Me + 40

You guys, today I turned 40 years old.

40. Years. Old.

It sounds significant to me because I’m entering a new decade of my life. But also because I remember my mom turning 40. I remember my mother-in-law turning 40, for Pete’s sake. I had already been dating her son for two years at the time. Yes, Jon and I were young, but still.

birthday selfie 40Looking back over the past few years, it seems that I celebrated my birthdays by making lists of what I would do at 35, 36, 37 and 38. And then last year I marked the occasion by making a list of what I would not do at 39. Ironically, I did many of the things I said I would not. For instance my hair is significantly longer than it was at this time last year and I started writing in a journal when I said I would not grow my hair out or start journaling. So I’m not much better at honouring slacker non-goals than aspirational actual goals.

Luckily, I’m also old enough to not really care anymore.

I spent my 30s in the trenches of motherhood. On my 30th birthday I had a one-year-old. In the past 10 years I birthed a second baby, left my engineering job, changed a lot of diapers, worked at home as a freelance writer, agonized over childcare, and found my calling. There was a lot of soul-searching, a lot of time spent doing things for other people, and a lot of waiting for the right timing.

While I’m having some existential angst at being officially middle-aged, this birthday is also celebratory for me. I’m wrapping up my teaching degree and applying for jobs. I have an interview next week. If my 30s were about babies and laying groundwork, my 40s are shaping up to be about enjoying the fruits of all that labour. I worked hard. My kids are now two really cool people who can do lots of things for themselves. I have more time to do the things I want to do. And I am realizing my goal of becoming a teacher, which makes me so very happy.

It feels good to be able to look back on the past year – and the past decade – and see how far I’ve come. It also feels good to be excited about where I am going next.

This is me at 40. I am happy to be here.

Siblings: The Original Frenemies

The sibling relationship is something unique and special. I have a younger sister myself, so I understand the dynamic that can evolve, in which you both adore and are highly annoyed by your sibling. I also see it with my own two children. My daughter Hannah is 11 now and my son Jacob is seven and a half and they are simultaneously the best of friends and worst of enemies. The are each other’s biggest defenders and worst antagonists. Frenemies par excellence, as it were. I often say that the dynamic goes something like this:

“You’re not allowed to hit my sister/brother! Only I’m allowed to do that!”

I really do adore it. And I am so happy that my kids have each other.

siblings

All of this does present its challenges, however. Anytime that we’re deciding how to spend a Saturday afternoon, anytime we’re choosing what to have for lunch, and anytime that they’re trying to decide what to watch on TV there is a conflict. It’s inevitable. If you have more than one child, you are likely familiar with this.

I’ve actually written about my role as a peace negotiator before. Once again, if you have more than one child, you can probably relate. Of course I encourage my children to work together and solve their own problems, but this just doesn’t always happen. After all, children are just learning. They need support from adults when developing life skills, like choosing something to see on Netflix. My hope is that by learning how to manage these small (to me) conflicts now, they are developing skills that will serve them later in life when stuff gets real.

Fingers crossed.

siblings

I like to think that, beyond conflict negotiation, having a sibling who is different from you has a lot of benefits. With a daughter and a son we have a well-balanced variety of toys and dress-up clothes and so on. With three and a half years between my kids we also have an array of interests and activities happening in our lives. My children are exposed to things they otherwise might not be. My daughter and son have both enjoyed movies and TV shows and games and foods that they were initially forced to try to make the peace. It’s stressful in the moment, but in the long run everyone wins.

Again, fingers crossed.

This month Netflix is doing something to try to help parents out. They created Netflix Siblings Playlists that are meant to cater to a wide range of ages and interests. This is really helpful to me, because as I said my kids are two very different people. The Meet in the Middle playlist was most appealing to my kids. Of course, your mileage may vary, but any little thing you can do to keep the peace helps, right?

To siblings!

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 of the Month: 100 Words

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 this month’s poem. I realize it has been more than a month, but you know, that’s life. I wrote this one last year, and re-reading it just now it made me smile. To spring!

poetry dandelions spring

100 Words

My backyard is covered in dandelions and discarded playthings hardly
Elegant, barely tended but evidence of spring and childhood makes
Me smile I am content – would it were ever thus
Happy just to be alive, standing in the warm sunshine
Barefoot in unmowed grass while my kids race each other
Around on weather worn cars they both outgrew years ago
Afterwards they dust off the old yard sale picnic table
Make a feast of fruit and crackers on toy dishes
Enjoying the freedom of dining outdoors they call me back
Again asking for more juice or another silly smiling picture

Why I Love Being a Teacher

My student teaching journey has rounded a corner. It feels good.

student teacher whistleMy practicum is over (and I miss my students so much). My final reports have been signed off on. My portfolio is complete. My job applications are submitted to the school districts I most want to work in. I am registered for summer classes and excited about the opportunity to learn about environmental education in particular. And now? Now I wait. While I wait I’m playing with my kids, working in my garden, catching up on reading (both professional and personal), and looking forward to graduating this fall and being a bona fide teacher.

Over the past few months in my grade 6/7 classroom I learned a lot about what it means to be a teacher. The good news is that my experiences solidified my decision to pursue this new career. When I am in the classroom working with students I feel like I fit. Teaching is awesome and I feel so privileged to be starting out in this field. What makes it awesome? Type A personality that I am, I made a list.

Things I Love About Teaching

  • Hanging out with kids every day
  • Blowing my students’ minds (subtracting negative integers, anyone?)
  • Hearing insights from students that blow my mind
  • Making art – and seeing my students make much better art
  • Playing dodgeball and badminton and California kickball
  • Having a whistle and a desk bell
  • Introducing children to great books
  • Getting to know families and neighbourhoods and communities
  • Watching a student work and work and finally just get it
  • Creating hands-on science activities, or, to put it another way, letting my students mix colours together in test tubes in a way that they actually learn something
  • Throwing class parties
  • Honouring the uniqueness in everyone
  • Bonding with my students, and watching them bond with each other
  • Helping kids to talk through problems and find solutions
  • Field trips!
  • Working with other members of the educational community who constantly inspire me
  • Watching my students assume leadership roles and excel in the broader school community
  • The funny things kids sometimes write or say
  • Marking math tests (yes, I actually do love this)
  • Sharing the amazing work that my students are doing with their parents
  • Welcoming newcomers to Canada
  • Choosing cool assignments
  • Throwing away the lesson plan and getting together for a rich class discussion on the carpet

student teacherstudent teacher
 
There is so much more I can say. So much. But right now I have books to read and TV shows to watch and weeds to pull. Break time is sweet, indeed.

Spring Breakdown

March has been a month of highs and lows for me. I experienced some of the most stressful days of my life, when I was trying to balance the busiest parts of being a student teacher with still being a passable mom and not entirely losing myself in the process. There were family outings to pick up ski passes for next year and do some sledding on a snow-covered mountain. There were family get togethers and dinners with friends and date nights with my husband. There was lots and lots of Easter chocolate. And there were mornings relaxing on the couch watching Supernatural on Netflix and giving my brain a break in the midst of writing my final report.

There were times when I thought I totally couldn’t do this and I should just give up, and times when I felt on top of the world and proud of everything I had accomplished.

And there was a lot of drinking tea, because that is just how I roll.

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

Early Grey and Math Vocabulary

The end is in sight on this whole student teaching thing. I still have four months of schoolwork left to do over the summer, but the hardest part is almost over. I am pretty proud of myself. I am even more proud of my students. They are more awesome than chocolate ice cream.

I am also proud of my own two kids. They have been very patient with me. While I engaged in some benign neglect, and they watched lots of TV (Pokemon is an especial favourite right now), I got a lot done. My hope is that the example I’m setting of pursuing a goal and following my heart and always learning offsets the time I’m spending in school. Fingers crossed, it will all be good in the end.

This has been a month with some really great moments, and some really hard moments. Some really busy moments and some moments when I collapsed in total exhaustion. I think maybe that’s how you know it was actually a month when you really lived. You were just too wrapped up in each and every moment to really stop and think. That was my March.

My practicum wraps up on April 8, and my semester finishes on April 15. And then some other big things happen in the few weeks before school starts again. My husband and I will celebrate our 25 year dating anniversary. I will turn 40 (yes, we were babies when we got together). I will start looking for a job. And I will finally have the time to check out the new Fuller House series on Netflix. Full House was my top secret guilty pleasure when I was 13, and I am the exact same age as Candace Cameron, so I am anticipating that this will be right up my alley.

Priorities? I have them.

I hope your March was great. What have you been up to lately?

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.

Precious Downtime

You guys, school. School! School.

school student teacher desk

My desk at school is not a tidy place

I have finished the first six weeks of my student teaching practicum, and I have four weeks left to go (plus two weeks of Spring Break when I will be back in class myself). And it’s awesome. Every day is different. My students are alternately inspiring and challenging, but always amazing. I am learning so much about myself, about what it means to be an educator, and about how to stand in front of a class of 29 twelve-year-olds without losing your cool. On the whole, it’s going well. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am doing it. I know I can pull this student teaching thing off.

All of the time and money and work has not been in vain. Phew.

All the same, working part-time and student teaching full-time and being the mom of two kids isn’t easy. I’m extremely busy. Which is okay, because this is what I signed up for. It’s a short period of time and if I don’t get as much downtime as I would like, well, it will be worth it in the long run. All those lesson plans I’m writing are giving me experience and helping my days to flow more smoothly.

Right now, though, my recreational time is pretty much limited to 20 minutes on the occasional evening when I can watch a little bit of TV. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, a couple of hours on a weekend when I can hang out with my kids.

When I do get some family time, right now we’re playing a lot of board games. My kids are huge fans of Apples to Apples Junior. My son Jacob is only seven and the recommended age is nine and up, but somehow he always wins. He’s an Apples to Apples Junior ringer.

downtime relaxing

Taking a moment to breathe

When the board games are done, sometimes my kids watch a movie together while my husband and I have an actual conversation. It’s extremely decadent. But first, we have to referee the movie choice. It’s always a bone of contention. They pull up Netflix and then each kid makes their case. At the moment my daughter favours Inside Out or live action fairy tales like Cinderella or Enchanted. My son is currently into Home and How to Train Your Dragon. Eventually, though, they settle on something and I make them snacks and they watch their movie and I breathe and relax for at least a little while.

And then, when the movie is over and the kids go to bed, my husband and I get our chance to enjoy some Netflix. We usually watch a comedy special. And I laugh, and remember that life is sort of ridiculous. And somehow things seem easier and less serious than they did a few hours earlier. Perspective is a good thing to have.

This will all be over before I know it. For now, I’m milking those little moments of downtime for all they’re worth.

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.

Hannah + 11 years and 8 days

This is one of those posts that I never know how to write.

On February 19, my daughter Hannah turned 11 years old. Somehow, this tiny little baby:

hannah birthday

Turned into this young woman:

hannah birthay

What do you say about your first-born child? Of course she’s amazing. Of course she’s beautiful. Of course she’s smart, and talented, and funny. And when I look at her I feel so full of mother-love that it grabs hold of my heart and squeezes until the emotion spills out of my eyes and runs down my face.

And what do you say about an 11-year-old girl? Her story hasn’t been my story to tell for a number of years now. She is fully her own person, with her own ideas and preferences and friends and hobbies. She doesn’t need me to speak for her. More than that, it’s inappropriate for me to speak for her. So I don’t, so much, anymore. But of course I think about her constantly. Of course I mentally catalogue all of the milestones, big and small, as best I can. I wish I could do more, but it goes so fast.

So. Freaking. Fast.

Here are the things I can say.

Hannah is an artist who is always drawing. She is in grade five. She started tae kwon do last April and she is fierce. She was one of the MCs at her school Christmas concert, and she sang a solo in the church Christmas pageant. She did a year of tap dance and when she is feeling antsy she does tap steps. Every night I read out loud to her before she goes to sleep. She loves our cat. She tolerates her brother.

Eleven years ago she made me a mother, and every day since then she has made me a better person. And I am proud of the person she has become.

Happy (belated) birthday, Hannah!

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