Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The End!

Wow! About a month and a half ago, I stumbled across the Two Writing Teachers site while researching ways to improve my teaching of writing.  Little did I know that my research would lead to the growth of my writing, the building of a community of writers that I am proud to be a part of, and the empathy I have for my students. I could have never predicted or even imagined the change in our world in the last 31 days. March has been a bear, a beast, a month to be reckoned with.

So, to end my slice challenge I have decided to reflect on lessons learned, experiences I have had and plans for my writing.

I Have Learned....

What I start out writing, often takes a turn and takes me in a different way
Writing is hard but so rewarding
Patience and Grace in times of struggle or change is paramount
A kind word from a stranger can brighten your day
Sometimes, just putting pen to paper (fingers to computer) is all it takes to break writer's block
Having someone "get" what you are writing about and agreeing with you validates you
21 days makes a habit
The world is really small
People all over the world can share in one experience and benefit from their sharing
Washing your hands is very important
After washing your hands a million times, lotion is your friend
Never take for granted shaking someone's hand or giving a hug
People really like toilet paper
In times of crisis, people band together to help others
I am not cut out for a sit behind a computer kind of job
School is not just the books or curriculum, school is the people in it
School is about relationships more than it is about education
I miss my 51 fourth graders a lot
Family is a blessing
We should not take our health for granted or our family
Life is all about your attitude, you choose how your day is going to do
Be happy, choose to be positive, make the best of a crazy situation
You can not make everyone happy, accept that
Finally, above all choose kindness.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of a wonderful writing experience. My plan is to keep on blogging, either every day or a few times a week.  I have benefited from the outlet and the release. My ability to empathize and help my kids grow as writers has changed in unimaginable ways.  Till next March....

Monday, March 30, 2020

And....the Machine Won!

It was day three in my family's journey to assemble a home gym.  Friday was the first day and we got a majority of the way through the assembly until we didn't have all the parts.  After many trips to Ace Hardware on Saturday, we had the gym assembled and began to deal with the pulley system.  Saturday ended with everyone frustrated and in need of a break and the promise of picking it back up on Sunday.

My first clue things were not going to go well should have been the dark, large clouds that loomed in the sky.  The outside atmosphere seemed to mirror that of the inside.  As I came down the stairs, I stared down that pulley system and gave a quick glance at the mechanisms.  I am still convinced that we have assembled it correctly.  Anyway, I go about my morning waiting eagerly for the men in the house to wake up and tackle this beast of a gym.

When my husband finally wakes up, we begin to discuss the gym and where we could have gone wrong and what the possibilities for quick fixes are.  We head into the gym armed with caffeine and can do attitudes.  My oldest is up and has agreed to put his young mind to the task.  Step one for us is to go back and look at the stupid directions.  Now, I know it is not nice to call something stupid but at this point I have them memorized and I can not figure out what the pictures signify.  I mean if you are going to put all of the technical words and then put the pictures to help people, at least make the pictures decipherable!

We study the directions like we are studying for final exams and come to the conclusion, we have followed all the steps and the pulleys are going in the right direction.  Step two is to tighten all the loose bolts, we decide that there may be some play in the pulley system.  The boys begin the arduous task of tightening an endless amount of bolts and I go and wake the youngest.  I can't decide whose chore is worse! The youngest makes his way downstairs, looks at the machine and groans... even he who wants the gym more than the rest of us, can't believe we are still working on it. 

Tightening the bolts does very little, we get maybe 3/4 of an inch closer to connecting the last pieces of the pulley system together.  Back to the drawing board, we go!  We decide to change out the piece of carpet that is under the gym that does not match the others thinking that maybe the differences in height are affecting the pulley system.  Nope! We are all back to staring at the drawings and at the pulley system.  We believe that one section is causing the problem, but we can not figure out how to fix it... our set up is exactly like the pictures show (or at least from what we can tell). So, we decide to try and rig the system to work.  We had back to Ace Hardware in search of a fix.  After what feels like forever, we decide on chains and carabiner clips.  The reluctant consensus is that we can connect the chains and clips to the pre-drilled holes in the pulley system and it should work. We find a super helpful employee he cuts the chains, we pay and drive back home.  After washing our hands for the millionth time today, we get to testing our idea.  Ah... this doesn't work either.  The clips are too big and we know that they have to be that size to support the weights. We are out of ideas, out of patience and are just done with this gym.  You know how you get to that point where you are so frustrated, everyone is mad at everyone else and it becomes not worth it anymore?  That is where we are, we just can't anymore today.  Maybe we are done for good!

Today is another day, the birds are chirping and the day looks like it will be a good one.  Hopefully, after working at home today, we can look at the directions again and try and tackle the pulley system.  If not today, I know we will look at it again this week.  We do not give up... maybe we take breaks, maybe we step away, but we are not going to give up.  The machine will not win!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Saga Continues....

If you read my post yesterday, you know that my family spent it's Friday night trying to build a long-forgotten home gym.  We put a good bit of it together until we discovered that we did not have all the nuts and bolts.  So my bright idea on Saturday morning was to order the missing parts from Home Depot.  Here is how the saga continues...

After writing my post yesterday, I did a precursory look of Home Depot's website and they seemed to have what I needed.  When my husband finally came downstairs after sleeping in late, I presented my idea. He had thought the same thing, so I went back on the website and ordered everything but two carriage bolts.  I figured I could ask the people at the store as they are always so helpful.

We jumped in the car for our outing for the day and headed for Home Depot.  Well, much to our surprise the line is out the door and weaves around to the side of the store.  We get closer and realize they are restricting who can go in.  I suggest that we call the store, surely since I ordered and paid, they have a separate line or can bring it to my car.... nope! I have to stand in that line.  We decide we do not want to stand in line with all the pollen that is in the air.  I call Ace Hardware which is a smaller store and they are open.  We head there, after what felt like FOREVER, we found what we thought were all the nuts, bolts and screws and headed home.

We woke the youngest teenager and got to work.  It was probably 12:30.  We quickly discovered that one of the carriage bolts was wrong, but we pressed on with what we have thinking that we would wait until we needed more.  Soon enough we discovered other things that we need and decided to make another run.  This time my oldest and I go off to hunt for these last things.  Well, we find what we think is right but once we get home.... still wrong. At this point, it is around 3:30, and we are all over it... but we press on.  The teenagers go to the store this time, so much for social distancing., and come back with what they absolutely believe is right...ah, no it's not!  Being teenagers, they did not listen to the part about taking the screw with you so that you can be sure the nut fits.  So, back to the store they go.  Three phone calls later, they come back with the right stuff. 

It's about 4:30 in the afternoon, and we have been at this all day.  Good news is the gym is assembled bad news is we have the pully system to put together.  We stare at the stupid directions again, marvel at how these pictures actually represent anything and press on.  My husband takes a break to grill dinner and the boys and I decide we are going to work on one side.   I start to see the picture in my mind how it is supposed to go and work backwards from the drawing.  FINALLY, after we break for dinner and my husband comes back, we get it to work... we think. Nope, something is wrong and we have to figure that out.  We do in pretty short order and have one side that works.  Yeah us!

It's probably around 6:30 at this point and we have the hardest side to go.  My husband has gotten the bottom portion correct and needs a break... he can't see how the top is going to work and he is DONE.  I look at it backwards again... and my oldest and I go to work undoing things and reworking the pully system.  After his much-needed break, my husband is back and he can see what I envision and we complete the pully system! Yeah us.... we think until we try and attach the one last piece and it won't reach! Somehow, somewhere something is wrong!

It is around 8PM now, we have been at this almost all day except for a dinner break.  Noone can figure this out and we are tired...all our creative juices have been exhausted.  We decide we will give it a rest and look at it tomorrow.  Hopefully, today we will figure out the last little bit quicker and we will not spend the day wrestling with the last pully.  All I know is that everyone better use this machine!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

It Finally Happened....

The majority of my family are big work out buffs.  We all have a different "thing" that we like to do....I lean towards more cardio and organized workouts, like Beachbody or my Max Trainer, my husband lifts and runs and my youngest has been hitting the gym hard.  My oldest, well he doesn't have the love for working out like the rest of us do...he's an I am gonna start working out soon kinda person. (Who can't relate to that!)

With social distancing and the county's suggestion that we shelter in place, we have been anticipating my son's gym will close.  This week the gym changed their hours and limited to ten people.  If you were the eleventh than you have to wait until someone leaves.  The system seemed to be working out well, until yesterday.  Yesterday the announcement was made that the gym would close effective today (Saturday) and remain closed until at least April 6th.  Who knows if that date will hold true or not?

Drew was very disappointed... the gym has been his outlet, he has made amazing progress and the joy it brings is immeasurable.  So my husband in all his infinite wisdom suggested that we get the home gym out of the basement storage space.  Now, this gym has been down there since we moved into this house in 2007... yes, you read that right!  It has been in a closet since our realtor gave it to us 13 years ago.  This gym is a beast... it takes up lots of space and is pretty heavy to carry.

Our relaxing Friday night turned into building this gym.  The boys helped their dad carry the pieces upstairs.  The previous owners of this gym had taken some pieces apart and others were left together.  That in itself is a challenge, it is hard to read the stupid directions anyway but now we have to figure out what has been done and what needs to be done.  Needless to say, this is a lesson in patience and reading closely. 

We made good progress until about 3/4th of the way through when we began to attach the pull - up bars and the dip bars.  We have been working on this for about two hours and it is around 9PM.  My husband has been on and off work calls, and my oldest is trying to register for classes all while putting this thing together.  Anyway, back to the bars... in all the pieces and all the boxes there are not any screws and bolts for these bars.  We look high and low, we crawl through the nasty storage space, try to take out screws that probably don't need to be taken out and we come up empty-handed.  The most important pieces are missing! They have vanished and we are stuck with a giant machine that doesn't work. 

Everyone is frustrated, so we stop for the night.  Being the type A Mom that I am, I immediately look through the directions and the parts list and make a list of the missing parts.  I then google the equipment and locate the parts....except they won't get here until April 27th and they cost over one hundred dollars.  I head back to my search, and head straight for Amazon...they have everything.  Nope, they do not have parts for this. What to do? What to do?  The boys head for their rooms, my husband tries to find something to watch and I grab my book.  We have decided that tomorrow will bring answers.

Well, its tomorrow... so far I haven't found the parts but I did find an idea. I am pretty sure I can find these parts at Home Depot. Now, I don't know for sure but it is something.  It is a glimmer of hope... isn't that we all need? Just a glimmer of hope.....

Friday, March 27, 2020

More than Brick and Mortar

Schools are more than the bricks that hold them up.  They are more than desks, chairs, and papers. Schools are more than the curriculum, the whiteboards, the technology.  Schools are not just brick and mortar.  They are so much more.

Schools are the people that move about the halls. They are the energy that is derived from the sheer force of the people that inhabit that space for eight hours a day.  Schools are living, breathing entities that are the life-force for so many people, young and old.

Schools are the sounds of laughter, of play, of excitement.  They are the sounds of frustration, anger, and anxiety.  Schools are the sounds of acceptance, of accomplishment, of success.  Schools are the sounds of kids and adults coming together with one common goal.

Schools do not live within four walls... they have a much greater reach.  Schools are places that people remember forever, whether good or bad.  Schools influence people for lifetimes.

Today, schools are living rooms, dining room tables and playrooms.  They are still filled with learning, frustration, acceptance, and joy.  The outside shell may be different but the mission and purpose of school is still the same.  Schools are for discovering new things, charting new paths and finding your purpose.  Schools are the people inside of them, doing the best that they can at any given moment.

So, ask yourself today...What is my school like?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Random Thoughts on a Thursday Morning

I couldn't quite decide what to write this morning, no great post or small moment came to mind.  There was no one thread running through my mind, just a great big bunch of randomness.  So, I thought I would follow the lead of some of my other slicers and post my random thoughts.

Peeps, you know those marshmallow treats at Easter, should not come in random flavors. I like the different shapes, I love the ones dipped in chocolate but COTTON CANDY.  Totally, gross! I love cotton candy by the way, but not in Peep form. Bleh!

Taking a break, practicing self-care is good for you.  I just shut it all down yesterday afternoon and enjoyed reading my book, which is something I haven't been able to do in weeks.  Take the break!

Talking on the phone again is kinda cool.  I text so much with people because it is easier I guess.  I have been talking on the phone with friends and it is great.  I remember when that was the only way to communicate... no texts, no snap chats, no tweets or posts. Just good old fashioned conversation!

A good mindless read is magical. I am all for improving my knowledge base, reading for information and blah, blah, blah.  BUT there is nothing quite like just being swept away by a story. Beach reads for the win!

Boys are messy....like really messy. When they go away to college, you forget that they are really messy and leave everything behind... you know their trash, their clothes, their shoes, and the list goes on and on.  Seriously, I found two empty bags of chips, an empty bag of Cheez-Its, an empty pringle can and about 5 empty water bottles under his bed.  GROSS!

Boys also eat a lot of food.  One teenager eats a ton but two teenagers...WOWZA!  I keep thinking to myself we are only supposed to leave the house for essentials...have they fed teenagers before? 

We all adjust to new routines.  Things that were so difficult last week are easier this week and the same will happen next week.  Humans adapt, adjust and things become the new norm.  We will have to adjust to getting back into the real world.  I wonder if we will complain about going to work when this is over?  Will we hug people more?  Appreciate the beauty of the world and those that live in it?  I want to say that we will, but we will just adjust, adapt to that normal again.  #appreciation

Random thoughts for a Thursday morning....

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Porch Sitting

The night was the perfect temperature, you know the one, not too hot, not too cold.  I can actually sit outside without any type of sweatshirt on, which is an amazing occurrence. My husband, who is never home at twilight asks if I would like to sit on the back porch.  Our porch is free from bugs as it is screened in, faces our backyard so the sun isn't an issue on this perfect night.  We stroll out and sit on our blue slider and begin to reflect on the day. 

The discussion starts with our most talked about topic which is the COVID - 19 virus.  We reflect on the changes and lament on how it is affecting us and our community.  I repeatedly tell him that I wish that I could hit fast forward, a refrain he has heard a million times.  See, I am not good with the unknown, he knows this and nods his head.  He has run out of things to say to my comment, so a nod of his head will suffice.  He also knows that I just need to talk it out, get these things out of my head so we can enjoy our porch sitting.  I guess being together for 25+ years will do that to you!

The topic quickly shifts to the yard work we did today.  I describe in detail the power our youngest son had when he was axing down the bushes.  His hard work at the gym was clearly paying off.  We laughed at how our college-age son who in typical fashion, didn't see the point in yard work but begrudgingly went outside to help. He was a champion root ball digger and made quick work of all the bushes that we dug up.  The yard topic shifted to what we had on tap for tomorrow, more ax swinging and root ball digging for the boys and pulling weeds for us.  Pulling weeds.... not my favorite part of yard work, but the ivy from next door has slowly made its way back into our yard and must go.

While we have had our peaceful discussions, the boys have been playing basketball.  This may sound like a great way for boys to release energy in this time of social isolation.  But anyone who has boys know the game goes south quickly.  I quickly become distracted by the increasing rough play, the raised voices and the tension that is building.  I look at my husband to gauge his reaction and typically he has that "boys will be boys" face on.  I am not a fan of that face! I know where this is heading and my quiet porch relaxing is taking a less than relaxing turn.  Sure enough, they are done, doors are slammed, words exchanged and they head to their respective rooms.  Wonder when that behavior will stop? 

Porch sitting.... a wonderful way to end a week of isolation, to connect with those who are the most important to you.... until your almost grown boys turn a friendly game of basketball into hand to hand combat.  #momofboys

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Embracing the Crazy

It's 5AM on day who knows what of social distancing and I am embracing the crazy.  We have all felt it that feeling of "I can't believe I am stuck in this house again!" Those quiet moments I love on the Max Trainer, when I get all my thoughts for the day together when my mind settles into the groove of the day are gone.  Replaced by new thoughts of worry, anxiety and unease.  I can't seem to shake the restlessness within my thoughts. 

So today, I am embracing the crazy.  I embrace the million pounds of Lysol Wipes that I use to wipe every surface of my house.  I embrace the crazy thought that maybe I should spray the dogs with Lysol.....I didn't but I really did think about it.  (Totally off topic, but one year we all got the flu from the dogs...everyone would cuddle with the dogs for comfort when we were sick and sure enough whoever petted them next got it!) I embrace the fact that I will continue to respect the government's suggestion to stay socially distant. 

I am also going to embrace seeing my students for the first time in over a week via a video conference.  I am going to embrace their laughter and let them talk all over each other.  I am going to embrace the increased workload.  Begrudgingly, I am going to embrace this computer.... I could never work at a job where I have to sit behind one all day!

Today, I will embrace the crazy.  Crazy looks good on me!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Miller, the Wonder Dog

Miller is my family's large blond lab with a personality to match his name.  Well, calling him a lab is questionable. 

We set out about three years ago to get another dog.  After months, maybe even years, my boys and I convinced my husband to get another dog.  We really did not want a dog that sheds, so I began to research dogs.  The boys and I wanted a large dog with lots of personality and of course, we wanted to stick with the one requirement my husband had....no shedding.  We didn't tell my youngest since this was going to be his birthday present, so I searched alone for the perfect dog.

I came across a post for Labradoodles near us at a very reasonable price.  I knew this type of dog did not shed, so I showed my husband the pictures and we agreed that this was it.  We eagerly awaited my son's birthday to give him his gift.  He was so excited!

We had the pick of the litter and drove the hour plus to pick him out and up.  I was leaning towards the chocolate one, they were leaning towards the yellow ones.  When we arrived, the super nice lady showed us to her barn with all the puppies. I wanted to take them all home, I almost convinced my hubby to get two!  My husband and Drew quickly bonded with the puppy with the most energy.  Of course, my oldest, Cody, and I bonded with the largest, most cuddly of the puppies.  Drew won and we brought home the puppy with the most energy.   I mean look how cute he is!!

Well, that little dog grew and grew and grew.  I mean into a 110-pound lab....yes you read that right a lab. There is no doodle in my lab!  The vet actually laughs each time I tell her that he is a Labradoodle.  He is the best dog ever!  He has a personality to match his size.  He loves everyone and everything....which can be a lot, if you have never had a 110-pound dog sit on your lap, you haven't experienced his level of love.  He barks when he wants you to play, often making a weird closing of his jaw sound.  He yips when a toy is stuck, he flips his bowls over when they are empty... in general, he lets you know he is here.

 I am so glad my husband loves him to pieces since this dog sheds everywhere....like you could knit a small dog from the fur that is left around my house.  Maybe I should have listened to all the clues that were present, the price for one, but I didn't and I am so glad that I didn't  We should all be loved by someone like Miller loves us!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Things to Pass the Time

Today I am struggling to write this post.  I can't seem to settle on a topic, as my brain jumps from topic to topic.  I haven't been able to turn off my thoughts today, even after working out.... my brain just keeps running through the ever-growing list of things to do. I even dreamed about school, it was a nightmare....I had to teach math! (I only teach reading/writing/social studies)  I tried creating a to-do list, but I keep adding more before I can check one off.  I know that I am not alone in this issue.  It is a safe bet that the majority of my education colleagues, and many others, are struggling to turn off their brains and relax.

So, today I am going to force myself to read a silly book, or watch a silly movie.  Maybe I will just sit here and watch Netflix all day.  That whole Netflix and Chill thing.... I can find a show and practice that.  I could get some crayons and color.  Maybe I can write in a journal or start writing something more than a journal.  The options are endless except now I have a new series of thoughts running through my head.  Maybe I need another list?

No, I need balance.  We all need balance in our lives, more so now than ever.  So today, I am going to practice achieving some balance.  I will mark a few things off my list, hang with my family and enjoy the day.  Positivity and balance will be my two goals today.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hanging with the Big Kids

The current situation in our country and world has forced many of us to "socially distance" from each other, to isolate ourselves in our homes. With that isolation or distance, comes many facets of emotions and situations. It will try relationships between partners, siblings, families and work relationships as we all navigate this new normal.  As I have made a conscious decision to only focus on the positives, I have found many bright lights in my socially distant tunnel.

Here are a few:
I had the unusual opportunity of working with my youngest son to create videos for my students to watch.  He took a class in audiovisual technology last semester and learned all the fun things you can do when making a video. He volunteered willingly to help me spice up my videos. We recorded a video for my students to wish them a great weekend, he added a song and an ending meme.  I loved the time that we spent together and I heard from many of my student's parents that the kids really enjoyed the video.  The best part is he is onboard to help me make more!!

My oldest has been away at college and we do not see him as much as I would like.  That has all changed.  I have had the pleasure of just hanging out with this incredible young adult.  We have had the best conversations and trips down memory lane.  I have had many chuckles at how much he is still a kid and so predictable in his behavior.  Case in point yesterday, I made tacos, his favorite.  Before I began to cook, I mentioned that I was making them. He quickly told me he was full, he had a big lunch.  Well, predictably, about halfway through the cooking process, he was ravenous and wanted to know when they would be done! He had at least three helpings... this Mama's heart was so full.

The "Boys" helped me pull up these bushes that have been driving me crazy for probably five years!  They are both so strong and old enough to do these things on their own.  It was cool to watch them work as a team to dig them out....one swinging the ax and the other wielding the shovel.  I was the supervisor....best job EVER! Guess what... they are ready to take out more bushes today.

Social distancing isn't all bad.  We just need to embrace the parts that are good, focus on the positives that happen.  Give each other grace and show kindness to our isolation partners.  I am making the decision to see the sunshine in the situation.... I hope that you can too!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Parlez-vous francais?

Parlez-vous francais? No, I don't and apparently, neither does my 16-year-old who is taking French II. Yesterday, my reluctant French student began his digital assignments.  One of the assignments was for him to take a quiz.  He mumbled, grumbled and eventually got to work. 

Comedy ensued!  He was reciting these words out loud and then trying to conjugate the verbs. The first problem was, I had no idea what he was saying.  I know he was speaking a language that I do not speak, but I am absolutely sure that he wasn't saying any French words.  Some words in French are recognizable or I have heard them before. ...not anything he said!  No wonder his teacher writes comments like.... not speaking in French next to his grades!

He continued in this pattern of talking it out, guessing and asking me questions for probably 20 minutes.  I even looked some things up in the French translator to see if I could make sense of his gibberish.  We stumped google translate a million times!  He finished all the questions on his quiz, pressed submit and then closed his eyes.  He was sure that he did better than his last quiz....ahhh NO!  The boy got a 27.  He looked over at me and said," I think I will take that again."  No words were needed from me in reply, the dumbfounded expression on my face said it all.

Here's hoping round two of the assignment will be better! Au Revoir 😏

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A fond memory....

I was inspired yesterday by a slice that I read that talked about memories.  The kind that brings you comfort when the going gets tough.  So I decided to take a minute and go down memory lane a bit....

Which memory should I share? The ones where my kids were born?  Those first few moments when I saw my boys for the first time memories? Should I share the memory of my wedding? Like the one where the videographer's camera broke and we waited for 30 plus minutes to start?  Yeah, nothing like helping a bride's nerves right?!? Or should I share the memory of my first-day teaching? The one where I was a young 20 something, petite high school history teacher and sitting in the front row was the center for the football team? Thank goodness he was a giant teddy bear! Ahhh, the memories....

So I will share a small snippet of a childhood memory..... My parents were older when they had me.  They were both 41 and my brothers were graduated and graduating from high school.  So, I never had siblings at home....just the abstract older brothers that came home from college or the military.  Being the only girl, I was the quintessential princess (if you know me you aren't surprised)... pretty clothes, pretty hair. I was a good student, quiet, focused and eager to please.  Well..... one year I qualified to be on a TV show, a quiz kids kinda show.  I studied with my group of fellow contestants, my mom quizzed me relentlessly, I was ready.  I got a new outfit (of course, I did!), went to the "beauty parlor" and had my hair "done".  I was all set. My parents drove me into downtown Pittsburgh.  My brother flew in and surprised us at the studio.  My grandparents and aunt were there.  I was ready....until the lights came on and I froze.  Like I literally was a deer in headlights!  I couldn't seem to press the button.  The worst thing was, I could see my mom looking at me like "hello, you know this...we just study this"  Needless to say, we lost!  I was not destined to be a TV star or ever compete in any kind of competition again.  Oh well....

Memories bring us comfort in uncertain times.  Whether they are funny, comforting, awe-inspiring, or sad, memories are the fabric that joins us together.  The thing that shapes who we are, who we will be in the future....they make us into ourselves.  I know I would not be who I am today without the things that I have done and been through in my life.  Each experience (just a memory now) shaped me to be who I am at this moment in time. Obviously, I am not a TV star!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Bravery, and Coincidences

Today for my student's virtual writing lesson, they will be writing about a time when they felt brave or witnessed someone being brave.  This writing is a yearly writing contest we do for our local Kiwanis club. Most years we pick a different prompt for all of the fourth graders at my school to write about.  This year has been a crazy, busy year for my team and we decided WEEKS ago to use the same prompt as last year.  Little did we know the situation in which these kids would be asked to write in.

When we made this decision, there was very limited talk of COVID - 19.  Maybe a few playground conversations amongst teachers, probably a few tweets were read but never in our wildest dreams could we have predicted our current situation.  Yet, here we are asking our kids to write about being brave, what bravery means to them, what it looks like to them. Isn't it strange that we kept that topic?

 I wonder if they realize they are being brave. That every day they get up and read their daily task and get to work, they were brave.  Not in the I faced down a bad guy way, but I in an I am stepping out of my comfort zone, my norm kinda way.  I think that is brave.

I think we are all showing acts of bravery.  We are all facing a new norm, a new way of doing everything and most of us are doing just fine.  In my humble opinion, bravery isn't just a heroic act it is stepping up, stepping out of your comfort zone and making the best of it.  I applaud you all for your acts of bravery today and every day! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


For many of us, day one of virtual learning is done.  We have survived the uncertainty, the overwhelming sense of apprehension that plagued many of us. I think that is safe to say for everyone involved; parents, teachers, and students. We are in unchartered territory. Some of my colleagues are better prepared than I am.  Many high school teachers have had an online classroom so to speak for a long time.  Many of my fellow elementary teachers flip their classrooms and use more technology than others.  Yesterday, that didn't matter.  We are all in the same boat!

As a collective teaching population (parents and teachers), we walked the same walk.  Technology stopped working for everyone, even for a minute.  People felt a new appreciation for each other, whether that was a parent realizing what a small portion of teaching was like, or a teacher realizing that they can't sit still for long periods of time. Students may have realized that they do enjoy going to school....probably too soon for that.... at least at my house 😉!  My point is that we were in this together, at the same time going through the same things.  How cool is that?  How often in your lifetime will you be able to say that? 

I have made a conscious decision to see the positive, the good, the sunshine through the clouds so to speak.  Will today be challenging?  Sure it will, I have no doubt there will be issues and glitches and things that don't work.  Life is messy and there is no reason to believe that virtual learning will not be. You know what?  That is ok! I will deal with what comes my way.  After all, I am a teacher and a mom of two teenage boys.....I can do anything!!

PS - You can see the reason this blog is titled Sunshine, Kindness, and Teaching, right? I am such a Polyanna 😜

Monday, March 16, 2020

He's Up....

Stomp, Stomp, Stomp, CREAK... I hear the familiar sounds from upstairs.  Pound, Pound, Pound... the pace quickens, the pounding becomes louder, quicker and closer.  The noise almost echoes down the empty stairs. I see the familiar blond saunter into the kitchen, where I am having my mid-morning cup of tea.
"Hey, How are you?  Did you sleep ok?" I ask.

"UH, Yea...." the yella headed boy mumbles tiredly.

"Can I make you some eggs? Oatmeal? Toast?" I eagerly ask as I begin to rise from my counter height bar stool.

"MOM...I just got up.  I am not hungry yet... " as he puts in his ever-present headphones.

I sit back down and wait the 10 seconds or so before the very typical conversations starts....

"Mom, I am hungry.  What is for breakfast? Do we have any bagels? Cream Cheese?" the teenager asks as he rummages through the pantry, the fridge and looks at me expectantly as if I should have already made his breakfast.

"Dude, I just asked you what you wanted.  But yes, we have all of those things." I reply with just a hint of exasperation.

"You did?" he asks in amazement. I don't believe that he heard anything that I have been saying. "I think I will have a bagel....and some strawberries."  "Maybe, a cheese stick too.  Do we have any sausage?" He continues his rummaging.

"Yes to everything! Can you make it or do you want me to do it?" I ask as I begin to put the bagel in the toaster and start to cut the strawberries up.

"Uh, oh thanks... you will do it?" he replies with the smile that melts my heart.

Once my baby, always my baby. My favorite sixteen-year-old sits down at the counter and waits for his bagel while jamming strawberries in his mouth.  The day has officially begun.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Passing the time...

I have started and stopped writing this post numerous times.  I can't seem to shake thoughts of COVID- 19 out of my mind.  I want to write something that is not about what is going on in the world, what is happening in my county, state and neighborhood but I am really struggling.  Writing seems to be an outlet for me (and many of my fellow slicers).  It is sorta like a brain dump before a big test.... I just need to get it out.  But I also realize that many of us need to hear, think, read, listen to something other than this virus. 

So, here goes..... Yesterday, I watched a movie that actually held my interest.  I am a watch and read kinda person.  Not yesterday, I actually put down my book for this one.  The movie was Bombshell. The actresses portraying the female newscasters did a brilliant job and man, did they look just like the real people. (Yes, I looked it up... I am that person!) At times, I forgot that Charlize Theron was not Megyn Kelly.  I am sure it will not be a movie for all of you but it was an interesting thought-provoking description of events. 

I also facetimed with a friend and laughed out loud.  She is a parent, colleague, and friend and she has taken seven of our chickens home for the weekend/week.  She called to show me that the chicken had spit its water on her face... like literally the water was dripping down her face.  I didn't even know chickens could spit.  It was super funny and her antics while describing the situation were priceless. An added bonus was that I got to see her daughter who is one of my students. 

Today, I plan on reading a book, taking a break from social media and the news and grading the never-ending pile of papers. I am pretty sure that graded papers multiply overnight.  I swear there is always more there than I should have.  Could be that students suddenly "find" their missing work... what were they like socks in the dryer than suddenly reappear?

I hope I got your mind off of the craziness for just a minute, I know that it was good for mine!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lessons Learned

I have learned a lot of things in the last 48 hours.  I am sure that we all have learned tons either from firsthand experience, social media or through our wonderful community of slicers.  I thought I would share some of my lessons...once a teacher, always a teacher :)

  • Life can change in the blink of an eye.
  • Plans, specifically lesson plans, are meant to be changed.  The adage about the best-laid plans is certainly true! 
  • Educators are amazingly resilient.
  • You are never too old to learn something new.
  • Students need routines and if the routines change they need to know how that will affect them. 
  • Parents are really supportive people and just want what is best for their kids.
  • My teammates are a wonderful, brilliant group of women. I am so proud to be on my team. 
  • Laughter is the best medicine....take time to laugh today, you will feel a million times better.
  • Teenagers and young adults still need to be reassured just like young teachers need. 
  • There is nothing quite like 10-year-old girls showing you their softball cheers in the middle of the hall. 
  • Recess is good for students and teachers.
  • Your favorite dinner with your family will cure what ails you. 
  • People hoard toilet paper! I mean seriously there is not a single roll near me!
  • 20 seconds seems like forever when you are washing your hands.
  • Hearing 5th graders sing the ABC's while washing their hands is quite entertaining!
  • Kindness matters
I can't wait to see what we all learn in the coming days....

Friday, March 13, 2020

Well, that was fun...

Well, if you happened to read my post yesterday you knew that my school/district has closed for the foreseeable future. How crazy is that... the words that were used were until further notice.  That is so ominous sounding.  That was definitely the feeling today at school.  Today was the last day for who knows how long.  The kids kept commenting that it felt weird, and very much like the last day of school.

It sure felt like that to me.  The last day of school is always a crazy mix of getting a ton of stuff done and managing the energy of kids who are excited about an extended break.  The kids were off the chain, so to speak.... equal parts excitement, nervousness, and fear of the unknown. When you add in the fact that it was Friday the 13th, it was one big giant crazy day. 

As a teacher, I was trying to manage my lessons all while trying to make sure the students have all the information they need for next week.  I was also chatting constantly with my team to develop our unified plan to prepare lessons for the kids.  Whew! It was nuts...at one point I said to a friend that if someone doesn't have a heart attack it would be a miracle.  We were running around like crazy people all while trying to maintain a modicum of calm. 

We made it though!  I am not sure how we did it but we did.  The kids all made it home with what they will need to be successful.  The faculty meeting was held and all the new ever-changing information was handed out.  Emails were sent.  Team meeting and more planning was done.  All in all a very successful end to a historic time. 

Now on to the next challenge....digital learning.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The insanity.....

Oh my, I am sitting here in my kitchen astonished by all that has happened in the last 24 hours.  We had a brief meeting yesterday to prepare us for the possibility of schools closing due to the virus.  We were told to begin to develop a plan for our students to learn digitally. Nothing concrete, just a rough outline of what we could do.

 Today around 10, my team met to come up with a plan. In our typical fashion, came up with a chart, met with the principal and knocked a few subjects out.  We had to meet after school to finish up our first week. We were still operating on the assumption that this would be for "if" and that we did not need to go beyond a week already. We were so wrong...

Around 4 this afternoon, I texted my team a tweet that said the governor recommended that all schools close.  By 4:30 the message was out that we were closing on Monday until further notice.  WOW!  I can't even get my mind around that.  At the same time, I see that so many sports teams, colleges, and various other places were shutting down, too.  Double WOW!  Things are changing so fast, I can't keep up.

Tomorrow will be another crazy day as we send the kids off with materials and assignments.  I just hope that with all of this diligence that we are able to lessen the severity of the spread of the virus. For now, keep washing your hands....

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Parenting.... not for the faint of heart

Parenting is a tough job.  It is definitely not for the weak... you have to be a strong individual to parent.  I think that parenting comes in levels.... there is the new parent beginner level, there is the toddler/child intermediate parent, the teenager advanced level and the adult proficient level.  Each of these levels comes with their own set of worries and when you are in a level you can't imagine that the next level is worse.

I am here to tell you that with your advancement in parenting levels, the degree of difficulty increases.  I can remember how when you are a new parent, it feels like you are never going to sleep again.  My 16-year-old did not sleep through the night until he was one.  I knew that if I could just sleep, this parenting thing would be easier. I was wrong!  Once you recover from being sleep deprived, you then enter the new phase of having a moving, obstinate toddler.  That cute little baby who never sleeps, now never seems to stand still.  Plus, they have discovered the world no. When my 19-year-old was three, he could stretch that word out into fourteen syllables.  No joke..... NOOOOOOOOOOOO. 

The intermediate level also includes the wonderful elementary years.  This is when reality begins to sink in, you have to actually send this little being off into the care of someone else.  What do you mean they have to get up at 6:30?  They have to tie their shoes?  Girls... ooh yuck don't they have cooties? ... you really don't like girls yet right?  Between managing homework, friends, and sports, you decide that this is the hardest level.  Ah.... nope!

Next is the dreaded teenage years... you remember those from when you were one.  I distinctly remember my mom telling me she hoped that I had a teenager just like me.  Well, she got her wish!! This parenting stage is tough. The worries are so big and there are so many things to keep track of.  Are they behaving on social media?  Why are they not answering the phone? Grades are important, it gets them into college.... oh the pressure of getting good grades.... will it be enough?  All of these things run through the very tired teenage parent.  I mean you thought you left that sleep-deprived business back in stage one!  Nope, now you get less sleep as you wait up for them to get home.  I do believe that this is the hardest stage.... so far.  I haven't made it to being a parent of an adult yet.  But I mean, it has got to be easier....right?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

They never cease to amaze me

I have the privilege of teaching at a STEM certified elementary school. We were one of the first few schools to become certified in my state. Our original certification is up for renewal, so we are beginning the process of recertification.  Of course, times have changed since our last go-round and we are busy becoming acclimated with the new requirements, procedures, and staff.  As with any new thing that you begin, there is a learning curve.

Today was our first pre walk through for the Department of Education. We have been busy preparing for this visit.  You know the drill.... make sure your learning targets are visible, that the students work is available to view and that the kids can explain what they are doing and why.  All things that we should be doing anyway but today brought just an added layer of pressure.

My departmentalized partner and I decided that we were going to have the kids work on improvements for our chicken brooders.  We (meaning the teachers and students) have spent a lot of time discussing the fact that our brooders are not perfect and some improvements may benefit our chicks.  Students, during Science class, worked through the Engineering Design process to develop and create a prototype of an improvement.  Today should have been the day that we begin to construct and test the designs.

I say should because as anyone with fourth graders or kids for that matters knows, they do not always bring in what is needed. I saw some groups creating prototypes out of paper and then swearing that this would be a sustainable option. Quite a few groups used poster board to construct their design and others brought in materials that could actually work. 

What amazes me about kids is that they do the best out of what they have.  I watched a group test their design about ten times, they just kept going back to the drawing board and adding things or taking things away.  What tenacity! I watched another group painstakingly create a mini version of their final project in hopes that the adults could build the real thing.  Another group, used a saw for the first time, a drill for the first time and learned how to use a screwdriver.  Who else can say they did that at school? When it was hard for them, they just kept right on trying as they were determined to make the brooder better for our chicks. 

These kids never cease to amaze me.... we should all have the determination of these fourth graders trying to complete a STEM project.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Bucket Fillers

The world needs more bucket fillers, the kind of people who choose joy and kindness.  It doesn't cost anything to fill someone's bucket, it is absolutely free.  What else can you say you can do for someone that doesn't cost a thing?

Bucket filling can be a kind word, helping someone with a task or even opening the door for someone.  It is the little things that can make such an impact.  Filling someone's bucket can turn their day completely around. 

I had a few really great bucket filling moments today. When I came into the school at the early time of 6:10, I noticed that all of the teacher's doors had been decorated.  See, it is teacher appreciation week at my school.  I paused at each door and marveled in the love that was put into the doors.  There was one door in particular that really stood out (other than mine!).  This door was totally decorated in camouflage and had dog tags on it.  The door nailed it! What a wonderful gift to this teacher - her kids "get" her.  I eagerly made my way to my door and was blown away.  They had decorated my door as if it was a race, since I love to run, and put shoes around the track.  These were not just plain old shoes; no, these shoes had handwritten messages from my students.  Little bits of love all around the track.  How awesome is that?  I started my day with a big smile.

The bucket filling continued with a message from a student.  This message was sweet, inspirational even and just gave me that feeling of this is my why.... this is why I do this.  See this little girl did not love writing at the beginning of the year,  (Can you even imagine?) but she does now.  She writes all the time, anytime we have a break she is writing.  This just made my bucket overflow. 

All of this bucket filling didn't cost a penny.  It was done from a place of love.  If we just focused more on filling buckets and stop all the negativity, we would be much better off.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Quiet of the morning

There is something special about the quiet and stillness of the morning...at least there is for me.  I am an early to rise kind of girl.  My natural sleep pattern is to go to bed early and rise early. It has been this way for me for as long as I can remember and I am sure it has something to do with the fact that my parents were early risers too.  I do not need an alarm clock, even for my 4AM workouts.  I just wake up...weird right?!? 

This morning with the time change was not different, I am the first one up. I love it!  I love the stillness, the quiet, the creaking of the house.  I love the quiet sounds of my morning coffee brewing and oh, that first sip of coffee is magnificent.  I love the ability to get things done without the constant feeling of rushing.  I know that with my early wake-up, I will be ready to greet the day and all its glory with a smile because I am done with the things that I require stillness for. 

I guess I am a classic introvert.  I crave and need the quiet to recharge, to get ready for the extroverted job of teaching.  It is in the quiet of the morning that my batteries recharge, that my mind prepares for the day ahead. 

Noone at my house is an early riser.  I am not sure when they charge their batteries, when they prepare their mind for the day.  Maybe it is on my husband's morning drive or morning run, probably my teenager recharges in class when he should be paying attention and who knows about the college boy, he isn't home to see his new patterns.  They do not like the stillness of the morning, the creaking of the house, the quiet calm that comes with seeing the sunrise. 

You know what...that is ok.  I love my mornings to myself.  I love to be the morning greeter, to have my workout finished, my to-do list done because then I am ready to face the day and whatever life throws my way.  It is in the quiet of the morning, that magic happens.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Spreading the Love....

As any new first-year teacher knows, kids love to spread their love.  By love, I mean that germy kind of love... the gift that keeps on giving.   I know when I was a first-year teacher, I seemed to live with a runny nose, sore throat, and a headache.  I couldn't believe how often I had a cold or strep throat or the stomach bug.  Whatever little bit of goodness those kids could pass to me, I seemed to get.  This year, I am watching a first-year teacher on my team experience the same thing.  I know it doesn't help her to say, we have all been there....but we have.  We know the feeling of, if a student within a forty-five-mile radius is sick, you get sick too. 

Now the same situation of love spreading occurs when you are a parent.  Do you remember the first year of your precious baby's life?  Now think back to your life during that time?  Aside from being sleep deprived, you probably constantly had a running nose, a cold, a sore throat or worse.  I know with my oldest it wasn't that bad but it coincided with my early years of teaching, so who knows where all the sickness came from. Now my second spread the most germy love. That boy was sick so much, in fact, I had to stop working because of it.  The first time I had the flu in many years was when he was 3 months old.... he spread his little germy love right to me... I was his favorite after all. 

This spreading of the germy love can extend to you if your a new aunt or uncle too.  At my house, we called it the kiss of death...a bit of hyperbole for sure.  When my nephew was born (pre-kids for my house), he had the stomach bug and yes you guessed it, he shared that with EVERYONE. The same thing happened to my mother in law's boyfriend, he came to meet us for the first time and my youngest spread his little germy stomach bug to him. They could barely make it back to Florida!  We still talk about that and they have been married for 12 years now.

Why was this on my mind?  Why did I decide to write this blog post?  You are probably thinking the Corona Virus was the basis for the post.  Nope, someone either my first-year teacher friend, my own kids or my students shared their little germy love with me.  Nothing major, no fever, just a little cold coming on but it made me pause and think about spreading the germy love. It is just the gift that keeps on giving.... now go wash your hands!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Chicken Tenders

Friday is officially Chicken Tending day in my classroom. We have 14 chicks in two brooders in the corner of my classroom.  My 28 kids incubated eggs throughout the month of January and officially became chicken tenders near the end of the month.  We did not have as successful of a hatch rate as we wanted, so we decided to order day-old chicks.  These chicks came into our classroom the first part of February....and yes they come in the mail in a box, weirdest thing ever! For the last five weeks, we have taken data and changed the bedding every Friday.

Friday goes a little bit like this:
7:15 - the bell rings and the excited fourth graders rush in, eagerly anticipating the job ahead.  The first group of students begin to fill up the buckets with fresh bedding. The four kids chosen to carry the brooder outside to dispose of the old bedding get ready to go.  In the meantime, I am herding all the chickens to one side of the brooder and closing the door. That is such a crazy task....herding chickens is about like herding cats.
7:25 - the first brooder is back and free of bedding.  The original helpers eagerly pour in the fresh bedding, set the toys back in, replace the food and water and release the chickens.  We watch their frenzied excitement as they peck at the new bedding.
7:30 - the kids set to work filling the next set of buckets and emptying the second brooder. 
7:40 - the brooder arrives back all clean and smelling fresh.  They add the new bedding, spread it all around, put the doors and the roosting bar back in and open the door for the chicks.  The chicks are super excited to have the full brooder back together. 
7:45 - we hurriedly get their backpacks, unpack and get all of their supplies out. After all, we have to actually learn something today!  It feels as if we have been working all day and it has just been 30 minutes. 

That is the beginning of our Friday, every Friday is the same until the chicks are old enough to live outside.  We begin our second round of chicken tending around 11.  For this round, the students have the opportunity to interact with their chick.  They weigh them, measure their wingspan and measure their foot length.  All of this is done while trying to control the chicken from flying across the room.  At first, the chicks are so little they don't move much.  Today was not the case, at five weeks old these chickens can move.  Like across the room...like jump from the table and soar to find their friends.  Needless to say, hilarity ensues. I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my face.  The laughter of the kids combined with the occasional squeal is the highlight of our Friday. 

Friday is a great day in fourth grade and being a chicken tender makes it even better!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Rain, Rain Go Away

I am pretty tired of the rain.  I know that I should be grateful for what brings rain.....the flowers, the food, the water to drink, but I am tired of it. The constant cloudiness, the chill, and everything being wet ALL THE TIME.  I am tired of wiping dirty dog paws and washing endless clay soaked towels. I am tired of my wet shoes and wearing my super cute purple raincoat.  I am just so over the constant drizzle and the torrential downpours. Rain, Rain, Rain...

See, where I live we have experienced an immense amount of rain. Like 218% more than normal...that is an actual figure, I looked it up.  We have had approximately 21 inches of rain in 2020.  I mean in February there were only 10 days that it did not rain.  That is a lot of rain!  January saw rain for 16 days, and so far in March, it has rained every day.  You heard that right, every day this week has been rainy.  Sometimes it is that nagging drizzle, sometimes it is the torrential downpour and sometimes like the middle of last night it is thunder and lightning. Rain, Rain, Rain...

Rainy days and elementary school are two things that don't mix well. This is probably one of the biggest reasons I am over the rain.  We have had indoor recess for three days this week.  Tuesday we had a brief respite from the 1 O'Clock rain and made a dash for the outdoors.  Muddy shoes and all, we went for the freedom of the playground.  That was a good day!  The remainder of the days this week, we have had indoor recess.  Lots of good playing, creating and enjoying our chickens but indoor recess is not the same as getting a chance to breathe fresh air and run around.  Let me tell you, ten-year-old boys need to let off some steam!  Rain, Rain, Rain....

The forecast for tomorrow calls for sunshine and cool temperatures.  That sounds a little bit like heaven to me and to my 28 fourth graders.  We will enjoy it while we can because next week's forecast calls for..... you guessed it rain! Rain, Rain, Rain.....

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Are Habits forming?

Every day since the challenge began, I eagerly open the website to see what the new post contains. This morning was no different! I had just finished my morning workout and was cooling down with my mega water and eagerly opened the newest post.  I read through the normal announcements and then read the inspirational quote of the day. Wow! This is a great quote and really spoke to my life and my class.

See we just had a class meeting on forming the habit of kindness. We are in the home stretch of fourth grade and as many of my fellow fourth-grade teachers know, classroom drama begins a steady incline for the remainder of the year.  These kids are part child and part pre-teen. It is a crazy juxtaposition of emotions, maturity level, and hormones. Every day presents a new challenge, a new emotion and a new piece of drama.  The last few days of February proved to have an epic amount of girl and boy drama.  What is a teacher to do?  I recruited our counselor and we sat down with the kids.  The counselor discussed the prevalence of their drama, that no one is perfect and moving forward we would form a new habit.  She told them that they currently have a habit of picking at each other ( as most families do) but we were going to change that habit to one of kindness.  21 days is our goal, 21 days to form a new habit, 21 days to choose kindness over negativity.  We are on day three of our new habit and I can say that we are well on our way to forming a new habit. As I have told them since our first day of school, we should all choose kindness.

In my personal life, maintaining habits is so very important.  If you read yesterday's post, you know that working out is important to me.  I established that habit years ago...it was tough at first but I stuck with it and now I can't do without my daily exercise fix.  Recently, I decided to give up sugar. The first few days were miserable.  For me, sugar is such a hard habit to break.  I LOVE candy, not chocolate so much, but the sweet sugary sticky candy. Give me a Swedish fish over a Hershey's any day. We still had leftover Christmas candy and I have teenagers who have candy everywhere.  It was a test to my willpower and resolve to walk by that candy every day.  But I did it, I have gone eight weeks without candy.  Well....I have had a few bites of candy here and there but not one bite of the good sugary candy.  I know I can't! One bit and I am back in the candy wormhole. 

I guess I am forming a new habit with my daily blog writing.  So far, I have found that I love writing even more than I did before.  I know that when inspiration wears off, the habit of writing will kick in.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Dreaded Machine

I am a self-diagnosed exercise addict. Seriously, I work out every single day. My day is just not complete without my daily sweat fest.  My friends and colleagues think I am nuts...I get up at 4AM to work out.  I know that if I wait until after school, something will happen and there goes my workout. Running has been my go-to work out for a while now, mixed with a little yoga and the occasional boot camp.  That is until I developed "old lady" foot and running was taken off the table (I have arthritis in my big toe which affects the way I run. I let it go on for MONTHS before I went to the doctor only to find I have plantar fasciitis in one foot, and arthritis and tendonitis in the other) I have had to come up with new ways to sweat. Now I alternate between Beachbody videos and my new machine.

I say all that to introduce to you the dreaded machine workout. I received the BowFlex Max Trainer as a Christmas present.  Now, don't get me wrong I asked for one and I LOVE this machine.  It just consistently kicks my butt.  Case in point this morning's workout:

I got out of bed at the super early time of 3:53, changed my clothes, grabbed my phone and went to the basement. There it sits... the grey and red machine.  Its size hides the truth, this machine is a beast.  I plug it in, turn on Spotify and put my feet on the pedals.  I connect the app to the machine, check out today's workout and up the minutes to thirty.  I set my Apple Watch to high intensity ( I mean, I gotta get credit for this workout) and take a deep breath.  The app finally shows how many high-intensity intervals I will push through today.  See, this machine isn't your run of the mill treadmill or elliptical. No, this bad boy is part stepper, part elliptical ad it forces you to sprint for a specific amount of time.  Which doesn't sound all bad, in fact, it sounds like the way to really sweat .... until you are working out, then it becomes the beast. 

This morning's workout was 56-second sprints followed by 1:30 "rest" intervals.  Much better ratio than Sunday's 2:00 sprints and 3-minute intervals but 56 seconds is a long time to go all out.  I start with the warm-up a nice minute prelude to what is to come.  Finally, the first sprint is upon me.  I grab the handles and pump my legs furiously for 56 seconds. (They are really long seconds) The rest is well earned and a welcome relief...until the dreaded 56 seconds starts again.  At about the 16-minute mark, I questioned my sanity.  Why exactly am I doing this?  At the 22 minute mark, I decided that I can do anything for eight minutes. At the 29 minute mark, I am in the home stretch and cooling down. 

Whew! It is over! My sweaty hands turn off the app, turn off Spotify and end my Apple Workout. I may be crazy for getting up at 4AM,  and every day this machine may try to get the best of me but I did it.  I lived to tell the tale and I am glad that I did it.... that is until Thursday when I will do it all again.

Monday, March 2, 2020


Oh, the anticipation! Every mother knows this feeling, the waiting on their child to come home from school feeling,  equal parts excitement, and anxiety.  The feelings are even greater if you are a parent of a high schooler, even more so if the high schooler is a boy.  High school boys say about 5 words all day....you can only hope that they have not used up all their words at school. The feelings are magnified by about 1000 if the said high schooler is behind the wheel of a car. 

I am desperately trying to read the blog posts and make comments but every two point five seconds, I check the clock.
 3:35, 3:40 Shouldn't he be home by now?  It's raining, I think, that will make him slower.  Oh, wait, teenagers are bad drivers...did he crash?
3:42, 3:43 The dogs bark and begin their frantic dance of announcing someone's presence.  False alarm, it is the new neighbors moving in across the street.  Can't these dogs tell the sound of his car?  3:46, 3:47  Read another blog post, make another comment.
3:50, 3:51 I get out all the leftovers and make sure food is readily available.  Teenagers eat a great deal of food, especially boys who are weight training daily.  I mean seriously he ate two bags of beef jerky and two apples with peanut butter as a snack!
3:52 Finally, I hear the music, the loud thumping of some god awful rap music.  I am pretty sure this music is damaging not only his hearing but his brain cells.  Our big, blond lab cocks his head in that lab way.  He raises his eyebrow as if to say, "He is finally home, my best friend in the entire world." The smaller of our two dogs begins his warning barks.  His little stumpy tail begins to wiggle back and forth.  This time their alarm is correct.... the teenager is home.  My anticipation grows...will this be a happy teenager?....will he be talkative?.... or will the quiet, sullen, I am so tired teenager open the door?
3:53 I hear the car door slam, his footsteps on the back porch.  I fix my face in that mom of a teenager's face... not too eager, not to calm, just that perfect mix of expressions.  The door opens wide, the dogs jump with ecstasy, the playful barking continues.  The teenager pets them, rubbing their necks and smiling at their excitement.  I am waiting patiently to see which teenager came home today.  "Hi, Mom!"  "Hey! How was your day?"  "It was ok. What's for dinner?  I am starving."

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Day One..... Oh the Anxiety!

Day one... I know I can do this but what a challenge this is!

I woke early this morning eager to begin this journey.  (I stumbled across this challenge when I was researching Lucy Calkins and implementing her unit on responding to reading.  The challenge tugged at my heartstrings, my mind and my determination to become a better writer and teacher of writing.) I poured my morning cup of coffee, added my caramel nut pod creamer and opened my iPad to begin.  There it is the first post, the first inspiration, the first blogs to read.  I read them all, soaked in all the information and then writer's block set in! 

What do I write about?  I could write about the car show that my family is going to in a few hours and has been going to for the last 26 years. (That's a long time right?) I could write about my sick college boy who came home because he still needs his mom (Who doesn't and wow did that feels good!) I could write about my classroom chickens and the joy that it brings all the students. (Chicks are incredibly cute before they come chickens).  There are so many things.....

Then it occurred to me, that this is what my students feel like when they are asked to write an open-ended free write.  The grab your pencil and just write for 10 minutes kind of write.  Stumped.... overwhelmed...anxious.... it was just soooo much.  I froze, I rehearsed in my mind, I brainstormed.  All of the things we ask our kids to do when they write and it was challenging.  So, I went to the posts of others.  I used them as mentor texts and the feelings became worse.  Oh my goodness, these people can write.  Will I be good enough?  I can't write like they can!  So, I took a pause, a breath and second to clear my mind and this post came out.  It is in the clarity of a pause that I realized that the challenges of writing the first post (or any writing) is when the magic happens. The posts do not have to be fancy or awe-inspiring, they just need to be. I just need to put pen to paper or in this case, fingers to keyboard and write.  I need to do what I ask my students to do. I got this!

So, let the challenge begin, I am ready! Day one is done!

This is it...

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