A Little Fine Tuning

I am not an expert in everything. I am not sure how it works in most professions, but in teaching, many educators set out to change the world. Man. That’s a pretty hefty task. Without a doubt people enter into the field of education because of a genuine heart, an overabundance of patience, a knowledge base (of something) that is like no other, and a strong desire to affect change. Teachers look at how they can change the world, many times, without looking closely at how they can change themselves.

Can you deeply challenge someone, shape a mind, encourage divergent thinking when you…yourself are unwilling to change?

I am sure we have all fallen into a rut. Found a niche that offers comfort and security. It’s really easy to stay here in the comfort zone while juggling life, love, family, education, work, friends, and whatever else life has weighing heavily on your mind. It’s really easy.

When I look back at the last sixteen years, I see someone who has grown up in her profession. What started out as a great job with Summers off turned into so much more. I see someone who gave two years of her life to the inner city. Working with the most challenging students dealing with the most emotional circumstances. I see someone who fine tuned her skills and gained a tremendous amount of experience working with students facing learning challenges (and emotional challenges). I led students in community awareness, fund raising, and giving back. I organized committees and led multicultural awareness. I like to think I fostered a love of learning in many who otherwise never wanted to learn. I coached, mentored, disciplined, encouraged, listened, and loved like so many teachers do. Everyday. I see someone who furthered her education year after year so that she could reach more people. I see someone who left many days of work with a warm heart.

Then things started to change. Over the last three years I was working at in a job that was very comfortable. I was teaching the same lesson six times a day which made it very easy to come in and leave right on time. This worked as I had made friends, good friends that made this seem manageable. This worked as I had a baby and was giving more time to my family. This worked as I was ready for a break and needed to reattached to life in general. This worked as I received positive feedback. This worked as I came across a few students who really needed me. However, I wasn’t involved in anything extra (for the first time) and no one had any expectations of me (other than teaching my classes). I would see my former self in a few of the other teachers but never went out of my way to say “Hey, I’m like you!” Nope. I came in, did my job, and left. It was kind of nice at first. It was really easy. It wasn’t me.

When I realized I was in a rut, I decided it was time for a change. I know myself. I didn’t have the warm heart or the passion for instruction. I didn’t have the desire to stay late and join committees. I didn’t feel connected and I wasn’t doing anything about it. Professionally I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t changing.

So I made a change. When the school year rolls around I will return to teaching in a school where I don’t know a soul. I will again have my own classroom of fun little people who I can grow and shape in a diversity of subjects and experiences. I will be in a self-contained classroom which means I will keep the same group of students all day. I will teach them everything. I can connect to their families. I hope to build character in myself and in them. I am excited. I am nervous. I am second guessing myself continuously. This is the place where I know I am at my best. I remember a few years ago a principal told my class (at the beginning of the year) that they were lucky to have me as a teacher. I hope to hear this again and feel this again. I hope to make a change in their lives. And in mine.

tree pic


World’s Greatest Gifts

We live in a world that is materially driven.  You might look online to see popular Father’s Day gifts or Christmas gifts or birthday gifts.  People post pins on Pinterest of items they long to posses. In the end…who cares?  I don’t truly always remember/treasure a single present that I was gifted or a “thing” that I was given.  What I remember most are are the valuable times spent with loved ones.

 I remember cooking dinner with my grandma while on vacation.  It was “our night” to make dinner.  We made BBQ chicken and twice baked potatoes.  And probably a vegetable, but what kid remembers that?  I remember she was messy and I thought that was cool.  And everyone loved the meal that we had prepared.  I remember Saturday night dinners with family on my Dad’s side.  My grandpa would tell me stories of when ” he was a little girl….”.  We had Sunday cookouts with my Mom’s side and there were a thousand and one people running around.  This was cool.  This was family!

Today people get so busy.  It seems that buying the perfect present for the perfect occasion will create happiness.  Does it really?  So this leads me to think about the world’s greatest gifts.  Here they are:

  • Kings Island’s 10p.m. fireworks.  My kid thinks they are magic.
  • Horses they live in our neighborhood.  Even while throwing up grass, my kid thinks they rule the world.
  • Family who will care for your child at any time.  For any length of time.
  • A husband to tell you….you are a good mom.  That is the greatest compliment!
  • An education that allows you to do what you love and provide for your family.
  • Dogs who love you unconditionally.  No matter what.  
  • A home that feels like a home even when you haven’t had a sink in 12 days and dishes are piling up in your bathroom!?
  • A backyard that can make you feel like you are on vacation if you have enough wine.


unforeseen conversation

The end of a school year can be awfully crazy!  Chaotic even under the most structured circumstances.  Students who have been taking six academic classes back to back to back all day, all year are literally at their breaking points.  Behaviors are presenting themselves that do not normally appear.  And it’s frustrating sometimes.  Trying to keep it all together.  Yesterday, I literally said, “I am considering hitting my head against a desk until I pass out!”  

And then today, I had the most unexpected conversation.  With a very unexpected student.

Student:  “Mrs. Gross, I think you should teach preschool.”

Me: ” Really?  Preschool…why?”

Student:  “You are always so peppy.  You come into class dancing around and you make us laugh.  You’re so funny.”

Me:  “Thank you!  So, you think I am happy all of the time and full of energy?” (Completely surprised because I feel exhausted and cranky…)

Student: “Yes, because you are always smiling.  And your happiness and your peppiness will make the little people happy.  We need the little people to be happy.  They are the ones that need you to keep them happy.” 

…and our conversation continued from there.

 It’s tough sometimes being a teacher.  Thinking outside of yourself.  Constantly.  It isn’t always left or right, right or wrong.  There is such a huge grey area in teaching.  And I think I had forgotten part of that grey area until today.  And it simply took the words of the most unforeseen student to remind me.  


A Boy and His Dog

Carson was our baby.  Before we had a baby.  Ryan used to take Carson to Mc Donald’s every Friday afternoon for a cheeseburger (without onions).  Carson would happily ride in the passenger seat beside Ryan.  I would take Carson to the Lunken Airport Dog Park almost everyday after work for a few hours of running and playing.  We took him on errands and over to visit family.  He slept in our bed every night and I would fall asleep to the feel of his heartbeat.

Then we had a baby!

Needless to say things changed.  Greatly.  A little human requires so much time, attention, and care that our first baby (and his sister pup) became fiddles two and three. (I am referring to ‘second fiddle’).  I can tell it has been a tough transition for Carson.  He misses the attention.

Recently, Jackson and Carson have become more like brothers.  They engage in play.  They are always looking out for each other.  They chase each other in the backyard and roll around in the grass.  Carson will even try to play with Jackson’s hot wheel cars by rolling them ever so gently with his paw.  Then Jackson and I tease him by asking him what happened to his thumb.

With the playing also comes some fighting.  Carson will steal toys and destroy them out of jealousy.  Jackson has been known to kick, bite, and hit Carson.  Carson will offer a stern warning.  And Jackson will cry.  On those days, I have to talk to those two, give time-outs, and encourage apologies with hugs.

Carson has been waiting his whole life for this boy!  Some people say they can’t imagine not giving their child a sibling.  I can’t imagine not giving my child a dog.  Or my dog a boy.



I have spent the last two years, three months, and twenty-seven days entertaining my son.  I have rocked him, fed him, jiggled him, swayed him, and shushed him.  I have sung made-up and real songs to him, read books, told stories, and danced with him.  I have played with playdoh, paints, crayons, markers, cars, trucks, puzzles, balls, apps, and a million and one battery operated toys.  We have gone on vacations, visited  zoos, pools, parks, libraries, and random trips to stores for entertainment’s sake.  We’ve gone on walks and runs.  We have ridden power-wheel quads down the middle of the street.  Almost every moment both day and night have been consumed by him.

Just in the last few weeks, Jackson has developed friendships in the neighborhood.  As we are driving home, in the afternoons, he will ask for “Sophie” or “Cooper”.   When he sees them he cheers.  Loudly!  “YEA it’s play time with (insert name).  And this play makes him so happy; he tells me “it’s fun!”  They play outside and build imaginary ships stocked with treasure.


They gather water and dump it on each other or the dog.


They kick balls and drive monster trucks.  Inside, the fun turns into racing cars and trucks or and pretend cooking in the play kitchen.  Sometimes, Jackson gives me a Spiderman lunch box packed with plastic food items.  He is so proud to hand me a lunch he has packed.  It’s my “lunch for work”, we tells me.  With Spohie, he plays house where she is happily the Mommy and he the baby.


Having little people friends is totally age/developmentally appropriate.  Jackson needs space to create his own style of imaginative play with other kids.  He needs friends and social interaction (other than Mommy).  Part of me feels a tiny bit sad.  This is the first time he hasn’t needed me to fulfill a need.  His social needs are starting to be met elsewhere.  And honestly speaking, it is nice (sometimes) to sit on the side lines and just watch.  I haven’t sat much at all in the last two years, three months, and twenty-seven days.  I have started playing Candy Crush Saga and Pop Tunes while I watch them play.  That’s fun!

Then every once in a while (during his play time) he walks over to me with the sweetest look and says, “Mommy, what you doing?”  It’s almost like he is checking on me to be sure I am okay without him.  And I am.  And he is.


It’s been so long since my last post!  Sometimes life gets so busy we forget to find the time for the little things like blogs, friends, sleeping, eating…!

Last week marked Jackson’s first official soccer….er…class!?  He (we) joined a Lil’ Kickers soccer program for two year old soccer players (plus one…Mom!).  He loves it!


When we first arrived, Jackson was obsessed with the soccer balls.  He loves to drop kick, but has a bit of trouble keeping the ball on the ground!  The class started off with a few warm ups followed by a brief circle time which involved teamwork and following directions.  Then the boys (what the heck, no girls signed up?) were given some time with the soccer balls.They practiced kicking goals by pretending to “feed the animals”.  I tried to explain that the “animal” reference was a metaphor…but J wasn’t quite ready for THAT lesson.


I love how the hour class is broken into tiny segments for tiny attention spans.  It fits so well with his active personality.  One segment involves kicking and stomping bubbles (just feet, not hands), another builds coordination through stacking towers with cones and knocking them over.  The class really emphasizes teamwork, taking turns, and simple skills like naming colors and following directions.

Towards the end of class, the boys get some parachute time.  I remember this from elementary gym class.  There is something magical about sitting under a cocooned, colorful parachute singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider!  After all of the fun, the boys and coach head across the field for a team cheer.  And stamps!  Big soccer ball stamps!  On both hands.  And maybe a stomach.


Mom’s Lunch

Step one:  Prepare a roasted chicken, carrots, and roasted tomatoes for your sit down family dinner.  Then smile politely when no one eats eat and package it up as left overs.

Step two:  Reheat roasted chicken and veggies for lunch the next day for your toddler.  Smile and redirect when he says he’d rather play with cars.  After redirecting fourteen million times, turn the chicken and carrots into a chicken salad and place on whole grain bread.

Step three:  Take bites of toddler’s sandwich to show him how yummy it would be….if he tried eating his lunch.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on the chicken salad and smile as toddler picks pieces of cheese off one by one to eat them.

Step four:  Offer your toddler yogurt. Take a bite of yogurt off of your shirt after its flung in your direction.  Eat the remnants of the chicken salad sandwich and take a bite of cold roasted chicken as you package everything back up.