Getting to Know Your Child - The survey my first grader's teacher wishes she never sent home

As a teacher myself, I have been in meeting after meeting this week that I am pretty sure would make my head pound even if I didn't have a literal hole in my head. Usually this time of year, I spend every free minute I have soaking up the last of the summer sun or surfing the internet for more fun things to do in my class. This year, by 3:30 my legs feel like jelly and my head is toast. I crawl straight into bed and try to get the energy to face meet the teacher night, Tuesday for Owen, Wednesday for Tess and then tomorrow night I actually have to be the teacher. I am known for funny ids, snarky comments, laughing loudly and making the most of my lunch break. I've tried to get a little more serious over the last few years. I love me some fun, but I have learned that being the girl always laughing and telling jokes can also mean that people don't take you seriously. Finding a balance between being fun and me and not being seen as a joke is a tough line for me to figure out. I love Amy Poehler and even have a coffee cup with her quote "There is power in looking silly and not caring that you do" but have tried to grow up a little and find the time and place for silly and the time and place for not wearing the yoga pants I slept in to inservice. It is still a work in progress. One of the biggest things I have learned in the pursuit of my next degree is this: being boring is hard. Academic writing and quick wit and puns with a complete disregard for all rules of grammar do not go hand in hand. I have spent all my energy in meetings this week trying to act like a grown up (or not fall asleep) and writing boring papers....so when I got Tess's first grade "get to know you form"...I could not provide a serious answer to save my life. I used all my serious up already today, and trust me it is a limited resource.
1. What is ONE word to describe your child? not a rule follower (that was 4 words btw)
2. What are your child's strengths? smart, kind, can put away way more donuts than she seems like she can store and not a shabby whip and nae nae.
3. What does your child need help with? matching her clothes, cleaning her room, algebra
4. Is your child afraid of anything? vegetables
5. Does your child celebrate any special times of year or holidays? when they release new flavors of frozen yogurt at yogurt land
6. What kinds of activities is your child involved in outside of school? soccer, dance and she claims to be a ninja
7. Does your child like to read or be read to? She can read above grade level, but much prefers to go through this still painful process of sounding out words and asking for help when you are watching a movie or talking on the phone. She reads the texts on my phone ...especially ones I wish she hadn't...effortlessly.
8. Does your child have internet access at home? Yes. Except when AT&T is providing us less than stellar service....which is far more often than I'd like. Do you want to call customer service for me. I can not handle the wait or terrible music they play.
9. If yes, what type of electronic devices are available for your child to use? Is this a trick question to make sure we monitor screen time. We totally do. Sometimes.  When I have had enough sleep. She has no device of her own although I think a Macbook is on her Christmas list. (good thing she is most likely on the naughty list). But, yes...she came out of the womb knowing my cell phone password and we have a myriad of other devices she can hack into when we can find them and they are actually charged.
10. What are YOU most excited about for your child this year? fundraisers. I love fundraisers. 
11. What is your biggest concern or fear about this school year? homework folders and never ending pickup lines. I have nightmares about these things.
12. How can I best help your child succeed this year? She loves attention and compliments. (she totally gets that from her dad). She is easily motivated by chocolate or food. (she also gets that from her dad). She is quiet at first, but when she warms up...watch out. (ok the quiet part is actually from her dad, but everything else from me).
13. What else would you like me to know about your child? She has exactly 284 freckles. She did not pass her swimming test at camp thurman this year -- it is a sore topic-- so try not to bring it up. She loves glitter and can sniff it out...so keep an eye on your stash. She loves crafts, music, science and the Beastie Boys so you might want to add that to your playlist. Edited of course.
14. What other questions do you have for me? Tess would like to know what day of the week the cafeteria serves chicken nuggets and which you like more: puffy cheetos or funyons? I wanted to ask what that little 3 digit code was on the back of your credit card but my husband said I couldn't....so please for the love of expo markers do you have a sense of humor or at least won't hold these crazy answers against my smart, kind, tender kid?



follow up

This bed is getting old.
But my head is still pounding.
Medicine bottles line the bookcase with a journal of when I took what so I don’t get confused.
I can’t remember the last time I put on pants with a zipper.
I'm pretty sure that this is a sneak peak of my life in 40 years.


I am not sure if it is the teacher in me or not…but I look at situations and try to figure out what I am supposed to learn from it. Because I think that surely things have a purpose. Although I think the verse has it the other way around.
"A time for every purpose"
Not a purpose for every time.
So maybe it isn’t my job to find it, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.

The last few weeks are a fog that I am slowly coming out of. A fog of headaches. Naps. Walks with wobbly legs. Worry. Prayer. Homework. And the doorbell ringing with food, groceries, flowers or just a friendly face. Once I had a friend who thought it would be a good idea to share with each other the three biggest things we did poorly.  (For the record this is a terrible idea). The last thing on my list was receiving. It is something I haven’t really gotten better at in the last 15 years. I’m sure like most of my sins, its root is tangled with pride and worth. But most days I open the door and receive. Because I have to. And with that comes overwhelming gratitude. For this provision. This manna. That shows up over and over again. And I think, this is what I am learning as a first hand witness to the body of Christ. Serving me. It is hard to wrap my scarred throbbing head around. And that would be enough. But it is not the only thing. I have also learned a desperate hope.

Optional brain surgery is no easy thing and I don’t just mean for me. There are living wills and powers of attorney to be signed. Large checks to be written and family and friends who have rearranged entire weeks just to help or sit by you in the hospital. You want it to be worth it. To tell them this pain and expense and fear and inconvenience were for something. To smile big and promising through the morphine. But that is not exactly how things panned out. They say on the internet, which is the last place anyone who is sick should be spending much time, that you know immediately if the surgery worked. That the pain is gone.  Or it isn’t and maybe try again later. I woke up about 5 hours later. There was oxygen up my nose and I had a sore throat from the breathing tube that had been down my throat. My head felt heavy, like I couldn’t move it. But when I smiled, I did not get shocked. I kissed my husband. I brushed my teeth. Both of those things had been excruciating before and now nothing. My husband profusely thanked the doctor. My first night in ICU was rough. No one warned me about the swelling. But the worst thing was about 24 hours later when I felt the tiniest of twinges.  I switched pain meds. I tried to be as still as possible. I barely ate. I barely talked.  And they still they came, more and more frequently. Eventually after proving to nurses and physical therapists that I could walk, breathe and remember who the president was, they pushed me in a wheelchair to the exit. I got in the car, possibly more afraid than I had gotten out 4 days before.  I laid in bed. My head pounding. Still trying to be still and quiet. I downloaded a counting app and hit the button on my phone every time I got shocked. The shocks were not as long or painful as before, but I gave up when I got to a 100 that first day.  My heart sank. I took my pain pills and prayed. I desperately asked for this to go away. I wondered what else I could do or try (acupuncture, essential oils, botox, a weird diet) or what things I needed to give up (coffee, wine, running, talking).
I wondered if this was it.
If this was my future. Pain. With very few options. Pain that would probably get worse. I’d read online about people who had this procedure up to 4 times seeking relief. And I just can’t imagine doing it again. Ever.
I prayed feverishly before going to bed. And when I woke up and every time my nerves reminded me. Desperately asking to be fixed.  Desperately hoping, praying. And suddenly I recognized the desperate hope that I know some of my own friends have felt. In the midst of crisis. Of infertility. Of cancer. Of prayers that seemed to go unanswered.

I know enough to catch myself trying to bargain with God. That He is not that kind of God. I know enough to think that maybe I should need more faith or more Joel Osteen quotes. That He is not that God either. Frustrated. Defeated. I prayed. And slept. And took sleeping pills and avoided people asking questions about how I felt or if it worked.  Things were so much better than they had been but I was so deeply disappointed. And I did not want to see that disappointment reflected on anyone else’s face. Desperately hopeful I kept praying. Because that is pretty much all you can do when you are flat on your back. But I also tried to figure out where to go from here. How long to sulk. How I didn’t deserve to. That my family did so much for this. That I can’t do it again. Not the money. Or the time. Or the fear. I remember wanting to take pain medicine just to sleep. To not think. To not have to deal with the disappointment, because that was so much harder to endure than pain. I rationed them out slowly instead. I remember laying there thinking…this is the rest of my life. That this was the hand I have been dealt. And at the time it seemed like a shitty hand.  But plenty of people get dealt bad hands. Plenty worse than mine. And Forgive the ongoing poker reference, but that…I still wanted on the table. I could choose to fold. Or to bluff. So I decided I’d have to work on my poker face.

The only hope and advice from doctors and the internet was to rest. Then rest some more.
Be still.
Be quiet.
And I assure you I must be desperate to try those two things.
And I am pretty sure God was laughing, because those are things I am even worse at than receiving or playing poker.  I have watched more TV in the last three weeks than I have in the last three years.
And slowly they have helped.
I do not know if it will last. But I keep praying that it does.
There is a small metal plate that just doesn’t feel quite right beneath my skin.
Hair that tickles as it grows back and stitches that will eventually dissolve.
And for those of you that like a happy ending, I can’t promise you one. But I do have a much happier now. The swelling has subsided. I do not take any pain medicine stronger than Tylonal and I have gone a little over an entire week without a single shock. That side of my face still feels sore and tingly after I have done more than I should, but that is easy to handle and a gentle reminder to stay in my pajamas. To talk less and listen more. My husband leans in to kiss me and my body still flinches and wants to turn my head. Someone says something funny and I tell them not to make me laugh. Because those were things that used to hurt. It will take me a while to let that sink in. That I can kiss my husband. That I can laugh. Without pain. I am more thankful for that than Netflix or pajama pants.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still”  I am reminded again.

I lay in my bed being still…which is so hard for a girl that loves a good fight.
And I think that I have learned.
Stillness.
Desperate.
Overwhelming gratitude.

Stillness. I’m starting to get used to wearing my pjs in public (ok, I did that before).

Desperate because I think that is where you actually start to truly pray and hope…when the options have run out.

Overwhelmed with the kind of thankfulness that only happens when you can not pay it back. At least not any time soon. I used to make short lists of things I was thankful for everyday (via Ann Voskamp) and in the last year or so I have forgotten this practice. The other day I figured I should write some thank you cards. For the people who brought me food. Or watched my kids. Or packed and unpacked my house.  Sent flowers or fruit. Prayed for me. For cupcakes that literally made me cry. And my list went all the way down the paper and well onto the back. And this overwhelms me in the best way.
My freezer is literally full.
Things are hanging in my closet and on my wall.
My laundry is done.
My dad even had my car detailed because he deemed it unsanitary.(he might be right). My days from the hospital and the week after are blurry and I can hardly remember most of it, but I do remember lots of people doing what I love best which is showing up.


(p.s. don’t hold your breath on those thank you cards…I still have a few seasons on Netflix to get through before school starts).