Fields of grass and perfect skies

So many thanks to my friend and high school acquaintance, Cadence McCarrel (I wish we had known each other better in high school) for these BEAUTIFUL family photos. You found us the loveliest location to transport us back to those rolling hills and grassy prairies we grew up in. Cadence McCarrel, you are truly wonderful. She even came with treats ready for troublesome two-year olds, and lots of praise and encouragement. Check her out!

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Mostly just a photo dump

Life as a teacher can be crazy. Life as teacher who has two small children is even crazier. Life as a teacher who is a perfectionist and tries to have everything done weeks ahead of time is the craziest. Fall break was great. Spending time playing with my kids and spending time with my family and my husband’s family was so wonderful, but my teacher mind never stops. To add to this, traveling is hard for me. Not because of the packing or  even the anxiety of getting on an airplane with two small children and hoping that everyone on the plane doesn’t judge you for the way that your two year old is shouting, while you try to smile and sort of mutter about how they are really just tired and aren’t usually like this…. yeah. No it is hard because it is so many unproductive hours for me. See, I get motion sick. This means no reading, typing, or even skimming through magazines while in a moving vehicle lest I end up feeling nauseous for hours. I usually just sleep on a plane or in a car, but even that is more difficult now that those two small minions that I love are constantly needing SOMETHING. Food. Binkies. Smiles. More food.

So I was left doing hours and hours of work on Sunday trying to catch up on all the things I felt HAD to be done in preparation for Monday. Grading, lesson planning, evaling, learning all about historical things of which I feel I know nothing. This is how I often spend my weekends. That is why I have been absent from these pages for so many days. But I’m back. Well, I mean I still have a list of things to do that rivals the number of emails Hillary deleted (I guess that’s one way to get out of responsibility and work…), but for right now I am just missing being back with the people I love, and getting to see them play with my loves. So the rest of this post is just going to a large photo homage to the week of Fall break where I stopped being a teacher for a little bit and just enjoyed being a mom.

So people, I leave you with the photodump of pumpkins, goats, family, and corn. Lots of corn. In fact, the most amazing corn pool/box/ring that I have ever encountered. Oh, and also the two cutest littles that you have ever laid your eyes on. nbd.

Sometimes this is what the car ride looked like. It was rarely, however, the first two pictures at the same time. It was often the latter two pictures. I simply consoled myself by saying, “Well, at least he’s cute.”

dsc00574Mandatory carnival cut-out family pic. Gots to do it.

dsc00572This was basically Charlotte’s first amusement ride. She looks a little hesitant here, but don’t be fooled…she was ecstatic.

Goats, cows, llama, water buffalo, zebu (what’s a zebu?) lions, tigers, bears..oh my!

img_3747So this was just a giant “box” of corn. Like a huge, freaking litter box of corn kernels. It was everything.

dsc00601Why yes, this is Charlotte dog piling on top of a small boy. And no, we did not stop her. Okay, once the kid starting cyring we did. Girl’s got to hold her own, ya hear.

dsc00583dsc00589dsc00592How many pictures of this boy do I have? A million. Who wouldn’t? How many pictures of them did I take in these luscious mustardy-colored fall gorgeousness of corn kernels? A million. How many will I post? I’ll save you and just post these last three.

img_3780Big chair, little baby. Nuf said.

img_3738This girl is too cool for me.

img_3799Charlotte got so tired of being asked to take pictures that she would just scrunch her face and say “CHEESE” really quickly and then try to get down and run away. Which seems a good way to end this post…. CHEEEEEESE….. *skitters away*

 

 

Fall

The number one thing I miss about living in Phoenix is fall. Fall is by far my favorite season: the crunch of the leaves, the crispness of the air, and the added flourish of colors all stir my heart. And they don’t exist in Arizona. Don’t even get me started on the disappointing feeling it is to attempt to have soup, cider, or that famous pumpkin spice latte while it is still a high of almost 90 degrees in Phoenix. In Phoenix these items are not consumed in October because the weather dictates it be so; they are consumed in order to try and will the weather to be “fall” already.

img_3675So in order to get my heart’s fill of this season while I’m here, we ventured off to the Royal Oaks Farm Orchard. Even though the day started off a little cloudy and rainy, by this afternoon it was that perfect autumnal day – breezy, cool, but sunny.

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Britton always hams it up for the camera.

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Farmer Charlotte with her doll-like curls. Stay like this for always.

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Okay, just kidding. Grow up and stop being an uncooperative toddler! These toddler years make you feel bipolar – you love them one moment and wish your life would end the next.

It was freeing to waltz around green pastures – oak trees overhead, leaves rustling all around. Charlotte loved touching all the bumpy gourds and pumpkins, although the verdict is out on hand-feeding the goats. Britton was content to just be carried and feel the breeze over his bald head. Many apple cider donuts were consumed by all.

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Apples for days. We cheated and didn’t actually pick these ourselves.

And for your viewing pleasure, I leave you with this.

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You’re welcome.

Get ready to explore

Today was about exploring. Exploring new places. Exploring childhood memories. Exploring renewed relationships. Just exploring. Granted most of the physical exploring today was done by car, which, because I was squeezed in the middle of the back seat between two often demanding children, I was glad to see the end of. But I was glad we ventured out all the same.

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Now the landscape of Illinois isn’t quite as dynamic as Arizona. In fact, some might call it boring. And in deed, I did sleep through a fair amount of it, but the parts I did see were…homey. I love the mountains of Arizona, but this midwest girl also misses whole forests of trees spotted with gold, orange, and red. And I miss looking out across a field and literally being able to see towns miles and miles away. I’ve been away long enough that I forgot about that. Of course, there was also the moment that upon seeing fields of corn and oats for the first time, my Phoenix born daughter shouted, “Sand!” *hits hand on forehead* What have I done?

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Illinois’ beautiful “sandy” landscape.

But even before we hit the road, we explored deep down into the long lost territory of….our crawlspace. And oh the treasures we found! It was so amazing to pull out so many of my old toys and to share them now with Charlotte. It made me grateful that my mom has always been something of a hoarder (sorry, mom), and has saved so many of them for us. It was such a pleasure to sit and play with toys that I once loved and cherished with a daughter who can love and appreciate them now.

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Paula and I spent HOURS of our childhood setting up this house. The “people” that live in it are actually the most adorable little forest creatures. Charlotte loves them, but doesn’t want any of them to be dressed. I guess she just prefers that they be au naturel even if they do insist upon living in a fancy house.

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Tea anyone? 

But all of these new toys required a new playmate. Enter Jacob. Charlotte adores him. He is like a giant huggable, moveable, teddy bear. She climbs on him, sits by him, and requests his presence during all play times. It’s a relationship that couldn’t be sweeter. I am so glad we have the opportunity to come up and see our family, and for Charlotte and Britton to get to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I only wish we could do it more frequently.

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Charlotte and her favorite teddy boy, Jacob.

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Goodnight Kisses for all.

Ramblings, because that’s all I have left.

This week has been rough. It was the last of week of the quarter, and filled with writing evaluations, crazy long field trips, more evaluations, grading, laundry, and did I mention evaluations? I’m ready for a break. Especially a break that actually feels like fall. We are headed to Chicago, and I couldn’t be happier. Well….I could, if my evaluations were done. I’m working on it.

This is why I have been MIA. It’s because all my writing energy and creative thoughts are being poured into the 210 paragraphs I have to get to write about my students. While this task is time consuming and tedious, it also forces me to get to know these 30 humans that I teach everyday in a way that I probably wouldn’t otherwise. I am forced to look for their love of learning, their hidden efforts, their wonderment, and their depth of inquiry. I am forced to look deeper and more thoroughly at who they are as a person and as a developing student than I otherwise would be. I am forced to look beyond test and homework grades to find the unique soul and learner they truly are. Of course, this might make this process sound glamorous, and it isn’t. It’s hard and time-consuming, yet I hope that one day a teacher looks at my children that way. I hope they see beyond a number on a paper or a percentage from some standardized test to find the individual person within the class that they teach. I know for me it’s hard to remember that I don’t teach a class;  I teach 30 individual and unique children. Le sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but sometimes I feel as if I spend more time with my work than I do with my children. Or perhaps I feel like I am giving so much of myself, my time, my efforts to children that aren’t my own, while I have little left for my family. And yet, I love my students. And I love giving to them too. I guess the situation is just best described with the Facebook relationship status of “It’s Complicated.”

All of this has left me super ready to spend time with my kids and my family. Charlotte has been talking about going on a plane to see Daboo (my mom), Dapee (my dad), Juju (Dean’s mom) and Pops (Dean’s dad). Oh, she keeps talking about the new Tigeys she will be receiving after losing the others – I mostly hear about this. (*UPDATE both the Mommy Tigey and the sister Tigey are lost now.) We will be getting family pictures taken while in Chicago, seeing cousins, and prancing (I will prancing) around an apple orchard. Oh I can taste the apple cider donuts now.

But I’m not there yet. Soon. So soon. Until then, I type on.

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The beautiful Tonto Natural Bridge. This was our field trip this week. It’s gorgeous and great fun, but is it worth 5 hours on a bus with 50 fourth graders? hmmm?

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Who wouldn’t want to spend all their hours kissing these cuties? 

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This smile gets me every time. Erry. dang. time. 

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Hello papers. Hello coffee. Goodbye Friday night.

Things I love

Pardon me while I indulge in posting all about random things that I love right now. These are just little things that are currently making me happy.

So I am not really a make-up person. What I wear is pretty minimal. I am also trying to find more natural beauty products since most of the time I can’t read most of what is in the products I use everyday. So right now, I am LOVING this lip sheer. It is a little pricey compared to what I am used to paying, but it is so soft and hydrating. And did I mention it smells and tastes a little bit like vanilla? What’s not to love? I bought the twig color, but plan on getting more. (I will also mention that I do not work for this company at all).

As a teacher and a mother of two, I often feel tired. These vitamins and these energy packets have been getting me through many days. After taking USANA vitamins for a while, I really feel more tired on the days that I forget to take them. They are more expensive than buying vitamins in the store, but the effects are quite more pronounced.

Okay, so by now it looks like I make a million bucks and spend it all on vitamins and lipstick. I don’t, but have found that I would rather spend a little more on products that are of better quality than to spend less money more often on products that aren’t as good. So on that note, I also splurged this week and bought these boots. I have been oogling them for a while and have spent two years looking for a pair of ankle boots that I love. They are worth it, and right now they are 30% off, and if you are a teacher or a student you get an extra %15.

I swear I do live on a modest teacher’s salary, but teaching’s hard and those that teach deserve a treat every now and then.

I just finished this book. It was beautiful. It will be re-read.

Dean and I have also started this podcast. We listened to the first season, and it was great.

For a busy parent who rarely gets to sleep in, this clock is everything. I can set it to change color at a certain time so that Charlotte knows when she can get out of bed. Now granted the baby isn’t trained on this yet, but it means that this mommy now has a chance at an extra hour… twenty minutes?…. fine, ten minutes in bed. Don’t even get me started on what daddy is doing during all of this. (Hint: it doesn’t involve getting out of bed).

Also, this. I wish these kids were my friends. Or my kids. Hilarious.

And since my baby is going on half a year it is time to go back and look at (read: obsess over) how little he once was. So I leave you with some of my favorite tiny Britton pictures, and the giant baby he has become.

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Motherboy 2016

I love being a mama. My children make me laugh, cry, and sometimes want to scream. But I love them. And I love being their mom. But I have also realized that I feel differently about them. I didn’t think having a boy would feel that different from having a girl, but it does. I truly believe that God created us to desire the affections of the opposite gender. So when my little boy smiles that smile, coos his sweet nothings, and giggles at my every word, it makes me feel so special. It sort of feels as if I tote around a tiny boyfriend all day. I can do no wrong in his eyes. I am his beauty, and he adores everything about me.

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Now before you go reading Oedipal nonsense into these words, let me say that I know all babies do these things, but it does feel different when they come from the opposite gender. Certainly I love Charlotte, but we already have that mother/daughter tension sometimes. I also know that my children cannot fulfill me – not in the deepest ways I desire to be fulfilled – but there is something unique about that mother/son bond. Come Halloween you may even find us in matching costumes a la Lucille and Buster at Motherboy.

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Okay, hopefully our love never gets that creepy.

Britton, you have stolen this mama’s heart, and in exchange I promise to limit my desire to dress you up and parade you around to only your infant/toddler years. After that, I’ll just pick out your clothes.

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On losing things…

While many people took time out on Labor Day weekend to relax and travel, I felt like I spent all weekend losing things and looking for them. It is a feeling I hate. It is also one that I have been feeling more often lately since my list of “people’s stuff that I am responsible for” now includes: mine, 30 fourth graders’, my husband’s, my daughter’s, and my son’s. I know that there are people out there with bigger families who seem to cope just fine with keeping track of large amounts of schtuff, but I seem to be struggling with this lately to the point where I feel like the only thing I have really lost is my mind.

This weekend I lost my two-year old’s binky, my school keys, a student’s test (only later to realize she hadn’t even taken the test yet), and a Daniel Tiger toy. More on that one in a minute.

I try so hard to stay organized. And usually I feel like I am pretty good at it. I may not be the tidiest person, but I try to keep things categorized, labeled, and in one place. And yet, here I am losing everything. The thing is that it becomes harder to stay organized when the people around you don’t abide by your rules of organizing. I don’t like to throw my husband under the bus, or husbands in general, but men do seem to have a harder time with this. Or at least mine does. It is always, “where is that?” and “Have you seen this thing?” And my response is usually, “yes, when had it, it was here, but what you did with it after you had it, who knows?” Then there is the two-year old who is constantly moving her things from room to room as she whirlwinds all over the house. So no wonder I can’t find anything.

Now for that tigey story. Poor Daniel Tiger and his sister, Margaret, are now motherless. It isn’t what Fred Rogers would have wanted for them, but it is what happened. It may have been fated to happen considering someone decided to make these play figures – which are  labeled as toddler toys – the size of a small egg, and then some dope (read ME) decided to actually buy them. They had actually been motherless for a while, but then, miraculously I FOUND the mom after four days of endlessly hearing Charlotte saying in her whiniest voice, “tigey. mommy tigey is?” It was behind Charlotte’s bed, obviously.  Sadly, just an hour or so later, Mommy Tiger decided to venture off to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park never to return. The rumors are that she absconded with a different tiger family because Daniel was just driving her nuts about that darn trolley. Well, whatever the story is, she’s gone. Forever. Now Daniel’s dad is living that #postmodernlife and raising two kids on his own, which, to add more drama to the tale, will be significantly harder now that he basically has only one arm. Single dad and now possible amputee: that tigey life be hard.

For now, I am just trying to keep some semblance of sanity. I am working on training Charlotte to put her pacifier in the same place when it isn’t in her mouth. I also found my school keys – they were *cough* in my purse – and for now we aren’t buying any more sweater-wearing, trolley-loving jungle animals. How do you keep your family organized?

 

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The now motherless Tiger family. Note the dad’s arm. It looks okay here, but it is hanging on a tiny hinge.

 

The Struggle is Real

Before finally deciding to start this blog, I thought to myself, “Yeah I have interesting things to say and write about.” And then I sat down to write something and that stomach tightening fear set in – what do I say? Where do I begin? I am not clever or funny or full of pithy little Wodehouse style quips. What I am I doing? Why even try? Moreover how am I supposed to type (or even *gasp* be creative) when I am using one arm to hold a screaming baby and the other to hold off my toddler from pressing every button on the computer?  So I almost quit. And then I reminded myself of what I tell my students every day: failure means not trying.

How many things have I lost out on because I didn’t even try? Dozens I am sure. I mean I probably could have been some fluent-French speaking, piano-dueling, prima ballerina if I had just stuck with it long enough. The thing is that I am none of those things because I eventually gave up. Okay, so the analogy breaks down because I did try them, but not long enough to become really good at them. And so we arrive here, where once again I am trying something and feeling the struggle. The struggle of not being good enough. The struggle of comparing myself to others. The struggle of time and commitments and not wanting to look like a fool.

But I love to write. I love what writing is. It is freeing and cathartic. There is just something so beautiful about ruminating on a moment or feeling and attempting to explain it in a tone and language that would allow someone else to experience the same feeling, moment, place and time that you did. It is beautiful and scary in its vulnerability. But in that give and take of writing and reading, a community is created, a bond is formed. In writing, we build upon our human desire to know and be known.

So my goal is to press forward, to get past my fear of failure, and to just be me. Maybe one day I will even write something that more than just a group of fourth graders would find funny.