The Journey up the Mountain

I’ll be honest…this post is unlike most of the other’s you’ll read on my blog. It’s very candid- as if we were sitting down at a coffeehouse together. It’s time that I share this part of my life with you. I was scrolling through pictures from 2018, and I happened on one that stopped me in my tracks. It’s a selfie from a year ago, and it’s got me all up in my feelings. Here’s the story behind the picture…


The Journey to the Foothills

Ever since I was a little girl, doctors’ offices had been a very familiar place for me. I’m not going to get into it all here, but one of the doctors I was seeing was an eye doctor because I was born with something called Dwayne Syndrome.

Dwayne Syndrome looks different for different people, but for me, my right eye could never track over to the right. The muscles didn’t work quite right, and even when I tried, the eyeball wouldn’t budge past the center. It never bothered me as a kid, but it was always there.

As I got into my teens, whenever I would get really stressed, the eye would basically scream I NEED REST by pulling in to the center of my face. The muscles would get so tired that they would give up and I could feel my eyeball out of place. It was uncomfortable and I felt self-conscious about it. The only way to reset it was sleep. And, of course, this would happen at the most inopportune times. My doctor said that whenever I felt like I needed it, we could try surgery to pull the eye back to center, but there were no guarantees it would stay that way.

The Start of the Climb

Fast forward to my twenties and, in a series of about five years, the muscles of my eye got tighter and pulled the eyeball in more and more. Again, I had no control over this, and it became a constant. I had to turn my head to feel like I was looking at you straight on (even though I wasn’t aware of this). I had to switch from contacts to glasses because my eye wouldn’t even function with something in it. And it kept pulling closer and closer into the inner corner.

At one point, around two years ago, we (my parents and I) decided to pursue surgery. I was starting to have double-vision with my glasses (found out it was because of a too-strong prescription) and I had a hard time feeling “normal” or confident because my eye was such an “eyesore”.

Where the Rubber Meets the Rocks

If you were around on Instagram for that part of the story, you know how it went. If not, the cliff notes version is that I saw 3 doctors in 3 months over the summer when I was back in the US. And…everyone said something different. My doctor of 20 years didn’t recommend surgery because I wasn’t having double vision (why fix it when I could still see straight?). Another doctor in Omaha recommended surgery on BOTH eyes and said the good eye would pull the other eye back to center (Uhm, NO THANK YOU! What if we mess up my good eye?!). 

But the final doctor I saw (at the Mayo Clinic) gave me hope of having a straight eye with little to no double vision without having to operate on both eyes, and I felt like it was time to go that route and have him perform surgery. He was very knowledgeable and had done a lot of research on Dwayne Syndrome. He made me feel heard and positive about what surgery could do for me.


At this point, the plan was to have surgery in December. During the Fall, I tried to get insurance coverage for this out-of-state surgery, to no avail. Another roadblock; and I was BUMMED. But, as a final attempt, we went back to my original doctor, told him about what the 3rd doc said (turns out they know each other), and he said he’d be willing to give it a shot.

But he has a more realistic and conservative outlook, and he made sure I knew what I was getting myself into. He wanted me to try something to gauge how my eyes would do with surgery because he thought that I would end up with double-vision for months because my eyes wouldn’t be able to readjust. He had the prism seen in the picture put on my eyeglass to mimic how my eye would see post-surgery. #mindblown #thankGodformodernmedicine He told me to wear it as much as possible over the next month, and then I could make the decision whether or not to have surgery based on how my eye felt and adapted.

Let me tell you, I was NOT excited about this! First of all, all of this work could end in a big fat nothing, if my brain wouldn’t be able to adapt. Second, I felt like I looked like a robot, and looking through the prism for the first couple of weeks was really hard. My mom was with me at this appointment, and afterward, we went and got Starbucks and sat in the massage chairs at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for an hour and cried. I can look back on this moment now and laugh about it, but I was not happy then.

But the wing 3 of my 2 personality (comment below with your Enneagram number! I love talking about it!) wanted to do this 110%. I wore that thing all day long. Even when I felt self-conscious. Even when I wanted to pull it off. Even when I couldn’t see very well. And…it got better! My vision adapted, and by the end, I could see pretty well out of it. I knew that surgery was not a sure 100% win, but I felt God saying, “Do you trust me?”

The Hardest Part of the Climb

So, five weeks later, I went into surgery. It was scary, but I knew that God had led me to this at this time. I knew that I could end up with double-vision for months. But I trusted that my Healer would work through the doctors’ hands. And, HE DID.

The Summit

Recovery wasn’t easy at first. My eye was swollen shut for a good week. And then, almost two weeks in, I had this crazy pain on the outside of my eye one morning…I couldn’t even open it. It turned out to be a suture that got loose. But it allowed me to go in to see my doctor a couple days early for my two-week post-op. I got to tell him that, less than TWO WEEKS after having this surgery, I had almost NO double vision. WHAAATTTT. And, friend, can I tell you, it was SUCH a testament to God’s divine healing power. My doctor, who we had never in 20+ years of seeing him mention anything about God, said, “Hallelujah! Praise God!” when I told him! He was expecting months of double-vision, if not a lifetime of it.

And, things continued to heal just as expected, if not better. I haven’t had double-vision since February, and my eye is still where it should be. God is SO good and gets ALL the glory!!! Sometimes God heals in a moment, other times it takes years. Sometimes it’s through a touch, other’s it’s through the meticulous hands of a doctor. Friend, if you are waiting for your miracle, know this: IT’S COMING.

If you couldn’t tell, this journey to the summit of this mountain was HARDDD. Probably as hard as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…in a lot longer time! In the moments of confusion, the unknown, and sadness, I didn’t know why I had to climb the mountain this way. I wondered why there had been so many roadblocks and obstacles to find a way around. There were times when I was unsure that I could reach the summit. But, this trek sure did strengthen my trust and relationship with my Father. And, although I have faith that my eye won’t have any further complications, I know that there’s a possibility of Him calling me to a higher peak. 

We only see a tiny speck of the big picture- what’s right in front of us. It looks like rocks and dirt and sky. God gives us a small task and says, “Trust me.” And when we do our part and keep on holding His hand and take those baby steps one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, He does His and moves mountains. I believe that my testimony of His miraculous healing power and goodness isn’t just for me, it’s for my doctor and so many others too.

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Holidays Around the World Made Easy

Holidays Around the World Made Easy

One of my favorite units to teach is about holidays around the world in December. No matter what grade I teach, I include this in my lesson plans, because I love learning and teaching about cultures around the world! Just because this is a busy time of year does not mean you can’t bring holidays from around the world into your classroom! I’m here to help make teaching holidays around the world in December EASY and FUN!

I believe that the more we can weave themes and topics, like Holidays Around the World, into our normal routines, the better our students will understand them and the better our classroom climate will be! We all know how our students tend to get a bit antsy this time of year, so changing up the theme without changing the routine will keep them engaged and having fun! Here are some of my best tips for your Holidays Around the World lesson plans!

Holidays Around the World Easy Room Transformation

You probably just let out a big sigh or rolled your eyes when you read this heading. DON’T CLICK AWAY! I promise this will not be expensive or hard. In fact, you probably already have most of what you need! It doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy - it can be as simple as sticking some butcher paper up on your wall. YOU DO YOU.
Transforming your room is an EASY way to get students excited and buying into this theme. Here are my favorite ways to transform your classroom for holidays around the world:
  • Get (or make) flags of the countries you will be studying or just a variety of flags. This one on Amazon is less than $10 for 82 feet of flags! Great to hang around your classroom, and, for more impact, intertwine with twinkle lights! Have students try to find the flags of the countries you study, too!
  • Make sure you’ve got a world map to mark your travels!
  • If you want to get fancy, get some school butcher paper and create an airplane outside your door or inside the walls of your classroom!

  • Plastic tablecloths are an inexpensive way to add color! Red seems to be a popular holiday color in several countries, so you may choose to go that route! You can also cover your tables with butcher paper! 
  • See if you can collect some of the holiday icons to display in your classroom, or make them out of butcher paper! I’m sure parents would be willing to let you borrow some items if you need them! You can also draw them on white paper and have the students color them in!
  • Give each student a passport to put a stamp every time you “visit” a new country! Paradise Praises has a free download that looks like it would be perfect! You can also get some blank passports from Amazon

Preparing for Holidays around the World

This unit can be a hefty workload as you research, plan, and execute these lessons. I would recommend asking the students’ families for help! I’m sure they would love to share about their culture’s holiday traditions! You can have them share about their holiday traditions, bring in decorations or important pieces to the holiday, and even bring in traditional food to share! If you’re short on time, you could incorporate that time into a center, where the family member shares to each group of students, instead of the whole class. 

Holidays Around the World in Morning Meeting

Use your class meetings to introduce different holidays around the world that you’re studying! You can have students greet each other with the holiday greeting in each language. If you have a student that celebrates that holiday, you can ask him/her to teach the class how to say the greeting. If you don’t have an in-class resource, you can find most of the holiday greetings for different December holidays around the world on YouTube!

Your activities could be a special activity or game that the culture does around the holidays! This article from Parents.com has ten GREAT games for you. This post has two more that your students would love, to go with Germany and Mexico! You can also have playdough challenges where you give each student some playdough and tell them to make one of the holiday icons in 5 minutes! Then you get to look at all of their masterpieces and see whose creation is the closest to the actual icon!

The message portion of your Morning Meeting would be a great place to incorporate direct instruction of the culture and holiday you’re learning about. You can write a message to your students with information in it, or just have a discussion, show pictures, etc. about the culture and holiday traditions!

Holidays Around the World in Math

It’s easy to integrate Holidays around the World into ELA, but it can prove a bit more difficult for Math. Here are some of my favorite math activities for learning about Holidays Around the World:
  • Have students figure out how far away the countries you are studying are from you! Great for research and working with large numbers. You can also have students figure out the most cost-effective way to get from your town to a place whose culture you’re learning about. This would be a fun and real-world project for older students!
  • Have a math party, or incorporate some of the ideas in this blog post from Around the Kampfire in your math centers! Linda is a genius with these activities!
  • Amanda Stitt has a 5th Grade Math Project which is another great option if you’re short on planning time! It looks amazing!
  • Holidays around the World math building challenge: Use any task cards that your students need practice with along with some sort of block or building material. As students complete a task card, they get three more blocks. As they get blocks they try to build something that goes along with the holiday you’re studying! 

Holidays Around the World Books

Who doesn’t love picture books?! They are such great tools for teaching something new and connect the students to new cultures, concepts, and experiences! Here are some of my favorites for teaching Holidays around the World in December:

Walk this World at Christmastime is a sweet book showing different holiday traditions around the world! 

A World of Cookies for Santa is a great book to kick off the unit. It takes you around the world to see some of the different treats children put out for Santa, and learn about the difference in holiday traditions.

‘Twas Nochebuena is a beautiful depiction of Las Posadas, in the style of the Night Before Christmas. The illustrations are beautiful and I love getting a look into the traditions of this holiday! 

The Story of Hanukkah is a great read when teaching Hanukkah. It’s informative, historical, and kid-friendly. I love the recipe for latkes at the back too! That would make a fun extension if time allows!

The Legend of Old Befana is perfect for teaching the Italian Christmas traditions!

Diwali the Magical Diyas is an enlightening and fun book to learn about Diwali!

Lucia Morning in Sweden is such a wonderful book to learn about Lucia Day and Swedish traditions!


Holidays Around the World in ELA

There are so many fun ways to incorporate Holidays around the World into your ELA block! Here are my favorite activities:
  • Have students read or listen to a book about the holiday, discuss it with a classmate, and respond to it.
  • Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast two of the holidays, and then write about the similarities and differences.
  • Come up with holiday vocabulary for students to play games with, memorize, and use in writing.
  • Use Holidays around the World reading passages.
  • Have students research a certain holiday and present their findings to the class or make a video about the holiday and culture.
  • Teach how-to writing and have students write a how-to writing piece on something that they have learned to do from a culture or holiday tradition.
  • For your younger to middle-aged elementary students, work on labeling or writing about each holiday you discover.

Even More Holidays Around the World Ideas

Here are a few more ideas, activities, and resources for your Holidays Around the World lesson plans!
  • I created a Holidays Around the World video playlist on YouTube just for you! Feel free to save it so that you can use the videos year after year!
  • Crafts are also a great idea for Holidays around the World, but they can tend to get tedious after a while. I would recommend having your students choose a holiday to represent through craft at the end of each week, and give them all sorts of materials to make something. But, the twist is to keep the Holidays around the World crafts open-ended! Students will have seen the holiday traditions and items of each culture through books, videos, and lessons. So, why not let them create what they love the most!?! They can be so creative, and it’s a great way to engage the upper grades. 
  • Students can make Holidays around the World journals to keep track of what they learn and write down what they experience. This is a great keepsake to remember these holidays and traditions, and even introduce some to their families at home!

What is your favorite culture and holiday to teach during this time? What do you include in your plans every year that I missed? Let me know below! 

And if you are looking for more holiday ideas and resources, check out these posts:

Happy Holidays!! Don't forget to enjoy this fun, exciting, crazy time with your students!! The countdown to break is on!!

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