Being There

What we have been missing the most over these last several strange months has been…

CAKE!!!!

Oh wait. No, we’ve been doing plenty of baking. Check out that sweet layer cake I made! Sometimes I impress myself.

What we’ve really been missing is that feeling of really getting to be with people–just enjoying human company. After my parents dealt with COVID in their own home, we actually got the wonderful treat of getting to enjoy a visit from them with no fear, since they were past their contagion quarantine while full of those protective antibodies.

How wonderful to play games with Grandma right up close!

Henry and Grandpa Steve both find themselves in funny positions sometimes

A nice lakeside chat with Grandma at Lake Nokomis

and a walking one with Grandpa. Figuring out Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Henry would have let Grandma spin him all day!

Joe tends to ignore posted rules

Such a wonderful time, especially since I had recently started teaching from home and could use some fresh ears to dump my thoughts and feelings into!

The next week, we all got our flu vaccinations. They’ve started doing a clinic at their middle school, so now that it’s not attached to the doctor’s office (and they usually have the flu mist instead of the shot) it tends to go much smoother. Here they are enjoying a post-mist play on our walk back home afterward.

School starting has also helped reconnect the boys with their peers. For so long we didn’t do any play dates, but now that we know more about how COVID is transmitted, it’s less scary to do backyard hangs. The kids are honestly better at social-distancing/masking-up than most adults I see! It’s been so good for everyone’s mental health to get these times of connection in.

I’m now teaching in-person four days a week, while maintaining a full distance-learning classroom everyday. Some of the introductory information a new teacher might get at a school has gotten left behind with the concerns of the pandemic, so the second week left me feeling like I had too much software and systems to figure out to ever make it work! I got sad and angry and indignant and overwhelmed and…yeah.

Luckily, I live with a wise man who told me:

Just kidding. Joe’s the most supportive partner ever. He lets me do all the venting and crying I need, but he’ll also point out when it would help to adjust my perspective AND he encourages me to reach out for help, advice and to be seen/heard.

I needed all of those things, and with the combination of all of them, my third week of teaching (which was also my first week of in-person teaching ever!) has been a success! I’m feeling better, getting the help I need, and every day learning more about how to do this job better.

For my 3D Art class, I had each period take a walk around the school to collect art materials. One class made a ‘nest’ and then plunked a huge rock on top of it, declaring it “The Bird!” This one is my favorite. It’s hard to see, but it was Day One in class, and the looks of the art is not really the point. Their inspiration was ‘how it feels to be back in school.’ Many of them were most struck by how strange the building feels with only a third of the students there at a time. They’re also 8th graders, so they’ve had a lot of prior experience in this building. They decided the best way to represent their collective feeling was to create a house on an island with a bridge. The house should feel nostalgic, empty and old. That’s so real!

So yeah, we’re all working our way through. In the meantime, bigger growth just happens while you’re busy with all the little moments. Like our zinnias

and our tree

and HOLY COW our sunflowers! I have tried to grow sunflowers every year for 6 years, but it never happens. I must have done something right this year.

They’re way bigger than me!

“Sooooooo big!”

New Things

Last weekend, a friend of ours had about the only kind of wedding that can be pulled off these days, a camping wedding!

Look! I helped put together a tent!

It was only about a half hour north of the Cities, so nice and close, but you still felt like you were out away from it all.

They had cut down the wedding to about a quarter of their original guest list, which was, I’m sure, disappointing for them. But I thought it was great. By the end of the weekend, I’d gotten to know a good chunk of the people there, several of whom were Des Moinesians I’d never met before. It was really cool.

The very musical couple even serenaded us by campfire

Such a beautiful time. Nothing beats an entire weekend outdoors. I felt so refreshed and ready to take on life.

And then, as always, coming home felt so good. Although, we may have taken a hike along the way…

We were looking for somewhere to eat our lunch, so we stopped by a favorite bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. That led to Henry wanting to follow the trails, so we did. It was a real treat to come upon this little area. It’s the place our friends used to come for bonfires during college!

The hill behind it is sandstone, which is really fun. In college, there was a throne carved into it, but now it looks completely different. The boys liked this hidey hole.

As is oh, so fitting, Joe found a tree to be in

And I led us to the beach

Charlie had fun uncovering rocks in the sand

and I had fun realizing the sand beneath the top layer was completely black!

So then I made some art.

Paddle wheel boat went by!

After all of that, it was time to go home. It was time to prepare for the big day:

Everyone’s first day of school! We had our devices charged, Joe reminded us to try logging in to things the night before, and we figured out the spots we’d work in.

I was ready to INSPIRE!!!!!!

And then…well…you know how the first day of any class is pretty boring? You don’t really do much except go through expectations and names and whatnot? Turns out that’s even more boring on the teacher end. Middle school students also prefer to be off-camera, it seems, so I didn’t really even get to see my students much. I felt disconnected and disappointed.

That combined with a first- and fourth-grade classroom operating under that same roof made the day pretty hectic. I’m not going to lie. Part of me just wished we could all just skip school for the foreseeable future. I’d rather be hiking.

I brought in some of our beautiful hydrangeas, watched a show with Joe, and got a good night’s sleep.

It all worked!

I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to try again. Day two of teaching middle school was great, and while we still didn’t get all the kinks worked out in Novak Elementary, the boys both had great days of school as well.

We’re doing it!

Transition Time

We’re learning about balance in our home right now

Things are going to look and feel a lot different this fall, and that’s scary and sad. 
But that doesn’t mean fall has to be scary and sad! 

There’s so much to look forward to. Sunday school, for example, will be online this year. That may be strange, but it will also give me, as a teacher, and my kids the chance to engage in it in a new way. Our youth pastor arranged a social distance gathering so teachers and students could meet each other. It was a super small turnout, as expected, but it was also a really joyful time. 

It was so fun, you can see Henry feeling pretty jealous that the first-graders didn’t get to do it (for safety concerns).

He pulled a little Zacchaeus  move

 

Closer….

Finally, they noticed! He was invited to join the water balloon catapulting

…and sploosh!

I’ve been feeling all kinds of feelings about starting school, both for the boys and myself. I’ll find myself getting upset about something specific, but then when I start talking it through, my voice catches when I mention Charlie and Henry. Sure, the details of a new job are stressful, but when it comes down to it, my real feelings have to do with the boys. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for 9 years. That has been my full-time priority. So even though that is no longer my ‘job title,’ I still absolutely feel like I need to fulfill every one of the obligations I’ve always had on my plate as a stay-at-home parent. Fitting a full-time job in on top of that is…really something. The boys will be doing school at home, and I’ll be teaching both in my classroom and from home.

But it’s also exciting. I have loved getting to set up my classroom. I find myself having fun planning curriculum. I’ve been doing these meet-your-teacher Zoom calls, and I dread and hate them…until a new family hops on and starts talking! Then my energy spikes and I get this full-body joy feeling.

This fall is going to be weird and hard and great. 

Here’s some of the bulletin board work I’ve been working on! Whiteboard drawings compliments of Charlie and Henry

My own graphic adaptation of a favorite scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Backdrop artwork compliments of…Charlie as a wee young’un. He used to love watching watercolors drip down the easel paper. It reminded him of the progress bars that show up when you’re waiting for a computer page to load. He called these drips, “Loady things”

This one might be my fave

And speaking of art reflecting time, values and place…here’s some of our sand art

Yesterday after I accomplished everything I needed to for the day at school (we’re in teacher workshop/setup/planning week), the boys and I hit Lake Harriet. 

We value sunshine, water, digging in  the dirt, and living up the late summer days in the city.

And then, in the morning, I got ready for some more family meetings.

Here I am, waiting for families to join my Zoom call, enjoying my coffee in a mug I got as a gift from the Governor of the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan…waaaay back when I was a middle schooler myself. 

While I wait, I made some magnets for my file cabinet to give kids inspiration points when they’re not sure what to make.

So yeah. Balance. It’s going to be new and different. But, as the theme song to a TV show I love says, “you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life.”