Monday, March 12, 2018

Each year I am asked - and I’ve even asked myself - if I’m going to continue coaching West’s Academic Decathlon team, and last year, after finding out I was pregnant and finding out I’d be coaching solo, I sincerely wondered if I could answer “yes.” 

But I did, and I’m glad. My AcaDorks, my AcaDarlings, my brainy babies, are often the best part of my school day. They’re driven; they’re dynamic; they’re so, so fun! And this past week, I got to take them -and HQ (Thanks, Nonno and Grandma JoJo, for the help!!)  - to the State Competition in Wisconsin Dells.

I thoroughly enjoy the State experience each year.  It is a chance to watch my kiddos get all dressed up and walk across the stage to earn individual and team accolades.  It's also fun to converse with other coaches and share stories about our season - these kids! State is the end-product the many, many hours of hard work; and to see to see some of my former Decathletes.  I have to admit that it was nice to have a few work days run at a more leisurely pace, and it was especially nice to spend time with my tiny human - she made a great little mascot. And having the competition at a water park meant Harper got her first lazy river experience.  The verdict is still out on that one.  

State was great! I’m truly looking forward to next year — and the 1960s theme ✌

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

School, Safety, Change....

I have worked in three schools in two different districts during my tenure as an educator. And despite spending the first half of that time in an environment that was hard for many to see as a ‘good’ place, I never felt unsafe; I never questioned walking through those doors. 

Though I felt completely comfortable in that environment, the last thing Brian would say to me each morning before we parted ways was, “Be careful.” As I transitioned to a new district, I think he felt a sense of security and hasn’t shown the same concerns as in the past, and I know that has been important to him. But two weeks ago, I heard those words again. My husband, like many people in this country, feared what would happen in what should be a safe and valued place, school. 

As an educator and now a parent, I cannot deny that there is fear in the back of my mind, not for my safety, but for what may be done - or more likely what inaction we will see - to address this preventable tragedy from occurring yet again. And the thought of having the teacher down the hall, next door, in the room with me armed does nothing to ease my concern. That is NOT the answer. 

I grew up in a home where guns were present, and while I talk far too much and too often to have joined in the hunting tradition, I have nothing but respect for those who are hunters. I do not understand and simply do not believe in the ‘right’ to have weapons of war, weapons not used for or needed for game hunting.  I don’t want my baby growing up in a country where schools, movie theatres, night clubs, concert venues are dangerous places; I don’t want her to grow up in a world where people use fear as a bargaining tool for personal agendas and political gains; and I don’t want to be the person to walk away from a situation that isn’t working, but my pipe-dream of raising Harper internationally is looking better and better (parenting philosophies, policies/public safety, you name it). 

Each day I choose to go to my job at a school, to leave my baby in trusting hands (though not my own) to work along side hundreds of other parents’ babies. I’ve made that choice because I value what I do, and I believe in challenging my students to think critically and to solve problems civically, responsibly, decently. If only the powers that be could take a page out of our kids’ handbook - look at the young people of MSDHS as they have risen up in the face of immeasurable tragedy to fearlessly demand change!  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Date Night

It has been just over five months since our duo became a trio, so when Valentine’s Day rolled around this week, Brian suggest we break with our norm (ignoring everything about it other than the heart-shaped Dove chocolates) and celebrate. He had a point. We were due for some adult time.

So Saturday, while Harper hung out with Grandpa Bill and Auntie Becky, BR and I had our first just-the-two-of-us dinner in 23 weeks

We settled on Maxi’s (cornbread and bourbon... YES, please!) and enjoyed a quiet corner table, the perfect spot for people watching (isn’t that half the fun of going out?!). And after our fill of southern food and my two sips of an adult beverage, we found a bit of room and a little more time for dessert. It would be be nearly impossible now enjoy fro yo while holding HQ as she’d surely steal all my toppings to smoosh around in her little paws, so it seemed a natural choice to head to Yo Mama to close out date night. 

After dessert, it was back home to our real favorite, HQ. Plus, it was nearly 8:00pm...yeah, I’m old! We certainly enjoyed our evening out and even managed to talk about topics other than our tiny human, though, to be fair, who can blame us for wanting to chat about that tiny bundle of giggles and cuteness?! It was a fabulous date night. 

heading home after a great night out

Monday, February 12, 2018


What do you get when four brothers, their children, and their children's children get together?  Chaos, the very best kind of chaos, family time.

This past weekend, the Unti family - most of them - got together for something of a belated Christmas gathering at my parents' house, and it was a full house.  There was plenty of wine, lasagna, Italian beef, and conversation, the staples of any good gathering.  I got to see many of my aunts and uncles, and Harper got to meet more of her extended family.

With an ever-expanding family - weddings, new babies, babies on the way - it can be difficult to find the time to get everyone together, and while we were a few short, I know how important this past weekend's get-together was.  A promise was made to my grandma that time together would be a priority, and I should think she was mighty pleased with Saturday. 

As some of the boys proudly wear on their arms, and as the saying goes, per sempre la famiglia!

Friday, February 9, 2018

JoJo and HQ

I was extremely lucky to have spent some of my early childhood living with my maternal grandparents. I know my bond with my grandparents was shaped deeply by that extra and unique time we had together, and that makes me all the more appreciative of the fact that my mom so graciously and selflessly offered to spend her days with sweet Harper Quinn. 

I know that the relationship HQ and my mom have already established during their time together will be one of the most cherished relationships that Harper has, and I know that I can count on my mom to agree to all my crazy parenting practices,  tell me what I need to hear and omit what I don’t (she's promised to deny seeing any of Harper's firsts, so I can think I've witnessed them all), send pictures when I need them most, and give Harper’s sweet, chubby cheeks endless smooches.

How special is it to know that the place that I will always consider home is the same place Harper will know as her second home?! She lies down to rest in the same room that was once my room and finds comfort in the same space that I learned all about family, life, and unconditional love. We are blessed beyond measure!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Gettin' After It

They say that having a baby changes you, and it sure does. It changes a lot of things - not the least of which is your ability to see the other side of 7pm.

While some things must change, we are working very hard to make sure the core of who we are, individually and as a team, does not.  So the adventure buddies are now an adventure trio...

HQ's first international trip is just around the corner and coincides with her seven month birthday, and she has been to her parents' happy place, RMNP, a few times already.  She's mastered multiple modes of transportation - planes, trains, subways, sketchy NYC taxis, the Devil's Lake ferry - and is happiest when the breeze is blowing through her hair or her unicorn hat. 

As for show her how to get after it, Brian did his part this weekend by jumping back into the broadcast booth for USAClimbing Bouldering Nationals. It’s always fun to watch the Climbing Narc do his thing, and Harper was quite entranced by the sound of her dad’s voice coming from the computer (how’s that for challenging a 4mo. old’s understanding of object permanence?!). Now to teach her how to say “We’re doing it live,” so that Baby Narc can join her dad in the booth for his next gig. I know that Brian never set out to be doing what he is doing now in the climbing world, but talk about chasing one's dreams!  What a great story he will get to share with Harper. Hard work and a little wit go a long way! 

As for me, it is one of my goals to ensure Harper knows that the best thing a woman can be is strong, both of mind and body.  Personally, I have been continuing to set some weightlifting goals (grow, biceps, grow) and have been getting back into harder climbing. Harper is a big fan of bright colors, so we get to scope out all the climbing holds each visit to the gym, and since she's awfully chatty now, I also get a few cheers while I'm climbing, which helps a momma 'pull down'.  

HQ is getting strong herself and can do big girl things like stand up on those squishy little baby legs, grab onto things, and carry on deep and meaningful conversations (or coo and blow bubbles); it won’t be long before she’s in a harness of her own — or at least carrying her own pack or luggage and passport! 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


I am now into week four of being back to teaching, and, while I certainly find both sleep and a sense of sanity/stability/calm are elusive, I am glad that I decided to listen to Brian and give heading back to West a try.

A few of the hurdles:

  • Advocating for very basic rights: Feeding one's infant while walking through security at Denver International Airport and having one's milk inspected for explosives help build a necessary voice.
  • Having awkward conversations with co-workers and administrators: No, I cannot chat for just a few more minutes. Trust me, it'll get uncomfortable for the both of us if I do....
  • Coming up with reasons why students can't stay in my room, sit at my desk, come in for lunch, etc.: I have a lot of meetings and parent phone calls...
  • Defending my parenting practices: I am fairly certain that, though I am no expert, I do know what I want - and don't want (plastic toys, TV, bilboard-y attire) for the little human I brought into the world -- having a great pediatrician and some fantastic, like-minded friends both help.
  • Re-examining classroom practices: That work-home balance is key!
  • Re-evaluating priorities: Vacuum every day: yes; brush hair every day: maybe...

In short, becoming a mom makes you more hard-core than you ever thought you could be.  Lifting a car seat with an ever-growing human inside it and hauling diaper bags, a stroller that's nearly your own size, and carrying said human around are physical tasks that might make you rethink the need for a personal trainer.  Protecting the well-being of that little person who has brought more to your world than you ever could have imagine is not for the faint of heart.  And much like teaching, which can grow your heart in one instant and break it in the next, parenthood is the best, hardest job imaginable.

Despite the obstacles taking on both of the above jobs have entailed, I have landed on my feet, and HQ is doing great and still seems to like me a lot (one of my irrational fears before returning to work included falling out of her good graces) so I think I'll stick to this multi-purpose life I'm leading....anyways, it'll be summer before too long :)