Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Final Walk

Today I take my last laps through the halls of my school. 
I have walked hundreds of miles down these short halls. 
Some steps feverishly fast, others slower, hand-in-hand, keeping the pace of little legs.

As I do, I think about one of my first visits to this school, a second home with teachers and students who I will always remember as family. I have spent more time within these walls than I have the walls of my own home. We are a family. Some teachers have taken on the role of the nurturing grandmothers, others are the crazy aunts, some are the wise uncles who speak softly, but their few words speak volumes, and some are the cool older cousins who have it all together that us younger folks to aspire to be just like.

On that early Saturday morning visit, I participated in a prayer walk with some church and community members. But the one that walked with me was Mr. Linton, one of my best friend's grandfathers. We stopped at each door, called each teacher by named, and prayed for him or her and each of the students he or she would encounter that year. We stopped at the lunchroom and the library and the counselor’s office. When we got to mine, Room 48, I collapsed at the door, warm tears falling from my eyes onto the newly laid yellow and gray carpet. The task of even walking in seemed too great. That year, I had been asked to teach inclusion. Mr. Linton crouched beside me, and with my class roll in hand, we called each of my twenty-four students by name. With strength from above, I stood up, opened the heavy door, crossed the threshold, and walked to the desks I had carefully organized in cooperative learning groups. We touched each desk, each chair, each wall, each table, each computer, the bookshelf, and even pencil sharpener. All places that would be touched by small hands throughout the year.

 Hands searching - for knowledge, for instruction, for acceptance, for love.

Each of my students held a special place in my heart. I remember sitting with a friend one night at dinner about midway through the year, with a particular dark skinned wheelchair-bound sweetheart on my mind. The one that every morning, when the intercom sounded, would gracefully leap from his chair and do his best to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t think there was a morning that I said the pledge without my voice quivering, as I admired his strength and determination and respect.  I told her, “I have fallen for these children. I think God is preparing my heart for something...” And the words I didn’t say, but felt God saying to me as a single salty tear fell on my cheek, “I think God is preparing me for a child with special needs.”
And while that thought would resurface occasionally, it was crowded with other thoughts. Although, from  that year, that wonderful experience teaching students with different abilities, children with special needs have had an extra special place in my heart. That thought never left.

The year finished.
The  year finished well.
My first year at Cook in the books. Keys had been relinquished, report cards distributed, final teary goodbyes said. I walked through the same halls I did that day with Mr. Linton and my Jesus, and I prayed again. For those same students. That during the summer, they would have food to eat, that someone would take them swimming, that they could enjoy a cold popsicle on a sweaty summer day, that they could attend a neighborhood VBS, that someone would read to them using silly voices, that I had made an eternal difference in their lives.

Today, I pause at various places in the hallways. As I do, I think about the faces of eager kindergarteners with a zest for life and learning, I think about the corner where I stood and greeted students with an eager smile every morning, I think about the fifth graders who came as small children and left towering over me, leaders in their own way ready to make their mark, leave their legacy, I think about the teachers who I call friends. The ones that prayed with me and me with them, sharing loss and hope and love.

To my school family, I love you all. I took a final prayer walk today and prayed over your classrooms, the students who would be coming to you in August. I prayed for your hearts and theirs. I prayed for strength, and renewal, and perseverance, and encouragement, and teaching and learning. And from a teacher to a teacher, I know sometimes we have great plans to teach, but walk away learning so much more than we could have taught. Thank you for making me a better educator, for preparing me to become a mommy to my sweet Baker, for allowing me to work at a job that is my life’s passion, for loving and supporting my family.

As I leave today, I also pray for Baker’s teachers. 
He is mine, and I pray that you will love him like I do. I pray that you will see the spark of determination, which sometimes hints at frustration, but that leads him to be successful in overcoming difficult tasks. I pray that you will make learning fun. I pray that you will have patience with him. He may not learn things as quickly as the other children, but my sweet boy can learn, my sweet boy loves to learn. I pray that you will nurture his love for learning. I pray that you will smile at him, and tell him “Good Morning” every day. I pray that you will challenge him. I pray that he makes a difference in your life, as I know you will make a difference in his. I love you already, because you are you. The job you have chosen, to teach children with special needs, is difficult, that I know. But I also know, it is extraordinary, unique. Every single day, you have the privilege of molding the lives of children. For that, I am grateful. For teaching mine, and molding his, I am forever indebted.

To teachers everywhere-
Be blessed.
 Every single day.
Be blessed and be strengthened and be encouraged.

All my love.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summah Lovin'

Last August, we brought Baker to the beach for the first time.

See that post here

He was so tiny!

This trip was much different.

Much better, 
much longer,
much more memorable,
much more exciting, 
much more exhausting,
much more wonderful!

 One of the scariest tasks as a mama is sunscreening tender baby skin.
Exhibit A.


Baker had sunscreen from the top of his head to the bottom of his little piggies.
Hence the cray cray baby hair. 
And we were both randomly coated in SPF 50 by the time we danced our way through the application. 
Picture the Electric Slide combined with the Wobble combined with the Cupid Shuffle. 
We were "to the right, to the right, now dip, now dip, wobble baby wobble, make 'em back it up."
It may not have been in sync, or to music, but we sho nuff danced.
We'll call it The Sunscreen.
Choreographed by: Baker Bell.

Fortunate for all of us, I received the burn.
Brian's, Baker's, and my own.
And have the purplish-red skin to prove it.
Hello Aloe!

I melt.
Hot hubs and bitty baby snuggles.

Brian has lost about 50 pounds since last beach vacay and was rockin' the beach bod! 
And Baker, well, he makes arm, leg, and tummy rolls look more delectable than the buttery goodness of O'Charley's pre-dinner rolls.





Baker will not let a hat of his own sit on his head for 2.5 seconds, 
but once he captures Brian's hat, it's there to stay!

Last day on the beach, but first Toofies and I had a big playtime indoors.

 Cool dude.
The coolest dude Orange Beach has ever seen.


Baker drove home.
Mommy and Daddy napped.
My little loves to sit in the driver's seat of Brian's truck.
I am convinced little boys are born knowing how to handle a steering wheel.
Watch out, folks!
I'm afraid he's going to drive like his daddy!

We're resting up.
Finishing moving the last little bits from our home.
Closing our house.
And then.....
wait for it....
coming back on Saturday for Round 2!

Every single second. 
Soaking it up.

Summah Lovin'

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Salt Life

Beach living at its finest.
Amidst the craziness of moving states, we made our way south to enjoy the sun and sand. 
The perfect remedy, the perfect escape.

Sandy snuggles very well may be the very best snuggles.

Hated, hated, HATED the ocean.
My thought, if my kid loves a bathtub with a little bit of water,
he will love, LOVE the ocean.
Not so.
At least not at first.

The blowup pool.
Winner winner chicken dinner!

Salt life.
This is the life!
And our vacay has only just begun!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Phone Dump

It was high time to clear the phone of pictures.
Somehow, someway, my phone will not hold one more single solitary picture.
I am sure no one has ever had this happen to them before.
So, phone dump time it is!


This is a happy face, I promise.
In fact, if you get this face, you rate. 
This is the face Brian Bell gets every single day when he walks in the door.
It melts my heart into a great big blob of mush.

I get cuddles,

and "I'm gonna eat your face kisses."

Notice the jammers.
Justa cruisin' in his jammers.
We do still live in Mississippi, y'all!
And I'm quite certain this is the way those Bama folks roll, too!

Not my best picture taking, but I took it through crocodile mama tears.
After Baker's bout with sickness and hospitalization and surgery, he completely gave up holding his own cup.
Then, on the way to Children's Hospital, he just did it.
This warranted a less than perfect picture to remember the oh so perfect joy I felt.
Special miracles when I least expect them.

Silly billy Baker Boy.
He loves taking pictures!

Baker Boy loves his daddy!

Baby profile love.
Baby squinty face love.
Baby arm rolls love.
Baby love.

It's important for Mamas and Daddies to have fun too!
Happy Wedding Day, Anna Lisa and Andy.

We love Kristen and Nicholas!

Baker "nose" what it's all about at Speech Therapy.

If you have already seen these from Facebook or Instagram, I hope they are making you smile seeing them again!
I love sharing life with you.

Happy Day, friends!
And beware, the phone has storage space and we are beach bound!
Picture overload coming soon.
Don't say I didn't warn you!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We're on the Move and Father's Day

Some very sweet friends, armed with muscles, trucks, and trailers, arrived early yesterday morning to help us move out of our first home.
Honestly, not a single picture was taken.
While I wasn't chasing a rambunctious one year old, I was packing boxes.
It was a wonderfully busy day.
Our friends and family that helped with the move proved to be invaluable.
We certainly could not have pulled it off without their help.
At one point, there was a lull in the day, and they mowed our grass.
We are beyond blessed.
I am so thankful for such great friends.

I will so miss the friends and family here in Columbus, but promise we will NOT be strangers!
I love this small town and all who call it home.
Last night, all we had remaining in our home were Baker's high chair, Baker's rocking chair, Baker's bed, and our guest bed mattress and box springs.
We wanted to keep Baker's schedule and nightly routine as consistent as possible.
As for us, we pulled the mattresses into the living room and had a campout!
We woke up this morning to an empty home, void of furniture and other contents, but teeming with love.
Baker and I gave Brian his Father's Day card and gifts while sitting on our makeshift bed.
We are sending him deep sea fishing during our beach vacay!

He laughed every time he saw his picture on the card like it was the funniest thing he had ever seen.

We went to church and had the special blessing of hearing the word of God in a mighty way.
Our message was out of Joshua, and while it is Father's Day, the message was for all followers of Christ to be bold and courageous for His kingdom.

After church, we went to BeBe and Poppa's home for lunch.
We love afternoons spent with family, especially when good food is involved!

Baker and his Great Grandaddy Bell.
We love this man.

Four generations of Bell boys.

They look a little different than this time last year, but their focus clearly hasn't changed.

Before the downpour, we went outside to see all the new plants BeBe and Poppa had planted and take a few pictures.

I love these two more than words could ever express!

He never, ever sits still.
Unless he's sleeping.
These two are much more real life.
When he's with me, he's reaching for Daddy.
When we're sitting, he begs to stand.
Always on the go.
And all boy.
And always making us smile.
And I wouldn't trade it for anything!

The move this weekend left me a little nostalgic,
and even though we're still here and technically the move is moving me home, I feel a little homesick at the thought of leaving.
We said all along the move would be bittersweet, and very purposeful.

As we celebrated fathers and family today, I was reminded of God's love.
And His presence in our lives, wherever He may lead us.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
In Columbus, MS. In Tuscaloosa, AL.
Wherever He may lead us.
We will serve the Lord.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9