Tag: Parenting

I Breathe In When The Sirens Scream By…

Posted on January 19, 2020 by

When the sirens scream by breaking the silence, I tell myself to breathe in. Especially when I’m home alone, feeling small in a big big world. Where are you? Are they stopping on my street? Quickly I count – 1-2-3 are you all here?

Maybe it’s a trauma response. Maybe it’s because my babies aren’t living at home anymore, and the sirens are just a reminder. Some days I worry that they will stop next door, lights flashing through the fog, helpers running into my elderly neighbors’ house. I know those days will come for all of us – just like they came for my dad when I wasn’t expecting it.


I started a regular meditation practice last summer. I wanted to train my mind to slow down, to be more present and appreciate what is right here. The breath. The love. And the joy that I have no excuse to revel in, really. In meditation we’re taught to acknowledge the distraction from the breath, to be ok with our minds going to sounds and thought that intrude. I’ve learned to let the bell bring me back to myself, to my breath and my practice.

Just like the bell, the sirens always shake me from my ‘daily life’ practice. Maybe it’s because I love having my windows open, just a crack, so I’m able to keep the world on alert.

Or maybe it’s because, in the last six years, the world has changed. My nest has emptied. My safety nets have torn holes, and I’ve found myself bouncing on the ground more than a few times. I hear birds outside – geese high above, and is that a robin’s chirp rising up from under my bird feeder?

My world is changing…

I know my love is in the mountains, doing what makes him shine. I try not to think of the avalanche dangers, the injuries I know too well what can happen when one is out on the mountain, at the mercy of the Universe.

And my girl, well, she’s hundreds of miles away, alongside her fiancé and her double-doodle and nesting before her marriage next summer. She’s a risk-taker, too, but now teaches others how to be safe, how to avoid getting caught up when the cascade of snow buries everything in its path.

Right now, I know my boy is sound asleep just downstairs, one more night under our roof before he takes off for Boston and the snow and studying for four more long months. Maybe I should tiptoe downstairs and gently open his door, checking his breath as I used to when he was three.

Oh, how he’d hate it if I woke him. Better to listen for the silence instead.

When they came for my dad, the sirens were silent. They crowded into his room, the helpers trying to assess amidst the confusion we were feeling. He didn’t want to go. We didn’t want him to go, either, but needed someone to help us find a way back to center. To what was normal, to what we could control. A way out of the silence of his form, still and sideways in his bed.

Breathe in

We didn’t know that was the beginning of the end. We didn’t know that sometimes, the silence can be worse than the siren. That the breath can go in, in, in, in…and that sooner than we think, it won’t go back out.

The sun is struggling to burn through the morning fog now, fog that makes the siren’s scream slightly dampen. But even though I can’t see it, I know it’s out there. I pause, count my blessings and whisper a prayer for whoever beckons for help this morning. I wish you didn’t need it, but I’m glad you’re getting it.

Soon I’ll head to my cushion. I’ll sit up straight, cross my legs and breathe in…out…in…out…and settle silently. I’ll count to ten, then start over again and again until my mind is at rest and the sirens outside the window fade away.


I’ll listen to the silence. And I’ll try to breathe, and remind myself that with sadness comes joy.

Breathe, Jen. Just breathe.

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

first day

First Day Back To Class: Kids, Teachers, and Moms

Posted on September 2, 2019 by

The first day back to class is always full of adrenaline, expectation and fun for me. I’m exhausted at the end of the week, but it’s a good kind of teacher tired. It reminds me that teaching is hard work – if you want to do it right. It’s the kind of fatigue that builds from beginning to create a community from nothing – the first step in letting kids know you’re paying attention to them so they trust you. And it’s beginning to balance kids, teaching, and motherhood – even when I’ve got an empty nest at home.

The first day, first class of 2019

The first day

In my very, very small reading class, I have the opportunity to connect quickly with my students. We sit on stools and cushions together around a low coffee-style table, face to face. The first day of school this year was also the day my son was leaving the nest and flying to college in Boston. Being a teacher mom has these moments of feeling stretched between two worlds – do we focus on our own child and their needs, or tuck that away and see the kids in front of us. Of course, I try to do both and sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.

The empty nest

This year I didn’t get to see my son off at the airport, and I was sad. I stuffed it away for the morning of teaching, but at lunch when I had a few quiet moments I texted him to see if he made it out of our house ok. Sure enough, he was on his way to the airport and said he’d call when he was settled. The call came just as the bell was ringing for my 5th-period reading class – what do I do? Greet my students with a phone in my hand? Ignore them as they come in the door, knowing it will be weird for them to not see a whole class full of kids? Ignore my son…somehow I needed to balance it. I wanted to show my students the human side of me – the mamawolfe side.

So, quickly I answered the call, hung up, and brought my new readers into a circle. Introducing myself, I told them how happy I was to be their teacher and told them that my own son needed help, he was traveling to college and asked their permission to be a mom while they browsed the books in my classroom library and relaxed.

Of course, they said ok.

Building the relationships

After a few minutes of helping Cam get his boarding pass situated, I was back to the group. And naturally, they had questions. How old was my son? Where was he flying to? What did he need help with? How many kids did I have? Did I have a pet? Where is Massachusetts? Where is Boston? What began as a dilemma had turned into a very teachable moment. We used our US map and found his college, and talked about moving away from home. Quietly, the dark-haired boy to my left said, “I just moved away, too. I used to live in Oakland, but now I live here.”

I was pretty sure no one else heard him. He kept his eyes down, either shy or scared or both. I twisted around and replied, “Oh wow- Oakland is sure a whole lot different from Davis, don’t you think?”

He looked up. “Yeah. It’s a lot quieter.” His voice was a touch louder, but I could still tell he wasn’t ready to open up. The other kids were caught up in their picture book selections and relaxed on beanbags, so I pushed a bit.

“How long ago did you move?” I asked.

His stomach rumbled in the quiet room. Even though we had just come from lunch, I whispered, “Are you hungry?”

“No,” he quickly replied, barely audible.

“Ok; I have granola bars and crackers if you ever want anything….”

“Granola,” he blurted out before I could finish. Silently I stood up, went to my cabinet and grabbed a chocolate chip chewy bar and a small bag of pretzels from my snack drawer. Without speaking, I put them on the table in front of him and sat back down.

Like any teenage boy, he gulped down the snacks as I sat next to him, reading along with my other students. He stood up, dropped his wrappers in the trash and as he sat back down beside me, he asked if I’ve ever been to Oakland.

The moment

That moment – like an electrical charge – broke the ice, the first step taken. We connected. I think he felt my care for him; his body visibly relaxed into his chair. We talked about my grand-doodle Ellie, and other kids jumped in to tell about their dogs. I promised to show a picture of her the next day, and suddenly the class was over. I asked if he knew where to go next, and his quick reply reminded me of what it’s like being the ‘new kid’ in school. Glancing at his schedule I suggested I could walk with him – he was going to one of my favorite teacher’s classes.

“Sure…” his voice came out in a whisper-question, but I went with it. As we approached his history class, I introduced him to his teacher as he greeted kids at the door, knowing they were both Oakland fans. He would be safe in there.

What happened next

In truth, that’s not all of the story – it’s actually not even my favorite part. What happened the next day was where I really realized the power of connections, and what we had done together.

“B” walked back into my room the next day and looked straight at me and said hello as I brought my stool up to the coffee table. The shyness of the first day disappeared, and as the other kids were wiggling around with their backpacks and books, “B” said, “Ms. Wolfe, I have a question. Did your son make it to Boston OK?”

Startled, I looked back at him and replied, “Why yes he did – thank you for asking. I’m sorry yesterday started off a little weird, but he’s there now and I’m here and ready to read!”

“B” smiled and cracked open his book, settling back into the grey Papasan chair I had brought from my son’s bedroom at home. “B”, about the same age Cam was when he used to curl up in it, too, relaxed in his safe space.

I had to go over to my desk for a moment…I knew the tears were coming. Being a teacher-mom is like that. Relationships happen in the most unexpected ways at the most unusual times. Opening up to kids and letting them see YOU helps them open right back up and lets you see THEM. And that’s where the magic can really start to happen.

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

As The Nest Empties…again

Posted on August 25, 2019 by


“As the nest empties, parents can alleviate the sadness by rediscovering themselves and honoring the strides their children have made.” – Madisyn Taylor, Daily Om

I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for a year now. This post has been in draft mode since last July, as the idea of the nest emptying first began to overtake me. Well, not really. Every parent knows it’s coming, and as much as we think we dread it, or anticipate it, it happens.

That’s just the way life goes when you have children – hopefully.

As the nest empties, holding on too tightly doesn’t work. Actually, the kids themselves are the ones who pull back so forcefully and completely that I had no choice- to let go of the looser strings that were connecting me to their childhood, and trust that the tighter rope, the one of connection and love and trust, would be the one keeping us together. All the way to Boston and Utah, I’ve been trusting on the strength of that rope, woven over decades of trial and error, laughter and tears, hopes and disappointment. I’ve been counting on the ties that will tether us when there’s nothing left but an empty space.

nest empties

“Instead of feeling proud that their children have achieved so much–whether the flight from the nest refers to the first day of kindergarten or the start of college–parents feel they are losing a part of themselves.”

The journey

When I first started this blog in 2011, I knew it would be called mamawolfe. I knew it would be part of my journey, a way to remind myself of what’s important – not just as a documentation of memories from parenthood, but also a start of regaining a part of myself I lost. Or maybe a part I never allowed myself to find. As the nest empties, I’m wondering if I’m really finding myself – or if a new me is just beginning to unfurl.

Parenting hasn’t been an easy journey for me. I doubt my decisions, I search for the handbook that’s telling me which way to go. I wondered how ‘Jenny’ would survive all this change and uncertainty and lack of control. Parenting became the one thing I wanted to do right; I didn’t want to look back 18 years later and wish I had made different decisions. Oh yes, I now know that those wishes would always be there – that’s part of growing older and wiser and knowing better, and doing better. But the regret – I couldn’t live with that. Or the guilt of putting other things over this incredible challenge of giving my best to these two tiny, fascinating, challenging little humans. They became part of me because I wanted so desperately to let them know they were loved and safe and that there was a person in this world who put them first. So isn’t it natural that now that they’re gone, that I feel like I’m losing part of myself? That something is missing when I walk down the hall, unable to step into their empty bedrooms without feeling that something is gone?

nest empties

“As the nest empties, parents can alleviate the anxiety and sadness they feel by rediscovering themselves and honoring the immense strides their children have made in life.”

The hummingbird feeder

A new hummingbird feeder hangs just outside Lily and Cameron’s bedroom windows, nestled among the anemones and dahlias, just in view of my morning reading space. I’m waiting, hoping, imaging new little hummingbirds discovering the sweet nectar inside. I’m hoping that the salvia and butterfly bushes in bloom will attract them to my space, delighting me with their gentle, yet fleeting, appearance. 

After two months, it has finally happened. Not one, but two creatures discovered the feeder. They dart between the flowers and the feeder, taking what they need and then flying away. I watch them every morning, smiling as they take what they need and fly away. One day we came face to face, and I froze, eyes connected, barely breathing. The significance of their visit isn’t lost on me – I know it will be cooler soon, and they’ll find somewhere else to make their nest. The blooms will fade, leaving only the artificial red flowers to beckon them back. But it will be there if they need it; I won’t take it down. I want them to remember me, and this space, and know that they have a safe spot to land. I’ll be here, waiting, tending, growing.

“Parents who embrace their changing nest while still cherishing their offspring can look forward to developing deeper, more mature relationships with them in the future. “

The change

Change is hard. I like safe, consistent spaces. Surprises make me squirm, and routines find their way into my life every year. For teacher moms, September is the new January.

Slight changes are manageable. Flexibility is a learned skill, I’m discovering. I’m meditating daily, forcing myself to be present right here, right now, with the breath and the ground and all the beauty that is in my safe space. I know in a few days school will start again, I’ll get caught up in teaching and planning and celebrating. His bedroom door will close while I’m away at school, he’ll take his bags and his backpack and his big, huge heart and head back east. He’ll be smiling, anticipating the familiarity of a second year in college and the freedom of looking forward to new experiences. He’ll leave his bed unmade, the laundry basket half-full and shoes on the floor. He doesn’t need everything to go with him just yet. Leaving a little bit behind is OK with me. I’ll still be here waiting, tending, growing.

He’ll take a huge part of my heart with him, too. There’s no doubt that the strings will loosen as the rope tightens, that the man he’s becoming will pull back a bit – or a lot. I’m ready, I guess. I’ll plant my self, grounded in the relationships we’ve created and those yet to come. And I’ll watch for the hummingbirds – maybe they’ll leave a feather behind before winter comes, too.

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


Halloween Is Over-Rated, Isn’t It?

Posted on October 27, 2018 by

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. 


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.


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 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

Posted on September 8, 2018 by

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…


Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

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