From Full-Time Mom To Full-Time Me?

From Full-Time Mom To Full-Time Me?

Happy times in my happy place.

That’s all I could think of to caption my Instagram posts for the ten days that my family of four was sleeping under the same roof. That, and #ilovemykids. And #summertime, and #tahoelife.

The last ten days have been the best out of the entire summer because my entire family – the four of us – has been together.

Together at Happy Camp - Squaw Valley, CA.
Together at Happy Camp – Squaw Valley, CA.

This is the first summer that my daughter hasn’t lived at home for even part of it. Since 2005, both my kids usually spend a chunk of summer ski race training at Mt. Hood, Oregon, and then for the last four years Lily has worked as a camp counselor there, too. But this year is her first year with two ‘real’ jobs in her college town, and she decided to rent an apartment and stay there.

This summer has been so different. This is the summer I’m really feeling the big shake-up happening between being full-time mom to full-time me.

It’s not really just that she hasn’t come home and put things away in her dresser; it’s not even that I had to go to her apartment to hang out and have sleepovers.

I think the different part of this summer has been how it’s gotten me thinking about how much it is the first summer of life transitioning away from what I’ve known for the last twenty years, away from me being a full-time mom to two and towards being full-time me.

That’s so very different.

full time mom

Before I was a mom, I was a wife and a teacher – but not for very long. I’d only been teaching for five years, married for two; I hadn’t really settled into either identity. When Lily came along I just added ‘mom’ to that identification, and quickly found – as most moms do – that the label of ‘mother’ far superseded any other.

Add in another baby, and twenty years later I’m sitting on the deck in my happy place, feeling tired and slightly sunburned from a long hike, listening to the wind blow through the pines while she sits, curled up across from me, and trying desperately not to think about tomorrow morning when I drop her at the airport and four becomes three again until Thanksgiving. Trying to live in the moment, in my happy place.

Hiking to Five Lakes, Alpine Meadows, CA
Hiking to Five Lakes, Alpine Meadows, CA

Watching my two on the trail today, climbing side by side next to the mule ears and Indian paintbrush, my heart swelled with love. Snatches of their conversation drifted back to me as they plotted their next adventure together (hiking in Wyoming) and I realized that life has a way of transforming different into normal so gently sometimes I don’t even notice.

So this is the next stage, the new normal of raising teens-turning-into-adults. I’ll be catching glimpses of the adults I’ve hoped they would be. I’ll be watching them from behind, noticing the lessons being put into place. I’m sure the identity of full-time mom will gently transform into full-time me, with countdowns on the calendar until the next time we’ll all be in our happy place together and full-time mom can rise again.

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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I stumbled across this poem as I was prepping for teaching a poetry unit this month, and its beautiful images of time, surrender and memories absolutely enchanted me. So often I think of those inheritances from my ancestors – both the tangible and intangible – and breathe with gratitude that I carry their stories with me.



A rectangular Bulova, my Zadie
called a dress watch, I wore it for years,
and though it gave the wrong time
I treasured the sense of community
it offered, the beauty of certain numerals —
the seven especially, the way it leaned
into its subtle work and never changed,
and signified exactly what it was
and no more. In dreams I learned
that only the watch and the circle
of ash trees surrounding me, and the grass
prodding my bare feet, and of course
my nakedness were necessary, though
common. Just surrendering my youth,
I still believed everything in dreams
meant something I could parse to discover
who we were.
As I write these words
in sepia across a lined page I have
no idea why they’ve taken the shape
I’ve given them, some cursive, some not,
some elegantly articulated, others plain,
many of no use at all. They go on working
as best they can, like the Parker 51
that spent its coming of age stumbling
backwards into Yiddish or the Bulova
that finally threw up its twin baroque arms
in surrender to the infinite and quit
without a word. The Parker still works
and is never to blame. On good days
it works better than I, and when it leaks
it leaks only ink, never a word best
left unsaid.
As a boy I would steal
into Zadie’s bedroom, find the watch
in a velvet box, wind it, hold it
to each ear — back then both worked —
to hear its music, the jeweled wheels
and axles that kept time alive.
There is still such joy in these tokens
from back of beyond: the watch,
the Parker pen, the tiny pocket knife
he used to separate truth from lies,
the ivory cigarette holder —
a gift, he claimed, from FDR
who mistook him for a famous
Russian violinist. I could call them
“Infinite riches in a little room”
or go cosmic and regard them
as fragments of a great mystery
instead of what they are,
amulets against nothing.

Source: Poetry (January 2015).

photo credit: Writing For Rosie via photopin (license)

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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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.


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.



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


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


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


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.


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…



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.



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?


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.


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.

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5 Years of Decembers

It’s been five and a half years since I started blogging; five Decembers that I’ve shared my stories with all of you, and 50 Decembers that I’ve been learning life’s lessons.

This December, I decided to look back and see what themes popped up during the final month of the past years, and I was both surprised and reassured when I saw my progression – and devastated that while I followed the thread of motherhood and memories in my posts, I also realized that every year has brought the loss of children.  Stepping back, I see the hopes and joys and sadnesses that parallel our ordinary lives.

I hope you enjoy my favorites from 2011-2015. Maybe you’ll re-read some favorites; perhaps you’ll discover we have more in common than you realized. Above all, may you experience the beauty of living the extraordinary in the ordinary, of loving fiercely and thinking deeply. Happy holidays, and thank you for sharing this journey with me.

2011: A Year Of Feeling Time Shift

Prom Night At Our Place 

“But what prom night really taught me this year is that belonging happens in many different ways.  The girls learned that they don’t need to be joined (literally or figuratively) with a boy to have fun.  The boys realized that if they ask, they have hope.  And now I know that I don’t really need to join anything to be important in my daughter’s life – by being myself she and her friends feel comfortable. Actions speak louder than words.  My house really is the place to be.”

Shifting Gears

“After driving through the mountains in the predawn hours, my son and I pass Donner Lake, and in that moment, as the water and sky met and steam hissed from its surface, I quickly stop the car. My brain pauses and we drink in the tranquility of the water before us. Silently I breathe deeply, wait, and shift back into gear with a new sense of calm.”

When You Wish Upon A Star

“As the sun rises over the mountain tops and the moon and stars fade for another day, once again I am challenged.  It is up to me to make my wish come true – no genie with a magic lantern or fairy godmother is in sight.  My wish remains inside my heart, but my actions I wear on my sleeve for everyone to see.”

Another Day

“Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.”


2012: Reflecting on Memories of Childhood and Tradition

Lily’s Apple Tart

This year, we decided to go simple yet elegant, and adapt a recipe from one of our favorites, Ina Garten.  Her apple tart just seemed like the perfect complement to a heavy dinner: sweet apples, flaky crust, and a tang of apricot jam make this simple dessert one you’ll want to try for any holiday gathering.  So grab your favorite baking partner, crank up the tunes, and have some fun!”

Just A Moment In Time

We stopped, you posed, we snuggled you between our legs, holding you tightly.  Never wanting to let go.  You raised your face to the sky and grinned with rapture. It was just one moment, really.  But I remember every detail.”

Christmas Tree Traditions

“I used to be a freaky mom.  Sixteen years ago, when I had my first child, I thought I could do it all.  Control it all.  Be the perfect parent.  I certainly had seen enough examples of what I considered ‘bad parenting’ – those kinds of adults who would make excuses for their kids, send them to school without their homework, and blame their teachers and the school for everything wrong in the world – plus some.”


My kids officially grew taller than me this year… I learned that letting go is growing forward. As I end 47 and open the chapter of 48, I think of all that I’ve experienced:  the children, parenting, family, teaching, education, memories and motherhood that blended themselves together and brought such lessons to me.”

Spending Time In The Snow

“And despite the struggle, the frustrations, and the hours and hours of driving – not to mention the ski race that was canceled, we ended up with a white Christmas after all.  And a whole bunch of memories, too.”

spending time

2013: A Year of Ski Racing and Empty Bedrooms

Morning Ritual of a Ski Racer Mama

“The alabaster snow catches a glint of moonlight out my window…savory bacon and eggs fold into warm flour tortillas with cheese as kids stumble downstairs in ski socks and fleece….boot bags bulge with gear.  Speed suits stretch over strong legs, and heavy parkas with hoods zip up as we push open the door. It’s time. Morning ritual of a ski racer mama.”

It’s A Different Kind of Christmas

“And every time I’ve walked through the door this month, I’ve plugged in the lights and sighed. I just can’t do it. The boxes of ornaments are still stacked in the dining room, unopened. And it’s December 23. This has never happened before. And I can’t blame it on holiday business, too many parties or anything else-except for one thing.”

retro Santa

2014: A Year of Change and Possibilities


“The sun streamed in through her sliding glass door. It was mid-morning, and she already looked like she had never left for college. A wet towel hung over her pink desk chair, and her fuzzy sky-blue bathrobe still lay carelessly tossed on the floor. Her closet doors were flung open, and she rummaged around as she replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t pack much. I’m trying to figure out what to take home.”

My breath caught in my throat. Home?”



“I’m open to possibilities in this last-year-before-the-half-century. I’m open to quiet, to listening, to requesting and to hearing the Universe answer with guidance. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books,Their Eyes Were Watching God, that “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I’m not sure what this year will offer me, but I’m ready to receive her whispers.”


Two Kinds of Quiet

“There are two kinds of quiet. The kind of quiet when I hear the candles flicker, feel the crumbs drop onto my plate, and the Christmas music plays on and on and on. The kind of quiet that mothers dream of, and the kind they dread, one in the same.”


“No, Mom, look.” Again and again his plaid Detroit Tigers sleep pants spun as he raised and lowered his body on one leg. “I’m getting there. I’m balancing, Mom – can’t you see? I haven’t been able to do this since the accident!”

She’s Nineteen, and She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“I keep thinking that one day, you’ll understand the exquisite pain and pleasure of being a mom, and all my emotional antics will make sense. I hope that one day, when that thrill hits your heart when you see your baby living their life full of happiness and joy, you’ll understand why I have such trouble letting you go.”

me and my girl

In The Holiday Spirit

“Today, as the rain pours down the windowpane and the wind whips the trees around my house into a frenzy, I breathe, and pause, and think of them. I remember their love for each other, and for their families. I call in their spirits as my pen scratches gratitudes into my journal, filling the pages with small moments of the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, feeling their love, grateful for 50 years with their spirits by my side.”

50 years

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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Let’s Start A Reading Revolution


“Again, Mommy, again,” they chimed in unison, their warm little bodies spooned to either side of me. Freshly bathed and jammie clad, the scent of Burt’s Bees lingered in the air. Turning right, I buried my head in his golden brown hair, breathing in his scent as if I would never catch my breath again. To my left I could see her trying to sound out the words on her own, her tiny finger tracing as she whispered. I don’t want to end this magic, I thought. But can I possibly read how George swallowed the puzzle piece and had to go to the hospital and was a naughty little monkey but everything turned out ok in the end one more time?

Curious George

Of course I can.  How could I resist those sets of baby browns and blues staring up at me? And if I nodded off, what would it matter? We were reading, and I was in my happy place.

“Ok, one more, and then lights out,” I yawned, and began the next adventure from memory. “This is George. He lived with his friend, the man with the yellow hat. He was a good little monkey, but he was always curious…”


Honestly, if I only knew that would be the last time…

While parenting teens certainly has its happy moments, I desperately miss these stretches of time I took for granted, hours spent reading aloud with my babies on each side, eyes rapt on the page as I attempted to make the words come to life. For years we pored through Curious George, Babar, Lemony Snicket and even Captain Underpants (I’m a ‘whatever-it-takes’ kind of reading mom). These are the sparkles in my day I assumed would change shape with time, but ultimately never end.

English: Alternate coat of arms of Hogwarts sc...
The motto translates to “never tickle a sleeping dragon” (PC: Wikipedia)

Ventures into chapter books opened up the world of Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse. We read all the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series, and then listened to their magic come alive on CD. Those moments, before phones and social media and boyfriends and skateboarding, before too many sports and homework and SATs, were truly magical. They were the realm of the possible, the world before we knew what their world would be.

I think I need to start a reading revolution.

I need to recapture those days of magic, to sprinkle some pixie dust on their smart phones and secretly plug them into reading instead of rapping. No one will know the difference if they’re laughing out loud to the latest best seller or wiping away tears from John Green’s newest tear-jerker, right?

Do you go through ‘seasons’ of reading? I vividly remember trying to find the perfect position to nurse my baby and balance a book at the same time. When they were a bit older, I craved a stolen moment on the green metal bench at the park while they ran and jumped and swung in safety. I’ve read on ski hills and at track meets, in karate dojos and before gymnastic meets. I’ve snuck minutes during math tutoring and while the rain poured on my Prius in countless parking lots. I read on planes and trains and lunch breaks.

As my children grew, I tried to have a “grown up” reading revolution. I’m an ex-member of two book club failures – I guess you could say I just wasn’t that into the whole idea of reading as a social event. And besides, no one wants an English teacher in their drinking club – I mean reading club. I’m just too picky about what I read and how I spend my reading time – I don’t like settling for something I’m not interested in, and have a really hard time not finishing a book. Or maybe I’m just stubborn.

Sometimes I satisfy my craving by reading aloud in my classroom. My attempt at characterization often elicits an eyeball roll from my teenage students, but more often than not, a calm settles over the room as they settle into the story, following the rhythm of my words with eyes both open and closed.

I guess it’s my own attempt at a “teenage” reading revolution, you might say. I want to throw out the line, hook them at the climax and by the time we’re done, they’re begging for  sequel.

But despite all this, and even though I’m an English teacher, my kids are not fanatic readers. They read online, and will do the required reading for class – but as far as laying back on the cool grass on a summer day, that’s not happening in their lives right now. I’ve got to make it happen – I’m my own personal reading revolutionary, united with all those other introverts that would rather put their eyes in a book than spark a conversation with a seatmate. There must be revolutionaries like me, willing to put down their smart phones and pick up a real book? Will you join me?

If only J.K Rowling would just write one more….maybe I could start this revolution right now. I could lay down some blankets, gather them on either side, and sprinkle some pixie dust on their busy teenage brains. I could tempt them with snacks, or even try the ‘I want to spend quality time with you’ plea. At this point, I’d do anything to have one more night together, each oversized baby on my side, carried away to that magical place that only a good story can take us. And at the very least, I’d get a snuggle out of it.

Let's Start A Reading Revolution



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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