Friday, March 31, 2017

We did it! 31/31 #SOL17

We did it!

I am happy to say that I actually did it!  The video that Stacey sent today gave me even more motivation to continue writing and posting.  Turning something negative, a real bummer deal, into something to celebrate takes guts and gusto.  I'm so glad she had this vision for the Slice of Life challenge.  I am also pretty inspired by the Seinfeld reference, because I LOVE Seinfeld!  I am pledging now to try my very, very best to post on Tuesdays.  If you want to check out the video, check it out here.  Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting and inspiring and coordinating!

So, because I earned it, and because I have misered (not a real word) away my Valentine chocolates, I plan to enjoy three of them tonight.  Be jealous of my splurge, you of no chocolates!

I hope to catch you here again soon, commenting.  I live for comments (obviously, not chocolate since I forgot where I hid it, safely away from the boys, after Valentine's Day).  Seriously though, thanks to all who take the time to comment.  It means a lot to this ol' girl.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nighttime routines 30/31 #SOL17

Tonight got me to thinking about our nighttime routine.  It's taken for granted around here.  

As soon as I asked, "Do you want to go take a bath?", the baby quickly toddled away toward the stairs.  After some cute and fast advertising, I tried (and failed) to auction off the opportunity to bathe the little guy.  There was no response, not even eye contact, from the males populating the living room.

So, he and I went up the stairs to start the process.  He was smiling and squealing and slobbering down his chin, completely overjoyed by the good times about to be had.  I reach into the tub to turn on the faucet, and instantaneously, the baby gives a holler and tries to scale the side of the tub to get in the liquid fun.  There's water flying and elation floats up from the baby, around the room like bubbles.

Afterward, I wrap him in a towel, carry him to his room, and lay him on the changing table.  Following our normal protocol, we talk about the wall decorations, "Giraffes have a long neck.  Zebras have black and whites stripes.  Hippopotamus swims in the water."  We get him diapered and encased in footie jammies.  He's in his element, and really, so am I.

We sit on the floor, look through the books and choose The Little Blue Truck, just as every night.  We read, point, moo, beep.  We turn pages, right then left, then back again.  He yawns and jabbers and yawns again while still paging through the book.

Finally, I say, "Ready for bed?"  He looks at me with a "not really" expression, but I lift him to his bed anyway.  He grabs his pacifier and blanket and looks back to me for his book.  Once he has all his favorite things, he's ready to dream.

I turn off the light, say, "Good night," and close the door.  As I walk back downstairs to the rest of my boys, I realize just what simple happiness I get to experience with this new little one.  I know from raising my other boys that these moments are short lived.  One day soon, he won't need me to give him a bath or dress him with jammies or read his books.  

I take these moments for granted, but after tonight, I hope to do that a little less. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fun times, in a hurry 29/31 #SOL17

Well, the day moved right along, and before I knew it, the day was over.

The faculty had MAP testing protocol, administration, and security training.  It was not fun, but a box to check, as are other things that we have to do in education.  There was candy offered and consumed.  We made the best of it.

At the end of the meeting, after everyone had left, my principal came over to the table where I was working.  She informed me that she had just become aware of some money (and it's a pretty fun amount) that needs to be spent before the 31st.  That's two days for those of you who aren't math people.

So, tonight, I have online carts full of books with lists of titles yet to be found.  It is fun, it is exciting, it is my dream spending spree!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book clubs and attendance issues 28/31 #SOL17

In recent nights, I've read a couple of posts about book clubs.  They had read the book, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.  If this interests you, go read one example here.

These posts reminded me of a time when I tried to start up a book club with girls at school.  Many of the ladies at school are readers.  Currently, as in the past, we talk books while at lunch, while waiting for the bathroom, while roaming the gym on morning duty.  We read everything, all genres.  We recommend and review, it's a wandering book club...well, maybe more like book talks.  With these experiences, it only made sense to get us all together to talk books without the distractions of work.

I sent out a feeler email and had about a dozen interested participants.  It was exciting to be orchestrating this morale boosting, team builder activity!  We met after school one day to talk about plans and, of course, books.  Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed was chosen as our first book because there was high interest and a movie was in the making (indicating that we would all need to go see it together = book club bonus).  We had a month to read and would meet at my house on a Friday night in October.

There was some teaser talking during school as we spent our time together.  As the night approached, some scrambled to finish (or at least start and learn the characters names), a couple of ladies found the date had been filled with another commitment, and the rest just kind of avoided me.

On the night of the big book club meeting, only my friend Andrea, the school librarian showed up.  We drank cosmopolitans and talked all about and around that book.  It was wonderful, even if it was not well attended.  We had a fabulous time and left with high spirits about the next month's book.

The next month was better attended with four coming to book club, but many more reading the book and just talking at school.  And on it went with the second month having the highest attendance.  By month six, it was my turn to host again.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett was our selection, and I had LOVED it!  I couldn't wait for everyone to get there.  At least 8 were reading it and in high hopes of attending.  For this most anticipated occasion, I had made chocolate pie and some sweet tea.

Once again, Andrea was the only one to show, sporting a bottle of sweet tea vodka (if you have never heard of this, you must find it immediately).  We stood at my island countertop, never leaving the kitchen, in deep discussions about this wonderful work.

My husband, who was supposed to take the boys anywhere and do something, came home a bit earlier than planned.  As he came in the door after the boys, he said, "Well, I was afraid we would interupt something, but have instead discovered this book club ruse is more like the Ande and Emily club without kids."  We all had a good laugh about that true and telling comment.

That was the end of the book club.  We did go out to the movies a few times after its concluding meeting, but the organized meeting for discussing books was over.  We still talk books all the time, but coordinating time together outside of school is just not happening.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Simple...happy about little things 27/31 #SOL17

Tonight's post is a simple moment that I know goes on, repeated across homes of the world.  It's a moment where a child celebrates something great, spectacular, special.  It's a moment of innocence and wonder.

Tonight, while I was baking a pizza for the family dinner, my little middle (son) was snacking on chips, straight out of the bag and telling me about his day and all the plans he had for the evening.  Suddenly, he exclaims, "HOLY COW!!  Mom, look at this HUGE chip!  It's as big as my head!!!!"

Isn't that great?  Isn't that wonderful?  Isn't that how childhood should be?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Currently... 26/31 #SOL17

Day 20's inspiration was a post entitled "Currently".  It can be read here at Beverley a Baird.

So, today, I will use this inspiration to carve out my piece.


my boys play and argue and play
my husband talk to the baby in repeated little verses
the TV, turned up WAY too loud (for no one to actually be watching it)
the dog snoring softly behind the couch

toys strewn about the living room
the steam escaping the dishwasher vent
my family, all around

the clean air of my home
chopped cilantro on the cutting board 
the citrus detergent of the dishwasher

coffee, I love my coffee

the heat rush out of the vents
the pressure of little hands push against my legs

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Risky gambles today 25/31 #SOL17

It starts like this, with at least 6 loads to fold.

"Why do this to yourself?" you might ask.  I have no good answer.  Logic does not prevail in these parts, on this day.  Nonetheless, I have much to fold. 

So, I get on with it.  Set my tunes, thank you Google, and start by pulling the unfoldables.  It's the undies and the undershirts that can go straight from the basket to the drawer.  Next, I like to pull the big, bulky items so that I feel like I am getting a lot done in a little bit of time, Todd's jeans, towels, sheets, and the like.

After that, I am left with the real chore, the shirts, pants, and worst of all, the socks.  This is where the risky behaviors start.  I fold and stack and fold and stack.  It's edgy, and I'm throwing clothes around like a laundry ninja fairy.  Then, before I realize it, I'm gambling with the work of the day.

The stacks pile up towards the heavens from my clothes folding hell.  I power through the baskets, folding and piling and stacking.  The stacks of neatly folded clothes teeter, tip, threatening to fall.  I pause a moment thinking, "Too many?  Should I start a new pile?  If this falls over, I'm going to be ticked!"

I notice that one pile is leaning against another.  This is not a good sign, instead, an indication that something bad's about to happen.  I should take my clothes and put them away before my pile falls into the tub or knocks the boys' clothes into the tub with them.

Oh, reader, are you just noticing that I am folding and stacking on the side of the bathtub?  Are you wondering why in the world I would chance such a thing?  Do you think I should send the boys to get the stacking baskets that are labeled with their names and bought for just this reason?  Well, good reader, you are wise.  

Maybe I'm a daredevil.  Maybe I only do my chores when there is such a risk factor as to have to redo all I've just done.  Maybe I am leading such a boring life that this is the only moment of my day that I found to write about.  

For now, I'll just keep folding.

Friday, March 24, 2017

simply sign here, it's electronic 24/31 #SOL17

So, a slice of my day actually just happened a few seconds ago.  I have been drowning in an electronic document signature snafu.

Todd and I both need to sign a real estate contract.  Fortunately, the real estate agent sent the documents, three of them, through email.  According to the directions, simply click on the link within and review, then sign the documents.

I proceed to follow the directions.  I click the link.  It takes me to a secure site that has me read a consent statement and I click ok.  Then to the documents, I open the first one.  There is no signature button.  It says there has been one party sign.

To make a long, crappy story shorter, I kept circling from the documents to the listing file to the documents to the file.  There was nowhere to click to sign there were no signature buttons to push.  I am fairly good at computer stuff, and this is completely beyond me.  I was frustrated and unhappy that I couldn't figure it out.

So, tomorrow, my slice may be the same, but with it ending in a celebration of signatures!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A song inspired slice 23/31 #SOL17

The setting of Sam Hunt's song, "Speakers", always makes me think of storms that I've enjoyed in the past.  The word choice is so exact that I can put myself right there in the song.  I just love good song writing.

"The moonlight's tracing those tree tops across your face
There's a feeling in your eyes the shadows can't erase
The cool wind around us is breezing around us
Following my fingers through your hair
The engine is idling and girl this heat lightning is flashing
Pictures of you and burning them in my head"

Those lyrics inspired these thoughts.

The lightning flashes, blindingly bright, burning the image of an empty landscape in my mind.  It's the vacant scene of a play, void of characters and lacking action.

One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand; counting the seconds, the miles until the storm, waiting for the thunder.  It comes on strong, shaking the room and rattling the glass in the windows. 

The initial crack and the following crash and rumble, like company in the dark. I smile at the storm. It's so familiar, just as it was in the past, sitting in a different window, following the same routine.  It's a mystery repeated in a different time and a different place.

Will it get too bad?  Has it done any damage?  How can it be so beautiful, and yet, so potentially terrible?  The sounds and smell and sight of it, soothing and electrifying.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'm feeling 22 (Taylor Swift get some new music out!!) 22/31 #SOL17

22 Things I love about Spring Break (right now)

  1. Family Time
  2. Forced Family Time (for when the former is not working)
  3. Impromptu camping trips
  4. Fishing
  5. Daytime Playlists from Google
  6. Staying up late 
  7. Staying up late to watch TV
  8. Drinking coffee until late into the morning
  9. Sleeping in until 6:30 or 7:00 (this is a BIG deal)
  10. actually making 3 meals for my family
  11. Hulu/Netflix binge watching
  12. Writing during the day (I've only taken advantage of this two times so far this week)
  13. Extra Time (for _______ fill in the blank with whatever I need)
  14. Running for sports without feeling rushed
  15. Night time bonfires
  16. Cleaning out the garage
  17. Playing with the dog
  18. Washing the dog
  19. Baking cookies
  20. Reading on Twitter
  21. Reading on my Kindle
  22. Time for really talking with my husband

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

We choose our own weather, even in the rain.

It's a rainy day at the campsite.  The boys are restless inside, the birds flutter about outside.  Everyone trying to wait out the weather, and get on with the plan of the day.

We try to keep our living areas cleaned up and all the food in its proper places, as the raindrops plop and drip on the rooftop.  Little House reruns are coming across the antenna, and we enjoy some "old fashioned" TV to pass the time.
The baby naps, on and off, not keeping to his regular schedule.  Luckily, he is a happy baby and keeps in good spirits, even when we pack him around on these adventures.

Out the window, neighbor campers pack up quickly as the downpour turns to sprinkles.  They know it's a now or never (well, later) if you need to check out today.

Todd and one of the middle boys must be keeping at it in this light rain.  They love trout fishing and want to take advantage of every opportunity because we don't get down often.  There will be stories to tell when they get back even if there are no fish.  The boys love their adventure stories.

The boys stuck inside with me start to invent imaginary contraptions that would allow them to scooter and skateboard in the rain.  A plain umbrella remade to "actually be useful". It's its own form of entertainment.

It's spring break and it's raining, and I couldn't be happier to be "stuck" with my boys and Todd in this story.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A little slice...20/31 #SOL17

Our first camping trip is underway.

We're ending the day happy with it's events and excitement.  The middle boys fished with their daddy to their hearts' content.  The oldest boy finished the new Rick Riordan book, with positive reviews and enthusiasm for the next one.  The baby was all over, and he experienced his first scraped knee with little reaction on his part.  I chased after the baby and cooked some food.

We had a fire to end our night, but no goodies for s'mores. :(  I did bring kettle corn, so we happily settled.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On the go post 19/31 #SOL17

I am committed to posting each day, but the quality of the posts may be questionable for the next couple of days.

We are currently on the road heading to south Missouri to go camping (my sister says "glamping").  There are fish to catch and walks to take and hot dogs to roast.  Knowing that these are memories the boys will carry with them for the rest of their lives warms my heart.

Here's to hoping the WiFi is working at the campground! See you all tomorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Video vamp

It's the mid-eighties, 1980s.  My aunt, Anita, drives a 1978, Chevy Camaro.  It's brown interior feels bumpy on my legs, and the exterior shines in the sun.  We have the windows down and the stereo up.  She has on some dark sunglasses with wire rims.  And strangely, a denim jacket, but it's hot out.

This is not her car, but one I found on the internet.  The picture is a close match.  Cool, right?

Def Leppard blares out of the speakers.  I love Anita's music.  Riding in the car with her, radio cranked, makes me feel like the cool kid, the coolest kid.  She looks over at me and smiles.  I soar.  "Hey, Em.  Wanna get a soda?" she asks like it's nothing, but it's everything.  I never get soda, and we never crank the radio in the car.  There is usually a baby sleeping.

We jump out at the station in town.  She let's me put the coins in the Coke machine without even asking if I want to.  She knows I want to.  The cold can falls, I retrieve it and hand it to Anita.  She hands me more coins and I push them in and select the button for my soda.  It clangs down inside the machine, and I wrap my hand around the treasured treat.

We both pop the can tabs and sit on the front bumper to enjoy the fizzy sweetness.  We must sit there forever, talking about nothing, but filling the time with conversation.

My aunt, Anita, turns 50 years old tomorrow.  I don't know how that's possible because this memory seems like yesterday, and besides a different hair-cut, she hasn't changed a bit.  I affectionately called her my video vamp once, I may not have really known what that was.  :) I love her to pieces.  Happy Birthday, Nita!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Home Alone 17/31 #SOL17

So, in a quick turn of events, I find myself at home...alone.  It is weird.  Where is everyone?

Todd has the three youngest at his mom's and the farm house.  He has some property to look at with a friend and a bull dozer guy.  Plus, he took his new deer blind up.  He looked like a spoiled boy pulling out of the driveway.

My oldest is on a spur of the moment camp out.  He has been prepping for this for a week, maybe a couple.  They were waiting for the weather to cooperate, which has been very un-cooperative.  He and a friend, equipped with much survival gear (and their phones) have pitched a tent on the river.

It is sure to be a memory maker of a night for everyone.  But, for me, what am I to do?  I long for time to myself, and now that I have it, I have no idea what to do with myself.

It's quiet, but I don't feel like napping.  I could go out, but it's the Friday night of spring break and everyone from school just wants to relax (at home).  I could catch up on Facebook and then be exceptionally unhappy with myself for wasting all that time.  I could read, would be if I was into a book right now.

The dog is barking, finally someone who needs me.  I do have to do chores with no boys here to do them.  I might watch some TV.  The remote is never in my control.  It looks like a night of rom-coms or tear jerkers.  I haven't enjoyed any chick flicks for quite a while.

Check back with me tomorrow.  I'll probably be right here, with nothing to show for my treasured time to myself, just sitting and doing nothing.  Oh, the joys of nothing.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Eclectic or random 16/31 #SOL17

One time, when I had only a couple of boys, my mom was babysitting for me.  After trading cars with my mom, I was headed to Columbia for a summer workshop to learn more about how to help struggling readers.  It was about an hour and a half drive from where we had met to exchange cars to where the workshop was being held.
My mom's car was a '96 Grand Prix.  It was all I needed, fast, comfortable, and equipped with a 12 CD changer in the trunk.  The Jukebox had been installed by my step-brother, the original owner of the car.  The car was red.
I was cruising.  We had cut it a little close on time because I had chatted with my mom a little too much.
As I made my way south of Macon, Alan Jackson crooned, "Midnight in Montgomery".  It brought back memories of summers when I was younger.
Suddenly, the slamming drums and hard synthesized guitars of Muse in "Supermassive Black Hole" blare through the speakers disrupting my reverie and causing some long blinks to reorient myself.  "That was abrupt," I think.  It's a jazzy tune, and I find myself nodding my head to the beat.  I hit repeat a couple of times.
Next up, a classic John Denver tune that I don't know the name of.  It was brutal.  Then, relief from the vocals of Michael Buble, "It's A Beautiful Day".
It went on like this with music from every genre but rap.  As I pulled into the venue of the workshop, I couldn't help but smile.  The randomness, the eclectic nature of my mom's music collection, it made me so happy.  I talked about it the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beauty, the Beast, and Superheroes 15/31 #SOL17

Next weekend, my aunt, Anita, turns 50 years old.  This deserves its own post that I'm not quite ready to write yet.

My mom, sister, and I will gather in the center of the state to celebrate with our family, mostly the women.  Since we had a reason to get together, we decided to get to Columbia early to take in the new Beauty and the Beast movie in a matinee showing.

I remember seeing the animated Beauty and the Beast for the first time.  We didn't go to the theater.  Instead my siblings and I opened the VHS for Christmas (in what I am guessing had to be 1992).  Before seeing the movie, I had the audio soundtrack (cassette) playing constantly, flip, play, flip, play.  The movie was beautiful.  It was all I imagined it would be and more.  The characters, so easy to love, had spectacular personality.  It was funny, enough to make me giggle lots.  It was a little scary when the villagers hunt the beast and in the woods when the wolves are inches away from taking a bite of Belle.  My favorite part was the feast, where all the dishes are the servants and chefs and cooks.  The whole idea just swept me up, right off my feet.  I was completely in love with it all.

This new, live action movie will be grand, I'm sure of it.  I am most excited about seeing it with my mom and sisters though.

Around here there are no princess movies.  No chick flicks.  No love stories.  Around here, we have superheroes.  All the Marvel comic movies and DC superstar stories.  Oh, there might be a little romance here or there, but nothing real, nothing girlie.

I'm ready for some girl time, for a tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Best Intentions, But...Instead 14/31 #SOL17

So today is my day.  The mid-month slump day.  I didn't make it past this point last year.  :(

I had best intentions today.  Lots of thoughts of slices floated through my head.  I was busy, and I should have written them down, but instead I kept working, thinking I would remember.  So, instead you get a list.  Here are all the things I would have loved to have done today (tonight).

I wanted to write something heart-warming.
I wanted to write something witty and funny.
I wanted to write something descriptive and engaging, but, instead I'm writing this.

I wanted to cook a healthy dinner.
I wanted to eat at the table with my boys.
I wanted to relax with my husband, but, instead we ate toasted cheese, at the counter, while Daddy was at a board meeting.

I wanted to finish picking up the house.
I wanted to finish folding the laundry.
I wanted to finish adding some charts to the writing like a scientist unit, but, instead I read a book to the baby and cuddled with him before his bedtime.

It is a day to be celebrated because, although I may be living in a world of best intentions, I am gratified in the little things.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Noise 13/31 #SOL17

The noise
shakes the windows,
rumbles through
the house like thunder.

The noise
is a high pitch whine.
It's rarely shrill,
but can be
eardrum piercing.

The noise
comes and goes,
but in the daylight
is constant on
rainy days.

The noise
like a heartbeat
to let you know
you're alive.

The noise
of my boys

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daylight Savings=Daylight Circus 12/31 #SOL17

It's probably because I have a baby again, someone who needs a structured schedule.  Daylight savings always seems to cause a ruckus around here.  It doesn't discriminate, messing only with the children, adults are affected too.

It starts in the morning, waking, making coffee, thinking about breakfast.  Then one of us realizes we have lost an hour in the night.  It's now 8:00.  Coffee is gulped and granola bars, usually for weekday emergencies, are considered.  Panic ensues.

We'll just go to late service instead, it's decided.  We eat a real breakfast.  I start to brown some pheasant that Todd got last week.  I'll put it in the crockpot to cook while we are at church.  Relaxing into some chores and piddling around the kitchen.  I put the baby down for a nap.  It's a weird kind of in between time, but he needs a little something before church.

Todd is on the phone with a friend.  They're talking about farm ground and some land that's for sale.  What's it worth?  How many tillable acres?  How much in woods?  Where and what size lake is possible?  Suddenly, it's 10:00!!

Everyone in the showers!  Brush teeth!  Comb hair!  Shoes!  Todd's still downstairs on the phone.  He has lost track of time.  We rush and run and rant (a little).  Then we are loaded in the suburban and headed down the road.

Later, some clocks say 1:30, some say 12:30.  Either way, we are eating lunch.  The baby needs to get a good afternoon nap to make up for the long blink nap he took earlier.

I don't understand the purpose of daylight savings.  It seems antiquated, but I don't know much about it.  What I do know is that time change messes with my family and makes my days (for about the next week) weird and wonky and groggy.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

mentor texts and bedtime stories 11/31 #SOL17

Without the structure of the work day, I seem to be having a hard time finding my slice today.  We've been busy, and at the same time, we've hardly done anything.

Suddenly, it's the baby's bedtime.  We start the nightly routine, diaper change, jammies, books.  As we read The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, I am thinking of its rhythm and rhyme.  I am loving its word choice and voice.  It is art.  

We love this book so very much.  Like all my other boys, the baby has a favorite, one that must be read each night.  We read it so often, but tonight I was reading with a writer's eye.  I was thinking of poetry and line breaks.  How the author used such craft in creating this song book.  Try to read it without expression.  It's impossible.

Tonight I am extraordinarily grateful for two things, reading to babies and masterfully written books to read.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's all in the presentation 10/31 #SOL17

There is a new gas station on the south side of town.  I believe it is a Fast Lane.  It is spacious and well lit, both early in the morning and late at night.  It opened a couple of weeks ago, and it seems to be fairly busy already.

One of my boys has been requesting to go "check it out" since its opening day.  The boys have some kind of fascination with convenience stores.  There is something about the displays of candy and chips and drinks splayed out like a rainbow behind glass.  I suspect he wanted to "check it out" in hopes that a treat would end up exiting out the door with us.  

There is a novelty to visiting a convenience store.  Well, for us anyway.  We don't actually go into the store when we get fuel because all the pumps we use are pat-at-the-pump stations.  When we are on a camping trip in the summer, the boys will sometimes be rewarded in gas station hot dogs and Lays weird new flavor potato chips and possibly a drink (but usually just a water from the camper).  

Because we create this scarcity in visits, it becomes a real treat to go to the new gas station.  This is what I have found, according to recent conversations between my boys and I in our daily commute to the sitter, school, and back again.  This daily travel brings the lights of the new station, including a colorful LED advertising sign, into our peripheral sight twice a day.

So, yesterday morning, we find some extra time, after dropping the baby at the sitter, when we can FINALLY go to the new station.  The FINALLY was from son #3.

It was clean and new and clean.  It was nice.  The boys were impressed that there were three kinds of Sour Patch candies.  #3 ended up with a package or watermelon flavored.  #2 son chose Bubble Gum by the Foot.  Both got a Gatorade.  

Their days were made, early on in the morning.  It was a great start for a Thursday.  You may be thinking, "That is not special."  Or say, "Your kids are deprived in some way."  I'll tell you that it's all in the presentation of the occasion.  If I make it out to be special, it will be. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How-To...the kind of writing I'm doing today. 9/31 #SOL17

So, I have been writing many, many If...Then...Units for ELA.  My current unit is a real doozie, testing all I know about writing and teaching writing, managing students and managing time, and pretty much all my skills.  It is a "Writing Like a Scientist" unit, hybridizing science and writing.  Tricky, yes?

Anyway, as I am writing in my lesson plans about writing How-To books, I got to thinking about how I get ready to write a unit.  So, if you are curious, this is how I do it.  This is a slice of my life.

First, you need time and space.

Good internet connections are a bonus, but not completely necessary.  The other literacy coaches and I have been writing all of our units in Google docs so we can collaborate easily without having to meet to write.  It is working quite nicely.  We are learning and learning to love it.

The space where I do most of my unit writing is my desk at school.  It is stacked and stacked with TBR articles, mentor texts, library books, and various other resources.  Oh, hey, there's my calendar too!  I have to make some room when it is time to write.

I require many drinks while working.  Luckily, I have the bladder of a veteran teacher, so I can down quite a few ounces in a session of unit writing.  Today, it's coffee (gone), water (gone), and tea (almost gone).

Next, you need all your resources and writing materials at the ready.  I have the writing materials with me at all times, pens and post-its, sometimes highlighters.  The resources for a unit seem to follow a bell curve with the peak stack height hitting somewhere in the middle of the unit.  Today, I have my If...Then...Curriculum book, mentor texts, and the fabulous new Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Sarravello.  It's wonderful, and I am in high hopes of finding many helpful strategies and prompts to help in this unit.  Heaven knows I'll need them!

After you have yourself situated, it is good to get right down to the writing.

Previously, my colleagues and I had collaborated to agree on teaching points.  They are the most important part of the unit.  They are the learning that will happen.  In my experience, deciding the teaching points is the most time consuming part of unit writing, as well.  I digress.

When I am writing a unit, I am essentially writing lesson plans.  I like to create my mentor pieces, at least sketch them out how I think they might go.  Having an idea of the units flow from inquiry to celebration, helps me understand what expectations I might have for the kids at different checkpoints within the unit.  Mentor texts are tabbed up and mapped out for lessons.  I also like to make mini anchor charts, take a photo of them and stick those in the unit to remind me of the resources I want the kids to have available.

Here a couple of the mini charts.  I make them just to remind me of my thinking later, when I am teaching.

Ok, maybe this lesson writing is the most time consuming part.  It doesn't matter though because every minute I spend writing units, the more comfortable I feel teaching the units.  It helps me understand my curriculum and the standards.  It helps me dream about what these kids are capable of...anything!

Of course, I couldn't write one word, not a meaningful one anyway, without the most important thing...I channel my inner Lucy.  (I've met her once.  I did not think to get a picture.  I am not happy about that.)

Finally, when the lessons are written, and the resources are readied, and the charts are planned, I read it all through, revising some, but mostly editing.  I like to format the lessons like the UOS.  Sometimes, I add some small group ideas or a special conferring resource.  

And then, I take a deep breath and WAIT!  I forgot about the snacks!  Snacks are essential to unit writing.  I like to choose something that comes in tiny bits, like M&Ms or Skittles.  That way I can reward myself little bits at a time.  If I tried this idea with full size candy bars, I wouldn't be able to get out of my chair!  Here are the snacks available today.  (In case you noticed, I was trying to eat my healthy little tomatoes that you can see in the resources pic.  I chose cinnamon grahams instead.)

Ok, now you might feel more prepared to try writing a unit yourself.  Or maybe just try a how-to book.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

God has such a sense of humor...8/31 #SOL17

A couple of weeks ago...

If I had the athletic ability to perform those ballerina jumps where she gracefully leaps from point A to point B, looking as if celebrating with her body, I would so do that!

Turbo Tax and I have completed our return for the year 2016.  We bought and sold tractors, which had me the most nervous this year.  The scariest bits of the button pushing is done.  All I have left to do is enter a couple of numbers for this state return.

Because of recent increases in tax fraud, they have added some increased security.  That's good.  One of my closest friends had an issue with someone else filing taxes in her name last year.  What a nightmare!  I keep thinking I just want to be done with this chore, but I really just want it to be done and done right.

"I need your license number," I call into the living room where my husband is hanging out with the boys.  We shuffle around, find his wallet on the counter, input his information.  It's so close to completion, the celebrating starting in my brain has spread to my grinning face.

Now, I need my license.  I send one of the boys to the suburban to fetch my wallet, and I fish the card out of the tight pocket.  "Issue date," the caption indicates what is needed.  Hmm, no issue date on my license.  I click the help button, and a box pops up.  The help box tells me that my permit may not have an issue date or an expiration date, but to just input whatever information is there. Well, that was somewhat helpful.

Skipping the issuance date entry, my fingers hover over the keys, ready to finish this project.  "Expiration date," it says.  Oh, crap.  "Oh, man!  I am in serious trouble!!" I yell to anyone listening.  No one responds.  "Todd, my license is expired!!" still yelling.

He walks into the dining room, his eyes roaming the table covered in paperwork and piles.  "What did you say?" he asks with a look like I need to calm down.

"My driver's license expired on my birthday (September 1st).  I am in big trouble," I lament, thinking how I just tumbled from the top of the world.  Unbelievable!  I am such an idiot.

Just as I am commemorating how on top of it I am in life, the threat of a driving test and driving knowledge book test is suddenly looming.  I completely failed parallel parking the first time!  And that was just between some orange cones, not even real cars!!  I am freaking out.

I grab my phone and choose the search engine to see how much of a penalty I'll owe, and what other criteria I'll have to fulfill.  There is a monetary penalty of $10.  Huh...not bad.  If expired by more than six months, the driver must retest for driving knowledge and driving skills.

I start to tick off the months on my fingers.  I HAVE FOUR DAYS!!!  YAY!!!!

So it becomes a little anti-climatic, but I am glad that there are no tests hanging over my future.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When you start on a high note 7/31 #SOL17

I sat down in a huff.  Feeling like everything was getting ready to explode, I blew my hair out of my face and sighed.

The day had started off terrifically with a perfect cup of coffee.  It didn't seem that this delicious omen would fulfill it's prophecy of greatness to come.

The boys and I had gotten ourselves together and left the house in decent time.  The stop at the babysitter's didn't seem to take longer than normal, but at some point in the morning, time had passed us by, and we were now running late.

Practically power sliding into the space at school, we jump out of the Suburban, slamming doors and slinging bags, and head inside.  The boys find their way to the cafeteria tables and join their friends, while I head up the steps and down the hallway to my room.

Where are my keys?  This bag is ridiculous.  Mary Poppins has nothing on me when it comes to bag contents.  One day, I hope to win it big in a bag/purse scavenger hunt.  Today is not that day and all I'm hunting are the keys to my room.

Finally, after what feels like 10 minutes, and long after I have given up on scrounging and instead started to empty the bag, I find my lanyard with ID and keys attached.

I sit in the chair, huffing and puffing, and think, "This will get better.  I think I need more coffee."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sometimes we need new grease 6/31 #SOL17

Handy husbands are the best kind of husbands.  Well, I think so anyway.  Today's project was really out of the blue.

As I was cleaning up after dinner, and the boys had come back in from playing football outside, I asked my husband, "When you have nothnig else to do, can you research how to maintain my Kitchenaid mixer?  It's making a kind of noise when I run it."

"Let me hear it," he said.  So I turned it on for about 15 seconds.  "It sounds like the grease needs replaced."  He is a very DIY sort of fella, and I am grateful for it.

So, he consulted Youtube before tearing into the mixer.  Luckily, the first video showed him exactly what and how needed to be done, confirming his initial guess.

Here is our disassembled mixer.  Now that I look at the photo, I am more nervous about the whole project than I was when it was actually happening.

There is only one time that I can remember my husband tearing into a project where he had to pause and call for backup.  He was doing some regular maintainence on an Evinrude 75 hp boat engine, and he took of something that he thought was a fuel filter.  However, it was not as he thought and a spring went flying across the basement.  It was not to be.  He had to haul the engine to a marina mechanic to be repaired.

Today's project went just as planned.  We replaced this nasty, separated grease with new, creamy gear grease, and the mixer is humming along like brand new.

March is my new grease.  I am looking to finish strong this school year.  With a daily dose of gratitude for the work that I am blessed to do, I can feel the difference in how my days run.

I've cleaned out the gunk (mostly my own attitude and choices for mindset).  Just like the new grease in my mixer, the appreciation for my life's circumstances has my gears running smooth once again.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday as a reset 5/31 #SOL17

Like most people, I love the weekends, especially Sunday.  Sunday feels like a reset.  Let go of last week and whatever negativity it holds.  Look forward to this new week and all positive presumptions one can make about it.  Today was extraordinarily fabulous.

My husband went to the farm today.  We store our camper there, about 2 hours away.  Today, he brought it back with him.

My insides are smiling.  The camper setting in the driveway looks like fun.  It looks like good times to come, campfires and s'mores.  It looks like family time and memories made.  It looks like hope and potential and sunshine.  Spring is here, and summer is on it's way.  I can't wait for all the fun to come.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

When kids are your business 4/31 SOL#17

Last night was supposed to be the last game of the Upward basketball season.  However, we have one make up game due to ice, so next week is the actual last game.  It has been a good season and overall good experience.  This is our first year playing with Upward.  We love the devotion time at practice and at games.  It is great to show kids how parts of playing sports can be compared to our Christian faith.  We will most likely enroll the middle boys to play again next year.

I guess with the center of this organization around Jesus and His love for us, I was expecting to be a little more accepting of all the kids and their supporters.  I am a competitive person, mind you, but that is not the part of me that caused the dissonance in spectating last night.  With this being a church league, having only volunteer coaches and referees, I would expect lots of fun and lots of teaching.  Don't misunderstand, there are lots of both, but not to the level I expected.

Here is what I mean.  At last night's game, parents were yelling at the referees.  Please keep in mind that the players are 9 and 10 year old boys and girls.  This occurred throughout the game and focused on points and winning, and I think that is ridiculous.  These kids are here to learn, have fun, and play.   That is why I signed my son up for this league.

In addition, one player was so caught up in the idea of stealing the ball that he failed to play defense and instead just mauled any player dribbling the ball.  Then, when the ref would blow his whistle and try to coach him up on how he was "reaching in", the kid would argue back and even growled with a terrible glare once.

I wanted the coach to take him out of the game, but there were no substitutes.  I wanted the coach to reprimand him for his disrespect and bad attitude.  I wanted the referees to put him in time out.

Understandably, the parents of the other team were upset about his fouling.  He is on my child's team and I was embarrassed by his behavior and disappointed that no one stepped in to help him calm down or coach him in a way as to prevent this kind of behavior in the future.

As I type this, I realize that the referees and coaches are not trained in dealing with kids and their behaviors.  I think what made it difficult for me was that it was all pretty much out of my circle of control, and so I was just a spectator.  "Hands up defense.  Get your hands up on defense, blue," I yelled out a couple of times, trying to get the kids to go back to what they had learned at practice.  But, it did no good.  The little boy kept reaching and fouling and giving mean looks at players and referees.  When kids are your business, it is hard to keep your knowledge and know-how under wraps at times that you are not the adult in charge.  Any help from my perspective would have just made things worse at that point anyway.

We lost the game by 14 points, so it wasn't even very close.  After the game, I talked to my son about what I had seen from the bleachers, and how that made me feel as a mom.  He wanted to make excuses for his teammate and blame the other team for "cheating".  I did what I could do with "coaching" words for him.  That's about all I can do.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Weirdness 3/31 #SOL17

Today was a weird day.

There are many pieces of the day that I could tell you about to illustrate it strangeness.  First, I only had four cups worth of coffee in the jar when we always drink a full pot, so I supplemented with decaf.  It still tasted good.

Then, my husband took the middle boys for Donuts with Dad Friday, a good thing that just changes my morning schedule a little.  No biggie.

As I parked the truck and headed into school, I noticed that bite that the wind brought and wished I'd have grabbed a jacket.  When I got into my room, I remembered that my lunch, just a salad, was still in the fridge at home.  Oh well, cafeteria pizza for me, I guess.

The big moment was the all-call, "Mrs. Culbertson please call the office.  Mrs. Culbertson, if you are in the building, please call the office."  I wonder why they didn't just call my room.  That's weird, I thought.

I dialed the office and my principal immediately answered, "Please don't hate me, but I'm two certified teachers short.  This new sub system still has a couple of kinks.  How do you feel about filling a classroom spot today?"  Sure, sounds fun.

I was in a kindergarten classroom today with many unique little personalities.  My rusty management skills had to be brushed up in an instant.  I'm sure that many small moments occurred during the day that I could recount for your amusement, but I was too busy to soak any of them into my memory.  Did I mention it was "If I Ran the Zoo" day, when every student is encouraged to bring a stuffed animal?  Yeah, not my favorite way to have little people practice self-control.

So, if you are keeping score: I am running on decaf, I have no jacket (and it is my duty day), I didn't bring a lunch, it's stuffed animal day, and I am subbing in a K classroom.  I'm not sure I'm winning at today.

I really could have used the caffeine.  But, we did Dr. Seuss related activities, which was something new for me because teaching 3rd grade didn't have many of those themed opportunities.  We examined the word "yelp" and did a lot of rhyming.  I got to read books to kids, got everyone fed, and got them back home to their families.  Seems like a success.

So my slice is not a small moment, it is the opposite.  It starts with me getting up in the morning and will end with me now sitting in my bed writing my post.  I did not live a writerly life today, because I know that there are stories to tell from all this weirdness, but I can't seem to recall them with much detail.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Daily reminders 2/31 #SOL17

Being a literacy coach affords me many professional blessings.  There are many privileges in working schoolwide and throughout the district.  I work with all my elementary peeps, any grade level, any adult, any student.  There is a lot of satisfaction in what I am doing now.  I would say there is a cost, for me anyway.  The cost of moving to this position is the daily interaction with students.  Sure, I get to see kids during my day, but not the same ones at the same times where I can build relationships that feel lasting and impactful.  That is what I miss most about the classroom, and I'm surprised to say the same about interventions.  I miss "my kids" sometimes.

At the beginning of the semester, I was in a 5th grade class teaching about the kind of reading we will do for nonfiction book clubs.  The students were all listening attentively and interacting accordingly.  I said, "Ok, let's get started."  The kids started talking about how they thought this kind of work was going to go, and orienting themselves to their texts.  I got busy jumping in and out of groups, listening to some, jumping in to probe questions and "hmm, interesting" here and there.  One boy, that I had not really worked with before, asked me to join his group.  I said that I was due somewhere else soon, but would love to know about their progress in the days to come.  So, that started our daily visits.

Everyday, Nick drops by on his way out the door while waiting for all the 5th grade car riders to get in line and be ready to leave for the day.  He knocks, sticks his head in, asks if I have time to talk.  In the beginning, he updated me on the group, their progress, the dynamics of the kids, the books, his questions and ponderings.  It was great.  Nick loves sports.  He plays all of them, currently flag football.  I don't know his family, but he tells me about them in little 3-5 minute snippets.  Today, he tells me he is going to the Bahamas for spring break!  WOW!

This boy brings me a daily reminder that I am doing "something" worthwhile.  He makes me feel like my work is important, and that he is glad that I am at school.  He isn't the only friendly, conversing kid at my school,  but he is the only one who takes time to say something to me each day, and for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In like a lion... 1/31 #SOL17

I was asleep, well, I was...

Something has woken me up, it's hitting the outside of the house.  Probably a bit of hail, I think, remembering the forecast for the afternoon that must not have moved as fast as expected.  The wind is blowing, sending creaks and pops into the night.  It doesn't seem too bad, and I'm so tired...

Thunder, so loud the rumble makes the windows shake.  I'm awake again.  I pop my right eye open but don't turn to look at the clock because I'm too lazy to move.  Downstairs, I hear movement.  The boys are moving up to be with the rest of the family.  Someone bumps into the closet door, getting settled making a pallet on the floor of our room.  I half wonder which boy is in here and half drift off again...

Crack! Both eyes open.  That was close.  I don't see any lightning.  Weird.  So tired...

I roll over to find my comfy spot.  Are all the boys in my room?  The white noise is still playing in Jay's room, crickets and frogs.  I shouldn't be staying up to read so much, the thought sails through barely skimming the surface of my mind.  It's not really worth it, the reading, because I don't remember the last couple of pages and have to re-read the next night.  I'll think about it later...

Was that thunder?  I don't really care enough to try and alert more senses to find out...

I am asleep.

This morning I find out, through the radio, that the weather was bad in areas of St. Louis.  I pray for those families affected and thankful that we were protected and safe.  March is in like a lion.