Halloween

Halloween Is Over-Rated, Isn’t It?

Halloween is over-rated.

And I’m over it. Done. I’m fine with no Halloween this year – seriously. Nothing…except memories.

The closest I’m coming to celebrating Halloween this year is driving by a pumpkin patch on the freeway and viewing other people’s costumes on social media.

Yes, I’m that pathetic. I’m an empty nester, you know – and just absolutely cannot bring myself to put out the decorations this year. First of all, Halloween is on a weekday. I’m too old for costume parties. I’ve got papers to grade. The dog goes crazy. I’ll get PLENTY of festivity teaching 7th graders in costume. There are no kids at home this year to celebrate, AND each Oct. 31 we’re lucky if we get two rings at the doorbell.

I’m over it, big time.

I bought pumpkins at Trader Joe’s, but won’t carve them.

I got a vanilla-pumpkin scented candle but haven’t lit it.

At Target I bought a few bags of candy – just in case – and already opened them.

This Halloween I’ll probably just stay home, in the farthest corner of my house, and think about when Halloween used to be fun.

I can have my own empty-nest pity party for one, yes I can.

Halloween is over-rated, definitely.

Halloween back then…

My mom used to make our costumes, or we’d piece together some sort of get up out of closets, dig into her makeup drawer and call it good.

My sister, the creative one, somehow managed to pull together the MOST amazing costumes for all FIVE of her kids – she sewed them herself and stole the show at the downtown trick or treat.

Our kids trudged around town in the afternoon heat, ending up sweaty, sticky and ready to be done before dark. Oh yes, those were the days. 

Halloween

Last weekend Lily and I spied a little girl, maybe around two, wearing a Minnie Mouse costume. She dropped her ears as she stepped out of the elevator we were on, and as I reached down to hand them to her, I noticed her shiny red shoes.

Memories streamed back to when two-year-old Lily was obsessed with her shiny red boots. My sister created the most adorable ladybug costume for her, complete with a backpack-type red and black spotted ladybug shell that slipped over her shoulders, and a little bouncy antennae headband. But it really was the shiny red shoes that put it over the top.

When I asked Lily if she remembered it, she said no.

Of course, she didn’t. So why is it so ingrained in my mind after twenty years?

I guess Halloween is over-rated, even in my memory bank.

Halloween

The first Halloween with two

I dressed him up as a red chili pepper for his first Halloween. His tiny three-week-old 6-pound little body zipped snugly into the red and green fleece, making it simple for his three-year-old witch sister to proudly snuggle him on the couch before we went out. I think we made it around the block that year; mostly, I remember feeling so proud to have two healthy babies to parade around the neighborhood. Maybe the chili pepper was a foreshadowing of things to come – Cam’s obsession with hot sauce just led him to research his favorite brand for his entrepreneurial class in college.

We went through Dorothy, Bob the Builder, cross-dressing, pirates, Pocohantas and whatever else their imaginations could conjure up. A phase of presidents and presidential candidates always brought laughs when the doors opened, even into the teenage years.

Halloween now

I think I’m OK with no Halloween this year. I’ll smile as my students come dressed up for school, and then slowly bike home before dusk.

I don’t think I can handle the cuteness this year. I don’t think I can watch Charlie Brown. I’m sure I just need to lay low, be quiet.

I know I can’t handle the memories right now, either. Maybe next year. 

Halloween

Halloween is over-rated anyway, isn’t it?

Nope. Not really.

But I’m still not decorating or answering my doorbell.

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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purge party

It’s A Purge Party – And You’re Invited!

Back in May, a few weeks before school let out for the summer, I decided I needed to have a purge party. In the last 27 years, you see, I’ve taught a huge variety of curriculum and grades, I’ve gone from overhead projectors to DLP to Chromebooks and devices, and yet my paper files were still there, haunting me from five huge, overstuffed beige metal filing cabinets.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed support…and fortunately, as every teacher knows, there are ALWAYS kids who love to help.

Grateful, tired teacher with purge party helpers.

Here’s how the purge party began:

I thought it would be simplest to start with my bookshelves. This year I returned to dedicated time for READING in my classes, and boy, did we all love it. Every day starting off with 10 minutes of relax and read helped us all to calm down, focus, and get lost in stories. And as a result, I bought new books…which meant purging titles I have had for decades. I didn’t think it would be too big of a deal – books are books, and surely I could make some space without too much heartache.

Letting go of books, to me, is like leaving old friends – and I realized just wasn’t up to that part of the purge party, so I asked some of my most voracious readers if they’d like to help…and boy, did they help!

We purged out an entire bookcase, and then she ORGANIZED what was left! Best of all, as I tried to sneak back some beloved titles, she reminded me that, “OMG, Mrs. Wolfe, you have TOO many books about baseball…and no one is going to want to read that one -just get rid of it!”

This is one huge reason my purge party was a success – I was reminded that while I might feel huge attachment to the books in my room, kids in 2018 have different tastes and I needed to make room for more current titles.

A few other students caught on to the idea of my ‘purge party’ – and to my huge surprise, volunteered to come back the day after school was out to help.

I honestly couldn’t believe they showed up. I HAD promised them a treat from Dutch Bros….but to show up eager to help at 8:30 a.m. the first day of summer? I’m the luckiest teacher…

Another sweet purge party helper!

Here’s how the purge party went:

The purge party went something like this: I open a file cabinet drawer, said just recycle everything, they look at me like I’m crazy, and then proceed to fill my green bins over and over and over with 27 years worth of PAPER.

I tried not to hyperventilate. I tried not to dig through the file folders and workbooks and transparencies, and just let them PURGE.

purge party

It was hard clearing out all those memories; I’m transitioning back to 7th grade ELA next year and this felt like the perfect time for purging. I’m grateful to be surrounded by loving students willing to not let me look back, and instead keep supporting me, pushing me forward and reminding me of the fun year they had. And not one part of that ‘fun’ came from those metal drawers.

In truth, I haven’t even touched those five filing cabinets for years. I was trying the ‘if you don’t see it/touch it/use it’ theory to make purging easier for me. I was never again going to teach French, or Yearbook, or 7th grade History…and if by some chance the Universe sent that curriculum my way again, I was now opening up the possibility for something new to enter.

It was a long, emotional day for me. The kids ate pizza, got caffeinated and silly and somehow, by 2:30, the purge party was done. Most of the kids stayed the entire time, supporting me and each other as we cleared out the old and made way for the new possibilities. I’m not sure any of us were really ready to leave, actually. 

The purge party continues:

The success of my purge party inspired me to continue at home. This summer, I’m starting to clear. I’ve done some drawers and closets, and already made two deliveries to the donation center. I’ve brought bags of books to the Little Free Library around the corner. I’m scratched by rosebushes by clearing dead debris in my garden. I’m spreading new mulch and propping up lilies that bloomed so big they fell over.  And I’ll be honest – I’m feeling a bit anxious about it all…just like watching my classroom memories disappear into the recycle bin, my home holds 24 years of memories. I have to learn that right now, clearing out doesn’t mean the feelings are going; instead I’m allowing space for possibilities as we enter this new phase at home and embrace the empty nest.

So this week, on my solo staycation, I’m taking the quiet time to pay attention to the places at home and life that are out of balance and making a daily practice to purge, to put away, and to allow the light to shine in and on and through, one minute at a time. 

I hope you’ll join me on this one. I could use some friendly energy to help me ride out the flood of memories I’m sure will come. I’d really rather not have a purge party for 1! Give me a shout out and let me know if you’d like to be here with me in spirit!

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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Memorable Moments of 2017 – In Photos

While I’m pretty excited to leave 2017 behind, I’m grateful for the world I’m creating for myself, my family, and my students. I still believe that together, we can achieve great things – despite what is out of our immediate control, there were so many memorable moments of 2017.

Looking back on the year is definitely bittersweet – there were moments of frustration, fear, change, growth, joy, laughter, friendship and kindness. Above all, there was love. My 2017 mantra was Be Here Now; spending time reflecting on these memorable moments of 2017 reminds me that I did my best, I was present for myself, family, and friends, and I pushed myself to move forward in every aspect of my life. I thank all my readers for helping encourage me along my path and contributing to this one, wild and precious life.

Looking back on memorable moments of 2017:

DECEMBER 2017

memorable moments of 2017
December 2017: At home in Davis, CA with my babies on Christmas Eve, relishing having them on both sides of me and under one roof.
  • mamawolfeto2It’s such an amazing feeling, being surrounded by the most precious people in my world, enjoying life and watching them grow into beautiful, interesting people. I’ll sleep well with both of them under my roof again. #mamawolfe #merrychristmas#lovethem

NOVEMBER 2017

memorable moments of 2017
November 2017: St. Louis, MO on an adventure finding my great-grandmother’s house
  • mamawolfeto2All I had was an address, but today I visited the St. Louis house owned by my great- grandparents, where my grandmother grew up and met my grandfather. So grateful this piece of history is still standing, full of memories and stories. Sometimes things just fall into place… #thankyouuniverse #spiritstrong#stlouishomes

OCTOBER 2017

memorable moments of 2017
October 2017: At the CUE Conference in Napa, CA, making fast friends with Sarah Landis, a #hyperdoc girl!
memorable moments of 2017
October 2017: In Napa, CA, at the CUE Conference, making friends with a #hyperdoc girl, Kelly Hilton!

SEPTEMBER 2017

memorable moments of 2017
September 2017: In Sacramento, CA on the set of Studio 40 News, stepping WAY out of my comfort zone by doing a live cooking demo!

AUGUST 2017

memorable moments of 2017
August 2017: At Emerson Jr. High, decorating the door to my classroom in anticipation of a big year of growth mindset.

JULY 2017

memorable moments of 2017
July 2017: In Nicaragua with my son for the third time, filling our hearts and helping restore schools and education to this beloved country.

JUNE 2017

memorable moments of 2017
June 2017: In Salt Lake City with my sweet daughter, adding spoon bracelets to our collection and keeping the connection alive.

MAY 2017

memorable moments of 2017
May 2017: In San Diego, CA for a STEM conference.

APRIL 2017

memorable moments of 2017
April 2017: Skiing with the family (plus a special guy) at Homewood, CA on a beautiful bluebird day.

MARCH 2017

memorable moments of 2017
March 2017: At Babson College in Wellesley, MA, on the only college tour my boy needed – accepted early decision in December!

FEBRUARY 2017

memorable moments of 2017
February 2017: On a rainy day college field trip with my AVID 9 students and the best counselor an AVID teacher could ever ask for!

JANUARY 2017

memorable moments of 2017
January 2017: In Sacramento, CA at the Women’s March, showing our #persistence and using our voices.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and memorable 2018 – I’m ready to #embracechange and see what adventures the Universe has planned for me! I sure hope we can continue to connect here and on social media – please follow mamawolfe on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share our adventures!

So tell me what are you ready for in 2018?

p.s. – I ended 2016 by sharing my favorite moments from my Instagram account, too! You can check out that post here.

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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Christmas Presence, Lights and a Mother’s Love

When you love someone,
the best thing you can offer is your presence.
How can you love if you are not there?

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Where’s the tree skirt, Mom?” His voice rang in a booming blend of anxiety and excitement at the idea of digging into the boxes of Christmas decorations. Unusual for my boy lately, but I’ll take it.

“Check the bottom of that one – it should be there. We’ve opened all the rest,” I called back, my attention drifting back to the white lights that we not cooperating with my attempts to twist them around the evergreen garland.

“It’s not here, Mom. I’ve checked. Are you sure you got all the boxes out?” His voice rose a note as he moved towards the closet.

“I’m sure. I’ve been through them several times. I took them out by myself – remember?” I hope my exasperation was at just the right level – it seems lately that if I wait around for him to help with something, it would most likely never get done. At least not on my timeline. Eighteen means he’s trying on his independence, figuring out how much adulting he can do while still living ‘under our roof’.

“MOM – it’s not here!”

presence
Our tree, minus the skirt.

Wow – just a minute. Hold on while I finish – better yet, why don’t you HOLD this while I twist – it would go so much faster if we worked together.”

His long fingers gently grasped the garland as I wrapped over, under, over, under. White lights twinkled back as we tediously wrapped the greenery around the mantle, dodging brass reindeer placed to hold stockings above the fire.

“Can we just look upstairs? I love the tree this year – but it really needs the skirt.”

My mind raced back to last January. In my rush towards a fresh new year, life sometimes is jumbled. I don’t always take the time I should to put things in place, I know, but last year, turning the calendar to 2017 wasn’t something I was joyfully anticipating.

But why is it always like this? We sweep the little things away in confusion, hastily pack memories, thinking our presence is more important somewhere else, or it’s too much to deal with once school starts. I’m sure it’s folded and nestled in tissue and newspaper somewhere, knowing that next year, there’d be more time. Just pack it up, box and store and then next year, I’ll deal with it. I’ll be more present then…

And now it’s next year.

I stand aside as he pulls down box after box, filling the closet floor with half-open cartons of memories. “Oh shoot- I should get those out this year,” I quietly mumble, one more reminder of my growing list of ‘should dos’. That one’s labeled “Cameron’s ornaments”, and in the recycled cardboard diaper box next to it, “Lily’s ornaments”. At least I got that part right. Someday, those boxes will shift to their own closets, ready to add childhood moments to adult trees.

“I can’t imagine it would be up here, Cam,” knowing at this point that tree skirt must have disappeared into a jumble of ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘I’ll just stick it here for now’. But undeterred, box after box is hefted down.

“Good catch, Mom!” he cheers as I narrowly escaped serious injury.

I’m done. I’ll wrap a damn sheet around the tree stand at this point.

“I found it!”

Digging underneath a jumble of lights, Grinch t-shirts and ornament adorned bathroom towels, he pulls out the green and red velvet skirt his father gave me when we moved into this house twenty-three years ago.The gold stitching and tassles are still intact.

Following him down the stairs, breathing a sigh of relief, I watch as he crouches down under our fir glowing with lights like tiny stars under a supermoon. He pulls and tugs,  gently trying to coax the skirt into position.

“How does this fit, Mom? It’s not big enough.” I sense the exasperation in his voice. I’m sure he’s done, ready to move back into solitude in his man cave.

“Just pull it a bit in the back – like this.” I’m down at his level now, tugging from the back as he smoothes in the front.

“That looks awesome, Mom. I just wanted to go all out this Christmas – since it’s my last one at home.”

“Don’t say that,” I whisper to myself as he plops down on the couch, throws his feet onto the chair,  gently stroking his dog’s ears.

I can’t imagine doing this next year without his presence… and once again, the poem repeats in my mind:

When you love someone,
the best thing you can offer is your presence.
How can you love if you are not there?

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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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The Gods Are Here, In This Almost Empty Nest

“The Gods Are Here”

This is no mountain

But a house,

No rock of solitude

But a family chair,

No wilds

But life appearing

As life anywhere domesticated,

Yet I know the gods are here,

And that if I touch them

I will arise

And take majesty into the kitchen.”

Jean Toomer

The Gods are here, in this almost empty nest of mine.

Hovering over my family, my son frequently ticks off the months left he has until his birthday, the day he officially becomes an ‘adult’.

There’s less than four left; we anticipate with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. He for the former, me for the latter. More than some I know, less than others.

Yesterday he announced there were seven months before he would know officially where he’s spending his college years. Unofficially, he’s hoping for a location 2, 467 miles from home. Exactly. Yes, I checked.

The Gods are here, in this home. I surround myself with their comfort.

We watch “Blackish” together. It’s one of our few remaining ‘things’ we do, just the two of us.  That, and gardening. For anyone out there with a teenage son, you understand the joy of having a ‘thing’ to do together. For most days, we parallel, a mix of school and jobs and eating and homework. We say good morning and goodnight, and as ‘life anywhere domesticated’, we have our own strange daily routine. It works ok. I find myself forever on the end of wanting more, but swelling with pride as he feels his footing in wanting and doing more for himself.

A few weeks ago, “Blackish” hit home with their episode about their oldest child receiving college acceptances and struggling with a decision of the heart v. head. It’s the kind of struggle I’m all too familiar with these days: how hard to tug on the line, how much slack to release. How to truly sit with the situation in front of me and decide where I fit, how I respond, when I share my opinion and when I just listen.

“This is no mountain, but a house”, I remind myself. This is “no rock of solitude”, but a “family chair” to sink into. These are the small moments of life that slip in and out sometimes without notice, sometimes with great emotion surfacing at the most strange and inopportune times. This is my job, as a mother, to remember that it is my place to create the soft place to land, the cushion to spring into and out of and to trust the solid foundation that brought us this far. This is ‘life appearing’ whether I like it or not, despite my protests and preparations. This is my holy place, our landing space, our creation. I can trust in the sturdiness of our structure. I can close my eyes and remember the majesty of their first words and milestones. I breathe in the scent of their baby soft skin, fresh from the bath. I hear the whispers and the whimpers, the laughter and the squeals of excitement. I remember it all even when I didn’t think I would need to.

gods are here empty nest garden

I will arise, I am confident. I will take majesty, just as it has been given to me in all the extraordinary, ordinary moments spent gathered in this kitchen, this garden, this home.

I know the gods are here, in this almost empty nest. I will touch them here, I am confident. Here, rooted in this family, this place, this home, this life appearing and disappearing in front of me.

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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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