Thriving on a love for learning – for life!

Author Archives: excellenteducationinalaska

Moving Day number three. Kids and husband are sound asleep in our newly acquired camper that’s now parked where our basketball hoop used to be.  I am closing the light of the day inside our newly emptied house.  It’s midnight in Chugiak, Alaska. The light of dusk have all but faded into the clear dark night.

All is quiet and calm. Oh, what a peaceful escape this is for me. No questions, no decisions, no pressure. A hot jacuzzi awaits.  The “self clean” cooks away the grime on the oven. Hey, it’s a productive night!

The movers left out three items to wrap up our packing tomorrow…our vacum, a chair and the sewing machine.  Although the sewing machine barely worked due to some electrical challenge, I managed to finish the quilt I started for my oldest daughter.  She’s ten and I’ve just competed my first quilt for her!  How could ten years just have flown by? It’s just mind-blowing to see the years add up – and those “later” projects linger.

So, on the fumes of our departure from Alaska, I have finished a quilt for my first born and second born. I have high hopes to complete one for our third child, too.  But, that will only happen at a friends – if the guys go fishing.

My big girl’s night out is sewing, sipping something white and sweet, and listening to “classic country.”  When the Judd’s song “A Girl’s Night Out” came on, I was transformed from a tired Mom to a young woman with endless energy. I turned the music up – knowing the “trailer folks” wouldn’t hear me (aka my family sleeping outside), I closed my eyes, I sang as loudly as I could, and I danced (praying no one was watching me through the huge kitchen bay windows).  What fun!  Oh I do miss the two-stepping.

Whew, I have been working my fingers to the bone all week. It is my night to claim some space. And, the power of a great song and its happy associations (seeing the Judd’s live, front row, at Cesar’s Palace in Vegas in 1990).  The oven gets clean, our angels sleep, and I wrap up our life here in Chugiak, Alaska.

With everything wrapped up and packed into boxes there is great freedom. Our youngest daughter, whose 7 said, “Mom, there is so much room to play now!”  Our children have become wildly silly and creative. After all their toys in the house were packed up, they created “houses” and “rockets’ out of left over boxes and recyclable stuff – and were so thrilled with their creations!  Their total joy reminded me of the Zuni’s who make sand paintings and then begin again – that the peace is in the process, not in the attachment to the outcome.

Well that bath is getting warm and my husband asked I don’t make it a late night.  ‘uess it’s time to wrap up this girl’s night out.  And, I’m truly thrilled and thankful to be retiring next to my honey in our cozy love shack.

Thank you for these answered prayers. May we shine YourLlight.

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Watching the kids excitedly head off for their last school day on the yellow school bus is both a celebration and loss.  We all feel a sense of relief that the routine of our daily school lives is ending for a summer break.

There is something quite ceremonial about the last day of school.  I certainly always loved these days as a child – playing games, and having fun as school  ended.  I am happy that our children are experiencing such positive endings at school.

Emotions for the end of the school year are intensified by the fact that we’re moving out-of-state in a couple of weeks and will no longer be a part of this school – this family we have come to love!  After a very involved school year with three children under the same roof, their teachers really get them – and us!  There is great positive reinforcement and support for me as a parent, as an educator whose been working in the school, and as a community member. The connections run deep and are meaningful.

It’s the most at home we’ve felt in a school and community since we were in an international school in The Netherlands.  It’s a special bond that only comes with time spent together – and shared values.  Because the three years it took to get to this place in our beautiful elementary school felt like a long road, it’s a greater loss to say good-bye to this school year – and our life.

The trust levels are deep, and the joy is great at this school.  Our children know they are loved, have totally thrived in their classrooms, and we as a family, have become meaningfully connected to this village of families.  Prayers have been answered all year at school.

Seeing our 7-year-old speak in Spanish with a “perfect accent” to her Spanish teacher makes my heart sing.  The children have learned so much more than we realize.  As we close this year officially today, I am filled with tremendous gratitude for all that this school year has given our children and our family.  I am also overwhelmed with a feeling of loss to be moving away from such a unique, heart-centered elementary school that is situated in the most beautiful area.

Our life in Alaska – our education in Alaska, has truly been everything we dreamed.  It’s extraordinary to see  the blessings that have come – the literal manifestation of heart-felt dreams!  Yet is hurts to leave  it, too.  Could anyplace every come close to this perfection?  Cross country skiing for PE? A Culturally-diverse and sensitive environment? Spanish-immersion that works? Our children’s pastor at school on Wednesdays? Rock-solid professional leadership and staff who exude true joy to be a part of this school?  How could this be topped?

This ending is also a new beginning – in North Carolina. We must brace ourselves in knowing nothing will be like this – for a year, or maybe for three.  God, please direct our steps and choices.  Please give us strength during this time of transition. It is an enormous leap of faith!

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11.

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Nearly all the snow has melted around our home.

Bursts of fresh green colors surround every living object.

Spring has sprung, the day is long in light.

Our bodies are buzzing in excitement to play outside.

It’s still 40 degrees.

It feels surprising comfortable when out of the wind.

It’s still too cold for those cute summer clothes.

This weekend I wore a turtle neck and down vest – and still got cold.

Okay, I’m still wearing that Patagonia down vest (yes it’s a great day when I’m wearing Patagonia :).

To this day, the only thing I’m looking forward to about leaving Alaska, is gaining a warmer summer to play outside in.

Still, our friends who get us, see us back in two years.

Ultimately it is about where we are called to serve.

It’s a privilege, it truly is.

We are deeply grateful.

“In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

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Blog 5-10-2012

Endings are the other side of beginnings. I don’t remember who said this, but it’s something that struck me yesterday as I was getting ready for my day.  I’ve been locked in a lot of grief about uprooting our beautiful life in dreamy Alaska to move to North Carolina. As a loaf of bread has two endings, it also has two beginnings.

A paradigm shift is what I’m striving for now as I read God’s word.  “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” –Isaiah 26:3

My truth is that I’m frantic on the inside.  Too many questions, not enough concrete answers.  Where will we forward our mail? Where will we live? Where will our doctor’s be? Where will I get my hair done? More importantly, what will we do for school? How shall we serve? Where will the kids do their sports? Where will we worship? Can we join a praise band as a family? What music will we study and with whom? Whom will we love there? What will we love there? How will we be shaped? What is God’s will for our service, our work, our lives?  Will I be cranky in that hot and humid weather or find it a refreshing change?  Who will be there to celebrate our children’s summer birthdays with? Will my husband’s work environment be family friendly?  Will we feel connected there?  How can we make the most out of it?

On the other side of this coin of questions are my self-reflections about closing our life here, too. What have I done well? How have our children grown? Where did we put our “treasure.”  Have we served well?  What’s the best way to say goodbye? How do we help our kids have effective closure? What do we hold on to? What do we let go of?  When do I just let go? I need an air traffic controller installed in my head.

One thing is certain, where we wrap things up is where we start a new journey.  Perhaps there is a way to marry this ending with our new beginning.  The grief can simply be the light onto where our treasure has been laid – and where we would put it if we had the gift of time in Alaska a bit longer.  Ah, so this ending is not just tipping me over a bit, but it’s also leading me into my new beginning…what an insightful connection.

Clearly, I do have a director in my head – and He’s got it all under control! “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake you.” – Isaiah 42:16

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When someone else says it so well, it’s just worth repeating. Here’s the blog that grabbed a hold of my mother’s heart. I pray this is helpful for you and that maybe you’ll further explore this beautiful website. Happy Mother’s Day!

A Holy Experience – annvoskampholyexperience@gmail.com

]Holy Experience – The Habit of a Mother Who Changes The World ________________________________________ The Habit of a Mother Who Changes The World Posted: 08 May 2012 08:41 AM PDT Houses may be bought, built, or borrowed. But homes can only be made. And only with bits of ourselves. The kids and I sit together close in a house with dishes on the counter and read about painters and artists and look at a flock of ducks, preened and nestled, a painting, oil on canvas. The children press in close for a better look at the open book, at Alexander Koester’s “Ducks“ , and I read aloud the caption under the painting. “Mother ducks pick feathers from their chests to line their nests.” I look around at the house. I pause. And the children gaze thoughtfully at a clutch of plump white, blizzard of feathers fallen down. But it’s those words that mesmerize me: “Mother ducks pick feathers from their chests, to line their nests.” I lay my hand on the page, on a duck breast puffed, mother plunging beak in deep, and I say it out loud: “How else did you think nests were lined?” With leftovers. That’s what I thought. With feathers discarded, the molted, the not-so-necessary feathers. I thought mother ducks picked feathers up from what was laying about, scraps, lining nests with what simply could be mustered after the fact. But no. No, a mother duck plucks each feather out from the heart of her bosom. She lines the nest with bits of herself — the best of herself. A mother cups her brood not with leftovers — but with her own sacrifice. The kids pull at the corner of the page, anxious to see the next painting. Reluctantly, I turn the page. But for weeks, I’m the one turned. For weeks, part of me lives among Koester’s ducks. I scrub out the arches of muffin tins after breakfast on a misty morning, the clock ticking insufferably loud in my ears, time running down. Children need books and learning, and I’m tuned for the expected chime of the doorbell, a service personnel’s scheduled visit. And the words rise like this lava, “I don’t have time for this! No muffins tomorrow morning!” Pluck. It’s like I can feel it. Like I can feel this tugging. The service man meets me with muffin tins still in the sink. He meets happy kids. Could I meet needs with a bit more of me? There are times, too many, when they call, “Read me a story?” “Wanna play a game with me?” “Can you come help me?” And this mother refuses to pluck. Something, some task, someone (me?), rates as more pressing, more important. I deem our nest acceptable just as it is. I don’t want to sacrifice more of me. Then it comes: the pecking, the scratching, the squawking. When the feather lining of the nest wears thin, the nest chafes hard. We feel it. We hurt. Life gets hard. Nests need feathers deep. Someone must pluck. When will I learn: The down we sacrifice from ourselves — this is what settles and soothes. Scraps won’t suffice. Not mere snippets of time, leftover me, a trinket, a diversion, tossed. Mother ducks don’t line nests with feathers, dirty and trampled, the molted and unnecessary. Why would I? Nests need feathers fresh, warm with mother’s life. The pain of the plucking can linger long. The parts of oneself sacrificed, this can hurt. But was it really sacrifice? Or was my skin just too tender? It’s done, it was necessary, and it was for something better. Some nights, when all sleep, I feel along the hidden bald patches. Come evening, I ask a boy to vacuum up popcorn and paper remnants and bits of the day. Dinner needs making, laundry needs rescuing, math needs marking. My head aches. Popcorn crunches under the feet. The boy hauls the vacuum cleaner out of the front closet. I should have noticed how his eyes had this glint. He plugs in the machine and it grumbles loud and he recalibrates that vacuum cleaner —- to fire socks. He’s firing sock cannons across the kitchen. His brothers dive in. Socks fly. Brothers howl and whip and it gets loud. Caught in the cross-fire with a pot in hand – a mother can either erupt. Or Pluck. This old mother, she tosses the pot and chases down future men, wrestles them down and pins them in tickles. It feels good, wild and alive. We warm here in laughter. Us close, one atop the other, nesting down into sacrifices, soft and small, a solace. Night descends. Kids crawl into beds. I read stories, stroke hair, say prayers. Prayers to Him who plucked hard from His own heart. A sacrifice, staggering and true, for love of His very own. We learn love from His laid down. Tired heads nestle into pillows, into these pillows of down. We rest on all these feathers plucked… :: :: :: edited from the archives This post is part of The 1000 Moms Project: Oh, do read the posts below for all the excitement about The 1000 Moms Project!

 


Seeing our 7-year-old’s blood come out of her head after her 8-year-old brother accidentally hit her with a golf club was all I could handle. We were just taking a break with a healthy lunch on the patio, and this miss-hap put us into an official frantic state.

Thank goodness my husband has had enough military survival training that he responded calmly and carefully so that our daughter also quieted down. When I caught a glimpse of my worried and stressed face in the mirror I knew that I also had to mellow out for the good of our sweet baby girl.

And so we did. I surrendered to my overwhelming moving “to do” list that has all but freaked me out, to just sitting in the bathroom with our child. She soaked in a warm tub and I read her a book about butterflies.  “Metamorphosis” we repeated, as we read a beautifully illustrated book about butterflies.

Ah yes, we are going through our own sort of metamorphosis. The problem with the human one is that eating until we go to sleep doesn’t make us more beautiful. In fact that’s just another task set before – to cleanse and let go of some weight before we hit the hot country (aka bathing suit climate).  Oh, how do we do it? I feel the stress so intensely consuming me that I can barely wake in the morning, I have tingling in my limbs, and I cannot think straight during the day. I’m sad when I see me friends – when I’m in our life, both at school and at church, and realize that I won’t be spending more time with these people.  I’m sad when I realize how much I haven’t done while here in Alaska during our three-year tour due to the “someday” mindset.

At the end of the day, our child’s pain put it all in perspective. The butterfly’s life paints a beautiful picture of our journey to uproot from Alaska and move to North Carolina. In many ways, this is a metamorphosis.  I pray that we become a more beautiful version of ourselves.  I am thankful our daughter is well and that God is preparing the way.

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It’s happening – the surface of the road is becoming exposed.  The temperatures are climbing above freezing.  We’ve had sunshine for over two weeks. We’re ditching our jackets – and it’s beginning to thaw!

“Break Up” is what this period between winter and summer, when everything is melting and messy! Streams and pools of water can be found moving on every flat surface.  And, they’re freezing at night to leave clear, icy and very slipper spots everywhere.  It’s impossible to keep a car clean. Just driving down the road, one’s car becomes blanketed with thawed snow that’s now a shower of mud.

Even though it’s spring I’m still wearing my insulated winter boots – because they’re the only shoes that give me good traction on these slippery spots. And when I’ve tested this – I’ve fallen.  I do appreciate how simple one’s wardrobe is in Alaska – sticking to one pair of boots, pants and jacket for over 6-months at a time.

We officially became the owners of a like-new 2004 truck.  To be in it is to see our summer, cross-country (and international if you include Canada) move take shape.  As we become unleashed from winter’s grip, I feel suddenly filled with joyful anticipation that the new adventures will bring us.  For instance, I’m looking forward to sitting outside and not being freezing cold, as even our past two summers have proven to be.  I’m looking forward to the simplifying that happens when we prepare to move.  I’m looking forward to being together with our family and extended family. I’m excited about seeing how God has prepared the way for us.

It’s 4PM.  Two calls from our son (whose 8) – he’s changed the plan – and not participated in the cross-country ski program after school. With his saddest voice, he begs me to collect him. Of course I will, how could I have peace with anything else?  Indeed, we will greatly miss the beautiful gifts of our life – like cross-country skiing at school.  Just for today, I am grateful to see the road once again.

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