Monday, November 9, 2015

I Tried

It's Monday and a month since my dreary post. Sorry about that :/

Things are slowly moving in a better direction. I'm adjusting to our oldest son being out of the house and learning to let go of that "parental control." I'm working hard to step back and let him learn to live (mistakes and all) while figuring out the best way to help guide him when needed without seeming like I'm fussing. Tough balance.

In my last post, I also shared that I was teaching and the difficult time I was having adjusting to the job. Everything I'm experiencing, feeling, and thinking is completely normal for a first year teacher, I get that. However, after lots of weighed thoughts, prayers, and discussions, I decided to resign from teaching and the certification program because my family comes first and being a teacher just wasn't a fit for me.

I spent most of my day typing a detailed post sharing my thoughts, feelings, challenges of the work load, my lack of patience, things I've learned, classroom management stress, my work ethics, comparing my past experiences, etc...but teachers are the only ones who can really understand and appreciate most of those details. Plus, since my last post was a downer, I really don't want to sound negative again.

The past two years have been emotionally tough with living through Lily's cancer journey and my grandmother's sudden death last year, and the challenges of my job the year before. I just can't go on a third (or more) overly stressful year if I can help it. My confidence in my abilities took a bit hit, too. I have pushed my family to the side over these past few months for a career advancement and was always in a horrible mood. That's not fair to them, nor me, and I don't want to do that any more.

I'm not discouraging anyone from education and never will. I'm happy to see new teachers grow with true passion for education -- but for me, it's just not a fit, and that's ok. I'm really hard on myself so it's taking a lot of self-assurance not to consider this a failure or that I gave up too soon. I've been told by some that it takes a lot of courage to know when to walk away. I guess. I gave teaching a shot. I tried.

The program training gave me a good overview, understanding, and guidance for starting in the classroom and I probably would have been an effective teacher but the demands of the education profession is more than what I'd ever expected -- especially for me starting older and with a different background experience. I can say all the "I wish this..." and "If things were different (grade/school)" as I want but it doesn't matter all that much because I didn't feel successful or good at what I was doing.

I did enjoy working with my grade level team and getting to know the students, as well as learning more about the education profession. I enjoyed making items for my Disney-themed classroom. I am proud of our school district successes. This experience has only deepened my appreciation and admiration for teachers. Seriously, love your teachers - until you've walked in their shoes, you have NO idea what teachers do for our children's success.

So now what? I wish I could say that I have a fabulous new job that's totally suited for my personality, but I don't. I have to pick myself up like I've done in the past and move forward. I believe there is a reason why God leads us down certain paths. I'm desperately trying to figure out what he was trying to show me over these past six months but I'm sure that will come in time.

In the meantime, like the saying goes, "it's back to the drawing board." I'm brushing off the dust that collected on my Etsy shop: www.julietraffray.com and ready to work on new party designs :) I have my resume updated and out. I'm also considering again the option of becoming a Disney travel agent since anyone and everyone who knows me, knows I'm passionate for anything and everything Disney. For now, I'm looking forward to take some time to get my home and life back in order! Until next time...

xxoo,
Juliet

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Moving Out, Moving On and More Life Changes

It's been quite a while since I've posted. I had great posts planned over the past few months but never had the time to sit and finish them. I'm making time today but unfortunately this isn't a happy post....it's a vent or a pity party -- call it what you want. I have to get some of these things out of my head before I explode.

I've been busy. Incredibly busy. Ridiculously busy. Back in May, I decided to make a complete career change and apply for a new alternate teacher certification program with our school district. Out of over 100 applications, I was chosen to participate along with 15 others. We had four rigorous weeks of training which included teaching summer school. During this time, I also crashed studied to take multiple Praxis test (including 4 extra times for to pass math), leaving very little time for my family. After the training. I accepted the only position I could find, a kindergarten teaching position at a high-poverty area school.

At the beginning of the school year, I was excited, nervous, and overwhelmed -- nothing out of the ordinary for a new teacher. My husband was supportive and really stepped up to help with the kids. Now, eight weeks later, I'm drained and living in survival mode. I'm not going to write much about my classroom experience but it has been difficult for me to handle. The children are very sweet. They have a special place in my heart and as tired, overwhelmed, and stressed as I am, I get up every day to do what I can to teach them. I have learned a great deal about myself and the world of education over these past few weeks. Never had I thought education would encompass so much strategy, data tracking, planning, resources, tools, etc. I can't even begin to explain the amount of work a teacher has to do - I would say even more so in kindergarten. Believe me when I say, if you complain to me about your child's teacher, I will most likely not speak to you. You have no idea what they go through! God bless teachers and please do not discourage those who have a deep passion to teach.

This is by far the biggest challenge I've ever faced and for once in my life, I don't think I can make it to the end. Along with the amount of time and work that I've put into this career change, I have been under extreme stress and my family is really suffering. I'm constantly in a bad mood and becoming more and more angry about I don't know what. I thought I had what it takes to be a good teacher but now I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm too just old or set in my ways for this drastic of a change?

On top of all this stress and work, on Sunday, my oldest son moved out. He's 19. I know it's time since most kids his age move out to go to college. I was there once. It was a part of our plan for him but the problem is that he decided to move out without telling me. Long story short, I came home from working at a teacher's house to learn from my husband that he had moved out. They had a been working over the last few months to fix my mother-in-law's old trailer for him to move into sometime after graduation. We had a plan with a loose timeframe. He broke that plan. So, as you can imagine I was confused and heartbroken.

Even though the trailer is practically in our backyard, there is something about your first child moving out that is special. I'm working through he biggest range of emotions this week with this move that I can't even pin one down. To understand where I'm coming from, you have to know our journey and relationship. Him moving out, without anyone telling me, has made me feel more like an unimportant step-mom than ever. Along with how our relationship has deteriorated over the last few months, I feel like everything I've done for him didn't matter nor did I deserve the respect for even a text or call.

It just hurts because last year, we had a great year. We had grown really close in our "mom/son" relationship. We had defeated all of the issues we had before. Then graduation happened and a new job for him, this new teaching adventure happened for me, and our relationship gravely suffered. We sort of quit talking to each other. What hurts my heart too is his sweet girlfriend does even know the real me. I'm always in front of a desk or with classroom stuff since they started dating. I'm always barking or snapping at everything. So, she only knows me as this bitch :(

My week seems to continue to fall apart as tonight is Homecoming. Since his girlfriend is still in high school, they are going to do the Homecoming thing...but they did not come by so I could see how nice they looked. I saw them via Facebook. It's not his homecoming but still, it's something they are doing together, they are going to look great, and I won't get to be a part of it like I was able to in the past years. Last year, we went shopping together, had a good lunch. It was a nice day. This year, I didn't even know it was homecoming week. I know this sounds petty and jealous but every mom loves these things.

Another thing that has me seriously upset has to do with his birth mom and plans she has with him for tomorrow, which I will not discuss here out of respect for him. She has had very little to do with him for most of his life until recently (when all of the hard parenting work is done of course) and still randomly when it's convenient for her. I don't know why I let these things with my oldest son get to me so much...I guess just because I've been there for him for so many years and I care.

On top of all these new school expectations I don't know how to handle, I also don't know how to handle this change in life, especially with him. I've been having a difficult time letting him become a more independent young adult and now moving out and moving on. I know I'm technically his step-mom but I've been his mom for 14 years. He's called me mom for 14 years. I've raise and cared for him...I've seen him through school and sports...I've laughed and cried with him...I've been mom. Why do I feel like I'm being shut out? Why now? We have always been a close nit family and for many years it was The Three Amigos - Roger, Juliet, Brendon. But now, he's distanced himself from our family in general. He's gone every night and weekend, either at school or with his girlfriend and her family, and not attending his little brother and sister's events. Very rarely do they spend time at our home and if they do, they go straight to his room to watch a movie. I know it's because he's 19 but I can't help but feel it's all to avoid me. I'm desperately recalling my memories and old feelings from when I was 19 to help calm my nerves and go with it.

This post is all over the board. I'm sorry. Like I mentioned, I'm dealing with a range of emotions I can't seem to work through. There are worst things in life, but I've had a difficult past two years and now going on a third. Each year had chipped away at my self-esteem and I don't know how much more I can take.

With all of this, I'm reconsidering my role in this teaching career. Is it just me or should a first year teacher really be stressing this much??? For some of those going through this program, they are doing very well and I am happy for them. But for me, I just don't see it. I handle change ok but I'm dealing with too much change in my life right now. As a controlling person, I'm completely out of control. I'm very hard on myself but I just feel like my world and my family is falling apart. I blame it my big change. I'm stressed, I cry all the time. I barely do anything with my kids. My marriage seems rocky. My house is just not kept. My head hurts and I have had a hoarse voice for 8 WEEKS! I can't put off the school work because I'll fall behind and my students will suffer.

Why am I blogging about this? Honestly, I have no idea. It's not anyone's business what's going on in my home or work life. I know I sound whiny, childish, jealous, and bitter, but writing can be therapeutic - so there you go. Events this week have just sent me over the edge. I'm in a hole that I hope I can get out of very soon. I desperately want to quite feeling this way but I don't know how. I dealt with my daughter going through cancer better than I'm handling things now.

I started rebuilding my relationship with God last year and I was happy. We had no money but I was home with my kids and my life was good. Now, I have no desire to pray. I have no desire to do anything for that matter. So, I'm asking for continued prayers. Prayers that I can get out of this slump and get my life back. I'm only holding myself together for my family.

I hope in my next post you will find me in a much better place.

xxoo,
Juliet

While finishing up this blog post, my husband just got home from running errands and handed me a box of chocolate cover cherries. My favorite. No matter how tough things are, I do love this man. Baby steps.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Graduation Day!

Pre-K Graduation, 2001
High School Graduation Day.

It's finally here!

Fourteen years ago, right about this time of year, a precious little blue-eyed boy walked into my life. A spitting image of his father, and just as sweet, Brendon become a permanent part of my life.

Some of the first pictures I have of Brendon start from his pre-school graduation.

In the beginning, I often refereed to our family as "instant family, just add water" and Brendon as my "labor-less child." I still call him that :) We were the Three Amigos -- at least until Luke and Lily came along.

Milestone events, such as graduation, stir up lots of reflections and sometimes even regrets. Being a "step-mom" its tough. Our journey has been the hardest, funnest, wildest, and even at times the most uncomfortable roller coaster ride I have ever been on. I enjoy coasters but there were many times when I wanted to get off the ride and would have jumped from the highest spot. However, I've never been a quitter. Our family was always much more important to me than taking that easy way out and our relationships have grown stronger by working through the rough times. This is love. Besides, I always felt Brendon deserved to see and understand how mothers are suppose to support, love, and stand by their children through the most vulnerable, impressionable, and precious years of their lives since his birth mom had taken that easy road (and that's all I'm going to say about that).

God knows what he's doing. I know that He put me in Brendon's life, alongside his dad, to guide him and give him the family life and support he deserves. We've given it our best shot. But God also put him in my life and I can't image it without him. I can honestly say, not only is he my son but also one of my best friends. We certainly did not get to this point overnight. We've fought, yelled, laughed, cried, joked, hugged, etc...sometimes all in one day...but we've grown to have an special understanding about each other and a wonderful bond, plus tons of funny inside jokes.

Ring Day, 2014
So here we are finally at the big day! We made it. I say "we" because it has certainly been a family and teacher joint effort. When I say I'm proud of Brendon, I say it with such a full and truthful heart. School was never easy for him. Roger and I stood by him through late night, last minute homework and project assignments (with lots of frustration and tears), conduct marks, parent/teacher conferences, band performances, 4-H projects, Cub Scouts, etc. I always stayed in touch with teachers and checked grades and missed assignments online. I cannot thank the teachers enough who helped encourage and challenge Brendon to get to this day.

Funny thing and in typical Brendon fashion, we are beyond late on taking Senior pictures. So, I'll have to add his picture after today because the only picture I care to share is the one in his cap/gown holding that prize diploma!

With all my love and happiness, Congratulations and enjoy your day, son!

xxoo,
Juliet

Update: 
He got it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not Worring...but Now What?

I am going on 6 months of "not working." Yes, I put not working in quotes because I do work -- at home. I resigned from my job not long after Lily started treatment to be home for my family. During these months of being a stay-at-home mom, I've settled into my own daily routine. I'm so thankful to be home just to see the kids get on and off the bus since it was one of my worries this school year.

Once the kids are off in the morning, I drink my coffee, read my Bible and meditations from The Word Among Us, and talk to Alex the Cat who sits at the window seal. It's quite and peaceful. Whether the birds chirp or the rain pours, it's so refreshing. I'm happy to have gotten back into my morning prayer time, too. I feel like I've found an old friend again.

Mondays have become my laundry day and every other week, I do my big house cleaning. Family budget reconciling is daily and I have switch the majority of my shopping online thanks to Amazon Prime and my Melaleuca membership. I can't tell you how much this has cut down impulse buying and provided healthier lifestyle options for our family, so much so that I've become a rep for the company. I'd love to share more about Melaleuca's products. If you are curious, send me a message via my contact form on the side bar. I also spend a portion of my daytime working to build my invitation and party printables design business by filling orders on my Etsy shop and other special projects.

I've enjoyed being home -- it's the least I've been stressed in years, despite so many life-changing challenges. I know this was all part of God's plan to see me through Lily's cancer journey and my grandmother's untimely death. I was where I needed to be for my family. 

We were blessed to receive such unexpected, generous support and loving understanding from family and friends during this time. But, I pinned the month of March as my red flag month. The month where, OMG how are we going to pay for this and that? would start. Worry, stress, and anxiety were creeping their ugly faces out on Tuesday night when I was crunching our family budget and the reality of it hit. Once again, God listened and spoke to me the next morning when both of my daily meditations were about "not worrying." As I've surprisingly handled everything this past year, I took it in, relaxed, and assured myself that things will work out as it has been. 





Although life is back to normal and I stay busy with mom-work and my growing little side jobs, I know it's time to get back into the "real working world" because it's just not enough to contribute to our family needs at this time. Besides, being creative is a passion I enjoy too much - which usually means lots of extra uncompensated hours ;)

I admit, I've been picky about where I'm submitting my resume. I know, it's not the best way to go about finding a job. I guess I feel as I'm pushing closer to 40 years old, I understand my qualifications, know what I do and don't like to do, what is and what isn't a priority, etc. One thing I know for certain is that I really want to work closer to home to continue to be available as needed for the kids. In the past, I've made some career changes in hopes of development and advancement. Some of these choices have been great and some...lets just say I've learned the grass is not greener on the other side. However, job searching at my age is a double-edge sword. I look at this time as a chance to start over or even try something new, but on other side I feel like I'm a new college grad again having to prove myself... sigh...

So, recently I've made the decision to try my luck at substitute teaching, at least until something permanent and more closely related to my experience comes along. My mom was a teacher, my cousin is a master teacher and my grandmother was a substitute teacher...so I figure I have some natural ability, right? LOL!

I know I won't be as cool as this...


pray I won't be like this...


I hope I'm exactly like this....

 
Did you watch this clip until the end? It's so great! LOL!!!

Feel free to comment and share any substitute teaching or career advice below - I'll take it all :)

Whatever new career path I take, I want it to be one that I enjoy, where I can pave the road nicer than it was before, and where I can grow both personally and professionally on that journey.

xxoo,
Juliet

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My DisneySide @Home Celebration

In my last post, I shared some background on how I was DisneySide-ing before #DisneySide was Cool :) This past Sunday I was able to share all of my favorite sides of Disney at my @Home Celebration! I had received a sweet package of free products from Disney Parksand MomSelect in order to host my Disney Side @Home Celebration and the opinions I share in my posts are my own.

We had a small gathering due to some of my invited guests having scheduling conflicts. Those who attend had a fun time and loved the decorations! I didn't really have a theme per se but more showcasing the sides of Disney that I like. I kept the party fairly simple and tried to use all of the provided products.We are a coffee drinking family so my party was centered around "coffee time" with a yummy Mickey cake and Mickey cookies.

A Duff Goldman tie-dyed cake mix was provided in the package. This was a fun cake to make! The colors were so vibrant after the cake baked.

How about here? 
Lily loves to help bake.
Do you see the hidden Mickey?
Here's our finished Mickey Mouse cake! 

The first batch of my Mickey Mouse cookies were an epic fail but the rest turned out just great and yummy!





For the Disneyland 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration favor boxes, I added the perfect shiny treat --Hersey's Kisses, or as we call them, Silver Bells.


I try to make environmentally conscious decisions in my daily lifestyle choices, so a #DisneySide that I give two thumbs up for is their commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation. I recycled some of my old gift bags for goodie bags and filled each with the products -- complimentary luggage tags, a pack of HP CMYK paper, tattoos, and a Diamond Celebration favor box. I also pulled a few interesting facts from The Walt Disney Company website for a "Did You Know?" info sheet. Here are some of the bullet points I included:

  • Disney reduces environmental impact through innovations, such as the trains at Disneyland Resort which run on biodiesel made with cooking oil from the resort’s restaurants and hotels.
  • Recycling at our parks is an important part of our approach to Disney's long-term goal of zero waste.
  • In 2009, Disneyland Resort was recognized with California’s highest and most prestigious environmental honor for water conservation efforts used in the World of Color attraction.

Another #DisneySide fan favorite I represented was fireworks! We had a few color sparklers left from New Years so we let the kids light them up.


Since my party was centered around coffee time, I asked each guest to bring their favorite Disney coffee cup. If they forgot, I had set out all of my past vacation resort mugs...for some reason I did not take a picture of them :(  
I designated another area to show my #DisneySide love for animation. I displayed some of my Disney animation books, snow globes, and artwork.



Shared #DisneySide scrapbook memories.
Some of our Disney friends also showed up :)



Even our youngest guest was sporting her #DisneySide!
Shared my D23 Magazines.
Games and prizes table.



The kids enjoyed Disney Bingo and Pin the Smile on Mickey. I think some of the kids were a little "Goofy."





And for some, just a little time to relax and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was just as fun.


Thank you Disney Parks, Maria Bailey, and the MomSelect team for selecting me to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration and providing me with the free products to share with my Disney friends.

We had quite a few items left from out party. I'm planning to save the Disney Princesses nail polish, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse pencils, card games, Crayola colors, and leftover goodie bag items for a St. Jude fundraiser tea party my family is hosting this June - stay tuned! I'd also like to donate the ALL detergent and Snuggle and Wisk samples to our church food pantry. Finally, we'll put all these fun Disney party decorations and games to good use again for my nephew's (pictured above) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse birthday party!

Feel free to share my post and leave a comment, maybe even your favorite #DisneySide story.

Sincere thanks again!!

xxoo,
Juliet

Thursday, February 19, 2015

DisneySide-ing before #DisneySide was Cool

Yes, I totally hear the Barbara Mandrell song in my head while reading that title. LOL!

In preparation for my Disney Side @ Home Celebration this weekend, I thought this post was fitting... especially on "Throwback Thursday." 
I received free products from Disney Parks and MomSelect in order to host a Disney Side @ Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.

It's no secret I'm a huge Disney fan! My fanfare started at a very young age.

My cute little sister at 5 mos old.
One of my earliest memories of my love for Disney was in 1983 when I was 7 years old and I learned we were getting The Disney Channel. I can still remember my excitement - I think I may have even cried! LOL! When my dad signed us up for The Disney Channel with Cablevision, they had given him Mickey Mouse ears as part of the promotion for the channel.

However, thanks to my memory-keeping mother, she shared these pictures from my 6th birthday party in 1982 with these ...umm... interesting Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck characters. LOL! I have no idea who the dog is suppose to be in the bottom picture, maybe Pluto??

You can always count on a little brother to be silly.
With The Disney Channel, we woke up to do morning exercises with Mousercise and before bedtime we watched cartoons on Mouseterpiece Theater. As a young teen, I wanted nothing more than to be a star on Kids Incorporated or The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. And, on Sunday nights we'd watch The Magical World of Disney as a family. It's funny as I was doing a little nostalgia searching on YouTube for this post, I can still recite the opening songs to all these programs and more.

My deepest passion has always been for Disney's animation. As a young girl all the way through probably my sophomore year of college, I wanted to be a Disney Animator. I drew Disney characters all the time! With the rebirth of Disney's animation in the early 90s from The Little Mermaid ('89), Beauty and the Beast ('91), Aladdin ('92), I was inspired to write a high school term paper called "Music in Disney's Animation"...it was perfect! I also corresponded with the Disney Animation Dept. to find out which colleges Disney animators attended. But in the end, I followed my mother's footsteps and became a LSU Tiger {Geaux Tigers!}.

Some of my old sketches:

"Be Our Guest!"
"Combination hookah and coffee maker.."




I also started pin collecting at an early age. I bought my first pin from the Animation Courtyard on a Disney vacation in 1993. My mom used to buy me pins, too. I think the pin trading started in 2000 because for some reason, I have a quite a few from that year. I'm not a huge fan of pin trading because I like the pins I bought or received. LOL! I buy pins on vacations and have started my kids with their own collections as well.

Disney's College Program

The summer after my freshman year at LSU, I was accepted to attend Disney's College Program. I was going to work for Disney!!! I truly believe The Disney Company laid the foundation for my work ethics that has carried on to today. I'm not going to say it was always magical - it was my first big job and my first time away from home - so needless to say, I was miserable half of the time. But, the memories of walking down Main Street at night with all the lights and no crowds were worth every tear. This summer will be 20 years since I participated in College Program - wow, I'm feeling old but I still have my Ducktorate Degree!

After all this, I graduated from LSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. Call it cold feet or just the changes in life, but I will never understand why I did not pursue my animation dream. I guess that's why I enjoy designing party invitations so much because it's like capturing my own an animation still. Anyway....

DisneySide-ing Over The Years

Fast-forwarding a bit...I've showing my #DisneySide at my wedding with our napkins, for Halloweens, and in my kids' rooms.

Halloween 2004

My sister and I painted the Toy Story mural.
I also believe I was a member of any official Disney fan club (Ha!), including now, D23. The quarterly publication alone is worth the membership fee. It's beautifully put together with lots of interesting photos and articles full of insight and details on what's going on with the company! Before then, I had a subscription to the Disney Magazine. Remember that?

DisneySide-ing With My Kids

When the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse debuted in the summer of 2006, my son was 6 months old. I was so excited that a new generation of kids would grow up to learn and love the Disney Fab 5. It's been a great entertaining and educational program for the kids. My 5 year old still watches it, especially I {Heart} Minnie Mouse and Minnierella. And...sometimes...from behind a book, I'll see my 9 year old sneak a peek :)

I've had such fun planning birthday parties with the Disney themes my kids loved. As my kids have gotten older, they like to help with the party plans, decorations, and baking the cake. I've cherished each party.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Birthday:


AristoCats Birthday:

She loves pink, flowers, and cats!
My sweet little invitation.

Cinderella Birthday:

Another pretty invitation I designed.


And of course, Frozen Birthday:

My Frozen-themed invite...
printables on Etsy ;)
...with matching party...




DisneySide @ Home Celebration

I was shocked and excited to be selected by Disney Parks and MomSelect to host a DisneySide @ Home Celebration. I've seen so many cute ideas on social media from other celebrations and I have a few interesting takes on ways I'll show our DisneySide for our party. I received the free products below in the celebration kit - which included party decorations and games. All opinions expressed are my own and I can't wait to share my photos from our celebration! So stay tuned!


Our package reveal:

video

It's apparent that I can go on and on about how much of a role the World of Disney has played in my life - and now in the lives of my children. To me, Disney is so much more than theme parks, movies, and money (as some always think) but inspiration for imagination, getting goose bumps to musical scores, where no detail is too small, always involving the family, and to knowing that...
"All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney.

xxoo,
Juliet