a lower case d

Sunday, April 28, 2013

my saturday looked like a lower case d.

at first i thought it was going to look like a tilted, inverted big dipper, but i was wrong. it was clearly a lower case d. 

yesterday we left our house at 10:20 am so we could go to the backyard's spring fest for cee's last jump rope performance of the year. the kids did an amazing job, and i think they really liked being on the big stage. 

after jumping and sno-cones, we headed north-east-ish for a soccer game in temple. 

and then we drove another hour north so the girls could have a sleepover with their grandparents. 

when i pulled into my garage at 8 last night, i realized what a long day it had been, and i hadn't crossed anything off of my to-do list. 

this morning i woke up, determined to conquer the world. 

being gone for two straight weekends is not good for my home-body nature, and i had so many things to catch up on today - mail, cleaning, more mail, yard work, more cleaning, laundry, restocking my house with food, planting things (which i love)...

i had a super productive day and i had everything on my list taken care of by the time cee's second soccer game rolled around late this afternoon. 

i love the parents on her team. they're thoughtful and funny, and i'm a little bummed that we only have two weekends left in our season. i had a hard time adjusting to this new league, but the parents have made it much easier, and i hope we all end up on the same team next year. 

my only qualm about all of the going, going, going for cee's events is that i feel like it ends up being incredibly unfair for jay. she really wanted to participate in a spelling bee yesterday, and that would have meant that i needed two clones of myself in order for her to be where she needed to be while cee needed to be in two places at the exact same time. 

luckily, things fell into place for jay - she's the rock star of her class this week, so when we got home from soccer this evening, it was her time to shine. here's the sweet little poster she's working on to take to school tomorrow, and she's so excited to show it off this week. 

somewhere in the middle of all of this, we found time to make cupcakes for the 2nd grade sweet shop, cook some yummy steaks, and i even managed to squeeze in a moment for myself on the back porch while the girls showered and got ready for bed. 

i'm glad we made it through the last two days and checked everything off of our list that needed to be done. i still feel like i need one more day at home to make for a complete weekend, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. 

and for these sweet little ladies, it's all worth it!

(and for the record, that's a pinot grigio tree they're growing for me in this picture!!)

alright - it's time for a bath and a date with my bed.


marks were missed

Monday, April 22, 2013

i'm sure you'd never guess it by looking at their picture...most of the pictures i take of them seem to represent harmony.

truth be told, it takes a lot of work to get them to sit that close together, and our orchestras have been filled with a lot more cacophony than harmony lately.

i know, i know - it's part of having kids who are close in age. add two girls to that mix, and i've heard i just need to buckle up, find a sturdy helmet, and get ready for the ride.

bearing that in mind, i have noticed that jay is very quick to blame, and cee has lightning-fast reactions at denying. therefore, a couple of weeks ago i decided to introduce jay to the world of 'i statements' (thinking this would kill two birds with one stone, or at least maim them - i saw a chance for less blaming, and i saw a chance for less impulsion to deny). i'm sure you're familiar.

instead of saying, 'you are mean and selfish,' one might choose the words, 'i feel sad when you slam the door in my face, and i would like for you not to do that.'

this offers somewhat of a diversion and allows the speaker to put their feelings in the spotlight ahead of the offender's actions.

jay and i had a friendly banter of practice rounds, she got the hang of it pretty quickly, and we had fun with the simulation. we laughed and came up with some ridiculous scenarios, but ultimately, i felt like she got the gist of the 'i feel...' message.

fast forward to today. we're in the car, on the way to soccer practice. they were discussing a situation that happened over the weekend (i was out of town, they were filling me in), and as usual, there were two very different sides of the story.

i looked into the rear view mirror to get a temperature check on jay and before i knew it, i heard these six beautiful words...

'cee, i feel sad when you...'

i gave myself a mental high five! i declared that she had processed my message on a metacognitive level! she was transferring her learning to a real-life scenario!

my celebration came just a bit too early. what came next was....something....

'cee, i feel sad when you...do not correctly remember how things actually happened in reality.'

whatever. you just have the story wrong.

'i feel upset because you...might have issues when it comes to remembering important details about things that happened two days ago.'

no i don't.

in a whisper, with a smile on her face, jay sweetly said, 'well, i  feel mad that you...have completely lost your mind and maybe you need to go get your brain checked out when dad takes you to the doctor to get your blood drawn next week.'

checkmate, eight year old.

(have i mentioned that cee is dreadfully afraid of needles and has sweet-talked her way out of the baseline cholesterol check for not one, but two, consecutive years?)

it seems that we need to review the fidelity and implementation of this little strategy.

oh well, i tried.



Monday, April 15, 2013

what a bizarre day, full of mixed emotions on a variety of disarrayed levels.

on days like this, i find it comforting to put things in perspective. sometimes that's a difficult mission to accomplish, and today was one of those days.

on days when even perspective seems elusive, i have learned that finding the silver lining in each of the situations is my best route to gaining perspective.

once i got home today, i realized i was going to need some serious mind reframing to help me find the silver linings revolving around words that start with the letter 'b'.

1. browning. the girls and i got home from school. i unlatched the baby gate from browning's room. he got up, and he fell...again, and again, and again. his eyes were doing the bouncing eye thing like they did nine days ago, and he was doing the four-legged dog splits. neither of these were intentional or controllable for him.

2. boston. awful. horrible and tragic. completely heart-wrenching to watch the news feed as i tried to stay updated with what was unfolding using my phone...while i tried to coax my dog into a state of imaginary calm...i tried to coheres myself into a similar state as i read more and tried to keep a nonreactive expression on my face.

it's shocking to think this is happening within our borders. it's easy to let my mind rewind to new york where hurricane sandy cancelled another major marathon only five months ago and terrorists created similar hysteria and tragedy nearly twelve years ago. it's easier to forgive a force of nature than it is to try to understand the mind of a terrorist.

3. babies. my babies. they were panicking because they were watching their watch dog stumble and fall, again, for the second time in a few days. jay said, 'i am so scared right now.' cee said, 'i can't stand to watch this.'

i felt their pain on three different levels, all of which started with the letter 'b'.

silver linings of today:

1. browning: he will be okay. round one was just to get us used to his new condition. we got a gentle introduction. i knew what to expect today since this wasn't brand new. after this little bout of old dog stroke, he is probably going to end up with a head that tilts slightly to the right, and that will make him even cuter and more endearing to us. right now, he's resting comfortably.

2. boston: it's difficult to find a silver lining here. really, really difficult. you can't force a silver lining, but follow along with me and let's skip to the next steps in my thought processes.

3. babies: cee overheard another teacher telling her teacher about something that happened today. she didn't know what it was, but she asked me, in front of jay, when we got home - 'can you talk to me about what happened in boston today?' this gave me a starting point. i am very thankful for that starting point. they'd both overheard enough that they had reasonable questions to ask me about boston. they both know enough about browning to talk about their concerns with me.

1 + 2 + 3: i was able to find a silver lining to combine all of my b's today. just before bedtime, i walked into their rooms to give them the five-minute warning. instead of finding them arguing over outfits and accessories (as has been par for the last couple of weeks), i found them holding hands, heads bowed, saying a prayer together.

i've never seen this before. it was a pretty amazing thing, especially considering that our church-going habits are less than regulated and more likely aligned with major holidays that correspond with a church event.

they asked for healing for browning.

they asked for comfort for the people injured today.

they asked for peace for everybody in our world.

i was pretty thoroughly amazed by their unity, their words, and their actions.

and that's a silver lining of my own that i would have never found without inspiration from two little ladies who didn't even realize their mom was in desperate need of her own silver lining for the day.

we talked about what questions they had, we talked about what fears they had, and i tried my best to answer their questions while i eased their worries. i told them how much i love the kindness in their hearts.

before this unfolded and i was going into their rooms for tuck-ins, i had this whole thing planned around something mr. rogers' mom said - something about looking for the helpers as a means of deflecting our attention from the negative and redirecting our attention in a way which encourages kind actions...and i know i was going to say something completely brilliant that tied it back to boston and browning before i kissed them goonight, and it would have resonated in the exact way they needed it to...

...and instead i was pretty blown away by everything i saw them do tonight. that's when it hit me: there are some silver linings i just can't find on my own.

all that's left right now is helping boston find its silver lining. i know it's there: people from around the world are running to help in a million different ways. i saw two of those ways tonight. i hope boston can feel all of the love - i know they need it right now.


another one in the books

Sunday, April 14, 2013

18 years ago, i met some of the most amazing friends anybody could ask for.

15 years ago, our time together in college came to an end and we decided that if we were going to make our friendship stand the test of time, we would have to make a very concentrated effort to reconnect as often as we could.

at first, it was easy. people got married. more people got married.

and then the marriages brought babies. the babies were (and are still) amazing, but the babies definitely made us have to work harder on staying connected.

over the weekend, we got together for our 15th year!

i love these ladies, and i feel pretty lucky that they're still a part of my life.

we had a wonderful time sharing stories, being goofy, and laughing until things hurt. and now it's time to get back to the families and lives we have each created...and start the planning for our next rendezvous!

back to work tomorrow. until next time, peace...

a balanced life

Saturday, April 6, 2013

hey browning...

i've been meaning to tell you something.

i will love you forever. no take backs.

last night, the girls and i went out for dinner and a movie. when we got home, i asked them to let browning out of his room. i heard them undo the baby gate and then they went along their way getting ready for bed. i opened the back door to put him outside, but he wasn't hustling my way like he usually does. i called for him a couple of more times, and then i realized something was wrong (spoiler alert: this has a happy ending).

i went to go check on him and he couldn't stand up. like physically couldn't. i helped him get to his feet and i watched him weave, stumble, and wobble as he tried to make his way to the back door. he couldn't make it, and he fell down right in the middle of the living room. he was starting to get panicky, the girls came running in, and after about five minutes, we got him calmed down.

once we got him settled, i noticed his eyes were going a little bit crazy. they were bouncing from side to side, and that was also completely out of his control. all i could think of (because i do an incredible job of being an optimist a worrier) was that we were watching him die and i knew the girls were going to freak out if that happened.

thankfully, a vet friend was willing to pay us a late night house visit, and as it turns out, browning was having a stroke right in front of our eyes. i didn't even know it was an available condition for dogs to have. the good news is that the type of stroke he experienced was very benign and is the human equivalent to really bad vertigo with some bizarre eye twitching mixed in for good measure. it's called old dog stroke, or vestibular disease.

regardless, it was pretty unnerving, and jay cried herself to sleep for maybe the first time in her whole entire life. she was so worried about him, and it made us all realize how we need to appreciate each day we have with him.

the pictures i caught of jay and browning this morning pretty much sum up how they get along. they're big buddies, and they're attached at the hip most of the time. she tells him all her best secrets, and he does a good job of keeping them for her. he gives her kisses, she teaches him new tricks. it's pretty entertaining to watch.

browning is doing much better this morning (and so are his human counterparts). he's still a little weavy when he walks, but he doesn't look drunk anymore, his eyes are under control now, and it seems like he'll be back to normal by the end of this weekend. his orders are to get plenty of r&r, and we'll do our part to keep him feeling like a king.

and now, we're off to get our day started...hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


oh, the things they know

Thursday, April 4, 2013

every single day when my kids come into my classroom, they have a warm up to complete. it literally runs like clock work. i set the timer and project it on the white board, and they get to work.

the warm up serves several purposes: first, it gets the kids settled into their seats and ready to go when the tardy bell rings; second, it gets their minds focused on whatever our lesson is for the day; and third (probably the most important), it gives me a chance to do a quick check to make sure everyone is okay, to see who might be having a rough day, to see who might need a quick pep talk, band aid, or nurse pass, and to get an initial gauge of the class as a whole.

there are some days when i can tell they aren't that into the warm up, there are some days when i can tell the warm up has them stumped, but most days, the warm up serves its precise triad of functions.

and then there are days like today when i can instantly see that the warm up exceeded the realms of my greatest expectations. today's warm up had their full and undivided attention and devotion. seriously - in every single class today, they were completely silent and hard at work for the entire five minutes of warm up time.

after the timer goes off, i give them the opportunity to share what they wrote or created with their table group. this is intended to be a reward: my thank you for coming in, getting settled, and getting into the right frame of mind for class - socializing with a purpose.

sometimes i ask for volunteers to share what they wrote, but not always. sometimes students ask if they can share what they wrote, but not always.

today ended up being one of the greatest days of sharing that we've had all year, and i was so proud of every single one of my students!

the bottom line, as i learned today, is that our kids know a lot about what's going on in the world around them. no matter how much we try to protect them and sugar coat the realities of the world we live in, they are plugged in and they are paying attention to what's going on in the news.

an unexpected consequence of today's warm up led into conversations about school safety and what layers of support are already in place. one even went as far as to say, 'my parents try to make everything in this world seem all rainbows and unicorns, and i appreciate that they're trying to protect me from what they think i can't understand, but the world can be a really evil place.' i felt like the very least i could do was acknowledge what my students were already very well aware of. to know about it but not know how to talk about it has to be a kind of scary feeling.

just to give you an idea of what twelve year-olds are able to do in five minutes, here are two examples from kids who picked option 1. both of these drew unsolicited, completely spontaneous applause from their classmates (and i don't generally consider my classroom to be a "clappy" kind of place...happy? yes; clappy? not so much.). i think you'll see why these kids garnered support from their peers when you read what they had to say.

   the world today is what you can call a free for all. asking the question 'is it safe?' is like asking a blind man for directions. you can't really know what's safe in this world anymore. like maybe you knew that man forever and then it turns out he's actually the person trying to kidnap you. honestly, i say no, the world is not a safe place. the world itself is safe, but the people who occupy it can be scary and dangerous.
   i remember when i could go outside on my front lawn and pick clovers and stuff, but now i'm scared of being taken way because i see it on the news every day. also war. it's really big here, and safety in other countries is crumbling. again, i say no, the world is not a safe place because of all the murder and kidnapping, war, and horrible accidents. the world is scary and dangerous.

if you ask me, that's a pretty amazing peek into the mind of a twelve year old girl. and let me tell you - it's one thing for me to type it and for you to read it; however, it's an entirely different thing to hear these words that a twelve year old wrote in five minutes as she confidently reads them aloud to her classmates with no hesitation or fear of judgment. 

and then there's this little guy who has dreams of going to oxford and who will probably be a supreme court justice one day - mark my words, he will never ask a clerk to write his briefs. i hope we reward him appropriately when he accomplishes all that life has in store for him.

   the world is a dangerous place because it worsens everyday. it is a plaguing disease just to say people are getting better. it is  a phony remedy to heal the cuts and bruises caused from falling down just because the world kicks you to make you fall. children find guns, and russian roulette becomes their favorite game. they say 'don't worry' but it would only take one minute for that life to be changed forever. did you realize the word funeral still has 'fun' at the beginning? 
   so don't tell me people are getting better. the thieving memories of all that's good is being taken away by the demons who play on the playground. the seesaw just happens to be you. the corruption of mind control makes beauty in everything turn to the suffering of others. no one knows how to save a life, no sweet words can prevent dark thoughts. cliffs aren't the way to go; there has to be a better way for our world to thrive. 

how do you not applaud this thinking, this expertise, this opinion, especially when it's from a twelve year old boy who was given five minutes to read the prompt choices, decide which to address, and then compose something this incredible on a first try?  and again - one thing to read it, another thing to hear it spoken out of the mouth of the young author.

and as these difficult issues sprouted from today's warm up, i felt really, suddenly compelled to reassure them that no matter how bad they find our world to be, if we are ever presented with a dangerous situation at school, any one of the adults in our building would do anything and everything within our power to keep them safe and protect them. i had their full attention when i shared this with them - the appreciation and relief on their faces was pretty obvious...this was something they needed to hear, and there was no way this conversation would have come to the same level of life if it was planned or scripted.

sometimes the best things  emerge from organic beginnings and unintended side effects of something as simple as a warm up intended to direct their minds towards the tuck family.

and because i know that was kind of a downer, let's end on a happier, more positive note. here are my two favorites who wrote about using your imagination as a tool:

   a human's imagination can bring new ideas, great settings, and creative thinking to and for the future. it all starts within your mind. the first step to any great change is your imagination. it brings up stuff you've never even thought about before. 
   your imagination is like a world of brilliant ideas and creations. when an idea pops up, some how you feel like you want to bring that idea out and make it your reality. even if it's as simple as imagining what you want to draw before you draw it, and your mind knows exactly what you want your hand to do the moment your pencil hits the paper, you still have to appreciate what your mind can do because with a strong imagination, you can do anything. 

this was written by a bilingual little lady who can make connections between two completely unrelated things like nobody i've ever seen. she also asked if she had to answer only one of the prompts or if she could try to write to both of them. she ran out of time, and she promised me that she would write to the other prompt tonight, even though that's not expected or required of her. i can't wait to see what she brings me tomorrow.

   your imagination is a powerful tool. because if you could not imagine new ideas, we would not have light bulbs or any other innovations we have now. and life as we know it wouldn't be here. we would have lives that are harder than we could ever imagine. 
   your imagination is also very powerful because if you didn't have it, you would never be able to draw or write. that would mean no books. and with no books there would be no learning. and i can't imagine a world where i couldn't use my imagination to create something new and great every day. 

this is from a little guy who loves dogs, has an incredibly empathetic soul, and always has a great story to brighten my day.

whenever people look at me and think i'm crazy for working with middle school kids, i wish they could be a fly on the wall of my classroom when days like this unfold out of nowhere. if people could get a tiny glimpse into the minds of these kids, they'd never second-guess my career choice - or the depth of reflective insight created by the kids in my classroom - again.


days like this are the ones that pull me through the lulls.

days like this are pretty fabulous.

and nights like this are made for sleeping...


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