Friday, June 19, 2015

On the eve of 4...

Dear Lily,

Tomorrow, you turn 4. Four years ago, at 6:09am, you made your entrance into this world. You made me a mom. We have never looked back.

I love you, little girl, more today than I did the day you took your first breath. Every single day I fall in with you over and over again. You have the sweetest smile, the funniest expressions, and the sassiest attitude. You are 4 going on 30. You talk more than mommy and daddy combined, which is a huge accomplishment because, let's face it, mommy and daddy love to talk.

You can get very frustrated. Very upset. Very mad. You wear every single emotion on your sleeve. When you are happy, you are the happiest kid on the planet. When are are angry, you are the grumpiest kid on the planet. You are so thankful for everything. You get a sticker from mommy and it's like receiving a diamond necklace.

This year you have learned to share so much better with your brother. The relationship you share with Jackson is the sweetest, most loving relationship I have ever witnessed. When he is upset he runs to you. Just last night, after Jacob left, Jack ran to you, hugged you and said "I miss Jacob!" You do such a good job consoling him (sometimes, too good a job mothering him...). You teach him new things every day and he loves to learn from you. I hoped you would teach him to use the potty; however, tonight you said, "Mom, I just can't train Jackson. I think you need to do that." I am so glad that you love each other and care for one another. It does my heart good to see the two of you share your love.

I hope that you have a fantastic 4. You are smart and kind and compassionate. You love to mother your babies, which is super sweet. I hope that you continue to learn and grow in your passions. I will do my best to nurture your curiosity and answer all of the questions you throw my way (and there are a lot of questions!). I will love you every single minute of every single day. I will give you what you need, but not always what you want (sorry, kid).

Four will be a big year. You will end your time at the pre-school you love and move to the ranks of a kindergartner by the end of next school year. An you will undoubtedly continue to amaze me in everything you do.

I love you to the moon and back.

Your mama, xoxo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thanks for the Memories

I know, I know, all of my posts have been about Mrs. Kenney. It's been easier to process this by writing about it and talking about it, so write and talk I will.

Yesterday was the funeral. I knew it would be hard. I also knew I needed to grieve with my SK family. I had the opportunity to do just that, ugly cry and all. My heart goes out to Mrs. Kenney's family-- for as broken-hearted as I feel, I know they are feeling this in an even deeper, more acute way. I thank them for sharing her with the world, and, especially, with SK.

The funeral was harder than I imagined it would be. The minute the choir started singing the Irish blessing, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep any emotion in check. I don't think there was a dry eye in the church.

I know, moving forward, the pain of Mrs. Kenney's loss will fade a bit. I know when my own grandparents died the pain of their deaths faded and the memories and love I shared with them replaced any feelings of sadness that lingered. I know there will be little things, like when I think of calling Mrs. Kenney up to schedule a lunch date or look for her at a SK event, that will remind me of that sadness I feel. I also know that the memories and time shared with her will always be with me.

I also know this-- every time I teach, Mrs. Kenney will be right there with me. I know that every school year, I will renew a promise to myself to be a better teacher for my students. I am putting a picture of her in my classroom to remind me of the teacher, and person, that I want to be: one who is selfless, committed, and passionate.

Thanks for everything, Mrs. Kenney.

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend's life also, in our own, to the world.” -H.D. Thoreau

Monday, June 15, 2015


This past week has been a weird, trying, heart-wrenching week.

Last week, I found out Mrs. Kenney passed away. This weekend was really tough. I know that, eventually, the people who I love and admire and respect will all pass away. I teach English, death is major topic of discussion in my line of work (please see every work in the English 10 curriculum). I just don't think we are ever ready to face death when it actually happens. This loss was sudden and unexpected, which only makes it more difficult.

Additionally, the people who I would mourn with, my fellow SK alum and friends, aren't around. They are in a Facebook kind of way, but not in a I can hug you now kind of way. I think that makes this all the harder because mourning, I think, needs to be done collectively. Our memories. Our love. Our loss. I am attending a viewing tomorrow evening and will be going to her funeral on Wednesday. I am hoping that I will be able to find some peace, and some closure, by going and by seeing some old, familiar faces.

Today, I wore my class ring for the first time in ages. First of all, my ring is MUCH heavier than I remembered. My right ring finger got a serious workout. Secondly, I still love that there is a miraculous medal inside the ring. I adore Mary. Seriously adore her. So having that medal in the ring is something very special. I decided to wear my ring to have some physical connection to SK. Mrs. Kenney so loved teaching and SK, and any little physical manifestation of my connection to the women who I attended school with and the faculty who taught me somehow brings some comfort to me.

Moving on...I said this week was weird. The week is all of 2 days old, so I know it still has some time to prove otherwise, but this time of year is always a little strange to me. A time of transitions and letting go and farewells. Today, we said farewell to our retirees and to some of the faculty members who are moving on to other schools. Our health and PE teacher, Cindy, retired after 30+ years of service to the county. It was a joyful celebration of her teaching career, and, really, her life as she survived a terrible car accident the first week back to school (that forced her to take this year off in order to heal). Cindy is just an amazing spirit. She is a teacher who truly connects with students and brings out the best in them. She coached allied teams for a number of years and was such a gifted teacher and coach for her allied players. Her presence at school will surely be missed.

This week, I will also say farewell to my department chair, 9th grade team member, and friend. Becky hired me 8 years ago this past May. We hit it off fairly immediately and the rest is really history. I have been completely blessed to work with, and for, her. She threw leadership opportunities my way almost the minute I walked in the door. She allowed me to flex my teaching muscles with GT and AP classes...and with Accelerated English...but I can forgive her for that. When I needed to cry she let me cry, when I need to be crazy she let me be that, too (she gave me weird looks, but she let me be crazy). She was one of the first people to know that I was pregnant with Lily, and then, later, with Jackson. She's been supportive, and encouraging, and really what I needed a DC to be as I entered the teaching profession. She isn't going too far, just to a neighboring high school (that is really less than 5 minutes from where I teach), which is oddly comforting. I will be sad to see her go, but I know we will maintain our friendship, and, I am sure will still get in our planning together.

So that is my weird, trying, heart wrenching...crap-it's-only-Monday week. I am sort of all over the place with the emotions because the week is always an emotional week. There is some act of catharsis in the wrapping up of a school year, which is really amplified by the other events surrounding this week.

As a side-note....It did occur to me, though, that Mrs. Kenney's passing couldn't have happened at a more appropriate time of the year. The end of a school year. The consummate teacher finding the end of her earthly life at the end of a school year. I don't think she could have planned that better.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mrs. Kenney

Yesterday, my warm-up for freshman seminar read, "Write about a teacher who inspired you. What about him or her was so inspirational?" I gave my students some time to write and then asked for contributions.

I waited...

...and waited...

...and waited.


Finally, after the requisite wait time (the awkward time), I volunteered my own contribution, hoping that, maybe, it would give the kids some reason to talk. Of course, I talked about Mrs. Kenney.

Mrs. Kenney was my 10th grade American Literature teacher. I entered her class quite intimidated by her; she had been my CCD teacher at church and called me Rachel all the time, despite my name actually being Emily. She also thought, for a very long time, that my dad was a priest. Fast-forward a few years-- 10th grade English and I got a 48% I got on a vocabulary test. Mrs. Kenney kept me after class and said, "Emily, is this going to be a trend?" Let's just say, it wasn't a trend.

I remember so much from that 10th grade year, most memorably-- that you should never go behind the barn, never drink blood in the woods, and that King George III was "crazy as a hooty owl". I read, and wrote, and worked and fell in love with literature in a very profound way. As a 10th grader, I knew what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a teacher.

Mrs. Kenney clearly loved teaching. She was funny. She was smart. She was engaging. She was the teacher you read about in novel or see in a movie. She also clearly loved SK. She was at every event. She advised the yearbook. She always coordinated senior class events including prom and graduation. And at graduation she was also hiding on the sidelines, a glimmer in her eyes. She was always proud of her girls.

When I graduated, I remember returning my gown to her. I hugged her and simply said thank-you. She pulled back, looked at me, and said, "no, Em, thank you". Those words have been with ever since that day. And, now, as a teacher I more clearly understand the meaning. I now know that for every lesson I teach my students, they teach me 100 more.

It's because of Mrs. Kenney that I decided to teach English. Tenth grade American Literature opened a door for me, and I have never looked back. I work, every day, to be half of the teacher and mentor that Mrs. Kenney was. Knowing that I won't see her again, or speak with her's heartbreaking. When I posted on Facebook about her passing, one of my friends wrote, "What a great lady and mentor, and you can pass her on to others". I hope I am, and I hope I can. My American Literature class surely knows about crazy old King George and they definitely know that you should, never, under any circumstances, go behind the barn.

Mrs. Kenney, thank you for the lessons you taught me. Thank you for being a mentor, a mom, a friend, and a teacher to the thousands of young women who you educated. I am glad to have known you. I am better having known you. Rest in eternal peace.