Sunday, March 31, 2019

With a Grateful Heart

I don't have anything deep or profound to write today.  Except that I am deeply and profoundly grateful to The Two Writing Teachers and this community for allowing me to be a part of this challenge.  I have about forty tabs opened in my browser of blogs to re-read and revisit.  It has been an absolute pleasure!

In some ways it seemed a bit easier this year, almost over before I felt the pressure to write.  In years past I have struggled with writing each day, but this year...not so much.

I post tonight with a grateful heart and renewed spirit.  I did it!


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Since Last March

Usually, I use this community to inspire me, and they always do, inspire.  However, this year, I have found myself not really borrowing formats from anyone.  I'm disappointed in myself on that part of the challenge this year.

So today, I'm changing that!  I love this format that I discovered today at Reflect.Write.Share, and she lists the genealogy of the post all the way back to Fran McVeigh last year.  How fun!  And here goes...



Since last March I’ve been to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, where my sister moved to live,
Oklahoma, where she has been for 5 years now,
Oklahoma, where the prairie winds blow and there are still buffalo roaming,
Oklahoma, where I like to visit, and the people seem extra friendly.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma, home to free range bison.  It's worth your time to visit.

Since last March, I’ve turned 39.
39 and I told various people three times in December that I was 38.
39 and in denial, one reason being my mom (in my head) is in her 30s, so how can I be in my 30s?
39 and a mom to four boys and married for almost nineteen years.
39 until September – almost 40!  Where is my life going?
On the trip to Oklahoma this summer, I brought a bunch of tomatoes to work up, three kids, and my mom.  Before I could make it to my sister's house, I added a six-foot-long metal catfish to the mix.  It was from a great shop in Pawhuska, The Bucking Flamingo.

Since last March, I’ve said good-bye.
Good-bye to comparing myself.
Good-bye to social media that leads me to jealousy or self-loathing.
Good-bye to looking outside my circle of control.
Good-bye to unnecessary stress.
This past summer my husband and I vowed to renew our focus on our family.  We spent time together and time with our extended family, as well.  It has been rewarding and refreshing, feeling more like "us" than we have in years.

Since last March, I’ve said hello.
Hello to new co-workers and colleagues.
Hello to new professional structures and expectations.
Hello to still growing and learning as a teacher, leader, coach.
Hello to each day.
This...

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Friday Feels

I hit the panic bar on the exterior door with both hands, making the metallic parts slam together and clang.  Smiling as the partial sun meets my eyes, J is telling me about his day and something funny.  We both take a deep breath of spring air and head down the concrete stairs to the parking lot.  I've parked in the row closest to the sidewalk today.  We open our doors and climb into the Suburban.

We're inching closer to the freedom of the weekend with the feeling of a Friday afternoon floating around us.  This morning it was foggy, but after the on and off rain of the day, it has turned out to be a pretty nice afternoon.

I turn the keys in the ignition and start the engine.  A colleague and her girls walk in front of the car, and I roll down the window to talk to them.  I ask about weekend plans, and we talk about housework we all need to do.  "Did you girls know you were all matching?  Was that a plan or did you all just happen to put the same shirt on today?" I notice and wonder.

"It was school spirit wear day...Didn't you make the calendar?" my friend asks, confused.

Ha!  Well, I'm a dork.  "Oh, yeah!  Obviously, I forgot.  Thank goodness it's Friday!" is about all I can say for myself, chuckling about my obliviousness.  Then I wave, roll up the window, and back the car out of its spot.

We're all off toward the weekend.  TGIF!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Maybe I Could Write About...

I'm stuck.  It's getting late, and I'm stuck.

I had plans to write an ode to coffee telling you about my great, deep love my favorite drink.

The little guy said something super cute.  I didn't write it down.  I wish I could remember what it was because I really wanted to write about it.

There was a small crisis with son #2, but it's a little too fresh.  I wish I was ready to write about that...

My husband suddenly developed a tickle in his throat and coughed from 2:00am until we got up to start the day.  It's been a bit of a rough one.  I could write about that, but I'm too tired.

The oldest boy's two best friends both have parents who are having problems.  My boy is talking about it, and I love him for it.  If I could get into the moment, I would write about it.

It was a great day overall, which I didn't expect with the night we had.  I would love to write tell you about it, but I don't have a good bit to share that would illustrate the whole.   

Our third grader claimed to be the favorite son tonight as he dipped up his ice cream.  It was funny, but I don't exactly remember the details, and I have too little brain power to make them up.  I won't try to write about it.

So, it is day 28, and I am stuck.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

This House

This house is full of life, brimming and sometimes overflowing.  Tonight, though, the two older boys were off doing extra curricular activities, the two little boys were outside with their dad and the dog doing lawn maintenance things, and I was inside...all by myself.  It is rare and weird.  So, this is what I noticed.

This house is still and quiet when everyone is out.

This house is noisy and full when everyone is in.

This house is older than most in the area.

This house is full of character, and most of the time, characters.

This house is open and airy and light.

This house is a unique tri-level, modeled after a mountain cabin.

This house was built by our next door neighbor when he was planning to begin a family.

This house has raised seven boys, three of theirs and the four of ours.

This house is mostly brown, inside and out.

This house is our home, our base, our safe place.

This house is ours for the last 16 years today. 

I didn't think of the anniversary until looking at the date just now.  How cool!  We love our house, its location, and the neighbors!  We are blessed beyond measure to be raising our family here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Good Night

"Mommy, I need to put my blankets on by myself," the little calls from his room.  As I lay my computer down, I push myself off of my bed back into a standing position.  Then cross the hallway to the little man's room.

"Do you want me to cover you up?  Or do you want to do it yourself?" I ask, not sure if he knows what he is saying.  The lights are out, but with the nightlight I can see his teeth gleaming in a smile.

"You do it," he answers, laying his legs out flat and raising his arms to keep them on top of his blankets.

"Do you want the white blanket first or the gray one?"

"Um...the white one," he says.  "I want a song," he adds before I can slip off again.  He is still smiling and looking quite a ways from falling off to sleep.

I start in with "The Wheels On the Bus".  He is grinning, but not making the motions like he does most nights, maybe he is sleepy.  I keep singing, low and soft.  By the time I get to the windows verse he is closing his eyes in long blinks.  Then as the verse with the baby crying comes up, he opens his eyes wide again, as if renewed by the idea of a screaming baby on a bus.

"The mamas on the bus sing, shhhh-shhhh-shhhh..." I whisper sing now in hopes of lulling him toward sleep.  His big smile fades a bit to a grin by the time the verse is over.  I close with the wheels all through the town and he is satisfied with the song.

"Good night, buddy.  I love you," I whisper to him with one more kiss.

"Good night, Mommy," he whispers back, slowly enough I know he will stay in bed this time.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Get Some Exercise

I promised myself I would get back on the treadmill after spring break.  It doesn't have to be anything crazy, just walk, put in a little work.  I'll feel better for doing it, I know.

The kids have been fed, so that's done.  They are outside playing in the last bits of daylight.  Todd went to town to pick up the oldest from his school event.  If I get with it now, I might have forty minutes.

Up the stairs while pulling my shirt over my head, I change clothes quickly.  My walking shoes are on the lowest closet shelf behind two pair of boots, indicators of the long, inactive winter.  I hook them onto my fingers and head back downstairs.

After sticking my head out the patio door to check on the boys, I hop onto the machine and press the start button.  A trail from Mongolia pops onto the screen, and I'm instantly walking in the mountains...or the valley between the mountains anyway.

Less than two minutes in and the boys tear through the storm door, talking over each other and laughing about something I've been left out of.  "Where is G?" I ask without turning around.  It's been a while, so I'm not feeling confident or agile on the treadmill.  I won't be looking around.

"He's coming in," the middle boys reply, barely giving me a sideways glance.  They continue into the house and downstairs, discarding their shoes on the way despite my directions otherwise.

"Boys?  Hello?" I can hear them talking and messing around in the basement.

I smack the red STOP button.  It's frustrating because I didn't even have time to get my earbuds in or choose any music for that matter.  I pull on my freshly tied strings, toe-to-heel each shoe off, and slip on some flip flops. 

Out the door and up the hill to play with the little.  I'll have to get my exercise out here with him.  At least he is cute and smiling to see me.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Big Job Made Easy

We are some of those people who dream of a lawn full of trees.  Are you in our crowd? 

Well, it's a people of dreamers.  Trees are expensive.  Installing trees in an established yard is a big, lengthy job.  Which make it an expensive job also. 

However, if you are lucky enough to know of the location of some cheap forestry, you might be able to talk your husband into digging a gigantic hole and planting a sapling that will look just like you imagined (in about 10 or 15 years).

I am one of the latter crowd.  We have a fence row of trees that could use some space to grow to their full potential, but digging up a tree, even a small one, and replanting it somewhere fabulous would take way too much work.

Today, though, we happened into a very fortunate situation.  The next door neighbor brought home a mini excavator to do some landscaping work in his yard.  He offered it to us, because he was keeping it all week.  We decided to take advantage of the proposition.

My husband and I walked out to the treeline and chose a good size pin oak that had a couple of smaller trees of to either side.  Then the neighbor dug the tree up in a matter of minutes, being sure to get the roots as best he could.  We used our tractor to transport the tree to the front yard. 

After that, my husband brought the excavator to the front yard and used the bucket to dig a four or five foot hole.  What he did in minutes would have taken us an hour or more to do by hand.  It was amazing.  The power and ease of the excavator was something to witness.  I still can't believe it.  I think it was four scoops of the bucket and we were ready to place the tree.

After attaching a chain to the bucket of the excavator and wrapping the trunk in towels, we placed the tree in the hole, turning it and positioning it until it was just right.  Todd used the excavator bucket to push dirt back in the hole while the oldest boy and I used shovels to help fill in gaps.  D said, "

The whole project was finished within an hour.  We celebrated with a high five (my husband and I are nerds like that) and smiles all around.

There is no way we would have ever been able to afford a tree like this from a nursery or landscaping company.  It is a lovely thing.  This tree will always be a bit more special because we planted it ourselves...almost by hand.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Perfect Saturday Night

We're always busy.  We've got four boys to run after and run around.  It takes a village and all that.

BUT tonight is a perfect Saturday night.  We are all at home...together.  I've made popcorn.  The sound of it calling to the boys like a siren of good times a 'comin.  We've gathered in the living room, it's smell an aroma of joy clouding around us.

I hand the big, stainless steel bowl to my husband, and he nestles it in between us as I assume my spot next to him.  Everyone waits for what comes next, a movie?  some TV series we've never tried?  an old favorite revisited?  I was secretly hoping for a glass of wine and an early bedtime, but now I'm as into as any of them.

I look around the room at the faces of those I love most, and I'm happy, so very elated that we are here together on this perfect Saturday night.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Fishing Can Cause Frustration

This afternoon I found myself helping son #2 with his fishing line.  He had bird-nested the line and decided it was easier to cut it and start over.  He was beyond frustrated with himself trying to tie the leader line to the fly line. 

If I'm being honest, he was mostly upset because his dad was fishing about twenty feet in front of him and refused to tie the line.  Son #2 needs some work in perseverance and self-confidence.  His dad and I try to encourage him to try again and stay with it.  Sometimes that's all it takes, but most of the time, it's a temper tantrum from the boy and a mom and dad with shared lost looks.

Son #4 and I had been on a walk for about ten minutes, with me pulling him in the wagon.  He wanted to throw rocks in the water which is a big no-no when people are trout fishing all around.  Hence, we walked. 

As we approached the area where Dad and the other three boys were fishing, I noticed son #2 still setting at the base of a tree. #1 and #3 boys were close by fishing away, but with little action at the end of the line.

"T, have you been sitting here the whole time?" I was wondering if he had tangled again, with some streak of bad luck.

"NO!" he spit at me with contempt and a look of disappointment.  He was holding one line in each hand, not doing much to get them tied together.  Obviously, he had given up on whatever he was trying to do.

I offered to help, and he barely accepted.  "Tell me again what you are trying to do here," I needed clarification.  He can do anything when he sets his mind to it, but it works both ways.  When he has decided a task is impossible (most of 6th grade math), he will barely try.  It is frustrating for everyone.

He needed a loop in the fly line, and I could do that.  It seemed to get him started.  Then he worked (through three tries) to attach the leader.  After he finally got it, he was back to fishing as if none of that had happened.

There weren't many bites tonight, so the fishing wasn't all that fun.  Of course, it's not always about the fish.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Angst Anyone?

Yesterday, early in the morning when we were getting ready for the day, the oldest boy realized he had forgotten his bag.  "Mom, did you see my bag?" he asks as he storms around the total of our less than 300 square feet.

"No, bud.  Is it in the truck?" I ask in reply.  He had packed his things the night before the rest of us and then helped his dad get the camper ready.

Now, he stomped around, growling at everyone, obviously aggravated with himself and anyone who dared attempt to communicate.  He was showing every stereotypical bit of his fifteen year old-ness.

"It's not the end of the world.  We'll go get some clothes before we go to the museum.  There's a WalMart in town," I try to sooth him with a solution.

"I'm NOT wearing WalMart clothes!!" he raises his voice in frustration at the proposition, on the verge of a toddler-like temper tantrum.  He is steaming.

I am not having it for a second.  "You will wear whatever I give you to wear.  Don't be ungrateful and stop with the tantrum," I answer in my own solid don't-mess-with-me tone.  "Turn down the angst, pronto."

We all load in the truck on our way to the the museum with D in his stained, patched jeans and day old hoodie.  We stop at the WalMart in town where I force him to try on four pairs of pants against his will.  He finds three pair that will get him through the rest of our stay.  We grab other necessary items and head back to the waiting truck.

He thanks us for stopping to getting him something to wear.  By the end the night, he tells us how comfy these jeans are and how he might want another pair.

Oh, teenagers!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bedtime at the Campsite

It was time for bed about an hour ago, but it's spring break and we're camping.  So, s'mores and a campfire trump bedtime, every time.  After a half bag of marshmallows, we head inside to brush teeth and get ready for bed.  I pack the goodies away and wash the new roasting sticks put them into the outside belly storage area for future fires.

We're a bit sticky on the cheeks, but have clean teeth and jammies on.  A sugar rush may hit because all four boys are talking at once, plus G is bouncing and jumping on the futon.  It's a bit chaotic to say the least.  "It is time for bed," becomes my mantra, repeating it at least a hundred times in the next half hour.  I've got all the beds made up, moving G's Marvel sheet and waterproof pad to the futon.

G will be sleeping up with his brothers tonight for the first time.  Previously, he had slept in a Pack 'n Play in the living room area.  He is very excited about being a big boy tonight, and his over abundant elation is affecting everyone.

Just as I'm about to lose my cool, my husband joins the party and says, "Wow, boys, this is cool.  We're all here together in the camper.  Isn't this making a great memory?"  Wow is right.

Even though I was T-I-R-E-D, we were together, and we were happy.  Why am I rushing us all to bed?  Why wouldn't I sit and soak in our togetherness?

I was feeling kind of guilty about being frustrated.  Then one of the big boys made a fart noise.  I threw my hands up and let Todd take over with the bedtime silliness.

Monday, March 18, 2019

I Was Going To

It's the first day of spring break.  There is a long list of those items I've been saving for a day when I have time.  Spring cleaning, one might say.  Today was the day to get started on that list.

I was going to clean my room, putting away most of my sweaters and other winter items, but instead I cut a hole in a fleece remnant I bought in Oklahoma and made myself a poncho.


I was going to mate the basket of single socks, but instead I cleaned out the laundry closet, dusting and vacuuming and making it sparkle.

I was going to get organized, make some lists for our plans this week, but instead I took my two youngest to the dentist (I had forgotten about the appointment).  It was a success.

I was going to clean out the fridge and just eat a salad for both lunch and diner, but instead I found the roast I'd thawed this weekend, so we had sirloin tip for lunch and pork ribs from the smoker for supper.  The lettuce that I don't want to waste still sits in the fridge.

I was going to get some fresh air and maybe some sun on these legs, but instead I had a fabulous time vacuuming the whole house with my brand new vacuum (see recent post about old vacuum going ka-put).  We are a dirty nasty bunch.  Sometimes I think I should stick with bagged vacuums so I don't have to witness all our dirt and hair and goo.

I was going to push the veggies and the fruit to the boys, but instead we ate mostly meat and cheese today.

I was going to work toward that ten pounds I'm planning to lose before my sister's wedding, but instead I found some Dove chocolates in my nightstand drawer and ate two, a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate.  They were delicious.

I was going to have my post written early today, thinking of all the fun my day was holding, but instead I kept finding other things to do.  Like this whole list of my day.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Day the Vacuum Blew

I love weekends where I can get stuff done.  It starts early with the first of seven loads of laundry.  I usually consume a whole pot of coffee in the morning hours, eat lunch around 11:00 because I forgot about breakfast, strip beds and regret it at naptime, and finally drag myself upstairs after a big dinner.

Today, while I was in the basement, I smelled something hot...kind of like burning.  "What is that smell?" I ask to the general population.  No answer.  "Do you smell something, J?" I decide to direct my questioning if I want an answer.

"No...um, yes...it stinks!" he answers without looking up from his screen.  He is reclined on the couch after his big afternoon outside.  We are all thankful for the partial sun and warmer temperatures.  Without the strong winds of the last few days, it is very tolerable outside.

"What is it?  Where are your brothers?"  He answers with a shrug of his shoulders, again not taking his eyes off whatever is keeping his attention.  I go back to my vacuuming after picking up the pillows and cushions and blankets that were hanging down and strewn across the floor.

The smell of hot rubber wafts around me. I suddenly realize it's coming from my vacuum!  Shoot!  I power off the machine and turn it over to see if something is stuck or preventing the beater brush from turning.  Nothing.  I pull at a couple of stringy looking things and some hair.  There is nothing that looks like a problem here.  "Weird."

I go back to work, and after a bit more vacuuming, it smells again, so I decide to stop before I tear something up.

 The next day, I work on cleaning all the filters, washing and drying and reassembling.  It's a bunch of work.  I just want the carpet to be clean.  It's not really much to ask.

Today, I try again.  When I step on the red power button, the vacuum is working, but without the beater bar.  My vacuum is dead.

The good new is it is an inexpensive vacuum, and I've had it for over five years.  For what it would cost to fix it, I can get a new one.  I guess that will be tomorrow's adventure.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dessert

Tonight, we had dessert after a snacky, random, thrown together dinner.

"Mmmmmm," he hums and licks...licks...licks and grins, "Everyone likes ice cream."

The little can carry on a conversation, eat, and be completely aware of any question asked by Oomi Zoomi in the other room.  He is a multitasker at a very early age.

"Are you eating peanut butter, Mom?" he wants to know why I put my ice cream into the peanut butter container.  It was a strange move, and I'm the only one not holding a cone.  He notices this too.  So, I nod in confirmation.  As he looks away to see which piece helps solve some puzzle on the TV.

Meanwhile, he licks...licks...licks.  White cream is dripping down his chin onto his blue sweatshirt.  His play clothes have some bits of mud on the pant cuffs and paint on the elbow of the shirt.  He spent a good portion of the day playing outside with his big brother and the next door neighbor little.




I'm pooped, but he seems alert and ready for a night of movies or other entertainment.  The dessert is completely contained inside the cone now, after slurping the drips off the sides.  He licks...licks...licks.  He sets his cone down for a break and eats a couple more bites of banana.  He thinks it's hilarious that he is using "this baby spoon" tonight.

The cone sits upright on the counter, looking a little soggy around the top edge.  The little gets down from his perch on the bar stool.  He finds his milk cup and takes a couple of big swigs.  "I can take my milk in the living room?" he wants confirmation, knowing it has a lid and that lidded drinks are usually ok in there.

I answer, "Yes, but are you done with this ice cream cone?"

He runs back toward me in the kitchen, veering around the coffee table and making fast car noises.  I think he is going to finish his treat, but as he looks up onto the counter at the ice cream, he turns away.

"My tummy is full," he whines.

Maybe we are all going to be done for the night.


Friday, March 15, 2019

New Phone Day

It has been a day.  However, there is a small bright spot, shiny and new.

After a missed delivery yesterday, and almost a year of complaining about the malfunctions of my old phone, today, I got my new phone.

I loved the old one...when it was new.  After a defective charging port caused a warranty replacement, the refurb I received was a piece of junk.  It caused me to miss messages and lag on searches.  The phone would restart or shut down with 30% battery (its newest trick).

"Please get a new phone," my husband would say.  I just didn't want to spend the money.  Why do they cost so stinking much?

"I guess it's a handheld pocket computer," my colleague says.  They are stupid expensive, I say.

Now, the challenge is to activate the new one.   I think I'll ask my teenage son to check my plan as I go.  Then over to Amazon to get a case and screen protectors.  I'm ending on a high note here.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Literacy Fair Night

Tonight was Literacy Fair.  Kids were showing off their school work to their families.  This is the night we hold dear to celebrate all the everyday things we do at school.  We all work very hard (darn it!), and we all want some recognition for it!!  There were smiles and happy sounds bouncing off the walls.

I was stationed at the "Make-your-own-bookmark-parent-survey" table.  The bookmarks were made from fat, colored craft sticks and googly eyes.  It was so fun to watch the kids create.  The survey is to help fulfill Title I compliance expectations.  It was fun to watch parents participate.  Faces were made by all.

It's like a family reunion, complete with a couple of crazy aunts and the uncle no one talks about.





Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Obsessed With Readers

My right thumb slides into the notch in the front of my computer, pushing up to open the screen.  Instantly, the screen lights, throwing shadows all around me.  This reminds me of the the Chris Van Allsburg book The Wretched Stone.  It looks like I have the glowing rock on my lap.  Right now, it holds just about the same level of fascination for me.

I have almost forty tabs open, but there's only one I'm looking for now.

My Blogger is open to the posts section, showing all these slices, all my post titles.  The fact that I have five pages of posts makes me smile.  A warmth fills my center.

On the other hand, I'm a bit anxious and uncertain.  I click the refresh...

Meanwhile, my mind fills with rapid fire questions and some slow, nagging doubt.  Did anyone read it?  Are there any comments?  What makes someone view my post, but not leave a note telling that they've been here?  Don't they have something to say?  Maybe I'm not saying anything...

The page reloads.  There are two comments.  I can't wait to read them.  Will the comments be from a slicer I know?  Is it someone new?  Did they connect with my story or how I wrote it?  Do I have time to respond?  Will they read replies?

Here goes...



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lettuce for lunch

It's a daily ritual that I am deeply grateful for.  At about a quarter after twelve, the interventionists (and me at least half the time) gather around a kidney table to assemble our lunchtime salads.

The whole buffet begins from a large plastic tote containing plates, plastic ware, and dry goods.  There's dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and Cheez Its.  Even though you have to start with a plate, all the other occupants of the tote are toppings for the salad, so we end where we start.

Next, we take turns bringing in the big plastic box of spring mix greens from Aldi or Sams or WalMart.  We pile the green stuff high, and make a plan of action for what comes next.  Jars of olives, banana peppers, pepperoncinis, and beets bunch in the center of the table.  Most of the time, just like today, I use the juices from one of these jars as my salad dressing.

Sometimes, we have some extras, usually of the dairy variety, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, shredded cheese, and plain yogurt.  Avocados are also a favorite treat.

Finally, after we circle around, the toppings are added to the mix.  The plates teeter with deliciousness.  The wisest of us has recognized the precariousness of the plates and changed her salad container to a glass Pyrex bowl that she washes each day, leaving the room a few minutes before everyone else.

The salads are crisp and crunchy, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy.  They are always delicious, and I savor them, just like the conversations and time I spend with these girls.  We slow down for the tiniest bit of the day, and I am grateful for it.




Monday, March 11, 2019

The waiting game

I'm not an impatient person, per se.  When it's important, I can wait.  Some things that I want, I hold off on getting F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  Today, is not a day to show my self-restraint.  Today, after daily checks for a couple of weeks, I went to the library hold page to see how close I am to getting one of the books I have on hold.  Have I moved up a position?  Did someone drop out of the lineup?  Is the book magically loaned out to me and sitting there waiting for me on my Kindle?


I'm obsessed.  There is no rational reason to check the status at all, because I will get an email as soon as a book is loaned to me.  In addition, I have over fifty books loaded on my Kindle waiting to be read.  Do you see how close I am on the last in the series of four Brittany Cavallaro books?  I'm second in line!!  It's killing me!!  I'm sure I'll live.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

One less hour

So, today technically had one less hour.  I felt it a bit this morning as we rushed around to get out the door. 

But, it's almost 7:00pm, and the little and I just came in from visiting with the neighbors outside.  Granted, I can't feel my toes, and my fingers are using choppy motions to type my slice.  It's only 47 degrees out, but we are so desperate for outside time and warmer weather, that we may have fudged it a bit.  The littles didn't seem to mind at all.

So, today technically had one less hour.  I didn't notice a bit as we stood outside the neighbors backyard watching the littles scoop pebbles into their trucks and dip water out of the water table. (Brr.)


Saturday, March 9, 2019

What's on your dryer?

There are a few places in my house that are, generally, a mess.  The pantry won't stay organized for more than five minutes.  It's about one-third the size it needs to be.  This is my excuse.  The storage area under the stairs in the basement is packed full of totes and boxes.  Whatever crafty bit I did last shows itself in the front of this precarious heap because there is no more room in the Christmas tote or the Valentine's Day box or wherever this project would belong.

This leads me to my slice of the day.  While starting in on my six loads of laundry today, I noticed that I have a quite a collection of crap on top of my dryer.  Usually, I lay my little socks (you know the ones you wear with ballerina flats?) here to dry because, in my mind, the heat of the dryer would be too much for the dainty little things.  But, today, as I move to lay out a few pair, I realize there is no room to spare.  What is all this STUFF?!?

So, I decided this was worthy of a slice.  I think that I may start a new series, to be continued, sporadically, throughout the #SOL19 Challenge and beyond.

Crap On My Dryer

A collection(s) list:

  1. Five pair of ballerina flat socks
  2. a hunk of dryer lint
  3. Six used dryer sheets (it is 10 whole steps to the trash can!!)
  4. a .22 casing
  5. a lego tower
  6. a toothpick
  7. a WHOLE box of matches that went through the wash and lost all their lighting power at the end
  8. a string out of a hoodie
  9. Various hangers
  10. Three pairs of mated socks that belong to no one
  11. a fake moustache, black
  12. a Nerf bullet
  13. a can koozie from my cousin's wedding in 2012
  14. a dime and a corroded penny (nevermind that's laundry detergent, not corrosion)
  15. a black silky bag with a drawstring top that I have never seen before writing this post
  16. a spoon
  17. a tiny pencil
  18. Two laundry detergent samples from Sams
  19. a couple of socks with no mates
  20. Three laundry detergent container lids
  21. Two empty laundry detergent containers and an empty white vinegar jug (because I'm going to recycle those!!)
  22. a self locking nut
  23. a scrap of t-shirt or something
  24. a tiny opally, iridescent button (ooooh, pretty!)
I'm sure you might be thinking that I should be ashamed, and part of me is a bit embarrassed.  However, if I knew you were headed over here to witness this mess for yourself, I would have it cleaned up in a jiffy, and I swear you'd call me a liar in its absence.  I can really get stuff done when I have someone coming over.  :)

Happy Saturday, for whatever discoveries it brings you!!


Friday, March 8, 2019

I don't remember why we aren't together anymore

We haven't been together for months.  I know it affects me more.  I can see it in my reflection, every day, staring back at me.

I don't know what happened.  We were getting along so well.  There was a routine, a schedule, spending time together after work almost five days a week.  Then on weekends, we could get together any time of the day, morning, noon, night.  Afterward, I always felt renewed and refreshed, almost relaxed.  Why did I stop?  Is it all my fault?

Sometimes I sit here thinking about our time together.  We were steady (and mostly slowish).  Sometimes I would feel the need to hold onto those arms, always supportive and reliable, unwaveringly so.  I eventually got so comfortable when we were together, I could settle in and read a book, not even noticing the time passing me by.

I hope we can get back together soon.  Maybe when I get home, I'll strap on my new Reeboks.  In some ways, I miss us...





Thursday, March 7, 2019

When writing gets scientific

The big question we all share is, "Using the catapults we construct, will a ping-pong ball or a cotton ball go farther?"  After a couple days of design and construction, the second graders I am working with this quarter are ready for an exciting day of launching stuff from their catapults.  We had spent the first few days of the unit learning about science writing with much emphasis on procedures.  The procedures section is like a how-to and should be precise and explicit.  As it turns out, some thought that was optional.  When the classroom teacher unveiled the ping-pong balls and giant bag of cotton balls, some scientific thinking went out the window.

If you are a person who thinks noisy classrooms are not learning, you should have been standing beside me today.  It was fabulous.  The conversations were high levels of thinking and to me high levels of humor.  More than once I cracked up and wished to be recording each partnerships experiment.  It was more than entertaining. 

Over all, this image kept coming to mind:


Some very scientific talk I heard included:

"What if we tried it like this?"

"Ok, we have to launch from the same spot each time."

"Since we are measuring distance, and our tape isn't long enough, what else can we use?"

"I wonder how far a chip would go.  Too bad I didn't save one from my snack."

"This is not matching my hypothesis, but it is so fun!"

"If this is what scientists do all day, then I want to be a scientist!"

With this kind of wonder and enthusiasm, how could I not be proud and amazed at all they were saying to each other.  The partnerships were taking turns and collaborating in many ways.  They were sharing ideas, materials, and tools.

One girl, who elected to work on her own, had the plastic spoon mounted on a binder clip with tape and rubber bands.  It looked, to me, like it had the potential to launch a ping-pong ball across the room.  As she set the ping-pong ball on the spoon, she noticed that the catapult was pointed at her.  The look on her face said, "This is going to hurt," as she wrinkled her nose and pulled her eyebrows in tight together.  Then, just as quickly, she relaxed her face and pivoted the catapult so it would launch the ping-pong ball away from her.  Maybe you had to be there, but I laughed out loud from my little observation station.

Some not-so-scientific talk I heard today:

"Maybe we'll just call it 6."

"That one doesn't count.  Let's just start over.  I think this ping-pong ball can really fly!"

"Well, the tape won't stretch that far!  Just add two!"

"I heard them say their ping-pong ball went 122 inches.  I think we can get ours to go further, just stand over there."

"Mrs. Culbertson, we found this catapult in the trash, and we're going to us it because it will make a better platform for our catapult."  To which I replied, "Uh, ok.  Thanks for recycling, I guess."



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

An image slice

I'm using today's inspiration for inspiration. :)  Take a look and read here from the work of Kelsey Corter.


Overloaded,

but still moving on

down the road

toward a destination.

There's so much

truth in play.

It amazes

me how much littles

pick up from what

surrounds them.

Drama filled

the dialogue

my little man provided

for his play.

Truck drivers must

have it rough today.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Bath Time Reading

"What do the words say?" he asks as we turn the page.  On pages he remembers, he reads.  On pages he doesn't remember, he asks for help (to remember).

"Good work, Dinotrux!" he recalls and reads aloud.  "Thanks for sitting with me, Mom."  It's bath time reading.  Soon we'll move on with our night towards bedtime reading where we will most likely read...you guessed it, Dinotrux by Chris Gall.  It's the new favorite in a long list.  The most recent new favorites include Stanley the Builder and Stanley's Garage.  We discovered those when we found Book Fair books in a bag that had never been opened, shoved in a brother's closet.  What a treasure!

Sometimes we read all through the bath time, but tonight he's happy for a once through.  He makes his own fun, talking to himself and sometimes to me, filling a bottle and dumping it, and complaining about how he doesn't like to wash his hair.  There's water puddling a bit on the floor, spots soaking into my pant leg, and small waves dripping off the shower curtain.  It's a wonder this bathroom doesn't fall through to the floor below.

Now, he's making up stories.  This is new.  The imagination is entertaining.  I don't know when the truth talk should happen and when to just let him go.  "When I walk to Jodi's (the sitter that lives five miles away), I fall down in the snow.  And then I cry, WHAAA!!!  WHAAAAAA!!"  Then he continues in gibberish that I don't understand.  Apparently the story is so dramatic, he doesn't have words for it all.



There's a conversation with the frog on the shower wall.  "I know who Mr. Crab is.  He likes to swim."  More water is being poured over the frog and into the frog and beside the frog.  "Let's hear some music!"

Time to rinse and get out, pick up toys, drain and dry.  Off we go to read some more, say prayers, and off to sleep.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Potty time slice

"Mommy, I gotta peeeeeeeee!" the little one yells down the stairs.

I rush up the stairs just in time to see the little one, standing on his diaper with his left foot, no pants to be found, dumping the potty into the toilet.  He has hit his target...for the most part.  "Are you all done?" I ask.

"Mmmmm, maybe," he answers, uncertain and shrugging his shoulders.  So, I encourage him to return to the potty seat and make sure he doesn't have more business to do.  He wants me to sit beside him.  "Can I see you compooter?"  It seems he thinks Blogger looks cool.  Ha!  Anything for a screen.

He plops himself down on the little green potty, resting his cheeks on his closed fists, looking at the computer like it should entertain him.  I don't think my writing is that interesting to him though.  "Um, I tink I'm done."  He stays put, waiting on permission to get up and making sure he really IS done.  I'm reading to him as I write.  Apparently, this post is not that interesting.  "Do I get some M&Ms?"

We clean up, put a diaper on, change clothes for bed, and get three M&Ms.  It's time for tooth brushing, bedtime reading, and prayers.  Our potty training adventures are just beginning, and I am going to enjoy the fun of it with this last one.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

A bit more sleep

Thank goodness it's warm in here, but, unfortunately, I can only breathe through one nostril.  It's comfy and cozy, and I've settled in to get some extra sleep after my late night return home.  What woke me? 

As I crack my eyes open a bit, sunlight creeps from behind the translucent curtains, letting me know it's morning.  Why don't we get some blinds or those blackout curtains?  I close my eyes against the light and let out a deep breath, trying to sink back into a slumber.

"I made you some coffee," my husband whispers from behind me, but I don't answer.  I don't want coffee...I want sleep.  He kisses the back of my head, gets up, and leaves past the foot of the bed, presumably to the kitchen for the coffee.

With his pillow free, I grab it and smash it over my head with just my mouth and nose peeking out for fresh air.  I am determined to sleep more.  Deep breath in...and release it...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The next day

Even though it's not that early, it's still and quiet.  The rush of yesterday has fallen away in the night.  My sister is in the kitchen, trying out a new cinnamon roll recipe.  I beat the eggs and stood beside her for a bit, but my two hands sat idle and empty for long enough, and I left to the living room to get my day started.

It's promised to be another busy one because of the weather.  Soon, we'll be packing and prepping for an early departure.  They are expecting up to 8" of snow at home overnight.  I have no desire to drive or ride in that, so we're cutting our plans a bit short to try and get back to our own beds tonight.  It will take me about eight hours to travel from my little sister's house back to my own.

There's a shuffle from the hallway.  My mom has decided to rise and shine.  We'll get an itinerary together, get ourselves in order, and off and running.  It's going to be another wonderful day with the ladies in my life.  Although it will be cut short a bit, I'll enjoy every minute of it.

Friday, March 1, 2019

It's the First of March


It’s the first of March, and I’ve been packing my computer with me all day.  I’ve been so excited about today.  Excited and a little nervous is probably more accurate.  My bag is a purse/tote.  There hasn't been a minute to spare for writing a slice yet.

My sister is getting married.  Prepare to hear lots about it in the weeks to come.  Yesterday, we went to multiple dress shops, keeping lots of appointments.  My sister’s friend, Jordan, came along via an app called Marco Polo.  She gave the most constructive feedback to the bride.  My sister was lovely and open, without an inkling of bridezilla. 

Today, we’ve been around the OSU campus, visited the church, and traveled to Oklahoma City to find bridesmaid dresses, mom dresses, and look at flowers.  Yesterday, we were all in separate vehicles.  Today, we've all smashed into my mom's Ford Explorer.  We're quite the crew of ladies; me, my two sisters, my mom, the groom's mom, and my mom's friend.  It's a carload, with only a small bit of room in the back for cargo.  

This laptop doesn’t weigh much, but I’m glad to be in the car, typing away.  We're all losing some steam.  Instead of a sit down dinner, we've opted to order pizza for carry out from Upper Crust in Edmond.  

The girl comes out to ask if we have an order in for Heidi.  "Yes, that's us."  She looks into the car a bit longer than necessary...and I laugh out loud.  We packed in here, and after making quite a few purchases and some big gains toward getting my sister down the aisle, no one can see out the back of the car.  Adding to the chaos that is our car, artificial flowers poke up from the cargo area.

We have three pizzas for six ladies, after almost ten hours of wedding planning, trying on dresses, and coordinating colors.  We're fifty minutes from home, and we dig into the pizzas.  I've scrounged around in my purse to find a tissue to use as a napkin.  I hope no pizza sauce hits the keys.

I can't wait to get back to the house to read others who are posting.  I can't wait to see what's happening in their lives and comment, comment, comment.  I can't wait to get started with this challenge, just to be surprised by its sudden end.  It's the first of March!


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The February Doldrums

It happens every year, the February doldrums.  They sneak in on silent snow shoes, through some miracle, not making a squeak on this linoleum floor.  It must be like the "fog" the night janitors keep using in the building on the weekends, the only evidence being the plastic coverings left behind.  The doldrums leave a stench of grouch and mark of grimace.

I think the 5th graders get hit first because they are the biggest and their extra large attitudes are extra sensitive to fluctuation in mood and temperature.  Even their hope and high spirits for the middle school and sixth grade can't keep 5th graders from suffering mightily under the doldrums.  Days upon days of inside recess and no sign of daylight to brighten up the feeling of February, leave our big kids moping and mewling about everything...EVERY. THING.

Usually, it's the teachers who are next to feel February.  Even after all these years, I'm still not sure if the teachers are brought down by the big kids or if these February doldrums hit with no discrimination, equally pummeling all audiences.  One might think that adults would notice this pattern of behavior, this obvious cloud of Eeyore-like mindset, but without a President's Day break, teachers are no longer immune to the depression.  Snow days have bogged them down and even the brightest of them is dimmed by the doldrums.

The younger the student, the more fortified he (or she) seems to be.  The innocence of youth must shield them against the elements of the weathering doldrums.  These kids continue to skip down the hall for most of February, long lasting until the uncertainty and inconsistency of snow days breaks through their resistance and slows their enthusiasm.

It's the February doldrums.  Tones are sharper and words are clipped.  Please don't be offended...because it's February.  (AND it's almost over!)





Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cacophony of an Early Spring?

What's that sound?  It's an early spring, according to the rodent in Pennsylvania.

Sniffle, hack, cough...cough

"Initially it worked its way through the kids, but I'm sick now."  My co-workers are dropping by the minute.

Aaa-CHOO!!!  Sniff.  Sniff.  Snort.

We're out of Puffs Plus Lotion and down to the tree-bark-like cheap tissues.  The situation is desperate, dire.

UUUUHHHHhhhh...ufrump.

"Does anyone have more hand sanitizer she can donate to my room?"  We've got chapped hands now too.  Every exposed part is turning red from the abrasions of repeated washing and wiping and wear and tear.

(the heaviness of mouth breathing)

The janitorial staff has "fogged" the building over the weekend, covering all computers and keyboards with a clear plastic.  It feels a bit apocalyptic as we come in Monday.  "Attention staff, you may remove the bag from your computer.  They were placed there to protect the electronics from the 'fog' this weekend."  The announcement doesn't seem to reassure many.

Sniffle, hack, cough...cough...aww

Come on, spring!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Book Study

Thumbs let go of pages as they fall into the next one.  Highlighter caps click off and snap back on again.  Candy wrappers crinkle.

We're reading and studying and noting.  We're thinking and writing and reviewing.

The quasi silence is the gift of time to participate in a book study during the school day.  We are teachers and learners.  We are together.  The feelings of camaraderie and collaboration are bouncing on the air, like magic spells causing each of us to smile.

We talk.  We listen. 

We ponder.  We dream.

We plan.  We reflect.

We are inspired by what we read.  We look for the beginnings of our goals amongst the happenings of our present day.  Do you think?  Could we maybe?  What about if?

If all our time together was this intentional...

If all our time together was this treasured...

If all our time together was this positive...

We thank each other for the effort and the time and the candy.  We promise to do it all again soon.  We leave better than when we arrived.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

From my notebook...

Because I have second graders, and now first graders, trying out fiction writing, I gave it a go also.  Here is an excerpt from my notebook that I wrote in front of my second graders.

One day, Sally and Joe were at the store with their parents.  They were Christmas shopping for family gifts for aunts and uncles and cousins and such.  Sally wanted to get Grammy a new puzzle.  Joe wanted to get a new Nerf gun for himself.  Mom and Dad wanted to be done shopping.

After a while, they were all in the clothes section of the store, looking at hoodies for the cousins.  Sally and Joe decided to play Hide and Seek to help pass the time.  "One...two...three," Joe counted to twenty.  "Ready or not, here I come!" Joe shouted.  Mom gave him a look.

Joe began the search for his sister.  He looked under the cart, around his dad, and over by a stand of hats, but he didn't find Sally.  He followed his parents over to the baby section.

Meanwhile, Sally stayed still as a tree, crouching down in the middle of a hoodie rack.  She drew in her feet and hugged her arms around her knees.  She listened for Joe, keeping herself still and quiet.

I was working on telling bit by bit and writing from outside the story.  Also, my second graders reminded me to make my characters talk, so we did a little revision as we wrote there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Snow Days?


December starts cold
precipitation promised
snow days may be many

Black asphalt, bleak, wet, and cold
Snow tumbling down, down
contact, melting, gone

pretty from inside
warm, cozy, kid-filled classroom
excited looks wander

Fluttering, falling
some drifts, tumbles, lazily lands
won't accumulate



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cold winter mornings, too early

I hobble down the stairs, inching my hips to move down and forward.  Wrapping my arms around my middle from the cold, I squint into the kitchen brightness.

My oldest is up and ready for his day.  I mumble greetings and make eye contact.  He's not hungry.  As I make coffee, pouring the pot full of tap water into the rear reservoir, he reiterates that he wants nothing for breakfast.  After measuring out the aromatic coffee grounds and punching the brew button, I wait for the warm energy.  My patience is tested each morning.  We might have the slowest coffee maker in the world.

My teenager leaves out the patio door as the clock hits 6:00am.  I retrieve my cup, creamer, and a spoon in anticipation of the morning goodness wafting out in steamy tendrils, waking my senses and sense of humor.  By the time I've perfected my predawn treat, my husband loudly tromps down the six steps from upstairs.  I smile his way, and he wraps me in his arms.  I reach around grasping my left wrist with my right hand.  He's brought the warmth from the bed downstairs with him.  As I release him from the hold I have, he kisses the top of my head, then turns, grinning, to get his own mug of morning.

A new day to welcome and conquer.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Story of My Name

Today's Nerdy Book Club post by Ralph Fletcher, "Five Doors Into Memoir", inspired me to sit down and write the story of my name.

Before I was born, my mom was living in a neighboring (small) town.  She was pregnant with her first baby, a girl, and was anxiously awaiting the baby's arrival.  My mom found herself with plenty of alone time at this point in her young life, as my dad was an over the road truck driver.  She sat and dreamed of the new baby and how much she loved this little bundle, even before laying eyes on her.

My mom wanted to name the baby Jacqueline.  She was unsure of a middle name.  She thought Jacqueline was just girly enough and had an air of the exotic.  It would be a unique name for her special little girl.

My mom was one of many young moms in the area.  A couple of months before I was born, a lady down the road had a beautiful baby girl and named her Jacqueline Grace.

In an instant, the uniqueness of Jacqueline vanished, and my mom was back to dreaming about what name would best fit her new baby girl.

My mom liked the idea of an older name.  She wanted something as special as she knew her baby girl was destined to be.  She liked the idea of something that was feminine and innocent, but also strong and independent.  She didn't necessarily like the idea of recycling family names, but did like the idea of Tollie after her paternal grandmother.  One thing my mom was sure of was that she would not name her daughter Mary, her own first name shared with her mom.  In addition, she would give the baby a name that would be the name her baby was called by.  She went by her middle name, which caused confusion more often than not.  She didn't want that for her little girl.

On September 1st, Emily Gayle was born in a small town hospital.  She was sweet and precious and healthy and everyone was happy, as is the occasion with most births.

Soon after my birth, my family moved to my tiny hometown, where my mom could be very close to her own mother.  Raising a newborn is not a job for a mom living as a single lady most of the time.  That first house, which I don't remember living in, was just a half mile from my grandma and grandpa's house.

Two and a half months later, a baby girl, was born and named Emily Elizabeth.  She was beautiful and had dark brown eyes and hair.  She smiled all the time.

Emily was not the unique name my mom dreamed of, but it did bring together two girls who turned out to be lifelong best friends.  We became known as Emily².  We were name twins and cheerleaders and FFA teammates.  We were practically inseparable.  We grew up together, sharing most of our character-shaping experiences.  We shared our name and so much more.

My name, Emily, made me who I am.  Without my special name, my life would have been exceptionally different.