We’re excited to present our newest editorial series, Mom About Town. In this series, we will highlight mothers in Flagstaff that are doing amazing things! From business owners to volunteers and community ambassadors we hope these interviews are encouraging and inspirational.
:: Meet Christina ::
Tell us a little about yourself, and your family:
I have wandered far from my birthplace of Minnesooooota, yet that Midwestern warmth and friendliness have followed me to Arizona, Vermont and back to the mountains of Flagstaff where my family has made our home for the past 6 years. I have happily devoted much of my life to teaching children, but my greatest education has come from becoming a mom to my two big-hearted and busy-bodied boys. My wonderful husband Mark and I find joy in the little moments squeezed into a full life and do our best to share that joy with everyone we know.
Share a little history behind your passion, and how you got started:
From the time I was a child myself, I could be found organizing the neighborhood kids into various clubs, schools, business ideas and any other wild schemes I could dream up. Once I realized I could get payed to play, I became a highly sought-after babysitter which led to my first paycheck from my first real job working in a preschool. My path was set and the next 20 years would be spent working as a teacher to help every child in my care see their unique value as learners and leaders. The arrival of our first son inspired me to leave the classroom and invest my time, talents and love toward our family. So much of the early years with my boys were spent exploring, learning and playing outdoors. It wasn’t long before I heard the call of teaching once more and after seeing the benefits of outdoor learning and play firsthand, I looked to find ways to connect other families with the best classroom of all, nature. I have been leading Tinkergarten classes here in Flagstaff for nine seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall I provide sensory-rich, hands on learning experiences through play for children and their families. Each week, children joyfully move, explore and grow in our local green spaces while parents learn how to better recognize, appreciate and support their child’s brain and body development.
What’s a bit of insight you would share with yourself if you could go back in time?
My husband and I thought we had the parenting thing down. Our first child was hitting every milestone way before the charts and graphs in the baby books we read. He was our heart and joy and somewhere deep-down we thought (or at least hoped) that his early progress must have nearly everything to do with us. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, fast forward to the summer of 2013. Our trio packed up our lives and exchanged the green mountains of Vermont for the glory of the San Francisco peaks with a new home, a new community, a new job and a new baby on the way. Life was sweet… until it wasn’t. Our lovable, smart and sensible son began to exhibit wild and destructive behaviors that left us wondering if we had somehow brought the wrong kid with us from Vermont. Tantrums, mood swings and over the top reactions to seemingly mild everyday experiences began to derail our best laid plans more days than not. I was six months pregnant with our second son when I was struck with the heart sinking suspicion that I was really, REALLY terrible at this whole parenting thing. Since then and many prayers, tears, doctor and therapist appointments later, we learned about our son’s sensory processing challenges. We now have a much more humble approach to parenting and are even grateful for the challenges and struggles we’ve faced in our parenthood journey. I have a greater sense of empathy for everyone brave enough to venture into the parallel universe of parenthood. It is not for the faint of heart, in fact it is hard, really hard. But hard doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong, it really is just that hard. Becoming a mom has been the most wonderfully heart enlarging decision I have ever made and I hope that the struggles have only served to make me a better parent, teacher, friend and human.
What motivates and inspires you?
Since becoming a mom, I have a deeper appreciation for the brevity of time I have with my kids. Every day, they seem to grow, change and become more independent. I know these precious times with my family (even the hard ones) pass all too soon and this fresh awareness motivates me to be more present and to breathe in as much of these moments as I can. This sense of urgency has fueled my desire to help families better understand, appreciate and enjoy this time in their lives.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Tinkergarten is uniquely wonderful in that it invites parents and caregivers to fully participate with their children in the enrichment experience. Working with children has come naturally to me, but the addition of an adult audience stirred up some feelings of insecurity. The Flagstaff parenting community welcomed me with open arms, honesty, vulnerability and gratefulness. I have received more love, learning and support from the Tinkergarten community than I could have ever imagined. I am inspired and energized to see more and more families spending meaningful time together every week, learning to better understand and support one another and working to build strong foundations that will help them navigate the age and stages to come. What was once the most intimidating aspect of my work has become the most satisfying and rewarding part of this teaching experience.
What is the most challenging thing you encounter as a mother pursuing her passions?
Becoming a mother changed everything for me. All at once I was thrust into a life where I was no longer living to serve just myself but my whole body, mind and heart changed to serve the lives of these new creations. These lives were wholly dependent on me for their survival and even as my boys grow and their needs become less about survival and more about nurturing, teaching and supporting, I know I will never be living for one again. Venturing out toward a passion beyond this role of motherhood has a new feel with these anchors in my life. Finding balance between my service to others and my responsibilities to my family is a work in progress, yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. Motherhood has stretched me (literally and figuratively) in ways I never could have imagined. I am a different person than I was 9 years ago, but the joys and struggles have earned me an experiential understanding and wisdom that has enabled me to connect with and support other families in their journeys.
What advice would you share with another mother starting her own journey to follow her passion?
I know I am not alone in my search for balance and purpose. Venturing outside of my role as a mother and wife hasn’t been an easy transition for me or my family but it has had some surprising benefits I wasn’t expecting. Our boys are beginning to understand that my sole purpose isn’t to provide for their every physical and emotional need anymore. They see me planning, preparing and talking about ways I can serve the community and they see the way this purpose and passion feeds my soul. Our sons notice and care for others more than ever before and have thrived with a little space and freedom to practice the learning of their early childhood. I feel that motherhood has served to fuel my purpose and passion and now my family has a newfound respect and appreciation for me and the work I do outside of the home.
What are some of your Favorites?
My handsome fellas and I can be spotted savoring cold brew coffee and tasty pastries atLux North downtown, hiking with our vertically challenged and adorable Doxy, Dexter, sneaking away for a date night with a deliciously crafted cocktail at the Annex or playing board games in a blanket fort at home. Attending services and serving alongside the folks at Bridge Church feeds my spirit and fuels my purpose and time spent laughing, crying and swapping stories with my friends and family fills my heart to overflowing. My work outs at Barre3 Flagstaff have become an essential part of my self-care and have helped me find the strength, stamina and determination to keep up with our boys.