Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Finding My Sister Everywhere

 My sister, Colleen, is turning 40.  It is a surreal situation.  My mind can't comprehend how this can be possible.  In my mind, my mom is in her 30s, so how could I or Colleen be entering our 40s?!? 

I've always looked up to my little sister.  She is super smart.  You know where you stand with her.  She strives and excels and leaves her competition in the dust.  She cares about everything and everyone.  She cares so very much.

My sister is everywhere.  Maybe it's because we have 18 months between our ages and experienced most of our lives side-by-side.  I can find her in a second, in everyday moments of my life.  Today, I thought I might show her how often I think of her by making a list of forty things that make me think of her.

  1. unicorns
  2. Tang
  3. curling irons
  4. pigs
  5. Jelly shoes
  6. basketball
  7. Patsy Cline
  8. dusty rose Ropers
  9. FFA
  10. Nellyville
  11. BB guns
  12. push mowing
  13. Halloween costumes
  14. tall shelves
  15. gardening
  16. Dutch Blitz
  17. self help books
  18. matching shirts
  19. Little Women
  20. beets
  21. trampolines
  22. sycamore trees
  23. Dwight Yokam
  24. The Boxcar Children series
  25. dolls (mostly fancy ones)
  26. track meets
  27. peanut butter and pickle sandwiches
  28. mascots
  29. ballerinas
  30. card games
  31. Rummikub
  32. Bible verses
  33. Jelly Bellys
  34. oil changes
  35. Cinderella
  36. orchids
  37. Geo Metros
  38. french horns
  39. thick hair
  40. physics
I could probably make forty lists of forty things, but everyone would stop reading at this point!  She is a huge part of my life and I love her to the ends of it!!

Happy birthday, sissy!!  I love you!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Thank you!

#SOL20 Day30

Thank you to this community for its grace, empathy, and consistency in a world of turmoil and uncertainty.  I am grateful to be a part of you!

This SOL challenge has been a memorable one.  Without it, I don't know how my feelings and thoughts might have spiraled.  Because of this audience and its support, I am mostly sane and counseled.  For this, I will be forever grateful.

You have shared your vulnerability, and your like-mindedness.  You have planted new thoughts and nurtured practicing craft.  You have done it.

We are at the end of this challenge, and smack in the middle of a national crisis.  I am glad to be a part of this with you.  You brought me joy this month, and I will forever be indebted to you for many smiles and snorts.

Thank you for letting me be a part of it all!

Monday, March 30, 2020


#SOL20 Day 30

Today, we found out that our district is postponing school until May 1st.  I am heartbroken about it.  It is best for our community, our state, our country, our world, but it doesn't feel best.

Will we go back on May 4th just to have our last day of school on the 20th?

Will we continue to review or will we try some new learning?

What about all the kids that can't access online learning?

What about the kids that don't have parents meeting the basic needs let alone the academic ones?

How are others coping with this?

How will my own kids handle this information?

What does the community think about the school announcement today?

What will the summer and fall look like after this?

It's been a tough one for me.

On the other hand, my fellow literacy coaches and I launched a new website today where we hope to help teachers (and families) in this tough, weird time.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Daily Grind

#SOL20 Day 29

My days are full of cleaning and puttering around the house.  Today, I used my new Crosswave motorized floor mop.  It was fantastic!  The Crosswave is a huge improvement of the old Floormate (which I have loved for many, many years!).  I am so happy with the results.

I have actually read one whole book in the last week also.  Quite a feat!  It seems hard to concentrate or make time for pleasure reading.  However, if I can't do it now, when?

Each night, our new pattern is to clean up the kitchen then sit down and see if our favorite Youtubers have posted any new videos.  We are following some hikers and some fishermen, all Christians.  They are joyous in their work and hobbies.

Todd and I sit, my left hand holding his right hand, and dream of when we are going to be out in our beautiful country, exploring it and loving on it.  Creation is amazing and gorgeous.  I can't wait to experience it with my man.  We like to think of it as our new daily grind.  Ha!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Manly Beards

#SOL20 Day 28

Todd headed upstairs after his day outside and in, making home and homestead improvements.  He planned to shower before dinner and mumbled something like "shave my beard" as he went.

"That's the end of 'Manly Dad'," J announced.

I wasn't really paying attention and didn't give it a thought.

After his freshening up, Todd came back downstairs.  J said, "Yes!  'Manly Dad' forever!!"

The family went on to discuss how the perceived manliness was in correlation to facial hair.  I disagreed with all the males in the house, which was everyone.

T proclaims from the great room, "I can't help it that I have Mom's genes!  I'll never be able to have a beard."  He says it with a smile on his face.  Looking over at me filling the dishwasher.  I smile back.

J, always a momma's boy, says, "I think Mom could grow a beard if she really wanted to."  We all crack up.

Laughing, I say, "Thanks for the vote of confidence, J!" Ha!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Good Day

#SOL20 Day 27

Like many of you, Zoom meetings dictate my days, and today, was a good day.

First, our staff met for breakfast.  We each took a turn checking in and talking about this very long week where we have all forgotten which day it is.  Does it even matter what day of the week it is? 

Anyway, I am an easy crier, but I've been remarkably (in my own opinion) stoic and even keeled though these first couple weeks.  I didn't even cry at the parade this week when I know lots of us might have shed a tear or two.  However, today, when I saw two pages full of my co-workers smiling at me from their little Brady Bunch windows, I felt my throat closing a bit.

As a whole, we celebrated the parade and connections with others.  Almost 40 of us, taking turns talking about what we've been doing for the last two-ish weeks and smiling.  When it was my turn, one of the last five or so, I got choked up again.  I was going to say something sassy about laundry and dishes, but instead, overwhelmed by the faces looking at me, I choked up and just said, "I love you guys!"

The fact that so many made time to connect, made me so proud to be a part of the group.  These people truly care about one another.  It was a warm fuzzy feeling that carried me through the day.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


#SOL20 Day 26

I read a gorgeous collection of 6 Word Stories yesterday, and now I can't find the post.  Thank you to the author for reminding me of that structure.  Mine is much less eloquent and meaningful, but it sums up my thoughts for a few moments of my day.  Simple and honest, here it is...

T. P.

Four squares should not be luxury.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Teachers On Parade

#SOL20 Day 25

The windows were down with the sun and a beautiful breeze blowing into the car.  G was in his new booster in the back seat, "This is fun, Mommy!"

We were close to the end of the 40some car teacher parade today.  It was absolutely amazing to see so many teachers participate and kids out on their driveways with signs.  My heart is full, and I'm smiling more than I have in many, many days.

I wish each one of you could have a teacher parade.  It did me so much good.

I know this writing is terrible and I'm not in the moment at all, but the words aren't coming.  Relief and joy, that's what I'm feeling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Cozy Is Our New Favorite Word

#SOL20 Day 24

This boy knows what he's doing.  "Mom, we can just cuddle for a little while."  We're smashed into the recliner, hip to hip.  We would both be more comfortable if he would sit on my lap, but he's a big boy now, and he wants to sit beside me.  He has no intention of sleeping.  I'm trying my best to get a small nap into him.

"You need to rest everyday just like when you rest at school or at Miss Jodi's," I'm trying a little too hard.  He knows what I'm doing too. 

His sharp little elbow sinks into my thigh as he tries to readjust and get more comfortable.  "Do you want to sit on my lap?"  I'm begging him not to stab me with the elbow again.

"No.  I like this.  This is cozy."  He is sure of everything.  He leans his head to the left to rest against my arm.  His little hand pats my wrist.  I soak it in the best I can.  It certainly feels quite cozy.

So far today these items have been described as cozy: jammies, a blanket, the dog's fur, a pair of my socks, the basket full of laundry, his giant collection of stuffed animals, and me.

At the moment, I am cozy and comfy enough to close my eyes for a bit, encouraging him to follow what I model.  If I happen to nap in the chair with him, I won't complain about it.

After twenty-two seconds, barely three breaths in and out, "Actually, I think I'll lay in my bed," as he jabs his little wing bones into my side trying to dislodge himself from the chair.

He tromps over to the bed where he conveniently finds a tractor and disc and his Paw Patrol pals, five of them.  He uses his knee to climb up and acts as if he might intend to lay down.  I'm doubting what I see though.

"Ok, bud.  I'm going back in my room if you are going to lay in your bed," I explain because that laundry is not going to do itself.  I predict he's going to tell me a new plan about helping with the laundry or watching "just one more video," but he surprises me.

"Can you cover me up with my cozy blanket?" he has six cozy blankets, so I grab what's on the bed railing (his bed is a converted crib for now) and drape him with the cozy fleece.  He smiles.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Which shoes?

#SOL20 Day 23

When I got up this morning, I had to decide which shoes to wear.  How do I want to walk a mile?  Do I look at the world with worry and fear, or am I strong in my faith and grateful for the days I have?  I'm trying on the latter.  They seem to fit just fine!

Today, I got to go to school for four hours (see what I did there).  Our Spring Break is officially over, so we begin our COVID-19 closure today. 

Over the past few days, although technically on break, teachers have been collaborating to build learning choice boards for families to use while we are closed.  I am continually impressed and impacted by the actions, thoughts, and words of my teachers.  This experience upped the level exponentially.

Anyway, today I find myself in a mostly empty school where I am collaborating with teams virtually for the most part.  We designed a product that is friendly and full of good ideas.  We did the best we could, as I know all educators are.

Here are some things from my four hours at school that I will choose to see as a "fun thing".

1. I was in a rock and roll mood and blared my "Pat Benatar Radio" for all to appreciate...all, meaning me.

2. I left the doors to my room wide open, knowing I wouldn't bother anyone and no one would bother me.

3. I went to the bathroom twice---in four hours!

4. Some teachers and I had conversations that had nothing to do with school.

5. I had a cup of tea, while it was still hot!

6. I cleaned out my email.  Well, I made an improvement in the inbox anyway.

7. There was ample time for me to think about some long term plans.  Outside of the closure, what do I have in my control?  What can I do with this "gift" of time without students?

8. I spent a little stretch of time in reflection, thinking on the big picture of my work and how I want that to look.

9. I took a deep breath and exhaled.

10. I joyously discarded the data charts that I didn't want to look at anymore.  Our state testing has been canceled, and I am definitely going to see that with a sunny background and a big smile on my face.

11. I closed the doors to my room and said my goodbyes to the few here with me, packing extra bags of books.  However, I'm taking some things home with a vision in my heart, not resentment.

12. We got to dress casual with sweats being acceptable since we were working through virtual collaboration most of the time.  I am wearing jeans and a cozy cardigan to school.  We rarely get to wear jeans.  My canvas loafers are as comfy as can be.

Which pair of shoes are you wearing today?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Before Today

#SOL20 Day 22

Before today, the grass was greening up.

Before today, D changed the oil in the lawn mower in preparation for mowing soon to come.

Before today, we wore shorts outside for most of the afternoon and played basketball.

Before today, we saw springtime birds flying all around.

Before today, we worked in the front landscaping and actually enjoyed it.

Before today, we went outside to get a break from each other.

Before today, we were making plans for outside chores and summertime schedules.

Before today, we were doing ok with self-quarantine.

Today, it snowed and snowed, giant, obnoxious flakes.  We've been inside all day.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Getting Real

#SOL20 Day 21

Day 21 has a different feel.  Yesterday is our last day of Spring Break.  Monday will begin our COVID-19 closure.  Today has included a marathon of texts, a smattering of emails, a kitchen tile grout session, and a trip to the grocery store.  Up until now, I have been happily quarantined with my family, camping and being outside, but limiting all contact with people.  Today, I ventured into the world.

We still have eight rolls of toilet paper and plenty of beef, but we live on produce, and besides some wrinkly apples that need to become sauce, we were out.  To Aldi (grocery store) I go.

First of all, the parking spots were taken with maybe ten open.  I have never seen so many cars in the lot, and this is the only grocery store I go to.  I did manage to get a cart from a fellow shopper who had finished with it.  She made eye contact, but didn't return my smile.  We don't live in the friendliest place, so I didn't think too much of it.

Inside the store, the initial shelves were in a normal state.  Then, the bread crates were vacant.  Good thing we weren't needing bread.  Which makes me think I should probably check on yeast in the case we have to make bread.

The produce seems random.  Lots of blueberries, so I load up on four cartons, some fresh green beans, and both green and red grapes.  However, there are no salad mixes or mixed greens.  Instead, I opt for bags of spinach and some leaf lettuce.  I can't identify what else should be on these empty produce shelves.  I see some packages of sliced mushrooms that have been pushed to the back, so I fish them out and add them to the cart.  People seem normal in this area.

No milk.  No eggs.  This is one time I am grateful for our stupid chickens.

No paper towels.  No toilet paper.  No tissues. 

We aren't to "desperate times" or anything like that in the paper products situation, but I was thinking this toilet paper craze would be over.  It does make me rethink my laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing.  Thankfully, I live in a house of boys.  However, we will need toilet paper eventually, sooner rather than later, I'm afraid.

The cereal aisle has been hit hard.  That's ok.  We are planning on french toast and sausage this week.  It is a little unsettling though.

I grab some juice to help break up the "drink water, it's free" Mom mantra. 

As I turn the last corner to the frozen section, I cannot believe the desolation.  I keep being surprised by the state of things, knowing that we are living in some crazy times.  After getting myself together, I grab some frozen mango and berry mixes.  I get ice cream, I think, to comfort myself, then turn toward the checkout.

The real world was too much for me today.  I'm really cracking down on our paper conservation now.  I don't want to have to repeat today for a very long time...or ever.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 20

#SOL20 Day 20

Day 20 feels real.

We're really doing this challenge.

There really is a panic out there.

Real people use the toilet and need toilet paper.

Day 20 feels difficult.

This challenge is difficult.

I'm having a difficult time with the panic part.

Finding toilet paper to purchase is beyond difficult.

Day 20 feels frustrating.

When I procrastinate, my writing frustrates me.

Letting other people's panic affect me is frustrating.

I'm frustrated with the whole toilet paper situation.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Just my number 4 boy and me

#SOL20 Day 19

It's finally bedtime. The littlest boy has had a bath and brushed his teeth and said his prayers. I have also, and I'm laying in bed reading until I fall asleep.

My eyes close for extended periods. I should just give it up and sleep. The setting is "Paris 1937", I've read again AND again, my eyes landing in the same spot each time they open.
The boy coughs. Is he getting sick or wanting attention? Time will tell. He loves sleeping in the camper. He hates sleeping in the camper. It IS peaceful, but maybe too quiet when compared to the predictable noise of our house.

I've plugged in a fan on my end to help with the noise situation. A glass of wine and my nightly 3mg of melatonin are doing the trick quite nicely for me. However, I don't think I'm going to get much of this new book read.
The long hand jerks a bit holding my Kindle upright.  I'm almost awake again.
I think I'll just sleep.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How Much Farther?

#SOL20 Day 18

"Mom, how much farther?" they have taken turns asking from the back seat.

I answer, "About an hour and a half or so."  We're on our way home from Spring Break camping and fishing.  It's been a great trip, a little cold and a little rainy, but great times together.

Everyone had a mid trip pee break.  We made sure to wash our hands more thoroughly than usual.  Our snacks were from inside the camper pantry.  My new goal will be to keep the adults, Todd and I, awake for the rest of the trip.

Somewhere between 1:00am and 2:00am last night, I was awake.  I think we have a mouse in the camper.  I couldn't sleep, and either my imagination is more convincing than ever, or we have a mouse.  I'm not at all happy about this possibility.  Needless to say, he and I are tired.

I start to point out license plates from other states, "Kentucky!" I say with enthusiasm to distract the boys.  It doesn't really work.  T is asleep-ish, thanks to dramamine.  D is trolling his phone incessantly. G is wanting to be home.  J is laying across my lap and then yammering on to Todd about something.  Because he occupies the bench seat between Todd and I, he is assisting in the stay-awake-while-driving plan.

Todd taps the breaks to disengage the cruise control.  We're coming up on a couple of semi trucks.  "Iowa," I say.  No one cares.

We drive on, toward the northeast, with home in our sights.  We'll have the real world waiting for us when we get there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Challenge Myself

#SOL20 Day 17

This weekend was the commenting challenge.  This challenge is right up my alley, as I love reading a commenting on other's posts.  However, after 6 years of participating, I have yet to complete this challenge.  Fifty comments don't sound impossible.  I know I can do it!

Friday was spent in meetings and conversation around the virus and its effects on our upcoming days.  After I posted that evening, I found myself freely commenting on others' posts.  Then I was summoned by a boy and abandoned my writing area.

Saturday morning, I counted up eight comments from the night before, not a bad start.  Then posted my story and commented a few more times.  It wasn't my normal night-time crowd, so it was fun to read from new brains in the community.  It intrigues me how often we have similar thinking and stories even when we are separated by the geography of the country or world.  My enthusiasm for the challenge, writing and posting every day and this fifty comment challenge was renewed!

Later that night, I looked for some familiar "faces" and commented a couple more times.  Todd asked, "What are you doing?  I thought you posted earlier today."

"I did," I answered, "but there is a challenge to comment 50 times this weekend.  I'm giving it a go."  It really is motivating to read others' work.  I'm a social person, unlike him.  He knows this about me.  I'm sure he was thinking that meeting this commenting challenge would be easy for me.

I could feel my eyelids getting heavy, though so I closed my laptop, knowing I had lots to do on Sunday to meet the challenge's fifty comments.

The pace of Sunday was a weird fast-slow combo.  We weren't going camping so we went to church instead.  Then the boys got take-out Chinese and we went home.  At home, I convinced Todd that even if we camped for a couple of days, it would be worth the prep we had already done.  He agreed and we rushed around hooking up the camper and packing in a few extra necessities.  Toilet paper was a consideration.

Sunday night found me barely making my post in time from the campsite.  As usual, I read the next few posts listed before mine and commented there.  I visited my sister's blog and commented there so she would know I was reading. I totally forgot about the commenting challenge.

In all, I think I made it somewhere around 30 comments, falling very short of the fifty.  The challenge seems completely doable.  I'm not sure what my problem is in meeting the challenge.  Maybe next year.

How many comments did you contribute this weekend?

Monday, March 16, 2020

31 Things About Me

#SOL20 Day 16

Today I’m borrowing my format from Lisa Keeler and Melanie Meehan and Elisabeth Ellington.

I love to write lists, but not necessarily to-do lists.  Sometimes they overwhelm me.  Usually, when I don't know what to write or I'm almost out of time, I think a list should be an "easy" way to write SOMETHING!  This is not usually true.

In no particular order...

1. I buy loads of candy for PD sessions that I host throughout the year.  It is stored inside the 2-door metal cabinet in my classroom for safe keeping.  Because I know there are Almond Joys in there, I sometimes sneak one just to keep me going through the day.

2. I shop at Aldi and Sam's Club.  There's also a large subscribe and save delivery on my porch from Amazon once a month.  If you're wondering, I buy groceries and that's about it.

3. With four boys and a tall, handsome husband, I cook a lot.  We eat a lot.

4. I love for things to be neat and tidy.  However, I have little time to work hard making my things neat and tidy.

5. I'm the mom of four boys, ages 16, 13, 10, and 4.  

6. I have over ordered peach green tea through my Subscribe and Save and probably have enough to supply everyone in the challenge with at least a couple cups of tea.

7. I have an eclectic musical ear.  I have favorites from every genre and am open to trying most anything out.  I loved Sarah Dessen's book Just Listen (featuring a diversified musical array).

8. I'm the oldest of 5 kids raised in a family with a mostly single mom.  I am proud of the fact that we are all statistical anomalies, in that, we have all graduated with some level of college education coming from parents with no college education.

9.  I am a messy cooker and eater.  I do not enjoy cleaning up after myself.

10.  We have a huge lab, Lizzy, that is supposed to be my baby girl.  She weighs almost a hundred pounds and smells like something nasty about 90% of the time.  There are three cats at our house.  Buttercup and Sky are pets.  The black striped tabby in the barn doesn't really want to be a part of our family.  He comes and goes as he pleases.  We have chickens.  I love the eggs, but do NOT love the birds.

11. I drive a 2003 Suburban.  The ole girl is running good, but the dials are not working properly.  It makes for interesting conversation while traveling.

12. We have a farm a little over an hour and a half away from where we live.  It is in the county Todd and I grew up in.  We plan to retire there some day.

13. I do my own taxes.  It's not fun.

My paperwork/receipt piles being sorted for taxes.

14. I love most all sports.  I'm sad they are all paused right now.

15. I'll eat and drink most anything.  I'm on a tea kick these days.  Apparently, my inner granny is surfacing.

16. My phone habits consist of checking in the morning while I get ready.  Then possibly at lunch, when I realize I've left my phone at home (this happens once a week or so) and then right before bed, if I remember.  My phone is not attached to me.

17. Walking in the woods is one of my favorite things to do.

18. Our camper is our home away from home.  We joke to own a campground (land where we set our camper for the summer).  The neighbor girl and I are trying to convince Todd and her dad to put a pool in!  Ha!

19. This is harder than I thought it would be.

20. I can't believe I haven't really said anything about school and I'm on number 20!  I am a literacy coach in a school and district where I've also taught third grade and was a reading interventionist.  It is my second home.

21. Even though I value relationships above most else, I really don't want to be around people right now.  This has nothing to do with viruses.

22. It was just announced that we won't be back in school until at least April 6th, at least.  I'm not sure how to feel about this.  I guess I will be glad for the not-being-around-people-thing I just wrote.

23. Where do people living on the beach dream of vacationing?  I will always wonder this.

24. At the store today, G thought I should buy a "rock donut" necklace.  He said I would like it.

25. Crocs are my favorite shoes.  I have them in 9 different styles.  If you stand on concrete, I suggest trying them out.

26. I love fishing.  It's the nature thing.

27. This is my 6th year giving the SOLC a go.  My first year was tough and I gave up halfway through.

28. I dream of writing a novel, maybe YA or middle grades.  Something that represents the wonderful life of the Midwest.

29. Visiting all 50 states is also a dream of mine.  After that, I want to see castles in Europe.

30. I love having my fingernails and toenails painted and looking lovely.  However, I don't like people touching me, so it is up to me to do the lovely-ing up.  It is rarely done.

31. I am most happy that we are all meeting this writing challenge together!  We have made it to the halfway point and are going strong!  Thanks for joining me here!

Sunday, March 15, 2020


#SOL20 Day 15

is fine, calm down.

is crazy, calm down.

We're safe, 
normal routine.

We're safe,
no routine.

Wash your hands,
keep germs away.

Wash your hands,
keep everyone away.

We can go out,
I'm sure we're ok.

We aren't going anywhere,
there's no assurance we're ok.

We'll be back at school 
after spring break.

When will we be back at school?

Saturday, March 14, 2020

We Finally Did It

#SOL20 Day 14

Well, we finally did it.

After weeks without shopping, today, we finally went out into the world of retail. 

Of course we had no prediction of the frenzy that was this week.  It was our last week of the quarter at school, leading up to Spring Break.  The week was full of night activities, and the one night we had open I wasn't marginally motivated enough to go out into the world.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we are planning to spend Spring Break in the camper.  Provisions are needed. 

We are a family of 6; two parents, four sons.  By no means were we starving or going without in much of any way to mention.  I mean, we are a large family, so I buy in bulk often and have a substantial monthly Amazon Subscribe and Save delivery.  However, produce doesn't keep long and we eat some tonnage of fruits and veggies, fresh is favorite.

The good news is, we took inventory of toilet paper before leaving the house, and lucky for us, 11 rolls will be plenty.  This is one time I am most happy to have a house full of boys.

Todd and I traveled down the road about 20 minutes to the nearest Sam's Club.  It seemed pretty much like a normal Saturday morning there, busy but not crazy.  On the other hand, there were no tissues, toilet paper, or paper towels.  Same at Aldi in our little town.  "Did you look for paper towels?" Todd is curious about the madness but also doesn't want to have to be involved.

I answered, "Nothing there, not even empty pallets.  It's weird."

We essentially got all we needed while we were out.  People were making eye contact and greeting each other.  Most everyone was utilizing the Handi-wipes on the cart handles.  Todd and I used hand sanitizer after each store visit, so that was different.  It wasn't my most unpleasant shopping trip.

Now, I'm packing the camper, and the boys are all watching War of the Worlds.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Special Night

#SOL20 Day 13

As we gathered around the pizza boxes, Gabe said, "I will pray tonight."  He's four.  This is new.

With his hands covering his eyes he began,

"Dear God,

Thank you for our family.
Thank you for our neighbors.
Thank you for our warm house.
Thank you for our new kitchen.
Thank you for our toys.
Thank you for God and Jesus.


His focus on thanks and the simplicity of his words made me smile. 

We are grateful for the life we have to share tonight.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Weird energy

#SOL20 Day 12

Because the entire staff was in an early meeting before school that went a little long, the kids poured into the building like a blast of air, pushing me back, into the wall.  "Good morning!" I sing-song to them.

The throngs of students glide in on a wave of weird energy.  As I'm trying to greet them, "corona" hits my ears more times than I can count.  Our district had to put a statement out because three kids were being tested after traveling abroad.  Although they have no symptoms and are self-quarantining, their situation has caused some panic.  It seems to have hit much harder than I would have ever imagined.

"Boys, walk to be safe.  Please keep your hands to yourself," my daily reminders float across the ocean of heads.

"Don't worry, Mrs. Culbertson.  We won't touch each other because we don't want to get corona!" one boy shouts back to me, walking backwards and making his buds snicker.

I'm so surprised by all this corona virus talk, I have no response.  I think I gave him a look, but I'm not sure which look.

After the crowd is contained inside the building, my other morning duty fellows and I gather for our daily walk in.  We chat about the excitement we all sensed.  Then I say, "I wasn't expecting all the corona talk from the kids this morning."

My friend responds, "This is a quickly changing situation."

You can say that again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Are Those Pretzels Spicy?

#SOL20 Day 11

About five years ago, my sister moved to Oklahoma.  As much as I miss her and am still unhappy about her being so far away, she had discovered some fun things.  One of those delicious discoveries are Dot's Homestyle Pretzels.  Now, Dot's Pretzels come out of North Dakota, not Oklahoma.  I've actually done some research on these yummy treats.  If you're curious, check their story out here at

It was a gorgeous day outside today.  The boys and I needed a little snack when we got home from school.  The big boys were in and out of the patio door, and I was certain they could get a snack for themselves.

After kicking my shoes off, I grabbed the pretzels out of the island cabinet.  They are simply delicious, buttery and crunchy, with bit of extra flavor that I can't name.

"Aw those pwretzels spicy?" G was going for a cereal snack, but my reaction to the pretzels is making him curious about them.  "Can I twry one?"

I told him that I thought they were delicious and tasted like butter.  "They are my favorite pretzels," I encouraged him.

"Hmmm!  These pwretzels awre not spicy!  I like these pwretzels!"

Me, too, buddy, me too!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Flipping Through: Ten Stories I've Never Told

#SOL20 Day 10

Flipping through my notebooks today, looking for some inspiration, I noticed a pattern.  Actually, I noticed a lack of pattern, maybe.

Story I've Never Told #1: A letter to Whom It May Concern that started out hot about creating home buttons for 1st graders on the iPads that aren't labeled appropriately and instead of helping, make more work for teachers.  Then I quit writing.  I was so mad, but didn't seem to have the time to write it all out.

Story I've Never Told #2: A Grateful List: it's very long, listing little everyday items and big world creation items.  It does include my husband and children.

Story I've Never Told #3: The memory of taking my driving test is detailed, but it has no dialogue.  Wait, it says, "Just go on." The examiner's remark after I found myself perpendicular in the parallel parking spot.

Story I've Never Told #4: Trying to capture an in the moment mini-lesson for aother teacher.

Story I've Never Told #5: The title "Some Days Are Just [EXPLETIVE]".  Then "Today was a day for bad words."  That's it.  I wonder if I was saying the bad words or if kids were saying bad words.  I'm curious to know but have zero recollection of the moment.

Story I've Never Told #6: A reflection on my own writing process that names procrastination more than once.  Interesting.

Story I've Never Told #7: A real try at a haiku about asphalt, unfinished.

Story I've Never Told #8: A gathering of sad bits of thoughts after seeing a colleague who had moved on to administration at another building.  I do miss her.

Story I've Never Told #9: An Ode to Christmas socks.  It's a love fest on that page.  I sound like a maniac and a smidge obsessive.  Probably best to keep that one in the notebook.

Story I've Never Told #10: And I still think this is some fantastically clever writing that I want to turn into a story.

What stories do you keep hidden away from the light of day and your computer screen?

Monday, March 9, 2020

J and the Spelling Bee

#SOL20 Day 9

Tonight, J participated in the district's spelling bee final.  Each of the seven elementary schools is represented by students who place at the top of their school's bee.  Of the 494 students in the district's 4th grade, 23 enter the final bee.  They are all winners.  I would guess that they are all nervous, too.

J really didn't want to do it.  He says he's not a strong speller, and I argued that he is in the Derivational Relations book of Words Their Way.  Tonight, I persuaded him to get dressed for the bee with promises of a Shamrock shake from McDonalds or a Blizzard of his choice at the DQ in exchange for going and trying.  "Really?!" with that response, I knew I had him.

He missed his word in the third round, walruses.  After he claimed his seat next to me he whispered, "-es, right?"  I nodded yes, and we silently watched kids spelling word after word.  Finally, after spelling words like prefabricated and defenseless, a girl from a different elementary was named champion.  I don't remember which words she spelled to win.

Afterward, as we close the doors to the car, I tell him that I'm proud of him.  "I bet you'll always remember the word walruses."

He shakes his head yes, then says, "There wasn't too much crying."

I'm surprised because I wonder what he knows about crying at the bee.  I don't think kids at his school were upset, but maybe I didn't notice.  I answer, "Nope.  It seemed like a good spelling bee.  I thought those last two girls might spell all night."

"I can see how you might cry at the spelling bee," he says thoughtfully. 

I wait quietly for him go on because I'm curious as to why he would say this.  Did he feel like crying when he missed the plural ending of walruses?

"I mean I don't really care about it.  I didn't even want to do it anyway.  BUT if I did want to win, and I had studied and I thought I would win, then I would probably cry when that bell dinged."

This boy melts my heart.  "That's empathy, bud.  That's one reason why I love you so much.  Now, let's get some ice cream."

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Everything is Fine

#SOL20 Day 8

It's funny how you may not feel "stressed" but it shows its self anyway.

Yesterday, I started out from the farm house ahead of schedule.  The oldest son was in charge of J at home, so he could attend a 4H safety meeting.  The second son was with Todd at the farm with a day of fun work in store.  I had the little man with me to drop at Todd's mom's house for the day.

"Cash, coffee, and sunglasses...That's my list after I drop G at your mom's," I inform my husband.

He responds with a kiss and a "Have fun," with his mind already in the tractor and wondering about the wind's affect on his plans today.

I get G strapped into his new booster seat.  He feels so grown up in it, smiling the whole time we drive to town.  Once he is settled with the grandparents, I'm on my own and still ahead of schedule.  I'm trying to remember the three C words I had on my list.  Everything is going great.

Casey's General Store is our one convenience store in town.  Growing up, I spent most every dollar I ever made there.  Today, though, I only need a couple of things.  I go in a get distracted by breakfast pizza that says, "Sausage with Gravy" on the tag.  This intrigues me, so I must eat it.  Then coffee is a must.  It was on the list.  I am unfamiliar with Casey's coffee so I go with a medium roast with "Java" in the title and add some syrup.  It turns out to be caramel flavored...oh, well.

Sunglasses!  I do not need three things that start with C.  I need sunglasses.  When we left home yesterday I was wearing my glasses (instead of my contacts) and left all my numerous pairs of sunglasses behind.  Today has to be the sunniest day we've had in months.

Because I'm wearing bright yellow pants, I go with a pair of aviators with yellow mirrored lenses.  I pay and awkwardly slide back into the car with my pizza balanced on top of my coffee cup.  Everything is fine.

Ok, breakfast and sunglasses are checked off the list, so I head over to the bank for some cash.  Todd and I have used this back since before we were married.  This is his account from when he was a teenager.  It's been our "home" bank forever.

The ATM is at an awkward angle so I have to pull up then back in closer.  I grab my card from my wallet and push it into the slot.  English...PIN...withdrawal...amount...

"Incorrect PIN, what?!"

I give it another try thinking I must have missed pressing a digit hard enough...0-8-9-0.

"Crap!  How can that be incorrect?  I've had the same PIN for years!  Wait...did I get a new card lately?"  I'm talking out loud to myself and on the verge of a freak out.  Everything is not fine.

I try another PIN, knowing it goes with Todd's account at the other bank.  "Incorrect PIN"  I knew it.  I reach out and pinch the card between my index finger and thumb.  It won't budge.  Some mechanism is holding the card in the ATM!  I think I've entered the wrong PIN too many times.  It's going to take my card.  I don't understand...that HAS to be the right PIN!!

Cancel!  I stab the red cancel button with too much force.  The panic is in my eyes.  I head a clicking sound and the machine releases its hold on my card.  "What in the world?!?"  Crazy machines!

I look at my card with grateful eyes because I was sure it was gone for good.  "Community State...FOR HEAVENS' SAKE!"  I've decided to raise my voice with myself.  This is not Community State, that's the HSA card.  I need the Exchange Bank card!!

I jab this imposter black card with red letters back into my wallet and flip to the other side of the card pockets to find my ATM card.  What an idiot.

After using the right card with the corresponding PIN, I have my cash and I'm on my way.  What a fiasco!  However, everything is fine.

Good thing I was running ahead of schedule and could leisurely check these three things off my list this morning!  HA!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

My Momma

#SOL20 Day 7

My momma is 
60 years old today.

My momma is
my inspiration.

My momma is
strong and brave.

My momma is 

My momma is
my first friend.

My momma is
funny and fun.

My momma is
a good driver.

My momma is
the best Mimi my kids could dream of.

My momma is
a recycler.

My momma is
a role model.

My momma is 
60 years old today.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Farm House

#SOL20 Day 6

The farm house
is home
some weekends
when we need
a place to stay.

Always "homey"
with a grill
on the patio
and an opossum
under the deck.

We walk the hills
to look
for treasures
only nature provides.

With board games 
in the closet
and pickles 
in the fridge
there's something
for each of us.

When we need
a place to stay
the farm house 
is home.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


#SOL20 Day 5

Bon Jovi's "Always" plays on Youtube Music and I suddenly recall being 15 again, holding a letter from a friend who had moved away.  The friend happened to be a boy.

In this letter, he confesses his crush on me over the past couple of years and how he hopes we can stay in touch.  I don't even know what that means...stay in touch?

What can I do about it now?  Why tell me after the fact?  I'm so confused.  And I'm hot and shaking.  This is weird.  I don't know what to do about it.  It's strange that this letter has affected me so much.  I'm almost more freaked by my reaction as I am about this big news bomb.  Do I like him in that way?  Did I have any idea he liked me?

"What are you doing?" my sister calls from the kitchen, wondering why I'm immobilized in a chair no one ever sits in.  It's usually full of book bags and jackets.  It's like I'm lost in my own home.

"Nothing," I reply barely least I think I answer her.  I'm looking off but seeing nothing.

The laundry is piled on the dryer, waiting to be folded.  It's my job when I'm on the phone.  We have the extra-long cord so I can be productive while I'm talking.  Mom says there's too much to do to sit around on the phone for hours.  I don't mind the chore most of the time.

Now, I stare at the laundry, deep in thought about how I wish he would have said something sooner.  I mean we're 15.  He lives over two hours away now.  What can come of this revelation?

The power of the letter.  Hot in my hands.  Shaking like it weighs fifty pounds and is too heavy to hold.  I rest my quaking hand, gripping the notebook paper, on my thigh and sigh a big breath out that I didn't know I was holding.  His confession is a shock to my system.  I'm taken aback.

The letter.  That's it.  We'll send letters.  Where will this new information take me?  I don't know, but it's worth the effort to put words on paper.  Of that, I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Brady Bunch Zoom

#SOL20 Day 4

"As long as I'm with you and I know that you're taking the picture..." with eyebrows near her hairline, she's doubting any past trust she held in me because I'm being ornery.  Then she pastes on a smile, readying for the screenshot.

I get a sudden pang of guilt and decide against my sneak attack.  "Hey, girls, we look a little like we are in purgatory.  Can we brighten it up a bit in here?  I want to take a picture of the group.  Everyone say, 'Compliance' on 3...Ready..."  The participants all sit a bit taller and copy the pasted on smile of my screen mate.  We look like the Brady Bunch opening credits.

One of my (good friends and) colleagues and I are sitting in on a district Title I compliance meeting with other Title I paid teachers and coaches.  We need to check some boxes to be ready for the spring documentation upload.  The information is important, and our jobs depend on it.

Zoom meetings are always interesting in that we are each tuning in from our own locales, usually somewhere we are comfortable, and at the same time these meetings are awkward because we are manufacturing a collaborative setting...a virtual one.

Because I am a stinker sometimes, I have taken screen shots just for my own amusement, when we all look like death warmed over and have a bad case of glassy-eyes.  I care about my colleagues and won't share those photos on the internet, but did keep them for a day or two as motivation to spice it up a little when I'm hosting or facilitating meetings.  In addition, it reminds me that my face says lots that I may not be intending to say.

"That looks totally fake now," she smiles at me.  "Make sure we're on mute!" she's afraid she slipped up there, but all is well.  "What are you going to do with that anyway?" she wonders.  I know she is questioning my intentions and any further action I might take with this pic.

"I don't know.  Create an avatar for one of us or make a new wallpaper...probably nothing, actually," I'm talking quietly for no reason.  Our computer is muted.  My mouth barely moves while we talk because the other girls are probably also wanting to know what I'm up to.

Before we adjourn I say, "I'll share the pic in the drive."  Everyone smiles at my weirdness, wondering what in the world I'm thinking and why I feel the need to liven up our group.

Much of my time is taken up with meetings.  Today was a full day of meetings with different groups.  By the end of the day, I get a little slap-happy.  I can't help it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


#SOL20 Day 3

The tick tock of the clock in my bathroom seems unusually loud as I notice the dimness of the moment.  I recline back into the pillows to relax for just a minute.  It's almost dinner time.  My ponytail pulls and I readjust my head, eyes flickering shut.  The boys are outside playing.  It is such a beautiful day.

"Em?  You up here?  Oh, hey, you feel ok?" Todd's trying to locate me then understands what my closed eyes are telling him so I don't have to form words.  "Bad day?" he wants to help, always the fixer.

"No, just tired," I just need about three minutes or so.  I throw my right arm over my head and turn onto my left side.  Maybe if I could just drift off for a second, I'll get a little jolt and be ready to go for the rest of the night.

He softly responds, "Ok, I'll be out with the boys.  Take all the time you need."

He gets it.  He'll be down in his recliner dozing around 7:00 or so, usually about thirty minutes after dinner.

It's almost dark now.  My room is so relaxing, the bed so soft to sink into.  I'm just going to rest for a tiny, little bit.

Monday, March 2, 2020

What Do They See?

#SOL20 Day 2

My left thumb scrapes the base of my right one's nail.  Glitter falls to the floor.  What do people think when they see the mess that my hands are?

Do they see stress?  The picking and scraping and biting that come with trying to cope.  The prediction of low test scores and high stakes finds me using my fingers as a fidget.

Do they see loneliness?  The dry, chapped knuckles and splitting, bleeding cuticles caused by a hectic-ness that forgets regular moisturizer application and instead substitutes wringing and rubbing.  This job is isolating even when we're surrounded by people.

Do they see worry?  The chipped polish and torn nails show their absence of care and misuse.  There is intention for a cute, put-together look, but the follow through and long term don't seem to work.  If we could be sure of how it will all turn out, wouldn't it be a different world?

Do they see sloven?  The whole is messy.  Why would a professional walk around with hands like this?  Does she even care?  If I did, wouldn't I do something about it?

OR do they see joy in the color of the glitter?  Do they see bonding over trading and buying different color nail sticker polishes with my co-workers?  Do you see my effort in some type of self-care in trying to take a few minutes to have polished nails?  Do you see me letting it go when my hands don't look perfect?  Do you see me having my own fun?

What story do you see here?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

New Beginnings

Is new beginnings an oxymoron or redundant? It is said all the time, but for some reason, doesn't exactly sound right.

Anyway, today I'm feeling a bit like Linguini from Ratatouille. "Let's do this thing!" I'm excited and nervous about the challenge. I seriously considered bowing out this year. Then I put my figurative big girl pants on and filled out the form. I'm committed.  This is a new beginning in blogging for the challenge, 2020!

Yesterday, my niece got married, on a leap year day. It was a beautiful setting, perfect weather, sincere and somewhat humorous service.  The wedding was held at the Garden Chapel at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson.  The boys, Todd, and I traveled four and a half hours, and we weren't too stoked about it.  However, by the end of the day, we were so happy to have attended.  The boys ended the day by swimming in the pool at the hotel.  So, they were incredibly glad to have traveled all that way for Micah.

A new beginning for them was a special time for us.  There's something about attending weddings with your spouse.  Maybe it brings back your own day.  Maybe it's the idea of renewal.  We listened to the message and smiled and held hands.  Everyone was filled with love and joy.  G said, "This is so nice!"  How cute for a four year old to express what we are all feeling.  It was perfect.

It was a great day and a fast, fun trip.  I knew the hills and traveling would affect my posting ability today.  I hope everyone has found inspiration for today.  I'm not very in the moment today.  Tomorrow will be better with thirty more tries ahead of me.

Welcoming this new beginning!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Hectic Life

As I'm anticipating the rush and reflection of March, I'm reminded of my already hectic life. 

For example, today we had our monthly Staff Meeting after school.  This meeting puts me in a crunch to pick up the youngest boy from the baby-sitter or preschool on time.  The dreary day was keeping any enthusiasm I might have for the meeting at bay.  Trying to get ahead of the afternoon hustle, I text my husband to see if he would be available to run pick up duty. 

"No seat" was his reply. 

We've been experimenting with the booster seat.  Technically, G needs to gain one more pound to use the booster, but it is much easier to move from vehicle to vehicle.  Either way, Todd has no seat, so the responsibility is mine.

As soon as I could escape without being rude, I hit the road, a bit later than usual, but on time.  With drops assaulting my windshield, I pulled into the parking lot of the preschool.  I unbuckle my belt, step out into the rain, and hop up onto the curb.  The door is unlocked and I notice the lights are off inside the window.

From the darkness, as I open the door, Miss Tessa simply says, "It's Tuesday."

I know that.  I look at her trying to understand why she is telling me it's Wednesday..."Fudge!"  I pivot on my heel, using my backside to push the door open again.  G is at the sitter on Tuesdays!

The race is on now.  I've wasted what time I had salvaged in leaving promptly by traveling to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday location.  TODAY IS TUESDAY!

I'm speeding to the sitter's house, grateful it's not too far away.  I make it in less than 10 minutes, with no time to spare.  I jump out of the car already apologizing, "I'm sorry I'm late..."

The sitter is graciously smiling.  G is waiting by the door, "Mommy!!!"  Everything is fine.

I get in my own way so often.  I really should take some time and slow down.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Gravel Road Driving

With the windows down, the crunch and pop of the gravel moving from under the tires is louder and more vivid.  My nose tickles from dust in the air.  The powdery cloud billows behind the vehicle, catching the sun and filtering it from my view reflected in the mirror.

I usually hate that this piece of junk has no decent radio because if I'm driving, I'm singing.  But the sounds of the drive are a strange comfort, like a long lost teddy bear from my past.  From their perch on the fence posts, birds chirp and sing for me as I pass by.  This immersion into a not-so-long-ago time is healing.

Out of the corner of my peripheral, a doe raises her head from munching on the beans.  She looks healthy with her shiny brown coat gleaming.  I'm sure she has fawns hidden somewhere nearby, maybe even at her feet with the height of the beans camouflaging anything under four feet tall, a perfect place to play hide and seek.  She pays me very little attention, knowing she could outrun any attempt I might make to get to her.  The mama can relax.  I have no intention of messing with her today.

I'm driving with no real destination.  I'm taking in the moment with no time table of "when" to push me faster.  If I wander here, maybe I can find my way in the world a little easier, a little better, tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Taco Tuesday

Because clothes are expensive, and I had given all my big boys' clothes away, I have bought G things for the next year as they go on clearance. One of these great deals was a 3T, gray heathered t-shirt, screen printed with a big taco in the center and the words taco written across its top and Tuesday written below. It's cute. He's cute. We all love the, today he wore it.

Our daily routine involves sons #1 (sometimes), #3, and #4 riding around town on our own, personal bus route. Any time #1 doesn't set his alarm we drop him at the high school, then cruise down the outer road toward the sitter's house. Today was one of those days.

After dropping the biggest brother off, #3 says to G, "I like your Taco Tuesday shirt."
G replies, "I like tacos!"
The 4th grader responds with his professor voice on, "It says Taco Tuesday because today is Tuesday."
G says, "No it's not. It's one day."
#3 wants the little man to understand, "Today is Tuesday.  That's the name of this day, Tuesday."

Again, G replies in his most argumentative voice, "NO, it's not.  It's ONE day!"

My #3 is patient and kind and entertained by his adamant brother.  He smiles and starts to sing the days of the week song to the tune of The Addams Family.

G is not amused.  He doesn't understand the song's relevance to the argument.  He looks out the window, ignoring his big brother.

Meanwhile, we pull up to the doors at the sitter, and #3 gives it one more shot, "Happy Taco Tuesday, G!"

We enter the sitters with G mumbling about "one day, not twos day," and I have to giggle.

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!