I have thrown a few baby showers in my life, and all I did was send out an evite and clean my house.  I have never made any sort of decoration or even theme food...I just ask all of the guests to bring something to share.

Driving home from the shower, I felt so humbled and grateful.  I can't believe how many people have supported us through these past several difficult years.  So many hugs, cards, phone calls, blog comments, and prayers.  How can I ever thank all of you who have loved me through some of the most difficult times of my life?  It meant the world to me to have the opportunity to celebrate this long-awaited baby boy with my "Buffalo family" and to have so many women whom I love in one place at one time.  I am sorry for those who couldn't join us for the shower, and you were missed.  I love the women of the Buffalo Ward!

My favorite gift of all is that I get to keep all of the gorgeous decorations from my shower--the wreath, the pennant banners, the book balls (not pictured), the book apples (not pictured), the topiaries, and the ABC banner--to decorate the baby's nursery.  As I look around that room, I will always remember the friends that we made in Buffalo, the women who were there for me during the heartache of fertility treatments and adoption disappointments, and the many people who prayed for and loved our son, even before he was born.

I am reminded of a scripture: "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

Thank you, Friends.  All of you.