Comfort and Joy

Today is Christmas Eve, 2019. That does not sound possible. As a child growing up in the 1970s, the year 2020 was hard to fathom. And yet, here we are.

This time of the year causes me to reflect. I remember Christmas Eve parties at my Grandma and Grandpa Mahar’s house. Surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sharing our favorite snacks and sweet treats. Drinking lime sherbet and ginger ale punch. Those were beautifully simple times.

Added to those memories are the ones of my own children growing up. Christmas programs, music, opening presents, traveling to visit grandparents. Now they are grown. I wonder what parts they will remember in twenty years.

This year, we are hosting Gart’s side of the family on Christmas Day. They will gather in our home tomorrow. We have some new faces in our family. More people to love, to help heal the holes left by those we miss.

Although my Christmas reflections are predominantly happy, I recognize that is not the case for everyone. Many have faced unspeakable tragedies. Ones that do not simply vanish with time.

I want those friends to know it is ok to be sad, even amid celebrations. I should not expect them to just put on a happy face. And I hope they are not afraid to share their grief.

A friend recently shared the following verse with me.

“You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

The image of God collecting my tears in a bottle was powerful and comforting. On this Christmas Eve, I pray that thought brings you comfort and joy.

I also want to share some of my favorite carols. These are my own simple arrangements. Hope you enjoy! Merry Christmas! 🙂

Loud and Clear

My house is quiet this first morning of Christmas break. But moments of joy from yesterday ring loud and clear in my mind.

The last day of school before the break is filled with treats, parties, gifts, and PJs. For teachers, a crazy mix of fun and exhausting! When the day was done, one quote came to mind. It perfectly described two events of the day.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Buddy the Elf

As students entered the building, they were greeted by teachers singing and playing hand-held percussion instruments. Jingle bells, maracas, and drums accompanied various Christmas carols.

But the fun did not stop there. Once students were settled in their classrooms, one group of teachers decided to take this musical show on the road.

With instruments in hand and portable BlueTooth speaker in tow, we were off. Traveling through the entire school, past every single classroom. Familiar tunes of Jingle Bells, Frosty, Rudolph, and Feliz Navidad filled the air.

Students and teachers smiled their biggest smiles. Faces pressed against windows, students waved, some sang along. Some eyes even filled with tears. The joy was almost tangible. Most assuredly contagious and loud!

The second event occurred in my classroom. Not nearly as loud, but just as clear in its joy.

My kindergarten class was watching “The Nutcracker Prince.” During the movie, I decided to sit on the floor near the kids. Soon, I had five or six kiddos sitting right next to me, leaning in and smiling.

When the movie ended, I stayed put and asked all the students to move closer. Picture me sitting on the floor, twenty-plus little ones piled up around me.

I started to sing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”. They all joined in. We continued with “Rudolph” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Their voices and smiles were precious. And once again, the joy was evident. It may not have been as loud as the morning caroling, but it was just as tangible and clear.

My hope is for students to remember our singing. And for the memories to remind them how much they are loved. A simple message delivered loud and clear. ❤

A New Nickname

Nicknames can be mean, intended to make fun of their recipient. But they can also be funny and endearing. I’ve had several during my lifetime. Spaghetti and Kelley Girl top the list. Each name attached to a person or memory.

This week I received a new one. And though I’m unsure of the original intent, I have no doubt about the outcome. It all began with a group of fourth-grade boys.

As students entered my classroom on Monday, I overheard some boys laughing and saying, “Abuelita.” I smiled, “They think I don’t know what that means.”

“Did someone just call me Grandma?” I chuckled. “I am not your Grandma, although I am old enough.” I smiled, assuring them I was teasing. The boys grinned.

Soon we were playing Christmas Song Bingo. The group of boys was a little chatty during the game. After reminding them several times to be quiet and listen, I decided to have a little fun.

With the help of Google, I discovered how to say, “My grandson talks too much” in Spanish. After repeating the phrase in my head several times, it was time to act. I quietly walked over to the boys, leaned down and said, “Mi Nieto habla demasiado.”

The look on their faces was priceless! We had a good laugh and continued with our game.

At the end of all my classes, I like to stand at the door and tell each student goodbye, have a good day, see you next time, etc. Today was the “Abuelita” class again. As they were leaving, one of the boys smiled, gave me a big hug and said, “Bye, Grandma.”

I have no idea whether or not my new nickname will stick. But if it does, I will answer. It represents a connection with another student. And that is what truly matters.

I'm Dreaming of a…

Dreams are interesting. Some seem so real. Real to the point of waking up in tears or hysterical laughter. I can instantly connect those dreams to actual conversations or events. Others make no sense, just a jumbled mess of images.

I don’t pretend to know how this phenomenon works. And it’s not often that I remember my dreams. When I do, they are usually crazy! Such was the case last night. My first thought after waking up-Where in the world did that come from?

In my dream, I was riding a bus to NYC by myself. I was seated near the back of the bus with a blanket. A woman approached me and said, “Show me your gun.” “I don’t have a gun,” I replied. But she continued to ask.

After a few minutes, she seemed to believe me but insisted I come to sit at the front of the bus. I followed her to a front seat. Then I realized my purse was still at the back. “May I at least go get my purse?” I asked. “No, but I will send my assistant to get it.”

The woman gave me something to drink. It was in one of those little cups like you get on an airplane. I sipped my drink and watched as her assistant walked toward my purse. He looked more like a bodyguard. I remember thinking, “I hope he doesn’t go through my purse.”

Suddenly I felt groggy, and my head started spinning. Looking down at the empty cup I thought, “Oh dear. I think I’m in trouble.” That’s when I woke up.

It didn’t take long to uncover the mystery behind my dream. Earlier that same day I was at glee club rehearsal. We have an upcoming field trip that takes place after school hours. Sharing information about an evening bus ride with 4th and 5th graders lead to a million questions.

So, that explains the bus.

That evening, my daughter and I talked about her going out of town this weekend. She is an adult. She has traveled alone before. But this is her first time to make this particular trip alone. And I must admit, there was a little bit of an “anxious mom” feeling.

So, that explains the travel problems.

It also explains the following conversation with my daughter this morning. 😉

I wonder what I’ll dream about tonight. Hopefully, it will not involve a bus or a drugged drink. I’d much rather dream about snow. Who knows? Maybe I will dream of a white Christmas. On second thought, with only seven school days left before Christmas break, that might be expecting too much. Sweet dreams!

Beautiful Illusion

Time keeps ticking
Moving forward
Always steady
Always sixty
Seconds per minute
Minutes per hour
Never slows down
Never rushes ahead
If only I could
Stretch the moments
When my focus is clear
When my heart is full
Impossible, I know
And yet, I am able
To breathe deep
Allowing time for
A lingering hug or
A heart-to-heart
Creating this
Beautiful illusion
Where time
Seems to stop
Mysteriously moving
Beyond the
Simple ticktock
Of the clock

Thirty Seconds of Silence

We live in a busy, sometimes chaotic world. It is hard to be quiet. This is true not only for my students but for me as well. Recently, I experienced the power of purposeful silence during my first-grade class.

To introduce our lesson, I asked students to look at a picture on the Smartboard. A beautiful winter scene complete with a horse-drawn sleigh. I wanted them to tell me what they saw. If all went as planned, this activity would transition us right to “Jingle Bells.”

First-grade is at the end of the day. The kids were wiggly and chatty. Getting them to focus is not always easy. But I had an idea. I asked them to look at the picture for thirty seconds without saying anything. At first, students looked puzzled. But when I began silently counting, only mouthing the numbers, the room became quiet and still.

All eyes were fixed on the winter scene. And when I finished counting, hands started going up. Students took turns sharing answers and ideas. Some had surprising insights I had not even considered.

This was not something I had planned. After school, I thought about why this worked. I think part of it had to do with purpose. This wasn’t me simply asking students to listen or be quiet. I asked them for a defined amount of silence with a specific goal.

Granted, it was only thirty seconds. But that thirty seconds brought a successful time of sharing. And the sharing easily flowed into our singing and rhythm activities.

Before you envision a picture-perfect music class, things did get a little crazy during our next transition. I am definitely not Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. But that’s ok. I did stay calm in the chaos and class continued. Maybe because of that thirty seconds of silence?

I’m afraid I can’t take full credit for this idea. I think the inspiration came from Mr. Rogers. I’m currently reading “The Good Neighbor-The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.” I also saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” last weekend.

I have always appreciated the quiet, kind demeanor of Mr. Rogers. When I need to feel calm, I sometimes watch his old T.V. episodes. Revisiting his work through this current book and movie seems to have the same effect.

I am particularly struck by his use of time. His actions are never hurried. One scene in the movie displayed this so clearly. Fred asked a friend to be silent for one minute, but with a specific purpose. The time was set aside to consider all the people who had loved them into being. Profound.

Granted, our studying of a picture in a first-grade music class may not qualify as profound. But it was certainly beneficial. And it opened my eyes to the power of defined silence with a specific purpose. Even if it’s only thirty seconds worth.