These Moms, They Don’t Know Me

I don’t recognize any of the faces at pick-up. It’s been two years since kindergarten, and I stand in the hallway like the nanny in our small town of well-dressed, Volvo-driving mommies. They chat like old friends, tossing the occasional glance my way. I know there are checking me out, wondering which kid I belonged to. My outfit screams working mom, but without the pumps and pantyhose. They can tell I’m not white collar. Part of me secretly loves the confusion I’m causing. Part of me wants to cry.

Their little brown heads pour out of the room. I scan Hello Kitty and Bionicle backpacks and watch as one by one they run to their moms and then scramble to the play structure. Most days that’s where I find him, as I breathlessly ride onto the blacktop. The bungee cord on my bike basket secures tote bags overflowing with papers to grade and an empty travel mug, The other moms smile at me – that half-friendly, half smirky smile that lets me know I don’t exactly belong.

They don’t know how fast I ride the two miles to get here, how quickly I scurry out of my classroom to get to his. They don’t know that with my oldest child I got to work part-time, and volunteered in her classroom, and was home every day after school and knew all of her friends and their moms by first name. These moms, those whose boys scamper with mine, they don’t know me at all. They probably never will. They don’t know how my heart aches to be there every day before the bell rings, to have the conversations on the sidelines of the playground and drive on the field trips. They don’t know that someday, their sons and daughters will be the reason I’m not with my own – that their child will be my child in class, and all this time and energy and heartache will pour right from me into their teen…

I see him, the last one out. He carefully packs up his brown camouflage backpack. I cautiously enter, not wanting to invade this special place. I understand this is a time for his teacher to breathe, to pause, to center. He doesn’t notice me yet, but she does. “Hola”, she smiles as she greets me. I like her. I like knowing he spends his day with someone who cares. He looks up and runs into my arms.

“Mommy!” His eyes shine as he sees me. He is so small as I circle my arms around him, hugging all my love into his little body. I smile at her, say “Thank you”, and hold his tiny hand as we walk out the door toward our bikes. Together.

p.s. – Are you a working mom? I’ve been a teacher for 24 years – you might like to read about how I’ve spent my days with other people’s children teaching, creating community, doing global service in education, and finding the teacher-mom balance.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: It’s Just Like Life

fall trees in California

It was the juxtaposition here that caught my eye; the hovering between the change of seasons, between permanence and the fleetingness of the moment. I ride by these trees every day, hurrying to school, never stopping to look up or notice.

It wasn’t until this month, when the light changed and the air cooled that I really noticed them – that I really stopped, looked up, and paused. It was the position, really, between the durability of the palm with its strong backbone, its wide, graceful fronds against the fragility of the pistache, finger-thin branches freeing themselves of vibrant red and yellow and orange debris.

It’s just like life.

One minute, we’re enduring life, riding the bumps and bruises and crests of the moment. We’re holding fast, occasionally throwing our arms up in glee, knowing that the immutability of what we know to be real is there to keep us safe. Strong. Comforted.

And right next to us, close enough to touch, a blaze is extinguished. A force at once vibrant and animated, slowly shedding its color in preparation for the next season. The next stage. To go dormant, to conserve its energy for what is yet to come. Fragile. Fleeting.

Both equally exquisite. Both equally elusive. Both equally extraordinary.

It’s just like life.

So I stopped my bike and snapped a photo.

Friday photos are a snapshot of life, a moment in time, an image that lingers. They’re my attempt at capturing the extraordinary in the ordinary – taking a pause to breathe in the moment in this wild and fleeting life.

p.s. – I think you might enjoy these Friday Photo moments from weeks gone by, when I captured a last gasp of summer, Dia de los Muertos and a harvest. Click over and take a look, and please, let me know what you think.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Pondering Independence Day

The 4th of July, for me, isn’t the kind of holiday I really look forward to. I live in a small town. We have the parades, the pancake breakasts, the picnics, the gathering-together-in-the-park kind of celebrations. We have the swimming pools, the BBQs, the kids riding decorated bikes through town.

It just doesn’t speak to my independent spirit.

squirrel solitude

I’m not a big crowd kind of person. I love the quiet, I love small gatherings, I love solitude. I love home.

I’m not anti-social, really. I like people; well, some people. I don’t like stepping over sweaty bodies laying all over the grass. I always got nervous when my kids were little and it got dark and I couldn’t see where they were. Now that they’re teens, I get nervous because they’re too big to cling to, and too old to stay by my side. Independence turned against me, I suppose.

We’ve celebrated Independence Day lots of different ways. Sometimes we’ve gone to the foothills to hang out with just one other family. We sat on their deck, the kids rode their horses and let off LOTS of fireworks. We’ve spent the 4th at the lake, riding bikes from home to Squaw Valley and back, then battling the crowds for blanket space and then sat in traffic after the last sparkler burned out. We’ve stayed at a bed and breakfast, just the two of us, and rode bikes around the Gold Country. One year , on a trip out of state, we danced around fireworks that seemed more like hand grenades being flung by passers-by. That didn’t speak to my spirit at all.

When I was little, the 4th often meant trips to my grandparent’s house in the Bay Area. Grandpa would have brought home ‘illegal’ fireworks from Chinatown, and the cousins would light up the long, covered porch with sparklers and those snake-like ones that left an enticing trail of ash as proof that we really lit it. Lighting anything was a true sign of independence.

This Independence Day morning, I ponder the day ahead. My girl is long gone, skiing for the summer on top of a glacier in Oregon. No picnics with her today – she’s enjoying her own independent spirit. My boy is planning teenage shenanigans and reliably unreliable for family time, but horribly independent. My husband is working; I guess it’s just me and my dog. Maybe I’ll take a walk and watch the parade from a distance.  I’m sure I could dig up a few glow sticks tonigh – no sparklers, though. Light a BBQ, sit under the trees on my patio, listening to the festivities going on down the block. Independent.

I think I’ll just listen to my own spirit, and ponder the real meaning of Independence Day.

 

Dear reader, how do you celebrate Independence Day? Do you listen to your own spirit, and do what you want to do?

This post was inspired by today’s prompt |ponder| from writealm.com.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco’s Exploratorium and Golden Gate Bridge Bike Ride

Living in northern California, there’s never a shortage of places to go or things to do. As a ‘last gasp of summer’ fling, we headed off to San Francisco for a day of exploring. It’s an easy drive from our house, and when we’re sweltering in triple digit heat, a little fog and drizzle is perfect!

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

English: Ferry Building in San Francisco, Cali...
English: Ferry Building in San Francisco, California in 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Recently relocated on the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building, the San Francisco Exploratorium is full of intriguing exhibits and activities to twist your brain and move your body.

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Kids and grown ups are equally entertained!

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

And if there’s too much stimuli inside, a quick step out onto the deck provides a gorgeous view of the ‘old’ Bay Bridge span.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

We even got to experience a real-life fire evacuation…fortunately, it was a false alarm.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Inside, we were right back exploring for several hours.

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t – I loved creating these digital images of us!

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Finally, hunger won over curiosity and we headed to our second stop – The Slanted Door in the Ferry Building.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

The Slanted Door came highly recommended, so we were excited to get a table easily. The modern Vietnamese menu was impressive, as was the view from the dining room. Personally, I liked my view of my boys!

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Cam was adventurous and tried the “Slanted Door Spring Rolls” – an interesting combination of shrimp, mint, and pork, with a delicious peanut dipping sauce. He was so adept with the chopsticks!

travel with mamawolfe to San FranciscoWe all agreed that this dish was our favorite – lemongrass chicken with red onion, roasted jalapeno, roasted chili paste, and roasted peanut, served with brown rice. Yum! travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

The carmelized wild gulf shrimp ere pretty tasty, too – I liked the yellow onion and garlic sauteed in a caramel chili sauce.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Unbelieveably, he still had room for dessert – couldn’t resist the soft snickerdoodle ice cream cookie sandwiches.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

The next activity involved getting outside – and getting on bikes. Most people wouldn’t think about riding bikes in a city known for eyepopping hills, but in reality, San Francisco is an awesome place to ride. travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Starting at the Ferry Building, we followed the water. Past Peir 39, Ghiradelli Square, alongside the tourists we rode. Pretty nice views!travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Riding through Fort Mason offers some spectacular vistas of the San Francisco Bay.travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

We decided to go for it, and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge!travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

Eventually, we made it to the other side!

travel with mamawolfe to San Francisco

I have to admit – riding across the bridge was kind of creepy. It was misty, and while there is a nice barrier between the bikes and the cars, the outside edge is surprisingly exposed to the water. I decided to just put my head down and ride straight across. I stopped once, but quickly realized that if I looked down too much I might not have the fortitude to keep going. I was relieved to make it to the large, concrete exit on the Sausalito side, but like my Nicaraguan zip lining adventure, I felt a sense of great accomplishment that I did it.

I felt the same way about our adventure to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge – so glad that we took the day to go. Time goes by so fast.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Bike Ride With Me: Along the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley

Nearly every winter weekend I’m in the Tahoe snow. November through May my ski racing kids, my ski coaching husband, and my ski mama driving self spend lots of family time near Tahoe City – but it certainly never looks like this.

Truckee River

Tahoe in the summer is an entirely different place, with a huge variety of activities. As much as I love Tahoe in the snow, it’s a nice change of pace to abandon the boots and grab a pair of running shoes and hit the beach and trails.

This weekend we decided to get up early to beat the 4th of July tourist crowds and hit the bike trail between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley. We headed off from the west shore, about 2 miles from Tahoe City.

The Truckee River in Tahoe City, just below the lake outlet. We’re the only ones around. For now.

Truckee River

No matter what sport we do, I’m always bringing up the rear.

along the Truckee River
along the Truckee River

The first of a series of bridges across the Truckee River – some in much better shape than others.

wooden bridge

The bike path is an easy ride…fairly flat, and very close to the water. I found myself getting lost in the scenery usually covered in snow.

River rock view Truckee River rocks

I love how easy it is to stop along the river and get up close and personal. I couldn’t help myself. It’s a lot colder than it looks – remember, it’s Sierra snow we’re looking at!

Truckee River Truckee River rocks

I love thinking about who has gazed at these rocks, this river. My ancestors journaled about them in the 1800s- they must have looked identical to today. In fact, these rocks were actually formed by glaciers millions of years ago. Just think about the generations who have witnessed their majesty.

formed by glaciers

My husband’s family has been coming to Tahoe for generations. We stopped here, at blue bridge, where he remembers fishing with his grandfather. Thirty-five years later, the bridge has deteriorated and is now closed off as a ‘hazardous area’.

the blue bridge and fishing rock
the blue bridge and fishing rock

The river flows out into a meadow-like space, smooth and gentle.

Truckee River meadow

Turns out my husband is incredibly patient with my bike riding strategy. I’m s.l.o.w…not only am I looking side to side instead of straight ahead, I’m like a two year old, constantly stopping to take a closer look.

waiting along the Truckee River

So he sat and waited.

I tried to get him to take me out for breakfast, but he insisted we keep pedaling.

River Ranch
River Ranch

River Ranch, located at the entrance to Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, is also the landing place for river rafters. We beat them…but not for long!

fallen tree along the Truckee

I had to get pretty close for this shot…from here on out, the Truckee River is much rougher.

rough Truckee River

A couple miles away from Alpine, the bike trail cleverly crosses under Highway 89 just before Squaw Valley.

bike trail across Truckee

The Olympic flame burns 24/7. The path ends here, 7.1 miles from our house. Time to turn around and head back.

Squaw Valley

Half-way done! Still smiling!

mamawolfe along the Truckee River

Wish you could see the baby wood ducks swimming with their mama…just out of camera range. Sigh.

Truckee River

Unfortunately, we just missed wildflower season..but there were still a few brightening the trail.

mule flower
mule flower

Despite the busy weekend, we were able to escape most of the traffic, but the rafters always come…

first rafters on the river

I stopped a few more times on the way back…not that I was tired, mind you.

it's not a weed
doesn’t look like a weed to me

Looking up river on the last bridge…

Truckee River rafters

And down river…

Truckee River rafters

I think we finished just in time.

What a beautiful morning on the Truckee River bike trail. 14.2 miles…and I didn’t miss the snow one bit!

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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