My Favorite Moments of 2015-A Year In Photos

I love the new year. Not because I’m a big one on resolutions (I’m definitely anti-declaration in that way). And not because I like to whoop it up on New Year’s Eve (I don’t – I was in bed by 10 p.m.). And I love photos – not because I’m any sort of skilled photographer, but because I love the moments they capture.

And certainly not because I love endings and change and the unknown (not.not.not.).

But I do love the new year because I adore reflecting on memories. I love stories. I’m sentimental that way.

I’m a huge creator of photo albums and memory boxes – at least, I used to be, before I got a digital camera.

Now my photos are stored all over the place – my phone, my computer, the cloud, Google Drive – and I need to do a serious project to get them organized.

Wow – that sounds almost like a resolution. *shudder*

To start, I searched up each month of photos that I could, and want to share my favorites here. Not because they’re terribly technically good photos, but because, for me, they tell a story of 2015: what happened, where I went, and who I loved.

And that will have to do for now.

JANUARY 2015

no cast

This was in the orthopedist’s office – it was the first time C had seen his leg outside of his cast since he broke it on the ski course. I love the look on his face and the fact that he wore his “Bomber” shirt that day – sigh.

FEBRUARY 2015

018a8edbd3b246defb0d71c477f795f8aadac512f2

While most days I dislike the fact that my daughter moved to Utah to go to college, when her photographer boyfriend sends me these shots, I can’t help but smile. Can you see her face? She’s loving life. What more can I ask for?

MARCH 2015

IMG_8810 (1)

I love the blurriness of this shot-it’s so representative of how life was (is?) feeling in this moment. I love that C is on his skateboard after months of being in a cast (wait -really?). I love that he hasn’t lost his confidence and that our dog follows him everywhere. A boy and his dog. And his skateboard. *sigh*

APRIL 2015

IMG_9020

Being a part of Listen To Your Mother seemed like an elusive writing goal – although motherhood tips the topic list of my blog, it took a huge leap of faith for me to actually submit my writing. My smile represents my joy at being chosen, at doing something that made me nervous, and the accomplishment I felt when I was done. And this photo also reminds me how short I am.

MAY 2015

IMG_9081

My girl and her dog along the trail at Five Lakes. It’s near Alpine Meadows, where we spend the winters skiing. If I was in this photo, my smile would fill the frame – this was the first time I’d seen L since Christmas, and I couldn’t get enough of her. This adventure, hiking with her and her boyfriend and our pup, was one of those perfect moments that I appreciate so much more now that she doesn’t live with me anymore.

JUNE 2015

selfie free summer

A day trip to Point Reyes, CA, was one of the first things we did when L came home (briefly) in June before she left to work in Oregon for the summer. My boy was still not 100% on his now-healed leg, and yet he made it down to the coast with his camera. Can you feel my heart bursting here? I assure you, it was.

JULY 2015

IMG_9614

NYC subway with one of my oldest girlfriends taking the snap. I’d never been there, never ridden the hot, steamy, sweaty, crowded subway, so I insisted she capture the moment. I’d just finished attending BlogHer16 (awesome) and was spending my last few days seeing the sights. I may not look like I’m 18 years old in this image, but I sure felt like it.

AUGUST 2015

Utah hiking

I can’t remember the name of this lake in Utah but I do remember the moment. C and I had driven L back to school and she and her boyfriend took us up into the mountains of Alta where they ski during the winter. I was pretty happy I kept up with the youngsters (elevation and all), but mostly, I felt the joy a mother feels when her babies are by her side, happy and healthy and loving life. I’m not sharing the photos I took the next day when I left her there and had to drive home…

SEPTEMBER 2015

sixteen

My boy turned 16. What I love about this photo is how much he’s changed, yet how he’s stayed the same. He didn’t want a ‘sweet 16’ party like my girl did, so I dug out an old cake photo to contrast with where he is today – the fact that his broken leg healed, he was able to skim board in Carmel and is growing into such a determined, kind human….I’m a proud mamawolfe.

OCTOBER 2015

IMG_0372

An Instagram screen shot of L and her boyfriend hiking in Utah. What mom wouldn’t be proud to see her daughter in love like this?

NOVEMBER 2015

IMG_0619 (1)

Even though I turned 50 in December, and even though I did NOT want a party, my mom did it anyways. The day after Thanksgiving, before L went back to college, and when my extended family was still in town, we celebrated. And I’m glad. I chose this photo because it is a rare moment when I am in a shot with both of my parents – they divorced when I was a teen and are rarely seen together. I love this because it reminds me what parents will do for their children and that I’m getting old. Older, but better. Definitely better.

DECEMBER 2015

IMG_0793 (1)

I love the holidays, but they overwhelm me. Too much going on, too many people, and I’m usually exhausted from teaching during those crazy December days leading up to the break. But here, on Christmas Eve at my dad’s house, this photo made it all worthwhile. My babies. My boy (with a concussion 🙁 – can you see his hospital bracelet?) and my girl, my best life’s work. What makes me mamawolfe.

Here’s to 2016, a year for more photos, more adventures, and more writing about thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. A year for trusting the journey.

That’s one resolution I can keep.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Summertime Payback

This may be a little known fact to some, but school teachers don’t exactly get three months of vacation.

The way I see it, our vacation is really a way to add in some of the overtime hours that we racked up during the school year.

Let me explain. If my teaching day ends at 4:00, I have put in 8.5 hours at school. Only 50 minutes of that was allotted for preparation and grading. If I assign one essay and spend 20 minutes per student on grading it, that will take 720 minutes (12 hours) for one class of 36 – remember, no one has class sizes of 30 anymore. if I have five classes, that’s 60 hours of extra work per essay assignment. That’s another entire work week, plus overtime.

As I head into my second week of ‘vacation’, I’m finally starting to relax. I’m not hearing any bells buzzing in my ears, telling me when to stop and go. I’ve stowed my book bags in my home office, willing to let them sit until August. I’ve gone to the gym and grocery store mid-day, I’ve washed all my coffee travel mugs, and am beginning to make my way through the stacks of magazines that have built up since December.

But the best part about being a teacher isn’t all of those things; it’s not even the time payback.

I really think the secret is that teachers have the best of both worlds.

I’ve always been a ‘working-outside-the-home mom’. I’m not complaining-we made that choice in order to live where we do (California), get health insurance benefits, save for retirement and our children’s college, and to have the ability to live off of two incomes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, but I imagine parts of it are pretty great.

I also imagine there are parts of it that are really, really hard.

The loveliness of being a teacher isn’t just about having fun in the classroom, or having a few weeks off in the summer. It isn’t about having my own child at school for three years, personally knowing all her teachers, or having a place outside my house to store all my books.

What I find delicious and at the same time difficult is the transition between being a ‘work-outside-the-home’ mom and being home all day. I say it’s my compromise for all the missed walks to and from school while they were little, the lunches I forgot to pack, and the field trips I couldn’t go on. It’s my way of making up for not being the ‘science’ or ‘library’ mommy in their classroom, and for having to send store bought cookies for their birthday celebration.

Summertime is my time to not only catch up on the ‘to-do’ lists, but also to do things with my kids that I can’t squeeze in during the school year- like long walks at dusk, talking about what’s important. Riding our bikes. Spending hours in the library looking for a perfect book. Making that cake recipe that takes an entire day. Swimming and reading at the pool. Wandering around a museum. Road trips to anywhere. Lying on the grass for a cool evening baseball game.

For me, working-outside-the-home makes these moments just a little sweeter-it makes summertime special.

Nothing is better payback than that.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Friday Photo: The World Out My Window

Spring break is so often the time for adventure.  College students head off to party centrals, lucky families head off to early family vacation spots, concerned high school parents begin college tours, and then there are those who…stay home.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  My family actually chose to stay right home and rest.  Sleeping in, working in the garden, baseball games, playing chess by the fire (yes, it’s a COLD spring break here in California!) and catching up on dates with friends sounded like the perfect way to spend our free week.

But April showers have kept us more tucked up inside the house than we anticipated, which for me means time perched up in my office, gazing out the window and thinking and dreaming.

Yesterday my daughter joined my reverie and we began a virtual college tour on collegeboard.com.  Amid our diligent shepherding through high school, she has begun to see the college light at the end of the tunnel. Soon our focus will change from getting her in to getting it financed, and we all know about the college tuition  fears that today’s parents face.

There was something so exciting, though, about sitting up high with her and watching her click through all the college options she can look forward to that made my fears ease just the tiniest bit.  College will come for her.  She will be admitted somewhere, and will have that often joyous, stressful, and exhilarating experience that we wish for her.  Years of scrimping and saving, studying, volunteering, and working will bring her dreams to reality and adventures to her life.

And three years from now, when she’s having her first college spring break, I hope she’ll find another place to perch up high, and think and dream new dreams for herself.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

The Ride of a Lifetime

We loaded into the back of the small, dilapidated whiteToyota pickup truck.  No safety restraints were in sight, unless the roll bars along the top counted.  Eight children aged 6 to 14 years couldn’t believe their good fortune.  Eight adults searched each other’s faces for solidarity.  This went against all our instincts, but so did waking up in a Nicaraguan compound with an armed guard standing at the door.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Although native English speakers, my kids had only ever attended school in Spanish.  They had no choice about it – from kindergarten on, they attended a public Spanish Immersion elementary school and quickly became fluent.
At first, the road started out dusty but flat.  As we pulled out from behind the large black iron gates, I knew I was embarking on something that would take me far, far out of my comfort zone.  Dressed in shorts, t-shirt, sturdy shoes, bandanas, and hats to protect us from the blazing sun, I wondered how hard could it be? I had plenty of fresh water and granola bars in my backpack.  Two bottles of hand sanitizer – one in my pocket and a backup in my pack – would prevent any illness.  Our daily doses of malaria medication and enough industrial strength DEET bug spray to kill all the bugs in Nicaragua would keep us from insect driven disease.

 

As the pickup truck left town, I relaxed a bit.  Beaming smiles of bliss radiated from each child – there was no fear on their faces.  Moving slowly down the dirt road we waved as we passed children and parents beginning their days in their humble, dirt-floored homes.  Cement walls created a shelter for them, and chickens and skinny dogs sauntered in and out.  Wisps of smoke rose from the outdoor fire pits.  Broad, white grins mixed with confused countenances met our white-skinned faces and shouts of greeting – not many ‘chelles’ in this part of the world.

The tiny truck wound its way down the road, the homes spreading further and further apart.  A caballero and his companion greet our driver as he slows to a halt, carefully avoiding the emaciated cows on the road.  Relationships are key to survival in this part of the world.  The adults grab their cameras and snap away, most never having seen a real cowboy at work before.  The kids smile broadly in disbelief.

Sparse, green grassland dotted with the occasional tree line both sides of the road. Every few miles family home vegetable gardens interrupted the rocky outcroppings.  Undeterred, the farmers work around them.
Slowing to a halt, we notice a wrinkled old man on the side of the road.  Victor, our driver, calls out a greeting and waves him closer.  The man approaches the back of the truck, and I realize he intends to squeeze in with us.  As he throws one arm over the side and carefully enters the pickup bed, his two-foot long machete enters with him.  Our young American sons’ eyes widen in disbelief at the weapon within arm’s reach.  The old American parents’ eyes widen in momentary panic.
Continuing up the road, local Nicaraguans looking for a ride repeatedly greet us.  No one turned away; we realize the amazing opportunity to meet them up close and personal as we squish back to back and side to side in the shrinking truck.
The truck takes a sharp left turn and wheels begin to spin.  Victor, unphased, eases it into low gear and we begin to climb a hill.  The flat road has disappeared, replaced by small rocks at first, then enormous boulders.  The adults begin to bark safety directions and plan for the eventual rollover.  The truck lurches to the right, and I yelp in terror.  The boys fist pump in jubilation, and we find ourselves right side up.

After an eternity, we make one last turn and the tiny pickup groans and lurches to a halt.  As I wait for my brain to stop spinning and my heartbeat to ease, a sound like thunder reaches my ears.  Children, teens and adults begin to crowd around, pulling on the doors and grinning widely.   The entire community is cheering and screaming as if Justin Bieber has just walked on stage, when in reality it is just us, 16 Americans about to continue the ride of a lifetime in Nicaragua.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Friday Photo: In The Moment


Taking a road trip can be a stressful experience.  There is the planning, the packing, the money, the time, the scheduling – all that can make leaving the house a real hassle.  Adding into the mix any sort of scheduled activity just further complicates the matter.  Then, tossing in children, pets and a spouse and most moms would rather stay home.

This week all my best-laid plans completely turned upside down and I found myself needing to make an unexpected 260-mile road trip on Friday afternoon.  Logistically and rationally, it didn’t make any sense, but nevertheless I booked a hotel, packed my bags, took off from work a few hours early and loaded my daughter and her ski gear into the car and headed for the southeastern Sierras.

Being the type of planning oriented person I am, spontaneity can often really stress me out.  Having children 
is teaching me that sometimes life is unplanned, uncontrolled, and I’d better just learn to go with it.  I’m
 trying to take life as it comes, but sometimes it’s really hard.  Like many things in life, the more I practice
 the easier it becomes.  Still, stress otfen wins out until I’ve slammed the door shut and there’s no
 turning back.

After several hours of cruising down highway 395 we crested a pass and before us lay the most awesome expanse of Mono Lake.  Descending the hill and climbing closer and closer to the shore the sun began to set, encircling us with a cotton candy pink glow.  As the highway lined the lake I began to see a white edging against the jade green water, and ice cream cone shaped ivory turrets starkly jutting up out of the lake.  Snow?  The rest of the landscape was dry and brown, so I began to look deeper.  I stopped to get a closer look, and realized that what appeared to be snow was simply rock taking on a different hue at that precise moment as the sun went down.

 Hopping back in the car, I realized how lucky I was to be in that exact place that exact moment with
daughter by my side.  I realized that if I hadn’t let go, if I had resisted and refused to change plans, this
 day would have been very different.   What I saw with my eyes was awe-inspiring, and what I saw with
 my heart was awe inducing.  That simple moment with my daughter reminded me of the power of being
 present, and the weakness of being in control.
 So when you think of the days and plans you have in front of you, imagine what would happen if 
you stopped, let something slide, and slipped into the present.  What would take on a different hue for you?

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp