Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mental pictures?

My mom stopped by for coffee this morning, bringing a big bowl of freshly picked blueberries. Each of my kids had been up for awhile working on the legos they got with their allowance money last night, and the house was (mostly) quiet.

Confession: I’m not so great at legos. I love them, and I love that my kids love them, and I just haven’t gotten good at my spacial reasoning skills yet.

My mother, however, is awesome at stuff like this.  So it was Granny to the rescue when my youngest was trying to figure out what went wrong with his lego truck building. As they worked on the truck together, I sat and watched. My mom carefully put the stickers on the truck, and I was reminded of all the times she put the stickers on my toys when I was a kid, because she liked to do it and because I just couldn’t seem to get them on straight enough!

I didn’t have my phone near me, so I tried to take a mental picture of the two of them working together, my 4 year old and my mom.  Mental Pictures.  I try to stop and appreciate a lot of small moments in my life. There are so many tiny precious times with my kids and with my parents and with my friends. I’m so grateful for each moment. But my recall of these mental pictures is horrible.

People like to complain about all the picture taking parents these days do. We carry cameras or iPhones around and snap away. Sometimes I worry that I might be missing a moment because I am taking a picture. I make fun of myself because of how often I have to take my pictures off of my phone because there’s no space left. But maybe it’s nothing to complain about. I’m not escaping the moment by trying to snap a quick picture. I am trying to preserve the moment, because maybe if I have enough pictures I won’t forget all these times.

My kids are growing up, and there are no babies left in this house. Even though my youngest is only 4, I already have a hard time recalling that feeling of picking up and snuggling a baby. I know I took mental pictures and soaked up that feeling. So where did my mental pictures go? Did I forget to make a snapfish album of my mental pictures? (I guess I should hire a professional, like Jim & Pam…)

Until I figure it out, I’ll carry my phone around (or go grab it when I need it) and I will take pictures of those small moments that I want to remember.


What about you? Do you stop and appreciate the small moments? Take mental pictures? Take so many real pictures your phone gets full too quickly?

A slice of the turning point

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing! 

Summer Turning Point

Summer starts with an exhale 
I hug my students and say goodbye
pack up my classroom
find space in and above cabinets for last minute papers, books, markers, games, dice... 
I throw files into the nearest box
I finish grades
I shred papers and 
sigh as
the accumulated stress and worry knot rises 
almost ready to leave but 
staying still
I want the knot to
peter out
go away
but I wonder
when will I stop feeling behind? 
(Spoiler Alert: Never) 

Summer continues with tired
and people asking me all the time
"Are you enjoying your summer? It must be so nice!" 
"All of that time!"
"I'm sure it's great to have so much time with your kids."
It is nice.
I have time
to read 
and I relax, swim, read, and play more than I do during the school year
I write
in the middle of the day
and I parent all day long
which is (sometimes) lovely  
I feel grateful for all of this
time with my children

I wonder when the switch will happen 
Now I read curriculum books from my to-read stack
in between fiction and swimming and playmobil 
These teaching books are great
but it feels like work
I want 
to find myself planning 
joyfully for August

Around July 4 I have my first back to school nightmare
I realize how much of my to do list is still left waiting
I force myself to get things done
I plan, I print, I update and organize

Then I make myself chill out

It is a quiet surprise
when the turning point happens

I find myself creating a google doc to organize my thoughts on Reader's Workshop 
I pick up, and reread, leaf through, sticky note, and mark up my favorite teaching books 
I surround myself with inspiration: Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Stephanie Harvey and Franki Sibberson 
I lie in bed and plan wonderopolis, current events, poetry responses and library book chats
I jot teaching notes on my iPhone, and email colleagues random questions and thoughts
I drive home and my mind rearranges classroom bookshelves

Summer will end with an inhale
a blank slate
there are weeks to go 
and I will not rush it
days with my kids are sweet
sometimes they all get along and play 
the weather is perfect for swimming 
there's still some summer left
It took a while for last year's exhale
but now 
I'm looking forward 

But really. 
No rush! 

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing! 

I am upstairs, which is new for me – sitting at my husband’s computer. I have a beautiful mountain view. It’s sunny and rainy, and I’m going to take that as a metaphor for this summer, with its ups and downs.  Most recently, just in the few days, we have had “sun” and “rain.” I have had time with my best friend who lives far away, and then had to say goodbye. My children have spent time loving it up with a litter of orphan kittens that my parents are fostering, and then yesterday they were there to watch one kitten suddenly and horribly die. I’m having a hard time today seeing the rainbow after yesterday’s rain – and trying to work through this post trauma time with my children.

Yesterday reminded me of the “Fortunately/Unfortunately” summarizing poetry we do at school – learned from Sara Holbrook (@saraholbrook) at a wonderful inservice years ago. I’m going to try my hand at this for my slice today. . . With many apologies to Sara Holbrook! I believe you first write using the words Fortunately and Unfortunately… Then you revise taking out extra words. I don’t usually do a writing exercise as a Slice of Life… but it’s an experiment! Here we go! 

A slice of Fortunately, Unfortunately. 

Monday, I wake up with plans to spend time with my old friend, running around after kids at the local park
Fortunately, everybody's bikes are all loaded up in the van
Unfortunately, my friend has to cancel 
Fortunately,  now I don't need to vacuum
Unfortunately, my house is a disaster 

Fortunately, I go work out with my friend at school
Unfortunately, one elliptical workout doesn't cure her cancer
Fortunately, it does give us time to chat, while our heart rates climb
Unfortunately, we haven't been to the weight room for months

Fortunately, we remember how to use the machines
Unfortunately, the phone rings and my husband tells me that the orphan kitten Polly died
Fortunately, I wasn't there to see the horrible death
Unfortunately, my 3 children were, and I'm not home to help them process

Fortunately, my husband is home
Unfortunately, my children are in shock mode 
Fortunately, my friend remembers that Mr. Rogers has a book on this
Unfortunately, I think it's going to take more than a book

Fortunately, there are distractions and cuddles
Unfortunately, I have a busy day away from home
Fortunately, I get time with my amazing-but-far-away best friend
Unfortunately, it will be months until I get to see her again
Fortunately, I eventually get home to calm, cozy children
Unfortunately, the morning starts with more traumatic crying
Fortunately, there are more distractions

Finally, we will start to heal, paying more attention to the sunshine, and less attention to the rain

REVISED --taking out all but the most important words. . . 

wake up 
bikes loaded up in van
 friend cancels
no need to vacuum
 my house is a disaster 

I go work out 
with my friend 
 one elliptical doesn't cure her cancer
it does give us time
while our heart rates climb
 haven't been to the weight room for months
we remember how 
 the phone rings 
 the orphan kitten
 Polly died
I wasn't there to see
the horrible death
 my 3 children were
 I'm not home 
my husband is
 my children are in shock 
remember Mr. Rogers' book on this
 I think it's going to take more 
 than a book

There are distractions and cuddles
 I have a busy day away from home
time with amazing far away friend
 it will be months until I see her again
I get home to calm, cozy
 the morning starts with more trauma
there are more distractions

We will start to heal,
pay more attention to the sunshine
less attention to the rain

We miss you, Polly photo

A Slice of Encouragement

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing! 

run, stop, turn around
off the path
s l o w 
    d o w n


I’m running. I’m stopping and turning and watching for my kids, who are in various places, getting behind or ahead. My youngest keeps veering off the path, or getting tired on his plasma car. This isn’t what you would call my best run ever. It’s better when my husband comes and helps to watch the kids, and walks with them when they want to go off the track and into the park. I have tried this without him before, and it was a disaster. But, it’s exercise, and I’m grateful for the beautiful (hot) morning, and the kids who agreed to come with me, to our beautiful park.


I see a woman park her jeep, and get herself ready to run. She puts her headphones on, and does that little head tilt of readiness. I’m jealous. She’s alone! Her run will just be about her run. We cross paths often, as she runs and I stop with E, my 4 year old. Occasionally we pass when I’m actually running too. We smile at each other each time. Her smile is kind, while mine most likely looks a little like a “I-can’t-believe-I’m-trying-to-exercise-still-with-these-kids-becoming-less-and-less-cooperative” smile.

E is done. He stops his plasma car, takes off his helmet and shrugs his shoulders. “I’m hot.”  So I do some lunges while he does some 4-year old jumping jacks, and we go under a tree to do crunches (E does the cutest crunches you ever saw, with his legs down, basically a nap with some slight head movements.)

The runner approaches me, with her same kind smile. “Keep it up! You’re doing a great job.” She hands me a bottle of water, I thank her and she walks away.

My eyes are about to tear from this kindness and morale boost, but luckily I’m with my three children. E and H jump on top of me as I try to do heel touches. I stop for a drink of my gifted water, and H says, “I hope she didn’t poison the water.” I pretend to be poisoned, we all laugh and we are ready to go home.

Thank you, stranger, for the water and the encouragement. In my inconsistent and slow running life, I’ve so far been impressed by the kindness of other runners. Everyone cheers other runners on, nobody seems to care that I don’t look like a runner. Best of all, none of the encouragement I’ve gotten seems condescending to me, even though I should wear this shirt for all my runs:




Hot, Popcorn

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing! 

It’s hot

“No, Humid.”  Mr. Thought tells me.

And late. The kids are finally in bed (how do people do summer bedtime?) in the least amount of pajamas possible. I taught them my trick for humid nights from when I was a kid: a cold wet washcloth on your face. Well, that was a mistake. I forgot about washcloth refills when they aren’t cold anymore and 4 year olds who make toys out of everything. I fall asleep as the kids fall asleep, listening to Mr. Thought read Harry Potter.

But then I wake up, and go downstairs and Mr. Thought and I make popcorn. Because what hot humid summer night is complete without some popcorn, and Netflix? It’s good popcorn too – air popped with the perfect amount of flavor. Procrastinating my own bedtime may have something to do with the air conditioning that is downstairs but not upstairs where, you know… it’s hot.

“No, Humid.”  Mr. Thought tells me.