The Whimsiest

The Barron Family has now experienced the International Balloon Fiesta! This event took place on and off over the last eleven days. I say on and off because, as might be expected, the ability to successfully balloon is directly subject to the fickle weather.

We looked into lots of different options for how one might best experience the balloon fiesta, but we were late for most of the swankier options. This left us with the most common option which is to get up at 4 am, take a shuttle to Balloon Fiesta Park, and walk around the vast field. This may sound like the definition of NOT FUN, but in fact, it’s the right way to do it.

I don’t know how to describe the experience. I recommend you add it to your list of must do activities. In the same way that no picture can appropriately capture the feeling of being directly underneath hundreds of launching balloons, my words won’t come close to capturing the appeal. Granted, a 4 am wake up call on a Saturday is never fun, but when you get there before sunrise and you get to see the Morning Glow (wherein the first group of weather-testing balloonist inflate themselves and light up their balloons in a synchronized way, well…it’s something. I literally bounced up and down in my seat.

After that the sun starts rising over the Sandia Mountains, and row after row of balloons float up into the air for the Mass Ascension until you can’t figure out where they’ll all fit. Everywhere you turn is a picture-worthy moment. In the dark the colorful balloons glow like a Christmas tree, and in the daylight the vibrant shapes and colors fill the sky. Kids can go from balloon to balloon and get trading cards for said balloons. There are these referee sort of people that keep the takeoffs organized and safe, and they dress in vibrant zebra stripes to stay visible. There are food vendors and souvenir stands all over the place to give it a carnival feel. There are thousands upon thousands of people.

When I say it’s full of whimsy, I really mean it. An outmoded form of transportation, now a hobby sport, that is at the whim of both the weather and the wind, decked out to be as beautiful, picturesque, or cartoonish as possible…I can’t think of anything else that is the equal to the Balloon Fiesta when it comes to answering the question of “Why?” with “Why not?”

Another day, Rolo and I went to Panera Bread for breakfast (we had two days off school this week for Fall Break) and got an unexpected, but lovely, show from the restaurant window. We were at eye level with many of the balloons since we were slightly up the foothills, and you can really watch the balloons dance on the wind from that vantage point. Some of them do repeated near-freefall maneuvers every few minutes. All of them catch the same wind and start speeding to the right until they either lift up or lower themselves. They turn circles and spin around from time to time. Every once in a while, they actually bump into one another. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone that much.

IMG_3286I thoroughly enjoyed the Balloon Fiesta. We left ourselves plenty of events to experience in the future. I loved that even if you didn’t do the hard work of getting onto the Fiesta grounds, there was still a lot to see. Each day on the way to work, we would watch the balloons fill the sky in our rearview mirrors. If we wandered around town, we saw them overhead or taking off in parking lots (balloons take off from all over Albuquerque, not just the park). It’s a uniquely equitable event in that anyone can experience it to one degree or another whether you can pay/give up time/fight through traffic. I like that. In fact, the day before the Fiesta began, we took Rosalind to school almost an hour early because two balloons from Albuquerque Aloft took off from the park next to her school. Any kiddo that might not have made it to the Fiesta events later on were still able to have a little piece of the experience just by being at school.

 

So come hang out with us the same time next year. You’ll be glad you did.

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Updates

A few weekends ago we attended the New Mexico State Fair. This is one of those things we did not get exactly right this year that we can probably do better next year. After waiting nearly an hour to enter the parking lot, we didn’t even cover a quarter of the whole fair before wearing ourselves out.

If you don’t look like Rolo in this photo, have you really even experienced the fair?

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Sergio’s birthday was a couple of weekends ago. There are no pictures of this event because my two plans for his day were to play a little tennis and then let him have a total nothing day full of football and video games. I think he had a nice time. He is now a complete Apple Air Pods convert. I will admit, they are way more interesting than I realized.

Charlie updates: She poops. And then she poops some more. Pretty friendly now, I guess. She’ll nibble your face after eating her own poops.

Eliot updates: Eliot is fourteen! I don’t know his exact birthdate, but I know it has to have been the end of September based on how old he was when we got him. He’s doing really well considering he was at the vet being diagnosed with spine issues last year at this time. I think the warmer weather is good for him.

On the other hand, I took him for a mile long walk this weekend and he couldn’t even make it to his bed before total collapse. So close.

Rosalind gave me a Sunday morning makeover. Since she insisted on taking a picture, I insisted on finding the light that camouflaged my wrinkles, and hid a giant zit behind my coffee mug not at all suspiciously. Yup.

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Otherwise it’s mostly work and school and school and work…and losing the key to my car, but I haven’t found the humor in that yet. Exciting stuff around here, folks.

Stay tuned for our first Balloon Fiesta experience!

Thing Dawn is Bad At: Transitioning

Are you ready for me to beat a metaphor to death? Because I’ve had one running through my brain all weekend. The first month of teaching a new group of students is a lot like the first month with a newborn. At least, it’s how I felt about the first month with my own newborn. If you weren’t around for that time period, I’ll fill you in briefly. It sucked. It was full of frustrated tears, anxiety, and sleeplessness. All work and no reward.

Every new school year is challenging for the first month, but there is something really special when you start at a new school. Frankly, the whole year is going to be kind of a shit show, the only question is just how big of one. You have to learn a new school, new methodology, new requirements, new discipline, new school culture, and usually, new subjects and lessons. It’s hard. It gets easier each year thereafter because you’ve learned the subject, finessed the lessons, integrated into the new school culture, and have a better grasp each year of your resources. You’ve learned what works where you are and what doesn’t, how slow you should take it, how firm you need to be and for how long. Perhaps you’ve even found a friend or two in whom you confide your complaints and frustrations so that your poor husband gets a break from time to time.

But none of that is true the first year, and the first month is a doozy. You think you know what you need to know about that newborn you brought home because you can change diapers and make bottles and strap down the carseat. But nobody told you that the baby was going to be a constant need machine that hates you, and the carseat, and the bathtub, and nothing you do can make it happy.

So just trade out “baby” with “150 students” and “constant need machine that hates you, and the carseat, and the bathtub, and nothing you do can make it happy” with “constant need machines that hate you, and your lessons, and your unreasonable demands that they learn something, and nothing you do can make them happy.”

Believe it or not, the reason this metaphor drifted through my head was not because of how miserable I have been on a few occasions over the last month. It was a happy moment that got me here. I had a decent day. A day in which I was able to relax just slightly, and when I was able to relax just slightly, I started finding these small rewards. Just tiny ones. The same kind of tiny reward you get the first time you think maybe that newborn smiled at you, but you aren’t really sure yet.

The ways in which students show that they care here are so very different than how they occurred in Alaska, that I didn’t even see them at first. But then I was just slightly relaxed, and instead of focusing on the running, hitting, cursing chaos going through the hallway at passing period, I instead focused on how many students said, “Hi, Miss!” Nearly all of them. When I noticed that, I was able to start seeing a hundred little ways they show their appreciation for their teachers. And that showed me ways in which the teachers here are better able to communicate with the kids, and it’s like there is this cycle or something? Where kindness begets kindness? How novel! In much the same way  that we eventually learned that our baby liked warmer baths and to not put her in the carseat unless absolutely necessary, I am learning the importance of greeting my students before jumping into lessons, offering tiny rewards for expected behaviors even if I kind of think it’s unnecessary, and creating situations in which students can still be “helpers” even though I’m not accustomed to them wanting to be at this age. Now all my days are running so smoothly!

SNORT!!!! Nope. Yesterday was another shit show. But I had two decent days in a row last week! TWO. IN. A. ROW.

Just like I once learned to celebrate four whole hours of uninterrupted sleep, I am going to now celebrate two halfway decent teaching days in a row. Because if newborn days taught me anything, it’s that the effort will have been worth my time.

Rolo’s Tour of Homes

I came here to write up a post about Bandalier National Monument. This was a day trip we took when Sergio’s mom was visiting back in August. I’m very prompt with my updates!

Unfortunately, I just looked through my phone to jog my memory before getting started, and it appears I didn’t take the photos of Bandalier on my phone. As my brain is pretty much fried all the time right now with work, I can’t really write a post about Bandalier until I later confiscate Sergio’s phone.

So there goes that plan. Hmmmmm? What should I tell you about today?

Well, I did find a series of pictures in my phone that Rosalind took over the weekend. Sergio and I have periodically been dropping in on nearby Open Houses in order to see what’s available in the school zone we’ve hemmed ourselves into. We struck gold on Saturday when we got to see the most amazing house. Please note, amazing in this context means, “amazed this thing exists and that someone left it this way for this long.” It does NOT mean the other type of amazing which is more along the lines of, “wow, this is my dream home!”

Something happened with this house that I can’t quite get straight. I don’t know if it was built at the time of mid-century modern and redecorated in the nineties, or if it was built in the nineties to look like something from another era . So it’s just the best (worst?) of both worlds. As I am not buying this house, and I don’t have any right to claim any part of it, I’ll just leave you with some of the pictures Rosalind took of the items she found most interesting. Sadly, she didn’t get a picture of the master bathroom that was shared between TWO master bedrooms. Just…why? Would your guests share your bathroom with you while visiting? That’s a level of awkward I can’t fathom. I guess your children could share the master bath with you, but, again, why? Confusing. The bathroom also included a bidet and a step-down tub. I don’t know what that is really called. A sunken tub?

Anyway, I love getting glimpses of other living arrangements. I legitimately had as much fun perusing that empty house as I would poking around a manor house in Europe.

Enjoy Rolo’s artsy photos of the acrylic banisters (if I have one picture of the joints, I have at least 25), tiny kitchen drawers, gold-accented mini-bar, glass chandeliers, and admittedly amazing views.

*****We don’t always take pictures of houses we don’t have any intention of buying. It’s just that we got to chatting with the realtor, and Rolo finds ways to keep herself busy.*****

 

 

Stuff I’m…

Watching:

Netflix Rom-Com’s! I must willingly embrace how basic I am as a human in order to tell you that Netflix is killing it with the rom-coms. I accidentally watched Set It Up and really enjoyed it, and then I begrudgingly watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before after hearing I should a million times. Everyone was right! It’s great. If you watched and rewatched 80’s and early 90’s rom-coms in your youth, give these a shot.

The Great British Baking Show – I was mad that they changed the hosts, and while I do miss the old hosts and Mary Berry, I find I still watch the show anyway. I guess maybe that is what happened to everyone because I didn’t hear of a mass exodus of viewers or anything.

Disenchantment – Our family is a 100% Futurama family, so we were excited to see new material from that creator. It is not remotely appropriate for Rosalind, but she loved it completely.

Reading:

NOTHING! Picture me sheepishly hanging my head. I have some books currently being neglected, but I am still very much in the place where I go home each day and zone out mindlessly. I’m going to have to get this school year far more under control than I have so far if I am going to get back to leisure reading.

Listening to:

A lot of podcasts now that I have half hour drives to and from work. My top choices each week are How Did This Get Made, This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth, Young House Love has a Podcast, and Pop Culture Happy Hour. I hear snippets of several others from Sergio’s phone as well.

Speaking of podcasts, we listened to a podcast for kids called The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel with Rosalind. Highly recommend! We enjoyed as much as she did.

Doing: 

Zoning out, dishes, laundry, making lunches, making coffee, driving around a lot, lesson planning, reevaluating my lessons after they bomb out hard, cajoling Rosalind into doing her homework quickly or finishing piano lessons, waiting for and loving weekends in a way I haven’t in a long time.

Eating:

Things that can be cooked after work with minimal effort or Grubhub! I ate some cold leftover wings from Hooters for my lunch just now.

A metric ton of dry cereal. I don’t know why. I haven’t eaten dry cereal out of box since my early teens. I blame the leftover Golden Grahams I had from a S’mores bar recipe. They are an excellent snack when eaten dry from the box. Then I bought Frankenberry this week because I had never tried it before, and it is much better dry than in milk. If I have gained 30 pounds the next time you see me, know that it is not the excellent New Mexican food I keep eating at every turn. It is friggin’ dry cereal.

Missing:

The ease and comfort of my last job. Knowing how everything worked at my kid’s school even if I didn’t always love it. A handful of colleagues I miss for both coffee and comaraderie.

Not Missing:

The fact that Alaska already hit temps in the thirties! Losing sunlight rapidly. Fearing that there is only one month of clear driving left. Starbucks that only exist inside of other stores so you have to get out of the car. Having to put Eliot in clothes to go outside multiple times a day.

Looking Forward To:

Sergio’s birthday! The summer trip we’ve already started planning for next year! Oatmeal cookies that I buy from the refrigerated section of the store and make in tiny batches for myself after work.

 

I Love Long Weekends

Last Friday we learned about an event in Santa Fe just slightly too late to partake. It’s called Zozobra and all I know about it is that they burn a big puppet called Old Man Gloom. So a sort of NM Burning Man? We hope to check it out next year.

What we did learn is that this event kicks off the Fiestas de Santa Fe. After spending a lovely Saturday mostly at home enjoying a lovely settled stormy day, we ventured out to Santa Fe on Sunday. Sergio did a quick internet search to see what events might be taking place and struck gold! Just outside of Santa Fe is a place called El Rancho de las Golondrinas, which is a sort of museum, and at this museum they were hosting Fiestas de los Ninos.

Our photos can’t do the experience of this place justice, but we had an excellent time. The landscape is gorgeous and it falls somewhere between wandering around a beautiful ranch and taking a cultural/historical tour of NM. Because it was Fiestas de los Ninos, they had activities all over for kids to do as well. We managed to make tortillas, build our own adobe house, make rope from cactus fibers, and dip candles before we headed into Santa Fe to enjoy Cafe Castro again.

I recommend checking out this museum at any time of year. If you manage to hit on one of the many festivals (especially those happening now that the weather is consistently AMAZING) then bonus for you. And considering that we remembered Cafe Castro from our visit back in November and wanted to go back, I think you can guess that you should go there as well. We had already enjoyed fresh tortillas, buttered and salted with roasted hatch chiles, but we made more room for sopapillas, posole, green chile, and flautas! All of it is excellent, but the best order you can make is a bowl of posole with green chile. It comes with a sopapilla (fry bread) for dipping. Check it out!

We’ll be headed back to Golondrinas in October for Harvest Festival if anyone wants to join!

ABQ Food

*You might only be interested in the following post if you plan to eat in ABQ soon. Feel free to skip. Not that it matters, but I started this post last Friday, so it is referencing two weekends ago. I just felt the need to clarify.***

Since last weekend was the first of my new school year, it felt especially necessary. You know how sometimes you just NEED a weekend more than other times? That was last weekend. Sergio seemed to sense that and made sure that our Saturday was a particularly nice and calming one. We started with coffee and a very light breakfast. We went for a slow jog/hike on some of the lower paths of the Tramway trails. Because of our super light breakfast, we were able to clean up afterward and head out for lunch. Most of the time, we eat a nice big weekend breakfast and skip lunch altogether, so lunch out is a rare treat.

Sergio had seen a recommendation for Salt and Board in a local paper, and that’s where he took me. Yum! They specialize in charcuterie and fancy toasts and sandwiches. We had a small charcuterie board, a shared fancy toast (they don’t call them fancy toasts. I do.), and Rosalind had a pressed Cuban sandwich. I had promised Rolo before we ate that if she did a good job at this restaurant that doesn’t necessarily cater to kids, we would go to the dessert place next door. I needn’t have worried. She loves cheeses and meats and pretty much devoured most of the board all selfish-like. And before you think I am bragging about my kid’s sophisticated palate, her favorite thing to do is take random cheeses and eat them at the same time. We sit and daintily spread fig jam over toasted bread followed by slivers of cheese and house-made salami, and Rosalind squishes chunks of Manchego and blue together and stuffs them in her face. Not SOOO sophisticated.

She followed that with most of her Cuban sandwich. Sergio and I had the mushroom toast with a poached egg on top. Lovely.

Next door was a cookie place called Rude Boy Cookies. A whole restaurant devoted to cookies! I was so full that I did not intend to partake, but it just smelled so good, ya know? Rosalind ended up building her own ice cream sandwich out of two sprinkled sugar cookies and cookies n’ cream ice cream, and I got the limited time Fruity Pebbles cookie. Sergio got blueberry lemonade. I can’t wait to go back one day when I am not already stuffed to the gills. They also deliver if you are in their radius, and offer teachers free cookies on Mondays. My only regret is that we don’t live closer. Probably a good thing we don’t though.

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The rest of the day was also nice, so I’ll throw in a recommendation for our ABQ comic book shop, AstroZombies, as well since that is where we went next. Long story short, we are still very much appreciating all of the different types of civilization we can partake in now that we are in the Lower 48.

I don’t remember much else about the day other than it was a nice reprieve after a stressful couple of weeks. The next day was devoted to laundry, grocery shopping, lesson planning, and cleaning. Gotta love getting back into the swing of things.

Ineloquent Follow-Up

Knock on wood, but so far, Rosalind is loving her new school. Granted, they haven’t started any real work yet, but she seems to be having the best time. She loves the after school program even more. SO MANY CRAFTS! It is a great relief to us that she is happy there. You just really do a lot of internal beating up of yourself when you uproot your kid, so it’s nice to see it working out okay.

On my end of starting a new school…well…I really had to go through some mental adjustments during my week of inservice. Alaska made me soft, you guys. I had forgotten/had never fully experienced what it is to work in a state where education is not being properly funded. I really believed I had experienced that sort of thing, but I. Had. Not. I was a bit overwhelmed (vast understatement) with the numerous challenges with which I was being presented. It seemed that all news was bad news for a bit there. By Friday I had mentally shaken myself out of my slump and gained back my normal teaching enthusiasm (through sheer willpower).

I’m glad to say that things are working out better than I thought they could have (knock on wood). The biggest thing I still face is that two of my classes have 38 students in them. And a third class has 34 students as well, but that seems like peanuts next to 38. Until this year, I had never taught a class over 29, and I bitched about it the whole damn time!

If your next question is the logical follow-up of, “Where do you fit 38 desks in a classroom?”, the answer is that you do not fit them. You just pat yourself on the back that you pieced together an extra 15 mismatched chairs from wherever and everyone has a place to sit! Go you!

It’s actually going so much smoother than you would think after all the complaining I just did. I don’t know if it’s because they are just nice kids and they want to help me out, or if I have come off as a crazy-strict nutjob already in order to head off any issues (it’s this one), but something is working.  (I totally wrote this post yesterday during my break. I had a class later that afternoon that pushed back at me hardcore, so take some of the previous “Everything is rainbows and unicorns” with a grain of salt.) The other two reasons it is going okay are that the other staff members are super helpful, and I can afford to go out and stock my own classroom for the most part. Many other teachers can’t do that. PLEASE FUND PUBLIC EDUCATION!

So I wrote all of that last week! I’m sorry. I know it is weird how I keep jumping time in this post, but I think it is the perfect representation of how unable I have been to gather all my thoughts and moods in one place at one time. I’ve written at least two posts that I didn’t publish because I left them for editing, and then when I went back to publish,  the moment would have passed, and the post no longer made sense or felt relevant.

I’ve run the whole spectrum from excited to overwhelmed to homesick to determined and back again over the last couple of weeks. Anyway, this is my attempt to start getting my head above water with the blog. To recap, things are going just fine with me at work outside of a severe lack of supplies and some overcrowding/understaffing issues. Rolo not only still loves her new school but has now progressed to meeting friends on our road and having a “bestie.”

Now that I’ve spewed out all my feelings in an incoherent post, I can come back tomorrow with a clearer head and tell you about the two ABQ restaurants we tried and loved on Saturday, or Bandelier National Monument, or even go all the way back to our teeny trip to Taos!

 

4th Grader!!!

Rosalind and I both started at our new schools today. I mean, I started PD last week, but I got students today. I desperately hope she is having a great day, and there will be a nagging worry in my brain until I can get to her to find out how it all went down. Do you know that she has never eaten in a proper cafeteria? She ate in the classroom in both of her Alaskan schools. Anyway, I’m a little nervous. If it isn’t just vibrating at you out of the computer.

I’m posting these here before social media because I have zero cell or internet service inside my school building. The wifi blocks me from all social media as well.

I promise to come back to post more frequently and with (possibly) more detailed content just as soon as we all get our heads above water.

The Kids Visit ABQ Summer 2018

I feel it might be a waste of time to write out our activities with my niece and nephew in detail because we mostly did stuff with them that we have covered before. We also spent time watching movies, playing endless video games, eating, and just hanging out at the house letting the kids play. I hope they had a nice time. I very much enjoyed having them visit.

Here are a couple of things worth noting.

First, we took the kids back to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks park for a hike on David’s birthday. On the way there, Emma asked me if there would be snakes. I told her what I believed to be the truth which is that the hike is too busy to be surprised by a snake.  We weren’t even five whole minutes into the hike when we passed a group of people on a small bridge. As we went by, a lady turned and asked us if we had ever seen a rattlesnake. A RATTLESNAKE! Because there was one going by just off the trail. Picture evidence below.

This is kind of like if someone had come to visit us in Alaska and after four years of encountering nothing more than ravens and an occasional moose, we found a bear sitting on our deck waiting to welcome our visitors. I hope it’s like that anyway. I prefer to think we aren’t going to encounter deadly snakes very often.

Second, we ended the week going to our first ever movie theater/dinner/beer experience with the kids. Let me tell you, Teen Titans Go to the Movies is best seen in a recliner with cheese fries and a beer. I suppose all movies are probably best seen that way. I honestly think this was everyone’s favorite activity of the whole week.

Enjoy our picture tour.