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Last Wednesday, as I was teaching a group lesson to my four, elementary students (K-2nd grade), a paper fell off of the back wall. It was quiet enough that the students could hear it fall (a miracle in itself).

I said, “There must be a mischievous elf back there.” I hadn’t realized how my casual statement would be received; their faces lit up like Christmas morning!

“What?!”

“Where?”

“Can we go look for him?”

I knew I would not get their attention back until they had their curiosity satisfied, so I let them go search. I told them that elves are shy and don’t like to be seen. Eventually, I called them back to the table.

Later, a 2nd grade student, Mark, asked if he could spend his 5 minute brain break looking for the elf. I told him he could do whatever he wanted for the 5 minutes. Mark raised one arm in the air and announced, “I am the Elf Hunter!” and was off looking on shelves and behind supply storage bins. Needless to say, he did not find the elf.

The elf event sparked something in me. I had wanted to do some kind of elf in the classroom, but I hadn’t known where to get one this late in the season and didn’t want to spend money on the original Elf on a Shelf. A Christmas miracle provided me with an invisible elf, at no cost!

The next day, while they were out on the playground for recess and one student, Evan, was back in the room with me due to a pesky head cold, I sneaked around the room and put all of the chairs down around the group table and their student work offices, as if they had been knocked over. When the students came back in, I was at my computer with my back to the room, and Evan was in the library corner quietly doing a math app on the iPad, oblivious to anything I had done.

Soon, Mark noticed the chairs knocked over.

“What happened to the chairs?! What did Evan do?”

“Evan was sitting quietly working the whole time, and I have been at my computer,” I replied.

“THE ELF!!” shouted Mark, with great excitement, followed by much chatter amongst the boys. They were jumping with excitement, literally.

“I guess we do have an elf that visits,” I responded. Luckily, lunch was next on our schedule.

The next day, Friday, was our last day before winter break. In the morning, we tried to follow our normal routine. In the afternoon, while the boys sat and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, my assistant and I put a book, with a pencil and note from the ‘elf’ inside it, on the students’ desks. The boys were so engrossed in the movie that they never noticed us.

After the movie, giddy with excitement, I waited patiently for the students to go to their desks. I finally told them to straighten up their desk areas, because I couldn’t take it any longer.

“There’s a new book on my desk!”

“Mine, too!”

“It looks like there is a note,” my assistant played along.

Mark excitedly read:

Dear Students in Room 129,

I have enjoyed visiting your classroom this week. Have a great break. Hopefully I will see you next year!

The Secret Elf,

Eugene

The boys exclaimed:

“He came, he came!”

“When did he come?”

“How come we didn’t see him?”

“I told you; elves don’t like to be seen,” I said, with a wink.

 

Names of students changed for confidentiality purposes.

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Snowbound and Loving It

In the last couple of days, temperatures were well below zero, the windchill was a dangerous 30-40 degrees below zero, and the sky dumped almost a foot of snow in less than 24 hours. Schools and governments shut down, roads and highways closed, and power outages reported. What to do?

Some may see this as a crisis, but on social media I have seen posts describing families playing together in the snow, family game nights, neighbors and strangers helping one another, and people having fun cooking at home instead of eating at restaurants. One family was enjoying the loss of power so much that they turned the lights back off after crews restored the power. Speaking of crews, thank you for your dedication and efforts in this cruel weather.

For me, I have enjoyed the quiet and stress free life of having no place to go, no commitments to fulfill, and the time to putter around my home. I also have had the time to cook AND clean up. The typical work day is up, shower, eat, drive, work 8-9 hours (sometimes longer), make phone calls during my commute home, grocery shop, workout, cook, clean up, laundry, prepare to do over the next day. A couple of nights a week, I also attend Bible study.

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My favorite activity the last couple of days was cooking soup. I have a sensitivity to canned soup, so I make my own, when I have the time. After two days, two stock pots, three pans, one crockpot, and many spoons, I now have 11 servings of soup (chicken and beef) in the freezer for school lunches, after my husband and I ate two meals from the original batches. If only I had gotten the standup deep freezer I asked for at Christmas, I could have made more. If I ration the frozen servings and the weather breaks by the end of February, I think I can get through the winter without making another mess, I mean batch.

The one thing I do miss is running! It is dangerously cold outside, and even this crazy, avid runner will not run with these temperatures and slick roads. Better to run another day than to go out and get hurt today. The travel restriction is upgraded from a warning to a watch, but the gym is still closed. My solution is to cover all exposed skin and take a snowy hike. Now would be a great time to have a pair of snow skis or snow shoes, but that will have to wait until next Christmas.

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Zoo 7-2-13

I had the pleasure of my grandson’s company for the last two days. The grass was wet yesterday, and the air was cool, which limited our outside activity options. Being of a spontaneous nature, I said, “Gavin, let’s go to the zoo!” He did not seem too thrilled, but his Uncle Jonathon was game, so off we went.

The cheetahs walking up to the glass, the Kodiak bear catching a scent, and the baby elephant throwing a stick and chasing it down amazed the adults. The 3-year-old had a blast climbing decorative rocks, running around the playground, talking to the pictures of orangutans on the coming attraction posters, playing with the faucet sensor in the bathroom and splashing water, eating goldfish crackers, and weaving in and out of the posts holding up the sign at the elephant exhibit. He counted the giraffes and enjoyed them, but other than that, he did not seem too impressed with the actual zoo experience (aka animals).

Our last activity was a ride on the carousel, and he did squeal “weeeee” for about 10 seconds.  After the ride stopped, Gavin stood on the back of his polar bear, but instead of coming into my open arms, he shimmied quickly up the pole. He rather enjoyed that, giggling as I tried to pull him down. The elderly carousel attendant was not too impressed with my grandson’s athletic prowess, but he waited patiently as I finally tickled Gavin loose of the pole. I smiled with a shrug at the crowd waiting to get on the ride as I carried the wriggling 3-year-old to the exit. All in all, it was a fun couple of hours at the zoo, regardless of age or preferred activity!

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I try to plan my trips around town to save gas. Yesterday, I went to a meeting, got my hair cut on the way home, mowed the grass, and got a massage.

When my massage therapist greeted me, she said, “I like your hair!”

I laughed out loud and said, “Really? Thanks, I just got it cut, it has not been rewashed, and it is wind-blown from cutting grass.”

Ali, I hope you keep cutting hair for a long time! Below is my next morning look, after being washed and slept on.

bed head

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Snot Balls

I just can’t seem to shake the phlegm from this end of school year cold. I will feel fine, and then I am blowing out, or coughing up, snot balls. Laughing at a commercial, snot ball. Running down the Monon, snot ball. Yelling at the Pacers for a stupid pass, snot ball. I feel much better than last weekend, but I would really like to get rid of these snot balls.

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When We Can’t Laugh

It is better to laugh, to have joy, but there are times when our joy is temporarily lost. The tragedy in Connecticut is an example. Many are left with questions in the aftermath: Why did this happen? Why children? Where was God? How could God allow this to happen?

Some will say there is no God, for a loving God would not let this happen. Some will say this happened because we do not allow God in our schools, but God is everywhere; we just choose not to acknowledge his presence. My faith tells me that things like this happen because of man’s free will and sin in the world. Our loving God grieves when we turn away from him and innocents are harmed, but the more we turn from Him, ignore His sovereignty, and keep Him separate from any part our lives, the more hate, violence, and despair we will experience.

Some will say, “Look at the Crusades, violence was committed in the name of God!” There is a difference between a man-made religious agenda and truly knowing the will of God through sincere prayer and study of the Bible.

Another argument is the violence of the Old Testament. This is an example of God’s judgment on earth under the old covenant, and at times innocent lives were lost; however, with Christ comes forgiveness, and judgment for the unbeliever is reserved for the afterlife. We do not escape judgment.

As human beings, we experience grief at the loss of any life, but it helps to remember that this world is temporary. The greatest tragedy is not death in this realm, but eternal separation from God in the next. I cannot justly explain faith in God in one post, but I leave you with this: If we truly sought to follow the two greatest commandments of the Bible, there would be a lot fewer tragedies like the one in Connecticut.

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Heavenly Run

Last Friday night, I had one of my best running experiences, ever. The night was dark and quiet, the air was still, and the Christmas lights were shining cheerily. The bells at the Catholic church next to our neighborhood let me know the time, as usual. Then, the real magic started. The bells continued to ring, but they were playing Christmas hymns. The bells played for the rest of my run and cool-down walk; the beauty of the evening overwhelmed me. My thoughts turned toward God, his power, his beautiful creation, and his love. I started to get choked up at the thought of God sending his son to earth as a baby, only to have him grow up and save us from our sins by dying on the cross. Near the end of my cool down walk, I found myself in front of a house with a large, wood nativity scene. I stood there for a few minutes, praying, as hymns floated through the air around me. On a planet inhabited by billions of people, I felt God’s presence right there on Village Drive.

I eventually finished my cool-down, but I came away with a refreshed sense of wonder at the true meaning of Christmas. Have you experienced a magical moment this season that brought you back to the true meaning of Christmas?

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