Category Archives: Family

Celebrating Every Moment

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! What are you celebrating?

 

I was walking downtown doing a little Christmas shopping, and there were actual snowflakes dancing in the air. A pop-up flea market was setting up, and they had Christmas music playing in the square, wreaths hanging on wooden racks, handmade mittens, and there seemed to be an abundance of people walking their puppies! I had a few bags in my hand, which always makes me think of a movie where a happy person goes shopping. I stopped for a vegan peppermint mocha on my way to my car, and drove to the bookstore to continue my shopping.

I wish I could tell you that I went to the quaint independent bookstore around the corner, but we don’t have that here. (Locals! Don’t throw rocks at me yet! There’s a wonderful used bookstore in town, but it has never had the selection I am looking for for kids’ books…) So instead, I browsed Barnes and Noble, and a bookstore is a bookstore, so I always love that.  Then I took a few minutes to check out my selections on amazon… seeing where amazon could save me 20% or more. I put half of my books back on the shelves, and into my amazon cart.

That’s probably where my holiday cheer started to wane a bit. . . scrunched over on the floor of Barnes and Noble, scanning my books on my phone to do a price check.  And then, of course, I had to get in line.

“In a loooooonnnnnngggggg line at store” I texted Mr. Thought.  Man, my pile of books was getting heavy.

The woman in front of me turned around and said, “I found two cards that I love! Right here in this line.”

I smiled at her, “That’s lucky!” Then I joked,  “And here I am just feeling annoyed to be wasting time in this slow line!”

“Oh, Honey,” she started, “I didn’t even think I was going to make it to the holidays! I’ve been in and out of hospitals all year. When you don’t know if you are going to wake up the next day, you learn to live like each day is your last.”

I listened as my line buddy told me about  her late husband’s motto of living each moment like it’s your last. She told me that her heart problems have been horrible, but that the hardest thing has been to change her personality.

“You can’t be type A all of the time! I used to want things to be perfect. Well, you know what? Not everything is going to be all neat and tidy.”

She told me to relax and enjoy.

At first I was laughing a little in my head. It’s a great lesson, but I’m not what you would call a classic Type A.

“I’m trying,” I explained. “Three kids at home right now probably driving my husband crazy while I’m Christmas Shopping!”

“How lucky that you have a husband at home with the kids. It’s so great how we are really moving towards a true partnership with parenting. We didn’t have that when I had my kids.”

“For sure,” I started. “Of course, I’m still usually the one who cleans the bathroom!”

“It probably starts to bother you way before it would bother him!” She said knowingly.

And then it was her turn to buy her books.

“Merry Christmas!” She called as she walked away.

“Merry Christmas!” I smiled.

Some people don’t like advice from strangers. They get huffy if a grandmotherly woman stops to tell them how much she misses “those days.” Not me! Bring on the stories and inspiration. I mean, if I’m in line at a bookstore and I can collect slices of life from people around me? That’s something to truly celebrate! 

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Celebrating a little kindness

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! What are you celebrating?

 

It is colder than you thought in the breeze of Georgetown. It’s harder to concentrate on finding a breakfast spot, while children talk to you, whine to you, ignore you. So wind whips your hair, sun blinds you, and you look at your phone trying to find a spot where everyone can eat something.

“This isn’t a democracy,” your husband says. And then also, “I just want to get some eggs.”

“Let’s just go where we went yesterday!” your 14 year old says, eyebrows up.

“The same place? We have to walk all the way there?” her brother complains.

“No,” you explain. “It’s the same restaurant — different location.”

“If we go there, I just won’t eat anything,” your youngest quips.

“Let’s just find someplace to eat!” Someone complains. “Is it breakfast or lunch?”

You walk up streets, turn on streets, turn back down streets. Your husband asks Siri for a vegetarian restaurant suggestion, and looking at the brunch menu that pops up, you ask him, “Do we want to pay $39 each?”

You finally find something that looks promising, follow directions down near the water, only to realize that it is just a bakery — no seating.  You need to sit and get warm… with a cup of coffee in your hands.

“My legs hurt!” The complaints are getting louder. “Can we just find somewhere to eat?”

“Let’s just go where we went yesterday!” your daughter says. Again. You look at your youngest who didn’t really enjoy his breakfast yesterday. “What if you get something totally different today — and apple juice?”

He agrees, and you walk back down the street, only to find the restaurant packed. A sign at the steps reads “Upstairs closed for now” and all five of you look and hope that somewhere there will be a seat. But, there isn’t. The manager asks you how many in your party.

“Five,” you sigh.

“Five. Yea… we don’t have room for five. . . Actually you can go upstairs. I’ll take care of you myself.”

He most likely thinks you are insane as you say, “Thank you so much! This has saved us!” A little dramatic for breakfast, or even brunch. But, it’s true.  You walk up the steps. You pick a table. Everyone sits down, their faces visibly relax into smiles instead of frowns.

“Something to celebrate for sure!” you say to your family. Then you order an almond milk latte, and take a picture to celebrate the little things like a nice manager, a beautiful day, and a much needed coffee.

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This Le Pain Quotidien just feels different than yesterday. Yesterday you sat at the communal table stuffed in beside so many other people. Your waiters were rushed — and there was that one who stole your favorite speculoos spread without asking and took it to another table. “Excuse me!” you called to him, and he came back so rushed and annoyed. “We weren’t actually done with that.” He ran off, practically rolling his eyes and came back with the hazelnut spread, and ran away again.  “Excuse me!” you called again, “This wasn’t the one we needed.”

“Which one would you like?” he asked, lips pursed.

“The cookie butter one.”

“The speculoos?” he grimaced at you before dashing off to get it.

Ahhh, memories. Today’s location is so different. The manager brings you the speculoos and tells you it’s his favorite too. “I love it on a croissant,” he explains. “I know better than to get between a customer and their speculoos! I’ve almost had my fingers cut off for that before!”  (You wonder if he was watching you in the other restaurant yesterday. . .)

Then, at the end of your brunch, the manager brings you a bag. “Here. I wanted you to try this. It’s a croissant and some speculoos — for later. Once you try it on a croissant, you’ll never go back!”

Celebration! It’s not about the croissant, or the speculoos — even though… yum. It’s not even about the coffee —  even though the warmth of that latte is something to celebrate.

Celebration! It’s about kindness: Opening the second floor so a family can have brunch, smiling when a mom asks for some speculoos, walking up and down the steps to bring a family food and water, refills, the check, and a croissant with a little container of speculoos to go.

 

Celebration – trying to find the balloons

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend!

 

Some weeks are harder to celebrate.

I followed a new person on twitter, and when I went to her page, balloons started floating through my screen. I was a little surprised. Was twitter just so excited that I was following someone? (It was actually just her birthday, but whatever.)

Inspired by the balloons this morning, I decided to try to see the celebration — where could balloons float around here?  I was trying to, but man it was hard! As I tried to edit some writing, boys were scream-playing, L was watching loud instagram videos, and Mr. Thought was editing his video in the next room.

“Ahhh the sounds of a busy family,” I told myself as I took a deep breath, trying to see the balloons.

I asked the kids to have a simple breakfast of a bowl of cereal,  but that was a no go.

“So thankful we have food in our fridge,” I reminded myself as I helped E make some breakfast on the stove. Where are those balloons?

I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher. I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher. I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher. I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher. I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher. I asked the kids to start emptying the dishwasher.

“Strong willed, busy children are a blessing.” My fake smile probably scared off any celebratory balloons.

I started to read my math homework… watched a couple of cute instagram videos that L was desperate for me to see, listened to multiple people singing, humming, and making dumb jokes. I took a deep breath, tried to focus. I couldn’t find a pencil to use to talk to my math text, and E was drumming a beat on the table. No balloons.

“Maybe I shouldn’t write a celebration post today,” I decided. Because really, some weeks, some days, some times…

But, then I laughed. A pencil! I found a pencil, well half a pencil — and it really felt like a celebration.

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So I wrote this, and somehow, by some miracle, I hear the children emptying the dishwasher in the kitchen.

 

 

A slice of failure

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

What if it’s not enough?
What if you have books in your house, you read to your babies,
you read to yourself, you read to your students,
you read about reading,
and what if it’s not enough?
What if you’ve failed this part?

What if you don’t find the right book for your kid?
What if they don’t fall in love with stories?
What if they don’t want to live a thousand lives by reading?
What if you are tired of saying “yet” because maybe yet won’t come?
Maybe your child isn’t a reader “yet” but maybe it’s really “ever?”
What if you’ve failed this part?

What if you’ve overdone it with the “I love reading!
Reading is awesome!” shouted from the mountain tops?
What if you’ve missed your chance, the reading boat has sailed on?
What if you’ve failed this part?

What if? What if you’ve failed?
Should you throw in the towel? Hope someone else picks it up?
Someone more inspiring, less momish?
Should you stop trying strategies?
Should you stop timing, book-talking, pretending you don’t care?
Should you stop buying books, reading books?
I mean, what if it’s over?
What if you’ve failed this part?
What if your child just isn’t a reader?

A slice of who I am

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I’m laughing because somehow I’ve ended the evening standing in my parents’ kitchen holding a sword, a bow and a skeleton goblet. I hand my mom the phone, “Take a picture!”

It’s just so different from the rest of my day. I think.

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Earlier today, I discussed strategies for helping teachers raise the Depth of Knowledge in their learning experiences. Now, the most complex problem solving I need to engage in is how to get my kids home and to bed without them eating any more candy.

Earlier today, I presented a session on  academic discourse to a room of Instructional Coaches, Mentors, and Administrators. Tonight, I debated with my friend about the color of my sweatshirt. (It’s orange, not red. Trust me. That’s why I wore it on Halloween!) Later tonight, my discourse will involve a lot of counting down to zero and sternly negotiating with children about teeth brushing, face washing, and going to bed.

It’s strange, this double life of a working parent. When I was going about my day today, in my professional conference attire, I didn’t think that the representational slice of my day would be this picture. But somehow this tired mom, in an orange(!) sweatshirt and fuzzy hat — holding an assortment of Halloween sundries — this is the truest slice of who I am.

 

Celebrating Grandparents

celebrate-image 

So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend!  (In a better late than never sort of way. . . )

Last month we stopped by to visit my grandma on the way home from a trip. She met us with her caregiver on the porch of the home. She had a newspaper in her lap, and told us she loved to come out on the porch every morning to read. Her voice carried like memories, like my whole childhood wrapped in the silky smoothness of her cheeks. She hugged us and told us that we made her day. We only visited for 20 minutes or so, on strict instructions from my dad and his sister. “More than 20 minutes will tire her out.” So we started our goodbyes, even though she looked sad to see us go. Walking back to the car and getting resettled for our car trip took some time, but still, as we drove out past the porch, my grandma waved from her wheelchair. I honked my horn a few times, thinking back to all the old family horn-honking goodbyes at Grandma’s house.

My grandpa turns 101 next month.

101.

The other night we sat around the table after my dad’s birthday dinner, and my mom asked my grandpa to tell us about his old dog. It was a great story about a smart dog,  but I was busy listening to the ebb and flow of my grandpa’s voice.  I was busy thinking about my childhood, when I sat at family dinners and heard my grandpa talking, telling stories, riddles and jokes. How is it that a piece of my memory is now so embedded in the present day? 101! E says it’s more fun to say “Over a century!”

Most people don’t get to have their Grandpas and Grandmas still at this age. Mr. Thought doesn’t even get to have his parents anymore.

Somehow, I’m so lucky…  My kids get to have these very same pieces of childhood that I had. The stories, the voices, the love, the jokes, the hugs. . . And that is worth celebrating.

A Slice of Life, It’s Not Easy!

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

You know what’s hard?

It’s hard to do algebra when you’re 39, re-learning it on the fly
to help your 9th grader with radicals – simplified
“This is stupid! When will I ever need this in life?” She asks.

It’s hard not to answer her with sarcasm,
“Well, when your 9th grader is crying to you about algebra,
You might wish you paid a little more attention!”

It’s hard to push back your own memories of hating. math. class.
so that you can say instead,
“Algebra helps you in later math classes, and the logic behind it helps you in life…”

It’s hard to hear yourself sound like a cartoon mom
saying some sort of script instead of
the inspiration you wish you could be.

It’s hard to watch your child try and try
struggling, worried, stressed
with new teachers, new classes, new expectations.

You know what’s hard?
High School.
High School is hard
Learning, that’s hard
Parenting, teaching,
having patience,
perseverance,
knowing when it’s okay to fail, when you should try harder…
when it’s time to ask for help.

Celebrating my kids through paradox

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

What are you celebrating? As my kids make a mess of slime in the kitchen that was already full of dirty dishes, I’m celebrating this messy job of parenting. . .

One of my sons  might drive you crazy painting white out onto a table, and needing 3 reminders to stop. He’s also the one who will help you move tables and chairs without being asked. He’ll enjoy the jolly rancher you give him to say thank you, and he will also ask “Why are they trying to bribe us with tickets and treats?” after he hears about the positive behavior system. He definitely benefits from authentic positive feedback, and the he is impassioned about the ridiculousness of positive behavior incentives.

My daughter cares so much about animals, she won’t read a book or watch a movie that might have an animal go through a hardship… and she sighs loudly and rolls her eyes when I remind her to take the dog out. She sits for hours creating beautiful clay jewelry, a highly detailed sketch, and batches of slime. She also doesn’t understand why she has to go to school, and learn to study better. She is a creative writer, wants to write a book, and hates to sit and read. She reminds me to be stricter with her brothers a minute or two before she whacks them with the end of the dog’s leash.

My youngest reads voraciously once he starts, asks me to order him books, spouts off facts he’s learned from his books, and complains when I ask him to do his 20 minutes of reading. He talks about not having new friends in his new school and a minute later tells me a funny story about the kids he was playing with at recess, or that 2 of his friends will be going to math with him. He tells on his brother, and then (of course) turns around and mimics whatever his brother just did.

Isn’t it funny how everyone is different? Isn’t it amazing? Even within ourselves we are different — full of paradoxes.  How can I figure out my children? How can I help them grow while I celebrate who they are?

 

Fueled by Love

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

I want to celebrate one of my kids today. One of my wonderful children is a little extra unique. He’s smart, creative, comical, helpful, talented, a struggling reader, fidgety, a nonconformist, sensitive and loud. If you haven’t met him, watching this will give you a good idea of him. (If you’re his parent, watching it might make you cry and hope.)

The other day I overheard someone else use the word tricky to describe him. They hadn’t met him yet, but it was my fault because sometimes I have labeled him “tricky” in order to try to describe him to others. But I think I’ve been using the wrong word. It’s not that he’s never mischievous… it’s just that that isn’t what I mean by tricky. The nuance of what I mean is lost in the translation from my brain to others’ ears. I mean unique. I mean not interested in the status quo. I mean challenges you to be a better person.  I mean sensitive but not quiet. 

The other day, Mr. Thought and I were talking about how to make sure our son starts off his new school on the right foot.

“He’s not tricky.” Mr. Thought said. “Well, sometimes he is, but that’s not the point.”

We both thought for a moment. “He’s just fueled by love.” My husband explained, “He needs to know he’s loved.”

I don’t usually speak in hashtags, but come on. This is #truth.

So, I have a new way to talk about my amazing kid. He is fueled by love. He deserves it.

And I think I have new way to talk about all kids, right? Who isn’t fueled by love? Who doesn’t deserve it? What does it mean? It means give every kid the benefit of the doubt, set kind limits, give second chances, again and again. Take a deep breath, let it go. Don’t make compliance your learning goal. Look around at your students and get to know them. Please. They are fueled by love.

 

 

A slice at the Grocery Store

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

 

There’s only one register open at Wegmans, and it’s a little bit slow. E and I can handle it though, and while we wait, a pregnant mother of 3 kids pulls her cart behind me. Her toddler keeps throwing things on the floor. So, when it’s my turn to put groceries on the belt, I ask her if she wants to go in front of me.

“No, that’s okay. They need to learn to be patient.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “I only brought one of my kids with me today, so you are welcome to go first.”

“Nope, I’m kinda hoping they open another register. Usually they open registers when there are lines.”

The cashier rings up my groceries, and the woman has to start loading hers.

“Can you get those things on the bottom? No the bottom. The very bottom of the cart.” She explains to her kids. “Grab the milk from your sister before she drops it.”

I’m pulled out of my noticing by the cashier complaining about the line. She needs a price check for one of my items, so now she is the only cashier and her lamp is blinking. Another worker walks by, and my cashier yells after her.

“Is anyone going to help me?”

The woman walks away, saying “I’m going to accounting.”

“It would be great if you said something.” the cashier tells me. “That will make them listen. This is crazy. I’m all by myself.”

I nod. “It really puts the pressure on you.”

“That’s true.” she says to me, and then turns her head towards customer service, calling out the name of her manager. “I could use some help!”

Her voice is stressed, and snippy. The manager looks up, takes a deep breath and says “I’m with a customer. And then I can help you.”

The cashier grumbles to me some more, and I don’t really know what to say, so I just tell her that it must be so hard. The manager walks over, a smile on her face, asking what she can do to help me.

“I’m the only one on register.” the cashier says as the manager walks away, looking for the price we need. When she gets back, she asks the cashier if the item got on my order.

“I have no idea. I’m the only one on register. Can someone please come help over here?”

The manager checks that the item is now on my order, turns to the cashier and talks in a very patient voice, “More people are coming on. It will be okay.” She walks away.

“I hope your day gets better.” I tell the cashier as I walk away. E looks at me, eyes wide and rolling a little. It’s the look he gives me when we witness something a little odd. So, we talk a little about how hard it must be to be the only cashier, and how hard it must be to be the manager trying to get other people on the registers.  In my head I think about how patient the manager was, and how stressed out the cashier was. I wonder if this was supposed to teach me something. Is it ironic that the manager was all smiles to me, and on the patronizing side of patient with her employee? I don’t know. But, I noticed.

E reads this over my shoulder. “That’s sad” he says, and then, “Why are you writing about Wegmans? Write about something else.”