Sunday, April 12, 2015

on a budget

With Scout's impending arrival, we have been hard at work at creating a space just for him or her. However, we're not creating a space like most might think when it comes to having a nursery. We have a budget. Not so much a monetary one, though it is nice to be frugal and work in a cost effective manner. Our budget is a spatial budget. We long ago decided that even with a growing family we will stay in our little two bedroom apartment until we leave the Gallup area. This meant that we had to figure out how to combine our gear room (yes, we had nearly a full room of gear) with a baby friendly space.

Out project began with a lot of rearranging. We moved some items from the gear room into the living room. We sold off some items that we no longer used frequently enough to merit the space (so long wine fridge). And we created. While I have been hard at work growing Scout, the mister has been hard at work manipulating materials, organizing objects, and ultimately making Scout's room what it is.

When I say we were on a spatial budget, this means we got the most out of what we already had. We have accumulated some pretty unique items over the years and we did not see the need to spend money on items that would serve the same purpose (cost effective!).  I think that ultimately, the only objects that we spent money on were ... wait, nothing really. Sure, there are a few objects that helped to spruce up the space and some money was spent on paint, but mostly, we just worked with what we had and with items that we received as gifts.

For storage we are using the hope chest that I received for my high school graduation. As a bonus, the chest is really well built so it can double as a small seating area. We purchased a small patio chair cushion (nothing like a soft water resistant surface in a baby room) for added comfort and the transformation was complete. The horseshoe moose was a purchase that we made from a local artist, but with hooks, the nice piece of art also doubles as a place to hang fun things like Scout's sun hat and bathrobe! The bamboo lamp we found at Goodwill in Maine and it has been hanging out for the last several years inside of the hope chest. With it's soft light, it will be perfect for meeting night time needs. Throw in a couple of fun books and a stuffed animal and we're good to go!

The striped "wall" next to the hope chest is dividing our baby space from our gear space.  When pulled aside one enters a world of bikes, skis, camping gear, and hiking essentials. When our bike racks are not on the car, they can be screwed onto the top shelf of our storage racks so that our bikes take up as little room as possible. Our gear is sorted into bins that can easily be thrown into the car for adventuring and with added hooks, the shelves also store regularly used clothing. When we lower the curtain, the space looks as baby friendly as can be. All that it took was a king size sheet (found on clearance) and a metal rod (and the creativity of the mister).

Across from the hope chest is Scout's sleeping space. We received a pack and play that will grow with Scout over the next several years. It has a removable bassinet that also flips over into an inclined seat for daytime use. It has rockers on the bottom and a vibrating seat to help calm our little one down when needed as well as a mobile and a sound machine. I'd say we're pretty well set. There is also a changing table for our convenience with handy storage next to it. It is a space saver and a money saver as we shouldn't need anything else for quite some time (though I'm sure that time will come sooner than either of us expect or want). 

The art work for this space is still up in the air. Currently we have well loved maps from Baxter State Park and Acadia National Park hanging up. Which one stays will be determined once we meet our little Scout - either way, he or she will be born to a name that means peace, beauty, adventure, and love to us. Then we will have a map and a delightful piece of work made by our sister-in-law, a constant reminder that adventure awaits!

The last little space in Scout's room is mostly storage. We have a bookshelf that the mister built about a year ago that now holds a mixture of books and baby needs (like diapers and clothes). We found some great baskets at Dollar Tree (where everything is actually a dollar, not like other dollar stores) that will help us to stay organized. We covered up some of our books with fabric left over from a previous home improvement project. Our blue bookshelf was once an olive green and gold rusty planter that we salvaged from a yard sale immediately upon our return from Peace Corps (who knew we'd need it three years later?). Our artwork once again takes us to Maine, which if it has not been obvious to this point, holds a very special place in our hearts. 

And there you have it - a baby space that was created for a minimal cost that utilizes the space that we have efficiently. Some may say that it looks like a room for a boy. We think it looks like a room for an adventurer. (Plus, I don't really care for pink and purple.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

the things they say

Student (holding up a black crayon): "I don't want this Mrs. Hall."

Me: "Okay. Put it back in the crayon box."

Student: "Okay."

Student (3 seconds later): "Oooh, look, a black crayon. I want it."


I think I need to work on colors a little more.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

savor it

2014 was a big year for us. We dove into our third year of teaching. We finished up grad school. We found out that we are expecting a new little adventure buddy in May of 2015. With all of the amazing things that have been going on, it has been easy to just let the time slip by. 

It would be easy to continue in this manner too. Even though we will no longer have grad school taking up whatever free time we thought we had before, we will always find ways to fill our time - with adventures, with good books, with creating, with long runs - but will we be approaching each of these activities with purpose? Will we be living in the moment, or letting the moments pass us by? 

These past couple of years we have taken advantage of our location and have ended one year and begun the next by doing something that we love - running (or walking, or hobbling, depending on the time of day). We have surrounded ourselves with a community of crazy runners as we ring in the New Year as a part of Aravaipa Running's Across the Years 24-hour event. This is a great opportunity to meet other runners, have thought provoking conversations, and push yourself to the limit. During these past two years I have had the opportunity to engage with some very interesting people, and this year I was left pondering two words: savor it. 

Throughout the first 15 hours of the event I found myself chatting with a fellow runner, Cliff, whenever our paces matched up. Cliff is full of motivational wisdom, and at one point he shared the story of his first 50 mile race and being told to savor the final 1.5 miles (or so). This sounded as odd to me as I am sure it did to him when he first heard the words, but as he explained what happened during those final footfalls of the race, no two words have ever sounded sweeter. He savored those final miles and as a result, the time flew by and he was finished before he knew it, leaving the pain of so many completed miles behind and taking in the experience as opposed to suffering through it. After all, as he later pointed out, there isn't anyone forcing us to do these crazy things that we do (such as signing up for 24-hour events), so why not savor the moment?

speaking of crazy... midnight in the cold... before running my first mile of the new year
 As I continued moving through the event, I found myself returning to these words over and over again. However, I was not thinking of them with regards to the race itself, but with regards to life. How often have I been guilty of pushing through or suffering through, and not savoring the blessings that have been laid before me? As I pondered these words, I thought about the year to come, about living with intention, and about being in the moment. I thought about other wise words that have been shared with me by friends and the conversations that have arisen as the result of my pregnancy. I thought about books that I have read that portray women suffering through their pregnancies and not savoring the miracle that their body is capable of creating. After all, when you're walking around in the middle of the night you have a lot of time to think.

And so, I now find myself approaching this new year with a new outlook - savor it. What a simple mantra to bring me back to the moment. As we meander through life we can never experience the same moment twice, so why not savor each and every one. The good and the bad. The celebrations and the challenges. The ups and the downs. After all, the good wouldn't be quite as good without the bad, and we learn more about ourselves and about life when we encounter struggle. And with these thoughts (if you have managed to suffer through my ramblings up to here), I challenge you to savor it. Savor the moment, the day, the year, your life. After all, we only have one life, why not savor it?

pausing to savor the first sunrise of 2015

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


This afternoon I opened up a National Geographic catalogue that I got in the mail and turned immediately to a page that was selling Kanji birthstone necklace pendants. I spotted April's and thought, that looks familiar. And it was. The symbol for April was love.

Once upon a time I broke up with my high school sweetheart and my amazing friends in college bought me a necklace with the Kanji symbol for love on it. I loved the symbol and the simplicity of the necklace and wore it day in and day out for the next five years (with a brief respite where I wore a turtle necklace that I got on a trip to Hawaii because my sister's favorite animal is a turtle and it made me feel close to her at a time when I moved across the country). Then one day my necklace broke.

My necklace broke on January 3, 2006. I know this because it happened when I took off a hoodie before bed on the day that I began my Team Leader year of AmeriCorps*NCCC. I'm not generally a superstitious person, but I will say that I find it coincidental that the day that my Love necklace broke was the day that I met my mister. Perhaps it was the universe's way of saying that I didn't need a necklace to remind me that I was loved anymore. 

Whatever the case, the mister and I started going on runs together (probably the fastest I have ever run in my life and the slowest he ever ran willingly), going on hikes, and throwing the occasional date night in to get away from our campus. And while we may not run together very often anymore, we do still go on hikes and have an occasional date night to get away from teaching and grad school. 

And here we are, eight years later, and I still don't need a necklace to remind me that I am loved. I am reminded every day by my amazing mister. But sometimes it is nice to be reminded of where you came from and how you got to where you are.

Life is an adventure. It is not about everything always fitting neatly in a box or about following a plan to the T. It is about embracing what you encounter, living in the moment, and being willing to take on whatever comes your way because in the end every moment of every day shapes who you are and how you view life. And I choose to embrace my adventure in love and all of the amazing things that have happened in my life because of it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

the swing of things

We're back at it here in the high desert of New Mexico! Today marked the beginning of week three of teaching and I couldn't be happier (with some things, there are still those that are in need of a good overhaul, but I'll get to that later)!

In the past two years of my teaching, one area that I really struggled with was classroom management. While I happily made my way through each day, I knew that things were not their best, but I was never 100% sure what to do, or how to articulate what was going on to get help from outsiders. Well, this year I am feeling a million times better about what is going on in my classroom procedurally.

This year my school began implementing a behavior management strategy called 1-2-3 Magic. I must say, it is kind of magical. While I am still refining some of the ins and outs of the method, I am no longer putting energy into disciplining my students and explaining to them what was going on. Let's face it, they're five and they don't care. Now I can simply look at them and say 1 (or 2, or 3) and typically they'll mutter an "okay" and stop. Magic I tell you! This past Friday I didn't need to count for anyone! At the end of the day I am not musing over what went wrong, about whether or not my students hate me, or what I could have done differently (with regards to behavior). They're misbehaving, I say "one" and they typically stop.

In addition to our management magic I have some stellar routines going on. Last year I tried using chimes in my classroom as an attention getter, but I was horrible at being consistent with them. This year I ring the chimes, everyone stops what they are doing, they put their hands in their laps, and they look at me. I start counting down from 3 and by 0 they are silent and looking at me. I say rule check and they are silent and looking at me. When we use white boards if we are moving on to something else that does not require the boards they automatically sit on them and burry their markers in their laps (today I didn't even get to tell them what to do, I turned on the projector and they started cleaning their boards and sat on them right away!). So, management is coming along quite nicely. It only took me two years of bumbling around to figure this one out (at least for the time being).

Another area of struggle for me in the past has been teaching math. While there are numerous math teachers in my family, I have always struggled with finding ways to make math exciting when all we are doing is writing numbers, counting, naming shapes, etc. I think that this is coming along pretty well this year as well. I am much more cognizant of getting manipulatives into the hands of my kinders and using rhymes and story telling to keep them engaged in lessons. I think our grasp of routines has also helped with our math lessons. They know when manipulatives are tools and not toys, and they have learned that if they are playing they need to draw circles instead of using bears, cubes, or blocks. I still have some learning to do in this area, but I think we're coming along nicely!

The one area that got me today was center time. I had planned out my centers, but I had visions of my students from last year when I was doing this. I must elaborate, I had visions of my students from the END of the year last year when I was planning. Kinders at week three of school have very different abilities when compared to kinders at week 36 of school. Lesson learned, I will need to play around and finagle some, but we'll get there eventually.

All in all, I am very happy with where we are as a class this year. I cannot wait to see my kinders grow, learn, and excel this year. It is always so exciting to watch them as they grasp new skills and have aha moments. 

In addition to my new group of kinders, I have a new group of grade level teachers. So far they have made teaching so much more enjoyable! We work together very well and get along perhaps a little too well (it takes forever to lesson plan, but we have a great time doing it!)! They truly love their students and they are invested in their classrooms. We talk every day and share ideas. We are helping one another grow and become better teachers every day.

I have heard from friends that year three of teaching is the best, and at week three, I must say that I agree.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

back to school

It is hard to believe that summer has come to an end (at least in teacher terms). Teachers started back on Thursday and our kiddos will show up bright eyed and bushy tailed (right?) on Monday. I personally started back about a week before it was mandated in an effort to get my classroom together. It isn't finished yet, there are some things that will require student involvement in order to get our walls filled up, others that will require teaching, and others still that simply require me to have more time. Until that time comes, take a look at my classroom as the students will see it on Monday morning (minus the changes that happened this afternoon when I stopped in for about an hour with the mister in tow).

new mexico

Home, sweet home. After five weeks on the road it was nice to roll across the state line on Tuesday morning. We weren't ready to put an end to our adventure yet though, and took a little side trip to Capulin Volcano, just east of Raton. As we drove, you could see the features of the volcanic field rising in the distance.

raton-clayton volcanic field
We ate a quick lunch, made from our remaining food stores, and then went to check out the couple of trails at the monument. We hiked the first trail, winding through the cinders. The second trail took us through one of the vent areas around the volcano. As we hiked the Boca Trail my heels started to blister since I hadn't taken the time to find socks in our overstuffed car. The clear solution to prevent further blistering, and the one that was employed on this hike, was to start running. Running on my toes meant that my heels weren't rubbing. Perfect. We saw an awesome trail, we got some running in, and, for the most part, my feet were happy.

With that out of our system, we drove up to the crater of the Capulin. We hiked around the rim of the crater and then down into the vent. Looking out from the rim trail we could see for miles. The volcanic field was somewhat moderate, but beautiful none-the-less. We could see storms forming in the distance, and so we took that as our sign to get down to lower elevations. 

inside the vent
At that point we were exhausted. We tabled our plan to go to Bandelier National Monument and instead made the push for home. As nice as it would have been to get one more tent night in, it was fabulous to sleep in our own bed after being gone for so long. Ah, home, sweet home.