Finish Line

student teacher sfu pdp

My last official day on campus as a student teacher

Almost three years ago now, in October 2013, I sat in a classroom in the Education Building at Simon Fraser University. I was there because I was starting to seriously think about going back to school to become a teacher and they were having an info session. I sat in a room with a bunch of people, most (but not all) of them much younger than me. As I listened I sketched out a plan of what would be required and how long it would take and I realized it would be almost three years. Three! Years! That felt like a really, really long time. That alone almost put me off the idea.

But it didn’t.

It didn’t put me off because of that little voice in my brain that has been there for as long as I can remember. The voice I have been ignoring since I was 15 years old. The voice I suppressed through the end of high school and engineering school and years of work and family. The voice I ignored because I wanted a solid, well-paying, prestigious career. The voice that said I was meant to be a teacher.

Oh, sure, there were moments along the way. Moments when I was discouraged and disaffected and starting surfing the Internet reading about prerequisites for my teaching degree. But always those moments passed and I sucked it up and moved on. Until one day, when my son was in kindergarten and I knew I needed more. As I spent more and more time thinking about it, I got more and more serious. I attended the info session. I talked to my husband. I ran the budget numbers. And then, finally, I made the leap and applied to go back to school.

Along the way I committed to taking things slowly. Embarking on a new career as a mom with two kids and a mortgage and all that stuff is a much different proposition than embarking on a new career as a twentysomething with no responsibilities. I had to be sure. I had to really know.

And so I took classes to get all the prerequisites I needed to apply. I volunteered in a local middle school. I spent time in the Faculty of Education. And then, once I applied and actually started I considered and re-considered at every step along the way. After all, spending a semester in school and then dropping out might feel like a waste oftime and energy and money, but it’s much less of a waste of time and energy and money than spending a year and finishing and maybe even working for a bit and discovering that you really hate teaching.

Fortunately throughout the journey one thing has rung true: I love teaching. School was stressful and difficult and time-consuming. I was occasionally extremely discouraged. I wasn’t sure I would make it through. But even on my worst day that faded when I was actually in the classroom with my students. When I was teaching I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I finally really fit.

I didn’t get here alone. My professors, my sponsor teachers, my fellow student teachers, my friends, my husband and my children all supported me. I am immensely grateful. I am especially grateful to my kids who had to put up with the fact I had very little time and energy for them, and that I was often not at my best. My hope is that by watching me go through this they have learned something themselves, about setting goals and following through and not being afraid to try new things.

All of my classes are finished now, and all of my marks are in. I’m officially done. Pending approval from the University Senate and the Teacher Regulation Branch, I am a teacher. I have been hired as a substitute teacher in two school districts, and I am looking forward to being in the classroom this fall. It feels great to be here.

Three years ago this moment felt impossibly far away. But now that I’m here, I can’t believe it’s already over. I guess time flies when you’re doing what you were always meant to do.

Jacob + 8 years and 4 days

On Saturday my son Jacob turned eight years old.

Just like every year on one of my children’s birthdays, I once again became ridiculously sentimental. How did this happen? How did my chubby-legged little baby turn into this big kid who can ride a bike and read chapter books and calculate three times 24 in his head? It’s baffling, which is strange because I am the one who was there every step of the way.

But, you know, there’s something about birthdays that makes you stop and take stock and realize just how much growing your kid has done. When you slow down for a second you can really see just how much change has happened during the past year, and the past eight years.

So what is my eight year old son like? He’s very good-natured. As a testament he completely took it in stride when his birthday present was broken and had to be returned to the store. He loves to tell a joke – in fact, maybe a little bit too much. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s still committed to his dream of one day being a YouTuber. He likes to play video games and he recently learned to ride a bike. When he grows up he wants to be a chemist so that he can do experiments and make things explode. He’s played baseball for the last three years and he is a good hitter. He’s finally tall enough to ride the big roller coaster at the amusement park and he’s almost as much of a daredevil as his big sister.

During the past year I was at school full-time earning my teaching degree. Now I am out the other side and looking forward to a great year spent with my eight-year-old. If things go to plan there will be family vacations and school breaks that we can enjoy together. We bought family ski passes for the winter, so we will all hit the slopes together. I want to take advantage of this time and make memories while I can. If the past eight years have taught me anything it’s that time flies, and this will all be over before I know it.

Happy birthday to my boy!

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

The Joys of Napping

My children have never been nappers. They both gave it up promptly right around their second birthdays and didn’t look back. This didn’t surprise me, because my mother always said I wasn’t a napper, either. By all reports I gave it up around the same age that my kids did, and the only time I ever slept during daylight hours after that was when I was sick.

When I had newborns I heard the same advice every new mother hears – sleep when the baby sleeps. I just rolled my eyes. I couldn’t possibly sleep during the day. I would just have to go to bed early and hope for the best. And for the most part it worked. On bad days I sucked it up and repeated the mantra this too shall pass in my head, and fortunately there weren’t too many bad days.

In recent months, however, things have changed. It’s hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s advancing age. Perhaps it’s befriending a couple of committed nappers. Perhaps it’s letting go of my identity of a non-napper and discovering that it was only ever a story I told myself. Perhaps being back at school finally made me tired enough that I needed to nap. Whatever the reason, though, I have become a napper. And it’s wonderful.

nappingThere’s something so indulgent about sinking into bed at 3:15 in the afternoon and sleeping. 15 or 20 minutes of dozing makes me feel like a new person in a way that few other things can. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t do it every day, of course. Life has a way of interfering with sleep, whether it’s daytime or nighttime. We’ve all been in that place where we struggle (and fail) to get the bare minimum of rest we need. On those days when I can give in and nap, though, it transforms me and leaves me feeling happy and relaxed and taken care of.

They say it’s the little things in life. I agree. A nice meal. Holding your child’s hand. The way the world smells after a spring rain. And a good nap.

During my time as a student teacher I spent a lot of time discussing and thinking about how to meet students’ needs. None of us are at our best when we’re tired or hungry or hurt or we’ve just had a fight with a family member. Kids are no different. If we actually want them to learn, it’s not enough to come up with a list of math questions. You need to create the right conditions for learning.

And yet, as adults, we don’t do this for ourselves. Or, at least, we do it all too rarely. It took me almost four decades, for instance, to figure out that a nap is a good thing. And so I wonder – how would things be different if we actually took care for ourselves? Not in a judgy, don’t eat sugar kind of a way, but in a genuine take 15 minutes for yourself kind of way. I think that a little more of that could really make the world a better place. We might not be in school anymore, but everything is better when we’re not exhausted. Right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I could use a nap.

Celebrating my Roots

Tomorrow is a holiday here in British Columbia. The first Monday in August is officially BC Day – a date that was chosen both to give everyone a chance to get out and have some fun at the height of summer, and to commemorate the formation of the Colony of British Columbia on August 2, 1858.

My family celebrated a little bit early today. We joined some friends for a picnic at the lake. And while the water was more than just a little cold, my husband, daughter and I braved it. I made it in up to my armpits, while my daughter made it up to her neck and my husband dunked himself. We’re made of hardy stuff, we Canadians. Although, to be fair, we British Columbians are generally less accustomed to cold temperatures than the rest of the country.

bc day buntzen lake

We had an extra reason to celebrate as well – as you may recall my son Jacob broke his arm on Father’s Day. His cast came off on Friday. Things are looking up!

As if all that isn’t enough, this isn’t the only celebration we’ve enjoyed recently. July was book-ended by long weekends. We kicked it all off with Canada Day on July 1st. This is a month of honouring our roots as Canadians and British Columbians.

We have a lot to be proud of. While my family was off eating and enjoying the lake, Vancouver was celebrating Pride. Justin Trudeau became the first sitting Prime Minister to march in the Pride Parade, and my Instagram feed was full of photos of him pushing a stroller with his sleeping child. We may have gotten our start as a British colony, but we are now a very diverse country, and I love the ways that we celebrate that. My favourite may be the 44 special citizenship ceremonies held on Canada Day to welcome new Canadians, but it’s all good. We don’t all have to look the same, love the same or be the same to join together and do great things. Or, you know, just have a party.

bc day buntzen lake

Our increasing diversity isn’t the only way that things have changed since the province and country were founded. One of the things that I can’t help but notice when I’m driving around these days is our thriving TV and movie industry. It literally feels like there’s some kind of filming going on every three feet. One of my favourite things when I’m watching TV is spotting a local landmark and realizing it was filmed here.

Some of my favourite shows are shot right here in Vancouver. The one that I’m watching on Netflix right now is Supernatural – I’ve been binging and I just started season 6. I’m honestly not sure how I missed this one for so long given my affection for creepy shows that are filmed locally. My first love, of course, is The X-Files and I’m thrilled that has just been added to Netflix as well. I’m adding that to my list to re-watch once I’m finished with school (next week!). And while it’s not creepy, I have been enjoying watching the locally-filmed Once Upon a Time from the beginning with my daughter on Netflix as well.

And while he’s not local, Russell Peters is the funniest person ever. Of course, he’s Canadian.

bc day buntzen lake

I live in a beautiful place, and my roots here are deep. I’m thrilled to be raising my children here. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that people from all over the world would come here to build a life. Or that studios would come here to film. As I watched families of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds out grilling and throwing frisbees and laughing and eating today, I saw once again just how special my little corner of the world really is.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

The Official Summer Slurpee

Traditions start in a lot of different ways. Some of them are passed down to us – like Christmas trees and birthday cakes and making jack o’lanterns on Halloween. Others are started on purpose, like a picture you take of your child every year on their birthday or an annual visit to a special place. And others start sort of by accident. In my family, the official summer Slurpee is sort of like that.

I was a raging hippie when my children were small. For two years we had no TV. My daughter’s first birthday cake was sweetened with apple sauce. I joined a CSA that supplied locally-grown flour and used it to bake my own bread. Which I kneaded by hand. I canned and I sewed and I knitted and all of that good stuff. My friends and I visited farmers’ markets and attended La Leche League meetings and bought wooden toys.

It should not surprise you, then, that my daughter managed to reach kindergarten without having tasted a slushie of any kind.

During the last week of school that year she came home with a coupon for a free Slurpee. Her class had received them from a visiting police officer. She didn’t really know what a Slurpee was, but she knew it was a treat and she wanted one. I told her we would go on the last day of school. And we did.

Flash forward a year to my daughter’s last day of grade one. “Mama! Remember, today I get a Slurpee!”

I hadn’t been bargaining on that but I thought, why not? One Slurpee a year is hardly going to hurt anyone.

That summer my daughter and I had a funny conversation about what grade she was in. Do you know that conversation? Someone asks about your grade over summer vacation and you don’t really know how to answer because you’re not really in grade one anymore, but you’re also not in grade two yet. You’re in this sort of educational limbo. On a whim I stated that the moment you finish that end-of-school Slurpee, you are officially in the next grade.

And it has to be a Slurpee from 7-11. I don’t know why. It just does. I can’t even say that Slurpees are my favourite slushies but that’s not the point. Rules are rules.

On the last day of grade two of course we went for Slurpees, and my daughter coined the phrase “The Slurpee Test”. When she sees kids leaving the 7-11 with Slurpees in hand she declares that they are taking The Slurpee Test so that they can be in the next grade.

I have exactly one Slurpee a year with my children on the last day of school. I am happy to say that following this year’s Slurpee my kids are officially in grades six and three. They passed The Slurpee Test with flying colours.

Actually, that statement is both figuratively and literally true, as they both love to mix all the flavours together in this colourful monstrosity that looks cool but tastes terrible. Whatever. It’s not my end of year treat. I just smile and drink my pink cream soda Slurpee because I have taste buds.

Some traditions have been passed on for centuries. Some traditions are started on purpose. And some traditions evolve because your kid gets a coupon and you decide that even hippie children deserve a treat sometimes. I kind of think those are the best kind of traditions. They’re the little family jokes that remind everyone that you’re in this together, and you’re making memories that will last long after the annual Slurpee is finished.

To summer!

slurpee summer traditions

This post is not sponsored in any way, and I am not endorsing either 7-11 or Slurpees. It’s just one of those things that honestly happens in our family.

The Best Laid Summer Plans

My kids’ last day of school was yesterday, which makes today the first official day of summer vacation. We have nothing to look forward to but two months of fun in the sun. Or, at least, we did. But then my seven-year-old son Jacob fell off our bannister and broke his arm and all those plans to visit the waterslides and visit the lake were suddenly thrown into question.

summer vacationThe good news first: Jacob is fine and his arm is healing very well. The doctors and nurses in the ER were fabulous, and his follow-up visit to a specialist was promising. He’s a kid, he’s resilient, and he’ll be back to his old self in no time at all. In fact, his parents were far more traumatized by this experience than he was. Even his big sister was more traumatized than he was. At the moment he’s enjoying all the extra attention.

The bad news, though, is that a cast does throw a bit of a damper on any fun in the water. His cast needs to stay in place for the foreseeable future so that his arm can heal. He recently had a layer of fibreglass added on top of the original plaster cast, but the plaster is still there underneath, and plaster can’t get wet. We bought a special waterproof cover for the cast, and it works, but it has its limits. And swimming in a full-arm cast, even if you can immerse your arm in the water, isn’t exactly easy or graceful.

And there are other issues, too. Do you see the snow boots in that photo? He’s wearing them because they were the only shoes he could put on by himself before we got our hands on different running shoes. Tying shoelaces isn’t really something Jacob can manage at the moment. Neither is climbing, or sliding down fire poles at the playground, or doing pretty much anything that requires two hands.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us here: there will still be summer fun, but less of it will happen outside or in the water. And more of it will happen at home. Which is why I am thanking my lucky stars for Netflix. Here is Jacob sharing the story of his broken arm and telling me what he’s looking forward to watching this summer.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Poem for June: 100 Words About Environmental Education

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but others are for sharing. And so, a blog series is born.

And now, here is my latest poem. I am finishing up my teacher training and my minor is in environmental education. I am completing my environmental education portfolio for a class retreat this weekend and I wrote this poem to include with the rest of my work. To feeling connected!

environmental education student teacher mossom creek poetry

100 Words About Environmental Education

I have lived in this place my whole life I
Walked in its forests waded in its waters my first
Bites taught me its flavours my first steps taught my
Feet the texture of its landscapes yet mostly I am
Removed seeing only glimpses through a minivan window as I
Rush to buy groceries (not even locally grown) now for
Six weeks I have been forced to slow down notice
Complexity smell green taste berries open my eyes again to
The wordless beauty I am so very fortunate to still
Be here to find myself connected, grounded, present, at home

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