My Favorite Moments of 2016 – In Photos

Even when I can’t find the time/inspiration/concentration to write, I try to always pay attention to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life. I used to print out all my photos, hand write captions in photo albums and stick the images onto the pages, gently smoothing back the plastic to protect the memories from sticky fingers turning pages. I think my last albums were from 2007, when I began collecting photos on floppy disks, then CDs and now in the cloud. I must say, while I don’t take quite as many snaps of my kids now that they’re teens, looking back on 2016 I am pleased that I caught so many of these ordinary moments that might have otherwise slipped my short-term memory. I’m grateful to be able to share my favorite moments of 2016 with you. Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

Thank you for being part of my mamawolfe community, for your thoughts and comments and likes and shares. I’m looking forward to thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously with you in 2017,

December – I don’t always remember to have a family photo taken on Christmas, but this year we all managed to squeeze onto our sofa. As the kids get older, these moments of togetherness become so treasured. I wrote about turning 51 and my nightmares about the election results. As I love to do, I’ll ring in the new year in the mountains with these three people that make my life so extraordinary.

November – I always think of my son as a wanderer; he loves to go alone, to explore, to get lost in the moment. This image of him on Carmel beach was exactly one of those moments; we were all up at the car and I had to go back to search for him. I stood and snapped this photo without him noticing; so grateful for these small moments as reminders to slow down and just be. I wrote a bit about the presidential election, teaching, and the not-so-ordinary month of November.

October – To be honest, this photo just makes me smile. I went back to San Diego for a conference this fall – I say back, because in the late 1980s I made S.D. my home. I’m a completely different girl now, but I still find myself most comfortable hanging out with people who think out of the box. This night was a good reminder to remember who I am and what I believe in, always. This month I wrote from the heart about teaching and Trump.


September – When my kids were little, I loved throwing birthday parties for them. We invited the whole family, ate and drank and celebrated together in our backyard. These days, birthdays are celebrated much more quietly. September is always a month of new beginnings when you live as a teacher – and this year, we celebrated Cam turning 17. Bittersweet moments – he reminded me the countdown now begins to adulthood and leaving home. Glad one of us is excited about that! I only wrote a little – a sharing of a favorite Mary Oliver poem.

August – This summer, my two babies took off on a solo backpacking adventure – they hiked and camped and drove all around Wyoming, just enjoying being together. Although I didn’t hear from them too much, and I worried more than I should have, the moment they texted me this photo I knew that all would be well. I feel such gratitude that although they’re not living in the same home anymore, they love each other this much. I wrote about family time in Tahoe, sending my girl back to college for her third year, an awesome trip to Blog Her in L.A., and how much I love my ordinary life.

July – I love traveling, but I equally love spending time at home. July started off on a trip with Lily to Capital Reef National Park in Utah, but I found most of my mid-summer days best spent at home, surrounded with love in my garden, with my books, my dog and my family.

June – We celebrated Lily’s return from  hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and her turning 20. The shooting in Orlando left me feeling sad about the fragility of life and committed to help end gun violence. I finished school, and spent the month reflecting and resting.

May – It’s always a good month when I can dig in the garden. This year, Cam and I planted and tended a veggie and herb garden – and were surprised with gourds sprouting up, too! I wrote about being healthy, stepping out of my comfort zone, finding wholeness and that curious moment in motherhood when you realize that your children are capable of taking care of themselves – and you.

The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness

April – Another rare moment of togetherness in our backyard garden; the month of April made me weep more than once over the fierce love I have for my children. I thought and wrote about the fleetingness of this life, of gratitude for the smallest of moments, and of intuition and being in the moment.

March – I wrote a lot about motherhood, working and mothering, and equal rights. We had a rare ski day together at Tahoe; rare because I actually skied with my kids rather than watch them fly down a race course!

February – I found myself taking daily walks, searching for some center. My girl got a ‘real’ job, I hunkered down at home and read a lot of poetry from Mary Oliver, Jane Candida Coleman and Thich Nhat Hanh.

January – I was looking for joy everywhere – it was a hard month. Concussions, avalanches, and loss were surrounding me. I tried to focus inward, to be present and to pay attention to the beauty around me.

 

I’d love to continue this amazing life journey with you over on Instagram – you can find me at mamawolfeto2.

All the best,

Jennifer

 

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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It’s Time To Let Donald Trump Be The Poster Boy For Rape Culture

“I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Donald Trump says….“And when you’re a star they let you do it,”…“Grab them by the p***y,” Donald Trump says. “You can do anything.”

Like so many of us, Donald Trump’s statement made my stomach churn. It made my mouth drop open – not in surprise that he said it (because women hear this all the time) but in shock that he got caught.

Getting caught just isn’t a thing that happens to men like him.

It’s time to let Donald Trump be the poster boy for rape culture.

Last year in my 8th-grade classroom, though, I caught one. He was one of those quiet-yet-aggressive boys. He wanted everyone to think it was someone else’s fault. He wanted to blame other people for his actions and used his juvenile logic to excuse any poor choice in behavior as being because the other person ‘didn’t like him’.

The problem is, when he grabbed a girl’s p***y right in front of me, he got caught. And boy, did he choose the wrong person to get caught by.

I yelled – and everyone got quiet. Shaking, I  sent him outside. I couldn’t look at him. My head flashed back to all sorts of times when boys/men have grabbed/yelled/fondled/brushed against/pushed/rubbed/ground themselves against me or other women.

I thought I was going to get sick. And then it got worse.

The girl – the victim – seemed oblivious. She told me it was nothing, that it was OK. That he was a friend.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing come out of this 13-year-old girl’s mouth. She was condoning rape culture before she even knew what it meant. She thought it was acceptable to be grabbed in the ass, to have her pussy reached for and owned by another 13-year-old boy.

I went ‘all mamawolfe’, as my students have tagged me, and told her why it was #notokay. How what he did was a sexual act of violence, even if he AND she claim it was nothing. I told her about how she owns her body, and no one EVER has the right to touch/grab/fondle her without her explicit consent.

I was trembling, and I was scared.

I think I scared her, too.

I could see other students straining to hear our conversation, despite my attempts at privacy. That’s not easy in a classroom full of kids. In all honesty, I wanted to stop everything and have this discussion straight up with my 8th graders. I wanted to call it out, to shout out that ‘grabbing ass’ is not EVER OK. I wanted to teach them right then that all people deserve to have personal space around their body until they INVITE someone in.

But you see, I’m just a teacher – not a parent. And yes, this was most definitely a teachable moment. And yes, my female student got my message. How could she not – just looking at the tears in my eyes, and hearing the tone of my voice, and seeing the shake of my hands, she got it.

And the boy – the perpetrator? He got it, too. He got told about sexual harassment. He got a call to his mother. He got to ‘apologize’, and then he got to come back to school just like every other day.

I wonder, though, if he’s watching the news now. I wonder if he sees how just because he’s a man he cannot and should not grab anyone’s pussy, EVER.

I wonder if he gets that he’s part of rape culture in America.

And the girl? I got to contact her mom and tell her exactly what happened and what I said to her daughter. It made me nervous, to be sure. Exposing this disgusting yet all-too-real aspect of femininity doesn’t feel like my job as a middle school teacher. But when this happens right in front of me, I realize it’s precisely my job.

It’s time to stop hiding behind ‘it’s OK:. It’s time to let Donald Trump be the poster boy for rape culture, misogyny, body shaming, and derogatory language about women.

Let’s find a silver lining around all this shameful behavior. Let’s use this as a chance to teach our children – to REMIND our children that this isn’t just a women’s issue – that this is a HUMAN issue. Let’s let this painful political season end on a note of hope – that somehow, this nasty and vile and disgusting little secret that all women have been hiding is real, and it needs to stop.

It’s happened to me more times than I can remember.

It’s happened to my friends, my sisters, and probably even my mother and grandmothers. Just look at how many women are feeling empowered to share their story now.

I hope it hasn’t happened to my 20-year-old daughter.

I fear it has.

Girls, you are not damaged. You are not to blame. You are strong and beautiful and real and smart and you need to know this is not okay. This is not how you should be treated, and don’t ever settle for someone who makes you feel like a victim. This is not locker room talk, it is not office talk, and it is not acceptable. Real men don’t grab p***y because they can.

Real men make you feel loved.

 

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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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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You Should Go Home To Yourself

“You should go home to your hermitage; it is inside you. Close the doors, light the fire, and make it cozy again. That is what I call ‘taking refuge in the island of self.’ If you don’t go home to yourself, you continue to lose yourself. You destroy yourself and you destroy people around you, even if you have goodwill and want to do something to help. That is why the practice of going home to the island of self is so important. No one can take your true home away.”
~ Thich Nhat Hahn

I am such a homebody. I LOVE being in my house all day, all night; honestly, I could stay at home for weeks. Months, maybe.

I recently returned from a stay at my daughter’s new home in Salt Lake City. This is her third year living there, her first summer completely living away from home. Well, our home anyways.

We spent our days puttering around her new apartment, adjusting furniture, picking up little items that she needed to make it feel like home – things like an ironing board, some new spatulas, decorative baskets and cushions for her dining room chairs.

All the while, I was thinking about how I could make it cozy for her, how I could make it feel as much as possible like the home she left behind in California.

go home
Arriving at her home

 

I certainly tread carefully. I respect the fact that she wants things the way that she wants them, and that if I rearrange while she’s at work she might come home a bit frustrated.

She didn’t seem too frustrated when I cleaned her bathroom, mopped her kitchen floors and vacuumed her living room. She didn’t get angry when I stocked her fridge and freezer with goodies from Trader Joes, or when I froze fresh scones or double chocolate espresso cookie balls, either.

We went on this way for a week; me trying to contain my frantic craziness about getting her set up before I knew I had to leave, and her checking off items on her to-do and to-buy lists. We had a familiar rhythm going, just like at home. I’d make the coffee and her breakfast, and she’d go off to one of her jobs most of the mornings. We’d have some afternoon time together, and then she’d head to her second job. In between seeing her, I’d walk the neighborhood, shop, read, cook, and tidy her home. It felt good to see her more and more settled every day. And for me, it comforted me to know that together we were creating a space for her to seek refuge.

All that time, I knew I would be leaving her alone for the first time in her life. Seriously alone. No roommate, no boyfriend. Most of her local friends are working or traveling all summer, leaving her with a huge amount of time to, as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “to go home to the island of self.”

I would have loved to scoop her up to drive across the desert with me, back to our home. I would know that she wouldn’t be lonely, or wondering what to cook for dinner-for-one. At home, I’d have my HGTV watching homie, my coffee drinking companion, and my constant walking companion. With her home, I wouldn’t lose the part of myself that I left in Salt Lake City, the part of myself that has been creating a home for her for twenty years.

go home

This is one of the hard parts of parenting, the time when you have to let your child go it alone in order to learn about themselves. I know that if she doesn’t go home to herself, she will lose that part of her being that needs to learn that she is the one person she can always count on to take care of her.

I know that , as Thich Nhat Hahn says, without going home she will destroy herself and the people around you. I understand that even if I have goodwill and want to do something to help, the most beneficial act I can do is to close her front door behind me, throw my suitcase in the back of my car and drive away as the sun rises over the Wasatch Mountains.

No one can take her true home away; she’s learning that home is where the love is, and that love begins inside her own heart.

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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You and Your Teen = A Perfect Partnership

Do you partner with your teen in accomplishing the tasks or day-to-day needs of the household? Do you and your teen = a perfect partnership?

Of course, you do.

In many ways, teens are treated as a household partner. For example, when we require them to take out the trash, help with dinner prep or cleanup, take a sibling to practices, and so on. What I just described is a kind of a youthadult partnership.

Technically, a youthadult partnership is one in which adults work in full partnership with young people on issues facing them and/or on programs and policies affecting youth. It is a common approach used by coalitions, networks, schools, faithbased entities, and others to address specific issues adolescents face in local communities. This approach works just as well in our homes and can be effective in helping to shape what our kids do outside the home.

parent teen partnersAs adults, we can share the power to create strategies and make decisions with our teens. This helps to show them that we respect and have confidence in their judgment, which is something so important to them. Additional research data from formal organizations (e.g. 4-H clubs, locallevel school based parent-student (PTA), and Girl/Boy Scouts) has found that youth-adult partnerships help young people resist stress and negative situations.

Specifically, youth-adult partnerships can help *:

Social competence including responsiveness, flexibility, empathy and caring, communication skills, a sense of humor, and other pro-social behaviors

Autonomy, including a sense of identity as well as an ability to act independently and to exert control over one’s environment

Problem-solving skills, such as the ability to arrive at alternative solutions to cognitive and social problems

Sense of purpose and future, including having healthy expectations, goals, an orientation toward success, motivation to achieve, educational aspirations, hopefulness, hardiness, and a sense of coherence

* Pittman KJ, et al. Youth Development and Resiliency Research. Washington, DC: Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, 1993.

I would be willing to bet that these factors are also present in teens who have youth-adult partnerships at home.

Building effective partnerships with our kids is really quite easy:

Work together to develop rules and consequences about risky behaviors and decisions. Develop agreements about risky behaviors that reflect your and your teen’s beliefs and values. Be specific on how their bad decisions affect the family as a whole, especially an impact on their younger siblings who often look to them as a role model for how to act. One of the most important things about rules and consequences is to use them as a response to your child’s behavior, not as a response to your child in general. All kids (including teens) need to feel your love. By co-creating agreements and demonstrating your love, your child will feel precious and safe – even when you’re using consequences.

Lead by example. Don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink”. Instead, show them and, even better, engage them in healthier ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, listening to music, or talking things over. Likewise, be honest and tell your teens about risky choices you have made (without glamorizing them) and the consequences that occurred as a result.

Role-play with your teen on how to handle alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, and other risky behaviors. This can help your child can learn how to resist alcohol or anything else he or she may feel pressured into. Work on more than just saying “no” – for example, discuss how to say “no” an assertive manner (stand up straight, make eye contact and say how you feel). It’s also important to accept that your teen may need an “out,” so develop a strategy together – for example, have them text you a sign so you know to call them with a reason to come home.

Respect your child’s feelings and opinions. Try to tune into your teens feelings. Take their opinions seriously, but be prepared for the fact that their views might differ from yours. You can use this situation as a chance to talk about how people often have different perspectives.

Being a parent is so hard. We want to protect our kids, keep them close and safe, but also give them wings at the same time. Developing familybased, youth-adult partnerships is one way we can do both.

Need help getting started? There are several parent resources and toolkits that can help, start here:

Talk2Prevent

Parent Toolkit

Stop Medicine Abuse

Parent Engagement

If you have any of your own suggestions on youth-adult partnerships at home, let us know! It truly takes a village!

This guest post was written by LeeAnn Weniger-Mandrillo, the mother of her young son, James, and raised her nephew Andrew, who is now 23. As a social marketing and media leader, she has worked in prevention for over 15 years, with the past seven years focused on educating parents and adolescents about substance abuse, tobacco, and alcohol. LeeAnn is passionate about empowering individuals, healthy families and communities through her work with Stop Medicine Abuse and the Five Moms.

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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