Monday, June 25, 2018

Why We Will Probably Never Settle Down

So while I don't often post here anymore (because Instagram, honestly), this one is too long for IG.

When the husband made the decision to leave his former company (for ethical reasons) and landed another job outside of Chicago (which was easy-- but the options were tricky because they all had their own appeals), we were elated. All of my close friends know just how damaging that place feels for me. For us.

For those who are stumbling upon this or who may be starting their own grief journey and somehow found your way here... we spent about 7 years in Chicago, living and loving life until our firstborn unexpectedly died of stillbirth just as he was making his way into the world. The whole town, greater Chicago area, state, region... feels like a dark black cloud of heartache and heartbreak. We were only there 9 months before he died. We endured another 6 years after. And I know you can't just run away-- move away--  from your pain, but in some ways, that did heal us a bit.

Whenever I meet someone and I'm asked about where I am really from, I always explain the whole story about moving around and kind of liking the transient lifestyle. I'm from Los Angeles, but the world is vast and we genuinely enjoy the adventure.

I suppose we're true millennials (albeit, old) because we have this sense of contentment with wherever we land our feet. We aren't strapped to our things. In fact, I just cleared out 4 more bags of junk this weekend. I'd clear more, but my kids start to get defensive and confused about my actions. When we moved from Chicago, we went from almost 3,700 square feet to about 1,800 square feet. It all fit. We pared down. We donated and sold nearly half of our belongings. There's so much irony there because while we were living our perfect dream of a large home and awaiting the birth of our first child, we were FILLING spaces after moving from our small duplex apartment in Redondo Beach, CA that we lived in as newlyweds.

And there we were with all    /    the     /     space.

The space was so large that it was suffocating after Andrew died. I wanted it all to disappear. The weekly house projects were neverending. It almost felt like a punishment. We know it's ordinary to have house projects, but we hated them. We saw them as a liability. At times, they were helpful to distract, but those almost seemed to scar us as well. We're the perfectionist types and like things done well. It was impossible. We were never measuring up.

When we sold that house and moved into a rental, it was a renewal we didn't realize would be so powerful. Much of that was because we were physically leaving behind the physical space where we grieved so deeply, but also because we released ourselves from ownership and being owned by a home and space. We were free. In Reno, we LOVED our rental because it was quaint, new(ish) and we didn't have to repair anything. In Arizona, we're renting again, loving the luxury of a gardener and pool maintenance person. We, again, feel stress-free about living here. It's odd living in a rental with the means to buy a house in our neighborhood just fine (and no intention to ever do so), but that's only because of the judgments we have developed as a society. We had all of the "American dream" until we didn't. It turns out the American dream wasn't really for us, especially if that dream means owning the same home and being strapped down to a geographical location for too long. Plus, it's not financially responsible to buy and sell houses often. It's just not a good investment for the most part.

My co-worker just took a job in Northern California. We hadn't even lived here a year when he announced his move, but I'll admit, I felt a tinge of jealousy for the adventure that awaits him. I don't even want to live in Sacramento! We're content now, but we just love the adventure of change.

Our date nights always involve our dreaming of the future and where we'll explore next. We predict one more move in our future before our kids are out into the open world of college and beyond. After, we plan to live the condo life in a high rise in a cool mountain town somewhere. It's such a foreign concept, we understand, but it's working wonders for our mental health. Adventures are fresh. New. Happy.

Sign me up for that, please.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I'm not sure.

I've been absent here for almost a year and 99% of that was due to getting back into the workforce -- in full force -- and managing a Kindergartner with homework. I always knew that's what would happen, but good gracious, I've been busy.

I sit on my couch right now with my sweatshirt on as the air conditioning blasts so I can cool the house before the 3pm shutoff (because 3-8pm is peak cost and we have figured out the mystery to avoiding $500 air conditioning bills when it's 110 outside, which is, obviously, not to use the air conditioning during peak hours). Alexa tells me it's only at 99 right now, but climbing. Of course, that leaves me freezing right now. Irony.

The kids are at summer camp and I'm all caught up on posting for Faces of Loss, which doesn't get nearly as many submissions anymore. Is it on the decline because people who lose children aren't blogging anymore? Have they switched over to Instagram, Instagram+Stories or that thing all the cool kids are doing, SnapChat? They have to be connecting somewhere with their tribes.

I dropped my kids off at this megachurch for VBS last week and because it was so far north in the cactus boondocks, I decided to just park it at a Starbucks and crank out the Arizona Constitution class I was required to take to fully clear my credential here. I'm becoming quite adept at these state constitution courses. When I finished the course, I ordered the transcript (yes, those still exist in paper form) and began my goal of reading four books this summer. I set the goal low because I'm also running about 263 committees and such this coming school year and I wanted to actually achieve.

I just finished The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and was captivated. It's a memoir of a young girl who was a refugee in Africa for seven years after her parents sent her away to escape the war in her home country of Rwanda. She eventually attends Yale and establishes herself in the US. Considering the connection to our current turmoil in America about the refugee crisis of families and their children being separated, I was really invested. I highly recommend this one. (And by the way, this family separation issue is morally inhumane and awful. I just received word about the president signing an executive order to end this, but I'm not fully convinced-- I'm not sure any of us can really trust that the wrongs can fully be made right, but here's to hoping for the families and those children).

I'm also totally invested in the Amazon Prime series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and obviously I'm not the only one, because my husband binge-watched and stayed up until 3am one night watching all of the episodes. The Golden Globe to the main character, Rachel Brosnahan, for best actress and the other Golden Globe for best TV series was also an indicator of just how awesome it is. I love these feminist timepiece shows (which is saying a lot, because I rarely watch television and we might be the only household in America to own only one).

I have about one hour to make today count while the kids are in camps (though I consider this post and my 40 minutes of spin this morning to be pretty productive), so off I go. I'll try to make this a regular thing, at least for the summer.

Random side note: We're packing for our Peru trip next month. If you have any recommendations on a good backpacking item, send my way!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sure-um Williams

Benjamin and Claire are a month into kindergarten and 3s preschool at the foreign language Spanish school in our district. Benjamin is writing his name with an Ă±, which is hilarious and also incorrect, but of course it's so cute that I refuse to correct him. They come home singing Spanish greeting songs, counting in Spanish and pointing out their body parts in Spanish. When they play hide-and-seek, they count in Spanish before finding the other.

Back when Elliot worked for Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin used to call it "Sure-um Williams" and of course we didn't correct him. (Educator soapbox: correcting kids discourages them from taking risks. Restating is the best way, unless you think it's super cute, of course, and wait until they figure it out...and they will).

Benjamin has two teachers: one for English, reading and social studies and one for Spanish instruction in math and science. One of his teachers is Sra. Williams. Benjamin calls her Sure-um Williams and I basically can't handle the cuteness.

Claire is loving life with Sra. Cordova and even more than school, they look forward to Kid's Club after school where they do art projects and science experiments. They actually become disappointed when I pick them up too early because they are having so much fun.

School for me is going well. We're a month in and my fifth graders are mostly awesome. Parent involvement looks very different in a Title I school, but kids are still kids. It's a very different environment than my first years of teaching, but one I feel really excited to be a part.

Our weekend adventures are exciting, the weather is still at furnace temps and making lunches every night is kind of a drag, but overall we're enjoying our life here in the Valley of the Sun. Fall weather can't come soon enough.

Somehow I was able to post on my phone, but blogger has been blocking me from my laptop access, so while I'm busier than ever, that's not what has been holding me back. 😊

Monday, July 17, 2017

Desert Dwelling

We're officially established in our fourth state as a married couple. The kids have claimed three states as their own and Claire has decided she is all done moving. Girlfriend doesn't like change as much as the rest of us. Meanwhile, Benjamin has requested we take him to see "the whole world." They're different personalities, those two.

 Scottsdale Library + our favorite ice cream shop


I finally hung the last of the lingering pictures on the walls this morning (along with calling 748 people to manage bills and doctor appointments, etc.). That's the WORST part of moving anywhere. I almost want to stay here forever just so I don't have to pay another deposit, establishment fee, or search doctors covered under insurance and make appointments for a whole family for dental, dermatology and primary care. That adulting stuff is seriously the pits.
 ASU Art Museum, Diamondbacks Game with Aunt Mansa & Phoenix Children's Museum
As for us, Arizona hasn't brought all that many surprises, but it definitely has delivered the majority of our expectations. It's hot. We've killed as many cockroaches as we have lived here in weeks. (They also happen to me my least favorite creature on the planet.) The pool is our friend. The water bill is not (hello $480! We also know this isn't normal and we're taking action.). The electric bill is also not at $430.

 Swimming at Uncle Justin & Aunt Anna's House and post theatre production happiness with Tweedledee.                                  

Y'all, I'm not sure we've ever paid more than $100 for a water bill (which would've been extremely high because we're fairly water wise). And even in the heat of a Midwest summer, we never spent more than $250 on our electricity, with the average about $150 in the summer months. This house is about 1/3 smaller than our Illinois two-story home with basement, so it's both baffling and cringe-worthy. With that said, I'm told that winter brings bills that are mild and breezy.


Moving to the Sonoran Desert in the summer was a unique choice.
T-ball, cool parks, s'mores and slurpees. Basically, Hashtag Summer.

The kids haven't been on bikes or scooters since leaving Reno and won't likely be back to riding until the fall. Parks just sit vacant, because while the rest of the country is flocking to the local parks, it's impossible here. We'll catch up in January when it's a perfect 75 here, though. Not complaining.
Cabazon Dinosaurs & Dinner with Family

In the 1.5 months we've been here, we've visited the Phoenix Children's Museum, Arizona Science Center, ASU Art Museum, gone to a Diamondbacks game, hiked Camelback Mountain, eaten at countless incredible restaurants, visited libraries, and spent time at pools and rec centers for swim lessons and t-ball. Benjamin had theatre camp at a local theatre (and loved it, of course). The final presentation of Alice in Wonderland was awesome and we plan to sign him up again this fall. Both kids attended VBS one week and Art Camp another week.

We've had three sets of visitors stay with us and I took the kids on a road trip to LA to quickly see the family before sprinting back here. It sure was a boring drive, but the fake dinosaurs near Cabazon, CA were an interesting bunch to break up the monotony.

It's only a high of 98 here today and I legitimately felt a breeze in the air when I was packing my car up with stuff to take to my classroom tomorrow. You know you've acclimated when 98 feels "breezy" to you.

Off to lather up with sunscreen and hop in the pool. #required

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's Just... I'm Busy

...and I don't presume it will get any easier with two kids in school and both of us working full time.

The things looming through my head are all teacher-related and hypothetically planning lessons, buying way too many resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and buy things to make my classroom #thebestever.

It's probably boring for the masses... so I just keep those thoughts to myself. Except, I do want to talk about the cute furniture I bought for my conference/conversation corner of my classroom.

I have big visions, you guys. I want tables and no desks. I want some standing tables for kids to conference about projects. Shoot, I want a standing desk for myself! I want a lowered table for kids to work at floor-level. I realize I'm in a new school, so I'm not getting too crazy (okay, a little).

Here's a quick tour of the classroom *I think* I will have. They brought me through and it sounded like unless the team decides otherwise (doubtful), it's mine. It walks to the outside and much of the school is indoor. It's a hybrid campus, but I'm happy to have a classroom with fresh air access. The stuff in the center is from the former teacher who used this as a pullout resource room last year.

All the teachers say "OOOooo, storage!"

 Wifi is going to be fast-- it's in the corner there. ABC chart coming down! It's being replaced with this.
A sink! (Okay, I've never not had a sink...)
That area in the left corner is going to be my conference/conversation nook. And here's what I'm putting in it (currently sitting in my bedroom waiting for classroom access-- hopefully next week).
IKEA PS VÅGÖ (x2)


IKEA LACK side table (re-purposed from this post 3.5 years ago)

IKEA Hampen rug

This is not the exact pillow fabric, but it's close... I can't seem to find the right one?! (IKEA)

So, fun story on the chairs. I really want the dark blue or teal. I love teal. But, the only IKEA in all of Arizona (eye-roll emoji) only carries the white. I was willing to design around it. I tracked the stock prognosis for a week and all was well. They had a dozen in stock and sold maybe 5 the whole week prior. The following day, I checked and NONE! I was super bummed, especially because they're a seasonal item that doesn't typically get restocked. We decided to press forward and head there anyway, only to find a single one, in semi-scuffed state. They dropped the price for me, but I was still pretty bummed. Then, as we walked through the store, we spotted another in a display! They dropped the price again and gave us both for $40. Not perfect, but for 33% off, so obviously I'll take it. And did I mention that Claire is finally tall enough for the IKEA Smaland and we had a glorious hour sans kids to poke around IKEA? That alone made her day (and mine, if I'm being honest). It was like a mini date with my husband!

I have a ton more stuff for the space, but I'm mostly excited about the cubbies (since we won't have desks) and built-ins that I won't even come close to filling with the stuff I have. I feel like I'm at a stand still though, because while I'm buying great lesson ideas and resources from TPT like there's no tomorrow and have a million of my own plans in my head zooming around, I can't access my official school email or get started collaborating in our Google Classroom space because I'm not technically on the clock for another 2 weeks. My colleagues are in there planning and I'm in waiting. #soongrasshopper #iknow

I'm hoping to get in there next week and at least make the space semi-ready and organized so I can hit the ground running with the planning process. I'm so pumped about the school, planning with some great colleagues and creating a truly unique and purposeful learning environment for my students.