What has Come Before and What may Follow

2014

  • I completed my Masters of Arts in Education
  • Cody only had one seizure
  • We decided to move back to Arizona (although for the boys it is a move-to)
  • Carter learned to wink
  • I landed my first teaching job
  • Husband has been a great help to his father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
  • I finished my stint as a reader columnist for the Tacoma News Tribune 
  • We lost both of our cats
  • We have rekindled friendships with those from our past

This has been a very busy year defined, I would say, by change.  Lots and lots of changes. 

2015

  • We hope to buy a house and settle in for a while
  • Pets – Haley needs a friend and we don’t like being a cat-free family
  • My first summer as a teacher – I am thinking lots of family time!
  • Backyard BBQs
  • Travel and exploration with the boys to introduce them to Arizona
  • Desert hikes

I don’t know what the future holds, but we have some hopes and ideas of what it may look like.

May you have a very happy New Year.  Be safe.

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Confessions of a Stand Up Pee-er (or Two)

One morning, not too long ago, I was awaken by the voices of the two resident little people – Cody and Carter.  At first I could not make out what they were saying as their voices were muffled by their closed bedroom door.  But then they moved to their bathroom – a room which may as well not have a door for lack of its use – and their conversation, unencumbered by a door, turned into rather like a confessional.

They volleyed back and forth:

sometimes I pee a little on the toilet seat.

me too…  and every now and then I accidently pee on the floor

…or my hand

I do that too!

And Cody, Carter piped up with added enthusiasm and what sounded like a smidgen of pride, sometimes when I am peeing, I miss and pee on the little trash can.

I think I need to have Husband give them a refresher course on stand-up-peeing 101.

Oh, and I guess I need to disinfect the little trash can (and the toilet seat, and the floor…)

Sigh.

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Simple Sunday – A Hat Worthy Walk

Yesterday morning the boys decided to accompany me on my morning walk-around with Haley.  The temperature was a brisk 33 degrees and there was frost on the patches of grass we passed as we weaved our way through the city and into a little neighborhood we enjoy walking in.  The boys got to wear their new Christmas hats.  By the end of the walk we were all wishing Santa would have brought mittens as well.

Arizona Winter Walk

Carter liked how the sparkling white grass crunched under foot.  Haley did not seem to appreciate the transformation her typically soft green grass had undergone and quickly did her business upon it and vacated back to the sidewalk.  Carter, always the observer and enthusiast, made note in his loud little boy voice that Haley’s poop steamed nicely as it rested on the grass.  At least he has an appreciation of the small details in life.

After we returned, cold handed and shivering, I made the boys some hot chocolate.  I helped myself to the freshly brewed coffee Husband had made.  There is nothing like cupping cold hands around a warm mug, be it hot chocolate or coffee.

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Christmas in the Desert – On the Wrong Feet Christmas 2014

Christmas in our family, as I suspect is true with many other families, is a holiday steeped with traditions.  We have events that we attend or host: the lighting of the town tree, the lighted boat parade, my friend and my semi-formal Christmas party.  We even have a special way of decorating our tree – setting our camera up on a timer and allowing it to record our festivities by taking random pictures every minute or so (they are hysterical).  We use ornaments that have been in the family since before I was born.

This year, with all of our Christmas items sitting in boxes in Washington waiting for our house to sell, has been very different.  I am one who loves tradition.  I like consistency and I enjoy reliving the past years events by adding to them with each passing year.  So I struggled with this year, living in a temporary apartment in the city with not a single Christmas decoration to our name.  Some friends of ours lent us some festive Christmas items and I purchased a few things which helped.  But as the holiday season rolled along and we found various new events to partake in, I realized that this was the perfect time to break away, create new traditions and embrace ones from long ago – the time when Husband and I lived here before we had children.

And so we did.  Here are some of the highlights in no particular order…

We spent the day at a horse sanctuary, a place of retreat and retirement for horses who have been abandoned and/or abused.  We have friends who rescued a mule.  His name is Herman and he looks rather dapper in his bells, bows, and bright red Santa hat. 

Herman the Christmas Mule

We went to a local nursery and picked out a small tree for our apartment.  The key word here is small.  We decorated it with a few ornaments and lights.  Here is Carter carrying our tree to the car.

Carter carrying the tree

Boys with Tree Collage

We attended Luminaria at the Desert Botanical Gardens (the place Husband and I got married all those years ago).

Luminaria Collage

The Luminaria was an event Husband’s mom used to treat us to when we lived in Phoenix long ago.  This year we got to return the favor, inviting her to join us on this special event.

We attended Lucia Fest with Husband’s dad.  This is a tradition from Husband’s childhood and it was fun to have our boys be a part of it.  Cody and Carter were snatched up right before the St. Lucia program and asked to be tomten, Cody is third from the left and Carter is on the far right. 

Lucia Fest

We went to Tucson and had a traditional Swedish dinner.  The boys opened presents with their cousins and spent the day playing (sorry no pictures of this).  We had Husband’s mom over for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  The boys got remote control monster trucks which they LOVED and spent hours driving around our apartment complex.

Boys with remote trucks 

And lastly, on Christmas day, we headed out for a desert hike.  I foresee this becoming a new tradition for our family.

Christmas Hike 1

The trail was peppered with other Christmas day hikers and bikers enjoying the winter desert warmth.   

Chirstmas Hike 2 Collage

The desert floor was green due to the recent rain we have received.  

Christmas Hike 3

We saw these two cute cacti while on our hike.  Cody decided they represented himself and his brother – Carter Cactus on the left, being the shorter of the two, and Cody Cactus on the right.

Christmas Hike 5

And Husband and I attempted a desert selfie.  We took several – this one is by far my favorite.

Christmas Hike 6

With all our Christmas items still stowed away in boxes in a different state, I came to realize that “stuff” is just that – stuff.

This year we created new traditions that I can’t wait to carry forward with us into the years to come.

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Delilah

Last night we said our final good-byes to our sweet Delilah cat.  Cancer.

Delilah Collage 2014

Many years ago, she lived next door to us as an outdoor cat.  Shortly after her family moved in next to us, she started the process of adopting us, although at the time we did not know we were being adopted by a cat.  She would lounge in our yard while we were outside.  She would climb up into our laps and kneed happily at our clothes, making small pinholes in most of my jackets and pants.  She walked with us to and fro from the boys’ school bus stops morning and afternoon.

And then one cold winter evening, Husband opened the front door to her and she came in, despite our two German Shepherds glaring at such a blatant and shocking intrusion.  For several weeks, riddled with guilt we would put her back outside before we went to bed -technically she was not our cat.  We supplied her with heated cat beds nestled in small child sized lawn chairs on our front porch so she would not become cold.  Then we fessed up to the neighbors and asked if we could start feeding her.

Long story short, the neighbors moved away, leaving Delilah and her brother Bleu behind.  We, of course, took them in.  She has been ours, or rather we have been hers ever since.  Several weeks before our move to Arizona, Bleu went out one evening and did not come back.  We looked.  We posted signs.  We never wanted indoor/outdoor cats for this exact reason but that is how they came to us and it seemed unfair to change the rules midgame.

We are now a home without a cat.  It is a strange thing to be.

Last night.  Cody decided to wait in the waiting room, he did not want to see her dead.  Carter surprised us by coming in at the last minute.  He stroked her soft black fur and then buried his tear streaked face in Husband’s chest.  When her last breath was taken and she was gone, he pet her once more.

We have heavy hearts and a large hole that a tiny black cat once filled.

I have told several Delilah based stories and adventures over the years that you can read if you wish.  Check out the posts in the category of Furry Feet (and fish), I think you will find them there.

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Simple Sunday – Sunny 62 Degrees, Mimosas, and Gingerbread Houses

We were lucky enough to be invited over to a friends house to make gingerbread houses today.  This being a tradition of theirs, I felt honored to be asked to attend.  Each person brought some candies for decorating.

gingerbread house 1

The gingerbread sides and roof pieces were already made, as was the frosting.  The structural skeleton of each house was a gift box, folded and taped just so.

gingerbread house 2

We sat in the sun, drank mimosas and constructed festive gingerbread houses.  A perfect Sunday afternoon.

gingerbread house Collage

The houses turned out great!  Carter’s is on the left with the pretzel stick Mohawk, mine has the green chimney, then our friend Missy’s and Kate’s houses, with Cody’s house on the far right.

gingerbread house 3

There were others, but after I took this picture, I had another mimosa (or two) and chatted with friends – my camera forgotten.

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Being Taught

I am the one determining which state standard to focus on each week for English Language Arts (ELA), Math, Social Studies, and Science.

I am the one writing the lesson plans, creating, collecting, organizing, and readying the materials for each lesson.

I am the one finding ways to individualize the instruction and activities so all students can be successful, whether they are special needs or English Language Learners.

I am the one managing the behavior of not just all the students in the class, but especially those few outliers.  (And by outliers, I can say they are outliers in a school wide sense, who have their own behavior management plan and regularly check in with our Behavior Intervention Specialist.)

I am the one in the front of the room gaining the attention of the class, teaching, redirecting, releasing them to practice in groups or with a partner.

I am the one creating assessment to determine the level of learning taking place and what next steps I need to take.

I am the one with the degree in Education.

And yet I am the one being taught.  Daily.  From each student in my class.

One student, slow to process information, teaches me patience.  Another shows me he does not understand what I perceive to be simple social skills and reminds me that I need to teach this regardless of whether there is a state standard for it or not (and reteach and reteach and reteach it again).  One boy, the youngest of four boys being raised by an overwhelmed father with no mother at home, is angry and flinches at the slightest touch.  He is disruptive, disrespectful, mean, and is the reason that on most mornings I can hardly eat breakfast – my stomach hurting thinking about making it through the day.  He has removed any resemblance of kind community in my classroom and others have started mimicking his behaviors.  I am struggling to recreate our classroom family.  Some days I am just happy to make it to the end of the day without crying.

But strangely enough, he is the one I think I love the best.  He is the one who brought tears to my eyes as we sat on the floor last week, him and I with one other student, finishing their poems about snowflakes.  The other students had finished and were doing centers.  We sat, heads bent over clipboard, pencil in hand.

If I was a Snowflake I would be soft as… cold as…  small as… beautiful as…  and a special as me.

We had brainstormed words to fill in the blanks and they also create some on their own.  When he wrote in soft as a teddy bear, an original idea not found on our anchor chart, I placed my hand on his back and told him how beautiful his writing was.

He did not pull away.  We sat there not acknowledging my hand on his back.  He wrote.  I helped the other student sitting on the other side of me without moving my hand.

He finished his poem and sat there a just moment longer.  Then he got up to turn it into the turn in box.  I took a deep breath.  Not more than three minutes later he was sticking his tongue out at another student and calling them names.

Snowflake Poems

The students’ snowflake poems with painting done with bits of tree branch and Q-tips.

So yes, I teach, but I also am being taught.  I don’t know who is learning more – them or me.

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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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