Simple Sunday – Desert Flower in Bloom

Desert Flower with bee

I am always surprised by the greatness of cactus flowers.  I spied this one on my walk with Haley yesterday.  As I pulled out my phone to take this picture, a little bee alighted upon the creamy white petals.

Not a bad picture considering I had a restless black lab on the end of my leash…

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As if they were mine

A child lagging behind the class because they need extra time to complete their work.

A child crying because they were given one choice and not the other – the one they wanted – for lunch in the cafeteria.

Friends one minute and not friends the next – the feelings and emotions that are real, raw, and on the surface.

A book box, bottom collapsed from the weight of great reading materials, its contents strewn across the room.

Excitement over a book, or a moment, or simply a story they really want to share – right now.

Asking to use the bathroom at the most inopportune time.

A shoelace that needs tying (and is in a knot) when the bell rings and the buses wait for no child.

It goes on.  And on.  And on.

When I feel my frustration rising to the surface, when I feel like it is simply too much – the juggling of actual teaching of academics and the teaching of social and self-help skills – I ask myself the question: What would I want my child’s teacher to do in this situation?  And I stop.  And I look at that child as if they were mine.

lunchbox messages

This question grounds me but it is also slowly chipping away at me.  The responsibility is great, as is my passion.  I am finding, however, that my energy is not equal to these two.

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BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Humm, I thought as I slowed down my driving and cocked my head like a confused puppy, my car has never made that noise at me before.  Maybe it will just go away, my irrational mind rationalized.

It was the end of the day, Friday.  After attending a last minute meeting my principal called for our grade level team, having to chase three rogue crickets around my classroom who had escaped as I was transferring them from their shipping container to their habitat (our science unit is insects), and gathering materials for lesson planning (and planning my second formal observation that is next week) all I wanted to do was uneventfully go home.

But I was not going home.  I was on my way to pick up the boys and then go grocery shopping for the following morning, (today), was (is) Practice Thanksgiving.

The beeping came again.  I turned off the radio – when I am alone in the car, it is loud and I am a rock star – the beeping did not go away.

I pulled over, got out and circled the car, looking for I-don’t-know-what.  I saw nothing.

I got back in the car and stared out the passenger window feeling deflated and defeated.  And then my rational mind kicked in.  Piled up on the passenger seat next to me were my two large book bags.  Each bag was overflowing with binders and books and papers.  And they were a bitch to carry the long distance from my classroom to the car.  They were heavy. 

I removed them from the seat, that smart seat, which beeps to alert everyone in the car that the passenger is not wearing their seatbelt.

I think, perhaps, that I am bringing home too much work.  Either that or I need to better protect my book bags by buckling them up before driving home.

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Simple Sunday – Cranes, Coffee, and a Shared Towel

On my walk with the dog this weekend, I noticed the building near our place had grown.

crane and blue sky

When I got back Gray Leopard, a stray cat I have been wooing and have hopes of taming and adding as a member of our family because we simply don’t have enough going on in our lives, was waiting at our front door.  I brought down my coffee cup and my watering can, which I used to fill up his water dish, as well as a small dish of cat food.  He was interested in the coffee and even let me scritch him behind the ears for a moment or two.

Gray and Coffee Collage

And finally, with no real connection to the previous two pictures, Cody and Carter enjoyed a couple hours in the pool.  I captured a moment of them sharing the towel as we walked back to our apartment.  They are just too cute.

Shared towel

In the name of full disclosure, moments after I snapped this picture, Carter tripped and both boys fell to the concrete, cocooned in the towel.  There were scraped knees and a few tears.  Sigh.  But at least I have this picture.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

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Lost and Found

Being a first year teacher is hard.  To compound things I am, as you know, a mother to two boys.  We also just moved to Arizona from Washington and Husband is currently very busy helping his aged father gracefully navigate the state of befuddlement he is rapidly descending into. Life is very challenging for me right now and if I stop to think about it all, or even focus on just a tiny corner, tears spring to my eyes.  I feel I need to work harder, do better at, be better in almost all areas.  I am tired and my mind spent when I get home from teaching everyday.  I am struggling to stay one day ahead. And so on the weekends, I wake up early.  I get dressed, laced up my shoes, and tiptoe out the door with Haley, our dog, happily tugging at the leash.  Most mornings I get out alone (well, me and Haley get out alone).  Sometimes Cody wakes up and wants to join us creating an entirely different walking dynamic. This morning it was just Haley and I.  We walked for almost an hour.  The city woke up around us.  The pieces of my mind that I felt I lost during the week, slowly returned to me with each passing step.  But that was not all I found on my walk this morning. I found three quarters and two pennies.  Not a bad find for a morning walk. But it gets better.  As Haley and I rounded a corner in a quiet neighborhood I spied a rather beat up looking thin red book lying face down where the road’s edge met up with some tuffs of struggling grass.  I am a book lover and so naturally I picked it up.  And turned it over. The Little Engine That Could Collage One of my favorite children’s books and one that holds great meaning for me.  Shortly after Cody was born, during the time he was in the hospital struggling to grow and survive, a friend of ours gave him a small version of The Little Engine That Could.  Symbolism. It is not in the greatest of shape, but not too shabby for a first edition 1930 hardbound book that was just lying there by the side of the road. The Little Engine That Could Page Little pieces of my mind, 77 cents, and The Little Engine That Could – all on a Saturday morning walk.

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9/11 in my Classroom

I had not planned to talk about it and actually felt some guilt about this decision as I pulled into the parking lot this morning.  I did have an end of the day activity involving a discussion on the history of the flag, what it means to be patriotic, and a color the flag/fill in the missing stars sheet planned for them.

Then I got an email from one of the other second grade teachers with a suggested Brain Pop video about 9/11.  I previewed it and admitted to myself that this topic, this piece of our history was something I could not overlook.  I would find a way to talk about it with my second grade students.

The day went by – typical day.  We finished our math block and I called them to the rug to start the discussion, to give a little back story before playing the short six minute video.  There was forty-five minutes left to our day.  I figured we could briefly discuss, watch the video and then do the flag activity.  Easy peasy.

Not. At. All.

I chose my words carefully, keeping details vague but letting them know there were people in a different part of the world who did not like Americans and wanted to do harm.  I told them it happened 13 years ago.  I explained that we were going to watch a short video that was not scary but explained what happened on that day in our country’s history.

Then one little boy raised his hand.  I called on him and he spoke solemnly.  “My step-father died in Afghanistan.  He was a good soldier.”  Tears sprung to his eyes and almost immediately overflowed onto his cheeks.

It was as if a floodgate had been opened.  Students all around the room raised their hands.  It was one story after another: a father that died, a grandfather that drowned in a swimming pool, a sister, aunts, nanas, and pets too.  One boy told me he hears gunshots in his neighborhood at night (and in the area where I work and where most of my students live, I fully believe him) and he worries about the safely of his family.  I did my best to navigate each and every story and to comfort them as they spoke.

But I was not prepared for this.  I spoke of our emotions and how natural it was to feel these things.  I commented on how much I appreciated each and every one of them for being brave and sharing their stories.

And then, not really meaning to, I shared mine.  I spoke of my father and of his death.  Of how I miss him everyday.  My throat closed up and it was my turn to tear up.  I think they were shocked to see me show such emotion.

We were a wreck.  But we were a wreck together.

I did, eventually show the video.  There were questions.  There were more tears.  There were concerns that it would happen again.  We talked through them and then I simply gave them time to read quietly from their book tubs, or to talk quietly with friends.  Little clusters of kids formed.  One boy walked around with a Disney Princess Kleenex box, handing out tissues in fistfuls.

In the end, their papers were handed out and their backpacks were readied.  Book boxes got stowed and we met on the rug for our final end of the day good-bye.  One student suggested a Cat in the Hat book.  It was a nice, comforting way to end the experience we had just shared.  The silly and predictable rhymes of that hat wearing cat dried tears and brought forth smiles.

9/11 in my classroom will be one day I will not soon forget.

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Forward Thinking

It is the first of September.  If we were to have invited you over to our house for dinner tonight though, you would have questioned the date based upon our centerpieces.

You see, we went out on a quest late this afternoon to find a pot for a $2.00 plant I picked up at the market a couple weeks ago.  I had left the plant outside on our stoop after purchasing.  Stray cats promptly gnawed away some of its leaves and uprooted it at least twice before I rescued it and brought it indoors.  Then I neglected to water it.  I am not good with plants.  I know this but I continue to buy them anyway.

We live in central Phoenix and apparently there are no stores that carry simple ceramic pots anywhere near us.  I broke down and spend $15.00 for a very beautiful pot at a local grocery store, knowing all the while that it was not the pot for this particular plant.  The size was all wrong and when it really came down to it, all I wanted was a simple, plain, ceramic pot (although on the plus side, the boys each got free delicious looking cookies at said store and the pot is really very lovely – although now I have to find a plant to fit the pot, and so the cycle will continue).

Today we managed to find a wonderful nursery that had just what I was looking for – and then some.

Ceramic Pots and Jack o Lantern Collage

Ceramic Jack o’ Lanterns, painted in beautiful, vivid colors, could simply not be left behind.  And even though it is the first of September, we have adorning our dining room table, two Jack o’ Lanterns.

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Simple Sunday – There’s a Hole in My Mixing Spoons, Dear Liza

The other day I made up some homemade bubble juice.  I mixed it with one of the two wooden mixing spoons in the kitchen that happen to have a hole in the middle.  My choice of spoon was not intentional.  I don’t know the reason for the hole as it pertains to cooking, but we discovered that these spoons make for a great bubble blowing tool.

bubbles 1

The boys blew bubbles for quite some time.

bubbles Collage

And apparently, I now have two fewer mixing spoons to choose from when cooking.

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Simple Sunday – Home

This morning as I woke up in my bed in the apartment we are currently calling home, a black lab slyly licking my left foot that was poking out of the sheets and a small black cat purring happily on my chest, the word “home” would not stop rolling around my head.

Home is the three and a half acres and the small yellow house on Whidbey Island, Washington in which I grew up and where my mom still resides.

Home is Phoenix, Arizona in my twenties – bus passes, dance clubs, a string of apartments, college and finding the man who has been my husband now for over twelve years.

Home is the small town where we lived when our children were born, secluded, slow-paced, shadowed by trees and lined by the Puget Sound.  Salt water air.

home laughing

Home is this small, vertical apartment in the heart of Phoenix in which we now find ourselves.  For Husband and I it is very much a return from whence we have come.  We have returned, eleven years older and with the life experience of being parents and being married for over a decade.  Things have changed.  We have changed.

home my classroom

Yesterday we took the boys to the Desert Botanical Gardens.  It was a special evening event, self guided by flashlight.  We found snakes, toads, lizards, constellations…

home desert botanical at night

We found the brick lined alcove, overhung by a stout, crooked-branched mesquite tree.  The place we exchanged our vows all those years ago.

Home.  I have collected several along my journeys.  This one, this dry and hot desert home, has called to me for a long time now.

home Phoenix Market Sign

I am glad to be home.

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Four Plates on the Table

This morning I was the first one up.  I started the coffee and tended to the needs of Haley and Delilah, our dog and cat.  I took my favorite coffee mug down from the cupboard and stood in the kitchen waiting.

The morning was mild and slightly moist, a feel to the air  more than actual rain or drizzle, so I decided to take my coffee out on the back deck.  There I sat drinking coffee and playing Wordament on my phone, an old addiction of mine that has returned as of late.

It was Haley and her keen ear that alerted me to the fact that Cody and Carter were up.  She gets so excited when her boys wake up, smothering them with kisses and dancing around them in circles, her body wiggling and twisting and her black tail fanning in a wide and persistent arc.

Carter came out first, gave Haley some scritchings and then climbed up onto my lap.  I put my phone away and moved my coffee over to the arm of the other Adirondack chair.  After awhile this snippet of conversation occurred, giving me pause and causing me to snuggle him to me just a bit closer.

carter:  Momma, how many more days until Grandma comes?

I should interject here that Husband and I have created a three phase plan for The Great Move to Arizona.  Phase I involves my mom picking up the boys and taking them to her house for a week (the longest she has ever had them, the longest I have ever been away from them, simply the longest).  During this week, Husband and I shall load up all things we have deemed necessary for our six month stay in the apartment, a temporary place to call home while we look for a house to buy, and all my classroom stuff.  With a moving truck containing a grumpy little black cat, and a car towed behind us, we shall drive the 1500 miles to Phoenix.  Once there we will unload said items and check out the schools we are interested in for Cody and Carter before Husband flies home leaving me with the grumpy black cat and an apartment in chaos to start my first day of work the following day.

Husband, the boys, and Haley (sweet Haley, who just happens to get carsick on long rides), will meet up with me in Phoenix in a weeks time after finishing up the rest of what has to happen at our house in Washington.  This is Phase II and it is the murkiest phase by far.  Phase III has two parts and hinges on if we are selling our Washington house or renting it out – a story for another day.

Ok, back to my current story…

me:  Well, today is Saturday so – ( I count them off on my fingers) Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – four more days until you get to go to Grandma’s house. 

carter: And then we will be at Grandma’s house for a week!

me:  Yup, you get to stay there a whole week!  (I say this with enthusiasm that I don’t feel, the stress of being apart and of all that needs to happen is creeping into what started out as a laid back morning).

carter:  After giving all this some thought.  We have four days and then a week and then we will be with Poppa and then we drive, drive, drive.  And then we will have four plates on the table again.

Oh.  Oh, my.  Four plates on the table.  I have never thought of measuring time by plates on the table but it is perfect for how I am feeling.

me:  Yes baby, and then we will have four plates on the table again.

We have four more days of four plates on the table, then a whole lot of days with fewer plates, until we once again have four.

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