Showing Up

Starting a new semester was exciting. A fresh start! Students for whom I won’t be their third art teacher of the year. I can set things up the way I want to.

I forgot how exhausting it is to start with new students. So many names to learn, quirks to figure out, dynamics to assess, and expectations to clarify and enforce. I was working hard to build a positive class culture. It worked really well with some of my classes, but when you see six totally different groups of students in different age groups, there’s no magic formula. A couple periods started off in shambles, and I felt a lot of despair about that. I spent a few weeks waking up in fear and frequently walking home in tears. But I did it. I kept showing up, kept smiling, kept repeating what was important, and kept my cool (mostly). I stayed reflective, and had some great exploratory conversations with my school mentor. Now (knock on wood!), things are going a lot better, and we’re on a pretty good path toward the rest of the school year.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Watching the boys do gymnastics is inspiring for me. One, it’s just fun to see them out there flipping around, but it also reminds me that what I value in others is not that they are naturally talented. I value their effort, persistence, and ability to enjoy things that they have not mastered. It makes me happy to see all the kids with different abilities out there trying, falling, and getting back up.

I want to be more like them.

One tricky variable is that you can never quite know what things will be hard. Henry and Joe had a dickens of a time trying to knock this dice tower over using air!

Friends of ours had a baby recently, and they seem to be dealing with the newborn stage amazingly. Something that did end up being a challenge for them was figuring out diapering. They wanted to do cloth diapers, but were feeling confused and not having great success. Since that’s something I have expertise in and a passion for, I was able to give them a lesson. AND I got to hang out with their baby in the meantime. Look at this beautiful child!

A friend from grad school informed a few of us Art Teacher Moms that she now has an outdoor Jacuzzi. This was very exciting news to all involved, so this past week we enjoyed a snowy hot-tub time while swapping stories from our classrooms. It was so therapeutic, mentally and physically. She lives right by the Witch’s Hat Tower, so I got some nighttime shots.

The view of Downtown Minne from the hill.

My parents came up for a visit this weekend, which was wonderfully planned. I just really needed some time with my Mommy and Daddy, and the boys had so much they wanted to show them.

We all now look fresh, too. Thanks, Mom!

Sunday was in the 40s, so we definitely wanted to get out into the sunshine. Lunch at Heather’s was a lovely start.

Then we headed to Coldwater Spring.

Hennie found water!

The woods near the dog park were filled with lots of squeals of, “Mom! Look!”

Henry found a 203-year-old wall to climb up to.

So nice to be together

Getting Out There

Did we have a miserable time during quarantine? No, absolutely not. In fact, in some ways it was nicer than usual, because I just got to do the things that make me feel happy and alive: hang around my family, do house maintenance, and make art.

Did e-learning and not being able to be with others, even at the grocery store suck? Yes. Yes, it did. Postponing an already late Christmas gathering, and missing out on a visit from my grandparents were definite bummers.

There are always upsides and downsides. Another upside, was that once we were safe to be around again, getting back out into the world felt especially sweet.

Family Dinner always brings me deep joy, but we all appreciated it a lot more last week!

Last weekend, we went to French Park and rented some cross-country skis. We split up pretty much immediately, so no group shots, and none of Joe or Charlie at all. But Henry and I ended our ski by heading down to the lake, and he loooved the quick, steep slope to get down there.

He just went up and down, up and down. Lots of falls trying to get up the steepness, but he was so happy.

After our rental skis were due back, the boys and I played on a snow mountain, while Joe took some laps on his own.

Hot tea really hit the spot

The next day, we checked out the Winter Carnival snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds.

The Vulcans had a hot air balloon burner they’d take your photo under. We didn’t, but the heat felt nice nearby.

My personal favorite

Check out this vehicle! It’s like one of Henry’s drawings come to life.

Afterward, we played some shuffleboard at Spitz while waiting for our döners.

I picked up a book at the library called, Make It Mighty Ugly, about working through creative insecurities. I thought it might give me some good ideas for my middle school students who are embarrassed by their work, and scared to try. It’s turned out, however, to also just be great for me! I’m not much of a perfectionist, and don’t have much trouble diving into project, even if I think it might not turn out. But it’s still been a really helpful and interesting way to examine some of the creative demons that do haunt me. One of the exercises the author has you do is to take 3 photos every day for a week. Of anything. They can be pretty, ugly, good, bad, doesn’t matter.

Clearly, I take a lot of photos anyway, but I decided to try taking some of things I wouldn’t normally save and share. Henry actually asked me to take this one. His lava lamp was warming up, and he thought it looked like a face. I’m not sure I see the face, but it does look very cool.

Turns out, the time of day I’m most inspired to photograph is my commute to school.

I don’t always take the same bus route, but I usually take the 23. I walk north to 38th Street. If I can’t see the bus coming by the co-op, then I often end up crossing 35W, walking toward Nicollet.

I like the stop at Nicollet, because there’s a bench, and if it seems like the 23 isn’t coming on time, I can cross the street, and grab an 18 out front of the Ace.

There’s a retired guy named Rick on my bus, who greets every single person who gets on. At first, I thought I was going to be annoyed by that, but it’s actually really pleasant. He talks to the driver, and now me, and tells us where he’s headed for breakfast that day, or chats about whatever’s in the news.

I used to get off at the Uptown Transit Station and walk along bustling Hennepin, but I’ve been liking getting off at Fremont instead, by the Cub Foods, and then walking the neighborhood streets.

I like crossing over the Greenway, our bike highway.

On my way home, though, I do head to the Transit Station, but still through the neighborhood. After a day of interacting with 100 middle schoolers, I crave some solitude and calm.

3 blocks later, I’m usually feeling ready to re-engage with the world, and anxious to get home. Yesterday, my bus driver was chatty, and told me about his various teachers over the years, including a great art teacher and some scary nuns. It felt wonderful to talk to someone, instead of just sitting in silence, and made the journey fly by.

I really enjoy those parts of my day, even when it’s below zero. Walking is something I love, and it feels nice to let someone else do the driving for me. The combination is perfect: a good bit of time automatically carved out of my day for reflection and peace.

This past Thursday, we FINALLY were able to celebrate Christmas with the Novaks. It was a beautiful whirlwind, so I have no documentation of it. But I do have this little nugget of happiness. Charlie and Nora are just best buds.

As soon as we walk through the door, she comes running to hug Chachi!