Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Final Day

 It is hard to believe that I have spent the entire month blogging. This is my second year working on this challenge - and it was as rewarding the second go-round as the first.  It can be challenging - no doubt - finding the time to do anything extra during a pandemic was at times too much.  But I found the time every day, even if it was later than normal - I made the time.

I learned a lot along the way.  Here are a few takeaways this year:

Writing daily makes me a better writing teacher.

All people like to feel validated - that someone "gets" their writing

People like to read what you have written -especially students

Blogs provide an excellent mentor text for students

Blogs can be used in conferences with students

Kids will want to mimic what you have written

Kids will want to blog too

Taking a few minutes to dedicate to something that you enjoy is worth it

Sometimes writing is hard

Writer's block is no joke

Putting fingers to the keyboard and letting them just write is the best way to handle the block

I will be back next year... and hopefully every Tuesday!

Thanks for reading!! 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Chicken's on Vacation

 Chicken Vacation... that piqued your interest right?!? What you might ask is a chicken vacation?  Why would a chicken need a vacation? Or maybe someone is taking a vacation to a chicken farm?  The questions that the simple title created are endless.... so let me give you some background.

I teach fourth grade at a STEM school in Georgia.  We are blessed with 42 acres of land.  About 4 years ago, one of the women on my team decided to incubate chickens.  She had chickens at home and thought it would be a great project for the kids.  These kids loved it, built a coop, a run, and loved them endlessly.

Bram, my team member, recruited me the next year to participate in the project.  I jumped in with both feet and embraced all things chicken.  Chicken poop... doesn't even phase me.  Chickens squawking and flying out of their brooder... I don't even flinch.  I just keep right on talking.  We love our fine feathered friends with all we have.  

These amazing creatures live their early life in a brooder in our classrooms.  We incubated the eggs early in January, watched them hatched, and have raised them with love and care.  These little guys and gals are the center of many lessons, great for Social, Emotional Learning, and provide constant amusement. 

You are still wondering about the vacation... right?  I am getting there! Our feathered classmates can not survive over the weekends or on the days when we are being fogged. Someone has to care for them - so the kids wrote a letter to their parents, outlining all the responsibilities, and asking their parents to let them take them on "vacation" to their house for the weekend and/or Wednesday.  They were very serious about this letter, requiring a signature from their parents to ensure that they would be good chicken tenders - their words, not mine. 

This afternoon, one lucky fourth-grader and his parents, arrived at 2:00 to claim their chickens for their vacation. The moms and dads that pick them up, arrive with such trepidation and drop them off after their duty is fulfilled with a sense of awe.  We have many converted chicken tenders in our class - many parents who go out and build coops in their yards.  We have kids that have talked aunts, uncles, and grandparents into "adopting" their chick for a permanent vacation.  

So, you see chicken vacation is a real thing.  The question is:  Who really is on vacation the chickens or the family of chicken tenders?

Monday, March 29, 2021

Do over?

 Ever have one of those days.... you know the kind where you feel as if you are going 90 miles an hour ALL DAY long? That has been my day today.  I just can't seem to slow down, or have anything go exactly as planned... or even part of the way as planned.  I hate to say I need a do-over, but I might.

It all started at the really early hour of 3AM.  Something woke me up and I struggled to get back to sleep. So, I have been essentially up since 3.  I got out of bed at 3:56 - which is only 10 minutes early.  I thought I would use those ten minutes to my advantage and get to school.  I worked out - that went well - got a good sweat on.  I thought ok, it's gonna be a great day.

Well... not so fast! I didn't like what I had to wear so I changed clothes.  That took forever since I couldn't decide whether to dress for the morning temp or the afternoon temp. I went with a t-shirt and a sweater - a great compromise. Now I am down a few minutes.  I hurriedly make my breakfast, drink my coffee, let the dogs out and take off for school.  

Well... not so fast! My husband drove my car last, so I had to rearrange the seat and steering wheel.  Not a big deal, but I was hoarding those minutes like they were Reeces Peanut Butter Lovers cups. I get all adjusted and head to school.  Score! I am the first one there.. I will have the copy machines to myself.

Well... not so fast!  Although, I had them to myself... it took me almost an hour to separate what I needed to copy and make the first big batch of copies.  So, I didn't get to slice in the morning.  That makes my afternoon even more rushed since I need to feed the teenager at 4PM.  Then, the chickens arrived early from their weekend vacation.  I had to stop copying to tend to the animals and then I never went back because the bell was ringing.

And on and on and on, the day went.  One thing would delay the next thing, a surprise observation was mixed in and overall I just want to sit down.  Well... not so fast! I need to post this and I have 3 minutes to spare before the hungry boy gets home! Do over tomorrow? 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sunday Mornings

 Today, I slept until 6:51! That might not sound record-breaking to you... but to me, it's the equivalent of a high school kid sleeping in.  I have always been a rise early, go to bed early kind of girl.  My body's natural clock is set to early bedtimes and early morning wake-ups.

For me, rising at 4AM to work out is perfect.  I am in a better frame of mind to work out in the morning.  I like to get it done before the day begins when the house is quiet, and no one needs me.  It is the one time I can completely focus on myself.  I have tried after school, but something always gets in the way, or I am too tired from working all day to put forth the maximum effort. 

I like to get to work early.  Not that many people are there, and the few who are there are like-minded... we all want to get our work done.  There is little chit chat... just nose to the grindstone kinda work happening.  I can get so much done! I have tried after school, but something always gets in the way, or there are too many people who want to stop and chat.  It ends up taking twice as long and I don't get it all accomplished. 

I get up early on my days off too! I can work out and can get the bulk of my school work done.. grade papers, enter grades, write this blog, write my class blog, etc. Once the house wakes up, I focus on being present for them.  So, I don't mind the early wake-up.. it's not 4 but usually 5:30 ish.  

Waking up early and going to bed early is what works for me.  It always has.  I remember in high school barely being able to stay up past 8:30.  I missed so many TV shows that everyone always watched because I was asleep. (Sadly, the same thing still happens!!) Everyone is different, even in their sleep patterns. I gave up trying to change it a long time ago... the beauty of self-acceptance!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Baseball Memories

 "Crack" the sound of the ball hitting the back takes me back to other games and other times.  The memories are as clear as day... I have spent half of my adult life in the baseball bleachers.  My oldest played baseball from the time he was 4 until he hung up his bag for the last time at 18. There is nothing as special as a game of baseball.

"Here we go, Cody! Bat to the ball... quick hands..." I said the same time every time he was up to bat.  Baseball is a superstitious sport... I had to sit the same way, say the same things... every time he was up to bat.  When he pitched, I had the same type of cheers, "Use your legs, you got this..." over and over again. 

"Great game, Cody! Wow you really smacked that ball!" or maybe "I know today wasn't your day, let's practice your swing... maybe you need to hit the cage?"  These were typical conversations we had after every game.  Him with his huge bag, and me with my chair and snack bag ambling along for a post-game chat some of them were happy, and others were filled with commiserating or advice-giving.  

"You want a hot dog for breakfast? That's kinda gross"... "I get a hit every time I hit a hot dog.  Can you make one?" For an entire season, he ate hot dogs before every game no matter the time.  I cooked more hot dogs than I did any other type of food!

Baseball was a great sport for my oldest. It taught him many things... lessons learned that will carry him through the rest of his life.  He will have countless memories of all the time spent on the field, on the road, or after the game.  I am glad that I spent all my weekends at the ball field... I know now that they were time well spent.  I didn't realize at the time how special it was... if I had only known! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Comfiest Sweatpants Ever...

 I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday, posted by one of my friends and colleagues. The meme went something like this:  When I get home my first objective is to change into something that makes me look homeless.  This is so me... and I really thought I was the only one to do this!  

My arrival at home goes something like this.  

    Enter to wildly barking jumping dogs.  Give them lots of love.

    Set all of my school things down. Plug in my laptop. Empty my lunchbox.

    Race up the steps.  Yell a passing hello to my husband.

    Take off my "covid" clothes... even if it's my comfiest dress down outfit.

    Put on my son's high school baseball sweatpants - they are about 3 sizes too big - and my comfiest             sweatshirt - which is about 3 sizes too big.

    Put my crazy hair up in a top not and take a deep breath.

    AHHHH - pure heaven!

Now, I look like a crazy person.  I am pretty short - around 5 feet tall - my son is 6'1.  I have to roll the sweatpants up at the waist and at the bottoms.  My sweatshirt is sometimes on inside out... but who cares.  I am so comfy, I am ready to tackle whatever comes my way.  Sometimes that is grading papers, helping with my youngest homework, or dreams of dreams, sitting on the couch with a good book.  Sadly, I have gone to the grocery store looking like this! I slap on a hat, put my mask on, and you can barely see my face. It works!! 

Isn't it funny how a random Facebook post can hit home... especially when you thought you were all alone in your crazy, comfy outfit. 



Thursday, March 25, 2021

First Time in a Year...

 Today is the first time in over a year that we have attended school four days in a row.  Normally, we have Wednesdays off so that the building may be cleaned.  This week because the county is providing vaccines to the teachers, they have switched the asynchronous day to Friday.  Last week was the same way, but severe storms were set to move in and we were virtual last Thursday and Friday.

Boy, to say that I am super tired is an understatement. I have forgotten how it feels to get up at 4AM this many days in a row.  I am not sure I have enough coffee to make it!! How did I ever do this five days a week?  I guess the body adjusts to the schedule and it becomes normal.  But right now... not so normal!

I can only imagine how my students will be feeling this morning. They haven't done this either... I wonder how many will choose to go virtual today?  How many will be late because they needed to sleep in?  I am sure that the ones that are here on time, will be slow going and super tired.  Which we all know can go one of two ways. The kids will be super chatty or they will be little zombies.  I don't know which one I would rather show up... I am so tired and I know my reaction to their behavior will be different than normal.

Nothing much to do but to just make this day work.  I will embrace the tired... because at least I can sleep in a bit tomorrow. I will embrace whatever little people show up... because I love them tired or not.  I will embrace my million cups of coffee... at least I have plenty.  Let's hope I can embrace all these things!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Chicken Coops

 Unexpectedly yesterday afternoon, my partner teacher and I received a wonderful gift.  We raise chickens and one of our families is donating two brand new coops.  Our current coops are in need of repair and after being moved over the summer are in rough shape.  They are completely repairable, usable, and viable.. but the gift was offered and we accepted. 

I am not the original chicken "tender" in my partnership. My partner teacher, Bram, started the program about 5 or six years ago.  Her class at the time designed the coop and run out of an old refrigerator box.  These kids put the engineering design process to use.  They gathered on weekends and used class time to construct and build the coop and run.  How amazing is that?!? What a talented group of students.

When I joined, we shared her coop until I could have one built.  My parents and students used the same design that the original kids used.  Now we had two coops built out of their imaginations. We have repaired these original coops over the years, painted them matching colors, and put our baby chicks in there with love.  

Over the summer, my county's maintenance department moved the coops and runs to make way for portables.  In the move, they didn't care for them the way we would have if we had moved them.  They weren't broken per se but damaged. Nothing that we couldn't fix on our class restoration day... which was scheduled for this weekend.

As we were packing up to go home yesterday, we received a phone call from one of our parents offering us the new coops and runs.  She had already begun building them in her shop. We accepted this kind offer and immediately sent the remaining parents an email letting them know that chicken coop restoration was off. To say this was a whirlwind afternoon, would be an understatement.

It all happened so fast, that I don't think Bram had a chance to process what was happening.  She had put so much time, effort, love, and memories into these coops.  These coops were a testament to her students who created them.  They offer a lasting legacy to Bram's contribution to her kids, the school, and me. What Bram doesn't know is the legacy isn't in the wood, the nails, or the chicken wire...the legacy is in the memories that we all hold.  The way she has paved the way for us to have a chicken project, the love she has shown to each chicken and to the kids who raise them.  She has created countless kids that will grow up and realize that they can do anything that they set their minds to.  Bram continually shows the students, community, and me that it isn't about the final product but the journey along the way.  So today, as she is letting go of her "legacy", I hope that she finds comfort in the fact that we hold her legacy in our hearts. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

What's that Noise?

 "Ping, Ping...Tap, Tap"

"Ping, Ping...Tap, Tap"

"Ping, Ping...Tap, Tap" What is that Noise? It starts softly and grows in loudness as I reach the bottom of the stairs.  Should I be afraid... no that doesn't sound like anything scary. I quickly make my way down the hall, flip on the light switch, and see the puddle.  

It takes a minute for my mind and eyes to connect.  I see the wet area rug, the wet hardwood floors but can't quite connect the two.  As my eye drip up to the source of the wetness, I spot the leak.  "Oh great, I think", not another leak.  We have been plagued by leaky pipes for the last two years, and it looks like another one sprung a leak. 

My mind is fully awake now.. not what I want to deal with at 4:05 in the morning.  But I do... I grab my largest soup pot and place it under the drip.  I dry up the wet hardwoods and sorta stare at the mess that is now my kitchen.  Oh, well... I better go work out.

As I ascend the stairs from the basement, sweaty from my boxing workout, I hear a new noise "Ting, Ting" "Ting, Ting".  This is the terribly, annoying sound of water hitting the large metal soup pot.  "Maybe I should have made a better choice", I think. I turn off all the lights in the kitchen since the dripping water is close to the light and turn on the light over the sink.  Then, I make the mistake of looking backward... the small leak is big.  I can see the water trails across the BRAND new ceiling - we had a leak here last year and had the whole ceiling replaced. "Great" I exclaimed out loud to no one.  

Not much I can do this morning, I have to head to school.  Although, I do wake my husband to tell him about the leak.  "Hey, Bill... we have another leak in the kitchen" "Huh? What! Oh great!"

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Little Guy

 We have a large dog and a smaller dog.  For us, the smaller dog is really little but for most, the small dog is normal size.  The little guy loves big and wants to be near you at all times.  He will lay touching you for hours on end... often refusing to move.  This is all fine and dandy until you try to sleep - then it becomes a problem.

I usually go to bed before anyone else.  I get up super early in the morning - like 4AM during the week and around 6 on the weekend, so by 8PM, I am ready for bed.  The little guy knows exactly what I am doing when I push the button on the recliner and sit up.  My next step is to plug in my iPad, take my allergy medicine, and then head up the stairs.  He pops up from wherever he is sitting and bounds up the stairs.  

He always makes it up the stairs before I do.  I can't seem to trick him into letting me be the first one into the room.  He leaps onto the bed and turns his customary three circles before settling in. At this point, he is on the opposite side of the bed.  Which is perfect, but will not last long.  Eventually, my husband comes to bed and the little guy moves to underneath my feet.  Sweet right?!? No, it's not.  This little 40-pound ball of love will not move and generates enough heat to warm an entire house! You can push him, pick him up, even yell at him and he will not move. Once he is settled in, he is good for the night.

Now, my youngest is supposed to come and get him and take him to his room.  That happens less and less.  The little guy makes it so hard to pick him up, it has become more of a hassle. Sometimes, we take him to the youngest room, not often enough though.  This little dog melts into the bed! He is so set on staying where he is.

Last night, was no different. I race up the stairs to try and shut the door before he gets there.  Of course, I lose out.  He turns three times and settles in.  I am fine at first... I settle in and fall fast asleep.  The problem begins around midnight.  Now my husband is fast asleep and the little guy has moved right under my feet.  He won't move, the covers keep getting stuck and the heat he generates is too much.  I push a little, nudge some with my feet... nothing.  He won't move.  I stand up, thinking I will move him tonight.  Just as I get close to him and put my hands on him... he moves closer to my husband.  I quickly get back in bed, the heat is gone, I can move my legs... and I drift off to sleep.  I can't imagine my husband can say the same thing. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Nighttime Sounds

 The sounds at night are solemn

The sounds at night are mysterious

The sounds at night are normal

But when the nighttime sounds change...

The sounds at night are scary

The sounds at night cause worry

The sounds at night create anxiety

The sounds at night become sleeplessness

But when the worrier falls asleep...

The sounds at night are quiet

The sounds at night are still

The sounds at night are normal

Saturday, March 20, 2021

People Passing Through

 Late yesterday afternoon, my son and I began to scroll through Amazon photos.  With Prime, they have an option that you can store all of your photos, and you can share them with your family.  So, all of the photos from my phone automatically upload to Prime Photos.  What is even cooler is with the Fire Stick, the photos stream to your TV!  How cool is that... its like our own family slide show.

Anyway, for some unknown reason, we decided to look at all the photos on Prime.  We started with the most recent, skipped a lot of the ones that come up on the TV, and really focused on some we haven't seen in a while. I can't tell you how much fun this was.  It was cool to see the enjoyment this brought my 17-year-old.  He laughed and smiled and asked a ton of questions.  We spent lots of time looking at his hair - he has great blond hair - I mean girls would die for the color and the thickness.  He has had a variety of hairstyles through the years and most of them were pretty long.  He has it short now.... but I know after looking at the pictures, he will be growing it out again.  

He is an old soul.. often looking right to the heart of the matter or offering insight that most teenagers don't have.  He mentioned to me near the end, "I haven't spoken to a ton of these people in years... like this one... maybe a decade."  "Wonder what they are doing?  We spent all kinds of time with these guys... I bet they wouldn't recognize me now." "Wow, that's kinda sad that people just are in your life and then they aren't"  We talked about how sometimes, especially with sports, families spend a lot of time with the people they are playing with, and then when the team disbands or the seasons over, people move on.  Not all people, there are many we still talk to or communicate with in some way, but lots have moved on.  Sure you chat when you run into them, or vaguely wave hello like you remember them from somewhere.  It is pretty strange to think of all the people that have passed through your life.  I haven't really stopped to pause and consider how many that has been.

To keep the situation light and fun, we ended with the video when his older brother had his wisdom teeth out.  Probably shouldn't have shown that to him.... going to be lots of teasing going on about that.  At least we have all of the pictures and videos to remind us of the people, places, and events that have happened. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Forest Gump

 I saw a silly meme once that riffed off of Forest Gump's line about chocolate.  It said something along the likes of "Not everyone is going to like you,  your not a box of chocolate".  That line has stayed with me and resonated with me quite a bit lately.  Earlier in my life, my emotions would rise and fall with each hurtful or helpful comment.  I can still remember things people said in an off-the-cuff mark - the sting of those words left their mark.  

As I grow older and more comfortable in my skin, I try to remember I can't please everyone.  Not everyone has to like me.  It's ok.... I am not a box of chocolate.  I have tried to be true to what I believe, to show people basic human kindness and decency.  I have turned the proverbial other cheek. I have bitten my tongue more times than I can count.  

Sometimes I lose the battle with this one.  I am a pleaser by nature... a nurturer, a I want to fix you and help you kind of person.  Having people like me goes along with that, my psyche needs that reassurance.  Today, I lost the battle.  I let the actions of someone else, get me down.  I am replaying and replaying the conversation in my mind.... what could I have done, what could I have said differently.... did I do something wrong?  My stomach is in knots, my head is killing me, and I am so down.  

You know what... it's on the other person... I am not taking their negativity.  I am not going to rise and fall on someone else's words or actions. Logically, I know that I didn't do anything wrong or with bad intentions. Not everyone has to like me -   I am not a box of chocolate.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


 PIVOT! You remember that scene from Friends where Ross is screaming "PIVOT, PIVOT"?  Since March 13th, I feel like I have been stuck in that one scene.  I have learned to Pivot on a dime.  School is closed for two weeks ... we will be back, don't take everything home. So we pivoted to a modified school system for the kids.   Fast forward two weeks, schools will be closed for the foreseeable future, but you still can't get your stuff since we are quarantined... pivot again. Do your best, they said, but stay inside and don't go out.

We seemed to settle down for the remainder of the school year.  Lots of personal pivots... family vacations canceled, beach trips become a game of how far apart can I sit from these people on the beach. I mean really, it was like a giant game of Jenga...ooh, they are getting too close, should I move to the left... nope there is someone there. Pivot, pivot, pivot.

Then the new year began, major pivot time. Lots of last-minute decisions.  Let's push back the year by two weeks but teachers you should come to school to "train". Pivot all of those planned lessons.  Let's go virtual but teachers should teach from school.  Pivot.  Now I have to sit in an empty classroom and teach.  Glad I didn't have little kids that needed me to help them.  (Those teachers could teach from home but their littles would be there too... how do you do that?!?) Finally, let's all come back to school but parents can decide what they want to do.  Here is a list of requirements for the classroom. Pivot.. now we get ready... how do I put these desks so far apart, how will they each lunch? Pivot, Pivot, Pivot.

The year seems to be a series of more pivots.  Don't want to come to school, have covid, tired today from a late-game... stay at home... I will upload all of your lessons.. sure you can join virtually.  Whatever it takes!  The weather is bad... let's stay home and I will teach you without any of your supplies.  Pivot, pivot, pivot.  One thing for sure is I am a master of the pivot... maybe I could have helped Ross!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Consistency is the Key

 Consistency is key. It doesn't really matter what you are working on, discussing, or thinking about... consistency is key.  In order to make sure something "sticks", you have to put in the work.  Like real work.. not half the work.. the whole shebang.  Time, effort, and CONSISTENCY are what it takes for EVERYTHING!

Many have read or heard about Malcolm Gladwell's theory on 10,000 hours.  That it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something or to "learn" it.  Many subscribe to the theory that it takes 21 days to create a habit or to have something "stick".  I say again... CONSISTENCY is the key.  When you are consistent with your efforts, you reap rewards.

You want to lose 50 pounds... then create a calorie deficit and STICK to it.  It won't happen overnight.. Consistency is the key.  You want to play the guitar.... then find a program, practice and STICK with it.  It won't happen immediately.... Consistency is the key.  You want to hit home runs... then get in the batting cage and practice.  You won't hit one over the next game.... Consistency is the key. 

All too often, we want something in life, whatever that may be, but we are not willing to put in the time, effort, or the CONSISTENCY to make it happen.  We tend to give up when the first negative thing happens, but we can't.  We have to fight the urge to quit... we need to buckle down... double our efforts... pull ourselves up.... and STICK with it!  Things may get tough, it may seem like you are going backward but CONSISTENCY is the key.  Whatever you are fighting for, working towards, or struggling with, stick with it.... CONSISTENCY is the key. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The note

 The note is tattered and worn.  It's taped haphazardly to the kidney table. The note is full of love, promise, and phonetically spelled words.  The small, white note was one of thanks from student to teacher written on copy paper and cut out with love.  

The writer secretly placed the thank you note on my desk.  She wanted me to know how much she was inspired to write more, that she loved writing and couldn't wait to be a writer.  I taped it lovingly to my desk, a year later it is still there.  The note reminds me that I am making a difference, that my love for writing shows through to my "kids" and sometimes it just takes reaching one student to make a difference. 

The writer of the note struggles academically.  She is in the remedial group - often leaving class to receive help.  Somehow she always made it back for writing! Writing gave her a purpose, an outlet, and a chance to be successful.  That is what we want for all kids - to find the joy in education, to find their purpose, and above all... to feel successful.  This girl, this note... she felt like she was successful, and she made feel that way too.

The worn, tattered note of thanks warms my heart.  What a simple gesture, what a moment of pure kindness the note is.  She has no idea how much that simple note means, but I do.  Every day her kind words, her note from the heart reminds me that I am doing something right. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Not today....

 Have you ever struggled to find an idea for your blog post?  Has your mind been all over the place with ideas but none feel quite right?  That is where I am today... lots of ideas but nothing to show for it. Writer's block is a real thing... even for blog posts!

I just can't seem to find the words or even the correct keys on the keyboard this morning.  You might say to wait until later to write.  Anyone that knows the life of a teacher knows that the farther into the day you get the busier you become.  After school, I have an IEP meeting and then I have dinner to make for a ravenous 17-year-old.  If I am going to write anything, it has to get done now. This sounds like a bunch of excuses... I can almost hear that in my own teacher's voice :)!

Today may just not be my best writing day.  You know what?!? That is ok!  I have learned that I must give myself grace.  That in this year when so much has changed, so much pressure has been placed on teachers, I have to give myself a break.  I can't be perfect or "on" all the time.  Some days... I just don't have it.  Today is that day!  So, tomorrow I will write longer and better, I will have more to say... after all, I have a million ideas today !

Sunday, March 14, 2021


I have written about my children many times in the past.  They are easy to write about! They are constantly doing something that sparks my need to write... or vent in this case.  Calling them children is a misnomer.  My oldest is 20... so a quasi-adult and the youngest is 17....a wanna-be adult. The 20-year-old is away at college so our interactions are limited to phone calls, text messages, and the occasional snap.  The 17-year-old is here at home in all his teenage glory.

The thing about teenagers is there are a lot like toddlers.  They are longing for independence but not super sure how to get it.  They still want you to help them if they fail but don't really want you to help at all... if that makes sense.  The MAJOR difference between the two stages is a toddler's quest for independence is small in comparison... like jumping off the bed or telling you a defiant no.  A teenager's quest for independence is WAY bigger and comes with so much worry for the parent. 

Another fabulous - insert major eye roll here - thing about teenagers is that their emotions can switch on a dime. For example, yesterday we were having a great day.  The weather was nice, and we had been chatting companionably on the new deck.  We read a little, listened to his newfound love of PINK FLOYD?!? , and just hung out.  Then, we came inside.  The wanna-be adult was getting bored, he wanted something to do.  He started the familiar refrain of "I am bored... what can I do.... I want to do something".  So I started suggesting things... first mistake.  All my suggestions were wrong, not something he wanted to do, or dumb.  "No, I don't want to do that... why would I clean my room... the book is boring... I will run later... no I don't want to cook... MOM!"  Meanwhile, my husband is in the kitchen growing more irritated by the second... as am I but I know not to poke the bear.  Finally, my husband while he is walking out the door to start the grill snaps, "Stop Whining! Find something to do".  Uh - Oh ... he poked the bear.  Doors are slammed, feet are stomped and the quiet afternoon is OVER. Well.. it was quiet since he didn't talk to us until right before bed.  Teenagers can hold that moody, angst for a LONG time!

I love my wanna-be adult, don't get me wrong.... he is a great kid! I know this will pass and he will grow out of this.  But right now... parenting a teenager is no joke! 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Spring Fever

 Spring is here... you can tell by the crisp mornings and cool afternoons.  You can tell by the birds chirping in the early morning and the misty fog that rolls off the fields.  You see more people walking, porch sitting, and outdoor dining. You can tell by the increased energy in a classroom!

I began to notice the tell-tale signs of classroom spring fever earlier in the week.  The slightest uptick in temperature begins to alert the little people that summer is around the corner.  They become more restless, more apt to blurt, and they nit-pick each other more.  

The little humans begin to beg for more recess... "please five more minutes?.... that wasn't enough time..." Recess time during the spring fever outbreak becomes a time of intense competition and an increase in arguments.  "Mrs. Garrison... he cheated....she won't let me play.... he broke the hula hoop...". In fairness to the little humans, the big humans want to spend more time outside, too.  We all enjoy the break from the stale classroom air and breathing in the fresh air.... unless you have allergies!

Spring fever is a thing...  just like the way teachers can predict a full moon.  We can tell that the temperature is warming, that spring sports are ramping up and the kids have been staying up later.  Homework is left undone, kids are more tired, and more minutes are spent staring out the window.  Ask any Educator you know, they know when spring is coming without looking at a thermometer! 

Friday, March 12, 2021

17 year olds

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that I was afforded the extra time to spend with my then 16 and 19-year-old sons.  I will treasure the extra time spent with them... it was a gift that I would not have had in a normal year.  Since August, I have not had the same amount of time with my boys.  My oldest went back to college and is now about four hours away.  My youngest is back at school and so am I.

Once school resumed in October, I have been busier than ever learning to navigate teaching virtually and face to face at the same time.  I haven't had the energy to sit and talk and am often asleep by the time he is ramping up.  I really began to miss the talks, the closeness, or even just sitting side by side watching a silly show.

Yesterday, I was needed a favor from my now 17-year-old. I was taking the chicken brooder and supplies back to my classroom and I needed his car and his muscles.  After some negotiating, we brought the supplies back to school.  Now, he hasn't been inside my school, his old elementary school, since last year.  We have made some changes to the school since he was last here.  Our new principal added these wonderful pictures from a national gallery.  These pictures are all of children from the Middle East. Most are very poignant, often evoking sadness, and at the very least causes you to pause and look at them.  We have around 100 or so of these pictures... they are on every hall.

His first reaction was "What are those"? "Why are they here?" "They are a little creepy".  Then he began to discuss the pictures.  He immediately understood why a school would want to show those pictures.  He just couldn't understand WHY his old school would want to.  In his 17-year-old very idealistic mind he just didn't see how it would make a difference.  Listening to his thought process play out, I was amazed at how intelligent he is.  He could see it from all angles.  He saw why the school wanted to expose the kids to the pictures.  He knew that showing the faces of kids who were less fortunate was important.  He feared that we were over generalizing the situation... that not all kids in these countries looked like that.  He talked about how he used to think all of Africa was poor when in fact there are countries that have wealth.  Didn't we need some pictures of US kids in poverty so they could compare that? He talked about how 99% of the kids just look at the pictures and don't pay much attention to the situation. The conversation went on and on and on!  It was fascinating and he made some very valid points.

That car ride was a gift.  A gift to see his mind working, to have more than a few word conversation, and a chance to learn from him.  I know today, I looked at the pictures differently.  I wondered how I can ensure that the students "see" them for what they are.  How can I incorporate that young idealism into my classroom?  Lots of thoughts today for me... all after a chance to talk to my youngest.

Now, in all seriousness, some of the conversations were pure kid.  Like... why are all the walls brown?  It's an elementary school - shouldn't they be orange or pink?  Why would you want the school to be so modern?  Shouldn't it be happy and bright? I got nothing to say to that... he is right again! 😀

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Things I Have Learned

 It has been a year since the world changed for so many of us.  That sounds so dramatic... but it did change.  We have lost our normal, our security, and for some our lives.  Covid has drastically changed the way in which we view the world, each other, and things may never be the same again.  I choose to see what is positive about this situation... I refuse to be mired in the muck of negativity.  I have decided to reflect on the things that I have learned. So here goes, here are my musings on what I have learned.

1. Toilet paper, paper towels, Lysol wipes, and cans of Lysol are something people really need.

2. I have come to recognize the various brands of "Lysol" wipes by their smells... they are not all the same.

3. People need people.

4. My family is pretty cool.

5. Watching your children navigate this new normal is humbling and rewarding.

6. I have raised some really resilient children, who in the face of a pandemic rose to the challenge and created a new normal.

7. Kids need face-to-face school - sure some perform well virtually - but they need the interaction of their peers, the closeness of their teacher, and the overall structure of face-to-face school.

8. Staying connected with family and friends is very important - even if it's virtually.

9. People need to choose kind - wear the mask - I know that is not popular for some people - BUT it is one unselfish way to help mankind.

10. Smiling with our eyes has become a skill.

11. Likewise, giving the "stink eye" has become an art form!

12. People need to annunciate their words - it's hard to hear with a mask on

13. People can rise to any challenge that is put in front of them.  

14. We will get back to normal - sometime soon... I hope!

I think I could go on and on.  My most important takeaway from this past year is that I can adapt to anything, that I can stay true to who I am even in the face of chaos and I have raised children who can do the same.  I can't wait to see what this next year will bring us... but for now I will keep on keeping on!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Blue Boxes

 "Billy, Lois... I have Mum's picture albums.  Do you have any interest in looking through them?" I asked on Friday evening.  Billy and Lois, my brother and sister in law had just arrived from Pennsylvania.  This is the first time that we have been together in over a year.  We had just finished one of our mom's old recipes, Slomgolean, and were feeling a bit nostalgic. 

"Sure!" Lois answered rather quickly.  Billy just sorta rolled his eyes and muttered a "whatever".  Boys are so weird, especially about pictures and strolling down memory lane.  We went about our night, chatting about all of the things that they have been doing since the "shutdown".  We marveled at how different each state was.  Lois commented that the further south they came the less they saw masks.  "Yeah, that seems to be the norm around here," I replied with a smirk and a shrug.  

Saturday morning arrived with nasty cold, windy, wet weather, so our planned walk was off.  We ate breakfast with an old familiarity that can only be found with family.  I just kept going back to the blue boxes in my storage closet in my mind.  I knew once we got them out we would all enjoy it.  So... I enlisted my husband to help me carry these two heather blue dusty boxes to the kitchen table.  "Here they are! Do you want to look through them before I have to start cooking?"  "Sure, Chris.  I am coming," Billy muttered.  Lois looked around for her reading glasses and eagerly approached the table.

We spent the next few minutes going through an album.  "Ooh, look at Mum!"  "Who is this guy?" "Any idea who this is?"  "Why is Mum wearing a uniform?" And on and on we went as we explored the album.  It was especially fun when we got to the bikini pics from my 8-month-old photos.  Every sister alive can imagine the ribbing I got from that one! "I need to cook.  Can we look through some more after dinner?" I asked.  "I guess" came the reply.

Dinner was finished, we were all stuffed from our steak, potato, and mushroom dinner.  We cleared the table and I made my way to the boxes.  I could feel my brother's glare from across the room... as if he was trying to will me away from the boxes.  Boys! Being the fantastic little sister that I am, I totally ignored him.  I have been ignoring his looks forever... why start paying attention now?

I slowly opened the lid on a new box.  This one had what seemed like a million newspaper clippings.  "Why are all these here?" I wondered.  "OOH Look... It's your wedding announcement!" and with my best theatrical voice I began to read.... "The bride wore Chantilly lace......" 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Finally Got it!

 Today was the beginning of getting back to normal... or at least I hope so!  My state finally made teachers eligible for the vaccine. We have been waiting patiently... ok not so patiently... to receive the vaccine. Today was the big day for me and many other teachers across the state.

I was very fortunate to find an appointment near me and on the first day.  I kept hitting refresh on the site until a slot opened up.  It was almost like back in the day when you would try and get concert tickets.  You know, how you would hit redial a bazillion times until you got through.  I was almost as excited about making the appointment as I was when I scored Garth Brooks tickets! Who would have thought that getting a vaccine appointment and the vaccine itself would elicit such happiness?!?

The entire process was pretty painless, in case you are wondering.  I signed in, filled out various forms, and answered the Pharmacist's questions. We were so busy talking that I didn't even realize that she gave me the shot!  It really didn't hurt at all.  Now, I will say that I could tell in the muscles of my arm pretty much right away.  They became pretty tight and stiff... almost like when you get a tetanus shot.  You have to wait for about 15 minutes after the shot to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction and then I was on my way.  That is the entire process!

I have been lucky so far!  I have some discomfort in my arm.  It is sore, tight but not overly painful.  Again for comparison's sake, it is like a tetanus shot.  I did a pretty calm workout this morning and will do a more rigorous workout this afternoon.  Hopefully, by then the stiffness will be gone!

So for those of you who haven't gotten it yet, and wanted a run down... there it is.  I am so happy to have made the first step towards getting back to normal.  

Monday, March 8, 2021

International Women's Day

 Today is International Women's Day... a day I didn't know existed until this morning!  I know our world has been shaped by many important women.  From early suffragists to current trailblazers, women have impacted society.  I think that the most important women in our lives - in my life - are the normal, ordinary women we meet every day.  We should celebrate those women... too.

I think back to the women who have made me who I am today, and there are quite a few women who have left their mark.  Some have made a positive impact and others... not so much.  I have been blessed to have such wonderful everyday, ordinary, hard-working women to celebrate.

My sweet mama was the biggest influence in my life.  To say that I miss her is a complete understatement... it's like saying you miss air when you can't breathe.  My mama showed me how to put others first, how to always see the best in situations, and how even when things are stacked against you, you keep pushing forward.  She showed me to be a mom, how to be a teacher and how to choose kindness.  I can only hope to be the kind of person... the kind of human she was.

My tough as nails grandma was the second biggest female influence in my life.  She showed me that women can be tough, yet soft.  She showed me to stand up for what I want and that is ok if some people don't like you.  She showed me how to cultivate friendship, how to eat chocolate with pleasure, and that butter in food makes it taste so yummy. My Grandma was an amazing lady!

Other people have helped me along the way.  My Auntie, my mom's sister, showed me that even through the loss of 2 children, your sister and your husband you can still smile.  She showed me how to love a sibling with all your heart, and how to find the fun in all things.  My sweet 21-year-old niece has shown me that even with the loss of her mother at a young age, goals are attainable and hard work pays off.  This girl is going places and I am honored to know her.  I can't wait to see what her future holds. Finally, my mother in law who recently has lost her daughter, her best friend and is battling cancer shows me that I can overcome anything.  That putting one foot in front of the over, doing what needs to be done, and finding laughter in dark times will make any situation easier. 

There are many others who I know or have known that have left their mark.  The women I work with every day prove that women can do anything.  I am so impressed with their collective effort to ensure that our students are receiving the best education that we can give them.  The resiliency, adaptability, and perseverance that my team of teachers has shown since last March is amazing!  What a great group of women.  I am impressed with the next generation of women... the young girls in my classes (currently and in prior years). They are kind, driven, hard-working, and can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. We are in for a real treat when they become adults!

Throughout the world, every day, there are great women stepping up to the plate.  They are working, caring for their families, giving all they have to everyone.  They are the heroes of International Women's Day! Kudos to all the ladies out there! 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

This Time Last Year

 I saw a meme as I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook that said, "This was our last normal week."  Wow! Little did we know this time last year, we would be embarking on the last normal week of the foreseeable future.  How could we have predicted that all of the normal things that we did, all of the whining we did about our problems, the plans that we made for the week or weekend.... would be the last time that we did?

That just blows my mind! This time last year, I was excited about slicing and school. I was making plans for the weekend, for Spring Break, and for Summer.  The most exciting plans were made for a family reunion at Cedar Point amusement park for June... the first time in at least a decade that we all could go. My slices were about my kids in school, and my kids at home.  At least they were at the beginning of the week! As the week progressed you could see and feel the change in my writing, my emotions, and what was going on in the world around us. Little did I know what was coming!

As a teacher, we talk about history and how problems shaped the landscape of our country or even our world.  To be living through that history is quite another story.  We have made history in the last year and continue to make it as we navigate our way through this pandemic.  It causes me to stop and ponder how we will be remembered?  How will the people of the US be written about in the history books?  Will the pictures and snippets of information reflect what really happened or will it be a sensationalized version?  

I know that in our last normal week, we took things like family, friends, social lives, and toilet paper for granted. I mean seriously I could never have imagined the pure joy you feel when the toilet paper came back into the store or when you spot Lysol wipes! It was, and is, like winning the lottery!!  I hope that we have learned the importance of family, of friends, of seeing people's faces, and the strength that we gather from those things.  I hope that as we embark on this next year of the pandemic, that we don't forget the lessons that we learned, the joy we felt over the simple things, that when there is a will there is a way.  I hope we take away a feeling that as a collective society we can face hard things but come out the other side with a resilience and empathy that hasn't been seen since war times.  That this pandemic can make us the next Greatest Generation. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Saturday Mornings

 Saturday mornings are made for sleeping in.

 Saturday mornings are made for a quiet cup of coffee and mindless social media scrolling.  

Saturday mornings are made for extra-long workouts.  

Saturday mornings are made for long walks with friends. 

Saturday mornings are made for catching up on all your shows.  

Saturday mornings are made for whatever you need them to be. 

What is your Saturday morning made for?

Friday, March 5, 2021

It's Happening

 The day had finally arrived.. the much-anticipated arrival of the baby chicks.  I saw the small cracks the night before and the excitement had built to an overwhelming crescendo.  I took a bazillion pictures from different angles so that I could see if the eggs moved or if the cracks got bigger.  I made sure the nest camera was on, and I left for school.

The drive to school seemed like a hundred miles instead of the fourth of a mile drive that it was.  The blistering wind did not faze me as I rushed into the building to get the live feed going.  The smartboard seemed to take forever to turn on and then, of course, the school firewalls blocked me from logging into the app.  I  quickly realized I would have to use the link I sent the kids... I can't find the link... OH MY GOSH.. whew I found it.  I clicked the link and there they were.. the eggs.  Everything was the same.. no new cracks that I could see. Glad I didn't miss anything!

The kids started to arrive a little bit later.  They couldn't contain their excitement.  They had all been watching the live feed before they left for school.  "Mrs. Garrison.. one egg has a crack!" "Mrs. Garrison, did you see that the crack is bigger?" " Mrs. Garrison,  an egg has a crack!"  And on and on the kids went as they entered our classroom with overwhelming excitement, joy, and wonder.  They stood transfixed at their desks or moving as close to the smartboard as they could get. I knew right then and there that we were not going to get much done.

We paused the feed for the morning announcements but quickly pulled it back up when they were over.  The blue and green groups quickly changed classes and sat transfixed watching our chicks.  'Oh my gosh.... that one egg is really rocking!" "Look, that one has a bigger crack!"  By now, we could tell that one of our eggs was going to hatch quickly.  I ran next door to make sure my partner teacher was watching.  She quickly stopped working on math and drew their attention to the smartboard.  

The eight kids with me (the poor target kids were missing all the fun- although, I did share the links with their teacher) were jumping up and down.  Like literally jumping up and down on the black and white carpet.  Squeals of delight could be heard from both classes... the noise increasing as the chick pipped his way around the egg. "Ahhh - look at that..." " Look, it's really cracking"  "OOOH - it has the egg open"  "Ahhhh - I can see it..."

Finally, our first little baby hatched.  It was so exciting... how many people can say that they watched a chick hatch?  We can!! What a wonderful experience for my fourth graders.  Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day watching our new baby get his "sea legs" and dry off.  But wait... is that another crack? 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Company's Coming

 Life is starting to slowly return to normal. Or at least it feels as if it is on the cusp of some normalcy.  It has been almost a year since the world abruptly stopped for so many of us.... for some people it has been even longer.  I have been reading my blog posts from last year with my classes.  It has been so surreal to read... such raw emotions.  The kids had so many stories about their experiences, what they remembered and how life is different.  It is almost like all of us have PTSD - or a mild form of it.

I have noticed how things that we couldn't fathom happening or getting used to are normal to us now.  Sometimes, I don't remember that I have a mask on and will get in the car and be miles down the road before I realize it.  A year ago, I would have never expected that to happen.  It is automatic for me to put hand sanitizer on when I get in the car after shopping or school.  I have washed my hands or put on hand sanitizer so much in the last year!  Who would have thought that we would carry hand sanitizer or Chlorox wipes with us everywhere... but we do!

We have begun to create a new normal.  It is normal to wear a mask... it is even almost weird to see someone's entire face.  It is normal to keep a safe distance from everyone... we even create more space if we feel uncomfortable.  It is normal to eat more dinners at home, to shop online, and to have zoom happy hours.  We have chosen to rise above Covid, to create routines that help us to get what we need from life and survive.

But change is on the horizon.  The vaccine is helping and as more people get the vaccine, the quicker we can return to what once was... or a version of that.  I can see it in my own family.  My in-laws had both vaccines and immediately scheduled a trip to see us.  It has been here in over a year since they have traveled.  My brother and sister-in-law received both vaccines and are coming to visit this week.  I haven't seen them since December of 2019.  I am so excited to have this little bit of normalcy. 

The store shelves are stocked with paper towels and toilet paper.  Who would have ever thought how exciting that would be?! Lyson is getting easier to find.  People don't feel the need to hoard these items as they once did.   It's not much but it is a little bit of normal... and we all need it. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


 My school district has deemed Wednesday as an asynchronous learning day. On a side note, before last March did you ever use or even know what asynchronous was? I digress... Wednesdays are meant to be spent meeting with students either one on one,  in small groups, or in large whole-class settings.  Wednesdays can also be used for students to finish up incomplete work, take a test, or something along those lines.  Wednesdays are sort of like a catch-all day. If it needs to happen, it happens on Wednesdays!

(Even though Wednesdays are not a school day, our standards have remained the same.  We teach the same amount in a smaller amount of time.  For some, our Target (gifted) kids are still pulled for a day's worth of instruction.  So, I have some of my kids for 3 days a week... with all the same standards!)

For my team, we begin the day with our planning meeting.  I have been on this team for seven years and it has always been our goal to take a subject, plan it, and then share it with the team.  One positive from Covid is that we are finally doing that... at least to some extent.  We meet early in the day to share our resources, plans and answer questions.  We then move right into our CCC meetings, where we discuss data and all the things that need to be discussed.  These Wednesday meetings often last 2 hours! In fairness to us, we do not have time during the day to talk much and with Covid guidelines, we are not supposed to gather. 

I then move onto meeting with a small group of students to help with writing or reading skills.  It is a great opportunity to make an impact on these kids.  After that, I move to my whole group meetings where I meet for 30 minutes with one group and 30 minutes with another.  I tell you what, by noon I am exhausted!! The day is only half over and I have done nothing but work in front of a computer.

Our day continues after a quick lunch break with meetings - whether faculty, team, key teams, or something else.  Needless to say, Wednesdays are a FULL day.  For my school, this is not a rest day or a go play golf day.. this is a workday. Sadly, that can not be said for all schools or all people within a school.  I have actually heard stories of people playing golf on Wednesday.... which by the way is FINE!  We are all so tired and stretched so thin, if a round of golf eases the load - then golf away!

I say all of this for two reasons. One, I am curious how other school districts are doing this year.  Do you go to school five days a week?  We are a hybrid model - kids are virtual and in person.  The second reason I mention this is because I saw a social media post this morning asking teachers what they thought of having Wednesdays asynchronous next year.  It seems as if many like the break-in instruction and feel as if their kids are well-rested and can tackle more content.  The post got me thinking about whether I would like Wednesday to continue to be asynchronous or not.  Honestly, I don't know... I like aspects of it and then there are aspects I don't like.  The whole thing is above my pay grade... I will make the best of whatever schedule I have. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Quiet Time

 I love the early morning quiet....the sound of birds waking up and the quiet hum of life waking up around me.  I love the stillness of it all and the hope that each dawn brings.  

I have always been an early riser, my internal clock seems to crave the solitude and quiet of the morning.  Currently, I get up a little after 4 to begin my day.  I start each day with a workout... a chance to get my mind right and my body prepared for what the day will bring.  I enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and scrolling through social media.  It is a mindless pursuit of stillness.  I know what the day brings for a teacher whether we are in the middle of a pandemic or not.

I even love the quiet of my school before people arrive.  I look out at the empty desks and anticipate the noise, laughter, and hard work that will happen today.  I can set my intention for the day, look over plans, and ease into the ever hectic life of a teacher. In all honestly, I can get a lot of work done before anyone else arrives and I have easy access to the copy machine!! I mean isn't that worth the early wake-up in itself!?!

I know that there are some who crave the late-night shift... maybe it's the adventure of it or maybe the late-night is calm and quiet for them. I can't begin to understand... I can't make it up past 9! I hope that everyone finds the time that their soul craves. Whether it is early morning, late at night, or a quiet moment in the afternoon.... we all should acknowledge the stillness, the quiet of our surroundings, and give our minds a rest.  We all deserve some quiet time. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Well, here we go again.....

 Have you ever done something that you know is going to work out in the end but you really aren't sure about?  You know, that I should really do this kinda feeling but you can barely muster the energy or focus to do it?  That is how I feel right now about committing to the monthly challenge.  I know that it will be very rewarding when I am finished, but I am struggling to get my thoughts out. 

I think many of us find that we are stretched too thin, that our minds are spent, our bodies are tired and we just can't.  Just can't take one more thing.... just can't complete one more project... just can't stand the smell of Lysol... just can't.  We all have Covid fatigue.  We have been in a constant state of flight or fight since this time last year.  Taking on something challenging yet rewarding seems insurmountable.  

Yet, here we all are.  We have committed to making ourselves do something normal.  We have committed to honing our craft, of showing our students that even when things are hard you can do anything.  We will find joy in the camaraderie of our shared goal, of our shared passion for writing, of our shared desire to find some normalcy. We will become a community of writers.

So today and for the next 31 days, I will write this blog.  Some days will be rough, some will be wonderful and some will just be ok, but I will keep writing.  I got this... I am a teacher after all! 

This is it...

 Wow! I don't think a person realizes how quickly time moves until you are taking note of the days.  I completed a burpee challenge in F...