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.

Posted in Furry Feet (and fish), Simple Sunday | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in Food Glorious Food, The Virus | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

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.

Posted in Being a Teacher, The Virus | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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Victory for Teaching Table Manners?

This afternoon, as I set the table for lunch I noticed that all our large plates were dirty. Being too lazy to hand wash them, I put out a bowl for the pasta, a smaller bowl for the salad, and small plates for the bread. Chuckling to myself about all the crockery, I flippantly apologized to Cody and Carter for the singular fork with which to eat our meal – not a salad fork in sight.

On point, and in the overly dramatic fashion in which our family rolls, Cody quickly thrust his hands up to his neck and loudly gasped. Carter immediately followed suit. Not to be left out, I gasped as I flourished our multi-purpose forks.

“Who do you think your mother is?” I asked, “The Queen of England?”

Carter finished his pasta and for some unknown reason cleared his spot before coming back to eat his salad. Realizing he already put his fork in the sink, he got another.

“Oh, getting yourself a salad fork?” I asked.

This caused Cody to get up and correct my fork folly.

Husband and I laughed and wondered aloud if this was indeed a win in the parenting department of table manners. But then we watched Carter walk back into the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of underwear.

Our longest standing rule in the realm of table manners is that one must, in the very least, have on a pair of underwear to join us at the table.

Perhaps we have not yet quite mastered the art of fine dining.

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Fur Friday – Face

Welcome to Fur Friday where I post a random picture (or more) of some of our pets and maybe write a thing or two about it.

James’ Friday Face

Happiness is the face of an orange cat on a Friday before a three day weekend.

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Simple Sunday – Simply Sweet

Husband surprised the boys and I with donuts Friday morning.

What a sweetheart!

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Fur Friday – Eggcellent

Welcome to Fur Friday where I post a random picture (or more) of some of our pets and maybe write a thing or two about it.

Today Cody called us out into the backyard to witness the end results of a random science experiment. It involved soaking eggs in vinegar to see what would happen. Then he decided to drop them onto the concrete basketball pad in our yard as a grand finale.

The dogs enjoyed the show.

In case you were wondering, the eggs broke. It was nasty; the boys thought it was great. The nasty egg sludge was washed into the grass where I am sure Sasha will find it in a day or two and enjoy a lengthy roll around in it before coming into the house to sleep on my side of the bed.

The egg on the left was left to soak in vinegar for a couple days. The egg on the right is the control egg.
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Simple Sunday – Sandwiches

Grilled cheese sandwiches are my jam. They are my comfort food. I have very strong opinions about all things involving the great grilled cheese. Here is a sneak peek from the last time I made them, before putting their tops on.

Posted in Food Glorious Food, Simple Sunday | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments