Category Archives: Family

#sol19 March 9 A slice of Olive Garden

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


I’m travel-tired and waiting in the crowded Olive Garden lobby. They said a half an hour, but It’s been almost an hour. The kids keep passing the buzzer around, hoping that someone will be the lucky one to make it buzz.

I wish I had my notebook, but I don’t. So, I’ll have to write in my head.

I wonder if it would be mean for me to mention that it looks like I’ve gone back in time. It seems a little like 1990 here.

I also wonder… why do I have so many Olive Garden memories? That seems odd.

But, while I’m waiting, I remember…

… I was 15 or so, and I was allowed to take a few friends out to Olive Garden for my birthday. We must have been dropped off. Did my parents give me $60? 

… Sometime after college when they were building the new Olive Garden in my hometown — we were so excited that one was finally opening. 

… In-service days with the incredible-elusive-to-teachers-lunch-out! Unlimited salad,  breadsticks, and laughter — and a few mints before heading back to the next 3 hours of work. 

…Meeting a friend for lunch, with my 8-month-old daughter.  She sat chewing on a breadstick, while I talked to my newly pregnant friend. I looked over and my baby was choking on that breadstick. Thankfully, she was okay. I frowned and said, “Welcome to motherhood?”

…Going out to dinner with my mother-in-law. She would order the salad dressing on the side and then use her fork and knife to toss the bowl for all of us. We laughed and grimaced at the rudeness. Now I order the dressing on the side and miss my mother-in-law who isn’t with us anymore. 

And we are up. Off to the table. Now I guess I can add “Late, long wait, dinner in Indiana with Granny and Bop” on my list of Olive Garden memories.


#sol19 March 8 Slices of Iowa Shopping

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

The Art Store. . . 

There were these amazing postcards on clearance – 25 cents for each letter, instead of $2.75 each. So we found #findthejoy right as my parents were ready to go.

“I’m done, I’m done!” I told them with my nod and my eyebrow raising.


“I’m going to need a manager override for these postcards.” The man behind the counter said.

And then he made a phone call.

And then he made an announcement.

And then he went and found the manager.

“We are going to have to do each of these separately since they are all different letters.” They decided. So we all watched as they slowly went through the cards. He scanned, she put her code in, she overrode the system and made it 25 cents, he piled the cards and took the next one to scan.

About halfway through he looked up at me, “I hope you weren’t in a hurry!”

“Just a mini one,” I said, and I snapped a picture as they finished up. IMG_0821

“This way, ” I told my kids, “I can #findthejoy and my slice all at once!”


Later we went to lunch, and wondered… were the 9-year-old’s pancakes big enough?



The Bookstore

If I can go to an independent bookstore when I’m traveling, I’m a happy camper. Well, we are staying at an Airbnb… but you know what I mean.

I found a book with almost my name. I started to read it, found out the Duck named Oona is a very slow runner, laughed and then had to take my child up to the bathroom. I’ll never know what happened to poor slow, waddling Oona!


Upstairs, there were a few books I wanted…


But I agreed to buy road map atlas of National Parks to share, and a little button about loving reading. (I say it like it was a compromise, but it is a cool atlas, and the button is for me.)

The Comic Shop

On our second stop into the comic store, H wanted to buy 20 Garbage Pail Cards for $5.00.

“5 dollars? For Garbage Pail Kids?” I whined. (Yes, I was on to the whining stage.)
The clerk took the cards, counted them and said, “How about $4.00?”

I told him he was my new favorite person, and we left.






#sol19 March 7 A Slice from Indiana

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

460 miles or so of driving yesterday, made possible by
Starbucks soy mocha, light on the mocha pumps but I should have gotten an extra shot of caffeine
I did have hot cinnomon spice tea
a few jellybeans
okay, more than a few

And thank you Lin Manuel Miranda - for Hamilton
I don't even mind the cursing
becuase we can (and do) all sing along
which makes siblings stop bickering for a bit
and miles pass a little more quickly

And don't forget Percy Jackson
on Audible (I've been telling my kids they would like that book for years!)
Because those last few hours were tough
Even after we stopped at starbucks again
for a tall coffee, splash of almond milk and stevia

460 miles or so of driving yesterday, 
and 320 or so to go
5 hours, google says
I wonder if we can finish Percy Jackson
before we get to Iowa


#sol19 March 6 A Slice of Rainbow Dreams…

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

I was about to get myself some vegan pineapple whip at the Sweet Frog, when I overheard my son at the counter.

“Can I have 10 taster cups, please?”

My mom radar went up and I walked over, making sure everyone knew this was not a sanctioned request.

“Um…” I said, shaking my head.

But the young lady behind the counter had already handed him a stack.

“I’m just going to do the thing with all the flavors in a cup.” H told me.

And then decided to be supportive of his creativity instead of annoyed.

lzENbVG6TiqfHkLWSwUAsQ_thumb_20“Well, get a bigger cup then, to fit all those in.” I told him. “And, you’ll have to do it slowly and not get mad if it gets messed up…” I tried to warn him to make sure this didn’t turn into a perfectionist’s nightmare of overflowing froyo.

HWDCwklESkOi7K%h69l+pQ_thumb_21I shouldn’t have worried though, he wasn’t really listening to my warning, but I watched him carefully and meticulously get  8 taster size cups full of different flavors, trying to make a rainbow. There was no purple, but luckily there was a pink and blue you could mix together.

This was going a little slower than I thought it would… so as I gave him the spoon he needed to mix his purple, I said, “I can’t wait until you thank me when you are a grown-up.” He just rolled his eyes.


I watched him move to the toppings bar, and thoughtfully choose a matching topping for each cup. “Definitely a kiwi. Maybe a Hershey Kiss. Oh, this would look good. Maybe a complimentary color.”

He placed his on the scale, and I took a picture. Then he realized he should add a matching sauce to each. Again, there was no purple — so he had to use white fudge a lot more than he originally wanted.

“Now can I take a picture?” I asked. And I looked at the young lady ringing us up. “Do you, uh, get a lot of people doing this?”

She just shook her head, eyes wide. “No. I never…”

We walked out, my daughter and I with our regular old sorbet with toppings strewn about and my son with his perfectly arranged, color-coded, rainbow taste test creation.

“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.” He said.

And that, my friends, is how you make spring break dreams come true. IMG_0748

At home, he displays it properly for a photo. “Use this one for your slice.”




#sol19 March 5 Last day in D.C.

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂



After we had eaten more than our fair share of Speculoos spread  for brunch, my son bought a very small leaf blower.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” he joked with Mr. Thought, “if I offered to leaf blow the neighbors’ yards. They would be like ‘Let me pay you.’ I’d say, ‘No, no. I’m doing this as a community service.’ Then I’d pull this out.”

Outside he bent down to clear the sidewalks of Georgetown without a care in the world about people passing by.


We stopped to look in the windows of The Kitten Lounge, wishing we had an appointment and money to spare for such a thing.


“We can’t spend $75 for us all to go in and cuddle with kittens for 15 minutes, even if it goes to a good cause.” We told the kids.

“Well, daddy doesn’t need to go in, and I don’t need to go in. I have my leaf blower.” H said — and he leaned down to do a little more sidewalk cleaning.


Disappointing the kids (and me to be honest), we left the kitten lounge window, with dreams of opening our own one day.

“Maybe when I retire,” I said. “It can be my new retirement dream.”

“So, when I’m already out of the house? Gone? Can we do more than dream ever?” My teenager said. (Or something like that, I don’t know her exact words as she was busy walking away from me. Mad, since I wasn’t ready to immediately open a Kitten Lounge.)

%jAq1cWISLKtlflkDF%dDA_thumb_1f.jpgLuckily, there was a Lush down the street, and that cheered everyone up. I didn’t know the boys would enjoy that store so much, but they did — each picking out something for their hair, and watching a demonstration of an amazing rainbow bath bomb. I’m glad nobody noticed that we spent the money we didn’t have for the Kitten Lounge buying hair products, face wash and a body wash bar…

Back at the hotel, we asked for our bags and our car, and fought a little about where the mini leaf blower should be while we waited. L was embarrassed that H still had the leaf blower in his hands. She was worried people would think it was a weapon, and didn’t even want him to put it in his pocket. Since it just looked like a leaf blower, but very small, I wasn’t so worried.

My youngest came out of the fancy hotel bathroom and said, “I didn’t know where to put the towel, so I just rolled it back up.” I didn’t understand what he was talking about until I went in the bathroom. IMG_0727.JPG

(Don’t worry, I put his in the little used towel basket.)

Then we got out of the city, and got to listen to the sound of the mini leaf blower while we drove home in the packed Prius.

“I’m saying something very important!” H told us, with the leaf blower pointed into his mouth.

And then, turning it off he said, “My mouth is very, very dry.”




#sol19 March 4: Vacation, Fortunately, Unfortunately

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Walking 2.6 miles with 3 kids wasn’t super fun. But we handled it okay until the freezing rain started. But we knew we weren’t going to be able to walk all the way back because, by the time we were ready to go, the rain was heavier. 

Fortunately, the museum helpdesk guy was super helpful with directions to the nearest metro.
Unfortunately, everyone was hungry.
Fortunately, there was an ice cream truck that sold soft pretzels right outside.
Unfortunately, they were “$3.00”
Fortunately, the kids agreed to share one.
Unfortunately, when we told the man we wanted one, he said “One? They are $4.00”
Fortunately, it had been a long day and I just said “Hey!” because I thought he was joking, so he sold it to us for $3.00.
Unfortunately, the kids were ravenous and sharing wasn’t as fair as it could have been.

Fortunately, it was raining so hard that everyone just forgot about the pretzel and worked on trying to find the metro station.
Unfortunately, only one of us had our metro card from our last trip, so we had to buy 4 more.
Fortunately, we were able to get one of the machines to finally work.
Unfortunately, our favorite station manager from last year wasn’t there to help us find our way.
Fortunately, we figured out which train to board as it was pulling up.
Unfortunately, my phone was dying as we reached our destination and we still didn’t know where to have dinner.
Fortunately, Whole Foods was a dry place to sit and try to figure it out.
Unfortunately, everyone was hangry by then.

Fortunately, we found an Italian place just 4 minutes away and they happened to keep refilling our fresh rolls.
Unfortunately, that means I ate a lot of bread.
Fortunately, there was an ice cream & cookie place across the way.
Unfortunately, they had vegan chocolate chip cookies so I had one.
Fortunately, there was ice cream for the boys
Unfortunately, the woman asked, “Do you want one cookie or two for your ice cream, and H said “Two.”
Fortunately, the kids watched as she put two giant cookies in a box, and then piled about 5 scoops of ice cream in there.
Unfortunately,  not even ice-cream-loving H could eat that humongous ice cream sandwich.
Fortunately, it was still fun to watch.
Unfortunately, even though the top cookie cracked as she closed the lid so she gave H an extra cookie. . . we knew we were wasting money.
Fortunately, the woman asked “Oh, is this your first time here?” which made us all laugh.

Unfortunately, we still had to walk back in the pouring rain.
Fortunately, we had a nice, warm, clean fancy hotel room to go back to.
Unfortunately, kids like to watch TV and stay up late in hotel rooms.
Fortunately, that’s fine by me (sometimes).
Finally, we went to sleep.


#sol19 March 3: A slice of a fancy hotel

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

This hotel is a little fancy. I mean, thank you hotwire… but it is a little fancier than we are used to, with the marble floors and all. When we first walked in the kids were all wide-eyed looking at the shiny things and all the well-dressed people.  “Mama! You didn’t tell us to wear tuxedos!”

This morning I took the kids to the indoor saltwater pool downstairs.

As we walked to the elevator – in our Target bathing suits under our old navy clothes, I thought about hotel pools. As a kid on vacation, I would hang out at the pool for as long as I could, and befriend other kids, I guess.  As a parent, I’ve taken kids to hotel pools to fill an hour, a day,  and to try to tire them out when they were little and had slept for a whole car trip. Hotel pools smell of chlorine, have a selection of strangers around and do not have a lifeguard.

This fancy indoor saltwater pool at this fancy hotel didn’t smell of chlorine, but there was a selection of strangers around, and no lifeguard.

Other than the salt water, it was just the same as any other hotel pool, really. We put the towels on a little table, next to our bag, our shoes, our water bottles, my phone.  I watched the kids try to play while a few people were swimming laps, and a set of brothers raced and splashed with their dad. We watched a fancy family walk around with the hotel staff, and I wondered why they were touring the hotel pool in their winter jackets still.

After time in the hot tub and the pool, I told the kids we had just a few minutes left, and they started to get out to start drying off at the side of the pool. We watched a man get out of the pool, walk over and take one of the towels that we had set by our things.

I tried to convince myself that this had nothing to do with the fanciness of the hotel, the entitlement that people might feel. “It must be an honest mistake,” I said, “although my stuff is right next to those towels.” And we laughed a little. We watched him gesture to his sons where they too might get a towel. H started to say something like “Hey! Those are our towels.” But I shushed him. I’d rather us be the kind of people who don’t yell across a pool when someone takes their hotel pool towels.

We dried off in our respective locker rooms and dried our bathing suits in that shakey bathing suit thing. We put our old navy clothes back on and walked to the elevator. A woman and her dog walked up to the elevator and asked if it was okay for them to join us.

“Of course!” We all said. Lucky us, getting to meet a pup in the elevator of a fancy hotel.


#sol19 March 1 March Again

Slice of LIfePart of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


So. March again.

I have forgotten how to write on command like this. Daily.

I searched for slices today, and I wonder if maybe it’s harder now.
There are so many stories each day that aren’t my own to tell.

I walked down the steps, laughing at myself for being scared to fall down the steep steps… scared enough to put my hand on the railing – the one that hundreds of kids’ germy hands have touched.

“A slice!” I think.

I walk out of the building with a teacher I’m getting to know this year, and we chat about our spring break plans, and thank each other for the great work these days.
“Not really a slice.” I think. Although it was a nice chat.

I walk to my car, and realize it is almost pinned in by the car behind it.
I hate backing up so close to another car, but thank goodness for the backup camera.
It’s touch and go. But then, I go.

I search the street as I drive for a little slice of life.

At home, my kids have slices. But they aren’t mine to tell.

So. March again.
This is going to take practice.

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.”



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.