6:52 – I want to remember how every single day Harriet wakes up and asks Jesse for milk in her Dora cup. I want to remember how she says Doa Bup. I want to remember how she can point to Dora and Boots, but that she’s never actually seen the show (as far as I know).
9:13 – I want to remember how this morning got away from me and suddenly I was at work and I hadn’t taken any photos of getting ready, dropping the kids off at dad’s house, getting to school, preparing the lessons, drinking my coffee. I also want to remember these fun kids. 7th graders are so entirely funny.
10:38 – I want to remember how, even as a sub, I get to teach some of my favorite lessons. The teacher for whom I was subbing didn’t have time to really prepare a lesson, but we texted about what was going on. I was happy that she was talking about heroes, and I jumped at the chance to do one of my favorite activities about the Hero Cycle. It’s not a particularly difficult activity, but it really helps the students understand the Hero Cycle.
11:35 – I want to remember this school. It’s where I did my student teaching, and a big chunk of my subbing. It has changed a lot, but it has a lot of heart. The kids are charming and funny and bright. The staff is full of some of my very favorite people. It’s also a fancy new building with lots of great things, the least of which is the instant hot water in the staff rooms. But that hot water tap was pretty great during my two day job there.
12:35 – I want to remember these days of papers to grade, lessons to teach, ideas to share.
2:32 – I want to remember the energy of kids at the end of the day. They know that freedom is soon theirs, and it’s electric. It’s like a surge, then they leave and it’s silence.
2:38 – I want to remember raindrops and windows and school buses.
4:18 – I want to remember how Alma is requesting certain songs when we’re in the car. It used to be the ‘paper song,’ also known as ‘the monkey on your back,’ officially known as “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches. Lately it’s been “The Dreaming Tree” by Dave Matthews, which I obviously love. She asks lots of interesting questions about the song. She asks about death and about trees. She will see a tree out her window and ask if it’s the Dreaming Tree.
4:56 – I want to remember how Alma had a fever for 4 days and didn’t have much appetite. Seeing her eat a bowl of yogurt while watching Octonauts made me very happy.
5:47 – I want to remember cooking with Jesse. We make a good team, and it gives us a chance to talk and catch up after our days. I love that man, and love that we get to do this life together.
6:18 – I want to remember how this girl won’t stop dancing and singing ever, even with a 4 days fever. Tonight we had a dance party to “Everything is Awesome” because we had a family movie night and watched The Lego Movie and it’s stuck in all our heads. But it’s true – everything is awesome.
6:33 – I want to remember how much these girls love the bath. I want to remember Harriet’s curls, especially when they’re wet.
8:49 – I want to remember these tea dates with Katrina. It does my heart and soul so much good to get out of the house and spend time with her. Talking about jobs and kids and our lives is so easy and great with Katrina. We were joined by another sweet friend, Christy, when she happened to come to the teahouse to stock up. It felt good to talk and laugh and connect with these two wonderful mamas.
This is our fourth year visiting Santa at the Festival of Trees. It’s great to see him every year. This year we went with Rory and Poppy, and all four kids were (mostly) happy to go say hello. They were a little nervous, but there were absolutely no tears. I’m sure the candy canes helped.
Alma told Santa she wants a unicorn with a glowing horn (anyone have any ideas for this?). Rory told Santa he wants a Poli. Harriet and Poppy didn’t tell Santa what they want.
I have been reluctant to admit it, because somehow it feels like a failure. I didn’t get my masters degree to be a sub. I got it to be a teacher. That was the plan, but it isn’t how it’s worked out. That’s the thing about plans, though, isn’t it?
After Peace Corps, I went back to my job as an assistant teacher for a special needs preschool. We spent the first week of September setting up our classroom, along with all the other teachers in our building. I walked down the hall and was jealous of the ‘real teachers’ setting up their own rooms. I know that I was feeling down about coming home from a grand adventure, and just falling back into the person I was before I left – though I felt different than the person I was before I left. I wasn’t even a lead teacher, I was just back in my role of assistant.
I decided then, and there, that it was time for a real change. I looked into teacher training programs, and found one in Eugene that would start in January. I applied, took some tests, and was in. I knew I was on the right track as soon as I went to the first day of orientation.
After I graduated, I looked for jobs, but couldn’t find one. I became a substitute teacher, but kept looking for a ‘real’ job. I went to graduate school for this. I went to be a teacher. I went to have my own room that I could design, and curriculum that I could create, and students who were ‘mine.’ I felt like a fake, like not a ‘real teacher.’ I felt like people looked at me like I just couldn’t cut it, and that’s why I didn’t have a ‘real job.’
I has been almost five years since graduate school, and I’ve had some long-term jobs, but nothing permanent. For the first four years, this made me feel bad, like I couldn’t cut it. Every summer I would apply for jobs, and go to interviews, but I was never hired. It was a self-esteem killer, I’ll be honest.
This past summer, I decided not to even look at jobs that were posted. I came to a very important conclusion and here’s my public declaration: I really, truly love subbing. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed.
I looked at what I love about teaching and realized that there are three main things – the kids, the curriculum, the learning. I thought about it, and realized that I get all three of those things as a sub. These days, I mostly work at two middle schools.
I know the kids. I have relationships with the kids. In some ways, I can have better relationships with the kids because I’m not the ‘real’ teacher, the one who gives them grades and who has real expectations on them. I’m like the fun aunt who comes to babysit. I’m not saying that I don’t discipline the students – I certainly don’t run a loose classroom (in fact, some students say that the class never works as hard as when I’m there). When I walk through the halls, the kids ask who I’m subbing for and are excited if they’ll have me that day. They tell my I’m the best sub.
Since I’m in these two schools, the teachers know that I can actually teach. They don’t just leave videos or worksheets. They trust me to continue their curriculum, and sometimes, I even get to create my own. I get to lead discussions, and see real learning take place.
While lots of teachers leave grading for me to do, it’s easily completed in my time on the clock. As a sub, I don’t ever have to take work home with me. I leave school when my day is done, and can focus the rest of my day on my family.
I mostly just sub at two middle schools. I get enough work from them. They know me, and I know them. The teachers will set up the jobs days, or weeks in advance (which makes it much easier to find grandparents who can watch my kids while I’m working).
That’s the other thing! I get to spend so much time with my girls. I only work 2-4 days a week, so I still get to be with my kids a lot of the time. I get to take them to school, and pick them up. I also get to choose when I work, so if one of the girls has an appointment or a program at school, I know that I can be there for them.
So, there you have it. I’ve spent four years feeling inferior, but I’m done with that. I’m owning that this is my ‘real job’ and that that’s okay. It’s something I’m good at. It’s something I enjoy. It’s something that gives me time to also enjoy my other ‘real job’ as a mom.
I don’t know what my plan is from here. Maybe I’ll get a ‘real job’ someday, when my kids are older. Maybe the perfect job will come around and I’ll have to jump on it. Maybe I’ll sub forever. Maybe I’ll stop teaching completely and focus on creating for my shop. Who knows? That’s the thing about plans…
Last Christmas, Alma’s gift from my mom and step-dad was a camping trip with her cousin Liam and their dads. They decided to go to Silver Fall State Park. Of course, it turned out to be the first rainy weekend in months. They went anyway, and decided to play the camping part by ear.
When they got to the park, it was sunny and warm. They hiked around the waterfalls, in the woods, and had lots of fun. They had a picnic lunch in the lodge and hiked some more. Alma and Liam are just a few months apart in age, so it was fun for them to get to spend so much time together. One of the stories they came home with was from the caves. Alma said to Liam, “Will you protect me?” and Liam replied, “I AM SCARED.” Alma has been looking forward to her camping trip for months. She would tell me, “I’m going camping with Grams and Grandpa. You are not coming. Harriet is not coming. Daddy is coming.” She was very clear about this. There was no way I was going to sneak into the car. Of course, the rain showed up. They embraced the water and got soaked. At this point, it didn’t matter if the rain was falling, or the creek was splashing. It was warm enough that it was still fun. It was so wet, though, that everyone decided to head home. They realized they would have just spent the whole night in their tents as a fire would have been impossible and everything would be too wet to sit on. I don’t think Alma was too disappointed. They got to do all the fun things of camping without sleeping on the wet ground. I can’t wait for this to be an annual tradition. Maybe next year Grams and Grandpa will take Alma and Liam without their parents… maybe they’ll take Harriet, too!
The photos in this post were all taken by Jesse. He did a great job, didn’t he?
I love Halloween. Actually I love all holidays. But any holiday that has magic is the very best. On Halloween, you can be whatever you want. You get to run around your neighborhood and people give you candy. What’s better than that?
When I was little I had a few favorite costumes: Raggedy Ann, Princess Tiger Lily, an orchestra conductor, random ballerina. I remember the anticipation on Halloween afternoon, as we waited for my dad to come home and have dinner. For some reason, scrambled eggs stand out in my memory as our typical Halloween dinner, but so does chili. We had a huge blow-up gorilla that we put in our entryway. I think my dad got it from his work – apparently it was some sort of advertisement or something. My dad would stay home to hand out candy – he had a really scary mask. He would always keep track of all the trick-or-treaters. It was always over 100. My memories of trick-or-treating usually involved rain and a jacket covering up our costumes. We had a great neighborhood and would see lots of friends while we were out. My brother and I would always sort out all our candy and then stage a very complicated bartering session to ensure that we each ended up with desirable candies.
As a college student, I once went to a party as Girls Gone Wild. We made our T-Shirts, then when we lifted them up, we had a big black box censoring everything out. We thought it was pretty clever.
The past two Halloweens, we’ve trick-or-treated around our neighborhood with Rach, Rory and Rory’s parents. There was still rain involved. The thing I love about trick-or-treating in our own neighborhood is that we get to chat with our neighbors. They are the people we only see on Halloween, and it makes it feel like we are part of a community. There is one little old lady who is always watching TV, and she slowly makes her way to the door with perfectly parceled baggies, tied with a curly ribbon. I just imagine her preparing for this night and it’s just the sweetest thing ever.
We had our first experience with patience in Azerbaijan last week. Last Friday (the 26th) we spent hours and hours at Mike’s apartment helping him and his girlfriend Kate prepare for a Halloween party to be thrown the next day at School 3. It was really fun getting ready; we got to eat Kate’s spaghetti and Mike’s M&M cookies. We were making decorations, carving pumpkins, planning games and baking cookies until about 11pm. The next morning we went back to Mike’s to finish getting ready. Cindy and Bev came over and helped me peel grapes. Not an easy task. We hailed 2 cabs, loaded everything into them, and drove through rainy Mingechevir to School 3.
When we got there, Sevil, the teacher Kate knows at School 3 was talking to the director. We took everything back to the auditorium to set up. Sevil came back and told us we had to see the director. She informed us that it would be impossible for us to have the party that day. (This would have been no big deal to us, except that we gave up going to the Nar Festival to throw this party!! I was really looking forward to the Nar Fest; apparently last year they had a nar that weighed 2 kilos or something… that’s a big nar!) We planned to do the party on Monday morning. We learned we must be patient and learned that as Mike says, “The more you plan something, the more likely it will fall through.” Such is life in Peace Corps, at least in Azerbaijan.
On Monday we walked (again in the rain) back to School 3. We set everything up and about 30 kids came. Everything went really well! Jesse ran the pumpkin carving station, I helped out with the mask making, Mike led the gross out table (goo, peeled grapes, spaghetti, severed hot dog fingers), Kate played pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern. When all the kids had done every station, we had a pumpkin walk. All the kids got cookies and the winner got one of the carved jack-o-lanterns.
I was really impressed with the group of kids we had. We were told that creativity isn’t really encouraged in schools, but these kids were very creative! Some of the masks they made were amazing and artistic! They did a great job making unique jack-o-lanterns – one even had a moustache and uni-brow. Appropriate.
It was really neat to be part of a Peace Corps project! Even though it wasn’t our project and Kate isn’t even in Peace Corps (she lives in Ganja and is working on her masters degree), it was still good to see how parties work and it was fun to be involved in it.
Music is important. It is the food of love, the breath of life, everything.
When I sit down to write, I do one of two things: Turn on Pandora and listen to the Nickel Creek/ Sara Bareilles station, or open YouTube and go to Megan’s version of “Manhattan.” The second option is sort of difficult, because I have to pay attention to go back to the YouTube tab and go back to the beginning before Megan says, “Hi everyone! Thank you so much for tuning in and watching that…” but I can make it work.
I have already written about this song, but it has certainly turned into my Autumn Theme Song 2015. It’s just so beautiful. Here it is again:
Thinking about how this song has become a theme song made me think back to Autumns past.
Last year I was all about Peter Mulvey and Vlad. This video always gets me. I first listened to it in my car, last October. I clearly remember driving around Eugene, looking at the beautiful changing leaves. I felt the beauty of our Earth very clearly in that moment. The way that Vlad explains our culture so simply makes my heart ache. Autumn is such a good time to hear this message of mortality, and connections, and love.
A few years ago, I was taking a class from Kal about being bulletproof and creative. It was the same time I was teaching art in a middle school. This song came into my life and the power of the music and lyrics (from a poem by James Baldwin) moved me.
I don’t know, sister,
what I’m saying,
nor do no man,
if he don’t be praying.
I know that love’s the only answer
and the tight-rope lover
the only dancer.
When the lover come off the rope today,
the net which holds him is how we pray,
and not to God’s unknown,
but to each other–:
the falling mortal is our brother!
If I ever have a song stuck in my head, I use this song to get it out. I just sing it to myself until it’s in my head. It’s just such a beautiful piece.
Here you go:
The last song I’ll share here is one of my all time favorite Autumn songs. It just feels like Autumn. The mandolin, the imagery, Laura’s rich voice. It doesn’t feel like Autumn has really arrived until I’ve listened to Laura Kemp sing “Hannah Branch.”
“This is the time the apples lie rotten on the ground, this is the time the supper sees the sun start goin’ down.”
Our Fourth Annual Pumpkin Patch Playgroup. I could write a lot about this, but I’d basically just say the same thing I’ve said before (here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here). I won’t put you, the reader, through that again. I’ll just say that I love raising my kids with these people.
Before I post the photos from this year, let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we?
2012: So many Ergos, so few people. This was one of our first organized outings. We have grown in families and children. Most kids weren’t walking yet. Leia and I were almost pregnant, but this was it! Seven kids in this photo!
2013: Quite a bit bigger. A few pregnant moms, two new babies, eleven kids. 2014: Even more! More families, more babies, more pregnant moms! Just more! Fifteen kids (I think!) 2015: Wow! So many kids! So many people! No pregnant women (as far as I know!) Nineteen kids! Today was one for the books. We were planning on going to our usual, traditional farm. Someone (Jane I think) checked their website and saw that they didn’t open until noon. We were all on Facebook discussing what to do. My family was already in the car, ready to go, so I suggested a change of venue (after changes of time and other ideas had been thrown out there). Everyone agreed and spread the word. It might not sound impressive, but it was quite amazing to watch 10 moms discuss and agree and mobilize all within about three minutes. I told you this playgroup was special. I love these people.
Hayride, pumpkin picking, corn mazing, fun, fun, fun. It was an oddly beautiful day. I love these sunny, crisp days, but I have to admit, I’m getting anxious for the rain to come (and stay for a while). Call me crazy!
I live in Azerbaijan and I went to see Elton John. Not exactly what I expected to do during my first week as a PCV. Although not very common to the PC experience, I’m sure I will remember the experience well.