Thursday, September 22, 2016

Change... Sucks


You probably had one of two thought when you read that:

1.      Yes, can we live under a rock together?
2.      It’s necessary. You can do, just push through it.

We all know change is necessary. It has to happen. There is no getting around it. But it sucks. I hate it. I wish it didn’t happen. I want to the end result, just not the ugly process. I want to wake up one day and have already accepted the changes and be able to cope with it.

              Yet, I managed to pick the profession where there is constantly change. Dumb move, Julia. 

Everything is different this year. New school, new schedule, new students, new colleagues, new EVERYTHING. I hate this acceptance process. Don’t get me wrong, the new school is great! I have great colleagues, they have been nothing but welcoming and helpful. The students have been (overall) great and my schedule is good.


I haven’t been stuck in a school since December of last year or with middle school students since my internship or in cat A room…. (In special ed there are two big categories. Cat A are students who need support in a regular classroom or are in a smaller class size. Cat B are severe disabilities, students who can’t do the general education curriculum.) The perk of my schedule is that I am constantly moving throughout the building so I’m not stuck to the same four walls for 7hrs.

I miss everyone from my other school and from the Marriott. I now have a training near the Marriott, it’s been hard to drive by and not see my friends there. And I will have this training every week for almost all of the school year.

These past two weeks I’ve been asked a lot “are you ok?” by everyone. Home, school, church, neighbors, etc. I clearly have not been hiding my distress of this change well.

But because of this painful change I’ve made some positive changes these past few months. Not just work. I’ve colored my hair, started going to the gym (I know weird!), and have realized I am capable of doing anything I want. I’ve always known the later, but lately I’ve really felt it. Is it because of this change? 

So, am I “Ok?” Not really. But I will be.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

August 26

The hunt is done. I was beginning to doubt this would happen, but it finally has.

I’ve been hired!

Image result for hired

10 interviews later, countless e-mails, sleepless nights, I got a job offer. I’m back with Fairfax County Public Schools at Franklin Middle School. I’m the Science special education teacher.

I always swore I wouldn’t teach middle school, it is its own little world. And to be honest I’m sitting here wondering “what have I gotten myself into.”


I’m going where I’m wanted. “You were the obvious candidate.” Words every person loves to hear.
I am very excited. I get to teach a subject I love and learn from what will no doubt be great staff. And to grow as a teacher.

Who knows, I might never want to leave the little world of middle school. 

August 26 I go from "stay at home Mom" back to a "working Mom."

Stay At Home Mom Mode

Working Mom Mode

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What I learned from Dory

Today I took Kelli to see Finding Dory for the 3rd time. She is obsessed with ocean life right now, I love it! She goes around telling me “Nemo is a clown fish, Dory is a blue tang, Destiny is a whale shark, I like hammer head sharks!” My little Marine Biologist!  Every time I have seen it there have been two phrases that have stuck out to me:

South Carolina Aquarium 
"Sea Urchins are kinda yucky, Mommy" 

“What would Dory do?”


“You’ve done it your own way”

It finally dawned on me today WHY they stuck out, and then I felt ridiculous for not seeing it in the beginning.

Dory is the one who is off the wall, doesn’t think all the way through, and most importantly not the one who you would “typically” want to follow. 

Yet, in the moment Marlin and Nemo are swimming there brainstorming asking each other “What would Dory do?” over and over again. Then Nemo reminds Marlin “She would do the first thing that came to mind” She wouldn’t think. She would just do. Which is not always good. But it’s interesting that is the character they chose for that phrase.
Image result for dory and merlin
Nemo and Marlin always stick together
Why does this stand out to me? Took me forever, but it’s because she is not the one you would typically think to yourself “What would__ do?” In fact, she is the one with a disability, she can’t remember! But they stop to think of how she would do it, what she would see, and what she would do with what she is given. Instead of just floating in a tank trying to get Becky to come back, they jump onto a splash pad and kinda “surf” over. Exactly what Dory would have done… And it worked.

“You’ve done it your way” Is Jenny’s reminder to Dory, and is a reminder to the world we all do EVERYTHING differently. From the big things to the smallest things. We all drive, dress, work, think, comprehend, learn, eat, manage money, parent, speak, and walk differently. Is there a wrong way (that isn’t illegal) to do any of those? Too many times people give other people sideways looks when the do it in an “odd” or different way.  
Her parents never gave up on her

I was on one of my 6 (soon to be 8) job interviews. And one question I was asked was how do I remember what needs to be done by when. It’s a great question, every teacher or any other working being, has a system. Some use their phone, some use calendars, I use sticky notes.

People at work always got a kick out of seeing my desk, it was always covered in sticky notes with things I needed to do, when support came in, who stayed after, etc. If you wanted something done you had to put it on a sticky note. That is my system. That is the “Julia way.” Is that the wrong way? Does it make me any less of a teacher?
I go through sticky notes like no tomorrow

When it came to sleep training Kelli I always called it the “Julia Method.” It was a mix of cry it out and come when she cried. That was my way. Is that wrong? Does it make me any less of a mother?

Kelli has always been my sleeper

Does the fact that I don’t usually use the cruise when I’m driving, make me a bad driver?

My Car

Hint: The answer is a loud NNNOOO!!!

We tell our self no, when you’re reading this you tell yourself “I don’t do that.” Yet when we see that Mom yelling at her kid or a desk full of stick notes, we look with a suspecting eye.

So world, what can we learn from Finding Dory? 

~Even some of the most calculated, smartest people (or fish) might have to think from someone else’s point of view to get an answer.

~We all do everything different. And that’s ok. Even good.

~Pixar & Disney animates the cutest baby fish. 

Baby Dory!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I'm Back!

So it’s been a while since I have blogged…. Like six months… So what have I been doing?! Well I got a job before I even graduated, I’ve been working at S. John Davis Career Center. I walked in January and instantly felt part of the team. This is a place for students with disabilities ages 18-22.  I’ve been teaching career skills and independent living skills. 
School webpage  has some of my students on the home page! 
What does that all mean? Well there you don’t stay in a classroom all day and talk about what you might do in a work setting. We actually got to go worksites! So I was assigned to Fairview Park Marriott. So my co-teacher and I, 12 students, and 2 IA’s would go every day. The students would do various tasks such as sweeping, cleaning tables, mopping floors, etc. But we had two big jobs. Stripping beds, we’d go in the rooms before housekeeping strip the beds and take out trash. Second, was my favorite; dishes. I was the only one who went up there, no one else wanted too, but the students LOVED it. They load the mega dishwasher and when they came out all clean they would put them in their appropriate spot. Don’t get me wrong; it could get gross. Used plates, pots and pans with various mixtures on them, ew! But the people where amazing, it was always busy, they had music, and I got to be loud. J The dishwashing machine is as you can imagine, loud. So I would have to yell over it, I loved it. There were days I would be up there all day with different students. I was so sad when we stopped going for the year. But I've been able to stay in contact with some of my favorite people. :) 
We had to wear black and white everyday. I was excited to spice it up with my new sunglasses
They provided these amazing lunches, I’m talking salmon, steak, with mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. After spending most of the day there we would come back to the school and they would have class. It rotated between social skills and independent living skills.
Social skills is all about how to appropriately interact with people, saying good morning, reading facial expressions, etc. Then independent living skills (my class!) was everything the students need to know to live on their own. How to manage a bank account, what to do in an emergency, reading time, everything you could think of!
Now something else this school does is something called travel training. The students are given a stipend from the county and we would use that to take them to various places. They have to take the public bus, budget, and make purchases. We would take trips such as bowling, going to the mall, and going to various places for lunch. But every time we had to sit down and figure out which bus we would take, when did we want to leave, did they have enough money to buy the large soda. It’s the hands on training that they all need, yet rarely get. It was a learning experience for me, the only time I took the public bus was when I was in DC. But I am proud to report that when I went out with my students we never got lost and I always brought them all back. J  It’s been a great experience, the staff are great and the students have been a joy. 
Took some kids travel training to Union Station and tried this hat on.

But due to some other people’s decisions (I’m not going to bash people) I am not returning. I was so upset when I was told. It’s been such a great experience, but clearly I am meant for something greater. Where am I going next?

The Classroom

Excellent question… I’ll let you know when I do.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goal Setting & Graduation Pictures!

I was asked to give a talk at church on goal setting. This is it!

I have been asked to talk about goal setting. First I want to start this by saying there are people who just don't enjoy goal setting and are content to meander.  That was never me.  For the goal setters, you will enjoy this talk.   Maybe there's a happy place in the middle.  My observation is that that's NOT true.  Goal setters marry goal setters.  Meanderers marry one another.  How could two different people stand to marry one another. So for the meanderers and meandering couples, please bear with me. When I first got the assignment I laughed. I feel like this is an art that I’ve spent my whole life doing. And something you do as a teacher.
            I grew up in a very active Mormon home. There were two what I call “basic goals” instilled in us. Basic goals are goals that our parents had for us and have taught us all our lives, these are personal and by no means the same. These lead to bigger and more specific goals. The two we had were:
1.     Go to the temple
2.     Go to college
As I got older I adopted these for myself, they were no longer my parent’s goals for me. They were my goals for me. After high school I went to BYU-Idaho, and after a twisted turn of events I came home after my first year. I eventually went to NOVA. During those twists and turns, I never lost the goal of going to college. But I knew I was no longer on the “normal path.” During my time at NOVA I met Troy. Troy was living in Minnesota, and after another twist and turn he moved out here and we got engaged. On May 21, 2011 we got Sealed in the DC temple. I was able to check my first goal off. I made it to the temple.
But what about that other goal? Days before we got married I got my associates degree from NOVA. And hadn’t decided where to transfer. People began to doubt I was going to finish. I knew I was going to, but I didn’t know when or where. Finally, I decided on Old Dominion University, they have an online distance learning program and my exact degree. It was perfect for me. So I got accepted and started classes. I had just started my first semester when I learned I was pregnant. Most women jump for joy when they hear those words. I cried. What about my other goal? Now what? I slowly started to tell people. In just the last year I have heard of more and more people going to school with families, but about 3-4 years ago it wasn’t too common. I remember towards the middle of my pregnancy four people in one day told me “at least you tried to finish school.”  I felt hopeless, was I really not going to finish? Was this Heavenly Father’s way of bracing me for reality? M. Russell Ballard said. That it is good, on occasion, for everyone to face adversity, especially if it causes introspection that enables us to openly and honestly assess our lives. That is what I did. ……Sometimes we need a personal crisis to reinforce in our minds what we really value and cherish. The scriptures are filled with examples of people facing crises before learning how to better serve God and others. Perhaps if you, too, search your hearts and courageously assess the priorities in your life, you may discover, as I did, that you need a better balance among your priorities.”
All of us must come to an honest, open self-examination, an awareness within as to who and what we want to be.”
After much prayer and fasting, as best you can when you’re pregnant. Which for me was going an hour without food. I knew now more than ever that nothing was going to stop me from finishing college. Things slowly came into place, I had more support than I could have imagined and made friends in similar situations. No doubt these friendships will last a lifetime. Finally, December 12 we drove down to ODU in Norfolk and I walked across the stage. I was surrounded by friends I had made through classes who were also on a different path, many had more bumps in their path than I did. But we all did it. I have a BS in interdisciplinary studies, which is a fancy was to say special education.

As a special education teacher you write goals. Some are short term and others are long term. So I’ve had my fair share of coming up with goals.
This is my advice:
First remember goals are personal and vary from person to person. Think about Dallin H. Oak’s talk about Good, Better, and Best. Don’t set the same goal for yourself as your Sunday school teacher set for themselves because it was the best goal for them. Your best is most likely very different.
Make sure it is realistic. Don’t set a goal you know you can’t achieve. To say I will go to the temple 6 days a week for the rest of my life might not be realistic. But to say I will go once a week is something you can achieve.
Make it MOO (M-O-O). My favorite professor said that every day. He even had a little cow in his room.
Make sure your goal is Measureable. Make it a goal you can keep track of. Such as praying twice a day or reading one page in the book of Mormon. This way you can keep track of your progress and if you are meeting that goal.
Observable- Something you can see. Goes along with measureable. If you are meeting your goal of praying twice a day chances are you and others around you will see something different. If you are reading the scriptures on a daily basis you will gain more from it.
The last “O” is Objectives. These are steps to meet the goal. What are you going to do to help you to meet your goal to pray twice a day or read your scriptures daily? Use a pray rock? Set a reminder in your phone? Have a sticky note in the bathroom?
These are tricks to help you stay accountable for what you have set for yourself.

But my final piece of advice is to never give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you are determined to do. I found a great quote, there was no author listed “Fate whispers to the warrior you can’t withstand the storm. And the warrior whispers back I am the storm.” 

And now that you have endured reading that here are the pictures from graduation!! It  was a great experience and I loved actually seeing the campus!!!
Troy has been my rock through this and Kelli has kept me laughing.  

My BFF decorated my cap for me! 
The building where my campus where streamed from

Mom and Dad with their first graduate! 
Gwen has been a huge help through all this!!