Thursday, March 17, 2016


My fuel tank is empty.
I'm drained.

I spent the day facilitating a professional development lab day in a colleague's classroom.  This year, Sarah hosted a series of three lab experiences looking at differentiation through flexible small groups.  As a model classroom teacher, she is expected to open her classroom to groups of teachers looking to improve their practice. As the literacy coach, I am expected to facilitate these days.

I'm drained.
But in a good way.

We spent the morning discussing formative assessment strategies we've tried, our attempts at flexible, needs-based grouping, and then listening to Sarah discuss her plans for the day.  We talked about what we would look for when we were in the classroom with the children.

The afternoon was spent debriefing our observation, discussing an article from a professional journal, and then examining student work to determine what Sarah will do with her students tomorrow.

I'm drained.
My brain hurts.

We talked about possibility.  We talked about giving two students who often struggle a chance to shine and teach their peers something tomorrow.  We talked about when to teach a whole-class lesson and when to teach in small groups, depending on what students need.  We talked about our own insecurities and doubts that we are doing it "right."

Tomorrow, we'll reconvene and spend more time with Sarah and her students.  We'll learn some things together.  We'll talk about what we take back into our own classrooms.

We'll be drained.
But also energized.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Still Unpacking

We've been in our new house for about ten months.  I would like to say that we have completely unpacked all of the boxes and put things where they belong.

I can't.

I can say that is mostly true.  The main living areas are feeling like home, but the basement is another story.  We have boxes of books to go on shelves and boxes of photos an albums that need a home.  I have discovered I have boxes of pens, envelopes, and notepads, most of which will go back to school with me in August.

We have bins of things the girls couldn't bear to part with... yet.  Those will go up in the attic; hopefully this weekend.  I am getting itchy to have EVERYTHING organized, put away, and cleaned up.  I don't want to see any more moving boxes.

The crazy thing is that we MAJORLY purged as we were getting the old house ready list and as we packed to move.  I'm finding even MORE stuff to get rid of as I unpack boxes.  I think I was moving so quickly to pack that I packed things I didn't need to.

Honestly, it feels good to put things into the boxes that will be donated.  Knowing that while something I no longer have a use for may find new life with someone else makes getting rid of it a little easier.

I'm also pickier about the things I bring into the house. If I don't love something, I don't buy it.  I'm trying hard to just have less stuff.

And that feels good, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Sometimes I worry that the internet is creating a culture of meanness.  One only has to look at the comments of just about any newspaper article to see horrifying meanness happening because it can. For example, I made the mistake of reading the comments under the story about the dad who stopped a bat from hitting his son in the head at a minor league baseball game.  Commenters were ripping into the 9 year old boy because he was looking at a phone.  Turns out, it was the boy's first baseball game, and he was texting his mom a picture to show her how much fun he was having.

Why would grown people feel the need to hate on a 9 year old boy celebrating his birthday with a day at the ballpark with his dad?  What do people get out of that?

I have found, however, that the internet has made it possible for me to make connections with people across the country that I would have otherwise never known.  Many of these connections were forged way back when on the English Companion Ning when it was a much smaller community, then migrated to Twitter where I had conversations and chats, and then, after meeting face to face at conferences, also ended up on Facebook.

These connections have made me a better teacher.  They have shown me different viewpoints and ideas and help me to see the world in a new way.  They have offered support when I needed it and celebrated with me as well.

I hesitate to list all of the connections I've made as a result of my social media use.  I'd be too afraid to leave anyone off the list!  These people know who they are.  I hope.

Maybe I should tell them. :-)

Monday, March 14, 2016


We've been getting hints of spring here in the Chicago area.  I have little bits of green popping up in my flower beds.  Of course, since I didn't live in this house last spring, I have no idea what those bits of green will turn into, but I'm excited to find out.

The weather has been warm then cold then warm again with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure.  March is often this way, but I know that rain is soaking into the ground, waking up the grass and other lovely green things that will make their appearance soon.

But will it be soon enough?  I'm impatient.  I'm ready for warm breezes and sunshine.  For green yards and tulips and daffodils.  For fresh air and open windows.

And yes... I'm even impatient for spring cleaning.

So I'll be here, waiting, impatiently, for spring to finally arrive.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding the Spark

I used to be really creative.  I used to do all kinds of crafts.  When my oldest was born, I made an amazing scrapbook of her first year of life (sorry, youngest....).  I used to do creative lettering with fun markers and colored pencils.  I used to .....

Lately, I feel like I have no creative spark.  When we moved into our house, I found a fun-looking project on Pinterest that I thought would look great on the wall opposite our front door.  I bought the canvases, the tape, the paint.  And all of it is still sitting in the basement.  I have coloring books and GOOD coloring pencils (still wrapped in plastic).

I keep making excuses as to why I don't give myself the time and the space to rekindle that creative spark.  I'm too busy.  My kids need more of my energy.  I have to clean the house.  I have books to read.

NOW, though, I have two reasons to get my artsy-craftsy mojo back in working order.  I still have things to do here in the house and I have a classroom to get ready for.   I need to practice my perfect handwriting (it's been a while since I've really tried to print nicely), I need to work on my basic figures for when I make charts.  I need to think about furniture layout.

I'm starting to get excited about this.  Maybe this afternoon, I'll get my colored pencils out and sharpen them up!

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I have a headache.  It's been with me on and off all day.  I have a feeling it's the beginning of my seasonal allergies.  With warmer weather comes pollen and mold and grass and all of the other lovely things that set my eyes to itching and watering and my head to aching.

It's hard to focus on much of anything when my head hurts.  It's hard even to concentrate on a book.

Unfortunately, life does not really slow down when I have a headache.  I had things to do today, things that included going to see my youngest in her school play and doing my regular housework chores.

Luckily, there is no reason for me to wake up early tomorrow morning.  I can sleep in and then make my way to the grocery store.

Hopefully, there will be no headache wanting to go with me.

Friday, March 11, 2016


For the twenty-two years, I have been proud to teach and coach at my school.  When I was hired in 1994, I was a new teacher, with just a year's experience.  Now, I am a seasoned veteran who has had the opportunity to learn and grow with amazing colleagues.  For the past four years, I have served as the literacy coach in my building, working alongside teachers to solve problems of practice and to figure out how to best serve our students.

This year, I've struggled.  I've cried.  I've thought and thought and thought about what should be the next steps in my career.  I talked to my principal.  I talked to my friends.  I talked to Dan.  And through all of this crying and talking and thinking, I figured out that coaching is not for me.  I think it important work.  It is hard work.  It is work I can do well.  But it is not work that brings me joy.

Ultimately,  I realized I felt very isolated.  Though I work with teachers all day, I am not part of a team of teachers who are working together toward a common goal.  I need that collegiality.  I desperately miss working with a classroom of children.  Kids and teammates bring energy and joy to my work.

So I am returning to the classroom in the fall, but not as a middle school teacher.  I am moving to one of our elementary buildings where I will be teaching third grade.  THIRD GRADE!!!!  I can hardly believe it!  I'm so excited about this new adventure.  I have so much to learn!  So many books to read! So many things to think about!

So wish me luck... it's going to be a wild ride.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Tonight I drove to the high school to pick my daughter up from a tech rehearsal.  That is not unusual.  She enjoys doing crew for various productions, and I'm glad she's found a group of kids who appreciate her quirkiness and her strong work ethic.

What was unusual is that I was stuck in the car waiting for her without my phone or a book.  I had nothing to read.  I had to just sit there and listen to the radio for a good ten minutes.  For some people, that would be no big deal.  For me, it was torture.  I'm a person who pulls a book out of my purse when I get stuck for a freight train.  I am almost NEVER without some text to put my eyes on.

As I sat there being disgruntled about being bored, I did think about how perhaps I could spend these few alone minutes thinking about something productive, something that I might need to make a decision about or perhaps take action on.

But no.  I just sat there.  And wished I had my book.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

House Into Home

Since moving into the new house, I have been slowly making this place mine.  I've spent far too many hours trolling Pinterest, looking for ideas that fit my style and watching too much HGTV.  I'll even admit to subscribing to HGTV magazine after reading it for free through my local library.

It was on Pinterest that I found my favorite paint color, which now graces the walls of our living room (Guilford Green by Benjamin Moore).  I found the bookshelves that sit on either side of our living room window on the IKEA website (also a treasure trove of design ideas).  I've learned to embrace pattern by watching Property Brothers and Fixer Upper.

Most of the things I want to do in my house, however, have to wait a bit.  My kitchen needs an overhaul, but I can live with it for now.  The entryway and the family room could use a fresh coat of paint.  I'd love to redo the master bath.  I have a feeling new siding will come before any of these other things.

But really, I'm content to curl up in my house-that-is-now-a-home and pin and clip and dream while knowing that what really makes my house my home are the people (and dog) who live here with me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Ten years ago I had LASIK so that I would no longer have to wear glasses to correct my horrible nearsightedness.  It was not a decision I made lightly, given that I am an avid reader and one of my biggest fears is losing my eyesight altogether.

While doing the tests to see if I would be a good candidate for the surgery, my eye surgeon explained that LASIK does not stop the eye from aging, and that I would notice a loss of my close vision in my early forties.

I'd have to wear cheaters.

Sure enough, it happened.  At first, I only needed them in dark restaurants or when I was tired.  It was hard to find cheap reading glasses with minimal magnification.  Now, though, I find I need them almost all the time, even when I'm chopping vegetables for dinner.  I think I might need to invest in good reading glasses that are bifocals - no prescription on top and magnification on the bottom.

I've taken to wearing my cheaters on a string around my neck because I was constantly setting them down and forgetting where I left them.  I take them off and put them on over and over again all day.  I'm resisting getting a good pair because gosh darn it... I paid a lot of money to not have to wear glasses all the time!

I know I can't stop the march of time when it comes to aging.  And really, I am proud of the wisdom I've earned over the years.  I feel more confident and sure of myself at 47 than I ever did when I was younger.  I've built a good life with my husband and have two kids who amaze and delight me (most of the time).

In the grand scheme of things, reading glasses are really NBD.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Saying Goodbye

Last night I said goodbye.  After six years, it was time to close the book on this particular relationship, though I can't say the people and their stories will ever really leave my mind.

I said goodbye with some laughter and many tears, but with no regret for the time I've invested.

I said goodbye.

Yes, yes... I said goodbye to a fictional family living in the past.  I said goodbye to over-the-top drama. But it was so, so, good.

When I look back over the six seasons of Downton, I think my favorite character is Violet, the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith.  She always had the best zingers, and her timing and delivery were flawless.  I'll miss seeing her tangle with Mrs. Crawley, waiting to see who would get the last word.

Perfectly, it was Violet who had the last word in the whole series.

As a HUGE fan of historical fiction, this series was right up my alley.  I was hooked from the very first episode, and I've watched all of the seasons except for this last one multiple times.  Each time I watch, I notice something new, some nuance of expression that I missed during the first viewing.  I love Julian Fellowes's writing (mostly, as some storylines dragged on a bit too long) and the way he creates characters that are not all good or all evil, but are well rounded and relatable.

So now I need to get myself all six seasons so I can binge watch to my heart's content.  I really need never leave that world completely behind.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


I try my best to do everything I HAVE to do on Saturdays so that on Sundays I can just chill and relax and read and nap and generally just take care of me.  I was mostly successful this weekend. I did have to go to the grocery store today and do the last two loads of laundry left from yesterday, but other than that, I have been hanging on the sofa with Rehab Addict on in the background, writing and scheduling blog posts for my other blog, Next Best Book.

It's quiet here today; both kids are up in their rooms doing homework and tidying up.  My guess is that Abby is drawing and watching YouTube videos, too.  That's ok, since she doesn't have school tomorrow and can get her homework finished then.  Before too long, I'll probably hear Molly's violin as she gets some practice time in.  Dan is in the other room, reading.  I heard the guitar a while ago, but I don't any more.  If I walked in there, I might just catch him dozing, his iPad on his chest.

It's still to cold to do much in the yard too early to plant much of anything.  Spring will really be here soon and Sundays will be busier with cleaning out the garage and working in the yard.  For now, I'm going to be happy just being lazy.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Change of Scenery

This time last year, Dan and I were working hard to get our house ready to list.  When the big day finally arrived, we were nervous.  What if it didn't sell?  What if we couldn't find a new house in our price range?  What if?  What if?  What if?

I really, really needed to get out of our old house.  It was too small for the four of us, and we were always on top of each other.  We didn't really have anywhere to just be and have our own space.  Because I had grown to intensely dislike our house, I didn't take much interest in caring for it or keeping it neat and tidy.

Now, a year later, we've sold, bought, and moved.  We purged and purged and purged.  It's been about 9 months and most of the boxes are unpacked and things have PLACES.  The kids tend to keep their things in their rooms so the shared living spaces aren't so messy!
Complete with a white picket fence!
Now I don't mind spending an hour or two on Saturday morning to tidy, dust, and vacuum.  I like puttering and going to HomeGoods to find something cute to hang on a wall or to display on the bookshelves.  I like coming home and sitting in my beautiful Guilford Green living room and reading.

It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for a person.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Today it snowed.  I was not happy about this development.  I do not believe in March snow (though I should, given I live in northern Illinois).

Imagine my happiness when I saw this:

THIS is more like it.  I can deal with Friday's 37 if it means a warm up is on the way.

By this time of year, I am completely OVER winter.  The gray days.  The slush.  The salt-covered cars.  My dry, dry skin.  I am ready for sun, for warmth, for longer days that move me closer and closer to the mugginess of summer.

Yes, I am one of those people who kind of like the crazy humidity of Chicago in summertime.  I don't mind doing the yard work in the sun unless the temps are over 90.  I don't mind what the humidity does to my hair.  It's so straight and heavy it goes flat on its own.  I don't even mind the almost daily thunderstorms that hit in the late afternoon.

Summer brings with it deliveries from my Community Supported Agriculture farm, the bounty of the farmers' market, and fruit that is so juicy it has to be eaten over a sink.  Now, in March, just the thought of a tree-ripened peach sends me into a tizzy.  Knowing I still have a good five months before I get one again makes me a bit sad.

But before peaches, there is so much more to look forward to.

So in the morning, I'll enjoy my grapefruit half, knowing that those peach trees are getting themselves ready for summer, too.  They'll wake up soon and leaf and flower; the bees will do their work as well, and come early August we'll both be ready.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

One of THOSE Days

Illustration by Ray Cruz from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
You know that kind of day... that day when everything seems wrong from the moment the alarm rings.  The day when the shower keeps going from scalding to freezing to scalding again.  The day when you can't  have your morning coffee because you have your wellness screening.  The day when there is no plain cream cheese for the bagel that is your post-blood work bagel.  The day when nothing seems to go right no matter what you do.

Yeah.  I had that day.  I cried in the car as drove from school to home to dance to play practice pickup and back to home.  I scolded my children.  I pouted as I cooked dinner.

I'm better now.  I spent some time thinking about all of the things that went RIGHT today: no cavities at the dentist; the new recipe turned out great; my kids made me laugh at dinner; my husband sat next to me on the couch as we wound down from our days.

It's easy to get caught up in everything that goes wrong in the course of a day.  It's harder to find the good and focus on that.  It's hard to remember that I am the person in charge of my emotions; that I get to decide how I am going to react to situations that I might not like or that are out of my control.

I'm going to hope that tomorrow is a better day, that I'll be able to hold onto the positive, and that I'll get to have that morning coffee that helps my day start off on an even keel.

Otherwise, I might have to move to Australia.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Simple Joys

Sometimes, simple things are the best.  In the past year, I've made an effort to simplify things; the main impetus was listing our house for sale and then moving.  I purged SO MUCH STUFF. I realized having less stuff meant a calmer me.  Simple is good.

Simple is good when it comes to food, too.  Lately, my favorite snack has been one of the simplest things around - popcorn popped on the stove, topped with real melted butter and some salt.  That's it; kind of plain but super tasty.

Of course, even simple things can get complicated if you let them.  On the road to my daughters' camp in western Wisconsin, there is a farm stand that Dan and I like to stop at.  In late summer, which is when Molly and Abby head to camp, the produce they sell is at its peak.  This past summer, I discovered they also sell a HUGE variety of popcorn.  WHO KNEW popcorn came in such a wide variety.  There were different kernel sizes, different popped kernel sizes, different flavors (imagine the dude at the wine store, but with popcorn.  For real).  I bought some.  Tried it.  It was ok.

But not as good as the white popcorn I buy in bulk at Whole Foods.  Simple.

Tonight I popped up a big batch.  In fact, my Whirly-pop popper almost couldn't handle it.  I melted 3 tablespoons of butter.  I sprinkled salt on the warm, freshly popped kernels.  Then I settled on the couch with Abby and Dan to watch The Voice and unwind from my day.

It was simple.

And it was good.

(And yes.. I saved some for Molly!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Slicing" Again This March

It's March 1, which means it's time again for the Slice of Life writing challenge sponsored by the TwoWritingTeachers blog.  The challenge is to write and post every day in the month of March.

I took this opportunity to wander down memory lane.  I discovered that I started this particular blog on March 1, 2011, specifically to participate in the SOLSC.  I've participated, mostly successfully, every year since.  Sadly, however, the blog sits dormant the other eleven months of the year.  Each year I tell myself I will keep slicing weekly on Tuesdays, and sometimes I make it to the end of April.  I'm not sure why I don't keep up with it.  Perhaps it's the fact that life gets in the way; we're just too busy for me to sit and write.  Perhaps it's the fact that as my kids get older I find less to write about them (though that's a silly excuse, since they are fascinating kids).  Perhaps it's that internal censor getting in my way, telling me that no one really cares what I have to say.

So here I am again, fingers on keyboard, opening myself up to new possibilities.  I want to write.  I want to write more than slices or book reviews.  I want to write for a larger audience, and I have ideas.  Now it's time to put those ideas to work and make myself sit at my desk for an hour or so a day to get myself into the groove.

I know I CAN do it; the question is WILL I?