Sitting so close to Christmas here in Montana, we are still waiting for the landscape to look like Christmas. When I was a little girl, we were well into winter by Thanksgiving; ice skating at the local pond, and skiing at Big Mountain. As an adult, however, the pond rarely freezes over before Christmas, and we are lucky if opening day on the mountain happens by the early teens of December.
It just doesn’t feel like Christmas is in only a week! I am still fighting my kindergartners to keep their coats on at recess, despite the 30 degree temperatures. Don’t get me wrong though – I welcome the respite from the on-again/off-again of all the snow gear that literally steals 15+ minutes of instructional time over the school day once there is snow on the ground!
I wonder what it feels like to experience Christmas in a snow-less climate. How do people reconcile singing “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!” when there is no snow on the ground for a sleigh? Don’t kids in sunny Arizona miss “Jack Frost nipping at their nose?” as their mom smears sunscreen on their face before they go out the door? I think I would be greatly dismayed on Christmas Eve to peer out my window and see a family riding bikes together instead of dragging their sleds behind them on their way to the golf course to go sledding.
What is the Christmas landscape looking like in your neck of the woods this year?
I am my father’s daughter. Type A. Driven. Focused. Plate-spinner extraordinaire.
When I walk in the door at the end of my day, my mind is already thinking of what needs to be done next. Dinner prep? Empty the dishwasher? Perhaps finish something left undone at school; sift through a bulging e-mail inbox, research and/or prep for a lesson tomorrow? I don’t typically come home and sit down, but instead most often find myself on a trajectory of completing task after task until it is time to get ready for bed.
I can recall in my early 20s while working in the business world that my evenings were an open book. I left my work at the office (S-H-O-C-K-E-R!) and could do whatever I wanted when I got home each day. I didn’t have children back then, so for the most part, this down time centered around Must-See-TV until it was time for bed. I can actually say that honestly, I experienced boredom a lot in those days.
Fast forward 20 years, a husband, and four children later, my life today looks nothing like those years. The hectic demands of teaching don’t often allow me to leave work at work, and our home requires more of my attention than that tiny 800 square foot apartment ever did. But the person I am thrives in this place; I enjoy the fast pace and the multiple demands of my focus and energy.
But Christmas break is looming…. I am beginning to visualize myself in a more relaxed state of being. Our adult children won’t be home this year, so meal planning and house preparation will be nill, which thankfully, I welcome! I am making plans now for sleeping in, for slower paced days, for simple dinners, and for savoring a little more down time with nothing demanding my attention.
When was the last time you were bored?
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A fun side gig I have is that of a fudge maker at a local historic soda fountain and candy shop here in our little town. My two youngest daughters started working there as soda jerks early in high school, and two summers ago I joined them. Last spring I was asked to take over fudge production in addition to working part time in the restaurant alongside my girls and the other teenager crew.
The process of fudge making is such fun! I can be as creative as I like, and all executive decision making is in my hands when it comes to what kinds I will make. Praline Crunch, Maple Walnut, Tiger Butter, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, Rocky Road….any mouths watering yet?
Sunday I poured over my recipes, carefully choosing Christmas fudge that would be good sellers. At 7:00am I turned on the kettle, and hard to believe, but seven hours later, I stood back admiring all 20 pans of confectionary delight! It was a sight to behold.
My two favorites: Red Velvet Christmas Truffle & White Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch
What does your sweet tooth crave during the holiday season?
Winter is slowly making its presence known here in northwest Montana. Snow-capped mountains surround the valley where I live, gently warning those of us down below that the snowline is beginning to make its way to us. It won’t be long before the streets, our neighborhoods, and the playgrounds will be blanketed in white.
Sunday my husband and I gathered our skis and all the gear we needed for an afternoon on the ski mountain. The ski resort is still closed, which for us is not a problem; we don’t need the ski lift to get up the mountain – we climb it. Our A.T. skis are equipped with special bindings that allow our heels to move up and down as we climb, but when we are ready to ski down, they can be adjusted to lock our boots firmly in place. On the bottom of our skis are removable “skins” that grip the snow so we don’t slip as we climb, and are peeled off once we reach the summit for a smooth descent.
I decided last winter after seeing the large number number of people – many far older than me – climbing up the mountain and skiing down. I thought if they could do it, so could I! Sunday was my first time skinning up, and it was supposed to be a day shared with my brother, who was my husband’s skinning partner last winter.
I missed my brother yesterday. It was the 6-month mark of his sudden & unexpected death, which made the day full of his presence. When the hill got steep and I began to tire, I imagined him just ahead of me, encouraging me in the climb. As I began my descent, I could see him just ahead of me, laughing and shouting his excitement in being back on the mountain, doing what he loved so much.
I certainly didn’t have my brother’s beautiful form while making my way down the mountain, but I know he was watching me, smiling as his little sister attempted a graceful decent.
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Today marked my brother’s 59th birthday. Celebrating it without him here brought both sadness and joy. Sadness that he isn’t here with us, but joy in the many wonderful memories we hold tightly to.
On his 18th birthday he fulfilled his greatest dream: to jump out of an airplane. Skydiving from that day forward became one of his greatest passions. I never could understand this love he had for the sport, but I loved watching him make jumps, holding my breath in the free fall until finally I could see his sky blue parachute open for his gentle decent to the ground.
This morning I received an unexpected text from a relative in California who knew my brother well and had seen him skydive in year’s past. While driving along the coastline, she looked up into the sky only to see a lone skydiver, enjoying a beautiful morning in the sky.
Knowing it was my brother’s birthday, he came to her mind immediately and she snapped a picture to share with me. I saw it and my heart skipped a beat. Signs and wonders. These are the things that sustain me in my grief. They bring comfort and assurance that while he is no longer here on this earth, he is still near.
Happy Birthday, Don. You are so greatly missed, but will never be forgotten.
Oh, kindergartners! They never cease to stop me in my tracks and amaze me with their wit, their curiosity, and their outlook on life. Today, after our reread of Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, I posed the question, “Boys and girls, what makes you pout?” Here are a few responses they gave…
“I pout when my mom doesn’t give me what I want.”
“I pout when I fall off my bike when trying to ride without training wheels.”
“I pout when I have to take a 1-hour nap.”
“I pout when my friend snatches something away from me.”
“I pout when I can’t go to my friend’s house to play.”
On the flip side, I then asked them to consider what makes them happy. Here is what I heard…
“I am happy when I get to cook with my mommy.”
“I am happy when mom takes the band-aids off my owies.”
“I am happy when I can ride my bike without my training wheels.”
“I am happy when my mom gives me a drink.”
“I am happy when I have a friend.”
As adults, I think we can relate to many of these kindergarten observations of real-life moments when we are feeling particularly pouty, or joyfully happy in the comings and goings of life. Can we remember the frustrations of learning to ride our bike without training wheels? And nap time? Come on, mom, seriously?! These off-the-cuff responses cause me to realized that the simplest things of life are real and deeply meaningful to a 5 year-old. And you know, despite the complexity of the adult challenges I face in life these days, they are often just as meaningful to this 50 year-old. I mean, who isn’t happy when they have a friend?
So tell me…what makes you pout? What makes you happy?
The carpets are cleaned, the tables are scrubbed, and the brand new supplies are ready to be opened. Day 1 in my kindergarten class starts today! Many days of preparing have preceded this exciting day, and I can truthfully say that I am ready. Ready to welcome 20 new little learners into a world of wonder, excitement, and joy. I hope that these three elements lead us through all of the learning that is before us.
I want my learners to wonder about the world around them. Wonder and ask LOTS of questions that everyone in our learning community can invest themselves in as together, we uncover answers to lots and lots of Wonders.
I want my learners to be excited about learning. There is nothing like the enthusiasm of 5 and 6 year-olds. The world before them is yet to be completely discovered, and in our classroom, I hope that each day is a new day of discovery and excitement in our 180 day journey together.
I want my learners to discover JOY in our classroom. Joy in sharing what they know, and joy in uncovering what they don’t. Joy in reading a book that makes them laugh. Joy in writing their first poem. Joy in taking a risk, and discovering even if they make a mistake, that mistakes are proof they are trying.
180 days lie ahead of us; untouched, undiscovered, and unknown. And I can’t wait to see what is in store for each of us!