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Kate the Great's Merry Adventures! Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Kate the Great" journal:

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July 9th, 2017
06:20 pm

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Weekend in L.A.!

In an effort to save the cost of a hotel room at the potential cost of our lives, we all piled into the car and hit the road at 4am on Friday. William had an 8am appointment at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who knows an awful lot about dwarfism and about William's particular rarer form of it (pseudoachondroplasia). Ben and I took turns driving, because The Sleepies attack with vigor on a several-hour drive at that hour. 


We got to Cedars with about half an hour to spare. As we checked in, answering questions from the receptionist rather than filling out paperwork, William sweetly announced, "This isn't my favorite doctor." I covered my mouth and we all laughed awkwardly.


"You mean this isn't your favorite doctor <i>yet</i>," said Ty the receptionist, recovering.


I loved this doctor. He informed us that the doctor we saw at UCLA in May (who referred us to this doctor) is actually the #1 expert in the world in skeletal dysplasias, so he trusted her diagnosis of pseudoachondroplasia without hesitation. Pretty awesome to have these experts so close and accessible (just a $10 copay with my awesome insurance... score!)!


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December 25th, 2016
01:44 pm

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Keeping Christmas weird
Just a few things I want to remember:

On the phone with my grandma this morning...
William: Mommy, Avi pooped!
Grandma: Aww. What's that? Did he say 'I love you, too'?


Ben's dad's church was closed for Christmas.
...
And we had so many presents to open with such a late start that we missed the last service at the church Ben's dad was going to drop us off at. The kids were sooooo excited for church. And I am so bummed, too.


Avigail (age 4): Frickin' a.
Me: What?
Avigail: I'm so frickinated.
Me: Do you mean you're so frustrated?
Avigail: No. FRICKINATED.
HAHAHAHAHAHA I need to watch my language around her better.


Soon Ben's grandma will come over and bring her new boyfriend. :) She's 85. He's in his seventies. Ooh ooh ooh.

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November 1st, 2016
09:05 am

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Morning revelations
I didn't seem to have time to maintain a steady walk with God after I had kids. The emphasis on finding "quiet time" made it seem impossible and led me to forget that God can speak to us anywhere and every moment.

But we don't need a block of twenty or thirty minutes and an in-depth scripture study and journaling time first thing every morning. For me in this season of life, getting God infused into the foundation of the day and letting Him flow from there is more effective (and helps me stay nice to my kids when they interrupt my devotional time).

The most helpful tool for me is the Bible App on my phone. I can pull up the chronological study plan I'm currently chipping away at (the Bible in chronological order, which actually breaks up Genesis to insert Job) and read it, highlight, and make my notes even as I deal with my kiddos. Or I can progress through a few verses while in the bathroom!

The important thing for me isn't the amount of scripture covered, or the length of a journal entry. It's inserting God into the beginning of my day, interrupting the onslaught of worldly and hellish things that threaten to drag me down. I envision it as sliding a piece of paper under the contents of an upside-down cup. When the cup (of my full day) is picked with the paper (God's word) underneath, the contents stay in place instead of spilling everywhere. The whispers of the Holy Spirit in my heart stay in place through my day.

The insights from the scripture reading aren't even the most important thing to remember. Today's reading was Genesis 16, where Sarai gave Abram her slave Hagar to make a baby with. There were lots of things I noticed, lots of notes I made in my Bible App.

But starting my day listening to God, or reading God's word, allowed me to hear him in the mundane drive of my kids to preschool, even with the radio on.

This morning's realization was like a switch being turned. My job last year, my first year teaching my own classroom, was an absolute mess. It really shook me up and made me want to give teaching just one more try, simply because I didn't know where else to go for a career path. This morning so many details about last year seemed to fall into place, like when a chiropractor pressing on my spine and with a little *pop* my pain goes away. (So God is a spiritual chiropractor, I guess.) Last year wasn't about me being a fundamentally poor teacher. The whole situation was wrong, as my teaching colleagues assured me last year and as they even got the principal who was responsible to admit. But logical assurances and the heart don't always align.

That healing in me this morning didn't come from the Genesis 16. It came from deciding to seek God's voice two hours earlier. It opened my spiritual eyes (or, I might say, put on my spiritual eyeglasses) to see an entirely different truth when I least expected it.

What about you? Have you put on your spiritual eyeglasses today? What is God showing you?

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October 31st, 2016
09:41 pm

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Self-actualization & feeling God's pleasure
I discovered the song "Me Too" by Meghan Trainor today and it's launched me back into eras of great self-actualization. ("If I was you, I'd want to be me, too!" is the refrain.)

Obviously, college, which miiiiiiiight be the highlight of my entire life. WOW was college awesome!

Before that, high school! I'm surprised, reflecting on it, because I was deeply depressed much of the time, but what tied it all together was writing. I spent so much of my free time writing on this very LiveJournal and fanfiction as well as toying with original works of fiction and plenty "dissertation-length emails" thrown in.

The most striking thing about time after college has been postpartum depression, but it's getting brighter with my new job, which feels like a calling fulfilled, but I still need to push my writing more. I pledged to myself to write every day, which I haven't lived up to, but I did buy myself a birthday present of a subscription to Compel, a writing training program run by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It's only been two weeks and I feel so empowered and inspired already. I need to dive into their community; so far I've been listening to their recommended series of podcasts on my walks to/from work. My eyes are being opened in a good way!

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October 28th, 2016
10:13 am

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"So cute!" "So little!" -pumpkin patch
On Tuesday I took William on his preschool's field trip to the pumpkin patch. Big Sister tagged along. This picture pretty much sums up the outing:



As we loaded up ourselves in the car to go to our respective preschools, Avi kept saying as casually as possible, "I love pumpkin patches." So I caught the hint and called ahead to William's preschool to verify that there was room for her to tag along. :)

Avi had an awesome time for most of it -- the hay ride, the pumpkins so big that Mommy had to carry them (basketball-size!). We also went through the corn maze, which was arduous, particularly for me as I had to carry William to prevent him from falling a million times and us getting left behind to be lost in the maze.

The most notable thing about the event for me, though, was that it was the first time I saw firsthand on a large-group scale what people's reactions to William are.

William's preschool has two locations, and both were at the field trip. A couple teachers from the other school saw him standing there, looking perhaps even smaller as he clung to his little "teddy bear" (little black bear toy), while I tried to convince him to wear his special field trip t-shirt (which he ultimately never did).

"Oh, he's from the other preschool! He's two already?" (Their minimum age.)
"Two and a half!" I said proudly, opting not to label him.
"Wow! He's so little! He's so cute!"

Later, another parent came up and said hi to William. She turned to me and said how much she loves William, and that she talks to William every time she picks up her own child. I don't know if that's related because he's a sweetie and a lot of people I've already come across think he's so wonderful. But I know he gets a lot more attention because he is so small but talks so well in his cute little voice.)

William introduced me to his best friend Maddox ("Maddox is so funny!"). I told Maddox how much William likes him and talks about him. Maddox, a full head taller than William, just smiled and patted William on the head.

They're little things, and these observations don't capture the essence of the attention he got at the pumpkin patch. His dwarfism isn't obvious yet, but it will be soon as the height difference between him and his peers continues to grow and as his slow, uneven growth makes his different proportions more plain to a casual observer. He's gotten attention for his small size for at least a year now, but now that I know that his small stature is permanent and I'm learning more about what life is like for people with dwarfism as they grow up, I'm noticing more and they are leaving a greater mark in my mind.

Like when he was playing at the bounce house at church recently and the mother of an obviously much younger child told her, "Watch out for the baby." I'm starting to really pray for resilience for my boy. I know this "baby" stuff will continue for a loooooong time and when he no longer likes to be a baby his feelings will get hurt. :(

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September 8th, 2016
09:54 am

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Whirlwind! and a diagnosis
It's been a busy time! Last week all the teachers at my independent study school were given a vacation week, and I enjoy going to work there so much that I signed up for the "skeleton crew." It seems that very few students heard that we were technically "closed" that week, so I was swamped. Toward the end of the week I was actually praying for students to not show up -- a prayer that I felt got answered, even though the incredulous tutor working there on Friday said, "This is light? You literally have a LINE of five students standing here waiting for you!"

I am still recovering.
At least they paid me double. So we are buying a couch. (In our new-to-us, bigger house, Hubby Ben noted, "It looks like somebody broke in and stole our couch.")

I didn't know when I signed up that my daughter would be having a vacation week from preschool, or that my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and baby nephew would be visiting that week. But my days were short and I got plenty of visiting time, and plenty of distraction from my weighing concerns about my little boy.

On Saturday, in a lull of activity after we all went to the farmer's market (where we do most of our grocery shopping -- we probably would have moved here years ago had we known about that farmer's market), I zipped over to check out a Working Moms Club at my church. They meet two Saturdays each month and there were only three of us moms there this time. My kids wanted to come (but were confused that they were at church but not doing church stuff), and the other two moms each brought a two-and-a-half year old son.

Which was super cool, to have playmates exactly my son's age.
But also... it really shook me up. Because I knew he was small, but I thought he was catching up with motor skills.

But next to his peers (including one who is a month younger), my boy looks TINY and is so far behind in how the other boys can play that he actually seems disabled.

Comparison. is. horrible.
He is my son and God made him just right.

First thing Tuesday morning, I took him to an appointment with a new pediatrician. I'd met this pediatrician once before for a checkup with my daughter and had mixed feeling about him, mostly because he talked superfast.

But not today. He spent a whole hour with us, leaning forward as he carefully reviewed William's medical history. He'd obviously spent time carefully reviewing his medical records because he knew William's medical history even better than I did! A third-year medical student trainee stood quietly in the corner, observing. He kept telling me with an assuring confidence that he will figure it out (so unlike our last pediatrician).

He examined William, measured him, then toward the end of the exam, had him strip down to his diaper (much to William's distress, as he was wearing his favorite outfit), and walk out of the room and down the hallway to get a sucker from a bucket of lollipops.

Then, back in the exam room, the doctor did a good job of telling me that he believes William has something called achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. He admitted that he doesn't know too much about it yet, but he is researching it now, but that the geneticist will be able to confirm that diagnosis and tell us more details. There are over 100 varieties of achondroplasia, so the geneticist will be able to tell us exactly what he has and give us more details. He also pledged to be a good pediatrician for him, saying that he cares for a lot of children with special needs.

He's also referring us to an endocrinologist just to cover all the bases and make sure William's growth hormones are okay. We have a follow-up appointment for mid-October.

I actually feel so relieved. It's been a year and a half of hearing everything from "feed him more" to "he has a brain tumor" and this is finally an answer that makes sense. This pediatrician is encouraged that his gross motor skills and muscle strength are developing, not growing weaker, as that would be a sign of something much worse. He's expected to have a normal lifespan and be okay. "He just is who he is and that's just fine!" the pediatrician concluded, directing the comment more to William directly.

I am so, so relieved.

My friend Amanda from my former moms club gave me great advice as I was stressing: "Celebrate what he CAN do and just focus on that."
And he gives me so much to celebrate. :) My wonderful little boy.

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August 26th, 2016
10:01 am

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Agh.
Agh. I lay awake, randomly, for about three hours the night before last... and then last night I stayed up late on the internet.

I had already promised to myself that I would no longer linger before bedtime scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook news feed. So I found other even worse uses of time!

First, I found a student of mine on Facebook and almost sent her a message (which is allowed), but chose not to because she said she will be coming back in to school today (yesterday I escorted her to the counselor and then she left directly from there, without turning in the homework she had been holding in her hand or signing her attendance log). She doesn't have a phone to contact her by and I doubt she has internet access. Her profile picture was from over a year ago.

Then I did the bad thing! I used Dr. Google to feed my concerns about my son. I've been trying for weeks now to get his medical records transferred to the pediatrician we've connected with in our new town -- what should be a simple process -- and the doctor finally told me to just make an appointment and if the records still aren't in, he will call and get all the info he needs over the phone. My boy was having oodles of tests done before we moved and we want to follow up on them. Because something is up.

The thing is, he's not growing. He's 2 1/2 now, and he's only grown one inch since his first birthday. No allergies, no blood abnormalities, no brain tumors.

Then on Wednesday, the woman who is starting to come to our house to work with him for his gross motor development said something that echoed what we've been starting to wonder.

"He's... disproportioned," she said gently, conversationally, questioningly, as we discussed his medical history and growth problems. "His head is too large for his body, his arms are short but he has big hands. Have you thought... maybe, dwarf?"

I'd already been starting to wonder about that, occasionally opening a "private" window in my browser to shyly research little people. My son doesn't look exactly like my dwarf friend from elementary school, but it turns out there is such a variety.

And in my searching last night, I saw a picture of a boy -- at first my drowsy self thought it was a picture of my son that somehow got mixed in to the search. It turns out it was a seven-year-old boy, but his proportions were exactly like my little man.

I don't know. I shouldn't feel distressed. It's on my mind even more now that I have an appointment, and I will have such a hard time waiting for it -- September 6th. And I don't know if this pediatrician will know anything about it, either. It's very, very rare -- more rare than deafness.

But I know that even if he is a "little person" into adulthood, he will have a normal lifespan and a pretty normal life -- just self-esteem issues and whatnot I will need to be aware of. And I'll contact my old aforementioned friend over Facebook, if that's his diagnosis, to get advice from someone who has lived it. There are so many worse things that could happen than just a difference in stature. He is so smart -- says all who meet him -- that I know he'll have a great life regardless. I know we'll raise him well to make use of all the gifts he has.

I just want to know what's going on with my boy. (And when I'm under-rested I quickly get emotional.)

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August 22nd, 2016
10:14 am

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real life
So, I'm working at what is for the most part a dropout recovery/prevention program. Each student's first assignment is to write a short autobiography for me to read. It's amazing to me what they are willing to share, even if they seem shy otherwise.

Some students just write about what careers they are interested in. Others have big events in their lives, some still in progress. And they don't shake me up or haunt me, they just help me understand exactly what the student needs from a teacher-mentor.

And I'm talking crazy stories.

But the one that finally hit me the other day was the student whose mother dropped her off at Grandma's house for the weekend. And the weekend turned into a year. And then Grandma couldn't keep her anymore, so she "finally" found someone else who meant the world to her as a mother figure. An amazing woman. After I read that, the student told me, "Oh yeah -- I found out yesterday, after I wrote that, that I can't stay there anymore, either."

...

To not have a home. That haunted me so much more than so many other life stories scarred by death or murder or prison or drugs or "bad choices."

But I realized: none of these teenagers are letting these things in their lives stop them from moving forward.
So I'm learning from their strength, to look forward and keep on helping. Keep on helping. Life is what it is, just keep on helping.

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July 21st, 2016
03:05 pm

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New home!!
Yay! We moved in to our new house last Wednesday and we love it here so far. Even our four-year-old announces randomly every day that she loves this house. :)

The neighbors are great. When they are walking or driving by, they pause to say hello and introduce themselves. Ben had the idea for the four of us to go meet the next door neighbors the other night (which surprised me, as Ben isn't usually the social one) as the previous owners had told me that they will be wonderful friends that we should meet right away. They are a family of five: Carly and Mark with their 8, 6, and 3 year old kids. Carly stays at home and does a sign-making business part-time and is very friendly.

We chatted for our long introductory hello, then chatted for a long time over the fence the other night, and today when she drove up while I was standing on her porch (wanting to ask about babysitter recommendations), she grinned and waved enthusiastically before chatting with me on her lawn for a long time. I texted her so she could have my phone number on her phone (which had a dead battery and she can't remember the new number for, haha... that's okay, I can't remember Ben's "new" number that he got months ago!). She said she actually tried to text me the other day and then realized she didn't have my number yet! :) I think we're going to be really great friends. I am soooooo happy they live next door.

We're nearly done unpacking. Ben and I each had the idea that if we only unpack one box per day, we'll be done in a week.

Work is good, too. I've been shadowing and generally helping out with teaching stuff for the last month, but today I got to step in to an orientation meeting for a few new students and show them their first homework assignments. They will be my first students! There were about four new students there, and new students sign up every week. All of them will go to me until my caseload is full.

When I got back from explaining their first assignments to them, one of the other teachers said to me, "You look just like I did after my first time I did that!" I was so nervous and cold and trembly! "Don't worry," said the teacher I've been primarily shadowing, "soon orientations will become the most boring part of your job." :)

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July 1st, 2016
04:37 pm

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A new chapter! (and Florida trip)
Hello world!

A few weeks ago as the school year wrapped up, the dean of students asked me for feedback about my experience teaching at that school and for any insights about how he might better on-board new teachers in the future. I put my thoughts in an email, and when he met with me to discuss, he commented that what struck him most was the style and quality of my writing.

"Do you write a lot?" he asked.
"I used to," I replied honestly, feeling like a cliche of an adult who let the busyness of life get the better of her passions.
"You should make sure to pursue that as an outlet," he suggested. He said that my writing was succinct, clear, compelling -- something along those lines.

I found that incredibly encouraging and am taking it to heart. I have a new job now that allows me a nice chunk of kid-free "me time" during the day and I'm taking steps to intentionally use some of that time to write. Be it here on LiveJournal, prayer journaling (the most important to me), or getting back into my habit of keeping in touch through wonderful long emails (which I rediscovered the other day while digging around for the rough draft of a book I wrote and saved in an old email account). So here I am sitting in a Starbucks, drinking an iced black coffee, drinking in the wonderful couple hours I have before it will be time to pick the kids up from daycare.

I have so much to share. We took an amazing family vacation to Florida! I even got to meet cosmic_reverie there! :D It was awesome to meet that amazing person in real life and to meet sweet little baby J -- and to see that she is a fussbucket just like any other baby. Especially with the relative focus I put on Facebook, the life highlights tend to get shared and "J" sounded like some kind of otherworldy, well-behaved, agreeable superbaby. But she's a normal baby with a very patient, loving, determined mama. The three of us went to mass together in St. Augustine and I remembered trying to take my own baby girl to mass... a few times like that and it was like "We Can't Even." (Though she was prone to screaming banshee fits starting exactly 10 minutes before each mass time -- consistent and extreme enough that we joked that we had better get her baptized/exorcised asap.)

Anyway, Florida. Travelling took fifteen hours between driving to LAX, a layover in San Antonio, renting a car in Orlando and driving to St. Augustine. It went smoothly, though, and it was a really special experience being able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts on the same day.

The warmth and humidity of Florida was wonderfully refreshing to me -- it felt like the air itself was giving me a hug. The water is a little bit warmer than my south-central California beaches -- still refreshingly chilly, but not so cold that I needed to brace myself for it or worry about blurting out expletives. The beach itself is nicer, too. The sand is covered in seashells instead of rocks and seaweed. And all those seashells make the sand so interesting to pick up and look at up close -- a full rainbow of colors and a different texture. And I felt great letting my young kids dig around and play in the sand because it wasn't home to swarms of teeny tiny flying things.

We left for Florida the Wednesday before Memorial Day and stayed until Monday afternoon. Ben's cousin, the one who gave him girl advice so much when he was dating me, was planning to get married on Friday the 27th (coincidentally, Ben's and my five-year wedding anniversary... our was another Friday, May 27 wedding). She called off the wedding shortly after we bought our tickets, which we'd heard was a possibility, but we went ahead and bought tickets anyway, figuring that it would be better to get tickets early at a lower price and enjoy a family vacation in Florida rather than pay for more expensive tickets later when it was close to the wedding.

So, "wedding" became "family reunion," as the whole family followed our lead and bought tickets when we jumped in. Ben's grandma and one of his aunts already lives in Florida, but Ben's mom, her three other sisters, lots of cousins, Ben's sister and husband and new baby (I became an auntie in January!!!) -- we all got together. Three beach houses were rented, ours in the middle with the beach in our backyard. The first couple days we were just beach bums and loved every moment of it. (Even though we'd been living near the ocean since 2011, there's a huge difference between living near the ocean and living with it in your backyard!) One of my mother-in-law's sisters had a house about a mile down the beach and two blocks inland one way (again, what a difference a four-minute walk to the beach is versus walking down some stairs!), another sister had an amazing house about a mile down the road the other way -- across the street from the beach but with nearly as easy access as we had with clear ocean views plus views of amazing marshland in the backyard -- a house you could watch the sunrise and sunset from, a gorgeous place built for entertaining with a balcony wrapping all around. I'd say that was the best house overall.

My first morning in Florida, I naturally awoke at dawn and had the amazing good fortune of watching the sun rise over the ocean from our room (which had huge glass doors and a balcony -- Ben and I ended up with the master bedroom to be able to share the bathroom with our kids, who were bunked with their grandma, while Ben's sister, husband, and baby were in another bedroom). When Ben heard how amazing it was, he kept setting alarms to try to catch the sunrise himself -- but every other day we were there, there were clouds blocking the horizon. I got SO lucky and will always remember that sunrise.

I did not go to the Harry Potter stuff at Universal Orlando, but I feel okay about that because they just opened some Harry Potter stuff at Universal Studios Hollywood, which I can get to easily enough. Orlando's is bigger, but... whatevs. I'll have plenty to drink in as it is when I make it down there.


Anyway -- Florida was great. I wish I were posting at the time and could flood this thing with beautiful details and stories. Recaps of longer time periods I'm not so good at.


This week was my first week at my new job. I'm still a teacher, but I'm working for Learn4Life Concept Charter Schools, which is a year-round independent study high school program. I started on June 27 with two hours of hearing about the ***amazing*** benefits package, then getting sent home with credit for a full day of "work." This week has been mostly training videos/powerpoint and shadowing teachers, with an afternoon of making phone calls to students yesterday. And I got my laptop, which is why I am back on LiveJournal. :)

We are in the process of settling in to a new chapter of life in Visalia, California. We got here about a week before my new job started and while Ben worked at his company's office here, the kids and I toodled around, got our bearings and spent a whole lot of time at the McDonald's playplace.

We've bought a house, as the rental market was slim, a lot is for sale, and we'd built up enough in our life insurance policies to draw a down payment from. But so far, we've been living in a cheap motel in the neighboring town Tulare, and tonight should be our final night there. It's comfortable enough, though definitely has the feel of staying at someone's grandma's house rather than a hotel -- floral printed sheets, only two thin pillows per queen bed, no hair dryer, a shower that's not quite a bathtub (I fold a towel over the drain to hold water in well enough for my kids to enjoy bubble baths).

There is a laundry facility on site, though my second time going to do laundry there, some guy was sitting around jerking off while his laundry washed. I didn't see anything THANK GOODNESS (especially as my daughter was with me) but ewwwwwwww. Ben mentioned it to the front office at the hotel a day or two later and they said that if I run into that again, to tell them right away so they can call the police. I turned right around and did my laundry at a laundromat instead, where there were still plenty of creepers but they at least didn't stick around. I'll try the motel laundry again tonight -- being stuck sitting in the laundromat was no fun, especially without air conditioning! It is HOTTTTTTT here.

We are adjusting to the heat. Our first day here, my son actually wimpered whenever we stepped outside -- now the kids are dashing out the door of our motel room to run around outside in the evenings. They were both born in our former town Lompoc, so they've had almost no exposure, if any, to heat like this (it's about one hundred degrees each day, as compared to Lompoc, where it tends to have highs in the low 70s in the summer and high 60s in the winter -- like Pleasantville or something).

After tonight, Ben has us booked in a nicer hotel, and then we might be staying in someone's house for the next week or so until our house closes and we get to move in. Our mortgage person has offered us space at her sister's place.

I must say, though -- only having one room to keep up with leave me with so. much. free. time. It's just unbelievable how much time it is to try to keep up with an entire house. I love that aspect of having all our stuff in storage and only having one little room for all of us to share.
The bad part is trying to get the kids to bed. The kids share a bed and play and laugh while Ben and I hide out in the bathroom so they don't try to engage us in play or asking for things. Ben always needs to go out and remind them that it's time to sleep. It's not the worst thing in the world, for sure, but it's still a weird inconvenience and is costing me some sleep time of my own.

Oh, another new beginning -- Ben is in the process of getting his own medical billing/office management business off the ground and will be leaving his other job once it's off the ground. His current employer will be his first client with some medical testing lab he's starting. Ben has an MBA and all the medical office management & billing know-how and the projections for this business are amazing. He's business partners with his dad, who is helping to get things rolling under Ben's direction from what I can tell. (Every phone call I overhear between Ben and his dad related to the business is all just Ben explaining things. When I mentioned it, Ben said, "That's why they pay me the big bucks.")

Oh, and we're selling our house in Oregon. We have a buyer and that process is going great. The market has skyrocketed so we are making a ton of money on it. When we did some math we decided to sell instead of continuing to rent it out -- we figured out that if we took the money we'd pocket and put it in some safe investment, we'd make more just on the interest than what we earn on rent. So my student loans will go bye-bye, and our credit cards, and we'll pay back our down payment to our life insurance policy, and pay up our down payment up to 20% so that we won't have to pay mortgage insurance or the asinine flood insurance the county is making us get.

My new job is wonderful. It was a really crazy hectic week, but my principal said that at least this way I won't get disillusioned -- it never gets any harder or more hectic than this week was, and I spent most of my time shadowing at Hanford, which is by far the hardest of all 35 school sites we have from what I am told (and that looked easy compared to my last teaching job). They pay us well, our benefits are fantastic (amazing health insurance plus umpteen other benefits), short days, no lesson planning to speak of, no classroom management issues -- one student at a time. There is a lot of paperwork, but it looks like it will be straightforward enough once I get the hang of it. The school is targeted at catching dropouts or would-be dropouts and getting them a path to graduation, though there are other types of students, too -- ones who have always been homeschooled and don't want to dive in to a big public high school, for example. But there are a lot of teen parents. Students bring their babies and we will get to hold them and I consider that one of the perks. I really care about this particular educational niche and it is just so perfect for me. I am so confident that I have what it takes to do this job and do it so well from the start. I'm working with a team of teachers in an open office space (no cubicles). I AM SO EXCITED. I cannot emphasize that enough. I am just so happy and so excited about this new job. It really is like the best teaching experiences I've ever had plus the systemic educational needs I have pondered about the most have all coalesced and I get to work there and be a part of something really great. I will actually get to make a difference. It just sends shivers down my spine to think about.

Did I mention that the cost of living here is much less? I wrote our new daycare a check for $1,025 for both my kids for the entire month of July and marveled at how writing a four-figure check could make me so happy. They're at a learning center right now and it costs so much less than our in-home daycare did on the coast. We'll be moving them to Montessori school next month... which will still cost less than our old in-home daycare. Un-freakin-believable.

And it's so much bigger and nicer here. We had really gotten our fill of rural or quasi-rural life. There's a lot of agriculture here, too (mostly cattle and almonds and such), but the city of Visalia is three times bigger than Lompoc (130,000 people), feels about ten times bigger, and it's mostly... really nice-looking instead of run-down and depressed-feeling like Lompoc. And it's just a few minutes from Sequoia National Park, where we beat the heat last weekend.

We felt like it was time for a new chapter and God has brought us here and I could not be happier. (Well, we could always be happier, right? But still, loving this chapter!)

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