Nativity Sheep Raise Questions

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Live Nativity at Modesto Free Methodist Church December 17, 2016

Visiting a live nativity is a family tradition we did with our daughters when they were growing up. Now we enjoy following the same tradition with our two grandchildren who live in town.

On our recent visit to the live nativity at Modesto Free Methodist Church, the sheep triggered the most questions in between the narrator’s story and characters moving about.

“Why do the sheep have to be here?” asks eight-year-old Parker. I suspect they’re scaring him.

“The sheep are here because the shepherds were the first ones the angels told of Jesus’ birth. After they heard the news, the shepherds brought their sheep with them to the manger.”

Narrator: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9 (NIV)

Next, six-year-old Khloe asks, “Are the sheep real?”

“Yes, they’re real. They’re holding really still right now. Oh look, one just moved his head.”

Not satisfied she inquires, “Do they poop?”

“Yep, sheep poop,” I answer matter of factly.

Narrator: “But the angel said to them, ’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV).

Parker looks down and says, “I feel sorry for the sheep. Are they cold?”

I assure him, “The sheep have lots of wool. See their thick wool? It keeps them warm.”

“But what about their legs?”

Warm From the Outside In

What about their legs, I wonder. Upon looking at sheep photos, sheep do have some wool on their legs. A sheep owner answers a similar question from a farm stay visitor. “Sheep have their own natural source of insulation all over their bodies. Their wool keeps their body heat in and the cold out. The lanolin in their wool also prevents moisture from getting to their skin.” 1

Warm From the Inside Out

I discover another way sheep stay warm, Veterinarian Dr. Mary Gessert says, “The process of rumination, with its fermentation of fibrous materials, generates a great deal of heat. The more forage a ruminant eats, the more heat its body produces.” 2 She adds, “There is no need to house wooled sheep indoors during the cold winter months.”

I’m equipped with a much better understanding of how sheep keep warm for another conversation, but my mind keeps wandering back to the shepherds.

What about the Smelly Shepherds?

I integrate information about the shepherds between the grandkids’ sheep questions. “The shepherds are a really important part of the Christmas story. You know how some people make fun of the homeless because some of them smell? Well, the shepherds smelled too. They spent their time out in the fields with the sheep. They probably even got sheep poop on them. They didn’t take a bath very often.”

“Uckk. Smelly,” the grandkids reply in unison.

“People thought that the dirty shepherds were not worthy of God’s love and a waste of time. Why didn’t God tell the wealthy or educated first?”

God’s Message

“Because God sees every person as important, even shepherds and the homeless. He wants everyone to have the opportunity to have a relationship with Jesus. Just like both of you have.”

Narrator: “ … they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 6:17b-18, NIV).

Here’s a prayer that resonated with me from Proverbs 31 Ministries.

“Dear Lord, today I rejoice with the shepherds in the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Help me to set aside those traditions that have become commonplace and explore the amazement of Jesus’ birth. Thank You for sending a Savior for me. I want to spend my life sharing this news. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” 3

What about you? What will you do with the angels’ message to the shepherds? “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”





  1. How Can Sheep Survive Bitter Cold Weather by Kate. Farm Stay U.s. Posted February 26, 2015. Accessed 12/21/2016.
  2. “Winter Sheep Care” by Mary Gessert, DVM. Originally Published in the Shepherd Magazine. Sheepdogging for Newbies. Accessed 12/21/2016.
  3. Why God Told Shepherds First by Glynnis Whitwer. Posted December 23, 2010. Accessed 12/21/2016.


  1. Cold_Sheep_-_geograph_org_uk_-_299528 [wiki media commons]
  2. 3-shepherds-and-the-anouncement-of-jesus-birth []

Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability

The 2011-2012 school year on medical leave passes by. merced-collegeDespite extensive hospitalization and classes, I’m unable to return to my job as a college professor at Merced College. I’m now on permanent disability.

All my friends are returning to work in August, except me. I’m devastated. Sad. Angry. Depressed. Alone. And incompetent.

I spend most days roaming around the house aimlessly. I’m unable to function and complete daily living skills. I don’t remember to look at a to-do list. I forget to eat. Just getting ready takes hours. I can’t read a book because I lack comprehension skills. I still pull the weeds. One may think my lawn would be weed-free by now, but what I can do is slower than a snail’s pace.

After six years of symptoms, Stanford Hospital finally diagnoses me in the fall of 2012. I begin a two-year weekly program to learn skills to manage my symptoms so they don’t overtake my life. I do a little writing.

I attend a few Youth for Christ events. I spend time with my grandchildren,  Parker & Khloe, who are now four and two. Plus I’m blessed with my new four-month old granddaughter, Kylie Ann. But mostly I pull weeds. It requires little thought and gets me outside which I enjoy.

I run on empty, trying to focus. What I loved to do is gone. I reach out to God over and over, but He doesn’t seem to answer. What do I do now?

Logo source: Merced College []


Wrong Station Turns to Thankfulness

Don’t cry. It will ruin your make-up. You don’t have time to re-do it, I remind myself. It took forever to put make-up on this morning between tears trickling down my sagging face.

At that moment I hear the Lord’s voice in my head. “Where are you driving to?” He asks softly?

To Oakdale, I acknowledge.

“That’s right. Carry on,” He whispers with a nudge.

How did I not realize what path I was on? I know who’s behind this.

My conversation turns to the liar of all lies, Satan. This is your undoing. Go away. I have a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group waiting for me at The River in Oakdale.

All morning I’d been listening to the wrong station. I was tuned into lies. The downward spiral went something like this. “If God really loved you, you’d still have a real job.”

“If you were working, you’d have more important things to do than talk to moms and yard duty staff.”

“No one really cares what you have to say anyways? Exactly how many followers are on your Facebook site?”

“If God made you well, you could have one of those important jobs you dream about.”

How did I get here so fast? I ask. Just last week the Lord used key values I identified six years ago. Those values fit exactly where He has me today. I wrote several journal entries that clearly showed God’s purpose and plan in my life and for His change in my plans. Removing me from the community college professor sandbox to a very small sandbox of my own. The author, speaker, trainer sandbox.

With Satan’s channel turned off, I eagerly drive towards my destination. Actually, I’m driving towards the destination God asked me to do months ago on this very day. I gently remind myself, I did my editing. I’ve prayed for the moms and myself. I sent the handouts over a week ago. I practiced. My make-up is intact. I’m prepared.

I arrive happy and joyful for the opportunity the Lord arranged just for me and each of the MOPS moms attending today. The energy in the room increases my joy.

A number of moms interact with me after my talk, from “I was friends with your daughter,” to more serious parenting challenges. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is God’s call and God’s plan. I’m thankful.img_0781

After I’m done, the MOPS coordinator hands me an envelope and a check for mileage. “We also made this for you last month.” She hands me a 4” by 24” sign that says, “THANKFUL.” I almost cry. I’m overcome with the timeliness of the gift.

The sign is already hung up featuring two turkey hands created by my two oldest grandchildren. “Lord, I am thankful.”


Can Do Versus Can’t Do

Another year passes. It’s now the 2013-2014 school year. flashback-youtube-comI’ve now been off work two long years. I beg daily for God’s direction, but don’t hear from Him. It doesn’t help that my neurologist at Stanford keeps asking me, “What do you want to do?”

“What do you mean, ‘What do I want to do?’ I want to go back to work. But I can’t. I’m on permanent disability.'” I’m angry and tired of her unrealistic question.

One of the biggest challenges in overcoming my major life change is the constant focus on my symptoms. My deficits. What I can’t do. All 35 identified symptoms. Not only do medical experts continually document my deficiencies, I’m expected to document these daily as well.

Every week I maintain charts of symptoms and rate the degree to which they’ve affected me. I also check the skills I’ve applied. The hope is that the number and degree of symptoms will decrease showing that the skills I’m learning are helping me.

And then in the next breath the physician dares to state, “You need to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.” How am I supposed to focus on what I can do when  you require me to focus on what I can’t do? This medical deficit model isn’t working if you want my focus to be on what I can do.

Lord, I know you’re here with me, but your voice is silent. It’s been several years and I still have no direction from You. Lord, I’m still waiting.

Logo source: Flashback []


Art Therapy Directs Values Poster

“What are your values? What’s most important to you?” asks the art therapist. This is just one of 100_0697the many classes I attended in June 2011 looking for any glimmer of hope or diagnosis of my brain impairment.

I wonder – does it really matter? I can barely function. What difference will it make if I create my values on a poster? I’m on medical leave from the college.

I remind myself that I’m here to get help. I plan to return to my position as a college child development professor in a year. If there’s a small chance this can help, I’m in.

Typically I enjoy the directed art projects, so I begin to think. Commitment is extremely important to me. This includes my commitment to God, my husband, my daughters & their spouses, my two grandchildren, my career, to teaching, my friends, to volunteering at the food bank, and helping others. Yes, commitment is the overarching principal that covers everything most important to me.

I finish the not-so-artistic project with six key values decorated with a few squiggly lines in colors I like. The 18” x 24” poster features: Trust God, Adventure, Inclusion, Family, Creativity, and Flexible. I hang the poster in my vacant and hollow office. I rarely see it these days, but somehow it seems important enough to keep visible. Some days I need to be reminded of my important values.

Learning at RP International Conference in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


Most workshops are held at Hotel Bethlehem but some are at the iirp classrooms on Main Street

I’m in the beautiful historic city Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the International Conference on Restorative Practices sponsored by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (iiirp). Today’s been a great start to the conference.

I began the day attending the workshop Students Lead: Developing a RP Student Leadership Team. This is a missing component in the training we do. I’m excited to share more about this during Year 2 and 3 trainings. I also learned a new way to teach the Social Discipline Window. Tons of great ideas.

The second workshop was RP: Transforming School Climate From the Inside Out. It was a good reminder that RP is not a program or curriculum. To get educators with initiative fatigue to engage they need to know what’s in it for them.

I gained a much better understanding of “Community.” He defines this as any organization that works with or has contact with students after school, such as law enforcement or boys/girls club. This really helps as I make final edits to year 3 training, Continuity, Collaboration and Community on November 7th.

After lunch I participated in Circle Up! Using the Framework of RP to Facilitate Diversity Dialogue. The presenter gave us three doorways to enter to begin this conversation. With my child development background, the Intercultural Competence is the “door” I’m most likely to use in engaging advanced cohorts in this hot topic.

The last workshop was Engaging Adult Learners. As a trainer, I’m always looking for new ideas and strategies. They gave us three extensive examples of time line planning by school sites. Its way more detailed than what we currently do. It’s definitely something I’ll think about, but I’m kind of partial to what we do.

We also got a great list of prompts for content learning circles. For junior and senior high educators, this is the only type of classroom circles most will consider implementing. We’re doing content circles in Year 3 so I’m happy for more prompts.

All the workshops were great, but meeting people from all over is an important component. I prayed specifically that I’d meet some people from California to network with. I’m happy that I’ve met several already. So thankful I can be here and learn from experts.


Reluctant Rider Gets New Bike

img_5955By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Most of my mild injuries from my April 5th bike accident were gone in a few weeks. Eventually it’s determined I hit my head so I purchase a new helmet. However, the back pain lingers.

I am blessed that the driver’s insurance will cover the cost of a new bike. I just have to choose it.

About a week after the accident I reluctantly stopped at World of Wheels. Eric, the sales clerk, clearly explains the differences between the two bikes similar to my wrecked bike.

“I like the coral color better.” I know color won’t be a deciding factor. I’ve ridden enough miles to recognize I want the features I had on my old bike. “I’m going to get the fluorescent yellow one.”

“It has to be ordered,” he says. “We don’t have your size.”

“That’s okay. I need to wait for the insurance check anyway.”

Five days later the phone rings. “I’m calling from World of Wheels. Your bike came in today. When would you like to pick it up?”

Silence. How did it come in so fast? “Ummm. When will it be ready?”

“By the end of today.”

“Okay.” I thought I’d have longer. I’m not ready to actually pick-up the bike yet.

Then I remember a delay tactic. “Eric said, If you bring in your old bike, we’ll transfer your GPS, pedals and seat to your new bike.” A sigh of relief. I don’t have to get it yet.

My husband asks, “Do you want me to pick up the bike for you?”

I’ll get it when I’m ready. It’s paid for. It can just sit there a while. “No. I need to get it myself.” I know actually picking up my bike is part of the healing process. But you can take in my old bike tomorrow so they can transfer the stuff.” That will buy me more time.

On Saturday, Rick totes the mangled bike to the bike store. While he’s there he tells Eric, “Marian’s pretty scared. She’s only riding a little bit in our neighborhood on her old bike.”

Another voice pipes up. “Hi, I’m Brian. I work in the back. We’ll have your wife’s bike ready in an hour. I overheard your conversation. I live out in the country. I’ve helped other riders after an accident. Your wife can ride with me and other riders on Monday and Tuesday mornings. There’s almost no traffic so she’ll be safe.”

Rick relays the offer to me. A safe place to ride my bike. Riding with someone else. Away from traffic. That could work. God had intervened. It wasn’t a coincidence that Rick’s conversation was overheard and a solution was offered.

But if I am going to ride on Monday, I want to ride my new bike.

Late Sunday afternoon, Rick drives me to the bike store. I’m pretty nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll respond when I see my bike. I imagine myself bursting into tears. I wander cautiously towards the back of the store.

Then I see it. I grin. That’s my new neon yellow bike. The clerk holds my bike while I awkwardly climb on. Then he adjusts the seat height. “Do you want to ride it?”

“No. Not today. I’m going to ride tomorrow morning with Brian and Josh.”

That was on April 18, 2016.

You can read about the bike accident in my blog, 81 Days to Victory.


81 Days to Victory

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Today, June 25th, is a day to celebrate. It has been 81 days since I rode my bike on one of my regular 10 to 12 mile routes. For weeks I’ve only been riding on neighborhood streets. Then onto busier streets. A 3 mile loop finally ends at home.

Then a few weeks ago, I ventured a little further. I rode through ¼ of the roundabout on Coffee and Clarabelle. I’d been holding my breath hoping for no cars. Then unexpected tears. Tears of both relief and joy. You made it through part of the roundabout. You go girl!

I miss this. Being outside around nature and riding . . . fast. A few more tears of gratefulness and I’m safely home again, this time after 8 miles.

Today I ride 12 miles through ½ the roundabout, across Kiernan towards Highway 108, past the Kohl’s shopping center, and back home. A day like today needs a worthy celebration. A chocolate lava meltdown from Cold Stone is perfect for this occasion.

Why am I celebrating today? On March 5th I finished the 40-mile Blossom Trail Ride in Reedley. Exactly a month later I was in a bike accident. That accident was 81 days ago.

I was riding my bike to my nail appointment. A young truck driver got tired of waiting for the drivers in front of him to turn left onto busy Sylvan Road. He began backing up. I was behind him and yelled. All I remember is my bike going under the truck and being thrown off my bike.IMG_8515

Two ladies arrived to help. They took photos and obtained pertinent information. One called my husband. When my scared husband showed up, he was relieved to see me standing.

That night I wrote in my journal. “Lord, I’m thankful. It could have been much worse. I hurt my shoulder and bruised my elbow. Tonight my lower back started hurting. I feel lousy.”

But before I finished my journal my thankfulness turned to anger. “Lord, could you just give me a break? It’s hard enough dealing with my brain impairment. How much suffering do I need, to learn more about You? I could have left one minute earlier or later and not been hit.”

I didn’t tell very many people about the accident. I didn’t post it on Face book. I spent most of my time talking or I should say venting to one person – God.

Four days later I wrote, “I’m upset that I had another trial come my way. Some people are grateful and say, ‘It could have been worse.’ Well, it also could NOT have happened at all. I’m tired of trying day after day.”

“Why did this happen? Why would God make something I did to get better, now become a source of fear? It makes no sense. Why is life so continually hard?”

Before the accident I viewed bike riding as fun. It brought me great joy. Oh, and I got exercise too. Being outside in God’s world is the most peaceful activity I do.

It’s easy to view bike riding as an extreme sport only for thrill seekers. Riding is certainly not for older women. Or anyone else who isn’t crazy.

I still wish the accident hadn’t happened, but it did. My choice was how I’d respond to God and my accident.

I’m not mad at God anymore. I healed mentally and emotionally. My arm and shoulder are fine but my back still hurts. I had more residual strength than I realized and got back on track quicker than I anticipated. I got back on my bike and kept talking to God. My joy of riding gradually returned.

My daughter reminded me of the hundreds of miles I’d ridden when God protected me. God protected me the day of the accident too. At the time, however, I just didn’t see it.

I’m not a thrill seeker or crazy; however I am an older woman. I just want to ride . . . and I am. Right along with God at my side.


First Grade “New” to Kinders: Parent Action Tips

First Grade by North Media []

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

Your first grader now attends school all day rather than the typical half day kindergarten at most schools. Parents may feel confident their child is used to school routines, but several aspects of first grade are “new” to kinders.

Here’s what may be “new” in your child’s first grade day and parent action you can take to help your child adjust quicker to first grade.

New: First graders eat lunch at school and have more recesses

My grandson Parker couldn’t wait until he became a first grader. “Matthew* says we get more recesses.”

I try to shed reality on the situation. “But you’ll be in school longer.”

“But I have more recesses.” His statement is actually true. Parker’s third grade friend trumps Grams.

“I hope it works out for you,” I add.

He excitedly informed me the other night, “I have recess after breakfast, in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon. I have four recesses.” What could be more important to first grade boys and maybe some girls?

Parker’s used to eating a snack during the morning recess because his kindergarten teacher called it “snack recess.” It’s lunch that’s the challenge. He’s so excited for recess, he barely eats his lunch.

Parent Action: Check to see if your child’s school site requires students to eat a certain amount of time before they are dismissed. If not, make a suggestion. Ideally schools should require students to eat for at least ten minutes. Most kids will eat if can’t leave.

Otherwise, your first grader may not be eating much at lunch or skipping lunch all together. For kids who eat hot lunch at school, requiring time to eat is especially important since parents don’t have any idea if their child is eating or not.

Parent Action: Share with your child your expectations for eating lunch. For example, “Eat half your sandwich and your sliced apples before you go out to play. You can eat your chips for afternoon snack.” Periodically check back with your child and see how eating lunch is going.

New: Bathrooms are located outside the classroom

When your little one attends preschool and kindergarten, typically the bathroom is inside the classroom or nearby. In most of these programs children use the bathroom whenever needed.

Bathroom During Recess. In first grade, children are expected to use the bathroom during recess. But how do they know that? What if they have to go during class? Do they interrupt the teacher? Do they wait until the teacher stops talking? What if they can’t wait anymore? That’s when accidents happen.

Parent Action: Talk to your first grader about bathroom situations. Make sure the child understands when and how to ask the teacher. Explain what to do if an accident happens. Assure your child that accidents happen even in elementary school.

New: There will be more children in the classroom and less adult help

Many school districts attempt to place a smaller number of children in kindergarten than in higher grades. Some schools expect the afternoon kindergarten teacher to “help” during the morning and vice-versa. Kindergarten teachers often have more parent/adult volunteers than other grades. More children in the class can mean less one-on-one time and less nurturing from the teacher. Additionally, the class may also have fewer volunteers which equates to less adult help.

Parent Action: Your child may need to adjust to less one-on-one assistance from an adult. Talk to your child about what to do if he/she is stuck and needs the teacher’s help. Maybe your child can ask a table partner or look at the directions on the dry erase or chalk board. Find out what helps your child.

Parent Action: If at all possible, try to occasionally volunteer in your child’s classroom. Some employers provide time off from work so parents can volunteer at school or chaperone field trips. Parker’s school is fortunate that they still have field trips. Sometimes they walk to the nearest high school for a program in a larger auditorium and sometimes they take a bus.

Help from Home. If you have limited time, offer to work on a home project that helps your child’s class. Teachers most always have things volunteers can do. Perhaps you can label file folders, count fundraiser money, or cut paper for an activity.

With a better understanding of what’s “new” to first graders and trying some parent action tips, before you know it first grade will not feel so “new” to both you and your child.

That is until your child is a “new” second grader!

* Fictitious name


Back-to-School: Kids & Sleep

sleep-531211_960_720 []Ahhhh, summer vacation. Swimming, camping, amusement parks, and later bed times for children. But school is just around the corner. How can parents help get their children’s sleep back on schedule so they’re not tired when school starts and the alarm goes off way earlier than in the summer?

Before School Starts

About two weeks before school starts, calculate how much earlier your children need to get up for school. For example, is your child is sleeping in until 9:00 AM and will have to get up at 7:00 AM for school, that’s two hours. Figure out roughly how much earlier they need to get up each day so that they’re ready for the school alarm clock. If they got up just ten minutes earlier every day, they’d be on track for the earlier wake-up time.

How much sleep?

While you’re figuring out their wake-up times, just how much sleep does your child need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2012) recommends that school age children (kindergarteners to 8th graders) need 9 to 10 hours of sleep. 9th and 10th graders need 9.25 hours while 11th and 12th graders need 8.5 hours. Your child needs more sleep if he/she has challenges getting up in the morning. Obviously, if your child falls asleep during school, he/she needs more sleep.

Sleep & Behavior

Another reason your child may need more sleep if they are overly active and/or acting out. Make bedtime consistent, relaxing routine. For younger children, a bath and story time are positive ways to end the day. If your children are sensitive to caffeine and/or sugar, eliminate these in the evenings. Don’t forget, chocolate contains caffeine.


Keep electronics out of the bedroom two hours before bedtime. Even the light from televisions or electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps aides sleep. Following these suggestions and a healthy breakfast will help your child be ready to learn when he/she returns to school this fall.

Photo Source: sleep-531211_960_720 []