Tuesday, August 31, 2010

reflections on a school bus

One morning during in-service, our headmaster reminded us of God's work in West Dallas by giving us an update on the school bus situation since our bus was on its last legs and were were in desperate need of a new one. "God is doing mighty work on the school bus front," he began as he told us the story of how God led a family to donate the money for a second, much needed bus. This news gave me a renewed sense of wonder at God's divine and mighty work in the smallest details of our lives. Why would the Creator of the universe, the King and Priest of mankind, care about the West Dallas Community School bus? But he does. He is concerned about every detail of our lives and provides for us in big and small ways--each is equally miraculous.

As I reflected on the significance of the school bus to the everyday life of our school and on God's mighty provision in big and small ways, i was filled with a sense of God's purpose and design for us at West Dallas Community School. The mission of the school is "to provide students with a challenging educational experience designed to help them know, love, and practice that which is true, good and excellent and to prepare them to live purposefully and intelligently in the service of God and man." The mission of the school bus to provide transportation for children to go into the outside world to learn about and see God's Creation and return safely to their homes in West Dallas. In short, the bus is our means by which students go out and experience God's world and the means by which God's blessings go out from our school into the neighborhood and the entire city.

I will never forget the clear vision God gave me of our school while riding the bus (the old, un-airconditioned one) one afternoon in May 2009. As we traversed through the neighborhoods and housing projects bouncing over speed bumps, it was clear that this area was full of darkness and despair. In order to keep this bus-full of hot children occupied and orderly, Mark Rusk, the bus driver called on one class at a time to lead the entire group in a song or recitation. And there were were, traveling through the projects reciting poetry and singing songs in turn. We sang everything from Lift High the Cross to So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music with some Robert Louis Stevenson poetry and nursery rhymes thrown in as well. The children's voices filled teh bus and carried our the windows and into the neighborhoods. I watched the faces as we passed. In some cases I saw utter bewilderment at this busload of sweetly singing children and in others I saw a ray of hope.

God cares about our school bus because that is one of the literal means by which he is delivering hope to a dark and desperate place and it will allow us to do his work more effectively. I was reminded this morning by one of my fellow teachers of the passage in Ephesians 6 about putting on the full armor of God. I had never really noticed or thought about the fact that the gospel of peace is actually worn on our feet ("having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace"). All of a sudden, I thought about the school bus as our shoes allowing us to walk out and bring the gospel of peace into the housing projects of West Dallas and the city as a whole. I am so humbled by God’s provision and the reminder of his unbelievable generosity to his servants.

I had the pleasure of riding the new school bus today. We listened to The Velveteen Rabbit read by Meryl Streep and a whole assortment of hymns. Here are a few pictures from this afternoon.


little eyes
long day

Monday, August 30, 2010

grading movies

This weekend I was rudely awakened to the worst part of going back to school for teachers: grading! I loved evenings at home during the summer with no grading hanging over my head. Alas, (sigh) those carefree days are no more. But in order to lighten the burden of the red pen, I turned to some of my staple grading movies. A few months ago my mom posted about her "down comforter" movies (i.e. those movies that you know you can curl up with on a rainy day). Well the educators need a list of movies that they can turn on when the grading gets laborious.

My criteria for grading movies is simple.
1. The movie must be of the highest quality, especially the music and the script. A truly excellent film can inspire the most uninspiring tasks. The music and script are of particular importance because your eyes will not be on the screen but on paper so the sounds must be captivating.

2. It must be a movie that I know so well that I am not even tempted to lift my eyes to the screen because I have seen it so many times that I know it by heart. When you know a movie this well, you are not distracted by what will happen next or by the images on film. It is like sitting in silence in the car with an old friend, just perfectly content being together.

Without further ado, my grading movies are. . .
1. Sense and Sensibility: This is my number one go-to grading flick. The movie is perfect and so comforting and inspiring.

2. Little Women (with Winoma Ryder): This movie is great in the winter since it open at Christmas and always reminds me of hanging out with my sisters. (These two movies make up a sub-genre of films that I am a sucker for. Barrett lovingly named the genre "Women Writers Overcoming All Odds." I always like those flicks.)

3. Meet Me in St. Louis: This movie is a favorite from my childhood and always makes me happy (except the Halloween sequence which still scares me). The colors, costumes, and music are classically awesome. I love popping this movie in around any holiday since it goes through all four seasons.

The longer list. . .
If I had to add a few more to the list, they would be Oklahoma, Princess Bride (can't go wrong with a 90's classic), Much Ado About Nothing, Singing in the Rain, Master and Commander, and Say Anything.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

happy first day of school!

Nothing says "first day of school" like a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.
(Hopefully, all of you got the You've Got Mail reference.)

funny quotes from years gone by (part 2)

In anticipation of a new school year, a fresh start, and a whole host of even more hilariously funny comments and/or questions, I would love to share a few more laughs from the past.

After passing a rather elaborate fountain in Highland Park, one student exclaimed, "The only time I see this much water in my neighborhood is when a pipe busts."

Upset about having to play another basketball game, student: "I'm bringing my Z game" (as opposed to his A game for those who are not up with the lingo).

Advice from an recent graduate about high school: "Depending on how old your teacher is, if they give you homework, you might want to do it. Because if she is old, she might give you a detention."

Impersonating Martin Luther King Jr.

After studying the ratification of the constitution and how Rhode Island was the last to sign on even after the Constitution was ratified, one student proclaimed his innocence in a notorious water fountain debacle like this: "I'm Rhode Island! I didn't do anything."

A seventh grader asking to go on the eighth grade DC trip: "Can I go? I can be a pet. I won't have to take a shower!"

Me on the Texas History Trip: "Come on guys. Walk faster!"
Student: "With or without swag?"

After asking a student why she decided that eating a leaf at the Alamo was a good idea, Student: "Well, I have eaten a leaf before at school."

Study Hall shenanigans (which were not endorsed by me, for the record)

Monday, August 23, 2010

secret garden

This summer I went on a little British literature kick with Dickens, or course, and The Secret Garden. Perusing through the library, I found this children's classic and don't remember reading it (although my mom claims she read it to us and I am sure she is right. . . sorry, mom). I was totally transported by this beautiful story of an ugly, ill-tempered girl growing up and learning to care for people and creation and losing her ugliness and ill temper in the process.

Reading this lovely story made visiting my mom's precious garden in Nebraska even sweeter. Every evening we went to her garden or Neighbor Bill's garden and picked our veggies for dinner: asparagus, eggplant, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and my favorite--Swiss Chard!

This is my favorite salad in the whole world. The sad this is that I can't replicate it--mom specialty.

surviving mrs. freeman

In order to cut through the frequent melodramatic complaining, I often tell my students that my favorite hobby is to make their lives miserable and that it has taken me many years to perfect my craft. Seventh graders believe me at first, but the eighth graders think it is funny.

I have worked long and hard to develop a reputation as a tough teacher. Some may think I am heartless, but I would submit that those are the ones that have spent little to no time in a classroom setting. I learned very quickly that in order to maintain order there must be a real authority structure and high expectations. Authority is from God and under a Biblical worldview, submission is a good and even chivalrous virtue. As believers we submit to God's law so we must learn to do the same in the classroom. And high expectations call the children up; I ask them to be their best because I respect them and believe that they have enormous potential. All of this can be achieved with many hours of homework, several just and creative punishments, lots of mean teacher looks, and countless hours of talking and listening.

Recently, I received what some would consider an insult, but I consider a great professional accomplishment. One of my former students said of me to another student about his fast approaching high school career: "I mean I survived Mrs. Freeman so I should be okay (barely survived :P)"

With that said, I am kind of looking forward to getting my mean pants on again, brushing up on my mean teacher look, and assigning lots of homework.

Monday, August 16, 2010

baby gifts

I have entered the stage in my life where I am buying quite a few baby gifts for friends. For these types of occasions, I like to have a few creative/cute gift ideas that I can come back to over and over again so that I can pick up the present without having to expend to much creative energy or thought. Here are my go to baby gifts. I simply love these darling little books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. They stories are precious and the illustrations could not be cuter.

In Little Pea, Pea is forced to eat his candy for dinner before he gets to eat his vegetables for dessert. My mom used these inexpensive food mills when we were little so that we could get our veggies.

Little Hoot is an owl who has to stay up late to play even though he is so tired and wants to go to bed. It is perfect paired with a cuddly blanket.

3. Little Oink and a hooded towel
Little Oink is about a little pig who has to mess up his room so that he can be a good pig even though he wants to pick it up. This little hooded towel (designed by my sister for Target) is perfect for a clean, sweet smelling babe. Or as my great-grandmother would say, "All clean, and no bugs either."

for the love of all that is awkward

Last weekend Barrett and I had a garage sale so we did a lot of clearing out and throwing away. In our pairing down, we found tons of old pictures. Among them was my absolute favorite picture of me and my youngest sister Hannah. Hannah is 7 years younger than me, and this lapse in time made our childhood experiences dramatically different. But one of my greatest joys over the past few years has been watching Hannah grow up and getting to know her as an adult. She is the most fun and adventurous person I know, and where there is Hannah, there is a party!
Hannah and I Summer 2003

This is my favorite picture because it captures her in her most awkward years--middle school. She was going through a hilariously awkward phase that I can laugh at only because mine was worse. But after teaching middle school for a few years, I have formed a deep attachment to children in that difficult and painfully awkward phase. Growing up, I never understood why my mom wanted to have portraits made of us when we were 13 because we were clearly so awkward. But it was because she wanted to capture the simultaneous beauty and awkwardness that only comes in middle school when a child becomes an adult. Looking at this picture and thinking about how beautiful and fun Hannah is now makes me love this picture of her even more.

It also makes me really excited about a whole new batch of awkward kids who I will get to watch God grow in to amazing men and women. Whenever I tell people I teach middle school, I usually get a deer-in-the-headlights look like I might be crazy or like pain. But there is such fun and beauty in the awkwardness of that stage of life because it is a time when so much change and progress are happening; these children are officially becoming adults--reasoning for the first time and developing a sense of humor. I will need to keep this picture in front of me this year as a reminder of how lovable awkwardness can be and how awesome it can become later.
Hannah and I Summer 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

happy aniversary, baby! got you on my mi-ind!

Today Barrett and I celebrated out 5th anniversary. While most of the day was very normal (except that I had the song Anniversary by Little River Band stuck in my head all day), there was a definite sense that we reached a milestone, however small. I cannot believe that we have been married for five years already. I have loved all the little phases and stages we have gone through so far, and I cannot wait for all of the many and different phases and stages that we have yet to venture into together. Cheers to many more years to come!

Found this card at Paper Source, and it was so perfect for our little occasion.

August 13, 2005

Five years later and still counting!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to take advantage of every last minute of my summer (thus, the lack of recent blog posts). Tonight, I am trying not to mourn too loudly that I have to get up early and go to work tomorrow. To boost my spirits, I have enjoyed thinking about all that I have done this summer. It is amazing what one can accomplish with lots of sleep and creative energy. This summer, my creative energy manifested itself in a new hobby. . . sewing! My good friend Winsor got me hooked when she got a sewing machine and let me use it. I put a bug in my husband's ear that I really wanted a sewing machine for my birthday, and guess what he surprised me with when I got home from vacation? Yep! He got a fabulous deal on an old Viking. After having it serviced, I was so excited to got my hands on it and knock out some projects. My mom, quite the seamstress herself, loved that I was taking on this new hobby and sent me a package of all the sewing essentials (i.e. Ginger scissors, measuring tape, pins, some really cute vintage fabric, and Martha's Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts). I have been pouring over Martha's wisdom and still have quite a few projects/techniques from the book that I want to try my hand at. Here are some pictures of what I've done.
I made these pillows for our living room. The inspiration was the crewel embroidery I found at an antique mall.

I painted this bench to match our shutters and made these little outdoor pillows for it.

I made this little receiving blanket for sweet Winsor's new baby, Reed. I cross-stitched his birthday on the flannel side. It is not perfect, but still cute.

This little tab curtain in our bathroom is way better than the blinds that were there previously, believe me.

I am so excited to tackle more sewing projects in the near future. But first, I desperately need to make my office/craft space more efficient and inspiring. Check out sweet Katie's ideas here. Maybe that will help me going back to work and being more productive in my time off. . . Here's hoping.