Seduction of a Box Top Coordinator.......

>> Tuesday, August 25, 2015



Last year, towards the end of the school year, I was called into the Principal's office of my daughters' school.

I'll never forget it......it was a warm, sunny, spring day.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and as I dropped off my girls and signed in at the front desk for my morning of volunteering, the Principal came out of her office, saw me, and immediately said, "Just the person I was looking for!  Can you come into my office for a minute?"

That warm, sunny, spring day turned into a cloudy overcast day right there on the spot.  I haven't been called into the Principal's office in years.  The last time was when I was 16 and was finally caught skipping PE classes for almost a semester in favor of sitting in the typing room reading my Judy Blume books.  I hated PE (back then it was still called "gym class").  I hated being the target of Dodgeball attacks by the fembot athletes in my class.  And I hated the locker room more.  I was 16.....you figure out the rest.  If you even mention Dodgeball around me, I immediately start rocking and quivering and saying "Not the face.....please not the face....."

(And yes, I'm dating myself even more by saying I went to school way back when they still taught typing and shorthand.  And.....brace yourselves......we even had a Home Economics class where I learned how to make a basic biscuit and sew a pillow out of scratchy felt and fiberglass filling).

Anyway......enough of my high school PTSD flashbacks.

The Principal calls me into the office and offers me a chair.....using that soothing voice that animal control uses when they try to coax a rabid racoon out from under the house.

"I'm so glad you could come and talk to me.  Here......have a seat in this recently reupholstered chair filled with unicorn fur.....  Would you like a cup of coffee?  I know you love coffee.  It's brewed from special coffee beans grown deep in the forests of La-La Land, watered by the tears of angels and handpicked by vestal virgins who have never had the taste of coffee pass their caffeine-virgin lips".

Uh oh......I sense a disturbance in the force......

She's going to ask......I know she's going to ask.......

It's coming........brace yourself........

She eases herself onto her throne......I mean into her wingback rolling desk chair.....takes a deep breath and says.....

"We think you'd be a perfect fit for our new PTCO board".

Aaaannnndddddd  there it is........

Before I could open my mouth to decline...let alone protest.....she slides a colored piece of paper across the desk.  It's a list of available PTCO positions.....printed on the Goldenrod paper that it seems all schools seem to have to stock.  That color is a staple for all school copy rooms and you know you're in the big leagues or are about to be tapped for a very important mission when you get the Goldenrod sheet of paper.

Resist the Goldenrod, I tell myself.....you're stronger than this.


I avoid eye contact with Madame Principal....and momentarily entranced by the blinding glare of the Goldenrod....I warily take a peek.  Any moment now, I expect the animal control catch pole to wrap around my neck while the office staff dance around with glee......"We've got her!  We've got her!"

It seems that practically every position on the Board is open.

I'm not President material.  I'm not a leader.  I'm a planner.  I'm a doer.  I'm the creative background person who always has papercuts, hot glue gun burns, and a perpetual paint stain on my driveway.

I don't want to be Secretary and take minutes at the meetings.  I can't remember what I heard five minutes ago, let alone keep track of who said what during a meeting.  And let's face it.....my shorthand skills weren't all that stellar....they were more like doodles than anything else.

But then there it was........the heavens opened up and an angelic glow came down upon the Goldenrod and shined down upon my calling.

Box Top Coordinator......

I looked up as Madame Principal leaned anxiously across her desk.

I didn't think.  I didn't even need time to ponder.  I accepted right there on the spot.  It was a position that would still allow me to give back to the school without having all the responsibility of being in charge of the PTCO.

I can still be in the background, use my creativity without using shorthand or do any public speaking.

"I'll do Box Tops", I told Madame Principal.

"Excellent", she replied and clasped her hands...and I swear she morphed into Mr. Burns for a moment.  She stood up, reached across the desk and grabbed the coffee cup with the angel-tear watered coffee and escorted me out of her office.



As I stepped outside of her office, I blinked rapidly at the sunlight streaming through the windows....pulling me back to reality.

Wait....what just happened.....  I vaguely remember something about soft chairs and soothing voices and then something about PTCO Board Positions.

Son of a.........  I was duped by the Goldenrod. 

And as I walked out.....ready to face my new fate.....I heard over my shoulder the soothing voice once again......

"Oh.....Mrs. Fresh Meat!  Just the person I was looking for! Can you come into my office for a minute?"

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God And My Rocky Path

>> Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This morning, I sat down with my coffee, my devotional and my Bible and started reading.  This morning's reading from "Jesus Calling" referenced Psalm 37:23-24.


As I started working through my SOAP plan for this verse, I began to realize how much and how badly I have strayed off that path in my past.

For a season in my life, I strayed off the path and into a thorny wilderness.  I was that child who stomped away from her parents in a temper-tantrum huff, not quite knowing where I was stomping off to.....but I knew that I just didn't want to be where my parents (ie God) was.  But in spite of that, God still held my hand -- even though I may not have felt it or even WANTED it.


But after making many, many mistakes and bad choices, I had nothing to lose by tentatively stepping out of the thorny pathway.  I exchanged the thorns for rocks.....still not quite the path God had for me, but it was a little smoother....just a little.

Right now, I picture my life as the rocky pathway.  Rocks block my way and hinder my journey.  Rocks labeled "money", "jealousy", "temptation", "deceit", "anger", "laziness", "indifference", "selfishness", "lack of faith".
 

I now realize that if I follow God, I won't fail. God will hold my hand and guide me....knowing that I want to know Him more and want to change. He will help me down the path that He has for me, even though He knew I would choose the thorny path for awhile.  But as I start to emerge onto a path of rocks, He will still hold my hand as I stumble over them. Leading me to a smoother path.....the original path He had planned for me all along.

And as I trip over those rocks, I fall, skin my knees and hands, even bleed......wanting to just give up and not go on.  But God continues to hold my hand....holding a little tightly when I fall, trying to prevent it -- like when I hold my girls' hands when they look like they might fall too.  He pulls me up, steadies me.  He may even pick up that rock and throw it out of my way completely.....or He may throw it further down the path.....waiting to see if I trip over it again or if I will finally have faith, follow God, grip His hand tightly and finally.....FINALLY step over that rock....never to have it trip me up again.  Some rocks will remain or even come back occasionally, but will I trip again or will I hold God's hand and step over them?
 


The more I walk the path with You, the stronger I feel with Your grip on my hand.  The more I allow that grip to tighten, the more confident I feel to step over those rocks that seem to have followed me from my temper-tantrum, thorny journey.
 

 

 

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Tips To Help Your Child With Deployment

>> Monday, May 25, 2015

 
 
Many military families are facing deployment on a regular basis and some of the most affected are the children that have a difficult time grasping what is happening in the world around them  -  especially when it comes to a family member deploying.  The confusion and chaos can affect life on the playground, in school, and in other social situations.  The most important thing an adult can do to help children deal with deployment is to educate them about what is happening. Following these easy steps can help:

 
Define Deployment
Making sure children understand what the word “deployment” means is incredibly important. The word is used in the media, at the dinner table, and in everyday conversation. Explaining where mommy/daddy is going (with a general overview of the region or country) and what he/she will be doing (without going into incredible detail) will help children gain an understanding of what is happening.  For the soldier, if you can, let your child help you pack.  Letting your child help you pack will allow him/her to be more involved in the process and also allow them to "care" for you.  Ask your child to draw some pictures so that you can hang them once you get settled.  Not only will they have great fun but you will enjoy their artwork for days and months to come.


Assure Children and Answer Questions
Children will worry about the safety of the deployed parent.  It is incredibly important to the child to know that their loved one has been well-trained at the job that he/she will do.  Children, at any age, will ask questions. The important thing to remember is that brushing off a question will not make it go away. Even the hardest questions need to be answered, but they should be answered in an age appropriate manner.  Be honest. Be fair. Children going through deployment deserve to have questions answered just as much as adults do. Not knowing how to answer every question is ok, but know that there are many resources available that can help to answer even the most challenging questions.  Reassure your children that you will always love them no matter what and that you will get through this deployment together.

 
Consistency and Routine
At any time, children need routine and structure….but more so during deployments.  They feel insecure because of all the uncertainties regarding deployment and a predictable routine and home life makes them feel secure and safe.  Give your children a few extra responsibilities.  When children have responsibilities, they cope better. Informing the children that they have a job to do while their loved one is deployed is an excellent way to make sure they feel included and important. Assigning an age-appropriate tasks can help ease fear associated with being separated from a loved one for a long period of time.

 
Stay Connected
Kids need to maintain a bond with the parent who is away.  Whether it’s writing letters, saying a special prayer, counting down the days on a calendar, or finding where mommy or daddy is on a map, staying connected is very important.  Kids also need to maintain a bond with the parent who is still at home.  Daily discussions about their feelings and/or fears is important.  It allows the child to express his/her thoughts in a safe environment without being judged.

 
Communicate with Teachers, Coaches, Etc.
If your child is school-age and/or has extra-curricular activities, be sure to talk with the teachers, coaches, etc. to let them know what is going on at home.  It’s always helpful to have as many supporters in your child’s corner!


Good Behavior/Bad Behavior
Children have a tendency to test the boundaries and the parent at home may feel guilty about having to be both mom and dad and give in more often than you should.  Misbehavior during deployment CAN be a result of negative feelings, it is important to set limits and have consequences.  Problems can be eliminated by making a chart and pre-determining consequences for bad behavior.  On the flip side, it is also recommended to set up positive behavior rewards such as sticker charts or marble jars.  Again—try to remember to be age-appropriate.


When in doubt—just remember to let your child know that he/she is not alone and that, as a family, you will get through this together! 

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Just Call Me The Volunteer Whore

>> Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I'm a Volunteer Whore.

 
At least according to the mom who I ran into in the school office Wednesday morning. 

You see, I have a standing volunteer schedule at the school....every Wednesday and Friday morning.  I come in more when I can and just recently took on the position as Box Top Coordinator for the PTCO as well.  And even though the front office staff know me well, but I still have to sign in.  As I was signing in and I noticed a mom and her two girls in front of me.  One girl is in Nani's class and one in Nudgie's class. 

As we were waiting, both girls came up to me, gave me a hug and said "Hi Ms. B!" at which point the mom turned around to see me. And then she said with a smirk, "Oh you must be the volunteer whore....(laughs)....my girls say you come to school all the time. I guess you don't have anything better to do than check up on your girls. I just send in my checks and that's it."

Cue record scratch and then silence.......

What in the fresh hell did she just say to me???

Even the school secretary stopped typing for a second.......



I was stunned.  I couldn't believe she talked like that to me in front of her children.  And believe me, I had a few choice words to fire back, but instead I replied, "Well, I'd rather be a volunteer whore and know what's going on with my daughters and their friends instead of just participating by check.".  I then turned to her girls, smiled a big smile and said to the youngest..."I'll see you in class....I can't wait to hear you read your book to me" and walked away.

To be honest -- if it wasn't for the "volunteer whore" part, I would have let it go.  I have never, ever criticized another parent for not volunteering or being able to make a field trip....because let's face it.....parents do have jobs and other commitments.  Parents do what they can, and it certainly doesn't make them less of a parent because they don't volunteer.

But seriously....name calling?  In front of your daughters?  I seriously thought I left the bullying behind!

Now, I don't know this woman.  I've seen her at drop off/pick up and when she dropped off her oldest for Nani's birthday party.  But I really don't know her.  I don't know if she works, stays home, does other volunteer work.....I just....don't.....know.  So that doesn't give me any right to assume to know the reason for her lashing out and use that choice of words.  Maybe she had a bad morning.  Maybe she's having a bad week.  Who knows.

But after initially getting very angry and insulted and venting on Facebook about it......I realized that maybe I really AM a Volunteer Whore.

I don't do it for recognition or pats on the back.  I do it because I LOVE our school and I LOVE my kids' teachers. They do so much for those kids and MORE. Volunteering whatever free time I have to help out in any way I can - whether reading with the kids, endlessly sharpening pencils or reorganizing a classroom library - doesn't even begin to scratch the surface on how grateful I am to those teachers.

So, if that makes me a Volunteer Whore....then so be it.  I will embrace that and wear that title with pride!

And to you dear mom......I can only hope that our girls are together in the same classes again next year, because you know what -- I'll still be there.....2, maybe 3 times a week giving your girls, my girls, and all the other kids an extra smile, a good morning hug, and a little bit of encouragement.

And if you can swing it......I would really encourage you to try and put away the checkbook and come and do the same....even if just for an hour.

Because my friend.....you really don't know what you're missing.......

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It's Not "Happy Memorial Day"

>> Saturday, May 23, 2015

I'm sorry, but I find it very offensive when I see people all over Facebook wishing a "Happy Memorial Day"  There is nothing "Happy" at all about it.  Especially to those who have lost a loved one in the service of our Country.



The happy Mickey Mouse in the corner just pushed me over the edge.

No......just......NO!

THIS is Memorial Day......


And this.......
 
 
And this.........


This is Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011.

Carter was the copilot of a CH-47 Chinook and was one of 30 U.S. service members, including four other Army crewmembers, 22 Navy SEALs, three special operations Airmen, seven Afghan commandos, an interpreter and a dog, who died in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their helicopter crashed.  The loss of life aboard Extortion 17 was, to that date, the worst single-day loss of American life since the beginning of the Afghan war.
 
He was a member of our Battalion.  He was a friend.  He was someone we knew.  He is someone we miss every single day.
 
And every time I see the happy Mickey Mouse or Betty Boop in her bikini wishing everyone a Happy Memorial Day, I get more and more offended and upset.

Memorial Day has always been the traditional "kick off" for summer....and there is nothing wrong with gathering together for a cookout and enjoying your three-day weekend.

All I ask is that while you're doing that, take just a minute or two to think of all those who have sacrificed their lives to allow you to even have that freedom to BBQ.

And next time you want to say "Happy Memorial Day", please consider saying


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Summertime "Fill A Bucket"

>> Friday, May 22, 2015

Have you heard of "Fill A Bucket"? 

The "Fill A Bucket" philosophy explains that children (and adults) carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings.  There are "bucket fillers" and "bucket dippers".

Bucket Fillers do kind things for others -- give a smile, helps out without being asked...basically any act of kindness towards others.

Bucket Dippers are those who say unkind words, bully, and generally do an unkind act. 

When our buckets are full, we are happy and confident.  When the bucket is empty, we are sad and down on ourselves.


Nani and Nudgie's school has been using this concept ever since Nani was in Kindergarten.  I've seen how excited and happy they get when they come home with a "Bucket Filler" note from their teacher or fellow student.  Nudgie would tell me, "I played with a friend who didn't have anyone to play with" or Nani would tell me, "I helped the teacher put books away without being asked."

They loved the positive reinforcement.

And then I thought -- why couldn't I use that same concept here at home.  So I decided to try it over Summer Break -- the time when the kids would fight and bicker the most, when we would all start to get on each other's nerves.  Why not try a little positive reinforcement and see what happens?

So, I picked up some beach buckets at the Dollar Tree and had the girls decorate them.  I had some "jewels" stored away, so I pulled that box out to use as "Bucket Fillers".




The concept is simple.....

Whenever I catch them being nice to each other (playing nice, helping with chores, etc), they get a jewel. If there's fighting, name-calling etc., then they have to go outside, pick up a dirty rock from our pile by the garage and put it in their bucket. At the end of each month of Summer Break, I'll count the contents. If they have more jewels than dirty rocks, then they get a special treat. More dirty rocks than jewels? Then they get a dirty chore -- like cleaning up dog poop, cleaning the garage or Daddy may even take them to work at the Base and they can clean there!

The girls seem excited about it -- but who knows.  After a week or so, the novelty may just wear off, but I'm trying to be hopeful!

Stay tuned!

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Staying Connected Through a Deployment

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015



When My Marine and I were first married, he was active duty and was often gone for months at a time.  Being newly married, I was desperate to try to stay connected to my husband in some way.  So one day, I spent an afternoon in a book store browsing the “Marriage and Relationship” section.  I found two books that sounded promising and was looking forward to spending an evening searching the pages for the keys to keeping the fires of this crazy military marriage alive.

My high hopes soon dissolved into hilarity.

“Have a candlelight dinner,” the list began. Yep—that candlelight dinner alone will really help me a lot. 

“Give each other fifteen-minute back rubs,”   Kind of hard when you’re alone.  I have trouble scratching my own back, let alone give myself a back rub! 

And the list went on and on…...“Go for a scenic drive together. Plan a romantic picnic. Have a pillow fight. Spend an evening in front of the fireplace.” 

I quickly realized that the miles and the months that routinely separated us make most marriage books and seminars pointless, even painful.

But over the years, I’ve had to get creative…..getting ideas from other spouses, articles, and websites.  So here are a few ideas that you can try as well!

 
· Set a clock ahead in your home to reflect your spouse's deployment time zone.

· Create a play list/CD to send.  Use songs that mean something to you or songs that your Soldier know that you miss him/her.  I made one for My Marine during our first big deployment and timed it so that it arrived close to our wedding anniversary.  (He was gone during our 10th anniversary).  The first two songs were our wedding songs followed by a list of “I miss you” songs.  I made a second copy for me to have so that I could know that we were both listening to the same songs.  He loved it and we still listen to it from time to time.

· Keep your Soldier close.   By a couple of plain pillowcases and using an iron-on transfer, put a picture of your Soldier (and you/your family) on it and send in a care package.  (You keep one for yourself and spritz with cologne).  Or use fabric paint and write each other a little note on the pillowcase.

· Keep a box where you can put in fun items to send to your Soldier.  (My "box" was a giant, oversized laundry basket!)  Decks of card, footballs, Frisbees, etc.  When you are out doing errands and see something that your Soldier would enjoy, buy it and toss it in the box when you get home. Send your care packages every 2-3 weeks during the deployment.  (More on mailing care packages to come!)

· If your Soldier is a reader, pick a book to read together while he’s gone.  Start your own little personal book club and talk about the books.  You can do the same thing with movies too.  Send him a DVD of a movie that you want to see and pick a time to talk about it.

· Keep a phone journal. Jot down things that you want to tell your spouse when he/she calls. Rule of thumb: always say “I love you” FIRST and before anything else, just in case you lose connection.

· Choose something that happens occasionally in nature, i.e., a full moon, a brilliant rainbow, or a shooting star, and agree together that while you are apart, when one of you sees this, it will serve as quiet reminder of your committed love for one another.

· Celebrate missed birthdays and anniversaries anyway! Take photos of the cake you made for him/her, blow out the candles, videotape you and your family singing Happy Birthday and send them in your next care package. Your Soldier will never forget your thoughtfulness.

· While technology is an amazing thing, don’t rely on it 100%.  Email is handy and speedy, as is Skype, but nothing replaces a letter written by your own hand.  Spritz your letters with your perfume/cologne and seal it with a kiss.

· Set a goal together!  Plan a trip for after your soldier returns.  Plan a home project to work on together.  Having a goal that is decided on together will make your soldier feel like he/she is still a part of the planning process. 


Just remember — Communicate often through whatever means you have available to you whether it’s the mail, email, internet chat or packages. Let each other know you’re thinking of each other.

Something simple can mean a lot!

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Summer Bucket List 2015

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I love lists. I love color-coding. I love Summer Vacation. Put them all together and you have our Summer Bucket List!!!

Last year was the first time I used the calendar idea for us.  It worked pretty well and the girls asked for it again.  The only difference is that this year I opted for rainbow-colored post-it notes.  Looks pretty, doesn't it!

 



The calendar is broken down into categories:

"Snuggle Time" Sunday
"On the Move" Monday
"Time to Read" Tuesday
"What's Cooking" Wednesday
"That's Art" Thursday
"Finding Fun" Friday

I don't have a "theme" for Saturday.....because Nani will have gymnastics on Saturday mornings and then we'll make our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market.

For each theme day, I have a list of suggested activities that we can choose from as well.













Now, before I get any comments about being "strict" or "scheduling every second" or "allowing my kids to enjoy their summer break", I have to say that:

1) My kids ASKED if I was going to do this again for them. They love having ideas to pick and choose from and have fun adding ideas to the list;

2) This is a very LOOSE idea for the summer. They are free, every day to do as they choose and we are very flexible about our summer days.

3) The only thing I am strict about is their reading. They will read every day.....whether it's at bedtime or some time during the day, but they will read at least 30-minutes a day.

Do YOU have a Summer Bucket List? If so, share your ideas or blog post in the comments! I would love to see what some of you are doing!

HAPPY SUMMER VACATION!!

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Might As Well Laugh About It Now
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Through the Grinder
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