4/22/14

Let's Play the Ball Game!

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
"Let's have a special night." said my five year old daughter as Daddy and brothers headed out the door to baseball practice.  She hopped down from the Lazy Boy in the livingroom.  "Let's go play the ball game!"  "Alright kiddo." I replied and we slid on our shoes.  I was expecting to need to pull on a sweatshirt, but as I stepped off the porch into the sun, I realized the air was still quite warm.  I know it should be warm, we are approaching the end of April now, but I scraped snow and ice off the Cherokee just last week.  After such a long winter I seem to bundle up out of habbit, as if I expect to be wearing fleece and gloves in June too.

Out in the yard, a warm breeze feathered our skin as Lila began to swing quickly and steadily.  "You won't have to wait for me!"  She was right.  With the large pink ball in hand, I watched her swinging.  She swooped low and high, stretching her body long and pulling in strong.  (Didn't I have to push her to get started just last year?)  I timed my toss and she popped the ball into the air over my head.  She giggled wildly.  I zinged the ball again, my timing was off.  The ball went under her swing and I performed my best grumbly exasperated act while fetching the ball and tickling her on the way by.  (Game requirement)  She giggled wildly.  Again and again I tossed the ball, and fetched the ball, once her flip flop went further than the ball.  She giggled wildly. . . and flipped the flop off the other foot too, this time squealing with laughter!

This is her game, The ball Game, and this girl will play and play and laugh and play for as long as anyone will play with her.  We play it in sun and snow, wind and rain, from dawn till dusk.  Summer months see more action only due to the abundance of free time and daylight hours, not because the weather matters. As I chase the ball across the dried grass and cold spring ground in my now bare feet, an emotion washes over me, along with the warm air and bright sunshine.  Honestly I'm not quite sure what it is, wistfulness? awakening? hope?  Little buds on branches, a few patches of freshly turned earth planted with little rows of spinach and carrot seeds just hours ago. . .I have noticed these things throughout the day, but it just now struck me;  spring is really here!  summer is on it's way!  Just eight weeks to the end of school for the kids and I.  Days have been flying by and I have felt as if I were trapped in time gripped by winter's cold hand.  Despite the cold weather, time tramped on, the suns arc traveled and my daughter grew.


4/17/14

Return to My Proffession--My Messy Beautiful


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

I am a forty something, mom of three, wife of 17 years who is  currently trying to break back into the field of teaching after 10 years learning how to parent three tricky students of my own!  It has been a messy beautiful process that has carried me to this point in my life (and has inspired this blog).  At this moment, I am no longer just along for the ride, to see where it will take me, yet I use that skill to ride out the bumps.  I am making choices and digging in to reach my goal, and I have confidence that I will reach it.  I am looking at ‘little obstacles’, like not getting the job I applied for, as stepping stones and learning experiences .  Life’s classroom is so rich!

I began as a straight A high school student who Flunked Out of my first year at University--and I didn't even party!!  But I did have an overly controlling boyfriend--Can you say worst year of college ever?!  I followed that year with a summer art course, "just for fun." but that led me to completing an art program at a local community college where I decided I wanted to teach.  The pivotal moment was the moment it struck me, really struck me, that here I was learning about making art with a bunch of other folks my age and older, and wow, Isn’t that something!  Whether or not I had a gift for art, or ever became famous, I was learning how to create something from my heart, mind and soul.  I was learning how to learn, and that was a gift itself.

When I was younger, even just a few years earlier, I had somehow arrived at the notion that people were born to be artists.  I truly felt since I had not found my own art yet, I must have missed the boat, I was doomed to be a gas station attendant, and that was that.  It was quite dismal really, because I really could only see everything I hadn’t yet done as untraveled roads already barricaded to me.  I really had a hard time seeing possibilities back then.  When I chose to teach, it was because I really wanted young kids to see and learn about “what could be” for them, I wanted to open doors, and remove baracades. I thought of the time I spent already, just in my youth, feeling like I had missed a boat or many boats, and I reflected on the waste in a way that moved me forward, and motivated me to want to move others forward as well.  
   
I did open doors.  I taught many children to read and write.  My six and sevens wrote and rewrote stories, participated in poetry readings, danced and let their minds be guided into both growth and relaxation.  There were opportunities for all to shine.  I fell prey to a “reduction in force” just when I felt I was hitting my stride.  I was really picking up steam, trained as a reading interventionist and using those skills in the classroom to really boost my students’ literacy learning.  But in my usual form, I took this as a sign, I should take some time at home with my newborn baby, which eventually became my three children over a span of ten years.  I regretfully watched my teaching certification fly off into inactive status when my third child, a daughter was born, but honestly even without her, my return would have been postponed. 

My oldest had hit kindergarten by then and the very verbal little boy who we were sure would love school was struggling wildly with odd things like sitting at circle to sing songs, and what one teacher dubbed “buzzing” around the room.  He was sent to the office frequently for social faux pas and skirmishes, and the dreaded "lack of empathy".  By first grade I was solely engrossed in figuring out what was causing our curious motivated learner at home to become a distressed mess at school.  You know that mom you see storming into school determined and wide eyed, she scares everyone a little, she is so so angry . . .?  That was me. . .  Getting help for my son was a nightmare of roadblocks that to this day make no sense to me, I was stressed beyond belief.  As strange as it sounds, it snuck up on me! I jumped, dodged and pushed to get past the blockades and eventually got the former nay sayers on board and found a place where my boy could not just survive, but thrive.  Then I had to get myself and my family back on track.  Regular excercise and outlets for mom rose in importance. I have had to work past that "trigger time" in the mornings when my son would set up for battle over going to school.  I had to learn to breath, learn to breath, learn to breath.  If someone isn't ready or can't find something as we are going out the door, I still need to remind myself, this is a little bump, no big deal, we will get there. . . because my brain wants to freak out as if we were back in that time three years ago.  But today's bumps have nothing to do with then.  

Along the way, I learned a lot about myself, and my teaching self.  I learned never to give up excercise and healthy habbits because I am too busy "solving a problem", (because that just causes another problem some place else!) I recognized some faulty assumptions I once made as a young teacher, and learned how to make other theories I felt in my heart come to life "Children do well if they can, not just if they want to." became my new mantra stripped straight from the pages of  Dr.Ross Greene's (author of  books.  I read, and worked, found jobs where I could use my teaching skills even if they weren’t the coveted “teacher” role and have begun learning the ins and outs of twenty first century public education, and at the same time realize that the "good teaching practices" I have under my belt never go out of style.

I even interviewed for a “dream job” at a tiny ruralish local school, but besides my brain going into flight mode for most of the interview. << I soo wish I could blog my way through interview!  I would just reply to questions with, please see blog post # 17 where I discussed this at length. :))>> When they asked why I wanted to work there, I really had no good, honest answer.  In that ridiculous moment right In the interview, I realized I really didn’t want to work there!  It suddenly seemed too small, too homogeneous and I knew I would miss the diversity I had found working in a larger school the previous year.  Umm. . .yeah, interview did not go so well.  My husband says everything I feel at any moment washes acrossed my face all day long, maybe I need some of that "Pokertox" or whatever it was called. . . some Doctor invented it to help poker players keep a straight face while holding a royal flush!!  Imagine the possibilities?!  

So instead, I found a part time one on one position in a district where many people don’t want to work, a huge number of administrators left 8 to 10 years ago, school choice has resulted in a hemmorage of students out of the district to places not unlike the one where my own son suffered, (honestly struggled is not a big enough word to describe what my son and our family went through there). So I  am hoping to find a place here in this recovering district, with soon to be hired new superintendent, where diversity is wide and possibilities for the future are many.  They are in flux, and where there is change there will ultimately be growth, I am excited to be there to help.

Yet here I am, the mom of now 11 years, trying to work my way back in to the profession I love.  As much as I want to convey confidence, and truly I am confident that this work is mine to do, I get this little niggling feeling of doubt when I begin this job search process.  The back of my neck tightens, my jaw sets and I fear it will never happen, that due to "mind in flight" during interviews, I will be seen as a wannabe teacher who just happens to have a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Design, intensive training in reading intervention/instruction, and a newly approved teaching liscence under my belt.  And I forget that I jumped into full time work and completed three college level courses in education to get my liscence back, and that I enjoyed, almost, every minute of it.  I forget that I have been going into schools and feeling like I am home for the past couple years working with other teachers and educators of all kinds.   I forget that I have patience for the kids who most everyone loses patience with, because I want to treat them the way I hope my own children will evermore be treated.  I forget my toolbox continues to be filled by yours truly, as I continue searching for more ways to help children succeed in more diverse ways. I forget that I have a gift of my own, for seeing into the hearts of children and helping create a place in school where they can learn and grow and create something from the heart, mind and soul, and that is a gift to them.  I forget that I am determined to teach them how to learn, how to think like a learner, how to act like a learner, how to be a learner. . .  I just need to remember, keep the confidence, brain power and appropriate facial expressions through an entire interview and pray for the best!

4/15/14

My favorite rain moment

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
It is raining here today, an all day steady, sometimes torrential rain that makes my hair curl and my bangs stick out like horns of the devil.  For this moment, after a long day, I sit and recall a moment that I return to often when it rains, wishing for just that kind of moment again.

I think of one particular rainy spring day. I just happened to be walking determinedly across a local college campus when I suddenly became aware in a single moment of how simply lovely this rain was. . . gentle and steady.   As my feet slowed avoiding puddles on pavement, the balm of the rain and crispness of the sweet pink apple blossoms balanced just right to create the perfect scent of spring, fresh, clean, even pristine.  At one point I simply stopped. . . to smell the raindrops.

So to honor poetry month I have created a poem to capture this moment. :)

I puddle hop with purpose along pavement,
while trees hold bouquets of blossoms
delicate drops clean crisp air
satiate my senses, slow
I stop, smell, the raindrops
tiny reflective globes on satiny sweet petals

4/8/14

Another Chance

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
Sitting at the back of the room, stacking folders and staying out of the way while cleanup begins in my son's class, my attention is drawn to the girl with long curls and hands to her face.  The classroom teacher makes her way over and  listens to her problem somehow related to another student, a boy I have a soft spot for.  He is a bright and interesting guy, a bit quirky, but sometimes, like this one, he can be infuriating, much like one of my own boys.  The teacher assures the crying student she will deal with the problem.  As she tends to the class, and directs them down the hall to technology class, she calls both students to talk to her.

I headed to tech with my son's class, with math folders in hand, find an empty table, and get to work checking their minute math pages, while keeping an eye out for "help" flags in case I am needed.  A few folders in, the crying girl joins us, I notice the teacher return with the other student a bit later.  Before the classroom teacher has even walked away, the tech teacher is on the boy's case to throw away his gum before sitting at his computer.  He resisted at first, but eventually made the decision to lose the gum, the gum the classroom teacher gives him, because it helps him find more success during the days at school, the gum she gives him because she takes time to try to figure him out and help him succeed.

When I saw her again, the classroom teacher was clearly upset, but her expression was introspective. . . I could tell she was not upset at the student, but upset at herself.  I have felt this feeling with my own son, so that old cliche, "It takes one to know one." I guess it applies.  This was not the right opportunity for me to speak, so I waited.  As the kids waded through the last of their end of day routines, my mind was already on the message I wanted to give this classroom teacher.  Now, don't think I am an egomaniac who thinks she has all the answers, far from it! but I have been the parent of one of these frustating and wonderful children for 11 years and when I saw the look on the teacher's face, I had a feeling that she might need my words.  I was right, we exchanged emails, and essentially she told me she felt like she was failing him!  She has had a cold, is feeling tired, a lot going on at home, less patient, and he is having a rough spell.

So my last words to her I think were the most important, because I had to learn them for myself and accept them for the truth in order to keep trying, trying to be the best mom I can be to another quirky frustrating amazing boy.

You are not failing, you are tired, and He is a tricky and special kid.  It does not feel hard because you re doing anything wrong, it feels hard because it IS hard :-) (this is my mantra)  This student is very lucky to have you on his side this year!  Rest well!

I hope she is able to hear this message and take it to heart.  I hope that she doesn't think I am just sending her some kind of fluff or trying to sound like a know it all mom.  I hope she can hear that those words I wrote are true, and that they help her navigate the bumpy roads that tricky children leave in their wake for teachers and parents to follow.  I hope she will understand that her frustration with herself is evidence she is really doing so much right, this is a bump, don't change course, don't turn back, breath deep and lean in, tomorrow is another day, another chance, for everyone. 

 



    

4/7/14

Dawn. . . A Moment



A moment.
Sky gray, silver
barely illuminated
Promise of sun
Not yet
Over the horizon
Soon
Pink creeps into silver
Brightening
Against branches reaching, gripping,
Slowly releasing,
The black of night.

4/1/14

Poem. . . Me?

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.national-poetry-month


Today is a Poem about Me now, I posted a poem about Me by my 7 year old self a while back

Who?
Me?
Mom? Wife? Daughter? Auntie? Sister?
. . .
Writer.
Teacher.
Learner.
Artist.
Creator.

Lover of. . .
Snowflakes, a steaming cup
Sugar Clouds billowing

Sunday family dinner
Laughing eyes crying

Soil Digging
Spring green glowing

Suits of Sand and Salt
Cottony Clothes and Sandals

Fine tipped pen
Fresh paper calling

Popcorn crunch
tongue, icecream melting
















3/31/14

One Girl Show

"What store are we going to?"  my daughter asked from the backseat as I drove toward the shopping area.  "It's a bookstore, a big bookstore, bigger than our library in town."  As I drove up the aisle toward the store, looking for a space to park the car, I heard, "Ohhhh, I remember this place I think!  It has a play area, can I play?"  I told her, "We don't have lots of time, but I think there will be a little time for play. . . "  

As luck would have it, I found the book I was looking for immediately on the path to the children's section at the back of the store.  My girl held my hand and directed me to the place she remembered, sat me down on a stool nearby and headed for the stage where she first began to dance. . . 



 She was quiet, and I thought she might sing. . . she always sings, well unless she notices me watching in an obvious way.  Today she didn't sing, but I could hear her whisper (yes whisper, I could barely here her the entire time) to people backstage (area behind the tree trunks), to fellow performers and such. . ."Turn the lights off."  her little hand poked a spot on the wall behind the tree.  "ok.". . . "spspsps. . .like that"  "sorry. . .right"  I saw her push the light again and then she danced again, for just a few moments then, "Let's make some space"  "like that" She moved a chair walked around it then moved it again closer to the "tree". . . She ran along the row of benches to backstage and moved swiftly with pointed toes across them again towards me on my little perch.  I mentioned, "It is almost time to go" she replied, "one more dance"  She was looking like she was ready, for something, when I saw her gaze fix on something, someone beyond me in the book browsing area.  


Then as sudden as a whirlwind, whips leaves into the air, the show was over.  A boy, probably about 8 or 9 strode right up on the stage and sat, leaned back, put his feet up on the chair and simply settled in for a good read. . .Lila just looked at me then, and without a fuss, said in a non whisper "Let's go now."  I was still so caught up in the show, I whispered, "Ok. lets get your coat on."  She asked me, "Mom, why are you whispering?"

3/30/14

Sunday Dinner Stories

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.Day 30

Sunday nights are family nights for us, especially during sugaring season.  So after an afternoon of running from tree to tree, or from counter to canner, we clean up equipment and head from the Sugar House to the Supper House, so dubbed by my oldest, back when he was just a little guy.  There we talk our way from the kitchen to the dining room gather round the table to feast on food and stories from the present to the past, and tonight was just one of those nights.

Somehow an exchange took place right at the table that involved knocking on wood, (my oldest son's head was the wood of choice)  then a knocking on engineered wood, (my oldest nephew, the engineer's head)  Of course posturing occurred first from the engineer something like, "Engineered wood is stronger, more versatile, and highly adaptable. . ."  then my eleven year old chimed in, "And Thicker!"  Laughter burst out from all of us adults, then the kids too, probably at us adults.

We revisited the comical moment earlier that day when another nephew phoned mom to see "Am I still on AAA?", "Do you know my number by any chance?" Turns out it was a flat tire, but he had no spare.  He has found his card and was in good shape now.  That reminded Uncle and Auntie about Auntie's flat tire dilemma this fall.  After one tire shredded itself into pieces, all she had was a "space saver" spare, flat of course, and she was in a dead zone with no cell service.  Luckily a policeman stopped and called AAA for her.  She spent the next couple hours waiting all four tires to be replaced, and arrived at her final destination 4-5 hours later than planned.

Then I chimed in, "I had several flats when commuting to North Adams, but every time I was wearing a dress!  What a pain!"  I thought of that day when I saw that snow chunk in the road too late, and it turned out to be not a snowball at all, sharp ice or more likely a sharp rock fallen from the ledge the road was cut from.  I had just crested the top of the mountain and headed down out of the last little wisp of a town into beautiful stretch of curves cut through rock that followed a mountain stream and was overshadowed by tree covered cliffs.  Luckily I was able to pull over tires crunching on the gravelly turnaround, there weren't many safe places to stop on this road, since many who traveled this path felt it made a lovely raceway.  It was cold, and I recall thinking, "Of all the days to be wearing a dress and heels" and I began to recount my adventure. . .

I was not to be deterred, I had no cell back then-- no service there anyway, but my boyfriend (now husband) made sure I knew how to change a flat, though I hadn't actually done it before, I headed to open the hatch and lift the carpet where the spare and tools for the job were hidden.  I got busy jacking up the car, then realized, "Crap this lug wrench is full of ice!  Now what?" so I thought, smacked the wrench on the ground to see if the ice would come out. . .it didn't. . . and thought some more.  Then, Babing!  I knew what to do, I got back in the car, started the engine and got back out, walked around to the tailpipe and held the lugwrench by the hot exhaust to melt.  In just a couple minutes I was in business, except I had to let the car down again so I could loosen the lugnuts, they don't loosen easily when the tire is spinning, and I was cussing myself out for my foolishness, when I saw it, and my heart skipped a beat.  A black windowless van coming around the corner and sweeping in to the turnaround.  I froze for what I hoped was an imperceptible moment and continued at my task.

Out of the van stepped a man with longish graying hair, reminded me a little of Sam Eliot, he offered to help.  I suppose I could have said "no" at this point, I had it almost under control, but I let him finish the task I started, and knew I would have a tale to tell someday.  He remarked at my good luck that it happened near this one turnaround, I babbled about my iced lugwrench fix, while he worked and it wasn't long before we were both on our way, "Bye, thank you for helping." "No problem, drive safe."  I wonder if he ever tells a story at Sunday dinner, of a damsel in distress, in skirt and heels, who had a flat on this dangerous stretch of road on a cold winter day. . .

3/29/14

A House For Hermit Crabs

Lila chose A house for Hermit Crab tonight.  And that moment when Hermit crab leaves his too small shell behind I had a flash of a day this summer, and the ones before when, our family left the lake, for a single summer day at Ferry Beach.  It is a small beach on the edge of a bowl opposite the ramp where fishermen launch and moor their boats.  When the tide pulls out, you can see the way they hollow the sand in that bowl.  Barnacle covered rocks and mooring anchors are exposed  and the shallow water pulls all the boats, chained at the bow, around till they point inland.

This is the best time to arrive, on a morning when the tide is out so there is room to walk with toes sifting through soft, fine sand.  When the tide is in we walk through the water, the narrow strip of beach so full of blankets, babies, buckets and such, no land path remains.  So we walk, carrying or bags and blankets, towels and treats past the piece of beach that parallels the tiny parking lot out to a sandy knoll that overlooks the inlet itself where tidepools wait.                                                                                    


 The kids head right in, eyes in the water, between the crevices and rocks and seaweed, searching for anything that moves. . Hermit crabs are the gold nuggets of this mining expedition.  Joey and Charlie dig a hole and build up the sides on the sandbar, "It's a castle for Hermit crabs!"  They scan and sneak their hands in, trying to be stealthy, and snatch the shells from the water to place them in the castle.  One boy stays on guard to make sure they they have plenty of water, (and don't try to sneak out).  There are short breaks for swimming, sunblock, and snacks, but the kids are steadfast in their mission and proud of their work.  They call me from my warm perch on the now sand scattered blanket to check out their treasure.  We were all circled, squatting, kneeling, backs bent and noses down watching the crabs when we saw it.  The one crab who had decided his shell was a little snug, and it was time to leave his too small shell behind!  "Just like in a House for Hermit Crab!"

Now the mission changed course, "Let's find some empty shells!!"  This was a good plan for Lila who wasn't yet ready to pick up the shells that tickled back with crab legs surprise.  But before long, the shifting sun and tides remind us that time has passed. Another day is done, and we must change. . .out of our suits of sand and salt, and into soft dry clothes and sandals.  Our snacks are gone, it's time for a seafood supper, and a happy tired ride home till next year. . .

These pictures are my best from a few years ago, but we make this trek at least once every year since we discovered this treasured spot.

3/28/14

Took a little Trip Today. . .

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.
A coworker handed me a candy today, about the shape and size of a sweet tart, similar texture.  "They are from England and they are really good."  So I placed it on my tongue and waited, not sour, a little sweet, is that a fizzle?  I didn't even think to ask where she got them, (she hasn't been to England recently) because I was busy taking a trip back in time to sixth grade.  . .

The first picture that came was of those fizz candys that were just a hard candy on the outside, grape or cherry maybe, but they had a not so surprize middle, as the name would suggest.  After working them in your mouth till the outside candy layer was thin, a white fizzy substance would seep out and make my mouth bubble.  Next came the image of pop rocks that created a sensation of mini explosions on my tongue.  We could get them at College Highway Variety along with watermelon Jolly Ranchers and pink lemonade flavored bubble gum.  But that fizz reminded me of pop rocks, and of Jesse.  He sat, a head full of blond curls, in front of me during 6th grade reading class, he was in the front row, me right behind him. Robin was at the desk next to him and Laurie must have been nearby too.

I can still see him turn around to show us his face foaming with laughter and poprocks,  the day he dumped a whole box of rocks, or more in his mouth.  Was it any wonder why Ms. Nathan tried to corall this joyous boy in the front row surrounding him with the "good girls"?  I still laugh at the thought!

3/27/14

Bedtime Ritual

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.Day 27

Smell of shampoo greeted me as a wet head tucked up to my cheek from behind.  I gave my big boy a hug, as my husband only half joked, "How do you get her to stop writing to give you a hug?"  J's reply, "She wasn't writing she was on facebook."  Busted! I had just tucked my baby girl in and turned on the computer, and checked my blogger stats, email, and yes facebook page. . .

Then just as quickly as that little hug, the conversation changed to eyesight, "When we see, it isn't really the objects we see, it is the light reflecting off of them."  This is my eleven year old talking and he could just as easily have tipped the conversation to fishing, or fractions, you just never know. "If the lens is too flat light goes right past the retina, causing farsightedness.  If the lens is too convex light won't make it to the retina, causing nearsightedness."  This is how it works around here, I never know what this guy will choose to share or when, but this is a good time to listen in.  I creak back in my desk chair and watch his hands wave around as if squeezing an invisible beach ball as he talks.

Seconds later my younger son comes out of the bathroom in underwear and dripping hair.  My husband herds the two upstairs, only to lose one, less than a minute later.  The oldest races down the stairs shoulders slightly hunched elbows and knees flying, gives me a sideways glance and sneaks his hand under the coffee table, and hunchy head down elbows flying up the stairs he goes with a crinkly plastic bag of. . . something.

As I write this, my husband has just returned from reading, seems like it was a short read tonight, (he is still upset about yesterday)  The usuall request to come upstairs calls me away for a moment. . . I leave my screen shining, cursor blinking and head upstairs.  I turn first to the youngest.  He is the backscratch King, I scratch every inch, notice his ear is red tonight (he isn't usually the red eared one) as he asks, "You didn't call anyone did you?"  He is worried his Uncle will find out about his blowout tantrum yesterday morning. "No. I haven't called anyone."  He didn't really look relieved, then we exchanged "I love you."'s and a hug.  As I move around the room to another boy, I am thinking our mom and dad tag team talk last night had some effect after all.  He appologized to me about 10 times today.  My oldest rolls over for a backrub, and when I ask if he has been reading the book he just got the other night, he remembers, "Oh yeah I wanted to finish it, can you turn my lamp back on?  Look how far I got last night... "  I am not surprised to see there are probably only about 8 pages unread.  Then more "Love You's" and "Goodnight."

I pad sock footed down the stairs and return to the blinking cursor and here I am again, sitting, tapping keys, and thinking that I should reread the email my middle guy's teacher sent about an issue at school with another student.  C has been a good friend to this likable kid who seems to struggle, alot.  But lately, the boy has been doing things C finds mean.  I think of C's tantrum yesterday and wonder if it had more to do with this on and off friendship than a hat. . .  I know my husband needs to read the words she wrote about our son, the one who gives us headaches at home.  I know I need to remember them when his hard time turns into my hard time.

"Please keep me informed if this continues.  I adore C and admire the amazing person that he is and I  don't ever want him to feel badly especially because he is so incredibly helpful and caring with ___.  He deserves to be treated with utmost respect as he is always such a respectful and giving soul!"

And now as finish reflecting, I post my slice here, and on Two Writing Teachers and I wrap up my bedtime ritual. 

3/26/14

Waiting for Spring. . .

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.Day 26

It is long past January where Great Grammy reminds us, "When the days get longer the cold gets stronger", the cold just keeps holding on and on and on.  It is holding us inside, when we are usually out, it is holding sap in the maple trees and refusing to let go and it feels like it is holding this family in an endless pattern of eternal waiting for spring, for change, for something to give in the attitude of one child in particular of the three. . .

It all started again with a favorite hat, the one he couldn't find this morning, when it was time to leave.  I went back in the house to give a second look around, but that doesn't matter to him, as he screams, "I need my hat! You don't understand!  You don't even care!" on repeat for the entire 20 minute ride, through morning hell.  I stopped the car, opened the door, hopped out and walked to the back of the car.  I opened the hatch careful to push it up, so I don't wap my head when the frozen pistons leave it sagging right at forehead level, and looked in the back pack, the one he already looked in.  This has happened before.  Though I try to look carefully, his hollering continues as I move things and check each pocket, I see nothing of the hat.

I climb back in knowing, this resolved nothing, now he will yell, "Turn around, go back home!!!" on repeat for the eternity of a ride, intermittently with "You don't care!! I hate you!!  I need my hat!!"  I don't have time to go back, I have three kids and myself to drop of at different locations over the next 45 minute ride through neighboring towns, over winding roads, rumbling bridges, and highly synchronized morning traffic.  I know if I can just wait him out, keep my mouth shut and drive, he will cool down.  At the first stop the other two both come in with me, he sends us off with a holler, but is quieter when I return with the oldest.  One down, I can't hold my tongue as tight as I like this morning, and there is no reasoning with this kid when he is cranked.  He sees no overreaction here, it's "MY HAT!!"  I drive on following traffic, signs and a usual path.  Drop off my oldest, he gives me the "I love you" sign with his hand, he knows this is hard on me, and everyone, he is being sweet, I return the sign, toot the horn, put the car into gear, and direct the cherokee toward the next school.

With the others gone, I am firm, this reaction was too big.  The placing of blame, unacceptable.  "I'm sorry but. . ." he says, and I retort, "I'm sorry but (insert excuse) doesn't cut it. . ." He seems to understand, but how can I know?  Despite this serious conversation, when the Jeep bumps down the hole pocked driveway to the school, he is calmer, as I predicted, after the long ride walks to the hatch like I did and pulls out his backpack, waves to me like always, and goes into school.  I am not worried there will be trouble at school.  He's the helpful one at school, everyone knows him, calls his name, he works hard and doesn't complain.

When I pick up the kids this afternoon, things are low key.  Till I mention needing help emptying the dishwasher, and he asks if I looked for the hat. . . "No. I haven't had time to look for the hat."  Everyone piles through the door backpacks, boots, coats piling over each other as only three kids can.  He goes into his backpack for his homework. . . and pulls out a bag. . . in the bag. . is the Hat!  "I found my hat!  I can't believe you didn't find it!  It's all your fault that this morning was bad!!"

 I am still waiting for spring. . .for change. . .for something to give, in the attitude of one child in particular of the three. . .


3/25/14

A Week of Running

The Saturday before last began a long week of running.  Two kids ran to the bathroom, over and over, then I ran, and my husband ran, over and over and over.  In between trips to the laundryroom, my husband and I throughout the week ran my daughter to rehearsals each evening, we ran to dress rehearsal, we ran to dress rehearsals onstage, and show after show after show over the weekend.  Between the sickness and the madness of our schedule, I ran to the store or for a sandwich, I ran home for an hour or less at a time and I didn't even have time to cook a meal till Friday night, (I don't have any memory of what it even was, because right after, we ran Lila to show number one) Between show number 2 and 3 I ran to the grocery store and ran home, my husband ran C to a birthday party.  On our way home from a family dinner Sunday he even ran his chainsaw to cut up a tree lying across the road home . . .

Monday came this week, with no relief from the weekend.  I had my own class that evening, and tonight was "Bingo for books" at my son's school more running.  I am even running for School Counil.  Running, which for me is chaotic enough before I consider the many big and tiny conversations that I don't usually have, lots of car rides and jostles and smiles and crowded places.  There were heaps of not home cooked meals, night after night of not relaxing in the evening before falling into bed, and no no no yoga!

And now I sit to write a slice, my mind is running, but not across anything in particular. . .

My head is full, full of noise, full of voices, full of laughter, cries, whines, and squeaks... full of the aftermath of running through life this week.  I know what I need is a bit of slow, a bunch of quiet, and billions of nothingness. . . So I am still really pretty full of all the noises and bumps and smiles and peopley stuff, and I really feel like I need to release all that, but probably not tonight because right now I must run upstairs and fall into bed, into quiet, into sleep.

3/24/14

Making connections, Foot to floor, foot to brain

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.
My street shoes roll quietly in the door, with me and my bag along for the ride, then stop at the bench where I sit for a moment, while Ruthanne readies the room.  I pull off silent shoes heel first, then rub and bend my feet before wedging them into the snug and soft black leather, pull the laces firm, and tie them tight.  I roll my ankles round and round for good measure and stand to stretch. I make my way to the faux wood floor, and can't help but smile at the crisp tap, tap, tap, tap as I walk.  There must be just a tad of kid left in me because I just love that the shoes tap so clear almost a chime.

Deb arrives, with a friendly hello and begins to change up too.  We chatter about this and that while we stretch and pull one foot at a time back to behind to wake up the front of our upper legs, more ankle rolls, and we are off.  "He's so tired, and he has all this stuff going on all at once. . ."  Tip, tap, tip, tap, tip, tap, toe, heel, toe, heel, tip, tap. . . heel, toe to the front then ticking our way around one oclock, two oclock, three oclock. four oclock, five oclock, and back toward the front, other leg, tip, tap, tip, tap. . . ". . .family is coming all the way from Jersey to see. . . .  .  Let's flap"  We flap, floppy from the knee down, floppy feet fl ap, fl ap, fl ap, fl ap, fl ap, fl ap, fl ap . . . "Does he mind?"  Walk. toe, heel, toe, heel, click, clack, click, clack, . . .flick quick on the toes shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. . .

Before long conversation fades into my mind as we dig into the dance, toe heel toe heel, shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle, toe heel toe heel shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle, Oh whoops am I early or did they forget to turn? keep going.   slap, hop shuffleshuffle, step, slap hop shuffleshuffle, step, stomp tap tappa tappa tap stomp tap tappa tappa tap. . . Whoa!  silent cheer for being on time there. . . I did It!. . .keep going kid!  swoosh, whoops, almost fell over grace.  . . What's next???  Oh yeah like this part. . .smack, weeee the leg goes round, step stomp.. .

Finished a run through, and Ruthanne shows us a new step to add on.  I listen and watch, and ask, "Did she shuffle again, or just a flap then switch?"  "yeah its there but it's quick"   Slap flap tap, ok got that part, but the next?  I can feel my brain stretching!  Yikes. . . this is going to take a while, I know if I can just take a few tries on my own it will come, the sound, the feel, better if I don't watch her, I will be off a beat. . . Before I figure it out, we change gears back to the beginning of the dance, this run through feels more fluid, more in synch, must be some new connections in my feet. . .  in my brain  :)


3/23/14

The Dance of Fives

Slice of Life Day 23:

I thank God my daughter seems to have been born with a wisdom that surpasses mine when it comes to some things.  She cried one day when I picked her up because she told her friend she didn't want to play with puzzles, and her friend walked away upset.  She didn't want her friend to be upset, but she didn't want to play puzzles either.  We talked a little about how to say "no" in a friendly way.  Relief washed over her little face when I told her, "It is never too late to talk to your friend, tomorrow you can let her know you are sorry you upset her."

On the flip side, she is on the other end of this situation this crazy, busy recital week.  She has a friend who acts like a best best friend at school and barely notices her, or even tells her "I won't play with you.", in other situations (like recital time) outside of school, and I know she finds it confusing.

Frankly, I am 42 and I don't understand this stuff, but I have come along way, after 11 years, from my new parent self that might have found solace in judgeing fault in the parent or the other child for this kind of behavior.  Now, after 11 years, I can apply a few bits of knowledge. . .

  1. First and foremost. . .(We need to stick together people!  This parenting stuff is hard!) That means I do not look at parents and wonder what they did wrong.  I know parenting is hard even when we/they do it right, or as right as we/they know how to do at any given moment.
  2. They are five (9, 11, 26. . .you get the idea), and are still learning. . . I have a few years on them and still have not figured it all out.
  3. I know that despite our best intentions, and worst faults our children have the inate ability to delightfully surprise us or shamelessly mortify us at any moment with actions or words that have nothing to do with anything we taught them.  
  4. Sometimes the answer is "no" even when it is a friend asking.

I really don't know how to help my daughter here, so I tell her lamely, "Why don't you go play with your other friends for now. . "

Silent in response, my girl, 5 squeezes my finger, tight, while she watches her friend run and laugh with another. She moved us around, pulled me by the finger for about fifteen minutes (maybe it was 5 but it felt like 15), trying to keep them in sight.  I know.  The way a mother knows. I know that she is secretly hoping to recapture that preshow excitement from the first night, the moment when two girls came together to hold hands, and the others all joined, a serpent of jumping, chanting and laughter. . . Together.  I could tell, last night she was baffled by the calm, and the coloring pages.  Tonight, if I could have read her thought bubble I know it would have said, "Isn't anyone excited?!  Let's laugh and squeal and chant!"  I know, tonight she is still in search of that jolt of energy.

At one point she got an opening to say hi to the little girl she had been bubbling about all the way to this event.  The two girls joined hands, mine jumped excitedly, the other not so much, her gaze trailed off and she was running again, my girl left standing.

But she didn't stand for long.  Somehow, from somewhere, my girl managed to find grace.  She tiptoed to her other friends, joined hands with those girls and smiled shyly for a picture. (far left)

3/22/14

Breakfast Math Lesson-

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It is funny that Stacy mentioned using dialoge in a Slice today, as I had just decided a moment at my breakfast table this morning was post worthy!  

"I only see you guys every other day!"  exclaimed our youngest, five, to her older brothers, when she heard the boys will stay at Uncle Howard's tonight.  Charlie leaned back in his chair with his knee slung over the arm of the chair, his fork waved a piece of ham, as he replied, "Well, actually you see us everyday accept sometimes when we go help with sugaring."  "Yeah,"  Joey chimes in while stabbing another piece of fruit with his fork,  "'Every other day' is a pattern of days Lila, like 1,2,1,2,1,2."  Lila's face lights up, "I know a pattern! Blue, Red, Blue, Red!"  Charlie sits up, "Just so long as it repeats it's a pattern, even this is a pattern", still holding fork up, empty now, "fork, fork, fork, fork, fork,fork,fork,fork. . ." Joey mopped up the last of his egg with a piece of potato pancake, "yeah and ABCDE, ABCDE, ABCDE. ."  Lila holds her hands up in front of her turned to her nearest brother and told us, "I made a pattern at school yesterday!" She poked up her fingers one at a time as she said, "red, orange, yellow, red, orange, yellow, red, orange. . ." till she ran out of fingers.


3/21/14

7:00 The Show Begins

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So I have been taking in the inspirations and ideas that have been posted each morning on TWT, and thought tonight would be a good night to just snapshot an actual moment in time. . . Tonight my daughter was off to her place in the show while I waited, listened, & watched backstage. . . 

Tap dancer tap tap tap taps by then stops, shuffle shuffle goes her shoes, and keeps walking.  Girl in red leaps by and then she leaps legs long again.  Boys horse play, one pulls the fake knee to the groin, they all laugh. Little one by my feet has reappeared. . . to check on her stuffed dog propped against the table leg, and talks to him lovingly.   Bongos beat on a bench seat .  Boys eat. . .apples and gummies. "Ooohhh. She's totally breaking the rules again" says a mom as she b lines across the crowded cafeteria. Puppy girl is back whoops she caught me smiling at her.  Girl donning fluorescents and black rides piggyback on the purple sequined girl.  Those little leopards are still walking about purposefully. Pink poofs practice spinning, one smiling one serious.  Boys run. Tapity tapitty shuffle step shuffle step.  Another mom says,"The show has started now. . ." her voice trails off into the din.

3/20/14

Excitement Built by Girls

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We bustled into to the buzzing room, dancers everywhere, an organized chaos now familiar. Quickly scanned the room for familiar friends and bright pink tutus and zoned into place.  I unpacked the costume while my little girl checked in with friends, then we sped to the changing area, jostled our way in to the crowded space, and jiggled out of streetwear into foo foo and frills.  We squeaked our way back out stepping and squeezing over and around, till we reached the open stretch then zipped back to a holding pattern of giggling girls, gripping and hugging hands.  They chant and "Jump!  Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!" delighted, dancing circles a  glimmering serpent grows hand by hand and speeds up with slips, squeals, hugs. Then, they hear their call.  Suddenly serious they step forward hand and hand, side by side, a synchronous bloom of pink, ready to dance.
Besties begin the chant!



3/19/14

Bedtime and Ramona the Brave and Me

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.
I hearded the boys to their room where J turned on his light to read about a crochet stitch he wanted to try, and C snuggled into his quilt, just his head poking out. . . I grumble good naturedly about the mess, hold up a pair of underwear J swears, "They're clean mom!" and I toss them and tell him, "You check."  He laughes, and replies "They smell like laundry detergent!" as they fly into the open drawer.  Trying not to let their room drive me crazy, I settle onto the unofficial reader's pillow on the floor between the two beds, open up Ramona the Brave to "Owl Trouble" and read.

When the class pulled out paper bags to decorate as owls, I felt zapped by Ramona, such a connection! Was I that girl?  Oh, how it drove me crazy when another child copied and the teacher didn't notice, or worse. . .PRaised their work!  I grew up with Ramona, though I scarecly recall reading her books as a child, in that age of "no tattletales", "no copycats" teachers who never seemed to notice me, unless it was for something I didn't do. . .The one time I recall being noticed for doing something a teacher liked, it somehow felt just as humiliating.  I read the chapter tweaking my voice to sound a little dumber than Susan might have deserved, but I don't care for copycats either, I am with Ramona on this one for sure!  If I was brave enough that day, I may have thrown my owl away too. . .Ok. I was a bit too timid to really be Ramona.  I read on to the end, and when Ramona looked in her new mirror of her new room. . . "Ramona thought of herself as the kind of girl everyone should like, but this girl. . ."  Sigh, there I am again.

I lie here on my kids floor a split second I am, 6 with that mean teacher who didn 't seem to care about what was right as much as she wanted to avoid tattletalers and copycats.  Pressure built, when she yelled at me for writing on my desk, only it wasn't me, our desks got switched.  I actually ran like Ramona out of school, my six year old self screamed "I hate you"and I ran.  Why did school have to feel so hard back then?  Is it still this hard for our kids?  I know, if I listen to the stories my boys tell, it is.  It is just as hard, but usually for other reasons, teachers have come a long way.

I scanned and reached around for the bookmark, but it had strangely disappeared.  The page was already folded over, J read this chapter already.  So I placed the book into the old school desk that C tucks with books and stuff.  I stood, stretched than leaned against C's bed to scratch every inch of C's back, just like he likes, then gave J a shoulder rub, he was engrossed in that crochet stitch and wouldn't notice anything else right now.  Saying "Goodnight! Sleep Well."  I flicked off the overhead light, C smiled and I headed for the stairs, still thinking about Ramona, and me.

3/18/14

A Story about a Fairy Dust Morning

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There must have been a squall, but all I could think was, "It's a fairy dust morning, fairy dust morning, fairy dust morning. . . "  Repeating the words like a mantra I rushed to find the pants my husband was looking for and set them on a chair where he would see them.  I hauled the boys' sheets down to the laundry, flump, slam, click, glug, whoosh, and bustled upstairs with another basket.  Repeating in my mind, "It's a fairy dust morning. . ." while noise of a family filled weekend morning faded into the background of my consciousness.  I grabbed my notebook, my pen, and slipped to the window to watch, to wait, and to write.

The poem came quickly. . .

Fairy dust morning
Silver sun sneaking through pine boughs
Sprinkling sparkles
Sun kissed saplings
Criss crossing
cold swirls twinkling among the trees
Across the yard
A gift
A poem
A fairy dust morning

Then, I was reminded of another day.  It was a day a lot like this one, but without the clutter of children and chores to distract me.  Long ago, with a backpack tucked with pencils and square slips of paper, a water bottle and wool blanket.  It had been ages since I had sketched, but I was prepared.  I entered the woods. . .
It was slow walking through the snow past the old stone chimney standing sentry.  I took a moment to acknowlege, a silent nod, and keep on, this spot is too close to the road, to travelers, to the real world.  I crossed a little bridge over a brook.  The light, wondrous in the woods today, a luminous dappling on snow and ice covered branches, rocks and half rotten logs.  It was a quiet walk, snow crunching softly, loosened by the sun, beneath my feet and only snowfleas unsettled on the surface to keep me company.  I stopped to marvel at how quickly they danced on cold crystals.  Knowing I could not capture their magic with my pencil, I moved further up a knoll, I would know when the place was right. . .

Then there it was, a welcoming log frozen into the snow, a patch of sun warming this glorious spot surrounded by nothing. . . but forest.  All was quiet while I settled onto the warm wool and leaned against the log, pencils, paper ready, I took a sip of icy water and just looked all around me, at everything, and I waited.  Light glittered, illuminating ice traced branches, and the world seemed to shimmer magically around me as I disappeared, still.  This is the spot.  Soon the winter birds come in fluttering and flitting like sprites, a squirrel chattered back, tail twitching a few trees away.  I am forgotten.

They are here in this enchanted place.  Twinkling sparks of light on limbs and crystals of snow that surround me.  I can feel their gift and begin to slide my pencil around a square of paper tentatively at first.  Then intuition guides me.  I sketch the magic of a quiet morning in the forest where snowfleas dance and sprites and fairies leave precious gifts.  I sketch light, and line and a love of this moment, in hopes that I can wrap them gently and take them home to treasure.  

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the glistening frost slowly gave way, snowfleas no longer danced, and I had sketched my fill for the morn.  I rolled up my wool and tucked into my pack and smiled a thank you to the magical ones who shared a gift with me today.  Then I walked taller out of the woods, off the knoll, across the brook, past the old stone chimney standing sentry.  Back to the road I walk, toward travelers, the real world, and home. . .

Yes.  This was another one of those days.  A fairy dust morning, a fairy dust morning, a fairy dust morning. . .They left me a gift enchanted with magic.  I am wrapping it up here to pass along to you.


The memories of that morning are attatched carefully to pink paper, bound loosely with smooth ribbon, placed in a basket of other lovelies for safe keeping

  

3/17/14

Fairy Dust Morning- Poem

Slice of Life Day 17



I have a story about this day, but have a nasty stomach bug and can't sit up long enough to type it in, hopefully tomorrow.

Fairy dust morning
Silver sun sneaking through pine boughs
Sprinkling sparkles
Sun kissed saplings
Criss crossing
cold swirls twinkling among the trees
Across the yard
A gift
A poem
A fairy dust morning


3/16/14

Day 16- Growing Slices


Slice of life post # 16, wow! second half has begun, Today I decided to write about the ways I noticed my kids (my own and from school) suddenly seemed more grown up this week.  

This weekend I sat rocking in the sun with a cup of tea, spiced chai with a dash of milk, steaming in my hand. I was home on sick duty, while my husband and oldest were out.  Charlie was sleeping again, Lila was coloring and singing while watching PBS, and I had this quiet space, on a sunny in the house day, to reflect.  I realized there were several moments this week when I noticed one of "my" kids doing something they hadn't done before and I ticked off a list in my head.


  • Lila, 5 put her own pony holder in her hair working hard with her fingers to keep it from tangling, and it was "all by myself" not "selth".  I sighed when I heard it, another babyism gone by the way of forward growth.
  • M, 3 jumped with 2 feet at the same time and when I reminded him to share the dinosaurs with friends he didn't scream "no!", he said "ok."  
  • Ch, 9.5 had a stomach bug and never once called me in the middle of the night even though he was up several times.  
  • J, 11 stayed at Aunt and Uncles without his brother for the first time.  
  • S, 4 opened her milk carton by herself after trying and trying.  
  • Ca, 4 ish joked  and talked with me every day this week instead of looking at me silently.  
  • H, put on his coat without waiting and asking for unneeded help.  
  • B let me help her without stubborn refusal. 
  • K focused on making letters out of playdough for a loooong time.  
  • Jr 4 learned to catch a ball really well and throw it back to me.  
  • M, G, and L solved their own problem at recess, all I had to do was ask, "what could you change?"
  • Ja, 4 I sang a line or two from "Sweet Baby James" and James said to me in good natured exasperation, "Miss Amy I'm not a baby" 


Gazing at the way the sun almost shines through some of the thick waxy leaves of the plant nearby, an idea dawns, these kiddos are growing up as I sit and type, and go about my day in many various ways.  I am concious, it is not a new idea, but that moment of being fully aware when it happens tingles my skin. . .and these are just the very small moments I saw!  "Imagine the moments I may have missed!" my voice in my head exclaims.  Then I envision how these small moments will continue to grow.   My fantasy, in this moment, is that this is a slice full of mini slices waiting to grow into full sized slices.  Each individual will multiply into several, many tightly bound wedges full of juice, full of flavor, bound with fibers, a seed here or there, round and full. . .


3/15/14

A "Freshman Project" Remembers

I was the "Freshman Project."  I had the misfortune fo being assigned to a high school lunch period bare of my usual friends.  For weeks, I dreaded midday and the prospect of walking into a room filled with unfamiliar faces and full tables. . . till I met B.  She took me in, after confering with her friends, tablemates, fellow juniors, and it was not long before I was affably being referred to as their "Freshman Project".  They joked with me about it daily, as it was a 'risk' to take in a Freshman.  One friend cautioned, "What if you do something foolish to draw attention to our table?"  We seemed to share the same goal of staying off the radar of tormenters and bullies and anyone who might cause us grief, so the arrangement worked out.  They even taught me where the safe bathroom was, after I unknowingly caused a raukous walking into the "smoking room" and one of them saved my butt, with a casual, "She's cool. . ."

B was the one though who really befriended me.  I think they all did, but she is the one who would call me up, she had a mission her favorite shampoo is on sale at Caldor's, or her Dad would like some icecream.  Sometimes we would just hang out at her house.  She lived at the other end of my street in an old farmhouse like the kind I can imagine in a painting nestled among maple trees with the sun dappling its white symetrical facade with one big door in the middle that noone ever used.  I loved going there, parking my bike next to her dad's station wagon in the yard, I would head toward the kitchen door that opened into the past.  Her mom was always in the kitchen where a huge cast iron, wood burning cookstove dominated the right side of the room.  Cookware hung overhead from iron hooks.  Wide wooden beams above and creaky floorboards beneath our feet embraced us while we talked, surrounded by shelves of cookbooks, nic knacks, and the history of an old house.

As the year went on we spent more time together, driving through Hamp, listening to music with the windows down, (and heat on if it was chilly), and laughing about the sights in the college town.  We went to the beach, she was always good at gathering a group of people together, and always always to get an icecream for her Dad, (us too of course).  Sometimes we would just "hang out" and listen to music, Madonna, Elton John and Chicago were some of our favorites.  She dreamed of getting married one day to the sound of Chicago, maybe "You're the meaning in my life. . . ", while the sun shone through the metal blinds in her room with her very tall old bed, with a rolling chest below, and all the paraphanalia of a teenage girl of the 80's.  This Freshman Project was even invited to a New Year's Eve of music, laughter, and George Carlin imitations, (which won't be repeated  on such a wholesome blog as this!)

We remained friends after she graduated high school two years later.  She would call when she was home from college.  I even made a few treks up to her college dorm.  Boys began to get in the way, monopolize our time.  She wrote me letters when i went off to school, but I was terrible at melding my two lives and keeping up with both while doing schoolwork.  I had a dreadful boyfriend at the time, and wish I had talked to her about him.  I am sure she would've said he wasn't worth it, and it could have saved me a troublesome two years.  But instead, I just faded away from the hometown and street that brought us together, and didn't look back.  Only, I did look back, and do look back, and think to myself about what became of an old friend.  I even thought of inviting her to my own wedding, it was not really big, but we promised we would be there for each other one day.  It was so long ago. . .I worried she wouldn't remember. . . Still sometimes I wonder still if she ever thinks about the Freshman Project.



3/14/14

Friday or the Sun?


Is it just because it is Friday afternoon?  Or has the sun steadily crept high enough, stretched the days and strengthened long enough to reach into our house and shake us awake and pull us out of the darkness of a long cold winter?  We are a family of five and lately this house has been shadowed by a subtly increasing change in dispositions, that has left us all cross, and crabby.  Bickering boys and a grumpy girl picking and pestering, imapatient and impertinent.  At each other, not with each other.  Not just the children, if I am honest, each and every one of us has been submersed in a season of suffering.

Today, in that blinding second, like when the sun bursts over the lake on a clear morning, there was a sudden and undeniable shift of techtonic proportions in our whole family.  Smiles and silliness replaced sullen and snippy for our ride home today as the kids inexplicably investigated the contents of their backpacks to delicious delight, that only a combination of clean underwear. . . "Underwear?!!", month old candy, and clods of clay could seemingly arouse.  At dinner, C once again resembled a relaxed and happy child we recalled from some distant past.  His genuine smile was wide and reaching all the way to his eyebrows crooked with charm. J and L were giggling geese, goofing around and getting along superbly.  L and I danced then Daddy played.  I did yoga to the blaring sound of old CD's, Alabama and Aaron Tippin, spun by my number two son, and laughter from the livingroom. . .first time for everything.  My little girl wiggled beneath my downward dog and squealed "Hug me!"  and I did.

It is Friday.  The sun is high.  The sap will surely run tomorrow after a long cold winter.  Spring is on it's way and it already stopped at our house for a while sprinkle some cheer and good faith.



3/13/14

Late Bloomer: A Map, An Idea, A Thank You!

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I have a heavy black artist notebook with thick, clean white pages where I write ideas, beginnings, thoughts and such.  Today I began drawing a map of my childhood home and surroundings, and it occurred to me,. . 

"I think I might have been a late bloomer."  The world was small for me, for a long time.  In some ways it still is. I knew then and probably still know now, how to keep it that way when I need to.  As a child I built a home in my closet with pillows and dixie cups of life saver flavored water, butter rum was my favorite.  I liked to rock in the alcove with a good book.  I built forts with my brother out of couch cushions and an autumn colored afghan.  Even at school, one of my happiest memories was when my desk was scrunched over by the bookshelf with a friend or two, and a notebook to hide behind.  Even as we got older I stayed nearby for my big college disaster, small college success, while my brother trekked back and forth across the country.



As a little girl, I rarely ventured from our yard lined with tall spruce and hedgerows on either side.  Our backyard was home to enormous lilacs hugging our house, a swingset and a little red sandbox with a wavy, white roof, my grampa built. Out front a narrow sidewalk looped from a larger one along the road to our door and connected to our driveway.  One of the two patches of green was punctuated by the single large maple tree.  I spent my days peddaling around our circle of sidewalk, hanging upside down, or swinging on our purple pipe framed swingset, watching the clouds go by.  As we got older, my brother headed for the woods behind us, across the neighbor's field, to ride dirtbike or head to his friend's house by way of the crow.  I read, watched television, or enjoyed sun and swimming.  I even climbed the maple tree. . .eventually.  Still, my brother roamed, I held the fort.

In time I ventured by bicycle further and further till I realized I could bike to a friend's house across town, and still live.  But it wasn't till I was in college or later, when I had one of those realizations, like when a child realizes how tiny the "giant" riding horse toy from her childhood really is.  I took a walk one day, a familiar route down my street, where I biked often, but when I got to the place where the sidewalk ends, the place where I usually turn into a little maze of a neighborhood and backtrack home, I kept walking.  It was no surprise where the road would lead.  I had been that way too many times to count, by car, by schoolbus, even by bicycle to that friend across town. I had never walked it though, always imagining in my mind it would take the whole day to make the circle back to a main road, the far end of  Main Street, then through town past the library, the grocery, Town Hall, the bank on the corner, over the bridge and back up the near end of my Street.  So I walked that day and in just half an hour I reached the library, and in 15 more minutes I was home!  I wondered to myself then, how did I live here all my life and never know the library, my town, was just a short walk away?

As I sit here now, I think of Roald Dahl's Matilda, and the litte girl who walked to the library at age 4? or 3? and I laugh at myself a little.  I wonder if I just didn't have the need to escape like Matilda did, or perhaps it was just my way of keeping my world small for all those years? Maybe I was just a late bloomer.  Far away lands are still not really on my to do list, though they are on my reading list.  My brother is off on another adventure beginning a new career in a new state.  I am still within 40-50 miles of Home. I am highly trained in early literacy, but still learning how to write.  My town is small, but it really would take several hours to walk to the library from my house even by way of the crow.  My children will never walk to school from home.  Despite all this my world is bigger than before and I am reminded of this as I read  the words of other teachers who write, and slicers who slice.  I am reminded of this as I continue to grow, out into the world with you all. Thank you!

3/12/14

Another Morning

Slice of Life_classroom image Black
Rippling river
Mist swirls . . .wisps
frosty branches glisten
dawning lustrous lucence
out of the grey
Banks, boulders
bear snow blankets
disregard me
I pass by

3/11/14

Headache

A dull throb is washing over my head. . . again.  I drive silently in the chaos that is my children, cramped in a car, afterschool.  We bump up the muddy driveway with a splash.  I close my eyes for a moment when I shut off the Jeep. Inside supper is on the stove, husband stirring a sauce hears my tone of voice, "Mom doesn't sound happy."  "They were good." I say, "but my head is killing me."  After hanging up my coat I perch on the stool and try to listen, but soon retreat to the couch.  The pillow, tucked just right is a relief.  I drape my arm acrossed my forehead, the pressure of it seems to soothe.  Soon the voices of my family fade away, like the radio when I am busy, I don't hear their words can't focus on them, but the sound is a comfort. . . 

3/10/14

A Sweet Tradition

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The unusually severe cold has the season beginning a bit later than usual this year.  The birds of spring began singing two weeks ago.  There is still snow, yet the sun is higher in the sky, and we no longer eat dinner in the dark.  The trees know it is time, the sap is in them, but the clouds and cold are slowing the process.  So we set up and wait, for the sun to do it's handywork. The boys come in with cheeks flush and red ears of genuinely tired children after carrying buckets and covers clanging along roadsides and through groves most of this first warmish day.

Charlie is relaxed, without a hint of the anxiety that often travels just beneath his skin and in the creases in his forehead lately.  His smile genuine and relaxed, and eyes bright and blue today.  He is confident this year, taller, stronger, and he knows the routine.  When his Uncle asks him to grab him a fitting or spigot, he knows to pull a handful from the pail and fill his pocket.  He has heard the stories, threads and tales and now he is a part of that, and Joey too, both joking and working with the rest as if they'de been setting buckets longer than they have lived, it's in their blood.

For generations, grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, brothers and cousins, generations of our family have looked forward to the first hint of spring that usually arrives weeks before the apple blossoms, robins or even the crocus known to poke itself up through a snowcover.  Great grands gathered pails of sap on a route through the woods with a team of horses, and boiled sap with babies sleeping snug and warm below the arch till the wee hours of the night as they tended to the art of syrup making.

It is a busy season that keeps our minds off the dingy snow and cheerless muck that many lament this time of year.  Quiet plunking will fade to silent bucket filling drops and clouds of smoke and sweet will billow from the sugar house.  When I open the door I know I will be met with a smooth sweet smell of maple.  The warm syrup will fill my tongue with an, almost, buttery sweetness, and candy will melt in my mouth.  I picture Lila this year perched on the brown stool beside her Auntie and on her knees, stretched to watch the turning of the candy machine and filling of the molds.  My sugar princess lives for maple candy.

When the business of sap collecting and syrup making is done the sun will be stronger, heating no-sleeved arms and coaxing buds out of branches.  My children will be filled with stories old and new.  They will be intertwined in them more tightly than the year before and the generations of our family will continue weaving the tradition of Sugaring.  For now though. . .we wait.


3/9/14

Day 9: Poem of my morning

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.


Wind bites cheeks, noses
Sun behind,
steps in shadows
little hand in mine
we sing

3/8/14

Flip Side: Children's Behavior

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As a parent, it can be a huge relief when we send our kids off to spend time with someone else, and upon their return we find that they actually have been listening to everything we have been telling them for the last 5, 9, 11 years or so.  If you are a parent you know what I mean.  Our boys cannot seem to make it through a day, hour, sometimes minute without making a rude noise or comment or starting or perpetuating a petty argument, or blowout fight lately.  Then, we send them to my brother in law, and he raves, "Those kids were awesome!  They were polite, they worked hard, it was so much fun to have them around!"  My husband and I haven't seen their awesome side in maybe a month now, so it is with mixed feelings that we receive this news. --Ok. . . they do hear us.  But, why the heck don't they hear us. . . for US!!!

A similar situation occured today at a kid party that my daughter was invited to at a local bowling alley, but a bit different.  It was my husband who reported to me two weeks ago, "Wow!  She was so independent.  She said to me, 'Dad, I am going to find my friends now.' and off she went.  I watched her the whole way chatting with people she knew till she found her friends at the other end of the room."  So today, I figured, "We are golden" . . . If you know kids well, you know this was my first mistake.  So we arrive at the alley, and my daughter has somehow transformed into. . . da.  . da. . da. . . VELCRO girl!  She will not stop hanging off my arm or whining (who knows what, over the loud music)  And after spending the last two weeks of animated anticipation of this event she tells me, "I just want to be with YOU mommy!"  Sigh...

Both of these scenarios have a common thread of a child acting one way with a particular person, or setting, and another way with someone else.  And to sew this thread into my thoughts on teaching, I think it is somewhat common for this fact of life with children to go overlooked by teachers or other school staff.  I know that when my oldest son was struggling with behavior issues at his old school, the principal looked at us his parents as somehow creators of his misbehavior.  I took him to task for this by reading Ross Greene's words from Lost at School at a team meeting (or two)  I don't have the book in front of me now, but the idea came from a couple pages near the beginning that pshawed common assumptions that people make about kids who misbehave, one of those was that the parents were not teaching them the right way to behave.

On the other side of the fabric, my second son behaves fabulously at school, he is a great student, he is helpful to everyone and respectful to adults.  When, at conference time I mention difficulties at home, the teacher gives that look without words, "couldn't be, what are you doing at home?"  What I hear is that my son, "Is out of the 50's and behaves how children used to behave."  At home though, every little thing that he "let ride" at school, he saves up for us.  He is an anxious, worried, sometimes hateful mess of a kid, who takes all his frustrations out on his family.

It is exhausting whether you are parenting one of these kids or teaching them.  But wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone stopped looking at children's behaviors and misbehaviors as some kind of static, predictable, all or nothing thing and realize that there are so many, many variables that affect how children behave with different people, in different settings, and at various times or days.  I think it would go a long way toward parents and teachers collaborating as a team of support for children and each other, and that can only work to improve the learning experience.

3/7/14

Bring a Spark


WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.

I am exhausted.  I just about fell asleep reading to the boys, which never happens, tonight.  I don't feel like I should be so tired, so I am frustrated.  I lolled through 30 minutes of yoga for today, and just peeled myself off my mat to come sit in front of the too brilliant screen of my computer.  The thoughts I had earlier in the day, jotted in my notebook nearby, feel like jibberish right now.  I am not motivated, maybe tomorrow they will make sense. . .  So, to further delay my writing, I upload a photo of said notebook, but then since it takes longer than I expected, my brain begins to defog and I start to think about what I was planning to write tonight, and as always I look for connections, new ways to make sense of things.


Tonight's tired is not your ordinary run of the mill tired.  It is that kind of exhausted feeling I get when someone has sucked the life out of me.  I was wondering about the sociology of the middle child earlier tonight and pondering whether something about his place in our family is influencing his behavior lately, because he has been draining all of us here at home with his unprecedented drama in the last few weeks.  I notice that same phrase, "suck life out", is in my notebook,  but it is in regards to teaching. In my transition from stay at home mom back into the school environment I have noticed some of the teachers I have met bring an amazing life to teaching, while others seem to suck the life out of the school.  Maybe the profession sucked it out of them first and they just morph into a human black hole, whatever the case, it is tiresome.

Over the past couple years I have met some amazing teachers in different districts around us.  Some of them bring sparks to their teaching.  My son's third grade teacher excitedly shared an idea she came up with one day for writing, and raved about her fellow team teachers who she has connected with this year, unlike any other year.  "It's so motivating!"  I know that working with the right people makes a huge difference, because I have shared the comaraderie of a school community all working for a common cause.  I have also worked where it feels like keeping a positive mindset is the hardest part of the job, because whereever I turn there's someone complaining, or griping, or going about the job of teaching as if it is a chore and not a gift.   They ask, "Is is Friday yet?" on Tuesday, and not so secretly wish for certain children to be out that day, everyday.  That is the kind of environment that burns lots of fuel for little results, and sucks the life out of people who want to love the job.

I know I want to work in a place where teachers are sparklers who bring light and fun to life.  Where teachers raise eyebrows, tap fingers together and joke, "This problem is Evil!  There is a trick!"  I want to work with people whose infatuation with books fills their classroom and their teaching, overflowing into everything.  I want to work where kids flock around the teacher on the way out to dismissal as she while she plays word games with them right up to the last minute.  I seek laughter and love of children, respectful and replenishing comraderie, coffee or a coke for a coworker.  I hope to be recharged, not drained by school and staff. . .and family ;)  I hope to bring a spark of my own.