Simple Sunday – Practice Thanksgiving, Year Fifteen

It started simply enough.  Fifteen years ago Husband was just Boyfriend and Cody and Carter were not even solid thoughts.  It was October 2001 and the thought that I had no idea how to make a full on Thanksgiving dinner had lodged itself in my head and would not let go.  My parents were coming down from Washington to Arizona to visit us and so I suggested that we host a dinner, a Thanksgiving dinner as a practice.  And that was how Practice Thanksgiving was born – more or less.

Last weekend we hosted the 15th annual Practice Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the highlights.

Sock Monkey folds the napkins

A week before the festivities, the linens were washed and carefully folder under the critical eye of Sock Monkey.  I think he approved although I can never truly tell.

Cody and stuffing Carter table Collage

Cody has always enjoyed helping make the stuffing.  This year he did it almost completely by himself.  Carter, meanwhile busied himself with setting the table and creating name plates from strips of green construction paper.  He created the seating arrangement.  And, yes, the plates are upside down – two kittens – need I say more?

Food and Table Collage

The turkey, deviled eggs, and my first attempt at pecan pie.  I love the small decorative corn cobs and was surprised the kittens did not like them as much as I did.

The Pets help out too Collage

Princess Leia looking crafty.  She only managed to pull the tablecloth catawampus a time or two resulting in minimal damage.  In the living room, standing on the couch arm is Sasha, looking out the window in anticipation for the moment all the guests will arrive.

The After Party Collage

At the end of the night, after the guests left, there was an “after-party”.  We blasted INXS Kick album and busted out the disco ball.

It was a great night filled with family, friends, and great food.

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Carterisms: Morning Dew and Can Lights

Ok.  I am admitting it right up front.  This post is really for me, a post to document the cute stuff that comes out of my kiddos mouths.  Carter had a couple lately that I felt compelled to write down.  They are random and I love them.

Carterism #1:  On the last day of my mom’s visit Carter, my mom, and I took the dogs for a morning walk around our neighborhood park.  We took the desert path leading into the park and then continued our walk on the sidewalk that surrounds the field and duck ponds.  The grass was wet from the sprinklers and some of the water had trickled over onto the sidewalk.  I commented to my mom about the wet sidewalk and to be careful as they get slippery.  We continue.  Conversation turned to how beautiful it was – the sunrise, the mountain, the duck ponds.

Not to be outdone or left out, Carter pipes up, “And the morning dew on the grass is so pretty momma!”  I explained to him that in Phoenix at this time of year, there is no morning dew as there is not enough moisture in the air.  Undeterred, he exclaims “Well then the sprinkler dew looks lovely on the grass this morning!”  Perhaps it is the artificial component of the water, but in my mind sprinkler dew simply does not compare in beauty to au natural morning dew.  But what do I know?

Carterism #2:  Husband and I are very indecisive people.  For the past three months, we have been searching for a light to hang over our dining room table.  We want something different, something that is a focal point, art-like but not too crazy.  We have visited several lighting stores and perused lighting options on line.  With all the discussion of household lighting, the boys have picked up a few terms here and there.  Surrounding our kitchen, we have several can lights and one day Carter suggested that we put in a row of can lights over our table.  I was impressed that he remembered the term.

The next day, Carter made reference to our box light and I had no idea what he was talking about.  Running with the idea that can lights are round like cans, Carter surmised that the small square shaped light above our kitchen sink would be called a box light.  I rather like it.

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The Things That Grow in the Desert

As I mentioned, last week I was off work for fall break.  My mom came into town a few days before our family made-up holiday of Practice Thanksgiving.  Since the boys were still in school, and it was too early to start prepping for the feast, we took a day for ourselves.  We went to the Desert Botanical Gardens, among other places.

Botanical Gardens 1

We are members at the garden and it is the place where Husband and I got married over thirteen years ago (wow, has it been that long!).

Botanical Garden 2

I have gone there more times that I can count and each time I see something that leaves me in awe at the reliance and beauty of the plants that grow here.  The plants that thrive here.

Botanical Garden 3

It was a quiet morning in the garden as it was a weekday and we did not have the boys in tow.  The boys do not do quiet well.  We stood for many minutes watching a cactus wren build a next of grass and twigs in the prickly embrace of a tall cholla cactus.  We saw a pair of hummingbirds, dancing in ever tightening circles, fly up, over, around, and finally through the branches of a green trunked palo verde tree.  We sat in simple, low slung fabric chairs in an overlooked corner of the gardens and talked – of nothing and everything.

Botanical Garden 5

The desert is a complicated beautiful – a mixture of persistence, heartache, and loneliness.  I do not think I will ever tire of looking at it and being a part of it.

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Fall Break and Flamingos

It is fall break.

Let me restate that.  It is my fall break.

I teach in a different school district than the one Cody and Carter go to.  All of our holidays and breaks throughout the school year just happen to be aligned which is nice for family time.

Except for this one week.

This one glorious week where they are in school and I am not.

I have a long “to do” list so I am keeping busy.  We are hosting our fifteenth annual Practice Thanksgiving this Saturday and my mom is flying in from out of state for it (she arrives tomorrow).

I have been good.  I completed all my lesson plans for the week that we get back from break including gathering and printing materials and writing my weekly newsletter.  I did all that on Monday.

Today I went shopping.  We are going into our second holiday season since moving from Washington and all our awesome holiday festiveness is still boxed up residing in some dark, dank spider infested storage unit.  Actually it is probably not dank, considering it is Phoenix, but you get the idea.

I cannot go another holiday season without some random holiday themed “stuff” to scatter around my house and then complain about having to dust it and vacuum around it.  I just can’t.  The marketing experts are too strong and I am too weak (and I really like seasonal decorating).

So today I went shopping.  And I bought things.  Halloween things and fall things.  It was awesome.

And then I went to Trader Joe’s.  And I did not have two loud blonde boys tagging behind me arguing about whose turn it was to push the little shopper-in-training cart because there was only one and they had to take turns even though they are both way too old to even care about such things.  It was nice.  I splurged and bought some dark chocolate covered cherries.  I told myself they would be perfect for Practice Thanksgiving but in my heart, I know that I will have eaten them all well before Saturday arrives.  Perhaps even before tomorrow arrives.  I dream big.

Oh, and I bought this.

Oh yeah!

It was 50% off, so I ask you, how could I not buy it.

Felipe the Flamingo is currently standing on the bathroom counter.   In our hall bathroom.  Waiting for Husband’s coffee to run through him.  Husband will be most surprised.

Hehehe.  So far I am greatly enjoying my fall break.


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Simple Sunday – The Domino Effect of Humor

Carter’s creation with dominos during our last visit with his farfar, (farfar is Swedish for father’s father.)  Husband’s dad has Alzheimer’s and the visits are not very much fun for the boys (or us, if truth be told).  The boys bring books or play with the dominos that are at the home).


carter: Look, momma!  Do you get it?  It says toy and I made it with toys.  He proceeds to laugh hysterically at his joke.  I can’t help but to smile, as I know exactly from where he gets his awesome sense of humor.

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Old School

An old box of dot matrix printer paper found collecting dust in a classroom closet.

This paper, its glory days having come and gone, became a simple box of scrap paper in my classroom last year.  We use it to solve math problems.  We use it to create thinking maps, a special type of graphic organize – comparing and contrasting, defining, determining cause and effect, plotting out sequences of story lines.

We also use it during Free Choice Friday at the coloring table.   (Free Choice Friday consists of about 20 minutes of free play complete with centers of blocks – snapping, plain wooden, and colorful patter blocks – puzzles, mazes, and a science center basket, among other various and assorted activities.)

The paper is great!  I love the paper and I am already mourning its inevitable end, but the kids immensely enjoy the holey ribbons adorning the two sides of the paper.  The strips comes off in long flowing ribbons and it makes for great creative paper making arts and crafts.

One of my students made me a dot matrix paper bracelet which I proudly wore after work on my trip to the grocery store.  As I pushed my cart up and down the aisles, I wondered if I was the only person in Phoenix, AZ to be so fashionable.

The boy who made it for me struggles with fine motor skills, and yet he had carefully colored this skinny, holey strip of paper.  He presented it to me with pride in his voice.  I love it – (Seahawk colors, great choice kiddo!)

Dot Matrix Bracelet

It currently resides on my dresser next to the rest of my jewelry.  Perhaps dot matrix printer paper jewelry will become a thing.  Perhaps not.  Either way I am happy to have it and will proudly wear it.

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Simple Sunday – In Color

Overheard this morning:

“Cody, wake up!  It is color comics day.”

colored comics day

And, indeed it is.

I am not sure where the time has gone.  It seems just yesterday that we left summer behind us to face our first days of school.  Last Wednesday I suddenly looked up to notice just in the nick of time that it was the first day of fall.  I quickly changed into a lightweight sweater to celebrate the occasion (even though the weather man said that we may see 100 degrees (and we did)).

My outfit, according to Cody who has become my unofficial fourth grade fashion consultant, was too dull, completely lacking color.  And he was right.  It was all shades of cream.  Being too lazy to fix it, and pressed for time, I solved the problem by blotting on some dark maroon lipstick instead of my normal coca brown.  It was the first thing my students noticed as I met them at the classroom door.  “You look very pretty, Mrs. M!”  “Is that new lipstick?  They never miss a thing, my wonderful second graders.

I am deep in preparations for the 15th annual Practice Thanksgiving festivities.  This year the holiday will fall on October 10th.  There is still some time for the weather to cool off and the feeling of fall to come creeping in as we sit down to dine on turkey and stuffing.

On a completely unrelated note I will leave you with a picture documenting the strict no-cats-on-the-dining-room-table rule.

Very strict rules


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Simple Sunday – The Ants Go Marching Two By Two


Our zoo home is now full.  We have two of everything.  Two adults (although Husband and I do not always appear as such).  Two kids.  Two dogs.  And now, two kittens.

Meet Chloe.  She came from the Humane Society and is about four months old.  She loves snuggling, attacking small bits of paper, and plopping down on the dining room table over and over again no matter how many times we pick her up and remove her.

Princess Leia and Chloe took a couple days to become friends.  This morning we found them snuggled up together on the top of their cat tower.  Haley and Sasha are curious.  They follow them around like a dark, furry pack of paparazzi, stalkish and not so very stealth.  There has been no aggression and we are feeling good about it.

Unless some bedraggled tired looking animal wanders up to our door, rings the bell and waits there patiently, eyes filled with hope, we will not be adding anymore pets to our family.

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Simple Sunday – Pant-less, Princess Leia, and the Eleventh Day

Yesterday the boys ran out of clean shorts – or short pants as Carter calls them.  It also happened that we ended up not leaving the house that day, choosing instead to work around the house.  This made the lack of short pants a nonissue and the boys simply spent their day in shirts and superhero underwear.  I did eventually do a load of laundry for them in preparation of the errands we must run today.

pantless no more

Husband and I have this thing.  If he knows something I don’t know, a surprise or such, he will text me (or if we are in the same room, tell me) that he knows something I don’t know.  And vise versa.  On Friday I received this text:

I know something

Yup, we got a kitten.  Long story short – Husband is in between jobs.  He gave notice and is able to return to his previous employer but this time he will telecommute, mostly working from home.  During this brief break in his work schedule, I gave him the task of finding some cute kittens to add to the chaos of our home.  The chaos level is not right until we have two of each: kids, cats, and dogs.  He bonded with a kitten on Friday, a four month old stray at the Humane Society and brought her home.  He only gets a score of 50% as 1 is not 2 kittens.  Here she is.  Meet Princess Leia (yes, we are into Star Wars these days).

Princess Leia

And lastly, my second year of teaching second grade is going swimmingly!  My kiddos are fabulous and I love them all already.  On the eleventh day of school we had a great sharing moment.  I was reading a story called Bountiful Grace, a story of a girl, Grace, whose parents had divorced.  She goes to Africa to visit her dad’s new family for the first time and realizes that families come in all shapes and forms.

My students were all seated on the rug at my feet as I was reading.  Hands shot up.  One after another shared about their dad leaving, a family member dying, how they are being raised by a grandparent.  The discussion turned to the definition of a family.  The answers they gave made me have goose bumps.  Families – they are a group of people that you love.  Families – they are always there for you.  Families – they care about one another.  Great answers.  And at the end I tied it into our family, our classroom family.  The family in room 225.

And that is just a tiny bit of what has been going on these days at Casa de Wrong Feet.

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Summertime is rapidly slipping away.  I start back to work in 12 days.  In 17 days it is Meet the Teacher Night and the students start back to school two days after that.

I feel unprepared on so many levels.

The Classroom:

  • Due to having to move rooms at the very end of last year, most of my classroom is in a state of disarray.  Boxes are opened, some partially unpacked.
  • I have arranged and rearranged the classroom furniture several times.  I am still not completely content with the layout.
  • I have spend countless hour organizing and sorting and plotting and planning.  Some of the time at home, some in the classroom (where the a/c is on the fritz – one day it blew heat and would not stop, another day simply nothing at all).

On the positive side…  I have my name and a cute orange cutout of the sun taped to the window welcoming all who enter.  Cody and Carter helped me organize the classroom library, a task I never got to complete last year.  For those of you who may care, each books has a label F1, F2, F3 and so on, where F stands for fiction.  They are alphabetized by author’s last name, so you would find the A’s and B’s in the bins F1, F2 and maybe F3 depending on how many books fall into this category.  The label is color coordinated and matches the label on the corresponding basket.  I think this will enable the students to keep our library organized and neat.

Classroom Library Collage

Oh, and there is one bulletin board up.

First Hint of a Classroom

There is much, much more work to be done.

Lots of Work to do

The House:

  • Boxes, boxes, and more boxes.  They never end.  We still have a large storage unit full of stuff.  I have decided we have too much stuff.
  • And we need more stuff.  We have never had a bedroom large enough for a bedroom set and as such we do not have bedroom furniture.  Really, we don’t (unless you count a white plastic-ish dresser given to me by some random guy who lived upstairs from me during my first year of college in 1995 (it was hideous then and it continues to be hideous now – but is was free and for the most part it is functional.))  So we really would like to buy a nice bedroom set and ditch the dresser.
  • The little things of homeownership – broken sprinkler heads, drip systems that do not drip or drip too much, ants, a bathtub that does not hold water, a lack of lighting in the dining room.  All these things are totally fixable but they take time (and money).

On the positive side…  We continue to love our neighborhood.  We take the dogs for walks, we chat with neighbors.  We unearthed Husband’s box of Legos dating back to the time when there were no kits and kids simply built using their imagination.

Old School Legos Collage

And our dogs are mostly at peace with the fact that they share a home.

The Pups Together

The Trip:

  • We are taking a family trip to Washington to spend some time with my mom before the summer completely slips through our fingers.
  • I should be packed seeing as we leave soon, but I have yet to locate one of the suitcases we need.
  • I am excited to see my mom and revisit my childhood home and town but I am struggling with the letting go of all that needs to be done and the fact that I can’t do any of it while I am away.  In essences I need to figure out a way to “turn it off” so I can simply enjoy the vacation and my family.

On the positive side…  We have worked it so we leave as a family but return with only one boy.  Then my mom flies down with that boy, stays a couple days, and then goes back to Washington with the other boy.  The other boy flies back solo.  This is awesome (and a bit stressful for me as we have never done this before) in that each kiddo gets individual Grandma time and individual time with Husband and I.

So currently I am feeling very overwhelmed.  I should be packing, or unpacking, or hanging a bulletin board, or trimming bushes in the backyard, or something instead of writing.

But I like writing and at this point I think my “fight or flight” response has taken over. Writing is the “flight” I need to get up above it all and see it for what it simply is – a small moment in time that is manageable, will pass, and will be just fine.

Sasha Relaxing

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