Slice of an #SOL March rev up

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


It’s not March yet,
but it’s time to start peeling the slices

If only my writing was as easy as
eating too many clementines,
or as sweet



A Slice of Positive Feedback, please

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

In the car, we talk about quitting karate.  He tells me he doesn’t understand why the karate teachers can’t start from the positive and then help him get better. “Why can’t they say, ‘You are doing that kick great! Now let’s work on this other kick?'”

“Actually,” I say, “You are kinda describing a teaching philosophy where you teach from areas of strength. Jennifer Serravallo says –”

“Is that the one with the dark curly hair that wrote the books you love?”

I just nod. Yep. That’s the one.

“Why do they have to say you are on the test list, or you aren’t on the test list?”

I just shake my head, “I don’t know…”

“I mean, couldn’t they just say, ‘The test is on this day.” Then I’d be motivated. It’s so un-motivating to be told all the things I’m doing wrong. Why would I want to try?”

“You are really motivated by positive feedback.” I say, and he nods his head.

“Can I write about this in my blog?” I ask him.

He wonders why, and I try to explain that I think a lot of kids are motivated by positive feedback. And then I wonder, who isn’t?

I’m lost in thought. A few years ago I deliberately changed my teaching language. I started saying things like “I’ve gathered you today because your work in this is awesome, and you are ready for this next great thing!” When I first started, I thought kids would see right through my language switch. What I didn’t count on was that they saw right through my language switch to the very core of what I was doing —  knowing what they could do, and believing in them. Starting from a strength makes a kid smile, it makes them sit up a little straighter, believing in themselves. In karate, it might make them kick higher, practice more, or even not quit.

“Okay.” He says. “You can write about this.”



A slice of gray

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


There’s a very brightly lit bathroom at one of my schools. At the right angle in the mirror, you see gray. Just a little, but it’s there.

A few days ago, I came home and forced Mr. Thought to look at the top of my head. “I’m going gray.” I insisted, “Look!”

He couldn’t see it.

“It’s okay,” I said. “It’s natural. I’m not upset, I’m just noticing it.”

He still couldn’t see it.

So the next time I used that bathroom, I looked again. Gray.

Then this morning, I used some dry shampoo in my hair. A new kind that I have been using every so often. . . I watched it leave a light white-gray powder on my hair.


I walked down the steps, “I’ve solved the mystery!”

And also, I guess I need a new new kind of dry shampoo. (Or to not be so rushed in the morning. . . )


A (Hypocritical) Slice of Life

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


I’ve sat here for half an hour. I’ve let my kids play on a screen for half an hour of quiet so I could write a slice.

Get back to slicing, Ona. Get back to slicing. 

You might know the drill — Write, delete, write, tap your fingers on the desk, delete, stare into space. . . repeat.

You like writing, Ona. Practice, Ona. Bad writing is still writing, Ona. . . 


On the way to school today, my 9 year old reminded me that he doesn’t like writing.

I reminded him that he is so creative, and he loves drawing and writing stories!

He gave me a look. “If we were like everyone else and went on a lot of great vacations every spring break and summer and winter break, then I’d have a lot to write about! I don’t have any topics!”

So I told him that really those stories all about someone’s whole vacation to Disney aren’t the most exciting ones to read…  “You have small moments happen to you all the time! Those are the things to write about.”

And now I’m writing about that small moment. How meta of me. 

And now I have no topic. How hypocritical of me. 




Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree… A Slice (or 2)

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


True confessions. I’ve been a little grumpy this holiday season. The kids’ bickering, the to do list… it had me in a little funk. Then I watched a beautiful sappy video on facebook about how now, as the parent, I am in charge of the Christmas Magic. So, I took a deep breath and took a step out of my funk.

That’s when the Christmas tree was declared officially dead. It wasn’t sucking up the water… despite our best efforts and constant vigilance!

Fortunately, the tree place agreed to exchange it.
Unfortunately, the tree had to be undecorated. Including the lights.

Before this, we had lived with a dying tree, we had hoped, and crossed our fingers.
Before this we had decorated it with lights and special ornaments.
Before this, kids were crying as I smiled and told them it was okay. 
Before this an entire box of ornaments crashed to the ground, breaking one of my most cherished ornaments from my childhood that survived moves and toddlers and the puppy trying to eat the tree when he was just a baby. 

The kids agreed to undecorate the tree, while I went to pick a new one.

“Pick a good one!” they called after me as I drove away.



I’d already been to the tree place twice this season for this Christmas Tree… 
The first time was the day we had promised we’d go and get the tree. The 12 year old kept having premonitions of things going wrong. 
The van wouldn’t start, even with jumper cables. We should have known then. 
The tree place was closed when we finally go there. We should have known then.
It was pouring rain the next day. We should have known then. 
We made a quick tree decision and had an 8 year-old crying, “That’s not the tree! You didn’t even ask me!” We definitely should have known then. 

Fortunately the tree place still had 2 concolor firs to choose from.
Unfortunately another family arrived minutes after me and chose one of them while I was deciding.
Fortunately, the one left was beautiful.


When I got home with the new tree,  the old tree’s needles were all over the living room. So of course, the 12 year old had a little fun.


And then we stuffed the tree out the window, so I could return it.


I was able to easily lift it into my van. Because it was so light. And dead.


That’s me, smiling so I don’t cry. And also laughing because as stressful as the holidays can sometimes be… as mean as my kids might say I sometimes am… I never felt so much like the Grinch until I stuffed my Christmas tree out my window and into my van.

Back home, after my fourth trip this season to the tree place, I took a deep breath.  I reminded myself (again) that I am the magic of Christmas… and then I forced everyone to help me put the lights on (again) and the ornaments on (again) and the candy canes on (again).


A wise friend on facebook commented that I had been lucky enough to get the joy of decorating two trees. She’s right, of course. That’s the whole point … try to #findthejoy. Be the magic! 

I looked over at Mr. Thought and said, “You know? This new tree is even better than the first one!”

“Well…” he said, “That one was dead.”

… The next morning he texted me from downstairs, “This new tree really sucks.”

Thank. Goodness.



A slice of the Eye-roll

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

A Slice of the Eye-roll

She rolls her eyes – just a flick upwards. She’s so mad.

Grabs the paper from me. She’s so mad.

Get’s in the elevator. She’s so mad.

It looks like she is going to stand facing the corner, but she turns around and I laugh and tell her “I thought you were so mad you were going to go stand in the corner.”  

It’s always worth a try at a little joke.

She laughs, but quickly. Like a groan. She’s so mad.

She says, “You didn’t ask me if I wanted to go.”

I say, “You’re right.”

She’s so mad.

But the elevator keeps going on its short trip.


We’re there, we walk in and she starts filling out paperwork. She’s so mad.

Jams the pen to the paper, scribbles notes.

Rolls her eyes like a teenager, yes.

But also tantrums like a very quiet toddler.

Then a service dog walks by. He’s adorable, decides to nap.

She takes a break from being mad. Because, dog.

“I know what I’ll do whenever you are really mad at me!” I say. “I’ll just bring a puppy with me! Or flash a picture of a dog. Then I know you’ll smile.”

She rolls her eyes again, but this time with the smile still on her face.

This eye roll is friendlier, it has humor.


Choosing to Celebrate

celebrate-image…. a little early, but in the spirit of Ruth Ayres, I’m celebrating. 


I made sweet potatoes with maple syrup, brown sugar
and earth balance
What a good name. 

I made stuffing
or is it dressing? 
It lives in a pan
not a bird. 
Thank goodness. 

I am thankful for
my family
my friends
of course
The blue sky, the sunshine
I'm lucky
 -- not a Turkey. 
Thank goodness. 

A vegan Thanksgiving
requires a certain 
wall in your brain
so you can remain thankful
hopeful celebratory
instead of 

I apologize to past Turkeys I've 
eaten, years ago. 
I hold the millions of murdered turkeys
in the light
I'm human
Thank goodness.

I don't judge my 
friends, my family
for their 
tradition, their habit, or their tastes
But I have to tell you
even though I know you don't want to hear it
I've met turkeys
they are intelligent
unique voiced
social beings 
affection and
geography skills

I looked up who 
used to live where I live

I live on the land of the 
Haudenosauneega Confederacy
I don't know much about them
aside from

So I guess today
is even more complicated 
than I thought
(Just like everything, I guess) 

Much to honor and hold in the light
Much to be thankful for
Much to mourn
Much to celebrate



A Slice of Halloween Eve

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I’m trying to attach a pokemon to the sleave of my third-grade son’s shirt. This should be an easy task, and I’m struggling more than I care to admit.

I’m sure it’s because I’m trying to do it with a piece of ribbon and 2 safety pins. It’s all I could find when I was searching for solutions in my craft closet. My mom would probably whip out a needle and some embroidery floss and go to town. There’s simply no comparison between my mom’s arts, crafts and patience, and mine. Also, she has tools and knows where to find them!

My childhood Halloweens were full of handmade costumes – some sewn, some put together with what we had around the house, and always fun and creative. You would think I would have a little more Halloween craftiness. Instead, I encourage kids to be something they can buy in the store, or easily put together.

It’s times like these, when the pokemon keeps tipping over,  that I realize my own kids deserve to have my mom, and then I realize that they do and that she’s only 20 minutes away. However, I’m sure my mom wouldn’t appreciate a late night visit to solve this Halloween craft dilemma. So, I take a deep breath and retry my ribbon and safety pin strategy. I hope that tomorrow the pin doesn’t come out, poke him, or otherwise self-destruct.

Finally finished with that, I turn to my 6th-grade son. “Can you make me the headset to go with my costume?” I ask.

And, he does.

He goes upstairs, collects tools (from his toolbox, of course) and gets to work.

Tomorrow morning before school, my daughter will help my youngest spray paint his hair for his costume parade, just like she helped him with crazy-hair day today.

Thank goodness I have these kids of mine, thank goodness they have each other. Thank goodness the craftiness and patience didn’t disappear — it just skipped a generation!



A slice of Harry Potter

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers


I really had to pee, but I knew I’d be home soon so I didn’t run into my friend’s house when I dropped her off.

“Is this going to be a problem?” I asked myself as I drove home. I had been gone for 2 days, so sometimes it’s hard to run right in and go straight for the bathroom. But, my kids are older now, and I knew they’d understand.

I pulled into the garage, grabbed my bags as quickly as I could, and wondered why the dog wasn’t at the window wagging his tail.

As soon as I walked in the house, I noticed something was wrong. The lights were low, the dog didn’t greet me at the door – he was harnessed and held.

Then the music started, and the kids began their Harry Potter performance.


It was a very intricate performance.

It depicted all 7 books.

There were letters floating in the fireplace, fake smoke, wands, a broom, Quidditch, a Hogwarts Express Trolly stocked with actual candy, and even Voldemort. There were individual candles crafted with tubes, hot glue, and paint. There was even a Deathly Hallows garland strung on the fireplace. A Deathly Hallows garland!


I watched the whole thing. I clapped, I hugged. I admired the hard work.

And then, I ran to the bathroom.