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 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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Marvelous Monday Moments

Monday – Husband went to work and I stayed home with the boys with plans of packing.  On the surface it does not sound like a great day, but it turned out to be just that.

Breakfast – Cody requested fried eggs with bacon and honey toast (fireweed honey please, momma.  Yup, we are raising a honey snob and I am o.k. with that).  Carter wanted Cheerios with milk and brown sugar – keepin’ it simple.  We dined with the lights out, our meal lit by a pale purple flower-shaped candle floating in a small glass dish (a find from our packing yesterday).

Water Play – It was to be a warm day and the morning was already pleasant, the sunshine filtered by the trees surrounding our house made the backyard very inviting.  I brought around the wading pool and sprinkler and surprised the boys with super soakers I had purchased on mega clearance last year.  The boys have insisted on sleeping in nothing but their underwear, perhaps in preparation for the heat of Arizona, and so they were still dressed in only their skivvies as they ran out the door ready for some water play.  I did manage to slather them with sunscreen and plop sunhats on their heads though.  They were so much fun to watch and I took lots of great pictures.  Due to their lack of attire, you get these cute close-ups.

Water Play Collage

Packing – I left the door open so I could hear the goings on in the backyard and started in on the many boxes in our garage that needed sorting and repacking.  I found several shoe boxes stuffed full of letters, mostly from my mom, that were sent to me during the years of my early twenties.  I found daily planners from my undergraduate college days.  I found my old stamp collection from elementary school.  I found (and threw away) the many books and binders given to us by the hospital Cody was born in.  They all related to how to care for your preemie baby, complications to be aware of and milestones that your child most likely will not meet in the “normal” timeframe.  I will not be weighed down by these a moment longer.  And I found these super cute pig shaped post-it notes from the mid-eighties.  Have I told you that I love post-it notes?

Pig Post It Notes

Bath & Lunch – About the time I was getting tired of packing, the boys had worn themselves out.  They came in, chests stained with the juices of sticky plums and raspberry popsicles, bits of grass and dirt clinging to shiny sun screened skin.  While they took a bath I made lunch.  For dessert we had chocolate and vanilla ice cream sundaes topped with caramel sauce and crushed Oreo and graham crackers.

Park – After a quick visit from Cody’s old occupational therapist, a visit to say goodbye and to pass off to her some toys and puzzles I thought she could use, we went to the city park.  The park recently had a complete makeover and it was fun to see the new play area.  The boys played for over an hour.  Just as we were about to leave, Husband came sauntering across the field.  I had texted him a picture of our park outing and he decided to surprise us.

City Park Play

Milkshakes – Husband had one more surprise.  I drove home with the boys while Husband stopped by a local burger shop and picked up a couple chocolate milkshakes.  Mmmmm Monday Milkshakes.

Watermelon – While I made dinner the boys played in the front yard, riding their bikes and playing in their Lilac Tree Fort.  They took a break to inhale 1/4 of a watermelon (it was one of those small personal ones, so hopefully no tummy aches tonight).

Watermelon Face Stuffing

Time for Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Gray (we love us some Traction Man around here) –  And now the boys are getting ready for bed and for their bedtime stories.

The day is almost over; it went by fast, filled with amazing little moments.  Perhaps I should have packed a bit more, but there is tomorrow; I can pack then – between the moments.

Traction Man

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Carterisms: Condoms and Naptimes

Recent Carterism #1:  Earlier this week Carter spent one on one time with his Grandma. I promised my mom that before we left the state, she would get some one on one time with each grandson.  When I went to do the kid swap, exchanging Cody for Carter, it came up in conversation that, according to my mom, Carter has said the word “condom” distinctly and at multiple times for no apparent reason while at the playground.  She played the Grandma Card and decided to pretend she had not heard it.

My first reaction was one of shock as I wondered where and from whom he would have learned that word.  I am not at all opposed to him knowing about condoms and I fully plan on being that mom who leaves a bowl of them in a discrete place in the bathroom when the boys are older (note: I say this now, but when the time comes I reserve the right to change my mind).  But he is six and if he is going to learn about the birds and the bees and how to keep them safely separated, it should really be from me or Husband.

All of these things flashed through my mind and then I looked across the room at him.  He was singing and dancing, completely unaware that he was doing it.  Then I smiled and knew that he was not saying “condom” at all.

I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but when Psy’s Gangnam Style video went viral on YouTube, we may have watched it a time or two hundred.  We may continue to watch it from time to time.  The boys love it and mimic the dance moves.  Carter has never mastered the lyrics but instead belts out in a loud and slightly off key singing-shout “WHOOMP, WHOOMP WHOOMP, WHOOMP – WHOOP UM’ CONDOMSTYLE!”  For those of you who live under a bigger rock than I and have no idea what I am talking about – here you go.  Feel free to insert Carter’s lyrics.


Recent Carterism #2:  In celebration of receiving my State of Washington Education Certificate in the mail yesterday, we decided to go out to dinner.  It was just Husband, Carter and myself as this is the week Cody gets one on one time with his Grandma.

As we sat in the restaurant enjoying our meal, the World Cup match between the US and Germany was being replayed in the bar right next to us.  Carter was mesmerized, as he is anytime he is around a TV that is on.  The score was zero to zero and we didn’t have the heart to tell him the fate of the game was already sealed with the US being the loosing team.

On the TV, some random person was interviewing another random person and from what I could determine, the interviewee was one of the US players (can you tell I don’t watch soccer).  The heading on the top of the screen read “Halftime”.  I commented to Husband that I did not know soccer had halftime.  Carter, overhearing but misunderstanding, said “Naptimes?  They have naptimes in soccer?”

It has been a while since I have shared any Carterisms with you.  It is not because he has stopped providing me with these gems of humor and perspective, I have simply not been taking the time to write them down.  It is a shame for I find them so funny and I know these moments are quickly passing me by.  So I have captured these two for me more than you – although I hope you enjoy them.

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Dear Students

Dear Students,

Good morning and welcome to Second Grade!  This is going to be one very amazing year and I am glad that as your teacher, I get to share it with you.

I have been thinking of what to say to you on this very first day of school, thinking of what you would want to know about me.  I could tell you about my educational background – that before I went back to school to earn my teaching certificate and Master’s degree – I was a Microbiologist.  I could tell you that I am a life long learner, I love learning and will never stop.  I could tell you that I recently moved back to Phoenix from Washington State.  I moved back because I missed the desert too much; Arizona is in my soul.  I could tell you that I have been married to Mr. M, my husband, for over ten years and that we have two wonderfully sweet, kind boys, one in first grade and the other in third grade.  I could tell you about our dog and cat.

I could tell you all about those things, but during the time we are together you will get to learn about who I am as I will get to learn about you – your interests, your families, your dreams and goals.

What I want you to know about me is simple.  I want you to know that, even though I am meeting you for the very first time, I care about each and every one of you.  I believe in you and know that you are capable of great successes both at school in reading, writing, math and more, but also in life, in becoming who you want to be.  I am here to challenge you, to push you, and to cheer you on.  I am here to celebrate your successes and help you see that mistakes are learning moments to treasure, for they only make you stronger.

Oh yes, this year is going to be amazing and I don’t want to wait another moment so lets get started.  Welcome to Second Grade – I am proud to call myself your teacher.

~Mrs. M~

Sorry about my very distinct lack of blogging.  My house is filled with boxes, my brain (and several yellow legal notepads) are filled with lesson planning ideas and first days of school activities.  In thirty-five short days I will stand in a classroom filled with students, my very first class of students.  Those moments are powerful and I want them to resonate with compassion, hope, and excitement for a brand new school year.  I am composing what to say.  This is only one of many drafts floating around in my head.  I figured I would type it out and see how these words of mine look. 

I may tweak them a bit, but I must say that I think I like the look of them.

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Simple Sunday – A Perfect Fit

Cody in my Cap

After the commencement ceremony we had dinner and drinks with some friends at a local restaurant.  Cody wanted to try on my cap.  I think it is a perfect fit!

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