A Word for 2017: Adventure

For the past number of years I’ve been choosing a word at New Year’s to represent what I wanted to bring into my life in the 12 months ahead. In 2011 that word was space. In 2012 I chose clarity. In 2013 I chose presence. For 2014 my word was forgiveness. For 2015 I chose strength. And for 2016 I chose confidence. For 2017 my choice is a little bit different: adventure.

adventure word of the year creek

Over the course of 2016 I had a number of experiences that stretched me in new ways. I completed my student teaching practicum in a grade 6/7 class. I attended environmental education field school here in the Vancouver area, which involved two overnight retreats (one at the beginning and one at the end), a visit to the landfill, interviewing a rock (for real), mapping an urban neighbourhood, and hanging out with some of the most awesome people I have ever met. Plus a whole lot more. I graduated and earned my teaching certificate. I started substitute teaching. I started skiing again. I turned 40.

And out of all of this came a big shift in my mindset.

I have always been a naturally conservative person. I don’t mean that I am politically conservative, or socially conservative. I mean that I am personally conservative, in that I resist change and upheaval. But what I learned by hanging out around a campfire with a bunch of people I really didn’t know at all, going swimming in an ocean that was cold enough to take my breath away and coming out laughing, and learning to ski on moguls, is that new and different can be good. Very, very good, in fact. Taking a leap and embracing new experiences leads to great things.

In short, I have discovered the wonders of living adventurously. Of accepting physical discomfort in exchange for personal growth. Of waking up to a phone call at 6:00am telling me what I’m going to teach that day and where, but never really knowing what’s in store. Of seeing what the trail holds for me as I whiz down the mountain.

I was recently speaking to a friend about my tendency to want to control everything in life. I love a meticulously crafted plan. I adore knowing what will happen, and when it will happen. My friend said that the trick isn’t giving up control. It’s not trying to control the things you can’t control. And for whatever reason, that hit me like a ton of bricks, the idea of acknowledging that I can’t control everything, and sometimes I shouldn’t even try. It makes logical sense, but it feels like a leap.

It also feels tremendously freeing. Because trying to control the uncontrollable is tiring – intellectually and emotionally. Giving that up would be a whole new way of living for me. A way of living that might just facilitate adventure.

That is exactly what I want more of in my life this year. Adventure.

How about you – are you choosing a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what it is, and how you’re setting your intentions for 2017!

2016 Year in Photos Slideshow

2016 slideshowThis is my favourite post of the year. It’s a lot of work, but I always do it because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, which is why I have a blog in the first place. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my ninth (!!!) such slideshow. Looking back over the others is a real walk down memory lane from 2008 to today. I remember things I’d forgotten. I laugh and – of course – I cry. If one of the benefits of having a website is creating a digital record of your family life, then this slideshow is the best example of that.

I know that a lot of people couldn’t wait for 2016 to end, but it was actually a pretty great year for me, personally. A year of completion and new beginning. I started the year one third of the way through teacher training, with my short practicum behind me and my long practicum ahead of me. During 2016 I taught a grade 6/7 class with the support and mentorship of amazing teachers. I participated in the environmental education field school in Vancouver. I turned 40. Hannah finished elementary school and started middle school. I graduated with my B.Ed. and started working as a substitute teacher. My kids started skiing. Looking back over the year’s photos I see snapshots of all that and more. Here’s the photographic evidence set to music. This year I chose one of my favourite songs, Joshua Radin’s “Beautiful Day”, which I have shared with you before.

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, here are my past slideshows:

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

I’ve shared the photos and now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2016 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2017? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween! I freely confess, this is not my favourite of holidays. When you’re a little bit introverted the whole thing can feel slightly intimidating. Plus I’m actually a gigantic scaredy cat. Horror movies are so not my thing, and the loud noises of the neighbourhood kids setting of firecrackers in the park all night are jarring to me.

But my kids adore Halloween, and now that I’m a teacher I’m required to get in the spirit of things at work, as well. So, I help my kids pull together costumes every year, and get dressed up myself. I buy a bunch of candy and am very generous with trick-or-treaters who come to my door. I decorate the house and try to make it fun for everyone else.

One thing that I do actually enjoy every year is carving pumpkins with my kiddos. I am not the most confident carver, though, and usually stick with a pretty basic design. These jack-o-lanterns from 2013 are a good example of my typical handiwork:

jack o lantern halloween pumpkin

This year I decided to step things up a notch, though. I got some templates from Netflix and opted to create this Panda, from Jim Henson’s Word Party.

netflix

Meanwhile, my kids carved their own pumpkins.

halloween jack o lantern pumpkin

Here is my result. Not perfect, but not too bad!

halloween pumpkin jack o lantern

And here are all of our pumpkins, all lined up in a row.

halloween jack o lantern pumpkin

After finishing their pumpkins, my kids spent the evening watching The Nightmare Before Christmas on Netflix and discussed exactly how much candy they will collect when they’re trick-or-treating. Spirits are high around these parts, yo.

As for me? I think I’ll continue to catch up on Season 11 of Supernatural on Netflix this evening. An actual scary movie is just a little too much for me.

Happy Halloween!

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.

Riding the Ghost Train

I have been invited to visit the Ghost Train in Stanley Park, here in Vancouver, for a number of years. But I didn’t take anyone up on the invitation because (1) I often had a time conflict, and (2) my kids are super afraid of spooky Halloween stuff.

I feel the need to defend my offspring at this point. They are actually quite brave. They will try new things, push themselves, ride roller coasters and jump off of diving boards. But people in scary costumes? Not their thing. Which is fair, because I am the biggest scaredy cat in the world when it comes to horror movies and haunted houses.

This year, I was free and so was my friend, so we decided to go together. It gave me a chance to scout it out and decide if my kids would enjoy it. Plus, the 2016 theme is “Day of the Dead”, which is right up my alley. I especially enjoyed the mariachi band playing on the train plaza.

stanley park ghost train mariachi day of the dead halloween 2016

So, what did I find? When you enter there is a pumpkin patch, which is totally not terrifying. Ditto on the folks collecting for the food bank. The decorations are on theme and non-terrifying. There was a man in a devil costume roaming the train waiting area. He was being pretty respectful of the children there, which made him only slightly scary but not particularly overwhelming. So far, so good.

The train ride itself got off to a spooky start because a rider behind me was scared that something would jump out at her and she was giving vent to her fears. After a couple of minutes, though, it was clear that nothing particularly startling would happen. There were live performers who did look at the train, but nobody jumped or ran at me. Much like the guy in the devil costume, it was only mildly scary.

After the train ride, which took about 15 minutes and was enjoyable, we headed to the Spooky Barn. It featured Shakespearean dioramas that you can view through little holes in the wall. It was cute, and it was dry and warm. I wouldn’t recommend it for preschoolers mostly because I don’t think it would be all that engaging for them, but older kids would probably enjoy it.

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My friend and I skipped the activities and maze, because we weren’t there with kids. But all in all it was not nearly as scary as I had feared. I would totally bring my very cautious eight-year-old along. And for younger kids, or those who can’t stay up late, there is a matinee train during daylight hours that doesn’t include live performers.

If you’re local and want to know more about the Ghost Train, visit www.ghosttrain.ca.

What’s my conclusion? Sometimes things aren’t as scary as they seem. And also, it’s good to have friends to come along for the ride once in a while.

Happy Halloween!

Free! Evenings!

So, I’m officially a substitute teacher. My teaching certificate arrived a week and a half ago and since then I have taught everything from kindergarten to precalculus 11. It’s interesting. I’m learning a lot. I’m sort of getting my feet under me. Sort of. I will write a lot more about it later.

For right now, the pertinent thing is that there is a big upside to being a substitute teacher. Specifically, as a substitute I don’t do all the things like plan units and mark projects and write report cards and meet with parents that take up a teacher’s time outside of school hours. I show up about 40 minutes before school starts and leave about 45 minutes after it ends, give or take. And then when I’m home, I’m home.

This is novel for me because before I was a teacher I worked from home for years. There are a lot of great things about working from home. However, the downside is that you’re always at work and you rarely have set working hours. It’s very easy to find yourself spending your evenings trying to finish an article or writing invoices or trying to stay on top of your email. The same thing was largely true for me as a student teacher, as I tried to stay on top of both schoolwork and teaching at the same time. I was always working. It was good. I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining how liberating it feels to have my evenings to myself.

This evening, for instance, I found myself home alone with my son Jacob. My husband was working late and my daughter was at a performance of the community theatre production she’s a part of. Jacob and I had a couple of hours to kill while we waited for Hannah to finish. He got to stay up until nine o’clock on a school night (!!!). I got to enjoy some mother-son bonding. We decided to settle in for some Netflix.

mother-son bonding

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a whole TV show or movie with my kids. That work from home thing meant that I mostly used screen time as work time. Movies and TV shows were my electronic babysitters. This evening, though, I was free. So Jacob put on his pajamas and we each chose a beverage to accompany our viewing. For him, it was milk. For me it was Trader Joe’s Sweet Tea, which my husband kindly brought back for me when he made a recent trip to the US.

Once we were ready we pulled up Netflix and had some deep discussions about what to watch. We started with a couple episodes of Teen Titans, which is one of Jacob’s favourite shows. Then we had a disagreement. I wanted to re-watch The Force Awakens, but Jacob wasn’t into it. In the end I deferred to him and we watching the beginning of Zootopia. Jacob has already seen the movie, but I haven’t. So far, it’s good. I enjoyed it.

Jacob milk netflix

A lot of things are changing for my family now that I’m finished with school and working as a teacher. We’re still figuring it out, but so far it’s been really positive. I’m excited by this new chapter, and I’m enjoying the chance to spend more time with my children again now that I’m not a full-time student. It’s pretty sweet!

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.

All You Need is Love…Thankfully

We have reached that part of summer where everyone’s a little tired of being on vacation. It’s the most ridiculously first-world problem ever, I know, but I’m out of patience, my kids are bored and we’re all ready to get back into a semi-regular routine. To cap things off my husband is out of town right now, which really isn’t helping with my utter lack of motivation.

The one thing that is helping to see us through all of this is music. No matter what else is going on, some good tunes can really be a pick-me-up. My playlist is a bit eclectic. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” motivates me when I’m washing the dishes. My children have learned how to “Vogue” thanks to Madonna. Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” was a personal favourite of my son right up until he turned 8 a couple of weeks ago. And when all else fails, I’ve got the Beatles.

I’m hoping that love really is all I need, because sometimes it feels like it’s all I’ve got. I’m just keeping it real, people.

love beatles beat bugs netflix

The Beatles are a slightly controversial topic around my house. I am a fan. When I was in my early 20s I bought a massive CD boxed set (remember when those were a thing?) with all the band’s greatest hits. I listened to it constantly, blown away by the breadth and scope of the music. They were amazingly prolific and their music really holds up.

My husband, on the other hand, is not such a Beatles fan. His father loves the Beatles, so I suspect that my husband’s dislike may stem from some youthful rebellion he never outgrew. Or maybe he just can’t hear what I hear. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I have overruled him and shared the Beatles with my kids.

If you’d like to share the Beatles with your kids the new Netflix series Beat Bugs can help. Watch this video to hear my kids and I attempt to cover “All You Need is Love”, and find out how you can win a 3-month subscription to Netflix Canada.

So, get singing or share your favourite Beatles song covered by the Beat Bugs in the comments!

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.

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.

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