Sending Signs

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI’ve always been a firm believer that our departed loved ones send us signs from time to time.  I’ve talked with other people who feel the same way and I’m sure there are plenty of people who think I’m just talking crazy.  It wasn’t until losing my dad, that my beliefs in signs were confirmed and continue to be.  On Saturday, he sent me 4 signs within an hour.  I still have chills thinking about it.

Emma had a birthday party at a bowling alley, and Brad and I seized this opportunity to have a little date while she was at the party.  We had a little more than an hour to ourselves so our first stop – Smashburger.  I actually had never eaten in Smashburger until that day and was way too excited about it, by the way.  After surveying the menu, I decided on a burger with bacon and avocado with fried pickles.  Brad just went with the classic Smashburger.  Since we were dining there, we got our order number card for the table – number 57.

57 is how old my dad was when he died – sign #1.

After Smashburger, we went to check out this Blinds store.  We are in desperate need of some new blinds and the cheap-o ones are just not cutting it anymore.  We looked around, chatted with the owner of the store.  Brad was wooed by the motorized blinds with remote.  Oh boys and their toys!  As we were leaving, the man gave us his business card and said “Give me a call and I’ll come out and do some measurements.  My name’s Bob.”

Bob was my dad’s name – sign #2.

After that second “coincidence” I told Brad that we just had to go into the wine warehouse.  There were rows and rows of wines from all over.  I didn’t know where to look.  As I looked to my right, I saw a sign that said “recommended wines under $15.” – Jackpot!  I headed straight to those shelves.  While scanning the first shelf, this one bottle just seemed to catch my attention.  It was a bottle of a merlot, shiraz, and cabernet blend names Bob’s.  The way the B in Bob’s was printed looked almost identical to the way my dad used to write his B.  As you can imagine, I just had to have this bottle of red (and it was only $10) – Sign #3.

As I was turning around to the right to walk the other way, my eyes were draw to the shelf below.  And right there, on the shelf underneath the bottle of Bob’s wine, was another bottle of red named “Jeanne Marie” – my mom’s name.  The one difference is the way she spells her name – Jean Marie.  Either way, there was sign #4 (and second bottle of red in my hand).

Can someone consider all of these to just be coincidence?  Of course.  But for me, they each worked together as a sign from my dad in heaven.  Maybe I would have thought it was just a coincidence if the only thing was the order number 57.  But in that hour and a half, each of those little signs were my dad saying “Just stopping by to say hi, Jennifer.  I love you!”  They made me smile and filled my heart with a joyful feeling.  After that, I went to my mom’s to share my story – and we sampled some of the “Bob’s” wine – we just had to!

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


Poetry inspires…

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI never enjoyed poetry when I was in school – reading or writing it.  All of the analyzing and dissecting – ugh!  I never got to just read it and feel it.  And I really don’t remember writing any kind of poem but an acrostic poem or maybe some haikus.

I guess you can say that I never experienced the joys of poetry until I became a teacher.  I use poems for different purposes in my classroom – word study, read alouds, shared reading, writing, and the list goes on.  When I was a kindergarten teacher in NYC, I taught my first Poetry writing unit.  It was during this unit when I fell in love with poetry.  I saw, firsthand, it’s magical powers.  My reluctant writers who struggled to write/draw three page stories with a simple sentence on each page were pouring out poems.  They were writing list poems and circular structure poems on topics they loved.  They were using sound words and repetition, and looking at ordinary objects with “poets’ eyes.”  They were motivated and were experiencing success with writing for possibly the first time all year.  This may have been when they finally felt like writers.  On the flip side, writing poetry provided my more proficient writers with a challenge.   Writing poems pushed all the learners in my room to different places.  It touched them all in some way (and me too!)

Since that first teaching experience with a poetry writing unit, I was hooked.  I’ve always made time to incorporate poetry writing into my curriculum (even if it wasn’t on our calendar – shhh).  I have a poetry literacy stations – reading, illustrating, and writing.  My kiddos have poetry notebooks where they keep copies of the poems we read together. Sometimes, they’ll even choose to write poems during morning or afternoon choice. Poetry inspires kids to express themselves in a different way and motivates them to write.

Over the weekend – I saw the effects that poetry had on a very special person in my life and I fell in love with it all over again.  My daughter, Emma, is a reluctant writer (and reader).  Literacy has always been more challenging for her than other areas.  This has probably been harder on me because I’m a lover of literacy and I read to her since before she was born.  Her comprehension is great – cracking the code is her challenge! Anyway, she has writing notebooks.  Many, many notebooks – all filled with drawings.  She’s an illustrator.  Don’t even ask her to write words to accompany her illustrations!

I’m not even sure how it happened, but over the weekend, she started talking about poetry. Maybe I read her one of the poems I posted?  I’m not sure.  But she just started talking about poems and then said what sounded like a poem.  I asked her to repeat it, and I wrote down what she said.

I told her “you know, what you just said sounded just like a poem.”

She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and shoulders up – “I did?!?”

I showed her the paper I recorded her poem on and told her if she wanted to write more poems that maybe I could post them on my blog for other people to read.  Well, that did it.  She put her hands to her mouth, gasped, smiled so big –  there may have even been some tiny tears in her eyes.  She hugged my neck – squeezed actually.  And ran right over to the computer.

“Ready, Momma – let’s put my poem on your blog.”

She wrote one poem that first day and then two more the next day.  (You can read them here and here if you’d like).   I’ve never seen her smile and beam with the pride she did those two days when writing her poems.  Maybe, just maybe, my girl fell in love with poetry like her mom.  Yup, I’m sold – poetry inspires reluctant writers.

More Poetry by Emma

Emma is inspired by poetry.  She’s a reluctant writer and will choose to just draw but poetry has brought the writer out in her.  Simply amazing!

Springy  Spring  – By Emma D.


Springy  spring    


Springy  springy  springScreen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.09.40 AM

Here comes the


Here comes the


Here comes the animals

Coming out to



Springy  spring


Sunny  SummerScreen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.10.35 AM – By Emma D.


Sunny Summer


Sunny sunny summer

Go to the beach

Play in the water

Go have



Sunny Summer


Poetry by my daughter

This morning my daughter decided to write a poem (more about why this makes my heart sing in another post to come!)  Since I’ve been blogging, she’s wanted her own blog but for now I told her she could be be a Guest Blogger on my blog.  Hope you enjoy her poem.

Snowflakes  – By Emma D.

Snowflakes snowflakes

falling down.


Tickle me on the



When I go sleighing

Snowflakes cover

My whole entire






This week I get the pleasure of being on Spring Break and we’re having a staycation (the hubby isn’t off this week).  I was inspired to write this poem, by waking up to this gorgeous morning and not having to rush around.  I think I can appreciate these mornings because they aren’t my every day thing.  Enjoy! 


A usual morning-

Rush, rush rush

Alarms blaring, WAKE up!

Jump out of bed

Quick make coffee, lunches in the bags

Jump in the shower, brush your teeth,

dry your hair, get dressed,

Shoot – coffee’s cold

back for a new cup, “ahh that’s better”

Wake up E and let the battle begin

Out the door, run run run

Do I have everything?  Hope so, off I go!

But a vacation morning –

Eyes flicker open – then close, open – then close

stretch and roll, looks like B went to work

gaze out window

feel the breeze

the orange glow of the sun peeking in

birds singing their morning songs

s-l-o-w-l-y get out of bed

time for some coffee

sit by the window –

alone in the quiet of the morning

staring out at the river –

Sipping, thinking, breathing

Just being…

What will I do today?

Enjoy it!

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Thank you to everyone at the Two Writing Teachers for starting this community of writers where we can all learn and grow together.



Proud isn’t even the word…

My brother and I grew up in the fire department.

My dad was a volunteer firefighter in our village for 39 years.  26 of those years he spent in the Fire Chief’s rotation.  The way it works is that there are 4 chiefs in the department; one from each fire house.  We have 3 engine companies and 1 hook and ladder company. All of the houses are filled with volunteer members and many of these firefighters are also part of the volunteer ambulance crew.  Each fire house nominates a chief; hence the 4 chiefs.  The Chief of the department holds that position for 2 years, and under that chief are 3 assistants.  Every two years, they move up the “ladder.”  The first time my dad was the chief of the department was from 1983-1985, and then he went around the rotation a few more times.  When I was born, he was the 3rd assistant chief or baby chief.  When my brother was born, he was the head chief.  In 2006, while my dad was a Deputy chief, he died in the line of duty while directing operations at a house fire.

Yes, my brother and I grew up in the fire department.

40 years ago, in 1977, my dad became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.

40 years later, on April 4, 2017, my brother became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.

This was a bittersweet moment for me.  My heart was sad that my dad isn’t here to see his son become a chief and follow in his footsteps.  Is he really missing this journey, or is it that I’m missing see him beam with pride about his son?  It’s probably me missing my dad being here because I know he doesn’t miss a thing.  My heart is singing and I’m beaming with pride.  My brother just amazes me.  He is so dedicated to the department, does research to keep his “firematic” knowledge current, and he has this passion to make the department the best it can be.  He’s basically been groomed for this position since he was young.  After losing my dad, being a part of the fire department was painful for him, but as he got a little bit older, the fire was lit within him again, and I’ve never seen him more determined than he is today, taking on this role.

About 3 days before the swearing in ceremony, my brother texted me, “you and mom for my badge presentation on Tuesday, FYI.”  I read this text, and immediately my eyes filled with tears.  He wanted me to present him with his badge with my mom.  When we lost my dad 4 months before my wedding, he’s the one who stepped up and took my dad’s place walking me down the aisle.  It was now my turn to take my dad’s place and present him with his chief’s badge.  So many emotions flooded my body.  I was shocked, honored,  and then anxious. How was I going to get up there, in front of all of the members, and speak about this moment without crying hysterically?  I wrote and rewrote my little speech about 10 times.  I’m an over-thinker, and that’s what I did for 3 days – over-think.  The day of the ceremony, it just hit me.  I didn’t delete the longer speech, I just knew I was gonna keep it short and sweet, with a little humor.  My brother and I know how we feel about each other without speaking the words.  Let’s just say, we’re better at writing from our hearts than speaking from them.  So here’s my little speech (I think – don’t totally remember what I said):

I could stand up here and say all of these heartfelt words….but that’s not how we roll – So I’ll just text them too you later.  Congratulations!  We’re all very proud of you.  You’re going to be very successful in this position, it’s in your blood.  And yeah, that’s all I got! (as the tears started to roll down my cheeks)

I did text him my heartfelt words later that evening.  He once told me (via text!) that he just wants to make dad proud and be half of the man he was.  I hope that one day he will see how much he is like our dad and know that dad is beaming with pride.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 12.19.27 PM

Hugging the 3rd Assistant Chief!


My View

Missing just one day of writing made me sad.  Guess I should try to blog a few times a week.  The Slice of Life challenge has left me with this need to write.  It’s my nightly relaxation. Here’s a little poetry rough draft tonight.  There’s always revision that can be done!

My View

I’ve never sat at this window

Looked out and listened


An enormous tree

With branches hanging down

like long hair

Stands in front

No leaves yet,

So I can see the river.


The long skinny branches

dance in the breeze

There’s a nest

Up high in the tree

Maybe a home for the squirrels –


The wind switches direction –

A gentle breeze blows in the window

The sun peeks into the room

Onto my notebook

It’s warmth brings a smile to my face

I look out to see that sun

glistening on the water

Shimmering off the tops of the tiny waves

like twinkling stars in the night


I look to the right

White puffy clouds

paint pictures in the sky.

Tall, tall evergreens sway back and forth

as if they’re waltzing –

Birds are singing their own tunes.


As I stare out the window

I think about what will happen

once this big tree gets its leaves

New life will begin –

my view will end.

What a Journey…

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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!


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!


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