Code Red

The school had had an active shooter practice drill a couple of weeks ago. My daughter was in class, but students were working in groups and didn’t hear the announcement that it was just a drill. She thought it was real and texted me. She was upset the rest of the day. We talked about it, let her vent. She took a bath, got a good night’s sleep. We carried on as we do.

I remember watching the coverage of Columbine as it was happening. Kids just a few years younger than myself crying, streaming out of the school. I watched the screen, horrified. How can this be real? How is this happening?

24 years later, I get the text that we all dread as parents. “Mom. School is in lockdown. I don’t think it’s a drill this time.” After a few minutes, I get the text from the district that the school is in lockdown, police are on site and we are not to come to the school.

I went to the school.

I didn’t care. And neither did 50-60 other parents. We parked away from the school, out of the way of police, of course, but there is no way I’m NOT coming to the school to get my kids if need be. After the police had cleared the campus an hour and a half later, parents were allowed on campus to get their kids if needed. There was a call that was taken seriously, but later turned out to be a prank that set this whole thing in motion. My daughter called me, and through her tears said she wanted to stay at school to be with her friends and finish the day. I don’t know if that was the right thing. Maybe I should have taken her and her brother out for the rest of the day. I let her take the lead and told her she knew herself and how she felt and that if that’s what she wanted to do, that was fine. I went to sit in my car for a minute to calm down.

I’m so sick of this.

I’m sick of teachers having to comfort kids, protecting their students with their own life, all while teaching the subjects they are passionate about and getting underpaid for the privilege of doing so.

It is madness. How is this normal?!

Tonight we ordered take out and ate dinner. Hannah and I went on a lovely evening hike afterward. We left our phones at home and climbed a couple of hills overlooking the valley where we live. A hike doesn’t fix the big stuff in days like today, but it felt good to get fresh air, get some elevation, say some gratitude prayers and clear our minds. Hannah wanted to go a little further and have some solo time, so I waited below and saw her tiny silhouette on top of the ridge with both hands raised. I mirrored her, raising my arms up in a V, witnessing her summit. She made her way back down and we walked home. Tomorrow counselors will be available, as will therapy dogs. Ironically the dogs were supposed to be on campus today, but of course had to be rescheduled. They will likely be well loved tomorrow.

I write when I have things that need to come out of me. Hannah sings to the ocean or to the mountains. She whacks golf balls. We both like to hike. She also writes. She penned a heartbreaking poem tonight and asked me to share it. It’s called Code Red.

Code Red
We all feel dread
Barricade the door
And secure the floor

Drill or no?
We feel so low
Hide behind a table
But it doesn’t feel stable

My tears keep flowing
Can’t stop sobbing
Can we keep going?
Wait and wait behind the desk
It all just feels like such a mess

15 minutes now
Teachers say it’s okay!
But we know the truth.
Although we are the youth,
We know.
It doesn’t take a sleuth
Or even just a clue
To know that this isn’t a drill.

I hug my friends and cry,
It feels like we’re about to die.
And in this moment I am just helpless
All I can do is wait.

It’s been 30 minutes now.
Feels like a million.
My tears continue flowing and there is no stop to them.
Nothing to do but hide,
Nothing to do but cry.

Cannot leave
Just can’t breathe
All I wanna do is grieve

It’s been 45.
At least we’re still alive!
Stay quiet
Cannot make a riot

Hoping that my friends will be okay
Texting them to see what they say
I hate today.

Breathe in and out.
Without a doubt
It was just a hoax
Someone who has jokes

One long hour.
Just so sour.
Everyone was okay.
At least they said
because of this code red.

Living through a nightmare
Like all my bad dreams
All of these streams of tears.
Gleams of hope
But still no joke

Feel like I’m going to explode,
Just a load of bull
Because of a 911 call.
And in this world
I feel so small.

Hannah S.

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When It Rains….

The house we are renting needed to be treated for termites. As in whole house wrapped up in in gift wrap tent fumigated treatment.

Obviously we could not stay in said gift-wrapped house while the treatment was performed so we arranged to go “camping” for the few days that the home would be uninhabitable. We love camping. We enjoy the outdoors. There’s nothing quite as yummy as percolator coffee first thing in the morning, enjoying the sunrise. No where we have to be, and all day to do it. Four humans, two dogs, all of our pantry/fridge food in a camper – what could go wrong?

The first day felt like camping fun! Kids got to dip in the pool at the campground after they ran a mile to test their times and continue to improve for PE where they test the students periodically. (Love this so much – start them early! And they are faster than I ever was!)

The kids were troopers commuting to school from camp, complete with doggos on board.

Camping while doing regular life like work, school drop off and pick up and errands takes on a whole different meaning, especially when done a mountain pass + 40 min commute over 3 freeways away. Yes, traffic is exactly how it’s depicted on Saturday Night Live’s sketch The Californians.

Day 2 brought with it a little of the drudgery as the latest atmospheric river flowed in. Perhaps you’ve heard that SoCal has unprecedented rainfall totals this year. I heard a news anchor recently ask rhetorically if San Diego was becoming the new Seattle and I had to laugh. It feels like we never left the Pacific Northwest! The campground became deluged in rain, mud and puddles everywhere. We got lucky with our campsite and it was only a little mucky, but it was next to impossible to keep the mud off our shoes, the cars and the camper. We played a bit of cards to pass the time sitting in a box with wheels in a mud pit with rain pelting overhead.

With at least 2 people in need of morning showers to start the day, and only one camper shower, I took dear daughter to the campground shower so we could get ready. We jumped through puddles, and dodged the rain down to the little building. All of this rainfall brings bugs and spiders. Lot’s of worms were “hanging out”. We go in, take our showers and then come out and see that the drains are backing up ,…and we have visitors.

Yes, this picture is extremely zoomed in, because in my vulnerable just-showered state, I didn’t want to get too close. But you tell me – that spider body looks disproportionate to its legs. It definitely looked like it just ate a huge meal or it’s waiting to explode with baby spiders everywhere. (HOW do they always find me?!) Envisioning a scene from Arachnophobia, I urge Hannah to kick it in to high gear and get done so we can get out of this spider’s home.

Not only did the kids have their regular school schedules, there was also a Family night for incoming freshmen at the high school…golf lessons…a trip to the Walmart for camping supplies that we forgot….I’ve feel like I’ve spent this whole week commuting. A total of 22 trips back and forth have been logged, and I’m officially ready to be out. of. the. car. Don’t even get me started on gas prices. When it rains, it pours.

After so many rainy trips back and forth, we are now back home and our food returned safely to pantry and fridge. I’ve washed all the things, mopped all the things and sanitized all the things. The sun is now shining and we return to regular life…

Just in time for next week’s atmospheric river.

Lemon Tree

Tapping this out on my phone, from a bathtub in a house we are renting, I’m kind of excited. We’ve owned and rented various homes over the years, as well as lived in base housing during Eric’s career in the Navy. We’ve been house hunting for about 6 months for a long term place of our own for the first time in our marriage.

The cart is way ahead of the horse. I’m writing this post before any contracts are signed, before anything is even remotely official. We looked at a house – what I am hoping is THE house. It’s not fancy, it’s not brand new, and definitely needs some work and sweat. I can see past the surface of this one to envision our family within its walls. I’m speaking it into the universe! Manifesting! All the powers of woo woo!

When I walked in with our realtor, I realized before we even went inside, that it ticks many of our checkboxes. We are working within a budget that in other areas would buy a lot more, but this market is SoCal and it is its own animal. The floor plan is great, it’s a two story, in the neighborhood we want, (location, location, location as they say) and is within the school boundaries the kids currently attend. After transferring every 2-3 years, one thing we really wanted was for them to complete high school without any more moves, if possible. I realize this is all first world problems and decisions. The fact that we can buy a home is a privilege. Even more so that we can be selective.

We tour the home, spotting areas that need work, windows that will need replacing, verifying the HVAC and hot water heater age…all the things you examine as you look at property. I snapped a few pictures to send to Eric as he couldn’t make this particular viewing. “This may have some possibilities…” I texted into the phone ahead of the slog of photos being sent his way.

I always try to temper my reactions to properties as we’ve been viewing them. I kind of know pretty quickly whether I like a space or not. You get a feeling driving around neighborhoods. Most of the time I am able to look beyond surface things like paint and decor to see floor plan and possibilities. Eric is definitely better at vision. Some have been beyond ridiculous. There was a flipped house that had a very beautiful, but highly impractical, kitchen. In “adding square footage”, access to the garage was walled off. With washer and dryer hookups in the garage, this meant that to do laundry, one would have to go out their back yard, around the house, into another side door of the garage simply to wash clothes. It was an overpriced property that as soon as we made the connection of how impractical the layout was, we quickly made our way on to the next.

One house we viewed had a small pool (not something I really wanted, but the location was) but smelled like 4 large wet dogs and decay were embedded into the walls. Likely a home built 50+ years ago and not properly maintained, or cleaned.

Additions to another home done improperly resulting in tripping hazards in the form of 2-4 inch differences in each doorway from room to room were a fun find. (Insert eye roll here). There was the neon orange house. Think Pepto bismol pink, but then make that violent color orange. Through the entire house. The “fixer upper” that was trashed inside and broken windows that we didn’t even get out of the car for…the house with not one, but two giant (seriously, huge) spiders greeting us over the front door, ughhh…so many listings.

As we made our way outside and to the back yard, the side path led around back to a lovely space with room for the things the kids and I have been dreaming about – a trampoline, a tetherball, maybe even a hot tub! I snapped a few more photos on my phone looking at the space, realizing it’s probably the largest backyard I’ve seen yet in the 6 months we’ve been looking. Fully fenced, I realized there are no neighbors directly behind this property, smiling as I reminisce about the “fun” neighbors in south Texas that loved having outdoor parties until 3am, music blaring. There wouldn’t be any of that here. There are side neighbors, but the houses are not packed right on top of one another as we’ve seen in other places. “Definitely a strong possibility…” I thought again to myself.

Who am I kidding?

I’ve mentally already packed my bags. I’m cataloguing belongings into Donate/Keep/Sell. I’m seeing the kids laughing while jumping on a trampoline. I’m smiling and trash talking them while viciously beating them at tetherball. Grinning, I turned to the far side of the yard and sweep my eyes around the plants along the fence line. The only thing this yard needs is some TLC, and of course the lemon tree Hannah and I have been dreaming of since we lived here a few years ago. Oh! Maybe an avocado tree, and tangerines! I move to walk back around front and my eye spots yellow…

How had I missed it? There it was, back along the fence. Not quite in the corner, there it was – a medium height, but highly productive, lemon tree. All hope of maintaining any sort of poker face was lost.

“I think this house is one Eric needs to see,” I quietly tell our realtor.

There’s this thing I do when I’m attempting to avoid disappointment. I don’t want to hope too hard, for fear of whatever it is I’m hoping for doesn’t come to pass. This preemptive strategy never works. I’m trying to avoid feeling bad. In reality we’re either disappointed or not, but no amount of trying to tamp down excitement or rein in enthusiasm results in less disappointment. ‘Expect the worst, hope for the best, then be pleasantly surprised when it does work out’ seems on the surface to be the way to go, but I’m calling BS on that. Why not be optimistic? Why not?

I’m really excited. Might I be disappointed if it’s not the right house? Of course. In the end, who cares? I’m just gonna revel in the excitement of possibility for a bit. We will be going to see it again after some maintenance has been done, and it’s been professionally deep cleaned. We will likely put in an offer. My fingers are crossed. My toes are crossed. We will see.

In the meantime, I choose hope…

…and the excitement at the possibility of a lemon tree of our own.

Time

14 years ago today we welcomed our first child and it feels like 1000 years ago and yesterday all at once. Time is elusive and crafty, bending and warping depending on perspective and hindsight. In just 4 years, my tiny chubby-cheeked baby will be a legal adult. (Seriously?!) My brain sees the little baby, the toddler I taught to throw away his own diapers, the first days of preschool, and then kindergarten. The onslaught of contradictory evidence is shoved in my face daily, (so rude!) with shadowy hairs on his upper lip, a startling ever-deepening voice, and his height. The fact that he has shot up is one of great pride for him. He loves to remind me each week musing, “Hey, we should measure me…,” with a mischievous glint in his eye, waiting for my eye roll.

Advertising his sarcasm loud and proud!

I feel breathtakingly fortunate. Not that life with middle schoolers is a cake walk – because whoa. It’s rough out there, people! When talking with other parents (I’ve seen people do this when talking about their spouse, too), so often it devolves into a vent session about dumb stuff their kids have done, or what irritates them. It’s like a contest of whose spouse/kid is the worst. Feeling out of place in those conversations, I don’t contribute when chat goes in that direction. (Even if I did feel that way about them, why would I publicly complain about them?) I don’t get it. If I met them randomly, I would actually like them. For that, I am grateful.

Pictures of babes wrapped up in baby burritos are fun to look at once in a while, but I am not a person who yearns for early days of parenting. Those long monotonous days were hard, yo. Diapers, dishes, and deployments on repeat were long, not to mention the sleep deprivation. Love the memories, glad to have been present in them, but find like with most phases of the kids’ development, I revel in where they are right now. I dig their personalities, their sarcastic senses of humor, and hearing their perspectives on what’s going on in their lives.

While not pining for some mythical ‘good ole days’, I do find the phrase, “Slow down….just a bit,” whispered more frequently lately, as a prayer to Time that insists on marching forward.

Yellow Orbs

Settling into our new home, we’ve been taking the dogs on early morning and later evening walks. The sun of course bakes the asphalt during the heat of the day, so walking at cooler times works best. (I love that yellow orb in the sky! So delightfully warm compared to the PNW, and not the intense humidity of South Texas.) Each walk we inevitably pass by a house down the road from us that has a gorgeous lemon tree. When we have driven by it, I have commented on how sad the lemons on the ground were and that I wondered if they gave them away to neighbors if they weren’t going to use them.

I must have mentioned the lemons enough times to exasperate the kids. “Why don’t you just go ask them?” they inquired, curious as to why I wouldn’t just go knock on the door of a random stranger and ask for some of their fruit.

“Um, because my skin would peel off of my bones and I might die,” I replied incredulously, envisioning worst case scenarios of being yelled at to get off someone’s lawn or some other such horror. We all laughed as we again affirmed that both my husband and daughter are the family extroverts that keep my son and I out and doing things, and we keep them semi-grounded with our homebody-ness.

Formulating a game plan for our next dog walk – we planned, in fact, to knock on the door of a stranger and ask for some of their fruit.

Our street is a giant hill that ends in a cul-de-sac, so it’s a great workout. In the shadow of the hills behind the house, we get cool evenings and delightful sunsets. We’ve seen countless giant monarch butterflies, geckos and my favorite jacaranda and palm trees. I love living in a place where purple trees grow. I love living where the citrus grows. I had forgotten how fresh and delicious produce here is year round. We had a watermelon the other day that both my son and I claim is the best one we’ve ever had. (Though we will keep eating all the melons to make sure!)

We rounded the corner, them on the side of the street with the lemon house, me with the dogs on the opposite side of the street with the doggos, primed and ready to keep walking and pretend I don’t know them if needed. Knocking on the door, they see a little sign noting lemons for sale with a money box beside it. Eric chatted with the lemon purveyor for a bit, then joined up with me holding not only lemons, but a long box. Lemon Purveyor and my husband had a nice chat about moving to the area recently and loving the neighborhood and thanks for the lemons and all the small talk. Somehow new to the area means “Thanks for buying some lemons, here’s a bonus, too!”

Hannah gathering the goods!

They reach me with lemons as big as my face that smell incredible! Eric laughs as he shows me the box is a pack of lightbulbs and shrugs his shoulders and we carry on our walk.

Today after a morning swim, farmer’s market fun, and other errands, we whipped up a batch of scratch lemonade that was liquid perfection.

Our closet lights also got switched to brighter, free bulbs! Not bad for an evening stroll with the dogs.

Just Get There!

After writing up yesterday’s adventures, I was in the hotel doing laundry. Going into to switch the load to the dryer, I discovered that someone had graciously moved my wet things to the top of the dryer and put their clothes in. (There was only one dryer.) 11pm is not when I want to be doing laundry so I asked the guy standing there if he’d moved my things, he said that yes he had and mumbled some excuse. Not looking to start a fight with a dude in a hotel laundry room, I grabbed my wet clothes and went back to the room.

They were mostly dry by morning and the things that weren’t could get washed at the next stop or at home. Back to the laundry bag they went!

Leaving Sonoma, the temps were comfortably cool. San Fransisco and the Golden Gate Bridge here we come…

I thought the GPS had me going to a great lookout spot with which to snap a few pictures of the bridge, however I was wrong. It took me OVER the bridge…that was socked in with fog. So even if I had gotten to the spot I was thinking of, I likely wouldn’t have been able to see the bridge anyway. It was very cool, but in hindsight, probably a good thing that it was foggy as I am not great with heights and bridges anyway.

Traveling through some residential areas (aka getting lost, but kind of okay with it), I was reminded of the Full House houses and how cool it would be to check them out. Looking it up, I was only 3 miles away so we zipped over. And by zipped over, I mean I stop-go-stop-go-stop-go’d our way over as there are stoplights every 20 feet. I made it to the street, looked up and saw others taking pics too, snapped mine and went on my way. (There’s little parking so I didn’t pull over). I didn’t look at the camera until later and laughed. Beautiful tree, though.

Traffic was nuts so this is what I got 🤣

Seeing San Fransisco was great, but I was ready to be out of the city and looking forward to the drive on the coast. Hitting Hwy 1, we meandered our way through gorgeous coastline down toward Monterrey.

The logistics of getting in and out of hotels with dogs isn’t a huge deal until it gets hot. Through the Pacific Coast, and even in the Redwoods, temps have been warm, but not alarming. I got a snazzy waist belt with hooks to attach the dogs to me while checking into hotels. Once checked in, no biggie. Bring in the stuff…bring in their stuff – easy peasy.

But…..

Throw in scorching temps, searing asphalt and breathtaking humidity and it’s a whole other ball game. I cannot leave the dogs in the car to zip in and use a restroom or check into the next hotel. I had planned one more stop in Ventura but decided to just push through and got home to my people late last night.

Gas stop temps – TOO HOT!

Ironic that I need time alone from time to time, but after a couple of days recharging, couldn’t wait to see my people. LA traffic is not my fave, but I did it, and was reminded that I am out of practice driving assertively. Although I’m sure it will come back in no time, I’m happy to let Eric drive for a while and will gladly occupy the passenger seat…at least for a few days!

Trees Please!

There were some specific things I wanted to do this trip. Getting to see the beautiful trees of the Redwood forest has been a bucket list item for me for as long as I can remember. The forest and evergreen trees in particular draw me in like a magnet. Much the like ocean, being in a forest is a holy experience.

I woke up this morning in Grants Pass, Oregon. I was joined in my shower by an arachnid. (A decidedly NOT holy experience!) I screamed, finished up and promptly exited the bathroom. (Seriously?!!! How do they find me!?)

Throughout Grants Pass, the town has bears all over dressed/decorated in all sorts of outfits and/or paint. Kitschy, but charming, I snapped some pics as my mother loves all things “road-side oddity”.

Dutch Bros!

After gassing up, (and quickly reminded that we don’t do self serve gas in Oregon – whoops!) I had to see what all the fuss was about with Dutch Brothers Coffee. I have to say, I’m a fan – it was delicious and not hotel coffee.

Caffeine loaded, dogs walked and fed, we were on our way! Hwy 101 – aka The Redwood Highway all the way to the magic of the forest!

I had to stop a bazillion times. I couldn’t resist taking in these amazing views and savoring every second. (And yes, the dogs like to pee at every stop.) What I had in my mind was taking the dogs for a trail walk, hoping for some that would allow dogs. When I turned off to the Avenue of the Giants, I kept seeing no dogs allowed signs. Finally I broke down and looked it up and sure enough – none of the trails in the Avenue allow dogs, leashed or not. Sigh. We’d just have to figure something else out. In the mean time, I took a TON of pics from the car, from outside the car, from the side of the road…you get the idea.

After crossing the state line, the fog was thick. I came around a curve and there to my right was a lookout that sucked me right off the road. SAND! REAL SAND! Not a barnacle in sight! Waves! Crashing water over the rocks made a perfect welcome back to California.

Sea air inhaled and sandy beach tromped through, we headed off to our first destination: the Paul Bunyan and Babe statues at the Trees of Mystery. (Yes, I too, am a sucker for random things – I get it from my mother who tortured me with these kinds of stops! 🤪)

There’s a dude that voices/interacts with the crowd! Hilarious! I want that job!

Since the Avenue of the Giants did not allow dogs, I drove back up to the 101 to see if there would be a campground or other pullout to be able to walk. (See? I’m already gettin’ my Californian on with “the 5, the 405, etc. 🤣) At the Huckleberry Campground, we pulled in and I asked what the fee was for a day use pass so I could walk the dogs. The attendant said I could go ahead and park and take my walk free of charge! Perfect! One thing that kept jumping out at me was how quiet it was in the forest whenever I stepped out of the car. Despite traffic and lots of people, the trees insulate sound remarkably well. It would be easy to get lost in this otherworldly place.

The temps were much cooler and more comfortable as we drove to the next destination: The Drive Thru Tree! To be fair, there are a few of these trees in the Redwood forest, but the one I wanted to drive through was the one I’ve seen in black and white pictures. The tree with a square cut out of it!

It was pretty anticlimactic. Everyone lines up, drives through slowly, and out the other side….right into the gift shop. As you can plainly see, the dogs were tremendously excited.

Down the road 2 hours later, we pull into our hotel stop in Sonoma. Sonoma is beautiful, and after all the lush foresty goodness, it was lovely to see a giant palm tree! The cookie, of course was delicious and the dogs definitely approve of tonight’s accommodations. (And after my shower with an 8 legged friend this morning – this is just what the doctor ordered!)

Adventure Awaits!

When the rep walked up to the house we were about to turn back over to the military housing company, I bristled at her container of Lysol wipes. The wipes wouldn’t have been a big deal, but paired with her attitude, I got a little defensive. I get that they have to make sure the homes are properly cleaned, but….seriously? We’ve spent the last three days cleaning behind the movers that were not only late, but short handed. (She had also done a pre-move inspection so she already knew our house was in great shape.)

Through the process, she test cleaned various spots through the kitchen, re-wiping down the inside of the dishwasher, refrigerator and every drawer in the kitchen. She checked every window, every blind, every sill. In all of our base housing experiences – we’ve never had someone this persnickety. We passed with flying colors, but I did have to have a mental chat with myself to not say something through the process. (For the record, the house was cleaner now than it was when we moved in. I resisted the urge to comment on that out loud.)

With that done and keys handed over, we drove away from our very last base house. This was the last chapter of active duty military life left to close. I exhaled as we drove away, the reality sinking in. Eric and I did a little giddy car dance/high five as we drove back to the kids to pack up.

We. are. done.

No more moving every three years (unless we want to), no more being told where to move, and no more short(er) term planning. We can stay put for as long as we want!

THIS IS EXCITING!

It was a stunning day in the PNW. Definitely another one of those sunny days that fool people into moving there just in time to experience months of Fall/Winter/2nd Winter/Almost Spring. After a visit and hugs with the parentals, we hit the road to Seattle so we didn’t have to get up as early for their flight. Eric took the 2-legged minions to SoCal, and I am on the road with the 4-legged ones! I love road trips and it’s been nearly 3 years since we’ve been anywhere – mostly due to Covid. Seattle traffic was great practice for the 8 lanes of I-5 in my future! Have I mentioned that I am alone? For the first time in about 6 or maybe 7 years?! Mind blowing. I have been looking forward to this trip for weeks! I definitely crave alone time; to read, to listen to music, to write, to think, and to just be.

After getting them all set for their flight, the doggos and I headed south with the tunes playing and yes, lots of singing all the things, stops for coffee and eats (when it was finally open), and even a DOG PARK!

Hello Oregon!

About 5 minutes after arriving in Portland, I missed the turn to stay on I5, and took a scenic detour over another giant bridge in Portland that made my tummy squeemy. (I’m not so great with heights + freeway speeds. For some reason I will visualize driving off the bridge and falling to my doom. Yes, I do in fact have an overactive imagination.) I later learned Squeemy Bridge’s actual name is Fremont Bridge. I would post a pic, but I couldn’t take one for the white knuckles and aforementioned imaginings of plummeting to my death. You can google it. (And likely be unimpressed as the photos do not do the height justice. At all.)

Back on the correct freeway, we moseyed our way down to look for the Starbucks’ Oregon mug that was out of stock at every location on our move up from San Diego in 2019. It only took 3 stops to find the coveted mug – mission accomplished!

We made it to Grant’s Pass the first day, and it was HOT. Heat advisory 100 degrees hot. It’s been a minute since we’ve been in this kind of heat. We are now comfortably tucked into our well-air conditioned hotel room for the night and ready for tomorrow’s adventures!

I can’t wait!

What a Year!

The kids have the same English teacher at our school. All year long they have a weekly contest called “Giggles”. This contest involves writing a sentence and correctly placing all commas. First one done wins for that week. At the end of the year, the student with the most wins becomes a “Comma Master” and earns a ‘fancy crown’ 👑 and the glory of having their name on a poster for future classes to aspire to/admire. I have been hearing about Giggles all year long.

To know my minions is to know their competitive nature. 🥴 To know Jake is to know that he is a hair splitting, precise, rule enforcer. When in a game/competition setting, not only is he competitive, but has struggled with good sportsmanship when he is not the winner. Mrs. Hall and I chatted often at the beginning of the year. 🤣

While it may have been a bumpy start, over the course of the year Jake has grown in his language arts abilities, as well as becoming a better team player and gracious when games did not go his way. Mrs. Hall gave all her students hand-written, personal notes encouraging them and wishing them all a great summer. Jacob’s included how proud she was of his growth in this area.

This teacher also expanded the winners circle to include 2nd place this year. 1st place is a Comma Sensei, 2nd place is a Comma Master. Hannah was the sensei of her class, Jacob was the comma master. Of course he realizes it’s a silly contest and a simple Burger King paper crown. The fact that he stayed engaged and kept trying, even after he had calculated that there were not enough weeks left in the year for him to win 1st place, is sort of a big deal. And a huge deal that Mrs. Hall recognized and rewarded that effort.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I. Love. Teachers! Thank you! Thank you for seeing them and meeting them where they are. You are making a difference!

It’s a bittersweet year as we are moving out of state. Though the goodbyes as a military family have been frequent, they are never easy, especially for my tender hearted daughter. (Luckily this *should* be the last one!) Some of her classmates are military kids, but many are not. I was so incredibly touched when Hannah showed me a project they all worked on as a going away gift.

They all got together, printed out pictures, made a collage board for her, signing personal notes at the bottom. Be still my Mama heart!

Their class also did fun superlatives. Jacob was voted “Most Likely to be a Mad Scientist” and Hannah was “Most Likely to Star in a Movie”

Yeah. That tracks.

The see you laters and the goodbyes just suck. It’s hard and sad and all the feelings. One thing the goodbyes bring is a deep appreciation for authentic friendships and a boldness in expressing their affection for one another. I have been so fortunate to have had such friendships and am grateful that my kids have been loved well by their friends.

Messy Middle

From Fall 2021:

“Just do the next right thing, just the things that need to get done today,” I often tell myself as we are muddling through the first back to school weeks. Getting back to our routines and schedules of the fall and adjusting to the ever-decreasing daylight in the Pacific Northwest propel me to increase my caffeine intake in the form of that delicious dark elixir we call coffee. I had cut down, and even quit a few months ago, but I’m back. That cup of coffee each morning is what I look forward to at night as my mess of curls gets secured up high so as not to choke me through the night. Hitting the pillow, I dream of how that creamy deliciousness will lie to me, again conspiring all the ways we are going to be productive. Inevitably, I do what I need to do, but find this time of year – it all seems hard.

I hate all the things about the going-through-it phases of life. I love the triumph of having gone through something hard only after the fact. Lessons learned and experience gained is a great thing. Learning the lesson? Gaining the experience? That pesky present tense verb is the part I’m not in love with.

And we are in the middle of it.

Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Where should they go to school?

There are no answers. I don’t like not having answers. Or a plan. Or a direction.

“Just do the next right thing,” I remind myself for the 58th time. Keep working out, keep walking the dogs, doing the dishes, making dinners, cutting vegetables and making lunches. Tame the never ending laundry, or at least beat it down a bit. Keep moving forward. The next needed thing.

Sigh.

I love the colors of fall, the crispness in the air and especially the Halloweeny things. Twinkle lights dangled around our porch offer coziness each evening at dusk, a reminder of summer days spent camping.

Today? March 7th, 2022?

Still tired. Still drinking that exquisite cup of Joe each morning. Added Wordle into the mix with friends each morning, but, still in the messy middle in the midst of March. Sunsets are coming minutes later each day as the hours of light incrementally stretch longer. Maybe the whole point is that while we may have a new job, a move coming up, etc., we are just ALWAYS in the messy middle? If it’s not our physical location, it’s kids changing phases, or schools, or I don’t know, global pandemics. Maybe being human is just that there is no end, until the end-end. There is no ‘there’. Perhaps It’s just moving forward doing the next best thing we can at any given moment.

I think the next right thing is to go to bed. That morning cup of coffee calls me from just the other side of sleep…

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