Watching Marvel movies with the boys and Ozark by myself hoping they aren’t overhearing the dialogue
Listening to music whenever I can Music to study by while I work and write my goodbye 2020 playlist in the car blues or classic rock when I am doing chores Brené Brown on dog walks I tell Alexa to play spa or meditation music at bedtime
ReadingGood Morning Monster more slowly than I usually read worried that I’ve had it too long Needing to give it back to my friend
Napping when I can on the couch, or better yet the deck in the sun with the dog nearby
Wondering which leads to Worrying – all part of my Overthinking
it’s been raining, and it’s about to rain again but even dogs who don’t like rain, need walks so Finn and I walk down, around, through the park, back up and around he sniffs the rain-green grass, I sniff the air the smell of the wood burning stove from the house on the corner is my favorite
we cross the quiet street on a diagonal avoid a Prius silently coming closer finn loves the sound of a Prius it’s the sound of someone coming home he stops at the corner, head turned wags his tail sits at perfect attention won’t budge when I ask him to I don’t have the heart to force him, show him I’m boss
the Prius parks the man stares at us Finn’s tail keeps wagging expectantly I want to explain to the man my dog thinks you’re his dad he doesn’t understand that our Prius doesn’t come home anymore that is why we are standing on the corner staring at you and the rain-green grass
I used to bring Gertrude to my sixth-grade classroom to help kick off our “Muppet” project. In between the yearly projects, she lived with my parents.
It’s been 5 years since I’ve taught sixth grade. (That’s crazy!) So the other day my parents asked me if I still wanted Gertrude. I guess they were tired of her freeloading.
Suddenly, I ached for my sixth-graders and our Muppet projects. I thought about it for a minute and realized it might be fun to ask kids in my schools what Gertrude’s story might be.
“I wonder if I can get a teacher or two to let me do this with them,” I thought.
It took me a few days, but I finally remembered that I co-run a Writers’ Club. What luck! Kids! Ready for a writing invitation!
Gertrude traveled with me to school today, and I took her down to meet some classes. The first class was working on PSSA practice, and as much as Gertrude wanted to interrupt that (she’s not a fan of standardized tests) I moved on to a second-grade classroom around the corner. Then onto first grade . . . By the end of the day, Gertrude had met every class.
I told the kids that Gertrude didn’t know her story. She needed a story!
“Gertrude was lonely at my parents’ house. She wanted to come to school for Writer’s Club. But, she wanted to meet kids before she went to Writers’ Club, so she wouldn’t be too nervous,” I explained.
“Why is she even here when we aren’t even allowed to go to Writers’ Club?” a kindergartner said. I told her what I told every class K-2: “Maybe when you get to be in third grade, you’ll join Writer’s Club!”
“Wow,” I thought as kids crowded around us, trying to be quiet since they understood Gertrude was still pretty shy. “This is a pretty good advertisement for Writers’ Club!“
Of course, kids of all ages wanted to know what Gertrude was.
“Is she a dog?” “Is she a bird?”
“She’s a gertrude.”
You might have to meet Gertrude to understand her magic. The way she walks is peaceful, almost mesmerizing. You can’t help but stare at her. She’s quiet and shy but brings out the best smiles. As I walked down the hall with her, kids of all ages said, “Hi Gertrude!” and asked me more questions about her.
I have a feeling that if I don’t take her with me next time I’m walking down the hall, the kids won’t talk to me anymore…
I didn’t know what would happen at Writers’ Club, but the magic of Gertrude plus the magic of the young writers did not disappoint. I invited the kids to write about Gertrude, for Gertrude, and to make bird puppets that could be in a story with her.
“But what is a gertrude?” one boy asked, “I don’t find her when I google!”
I told him that someone would have to make her a google entry. “What would her wikipedia page say?”
And friends, when the two girls came up to read me their nonfiction article all about Gertrude, it was a dream come true. They had a description of gertrudes, and talked about how loud noises scare them. They described a gertrude habitat and diet, and ended with a story of a gertrude named Gertrude. They printed their story and put it on our Gertrude story wall.
The bird puppet makers wanted to make sure I brought Gertrude next week so they could write their stories down, and as they started to clean up, a writer came up to me and said, “I know what Gertrude’s favorite food is. Avacado.”
So, needless to say, we added a fast fact section just for Gertrude.
It was the after-school Writers’ Club again today. As kids were filtering in, and my co-teacher was taking attendance, I was chatting with kids.
“I wish Writers’ Club was on Mondays,” one said, “because then we’d have something to really look forward to about Mondays.”
At the table next to him, a girl popped her head up from her snack to add “Writers’ Club is the highlight of my Tuesday.” Her friend sitting across from her took the perfect pause before saying, “Writers’ Club is the only thing I have on Tuesdays, so . . . ”
As I made a quick direction chart before the end of the school day, I wondered if making the chart would make it less enticing than the sneaky spur-of-the-moment style from last time.
But, somehow, as kids went off to write, several came up for index cards, sharpies, and scissors. As each writer, or partnership came to the supply cart, I asked them what they were going to write, and cheered inside when they said “I want to try cut-out stories!”
My co-writer from last time was trying to get our pieces back in order, and two girls walked up to join our story. Next to us a few kids were creating their own stick figure stories, and at 2 tables at the end of the cafeteria, I could see more stick figure story work happening.
Our new co-writers fit right in. Soon all four of us were drawing, cutting, writing, and making.
One of the girls didn’t talk much and her friend said, “She doesn’t really talk.”
I said, “But she can draw! Look at that!” and we both looked over at the cat being sketched on an index card.
“And really that’s all that matters,” my co-writer told me.
I have to confess – it was super fun. I asked the kids if they thought that maybe I could have a job where all I did was make cut-out stick figure stories with kids all day.
They thought it was doable, for sure. One girl looked at me very seriously and said, “You are going to need a lot of index cards.”
Soon, we were done. So we got some construction paper, and the kids glued the story down. They aren’t sure if they want to staple it now, or maybe put it up like a comic strip.
“Can you believe this story started with just one little stick figure?” I asked my original co-writer. He just shook his head with wonder. And then, before he left to go home, he stopped me at the supply cart to ask me a question.
“Can I take some index cards home so I can write another story?”
I remember sitting on my fiance’s mom’s bed after her husband’s funeral. I was on a corded landline, talking with my high school drama teacher. It was just weeks before my wedding. She told me she hoped I wouldn’t let the death of my fiance’s dad pressure me into changing my name. I didn’t. I kept my name.
I remember my daughter’s birth. I didn’t want to have a name different from hers. So, I filled out paperwork, updated my license and taught everyone at school to call me by my new title. One of the secretaries never got it right. For years, she would call me over the PA system by my old name. I knew she was talking to me though.
A few weeks ago, after my divorce was officially final, I called the Social Security Office, confused. In order to prove I was a real person, I needed all kinds of paperwork. It seemed silly since somewhere I still have the Social Security card that I got when I was like 12. I wondered why I couldn’t just use that and pretend the last few decades never happened. Instead I had to have my doctor’s office give me paperwork proving who I was. Thankfully the doctor agreed, I am indeed a real person.
Today I opened the mail from Social Security and pulled out my new card.
So now, I am officially the old me with my new (old) name on my new social security card that looks a lot like my old old card
Every so often I’m lucky to be at my table in my shared room when a group of kids comes in for math club.
Today was a lucky day. First graders filtered in, their intervention teacher, Mrs. P was just a few steps behind them. So I got a front-row seat to their entrance shenanigans.
Lisa and Sam* came in first. They acknowledged me with a slight nod of their heads. I said hello and watched them choose a seat at the kidney table.
Sam jumped up and said, “Oh! I forgot to hide!” and he went to the calm corner, behind a curtain. Lisa stayed at the table and kept looking back at me as Sam talked about how he was hidden.
“Are you supposed to hide at the beginning of math club?” I asked them, honestly curious.
Lisa said, “Um. I forget.”
I laughed a little and said, “You forget if you are supposed to hide at the start of math club?”
Lisa smiled and mumbled something, adding “But if Sam wants to, it is his choice.”
Pete and Anya walked in and Lisa let them know that Sam was hiding in case they were interested in doing the same. Pete and Anya went to hide in the calm corner, but Pete came back to the table quickly.
I asked them again what they were supposed to do while they were waiting for Mrs. P. I mean, I wasn’t actually sure. Maybe they always start math club on the rug, or in a choice spot, or by calming down!
Mrs. P walked in and said “Okay, friends. We are going to play a game today.” I saw her eyes scan the room. “Remember, hiding is not appropriate.
At this, Lisa looked back at me, eyebrows up, caught in her little white lie about forgetting if they were supposed to hide. She looked at Mrs. P and said “I chose the table because I didn’t think we were supposed to hide. but I told sam it was up to him what he did.”
Mrs. P agreed that we are all in charge of our own selves, adding that you can give friendly reminders sometimes.
Pete said, “I wanted to hide, but I knew I shouldn’t.”
Anya said, “I know we aren’t supposed to hide, but it looked so fun!”
As you can tell, it’s super hard for me not to listen in to first graders. Mrs. P took a teachable moment to talk about impulse control, and soon enough they were on to the math. If you were there you would have heard many a conjecture about the making of tens, and Sam’s Ted Talk on zero, which started with a proclamation, “Zero means nothing! Nothing!”
Oh, how I love listening in to first graders.
*I have changed all student names here, of course. This was actually challenging and made me think of how my amazing para when I taught 2nd grade would read the class books at lunch, and change all the characters’ names to names of kids in our class. How she kept track of that is a mystery to me. I had a hard time just keeping track of these 4 first graders’ code names!
Another Writers’ Club teacher and I are standing in front of the kids who have chosen to work in our collaborative space. They are all spread out on the large bleacher-like steps, in small groups working, talking, writing.
One kid asks me if it would be okay for him to make brochures and fliers.
“Sure!” I said. “What are you going to make brochures and fliers about?”
“I don’t know, ” he said as he skipped away.
We are watching them, and kind of laughing. They don’t really need us. Sure there are a few who need our support. But for many of them, if they aren’t ready to share and celebrate their work, they don’t really want to be interrupted. They are busy creating worlds, characters, and books. They are writing a series with their friends or planning a new story to co-write. There are a few who end up making paper crafts, like a boy I noticed who was taping post-it notes into cones that he could fit on his fingers. Creative, yes. Writing? I don’t know.
One of the many joys of Writers’ Club is that sometimes you can sit and write with a student or two. Sometimes you can even do some writing near them, and hope they get interested in what you are doing.
So, I sat near the boy making finger cone claws. I had a stack of index cards, a sharpie, and a pair of scissors. I drew a stick figure and cut around it. Then I drew a stick figure dog and cut it out too. The boy took a break from his post-it note claws and scooted a little closer to tell me how cool my stick figures were.
“Isn’t he so cute?” I asked. “I want to make a story with him. What else do you think I need?”
He suggested a friend. Then he suggested the characters could be at a park. A park would need a tree, swings, and a slide, he told me. He thought probably the main character was wondering where he could plant a tree. As he told me elements, I drew them and cut them out. Then we started placing them on the steps.
“What do you think this guy should be saying?” I asked.
“Probably something like ‘Where can I plant this tree?'” my co-writer said. And I tried to put the tree in the stick figure’s hand. He stopped me and suggested that maybe the character should plant a seed, not a fully grown plant. I asked him if he’d ever seen someone plant a tree, as I drew a sapling in a sack for our main character.
He thought the dog should say “arf arf arf’ when he was asked where to plant a tree in the park.
I suggested that the cat have a real answer, and he suggested that the cat say sarcastically, “Maybe like in the ground??” We laughed as we put all the pieces together.
We decided that the friend should be looking for his cat.
I drew the friend, moping about his cat. “Now I’m going to have to figure out how to draw a bench!” I said.
“Oh. I can do that,” the boy said. “I think I can draw a bench.”
He got his own stack of index cards and a sharpie and drew a bench. He cut it out and added it to our story.
“This story is amazing!” he said as I took pictures so we could clean up.
I think sneaky-style I do, we do, you do might be one of my absolute favorite ways to write with kids.
My 12-year-old is waiting for me to finish writing so we can watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Somehow, my 15-year-old is in the driveway with his dad getting a pre-driving driving lesson. “In just a few months I’ll be able to actually drive,” he said.
Before that, I was at Home Goods, missing my daughter. “I had to call my daughter who is away at school to ask her about having these pillows together!” I told the associate when she complimented the dining room chair pillows I had picked out.
Before that, I had indeed been Facetiming my daughter. She was at dinner, but answered the phone anyway and helped me decide on a few things. “Why do you have to go to college anyway?” I asked her. “Shouldn’t you live here so you can go to Home Goods with me?”
Before that, I’m pretty sure, My kids were babies.
Today I am grateful
Today I am grateful...
for kids who make bakery messes
and also cinnomon rolls and sourdogh bread
for cold weather, biting wind, March snow
and how it encourages rest and early pajamas
for a long basement to do list, hasitly scrawled
and organized by a friend who helped to clean the basement
for a dead phone battery
and how I have to plug it in and get to work
Today I am grateful