12 Days of Holiday Cheer–what a hoot!

It’s year two for 12 Days of Holiday Cheer at Valley Vista.  I’m having a great time with it.  Last year, our elementary team brewed up the 12 days and with minor variations, rolled out the festivities in unison.  This year, I joined a FB group started by Melinda Miller, Holiday Planning for your Staff and School.  It took 12 Days planning to a new level seeing what all these awesome folks around the country were planning!

Things I loved most about this year’s 12 Days:

  1. I posted the calendar from the start.
  2. Everything was free or inexpensive
  3. I got creative with things I already do with staff
  4. I left activities sitting out rather than swap them for the next one
  5. I realized too late that my 12 Days is only eleven days long… December brain at its best. 😉 Cracks me up every time I see the calendar.

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Posting the calendar was an added bonus.  I stage the 12 Days of Holiday Cheer in the staff room along a row of windows.  Santa Hats numbering 12 where each activity will be posted along with the calendar.  Another calendar is on the white board near staff mailboxes.  “Hot chocolate is Thursday.  That’ll be good.”  “I wonder what the pipe cleaner thing will be.”  This was the conversation around the calendar I overheard one morning.

Day two’s duck hunt was an unexpected surprise.  As I finished setting up the evening IMG_1018 2before, I heard a teacher in the staff room, “I’ve got 4.  What have you found?”     Hilarious.  Then on days three and four, the ducks are MOVING.  Who’s moving the ducks around?  A duck hunt that just keeps going.  LOVE IT!

On our FB page, every level of budget was represented.  My goal was to spend as little money as possible.  The idea was fun and lightness, not prizes and competition.  Maybe next year I’ll incorporate those elements.  But for this year, I purchased: rubber ducks (Duck Hunt, day 2), pipe cleaners (Art Show, day 5), hot chocolate (Concert, day 6), M&Ms (Grinch Pills, day 9) and oranges (Orange you glad? day 11).

My office wall is decorated with rotating inspiration: quotes, screenshots from Twitter, kid art.  I use the wall regularly to ground myself, be encouraged, or have a laugh and not take myself so seriously.  Motivation Monday (day 3) took advantage of my collection and shared a motivating mantra with each staff member.  I put the extras on the staff room fridge and they’re slowly disappearing!  I love it!!

IMG_1210At the start of each year, I put out a staff survey.  It’s lighthearted: favorite warm drink, favorite snack, stressors at work, surprise day off wishes, etc.  So day 7 took advantage of this information I collected!  Clues about staff are posted in the staff room with the answer key on the fridge: Who’s Who?  Just like our students, staff looked for themselves first.  “Where are I?”  “I can’t remember what I said.”  The downside to this activity is that not everyone completed my survey.  Even so, I’ll keep it for next year.

Last year I took each day as a singular event–items/activity out then items/activity put away.  Not this year.  For one, I have too much going on to be that diligent and second, more staff get to experience each Day of Cheer.  Pipe Cleaner Art Show (day 5) is a perfect example.  From two items to four creations, we now have a table of creativity: a man in a boat, an owl, Christmas trees and presents, a flower.  What is more soothing to a busy mind that bending a pipe cleaner?  Personally I’ve been working on a swing set in my office whenever I’m on the phone.  😉


I don’t remember when I realized my 12 Days of Holiday Cheer only has eleven days on it.  But what really matters is that I chuckle at myself every time I see the calendar.  What a goofball.  It’s only 12… how hard could that be?!?  I blame the Friday off at the end.  😉 It sums up the whole point of the 12 Days: lighthearted fun, distraction, coming together as a staff, laughing together…. good stuff.  If you aren’t already ringing in the holiday season with your staff in some way, consider joining us next year!

Thoughts for next year:

  1. Elf hunt with staff faces on elves
  2. Holiday music lyric or movie quote guessing game
  3. Include 12 days! 😉









The Power of a Coach #jacob

I’ve had the pleasure of watching my son interact with a phenomenal coach starting with the regular 2016 little league season and continuing through our last two All-Star seasons.  Never having experienced organized sport’s coaching myself, I avoid being overly critical of these hard working, volunteer coaches.  I inherently understand the value of a good coach but not the specifics or the complexity of that relationship.

Through my son, I am understanding.  And my heart is full to bursting.

Trust comes first.  Trust that the athlete is taken care of physically.  Working kids too hard is unacceptable.  Trust that the athlete is taken care of emotionally.  We’re talking about kids.  Pre-adolescent boys who get distracted, can be overly boastful, forget things, act goofy, hide their emotions and sometimes cry.  It’s a complicated time.  Trust that the adult understands the sport, understands the 12-year old version of the sport and understands how to get the best out of these young men.

Love comes next.  Love for kids (even the goofy, forgetful ones).  Love for the game.  Love for the ups and the downs of competition.  I know that tough love has a place here somewhere but even through the difficult parts of coaching, your outward expression is about confidence in your athletes, believing in them and then turning that page and moving forward.

Here’s where things get unique for my son and this coaching journey I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.  He would walk on water for this coach.  He looks to this man first when he finishes an inning, he checks in with this adult first upon arriving at practice, he looks forward to seeing him most over teammates and fans.  And when this particular coach isn’t there, he’s in Jacob’s ear.  His impact is profound.

And what of his other coaches?  Wonderful human beings.  Lovely, knowledgeable, caring adults–all three.  I would choose this trio of coaches for every kid.  But there’s a unique bond for my son with this one individual.

Connection is the third part.  Whatever conversation, joke, experience forged this bond, I am thankful.  And more importantly, I wish this connection for every kid, for every activity through their life.  I’m deeply invested in our local Mentoring nonprofit and I believe this is what we hope to orchestrate through our Mentoring matches.  It often works but sometimes does not.  We want every child to have a quality adult who shows up, listens and believes in that child.  Parents do this.  But there’s something else going on when it’s not a relative.  It’s a choice, not an obligation.

Belief is the final piece.  Belief in Jacob’s ability even when Jacob doesn’t feel it himself.  Belief that he can fulfill his role on the team when he’s in his worst slump.  When’s the last time someone said, “I believe in you.”  I can’t recall a time.  Jacob has the benefit of this constant, heartfelt, realistic vote of confidence.  And as much as I love my son and see his athletic ability, I don’t have the same power to build him up.  It’s different.

So coaching matters.   I understand more fully now and have loved watching it happen.  We had our final loss of Jacob’s little league career last night.  I was devastated.  It means we’re turning a page.  My heart is heavy.  But even as Jacob was pitching his final inning, when he needed confidence, I watched him mimic his coach’s wide spread arms and deep breath.  In unison.  Set.  Ready.

And after the game, after the clapping and tears and hugs…. his coach found him in the parking lot.  “Hold your head high,” he said.  And Jacob did.


Thank you, Darrin.  Photo credit: Dwight Sugioka