What a Journey…

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 8.51.13 PM
Day 31 – March SOLSC

March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.

I can’t help but think that this line is more than just about the weather for me. This is was my first time participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Actually, it was my first time slicing – ever.  I just jumped right in to this challenge even though I had a million other things on my plate during the month (report cards, conferences, supply orders, meetings, study groups, and all of the things going on in my personal life).  But, I wanted to do it.  I wanted to learn.  I wanted to be a better teacher of writing.  I just wanted it – despite all of the stuff on my plate.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Worried I wouldn’t have anything to say.  Worried I wouldn’t be good at writing.  Worried, excited, worried, excited – ROAR!

Yes, March definitely came in like a lion for me.

But now as the challenge comes to an end, I’m left in a calmer state of mind.  I have found that I actually do love writing.  I notice stories everywhere and find myself planning out ideas and looking for them all throughout the day.  I enjoy reading other people’s slices, learning about them, and borrowing techniques and structures.  I’ve written narratives, poetry, 6 word memoirs, and other structures.  I think one of the things that kept me going was knowing that there were people out there who were reading what I was writing and even enjoying it.  Having other writers comment on my posts felt like a writing conference.  They noticed and named techniques I used and gave feedback.  These little conferences were so helpful.  I had only told a few people in my life about this challenge – my husband, my daughter, my father in law, a close friend, and a few colleague friends.  At first,  I didn’t even tell my mom and brother.  I just told them to tell them.  I had no idea that they would actually read what I was writing.  Some people even texted me after reading and told me what they loved about what I wrote. I’ve really experienced, first hand,  just how much audience matters.  Audience motivates.  I wasn’t just writing for myself, but was writing for them and looked forward to hearing their thoughts – just like I looked forward to comments from other slicers.

One of my audience members has been my biggest fan.  I mean he actually told me that he was my #1 fan.  He wasn’t much of a reader until I shared my blog with him.  Once he told me that, it was like I was even more motivated to keep sharing my ideas.  He helped to keep me going on a different level.   Every day, he texted me after reading with these loving, confidence boosting words.  I’m not very good at taking compliments, but his always brought huge ear to ear smiles to my face and made my heart sing.  He’s the only dad that I have in my life right now, my father-in-law, my biggest fan.  I just have to share some of the texts he has sent me over the course of the year.  I hope you see just how much of an amazing father-in-law I have…

This writing challenge has been an amazing experience – a journey that I won’t forget.  I will miss posting every day, but will be back next year and will be slicing on Tuesdays.  In one month, my feelings about writing have completely changed.  I used to be scared of it and found no enjoyment with writing, whatsoever.  But now, writing is what I look forward to doing every day.  It lets me escape to another place for a little while.  I’ve learned about myself as a writer and look forward to learning more and more.  Thank you to the whole gang at Two Writing Teachers.  I’m so glad I found your blog.  Thank you for hosting this challenge.  It has let me learn about myself as a writer, meet new people through their blogs and slices, and helped me to feel more confident in my writing abilities.  I feel more like a writer today, than I did a month ago.  For me, writing is calming.  Yes, March is definitely going out like a lamb!

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

It’s been a week…

Day 30 – March SOLSC #sol17

I’m dragging myself to my slice tonight.  It’s not that I don’t want to (the complete opposite actually).  I’m not totally sure what I’m going to write about.  I have lots of ideas, but they feel like they’re all just swimming around in my brain – not really becoming anything.  I’m also, well, just, exhausted.  But, here goes…

As I’m thinking about this week, two words come to mind – Be Flexible.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have been taking the state ELA test and we’ve all had to pitch in to help out in some way.  Schedules get switched, accommodations are made, teachers are pulled to proctor or help out in other ways, and we all try our best to be respectful and empathetic towards the kids and teachers directly involved with the testing.  It’s an “all hands on deck” kind of thing.

Be Flexible.

During these 3 days, the building has been eerily quiet.  The classroom doors have stayed closed, teacher’s have been wearing quiet shoes so they don’t click clack through the halls, and the kids have been rockstars with staying quiet.  We all know what we have to do to help the older kids be able to concentrate.  Too bad we couldn’t turn off the sounds of the excavator working outside on the parking lot during the testing!

Be Flexible.

Luckily, my first graders don’t have to take this test – all we have to deal with is a schedule change and making sure we’re respectful.  Sounds like no big deal – it’s less stressful than taking the test, right?  However, the change in the schedule leaves us with a very, very, very long afternoon.  The first day, we were all good.  The second day it got a little harder, and more exhausting.  By the third day, it was like I was dragging myself to the finish line of the afternoon.  The kiddos handled the schedule change much better than I did, I must say.  But then again they had extra choice time and didn’t have to send an SOS for someone to cover the class so they could go use the bathroom.

Be Flexible.

The testing is over.  We will be back on our regular schedule tomorrow and just in time.  The forecast is calling for rain, so that means indoor recess (and maybe no excavator).   Indoor recess + a long afternoon would have been a recipe for disaster.  We lucked out – phew!  No matter what tomorrow brings, I will just do what I always do – Be flexible, go with the flow, and make time for laughter!  After all, I teach first grade – how can I not smile or laugh?!?

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Before & After

Day 29 – March SOLSC #sol17

My Table – Before

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.04.33 PMLet’s just say my table is never neat.  There are always papers, books, pens, post-its, etc. all over it.  It is more like a place where I drop stuff as I’m on the move.  I’m hardly ever sitting there because I usually meet with my small groups (reading & writing) on the rug.  It’s just always felt more comfortable to me and the kids seem to enjoy it too.  If you know first graders, then you know that reading to themselves means reading out loud so everyone can hear you!  It takes some time to be able to read in your mind.  So, when we’re doing guided reading or strategy groups on the rug, they can spread out a little bit so their “quiet” reading doesn’t distract the other kids in the group.  When I had a bigger table, I will admit that it was easier for me to be able to listen to their reading because they were right in front of me, but the kids were often distracted by each other.  And after seeing this smaller table looking like this, what do you think a bigger table would look like?  Yup, let’s be honest, the bigger the table, the bigger the mess!

I will admit it, most days I end up leaving my table looking like this at the end of the day.  It’s almost like I just let it win.  “Tomorrow’s another day,” I usually tell myself.  But not today.  I was winning the battle with the messy table.  I was super motivated – not sure why.  Maybe it was because I was trying to plan some guided reading lessons and was just writing on top of papers and stuff was starting to fall on the floor.  Yeah, that could’ve been some of the motivation.  So after the kids were dismissed, I came back to conquer the mess…

“File those papers, stack up the post-its, put away the tape and pens, put the photocopies where they belong.  Only leave out what you need for tomorrow.  Wipe down the table (it totally had crumbs on it – gross).”

My Table – After

There’s a really good chance that some of the stacks of papers were just relocated and that some things were shoved in drawers.  Out of sight, out of mind!  I’ll deal with those another day!  For now, I will just look at this and enjoy the lack of mess….until tomorrow!Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.04.50 PM

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Biopoem

Day 28 – March SOLSC #sol17

Tonight’s Slice is inspired by two other blogs I read towards the beginning of this challenge and just came across them while looking for ideas.  This was a little harder than I thought it would be, but then again, I am an over-thinker!  (You can find those blogs here and here)

Jen

Ambitious, Determined, Compassionate, Entertaining

Lover of learning, books, chocolate, and relaxing (when I can!)

Who wonders if I’ll find (or make) the time to read a “fun” book and if the dishes will wash themselves (I’m looking at a full sink right now)

Who fears flying, losing people I love, and heights.

Who feels happy when I’m snuggling with my daughter or husband, reading, or knitting/crocheting.

Who cares about helping children grow both socially and academically.

Who dreams of one day having a log cabin on a lake where we can relax and enjoy the peace.

Who resides in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Driggers

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Lucy In Charge

Day 27 – March SOLSC #sol17

I’ve decided to try something different tonight.  I’ve been observing my mom’s dog, Lucy, lately. She’s been sick for a few months, but is such a fighter.  Clearly, still the boss of the house!   So tonight, I decided to write a story from Lucy’s point of view.

I just finished my dinner – my first dinner of course.  I walk around the corner, go right in front of the couch and sit.  I just sit starring at her.  Emma, the kid, yeah, she’s in my spot.  I got up for 5 minutes to go eat my dinner and there she goes, jumping right into my spot.  Ugh, the nerve of her!

How am I going to get her to move?  Should I bark? – Nah, they’ll just say, “Oh Lucy, what’s wrong girl?” Or they’ll try to speak “dog” to me.  I don’t speak “human” to them, who knows why they try to speak “dog” to me.  Or they’ll think I have to go to the bathroom, so they’ll take me out.  So no, barking won’t work.

Should I growl? – Nah, that’ll get me in trouble.  My momma will yell ‘LUCY’ so loudly.  It will hurt my ears.  And she might stay mad and then no treats for me.  So no, growling won’t work.

Oh wait, I know what to do.  I stand up, still starring at her,  and start wagging my tail.  She sees what I’m doing – “Come on girl, you wanna get up here?”  But she doesn’t move.   One, two, three…up I go.  I turn around and sit my butt right onto Emma’s chest.  She still doesn’t move.  Just keeps on watching her show.

As I sit there, looking right at her mommy, her mommy starts to giggle and says “Hey Ma, look at your dog!  She’s sitting right on Emma’s chest.  Think she’s trying to tell her something?”  Yes, yes I am.  This isn’t funny.  She’s in my spot.  I was there first.  She stole it…Make her move!

My momma looks up from her iPad just as Emma says “Lucy, ugh, you’re on my chest and belly.”  Duh kid!  You’re in my spot.

Come on momma, you know what has to be done.  It’s like she heard me.   She says, “Emma, scoot over and give Lucy some room to lay down.”  That’s it Momma, you tell her.  Come on Emma – move it!

After what feels like lots of dog years have gone by, Emma finally scoots over and makes room. Ahhhhh that’s so much better.  A nice warm spot on MY couch.  Eventually, the humans do just what I want them to.  They think they’re in charge – I don’t think so.  This is the life!

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.42.18 PM

Lucy in ‘Her’ spot!

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

Celebrating my lil’ Bro

Day 26 – March SOLSC #sol17

My “little” brother is my writing inspiration on his 33rd birthday.

Then…

33 years ago, when I was 4 1/2, our family grew with the birth of my little brother.  Of course, I wanted a sister, not a brother.  (Which might explain why I dressed him up in my dresses while he was small enough for me to be the boss of him.)  When he was born, I was excited to meet him.  I remember my dad taking me to visit the baby and my mom.  We bought him a baseball teddy bear from the gift shop at the hospital.  We got to the room, and my dad got yelled at by the nurses because my mom was really sick and I wasn’t supposed to be in her room.  Then, to top it all off, later that night, I broke out with chicken pox and got quarantined to my grandma’s house until they were gone.  My excitement turned to resentment.  I blamed him for the chicken pox – of course it was the newborn’s fault!  I thought he was stealing my mommy from me!  We did not hit it off at first!  There are pictures of him laying on a blanket, and I’m in the background with a grumpy face, giving the new baby dirty looks.  Not really the kindest of big sisters!

Now…..

I look back on that earliest memory and laugh a little.  Little kids can easily misconstrue a situation.  33 years later and he’s no longer the “annoying” little brother who stole my mom from me.  Over the years, we’ve been through a lot together.  I grew to become his protector in many instances (even if he doesn’t want me too).  When I went away to college, it was so hard to leave him.  Who was going to protect him and look after him when I wasn’t there?  And then, losing my dad 11 years ago was horrific for us, but in a way, it brought him and I closer together and I really saw what an amazing man he was (and still is).  You see, my dad passed away in March 2016, and my wedding was planned for July 2016.  We were all in shock – grieving and I was ready to postpone the wedding. But, my little brother, the now man of the house,  stepped up and said “I’ll walk you down the aisle and give you away” – he was just 22 years old.  I sometimes forget how young he was when we lost Dad and that he had to grow up so fast.  We may not always see eye to eye or tell each other our feelings, but I respect him, love him unconditionally, and am so proud of the man he’s become.  He is an incredible man, a wonderful brother, a fantastic uncle, and so much more.  He’s so much like our dad – it’s amazing to see.  I now call him for advice or directions!  He’s no longer just my brother; he’s my friend, my Bubba.  I thank God for him every day.

I may not have been thrilled about him 33 years ago, but I’d be lost without him today!

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

An Afternoon with Grandma

Day 25 – March SOLSC #sol17

I’m so grateful to have one of my grandparents – my 89 year old Grandma (she would go nuts if she knew I just told her age).  She’s my dad’s mom and lives right across the street from my mom.  When my parents got married, they bought the house right across the street from the house he grew up in.  It’s a tiny dead end street with just 8 houses and the view at the end of the street is breathtaking.  My grandma’s house has these huge picture windows on the river side of the house.  Every room that you walk into has this view (even in the bathrooms)!

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 3.57.06 PM

This view keeps me here

Anyway, I come to my mom’s house often, but I don’t go see my grandma as much as I should.   So today, I decided to go over and visit.   Whenever going to Grandma’s, we always go to the back door.  She’s always in her kitchen watching her shows and sure enough that’s where she was today, but no TV.  Some times we sit at her kitchen table (that faces the river) and have cheese and wine.  Some times we have coffee.  For some reason today, we stood the whole time and chatted.  I must’ve been there for at least an hour, and we stood the whole time.  We were so involved in our conversation, we didn’t even realize we were standing.  When it occurred to us, we just started laughing.

Grandma is a talker and she talks and talks and talks.  I don’t always follow completely, because she jumps around, or goes off on Village issues or politics.  Often I leave with my head spinning!  She has lived in our village her whole life.  She is a wealth of knowledge and loves to share stories.  It’s in these moments of her storytelling that I see my dad.  Not only do I see his facial expressions on her face when she’s telling stories, but I see where he may have inherited his love for storytelling.  My dad was her first born (oldest of 5).  She tells me stories about when he was little, or in high school, or when he was in his 20s and 30s, or when I was born, etc.    She’s such a spiritual woman, and she shares with me the times she knows my dad is around.  She once told me, “You know Jen, you were your dad’s most precious gift.  Brian was too, but you were his first – his princess.  He was so very proud of you and proud to be your dad.”  It has stuck with me.  Today we were talking about my dad being the Fire Chief for so many years in our Village (all volunteer) and how my brother is becoming one of the chiefs in 2 weeks.  I teared up and told my grandma, “He is so much like dad.  It’s so amazing.  It gives me chills sometimes.”  Right as I finished talking, a cardinal flew by the window and landed in a nearby tree.  It looked as though it was staring at us in the window.  We both looked at each other – tears in our eyes.   My dad was there, right then, and we both felt it.

I’m so blessed to still have my grandma in my life.  We share a special bond that is hard to explain in words – but I feel it whenever I’m with her.  I hope her heart is as happy as mine is after our little afternoon together.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

 

One Little Word Reflection

Day 24 – March SOLSC #sol17

While searching through my “Slice of Life” folder on my computer, I came across a document I made after reading some blogs.  I wrote down ideas for writing structures to try and linked different blogs to use as mentors.  I came across the link to Jenna Hansen’s OLW reflection.  I read it again and decided this is what I need to write about today.

I came up with my OLW after reading lots of posts on Two Writing Teachers as well as seeing posts on Twitter.  I’ve been learning more about Mindfulness practices and have been trying to incorporate more exercises into my life, both at home and with my kids at school.  The word for 2017 that is I chose is Breathe.  I always feel like I’m rushing around, like life is moving too fast, and I feel my anxiety build in different situation.  I also have a lovely little girl who can feel like a handful at times, so breathe seemed like a good choice for me.  A way to slow down and calm myself.

Now have I kept up with my OLW?  No.  Have I checked in and reflected?  First time is tonight.  The idea I had in my head about this word as not come to life completely yet.  But these last few days have reminded me of why I chose this word and how necessary it is for me.  I’m finding myself constantly on the go (mind, body, both) and I know I’ve been less patient with my daughter.  I haven’t been reminding myself to breathe through frustrations and lose my temper too quickly.  Emma has always been the kid who stops to smell the roses (literally every rose) no matter where or when.  I’ve written a post about her showers and mornings.  She does nothing quickly or without reminders.  And this year in school (2nd grade), she’s been having reading difficulties and some attentional difficulties risen (well they’ve been there in some capacity all along, they just seem to be impacting her in school now).  She’s receiving reading intervention and is making excellent progress – YAY!  So now we’re trying to get a handle on the attention.   Being the teacher mom that I am, I’ve always had this attentional piece on my mind, but it’s still hard to hear it and take next steps.  (Breathe in, breathe out.)  I also know that she’s not losing focus on purpose.  She’s not trying to make me go bananas, but I do. (Breathe in, breathe out.)  In this past week, I have lost my patience too easily – if only I would’ve checked in with my OLW.

So now’s the time.  Now’s the time to refocus.  Time to focus on breathing instead of reacting.  Maybe I can get Emma to join me on this journey to remember to breathe when I feel anxious, frustrated, worried, or angry.  We can start our own Mommy and daughter mindfulness practices.  It can benefit us both.  Breathe, just breathe.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

Writing Partners

Day 23 – March SOLSC #sol17

I’ve always had my students partnered up during Reading Workshop, but have just recently partnered my kiddos for writing.  I’m not sure why I never really had them in established partnerships for writing.  But, after reading some posts about writing partnerships on the Two Writing teachers blog, my eyes were opened, and I decided to commit to forming writing partnerships with my first graders.

I started out by partnering them up with others whom I thought they would work well with, and not distract each other.  They met with partners, shared their writing, coached each other, but they never really seemed excited to meet.  Today, during morning choice time, I really watched them.  I focused my attention on who they were playing with, the ways they were interacting and talking, and started to rethink my decisions about the current partnerships.

While I sat there kid watching, I started to jot notes and group different kids together based on who they play with.  I was partnering good friends together.  Was this a crazy idea?  Were they just going to fool around?  Or were they going to have great conversations about their stories?  Were they going to help each other if they got stuck?  Then I thought about myself as a writer.  There’s been plenty of days during this challenge where I’ve gotten stuck and didn’t know what to write. And what did I do?  I read other posts on the blog or I asked my daughter for ideas.  I essentially looked for a coach or partner to help me through my difficulty.  I wanted to give these new partnerships a try.

So, I introduced them by gathering the kids in a circle on the rug.  I asked “Why have writing partners?  What can having a writing partner help us with?”  Immediately chatter filled with room:

“You can tell your ideas to them.”

“You can borrow ideas from your partner’s story if you’re stuck.”

“You can borrow ideas for your own story from your partner’s writing.”

“You can ask your partner for help.”

“You can read your story to your partner.”

“You can help your partner write words.”

“Ok boys and girls, well today I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before.  I watched you this morning and looked closely at who you play with and how you work together.  I made some new writing partners…and you’re going to be with someone you were playing with this morning.”

They all turned at looked at each other and oh, the smiles.  There was gasping and cheering and smiling.  I just couldn’t help but notice the ear to ear smiles.  Of course, before unveiling these new partnerships, I had to have the chat  about the responsibilities of writing partners and that if they stop doing their writing jobs, then I will have to switch partners around again.  They nodded their heads in agreement and said “we can do it!” (so much enthusiasm).

I took out the list of partnerships – “Ready?!?!”  As I read through the list, their faces lit up as they made eye contact with their new writing partner.  Before I could even get the last names out of my mouth, they were up and almost ran to get their folders.  Off they went to a meeting spot – some on the rug or floor, others at tables.  I gave them the freedom to choose how they were going to work with their partners today.

Instead of pulling strategy groups or conferring, I just watched, noticed, and jotted.  The excitement in the classroom was incredible.  I have never seen my kids so motivated and enthusiastic about writing.  Yes, they get excited for mentor texts, moan when writing time is over, and many proclaim their love.  But, today was different.  The energy in the room was extraordinary .  Their voices were a little louder, but there were animated conversations, story planning, and drafting – a wonderful Writing Workshop.  Writing partnerships will be a permanent part of our Writing Workshop.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!

7 Reasons

Day 22 – March SOLSC #sol17

Tonight we went out to dinner and I had a conversation with Emma about what I should write about tonight.

“Emma, what should Mommy write tonight on her blog?”

“Write about me!”

“Well since you’re 7, I guess I could write 7 things I love about you!”

“Yeah, Mommy great idea.  Write 7 things you love about me or that you love doing with me.”

So here goes…7 things I love about Emma and/or I love doing with Emma:

  1. Her smile – it lights up the room and warms my heart.  It reminds me of my dad’s smile.  When she smiles, her eyes “smile” the same way my dad’s used to.
  2. Her laugh – when she really gets going, she immediately gets hiccups.  She always had hiccups when I was pregnant with her.  Maybe she’s always been laughing.
  3. Her strong-will – It makes me a little bananas right now, but I know it’s going to take her places.
  4. Her kindness – She might not always display her kindness towards me, but when I see her with other people, it is evident how much she cares about others.  She hates to see her friends sad.
  5. Her hugs – She really knows how to hug my neck.  She also knows when she needs a hug and doesn’t hesitate to ask for one.
  6. Her determination – She knows what she wants when she wants it and will make sure she gets it.  Of course, this can be one of those things that makes me nuts, but when I try to look in to her future, this is a quality that is going to take her places.
  7. Her ability to see the joy in everything – There are lots of times when I can’t hide my sadness about not having my dad around and often Emma is the one to bring me back.  Just recently we were at the zoo, and I was talking about how much fun he’d be having with us if he was here and she turned and said “Mommy, he’s right here with us.  I just know it.  He’s probably right next to us.  He’s always with us.”  When I’m sad, she helps me see the joy.

She’s only 7, but sometimes I think she’s wise beyond her years – especially when it comes to our faith and spirituality.  She really is an amazing girl and I need to focus on that – especially when she’s driving me crazy.  I’m so glad she coached me with an idea tonight.  It made me reflect on just how wonderful my girl is!

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!