There's no CRYING in first grade! (Well, maybe just the teacher....)

We have a very eclectic class this year. Actually, in our particular school, we have an eclectic class every year but for some crazy reason this year’s group seems even more diverse. 

As many of you know, we have morning meeting every day.   We spent some time on Monday morning sharing about what our families did over the holidays.  I always try to keep the children focused on the person who is “telling sharing”, but you know how that goes.  Inevitably some kids are…well….easily distracted. One girl was braiding another’s hair.  George was obsessed with something in his pocket, Ben had to go to the bathroom, Zoe was picking at the tape on the carpet, and the two girls from China were hugging each other and rolling on the floor.

The kids shared about traveling, going to the movies, cool TOYS that they got, great playdates that they had, etc.  

Then it was Tamir's turn.  I’m not sure anyone caught the “news” that he was sharing about his Christmas. 

“We went to my cousins house and we celebrated Christmas but I got no presents.” He looked around the circle and said again, “I got no presents for Christmas.” 

I was stunned into silence, my heart broken for the child who must have thought that Santa had completely forgotten him.  I know that this young fella’s family doesn’t follow the religious teachings that we find commonplace in our country, and he never wanted to share his own family’s traditions with the class.  

The kids quickly continued around the circle to finish the telling sharing portion of the morning, and I was convinced that the children either hadn’t heard him, or were trying so hard to remember their own telling sharing that there wasn’t room in the brains to process what Tamir had shared.

The class worked very hard all day and played happily during recess and play time.  The telling sharing was all but forgotten. 

Or so I thought.

Tuesday morning Alisa walked into the classroom and pulled me aside. 

“Ms. Smythe, is Tamir here yet?” she asked in a quiet voice.

“No, I don’t think so,” I answered.  “Why?”

 "Well, remember yesterday when he said that he didn’t get any Christmas presents?”

I nodded,  slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t remembered myself.

“Well,” she whispered as she opened her backpack slightly so I could peek in, "I brought him some presents.” 

Oh my Lord if THIS isn’t the best job in the world I don’t know what is!

Now pass the tissues again, I am having another moment…..


There are many things blowing in the breeze...and that can be glorious.

I’ve carried a burden in my heart for 30 years. 

It’s a burden I had somehow managed to tuck into an envelope and move to the farthest reaches of my heart. It stays hidden there most of the time, but occasionally I hear it gently knocking as a reminder of its presence. 

My mother died thirty years ago. She was a widow after losing her husband seven years earlier, and moved to Orlando when her three children were out on their own.  She found a full time job with the Civil Service, a part time job at a department store and made many friends.  She was dating a younger man from our hometown, and enjoying her time in Orlando with folks she had met when we lived there years ago.

I attended law school in California and had convinced my younger brother to join me.  College simply wasn’t for him, and he ended up playing baseball for a triple A ball team in San Diego. My sister married a Navy man and was living in Charleston.  My mother was an empty nester.
Then The Powers That Be played a cruel joke on all of us.  She died suddenly after a fall in her kitchen. 

For many years I felt incredibly guilty for leaving the nest.  I felt just horrible for convincing my brother to come out west, leaving her alone.  It’s a burden I've never been able to shake.  I don't think of it as often these days, but it still manages to make my heart ache every once in a while. 

Until now.

It happened when I was enjoying some quiet moments at the beach over Thanksgiving break. Oh sure, being in the Cayman Islands on a white sandy beach can make any burden seem tiny, but this particular trouble was an important one.

I was sitting in a chair looking out at the water and had an epiphany.  I’ve HEARD of epiphanies, but I pretty much thought they came with sounding trumpets and showers of confetti.

I was wrong.

Instead, it came on the gentle ocean breeze whispering into my heart.  It told me a secret that mothers keep. 

It told me that my mother was not lonely those many years ago.  It told me that she wasn’t angry about her chicks flying away.  It told me that she was very proud of their winged flights and of the paths they were walking. It told me that she was moving forward with her own life and happy and proud that her children were moving on with theirs.  It told me that mothers know when it’s time for their children to move forward with their own journeys and that it was okay.

The breeze delivered me forgiveness for a burden I needn’t have been carrying. 

That beautiful, sweet ocean breeze picked up that tiny envelope that I had tucked away in my heart, put a stamp on it,sent it blowing across the water and set me free.



Yep, THOSE were the days....

The Christmas Letters- Part One...

I can’t believe another year has come and gone. I just don’t believe it!  The older I get, the faster time flies.  One unfortunate thing about getting older is the whole memory loss issue.  Of course, as many of you know, my memory was never good.  This puts me at quite a disadvantage in the getting older relay race.  However, I will try very hard to retrieve some of the more exciting events of this past year. 

The good news is - we made it through the year without any arrests, or any late night phone calls from any parents regarding strange adventures during sleepovers. (We’ll just leave it at that.)  Bitchy is 18, and can’t wait to go far, far away to college. We just laugh because, frankly, she’ll be lucky if we can afford Empire Beauty School.  She is very excited, however, to be going to college, and there are many days that I offer to pack her bags myself.  She is working at Wegmans, and we are thrilled that she pays for her own gas and Starbucks. (It’s not a good sign when all the employees at Starbucks know her name and what she orders…)  But, I do admit that life with a girl who is 18 is MUCH, MUCH better than life with a girl at 15.  Speaking of a girl at 15, Sassy has given new meaning to the phrase “screaming lunatic.”  We are not looking forward to reliving the last 3 years.  (Ha)  But, the good news is, she is kicking butt in field hockey.  She’ll continue to play indoor during the winter, which we hope will keep her focused, and in the gym instead of here at home terrorizing her family. (We really do love them, you know.)

The Golden Boy is 9, and again loved playing football. Not so much the practices, the running, or the conditioning, but loved the games.   They finally put him on the offensive line, a position we knew he was born to play.  He’s still a little depressed right now, however, because last week his sisters held him down and told him there was no Santa.  (Yes, football players cry.)  We are just furious, and if we thought we could get away with it we would cancel Christmas for those two grinches!  (Someday when he is 6’3 and holding them down, they’ll be sorry, right Bobby?)

I am having a blast writing a monthly column for the local paper, and am trying to keep up with an accompanying blog.  I still love teaching kindergarten, but am very exhausted at the end of the day, mostly from laughing, but also from keeping 20 six year olds from hurting each other and eating strange things off the carpet.   

We continue to pray for Kathy, Bruce, AnnaBelle and David, as they try to find their way through this time of such terrible sorrow.  We also send prayers to our cousin Tim as he wages his own battle with cancer.  Yep, we thank God every day for His blessings, and pray He is keeping our departed loved ones close at hand.

Well, as always, peace and love to you all –

The Vodka family....