Simple Sunday – Get Back to the Nest, Little One!

Papa Quail was most displeased to find his little one out of the nest and away from the protection of the bush at the base of our mesquite trees.

Photo credit to Husband

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Fur Friday – Pay Attention to Me!

This is the look I get when I brush my teeth but James wants me to hold him instead.

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Where the Clutter Ends

Husband is the master of clutter.

In my life his clutter is a bit like the music one is subjected to while on hold waiting to talk to a representative of some random company or another, background noise that is highly annoying but on occasion you find yourself singing along with it because it rather rocks. Sometimes I want to sweep it all into a trash bag with one great swoop of my arm and fling it in the alley and at other times it gives me permission to clutter right along with him.

Carter seems to have received the clutter gene from Husband. His cluttering tends to consist more of a scattering of books than a concentrated pile of make-me-grumpy, but there is one exception. The end of our dining room table.

Because it looks nice and provides more room, we keep the leaf in our dining room table and always have three chairs on each side. We, of course, only use four of the chairs and have our designated spots; Cody and I are across from each other closest to the kitchen. Husband sits next to me with Carter across from him. The two empty places are next to Husband and Carter. Except they are never empty due to their respective clutter.

A couple days ago, fed up with Carter’s dining room table clutter, I told him he needed to tidy it up. He did and that section of the table, usually covered with books, cups, baseball cards, and trinkets was a beautifully empty. I was happy.

But apparently this newly uncovered space caused Carter some trouble. Last night during dinner he motioned to the table next to him where a couple items had already found there way and moved in.

“Without my clutter I don’t know where things start or end.” he lamented.

He went on to admit that during lunch the other day, he accidently sat in the wrong place, the beautifully empty space. Now this could be due to him almost always having his nose in a book and the subsequent lack of observational skills that comes with this, but it does hint at a possible unhealthy relationship with his clutter.

Carter’s clutter (L) apparently helps him identify his spot at the table.

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Cherries and Chips

One of the activities we will continue with from pandemic life is grocery store curbside pick-up. It is very convenient, especially since Husband does it all except write the list (and sometimes he even does that). However, things can go awry in this process.

This was the case last Saturday morning when Husband came home with a copious quantity of cherries instead of the two pounds we ordered. There were a couple other strange mix-ups with the order, but in the end we were credited and allowed to keep the SEVEN POUNDS of cherries, along with a party size box of individual snack bags of chips we had not ordered (Alas someone out there is drinking our missing Tecate beer and wishing they had chips. Now that I think about it, I hope they are not handing out cans of Tecate instead of bags of chips at their child’s birthday party!).

The boys were ecstatic over the chips as they are not something we usually have in our house (because I will eat them all). The box promptly went into the storage closet, designated for road trips and yet to be planned pool parties. But the cherries, so many! Now Carter is a solid cherry eater, cherries could be his breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I let him, but seven pounds…

I Googled cherry crumble, texted our neighbor asking if she had a cherry pitter I could borrow (she did), and went to baking. The crumble recipe only used four cups so I depitted, (or is that pitted?) four more cups to freeze for a later crumble. And still there were more. We have been eating them between meals and on our yogurt for breakfast.

With the cherries mostly taken care of, I suppose it is time to plan a pool party to address those chips!

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Simple Sunday – Litterbox Mafi

me: “One down, two to go!

This morning I was in the process of one of my least favorite tasks, the cleaning of the litter boxes. We have three cats and as such should have four boxes, one more than the cats you own, or that own you. I’ve heard these words of wisdom somewhere along the way and have always followed them until our orange cat, James, walked into our lives and we went from a 2 cat, 2 dog, 2 kid family to simply crazy cat people. It had been hard enough to find room for three large, covered boxes much less four. So it has remained at three.

James typically “helps” me with this job, closely supervising as I scoop, robustly paw waving through the cascade of litter flowing from bag to box as I refill, and happily swishing the sweep up litter piles caused by previous paw waving while eagerly attacking the broom bristles as I try to clean up. But this morning he was busy laying claim to the cat carrier I had brought in for his sister Leia’s vet check-up.

me: “One down, two to go!

I headed out of the laundry room and down the hall to the master bathroom to take care of the remaining litter boxes. The boys were milling around in the kitchen as teenage boys apparently do.

Cody: “You are like a hit man!” he said, acknowledging my comment. This made me smile as I considered how his comment elevated my humdrum job to something more, albeit a bit fringe, dark ally, and unconventional.

Carter: “Target eliminated.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of their comments, but I appreciate their sense of humor and how it will henceforth alter how I view this task.

By the way…

It appears from my last blog post that I have been absent since October. There is no one reason, but rather a lot of little reasons. This has been a tough time for me with work and life in general, but we are good. I am good. As a teacher this school year was by far the hardest and most emotionally and physically draining of any. Coming home from work, when I was not teaching virtually, and trying to help my boys navigate online learning was frustrating for everyone. Grades suffered, rebounded, and hovered around acceptable. We are calling that ok for this year. We have made it to summer!

Cody had a major operation to support his mobility caused by Cerebral Palsy in January, during the height of COVID here in Arizona. The timing was right for his body, but did not feel right in any other respect. Growth plates were destroyed to even a leg length discrepancy, hamstrings were released, leg bones were cut and rotated, an arch on his right foot was artificially created using bone grafting among other techniques. Eight weeks in a wheelchair followed by many more using a walker. Physical therapy has just dropped from three times a week to two. He is just now starting to put some weight on his right foot without the aid of a brace. All of this is wonderful and is going well. But all of this has added to the stress and lack of energy I have been feeling.

But I am good and I am moving forward with purpose and hope today instead of robotically lunging with starts and stops through the dreary of day as I have found myself doing. I hope you are well and for those of you who I “know” through blogging, know that I have been thinking of you, wondering how you are doing, and wishing you well.

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Uninvited Houseguest

Living within walking distance to a park is great. Living within walking distance to a park during a global pandemic, is amazing.

And so it was on Friday evening , that Cody and Carter were at the park hanging out with two friends. They eventually wandered back to our house, where they hung out in our backyard chatting.

Husband and I grabbed an adult beverage and sat out front where we were joined by Stephanie and Mike, our next door neighbors. The weather has cooled finally and our front desertscape yard with its adirondack chairs makes for a nice social, outdoor (and social distancing) setting. The dogs, barked their displeasure at being ignored inside, so we let Sasha out to join the gathering. Haley watched from the front window (she has anxiety issues as well as ultra protective instincts when it comes to the boys, so we are leery of having her around guests).

The boys came around front playing a form of murder mystery tag that, from my understanding, was loosely based upon a video game. Running around the cul-de-sac ensued. Sasha was a flash of flowing black fur in the darkening eve as she joined in. We enjoyed watching and talking.

At some point we were more focused on the talking and less on the watching which caused us to suddenly realize that Sasha was not out front with us anymore. The game stopped as we called and searched. We looked in the house, the backyard, Stephanie and Mike’s open garage. Nothing.

The boys and I went to the end of our road, calling. A car went by it’s headlights punctuating just how dark it had gotten. A black dog on a black road. My mind went to dark places and my voice revealed my increasing panic.

Meanwhile, Husband and the neighbors talked about where she would go. She is not a dog to leave us. She is not the most obedient dog, but she comes running when she hears her name repeated in high pitched, happy ways. Mike happened to comment that there was a doggie dog, partially boarded up with cardboard, leading from their garage into their house. Their dogs didn’t use it but their cats did. Husband stated that Sasha was rather cat like in her ability to sneak into small places.

Mike went to check their house. Sure enough, there was Sasha, hanging out in their living room with their two dogs as if she owned the place.

In her defense, she has been over to their house a handful of times for parties (pre-pandemic days). She has swam in their pool, lounged in their backyard, snacked in their kitchen, and slept on their couch. I imagine she considers their house as an extension of ours, just with a silly block wall in the way.

Sasha was put back into her rightful house and the evening went on, everyone very glad she was found and just fine, if a bit uninvited.

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Simple Sunday – The Weight of the World…

clearly rests in his capable paws.

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Practice Thanksgiving 2020

This year the table is set for four, not eighteen or twenty or whatever ridiculous amount of place settings we try to squeeze in. Our moms, the boys grandmas, will not be joining us. No neighbors or friends will be arriving, dishes in hand to add to our turkey feast. No hustle and bustle of last minute cleaning. No scramble to find enough plates and chairs. No extra hands in the kitchen to baste the bird, stir the gravy, mash the potatoes.

2020 is anything but normal but we are still having our traditional, family created Practice Thanksgiving celebration. It is, after all, tradition and the 20th year of our beloved holiday.

And while I miss the busy energy and the excitement of hosting a large sit down meal, on this 20th Practice Thanksgiving, I noticed something.

I noticed that Cody knows how to make stuffing from scratch all by himself. He even stuffed part of the bird before he was “grossed out” and allowed me to do the rest.

I noticed that Carter did not complain once about making the deviled eggs. Without a recipe, he organized the ingredients, dried mustard, paprika, were found in our spice basket, eggs thoughtfully arranged on the special plate my mom made.

Husband organized the crackers and took down the items rarely used from high places beyond my reach.

I noticed that I moved through the kitchen, hands buttery from prepping the turkey, with confidence, the kitchen wisdom of my mom and mother-in-law settled within me.

While this marks the 20th Practice Thanksgiving, I have yet to host actual Thanksgiving. I have never made this entire meal alone. But I noticed that I was not alone. For so many years Cody, Carter, and Husband have been there all along and continue to be.

The bird comes out of the oven in about an hour. The mad flurry of green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, and turkey carving is about to be unleashed. It seems with this meal that so much happens all at once.

And then we will all be seated, our meal in various dishes and platters spread up and down our table. It will be worth it. For desert, because it is just the four of us, I got brave and made a crème brulee. It is chilling in the fridge, waiting for me to add the caramelized sugar topping, sprig of mint, and raspberry.

I know you don’t celebrate it, but I want to wish you a very happy Practice Thanksgiving, whatever you find yourself doing today.

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Long Days

Oops. Apparently almost a month has gone by.

As you know, I have been remote teaching my amazing, wonderful class of cheerful third graders. It is a lot of work and makes for long days on a computer. My typical work day is 9.5-10 hours and when I can finally close my laptop, I do not want to open it again for anything – even blogging. Overall, I would say that my students and I have been successful with this unusual format we have found ourselves in.

It helps that James joins our class from time to time.

But the powers that be have determined that we are going back to in person learning starting in one week, when we return from fall break. So not only have I been teaching, but I have been going on to campus to set up my classroom.

I am lucky my work commute is 6 minutes if I hit every traffic light green.

My district is offering a choice to return in person or remain on-line. Each grade level has a designated on-line teacher. Her class has been divided up amongst the rest of our team, who will be in person. I lost some of my sweet students and have gained some new ones.

There are 29 desks in my room, the (hopeful) cap for this year in my grade level, down from 32. Each desk is 3 feet apart and each chair 5 feet apart. My class size is currently holding at 22.

There are a slew of new rules and procedures. So as to not have to have us all unmasked and eating in our small, carpeted room, there are lunch zones, some in the cafeteria and some outside. We eat at a different zone each day. We also have a different recess zone each day. These then repeat the following week.

There are five designated times for handwashing throughout the day. If you assume 40 seconds for each of my current students, that equates to about 14 minutes each time, or 70 minutes a day. Of handwashing. Of which I will most certainly not skimp on. We are allowed to substitute hand sanitizer, but the former microbiologist in me would rather not.

Thankfully, we will all be wearing masks, except for the 15 minutes they are given to actively eat. They may also be mask-free if they social distance during recess.

There is a staggered start time. There is a staggered end time. I will have students arriving as early as 7:25 and as late as 7:50 depending on their mode of arrival and if they have younger siblings. The actual school day starts at 7:45.

Some students will leave as early as 2:15 depending again on mode and siblings. Some will leave at 2:20, some at 2:25. Some will be picked up (hopefully on time) by an after school program leader. Some will leave with me at 2:30 to wait in a designated holding area to be picked up by a parent who is not allowed to leave their car.

When they leave, I will sanitize. I will spray a cleaner that has been diluted 400x onto each cleared off desk where it will sit for at least 3 minutes before I can clean it off.

Today is my first day of fall break. I woke up at 5:02 and could not get back to sleep, all the pieces that make up a school day fluttering around my head.

I made coffee and took it out front to sit in a chair under our growing mesquite tree. It was dark, the sky punctured with stars, planets, the moon. During my second cup, a bird in the tree awoke and called out. His call was returned by others, also stepping foot from their nests and shaking the sleep from their feathers.

My workspace that was my connection to my students for one whole quarter looks different.

It is where I sit now, taking a break from creating student friendly schedules to post at the end of the school day so we all can get to where we need to be, when we need to be there.

Change is hard. I will not lie, in that I have a lot of anxiety about the return to in person school. I am taking all the safety precautions I can to protect my students, myself, and ultimately my family.

Lots of planning and taking it one day at a time.

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Simple Sunday – Tale of Two Towns (ok, one is a city, but you know what I mean)

I grew up on an island in Washington state, my hometown surrounded first by farmland and next by the sea.

I have moved, two times now, to Phoenix, Arizona a city surrounded first by sunshine and next by the desert.

Two places, so very different, that hold a special place in my heart.

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