Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lester Laminack

On Saturday…nine teachers (including me) from my school journeyed across our state and into neighboring New Hampshire to spend the morning and afternoon with Lester Laminack. We did so because a friend from another district told me he is one of the best speakers she has ever heard (and she has heard many). When I conveyed that information to my teaching friends, we took the long drive of faith.


With no PowerPoint, handouts, or overheads; Lester captivated his audience for the two hours before lunch and the two hours after lunch. He shared his six year old impersonations, his passion for writing and reading, and his personal pilgrimage for acceptance. The audience laughed at his antics, misted over his memories, and consumed the books he read as if we were being exposed to reading for the very first time.


With a simple question, “When did hand raising begin?”, he wove his entire presentation in and out…to and fro…like tidal waters coming and going but always returning to the theme. Lester wanted us to think about why we do the things we do in our classrooms. Do we do them because we were taught that way? Do we do them because they are best educational practice? Why do we so often ask children to only speak when called upon? What is the art of conversation? How can we have conversation in a civil way without begging to be called upon? How can we better listen to the speaker and then add to that speaker’s thoughts?


Lester Laminack is a class act. I hope he continues to traverse the country and spread his words like butter on warm toast. He does so with intellect, passion, and purpose. He wants our youth to grow up rich in literature, spilling with language, and penning the thoughts that pour out of them. If you have not seen him speak, find him and go. If you have seen him speak and you are as impressed as I am, I bet you will seek him out again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shedding the Heavy Foods for Lighter Fare

Do you ever get stuck in eating habits? My husband and I have two eating patterns; those foods for Spring and Summer and those for Fall and Winter. You know…salads and grilled meats for the warmer seasons and roasts, casseroles, and carbs for the colder months. We seem to fall into a weekly menu rotation and eat the same foods over and over again until we cannot stand them any more.

Since it still feels like winter here in Maine, we are mired in those heavy, hot foods that are meant to comfort the soul and warm the tummy. On Sunday I decided to take on a new recipe keeping us from yet another redundant meal. With help from Rachel Ray, I shopped for adobo, chilies, peppers, onions, hot roasted diced tomatoes, chicken, and fresh corn on the cob. I picked up salsa, blue chips, and avocado as well.

My recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup. Although I have had this soup many times when dining out, I had never made it. I spent about an hour peeling onions and carrots, scraping corn off the cob, chopping celery and peppers, sautéing the veggies in bacon drippings and olive oil, and adding in the rest of the ingredients. I let the soup bubble on the stove for a while and then added spices and green chilies. I turned off the heat and let the soup sit in the Dutch oven for the afternoon.

When it was time for dinner, my husband helped a spring green avocado escape from its tough skin and mixed it with garlic, cumin, lime, and hot sauce. I reheated the soup. We opened a fresh bag of blue corn strip chips and opened the fresh salsa I had purchased. The steaming tortilla soup was ladled into bowls. Dinner was ready. It was warm and yet light…just right to help us ease into a new season.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Staying Alert

How did the SOLC impact me?

I had to stay awake, notice what was going on around me, and take in the details. All too often it is easy to get into patterns. Get up…get ready…drive to work…engage with the kids…go to meetings…prep my room for the next day…drive home…and it starts all over again the next day. I would not have had much to write about without noticing what was happening on my way to work, looking around my room for what is new and interesting, taking a walk along the river to watch an unknown hawk dive after its prey, and listen to the poem of a budding writer who thinks she is writing hip-hop. SOLC forced me out of my winter hibernation and into a senses awakening.

This year it was much easier to write than last year. I got into a rhythm and routine that worked for me. I watched, listened, smelled, touched and tasted all the possibilities each day, came home at night and started to generate a piece, and then got up early each morning to revise and polish. I loved the writing but I equally enjoyed reading all the posts and commenting on as many as possible. The comments I received were generous, helpful, and inspiring.

I have been thinking about all of you as I have read your great works. I wish we could have some kind of SOLC reunion where we could all meet each other. It would be so much fun to see the people behind the words.

See you on Tuesdays and next March.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Slicing Friend, Donna

Donna and I are on the same first grade team. Last year we shared two rooms in an “open” classroom of sorts. We learned how to navigate through our shared door without interrupting each other too much. We learned how to work in our classrooms without disturbing each other too much. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to chat it up each day and really get to know each other; sharing family stories, joys, sorrows, frustrations and a lot of laughter.

I am telling you about Donna, because just before the March SOLC began, I sent out an email to all the teachers and ed-techs in our building informing them about The Two Writing Teachers blog and the Slice of Life Challenge. I invited everyone to join me and write for the month. Donna is the only person who accepted my invite.

Having a friend join the SOLC made the experience even more meaningful than last year. I continued to read all of your posts and make many comments. I continued to write my pieces and race home to find out what you all had to say. But this year, I got to talk to Donna about struggling through a piece or an inspiration for a piece or how I shared our writings with my class. I knew she really understood what I was talking about. She was experiencing it too.

Thank you Donna for making my slicing more meaningful. And thanks to all of you, Slicers, for helping me to grow as a writer, a teacher, and a person.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Little Document Camera


A couple months ago, I was thinking about how I could get my hands on a document camera.  For those of you who may not know, a document camera connects to a projector. Whatever the camera is pointed at can be projected up on a  screen. This piece of technology can be very handy in the classroom to project books for the kids to read together, or to demonstrate a science project, show a child’s math work, share a child’s piece of writing, artwork, etc. Document cameras project color unlike overhead projectors and there is no need to make transparencies as the camera just picks up the object’s image to display. Most document cameras cost between three hundred and five hundred dollars (they have more of an appearance of an overhead projector in size and shape) and then you have to buy a projector to display the image. That can cost you well over a thousand dollars for both pieces of equipment.

I decided I could make a document camera out of a cheap webcam and some type of arm that is easy to manipulate like an easy to position desk lamp. I started looking online for parts. While I was cruising the net, I stumbled upon a company called IPEVO. This company marketed a document camera for about seventy dollars. I couldn’t believe my eyes. No, it was not pretty or large or fancy with lots of buttons and switches but the company maintained it would project objects and papers.  I read the reviews. For the most part, they were positive. The company had a money back guarantee so I ordered one.

When my projector arrived, I set it up displaying a variety of images across my dining room wall. I projected money, kitchen objects, paper clips, plant leaves, and children’s books. I played with the arm, the exposure, and the zoom. I elevated the camera by putting a box under it so I could project even larger objects. With the click of a button on the camera, I could focus or I could set the camera up on autofocus. Another button allowed me to take a photo of the object being displayed. The photo was stored on my computer for future use. This handy little document camera draws power from my computer through a USB connection. There is no need to plug it in.

The only thing left to do was try it out with my classroom kids. Once we got through having to put everyone’s face up on the big screen, we got down to business. Students shared patterns, tens and ones work, books and pieces of writing. Since that first day, we have used the document camera each day for a  variety of purposes.

I love technology and its many uses within our classroom but I don’t like the high cost. It was great to run across something that is so useful for such a reasonable price.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This morning I have my first of seventeen student-led conferences. The child’s mom is due to have a baby next week. She requested an early conference. I don’t really know what to expect. This mom lashes out at everyone. She leaves rude messages on the answering system, sends angry letters, and yells at whoever picks up the telephone. Up until three weeks ago, I had been immune to all of this, somehow ducking the inevitable.

Each year our school promotes a read-a-thon as a fund raiser. The children are encouraged to read a half hour at home,  bring in a signed slip from a parent as proof, and then the slips are fashioned into a chain attached to the head of a caterpillar and displayed outside the classroom doors. The kids get great delight watching the caterpillar grow. They are proud of their accomplishment. Parents and friends are asked to sponsor children per slip with any amount of money manageable. This goes on for two weeks. Eleven of my seventeen children brought back permission slips to participate. Six did not. I volunteered to sponsor those six children. I sent their parents a note requesting that they listen to their child read and send in the signed slips. I explained I would love to cover the cost. Four parents took my offer.  Along with the signed permissions I received a note…

It seems I made one parent angry by implying she never reads with her child. She went on to tell me that I have done this before. When she told me the math homework was too hard for her child, I wrote back and said it was meant to do with the parent and it was okay if her child was struggling…many do. The note was long and I was definitely the target of some previously unleashed anger. I could tell it would do no good for me to respond. I could not reply and tell her all I was doing was offering to pay for the read-a-thon so her child could participate.  I could not tell her all I meant was for her to feel free to help her son with his homework…it was not cheating. Her perception of the events was different from mine. She had a different experience with school as a student. I can’t tell her I am not the enemy but an ally. I can’t explain to her how much I enjoy her son. She won’t hear me.

So…when I got the request to accommodate her needs for a conference, I acquiesced. When she comes in this morning, I will greet her with a smile. While her son handles the first part of the conference on his own, I will be proud of him. As we discuss her son’s next steps as a learner, I will look her in the eye and conduct myself in the most professional manner possible. Perhaps I cannot tell her…but maybe I can show her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Running is a More than a Challenge

Most of my life, I have run for small periods of time. It feels like something I should do. I love the challenge physically and mentally. Notice I said, “small periods of time”. I always give up. My legs hurt, I get shin splints, my lungs feel like they will burst. My back aches and the bottom of my feet hurt no matter how many times I am fit for the “just right” running shoe.

Two years ago, my husband and I purchased a Wii. We bought it specifically to exercise with through the winter and to play virtual golf. I started out with yoga and step. Gradually I moved on to running ten minutes, then twenty, then thirty. My husband purchased some pressboard flooring to go over our concrete floor in the basement so my pounding would not hurt me so much. Virtual running was easy for me. I ran in place watching beautiful scenery go by. I went up hills without getting winded, and the flat terrain I was really running on was not taxing on my body. I got results running 3-5 miles three days per week.

Our school has a spring running club for the students K-5. Last week I volunteered to help our phys-ed teacher with the club two days per week. I thought it would motivate me to graduate from my Wii to real running. So…this morning at 35 degrees with the wind blowing 20 mph I dawned my outdoor gear and started an easy 2 mile run. The wind pelted my face. The pavement was not forgiving to my feet and back. I had to move from pavement to shoulder to avoid traffic. I stopped five times just to catch my breath.

I would like to give up. It would be easy to go back to the basement and turn on the Wii. This is why I promised the phys-ed teacher. I knew I needed greater motivation than my own. This challenge is bigger than me. I need the kids to spur me on. What I am really looking forward to…is bike season.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Teaching is what I have done for a very, very long time. There is a part of teaching I am passionate about. I love creating and delivering possibilities to kids. I enjoy watching them take those possibilities and molding them into their own creations. The process is always different as the classes and children are always different. This keeps things continually fresh for me and I like fresh.

I do not like the mundane parts of teaching. I often put them off because they are not what I am passionate about. Do you know what I am talking about? Filing, reports, cleaning, organizing, report cards, and forms are not my cup of tea. I love to document and record. I even love to assess but what I do with the mess when I am through with it, is a problem. I pile most of it on top of a portable file I can tote between school and home. Eventually, when conference time is approaching, I get the paperwork into the files so I appear organized.

Report cards must be complete in two weeks. Then conferences begin. I have stopped my routine to assess each student individually. The kids continue to work and learn but without me coaching them. The pile of paperwork grows larger. I feel overwhelmed right now. Where to start? File first…clean later…begin report cards?

Meanwhile, there are rough drafts of non-fiction books to read. There are new stories to pull from the bookroom. There is a new unit of math to begin. There is a social studies unit to continue. There are author notebooks to peruse. I am thinking about a year end science unit and how I will deliver it this year. Yes I love coaching and guiding students through a myriad of possibilities and no I don’t like feeling overwhelmed with those mundane day to day chores. So here I am writing about them…still putting them off.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Backsplash

My husband and I bought a 35 year old house seven years ago. We have labored to bring it out of the 70’s and into the 21st century. We have had all the floors and doors replaced. My husband has stripped wall paper from every room and painted. We have added crown molding and replaced mopboards. Kitchen cabinets have been painted white (they were custom and in too fine of a condition to get rid of). We have replaced sinks, appliances, and countertops. We really only had one more thing to do inside…backsplash.

We tried several stores without much success.  Finally we settled on a tile we found at a local home building center. We ordered and paid for the tile. We also asked to be hooked up with a professional to do the job for us. Cutting around six outlets left us feeling inept for the job. We were told when the tile came in, the store would contact the craftsman and he would contact us to find a time to install. And the waiting began…

Ten days later, we got a phone messsage that the tile was in and would we please pick it up. I informed the person the installer was to be called so he could pick it up. The caller had no idea what I was talking about and so I explained. She apologized and said she would get on it. Three days later…no phone call so we went back to the store. My husband spoke to a person at the desk. She looked up our account and told us no one had contacted the installer. She would get right on it. Five days later…no call from the installer. My husband went back to the store. The next day the secretary for the installing company called. She gave us a date of the following Thursday and Friday. My husband made arrangements to take those two days off. On Wednesday evening as he was driving home, I got a phone call from the installer’s secretary…they had to cancel Thursday but they would come Friday. I cringed. On Friday…my husband got a phone call asking him if anyone had called him to cancel yet, he said no. The secretary said, the installers could not make it.

My husband made a trip to the local store where we purchased the tile. He summoned a manager and told him the story of weeks of frustration and two days out of work. At 1:00 PM on Friday an installer showed up at our house. He stayed until 6:00. He had been called to travel two hours to our house to do the job. He was a sub. Originally he was supposed to begin the job on Friday and return the next week. My husband shared the whole snafu with him while he was working. Today is Saturday…the substitute craftsman is coming back to our house to finish the job. He said he doesn’t want us to be inconvenienced any longer. Don is a very nice man and helping to make a not so nice story a little better at the end.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can You Hear the Country?

During our literacy time this morning, I was busy doing running records with a few students. The rest of my students were busy reading, practicing spelling, and writing. Everything went very smoothly which is not always the case. We were just wrapping up when one of my girls approached me with her writer’s notebook. She wanted me to participate in a “find the object” picture and key she had created. While I was looking for the objects she embedded into hand drawn pictures, she shared with me she had also written a couple songs. My curiosity was peaked. “You wrote a song?”

“Yes, I wrote two.”

“Where are they?”

“Back here on these two pages.”

I watched as she flipped back a couple pages. There was the page with a fair amount of writing on it. It was entitled; Sogs (songs in first grade spelling).

I started to read it to myself and then stopped and asked, “Will you read it to me?”


You left me alone

When you heard her voice

We used to be best friends

Until you knew it was her

One day me and you

Were playing in our room

You looked outside

And there she

Was for you

You knew I was

Your best friend forever

Until you knew

She was there.”

“Wow, I said, that sounds quite a bit like a country western song.” I proceeded to put her words to music over twanging just a bit. She looked at me and giggled. Then she said,

“I thought I was writing hip-hop!”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Story Grows a Math Lesson

I was looking for a “chapter book” to read to my class. I try to read 3-4 per year while still reading multitudes of picture books and non-fiction books. I have always had a great affection for books penned by Thorton Burgess. The books are hard to find these days so I scanned their availability on my nook. Sure enough there were several titles available for a very cheap price. I download, The Adventures of Reddy Fox.

My students are aware of my nook and how it works as I had earlier shared a couple picture books using the document camera and the nook. I told them I had downloaded a chapter book which I had once read to my sons and to many of my former students. My class was hooked before the end of the first short chapter. Reddy Fox is such a naughty fellow, most kids love and identify with him.

The intent was to entertain my students with a lengthy story of woodland and meadow creatures. I did not expect the little added bonus. The kids couldn’t believe  that there were no pictures and often peered over my shoulder to double check. One of my students spotted the Roman numerals which decorated each new chapter. I was asked what those letters were for. I took the time to show how people long ago displayed numbers a different way that we do today. I shared  the symbols for one, five and ten, and then showed the students how the symbol for one before a larger number represented take away and a the symbol for one after a larger number represented addition. We played with the numbers for a few minutes and moved on.

Today I gave a math assessment. Each student was given a number and told to show representations of that number as many different ways as possible. Students showed numbers as addition sentences, subtraction sentences, tens and ones, number words, and to my surprise many tried to write their number using Roman numerals. Thank you, Mr. Burgess.

Slice XXIV

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Motor Runs and Runs and Runs

He has tugged at the heart of every teacher in my hallway. Each day he arrives running and each day he leaves running. He also runs in-between. His motor is revved up, going fast, spinning out of control, making turns, making stops, revving again, rolling, pivoting, darting, and diving. He talks constantly. He is very smart, has great auditory awareness, answers, asks, demands, informs, lectures, and laughs with more enthusiasm than a cheering squad. His bright shiny face usually has a beautiful smile unless he has been scolded one too many times. Then he cries. He cries because he cannot control himself. He cries because he is exhausted. He cries because he wants to conform but cannot.

Yesterday he sat in the hallway crying when it was time to go home. He had taken his shoes off so he could put on his boots but then decided to put the shoes back on again. The laces were too tight and he could not get his shoes on. All the other students had left for the playground. He could not get there first. He could not even leave because those shoes would not go on. “What is wrong?” I asked.

“I can’t get my shoes on,” he whimpered.

“Where are you boots?”

“In my bag.”

“Put your boots on, there  in snow on the playground.”

He took off his shoes, still sniffling and whimpering, and put on his boots. He picked up his bag partially stuffed with shoes and zipped down the hall with his head down. There was no good-bye. He was late. Each teacher he passed spoke to him but his head stayed down as he exited. He tugs at all of us. We want the best for this bright beautiful boy but cannot control his motor any more than he can.

Medication? Diet control? What would help him you wonder. It is not for us to decide. We are not his parents. We can only offer up options and let them make the decision. It is heart wrenching for all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Slice of Maine

On the Sunday morning news, there was a blurb about a woodworking/hardware store that was having a grand opening. As part of the celebration local artisans were setting up their lathes and turning wooden bowls for charity. The sale of all the bowls will go to a local food bank. The prices were very reasonable. When my husband asked me what I would like to do for the day, I mentioned the bowls. Just before noon we were in the car headed for Portland.

Upon entering the store, the buzz of the lathes guided us toward the back of the building. Five middle aged to elderly men stood at their lathes turning bowls from chunks of maple, cherry, and other unidentified woods. A few patrons stood by witnessing a slice of a tree turn into a cherished heirloom. The bowls ranged in sizes of five to twelve inches in diameter.

My husband and I have many wooden bowls. There is the large antique salad bowl our sons purchased for me one Christmas, a chopping bowl that belonged to my husband’s mother, two bowls turned by an artisan in our neighboring town, and another that was a gift from a woodworker from the town we grew up in. The bowls are part of our every day cooking life. We love their shapes, texture, and grain.

On this outing, we purchased five bowls. Two are medium size, made from cherry, and have  pedestal bases. We will send them with love to our son and his partner in California. Three are on the smaller side, made from maple, and fit perfectly one within the other. We will send them with love to our son and future daughter-in-law in Pennsylvania. We hope when our boys reach for these bowls, for just a second, they think about their roots.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Review of Cleaning Nabokov’s House

I heard the review for Cleaning Nabokov’s House on NPR and raced home to download it onto my nook. There was something about the review that sold me.  I began to read right after dinner, swiping the screen as I raced through the pages. The author welcomed me into her story and I had a difficult time putting it down. The overall theme was not unusual: husband and wife fight but the twist was the wife leaving and losing the kids in the process. I won’t give the story away but will tell you there are more bizarre elements that are not the “norm”.

While reading this book,  I recommended it to several co-workers and friends. It was an easy read and the author showed creativity in her storytelling. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out how the story would wrap up. Of course I expected her to get her kids back.

Last night I swiped the last page of this book. This book, which was so welcoming and kept me reading with great interest,  dumped me at the end. It made me feel like the author suddenly had something better to do than pen this story. It was rushed, trying to tie up the lose ends quickly and I felt cheated. I see many of my students do this with their stories and I have written like this too. The labor of love that starts the tale is not always there for the finish.

I have a new book waiting, The Tiger’s Wife. I hope this author respects me a bit more by writing with zest until the end.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Parties Are Not Parties for All


Friday night, my husband and I attended a belated St. Patrick’s Day party. We are not big party goers. My husband is a town manager and it is difficult to go to a party that does not require him to work. Each person attending wants to talk just a little business with him. Each person gets to then walk away to enjoy the party but my husband is holding court with the next customer who wants to talk just a little bit of business. And so it goes…

I socialize and find friends to laugh with and catch up on the latest family news, travel plans, and new books to read. I glance around to find my husband in the dining room in deep conversation with the next tax payer who just wants to talk a little bit of business.

I realize when he can take no more and say I am tired from a long day of first graders energized by an upcoming super sized full moon. We give our thanks to our host and hostess and make our way to our car. While riding home I fill him in about the families, the travel plans, and the books to read. He is very quiet.

Once we arrive home, my husband plunks himself on the couch, lets out a large sigh and smiles at me. He is home and the house is quiet. There is no business to discuss only family, travel, and books. Home is his sanctuary…where he relaxes…it is a quiet party.

Saturday, March 19, 2011



Yesterday morning when I left for school, the river was covered with ice. There were some pressure cracks and some pooling water spots from runoff but the river was covered with ice.

Yesterday afternoon when I came home, the river was covered with ice. There were more cracks and larger pools of water but the river was covered with ice.

An hour after I arrived at home, a channel opened up along the river bank.

Two hours after I was home, ice opened to the south and to the north of the island across from us.

I think when I get up in the morning, the ice will be gone.

Alas, when I got up this morning, there is still some ice on the river and it is snowing!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where are the Deer?

My husband and I live in a wooded area along a fresh water estuary. The estuary is the confluence of six rivers coming together to make their way to the Atlantic as one. Our front and back yards are usually teaming with wildlife. There are eagles, osprey, killdeer, ducks, owls,turkeys and songbirds. Fox build their dens along the river as do beaver and muskrats. Deer and moose wander along the river’s edge and skate across the ice to the islands in the winter. We have high powered binoculars, a digital  camera, and a digital video camera to help us capture and record the animal events in our yard.

Last winter was a rough one with a lot of snow. The coyotes chased the deer on the ice and took down many. Others died from lack of food. The spring and summer deer sightings were few. This fall and winter the sightings were even fewer. I have lamented all winter how sad it is that our four legged white tail friends are no longer with us.

This morning, as I pulled out of my driveway and started to accelerate, I saw movement off to my right. I turned my head to see six large deer leaping through the slushy snow headed for the road and me! I had to make a split second decision whether to brake or speed up. As I zoomed by they all stopped and watched me. Maybe they missed me too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Write? Exercise?


I am a morning writer. I rise early, get a cup of coffee, and open my laptop. My fingers find the keyboard and fly. In the morning I am never at a loss for words. They pour out of me.

I am a morning exerciser. I rise early, get a cup of coffee, and then pull on my exercise clothing and running shoes. In the morning I always have enough energy to exercise.


I am only one person. I can’t write and exercise in the morning and still get to school in time to prepare for the day.


I have to do both. They hold equal importance in my life. The writing exercises my brain, clarifies things, and helps me be a better person. The exercising brings out my creativity, my pep, my feistiness and helps me stay healthy.


I have to write at night at least once and perhaps twice per week so I can exercise in the morning. It is not easy. The ideas are not as plentiful. The rhythm is off. The word choice is predictable. The revision and editing are shoddy but I am writing and I am exercising and I am whole.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yes, Teachers Write Too

A couple days ago, I showed my students the TWT blog. I told them that teachers from all over the US and in other countries are writing every day this month and publishing their work for others to read. I showed them where my post is as well as the post of a teacher across the hall. I clicked on my post entitled, The Visitor and we read it together. The students, first graders, oohed and ahhed. They asked me to show them a photo of a rough legged hawk. We surfed the Internet and found several photos.

I explained to all of them that I am a writer. Writing makes me feel good. I am always on the hunt for something to write about. We talked about their writer’s notebooks and how those books are waiting for them to jot down their thoughts, favorite words, draw pictures and label them, write a letter, create a poem, add a fact that needs to go in the non-fiction book they will soon write, make up a story problem for math, or make a list.

I often share books I am reading or tell them about when I read at home. I write in class to demonstrate but the other day I shared writing I do at home, in the other world I live in and they were genuinely interested.

We are currently reading The Adventures of Reddy Fox by Thorton Burgess. One of my students made a connection yesterday between my story, The Visitor, and the story of Reddy Fox. What more can a writer ask for than to have his/her readers make connections?

Today, I am going to share the comment section of my posts. I want my students to notice how adults support each other with positive response.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A New Book


I often listen to NPR on my way home in the afternoon. I catch up on the news and then listen intently as a story is told about a musician or a new book is promoted. Today’s book was one I have not heard of and I have not read any of the author’s work.

The book is about a woman down on her luck.  First she found a blue pot floating in the river and then she found a manuscript in a house she moved in to. I don’t really know what drew me to the story but I mumbled the author’s name all the way home so I could search for the book on my nook. After a couple tries, I found the author and the book. I downloaded the text and started to read it right after dinner.

Two hours flew by as I was pulled into the tale. There is something so sad about the the main character and yet as I turn the pages I have hope for her. Somehow the author has convinced me that the blue pot and the manuscript are part of a greater plan for this woman.

I love to read. I love losing myself to a book and this book is not going to disappoint me. The last one, Freedom, I struggled to get through. This book reminds me of a book I read last summer. The author’s styles are not at all alike but my need to turn the page and move quickly through the story is.

I want to give my students this feeling of picking up a book and not wanting to put it down. I want them to forget what is going on around them and only enjoy the company of the characters inside the covers. I want their imagination to create the faces, paint the settings, and choreograph the action. I want them to wake up in the morning and wish they could pick up their book and immerse themselves in it instead of going to school. I want their desire to read to be so strong that they will read for a lifetime.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Visitor


The crows were screaming. They flew from the island to the mainland and back again. I scanned the island shores for deer, fox, eagles…anything that might say danger to the cautionary crows.

A fast moving shadow shaded me from the sun for a second. I looked up. At first I thought it was just another crow but I listened and realized there was no “caw” coming from its beak. It zipped through the trees darting up and down, flying to the left and then the right, and moved swiftly out over the ice covered river. All the while the crows blasted their warning.

I identified the type of bird by its movement. It was a hawk. I did not know what kind of hawk it was. We are usually graced with the soaring red tail hawks in this area but this certainly was not a red tail. It was dark brown with only a ribbon of white on its tail. I called to my husband who said, “It is just a crow.” I explained how I knew that was not so. The bird was quiet, bigger than a crow and flying with the agility of a hummingbird or a killdeer.

When we retreated to the house, I picked up my trusty Peterson field guide and looked for the mystery hawk. There it was on plate 32, the rough legged hawk (dark phase).

“Do you know how I knew to look for an animal when the crows were screaming?” I asked my husband.

“Did you learn about it in some children’s book?” he asked.

“Yes, Thorton Burgess, studied animals as he wrote his children’s books. His stories always contained facts about the animals he featured as part of his storyline. Blackie Crow always tore about the woods spreading word if danger was near. I think Sammy Jay may have as well.”

Today, our crows like Thorton Burgess’ crow spread the word that a visitor was about and told all the other woodland animals to BEWARE. Today a rough legged hawk was on the hunt while returning to his summer home in southern Canada…another sign of spring.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Arrived this Weekend


If you live in the northern tier of our country and you have experienced an active weather winter, it is natural to strain your neck looking for any sign of spring in March. Now there is still snow on the ground and the night temps are continue to dip into the 20’s but surely there has to be something outside that says spring. I did a lot of looking yesterday and here is what I found…

  • daffodils poking up through the ground near our foundation
  • rain and fog falling instead of snow
  • day time temps in the high forties
  • cracks in the ice along the shoreline and perpendicular to the shoreline
  • water running through the swale gurgling its way to the river
  • little patches of grass on south facing slopes 
  • deep green roof shingles instead of winter white
  • the powerful smell of a skunk
  • the noisy coast guard cutters breaking through the ice up river, preventing ice jams and floods
  • a black winding driveway (the luge is gone)
  • daylight saving time
  • a yearly trip to the golf expo, checking out the latest clubs, trying to win a free round, and perhaps buying a new pair of shoes

Yes, spring is here!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Day Off


So yesterday I shared how I got to have Friday off. Today I am sharing what I did on my day off.

  • Sliced and commented on other slicer’s pieces
  • Exercised
  • Baked granola
  • Baked chocolate chip granola cookies with the freshly baked granola
  • Cleaned up the kitchen I messed up
  • Read on my nook (a book I am struggling to get through…only 100 more pages)
  • Made and shared lunch with my husband
  • Scooped dog poos outside in the rain
  • Sent a thank you not to my principal for letting me have the day off
  • Napped
  • Started my new slice for tomorrow

It was a lovely, quiet, rainy Friday and I did exactly what I wanted.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Trade

Not long ago, I was walking down the hall with my principal. I told her that Lester Laminack was going to be presenting in a neighboring state in April and that I planned on going to see him as I had Georgia Heard last year. The event is scheduled on a Saturday and the price is very reasonable. She encouraged me to attend and asked me to spread the word within our building.

Once others heard, they too expressed interest in attending the conference. I returned to my principal to pitch an idea. I asked her if we could trade an upcoming professional development day for attending the Saturday conference in April. That would mean those going to see Lester Laminack could have the scheduled March professional development day off in compensation. I also asked if she would pay the sixty dollar fee for the conference. She thought that was a great idea and took the proposition to the superintendent. I was shocked when I got the answer.

The superintendent and the principal whole-heartedly supported the plan and asked teachers interested to please commit quickly so the entrance fee could be submitted. Over half of our teaching staff took the offer and plan on attending the April conference. Car pools are being planned and teachers are looking forward to the Saturday pilgrimage to New Hampshire.

What I thought was a shot in the dark turned out to be an easy trade with full support from our administration. That is why I am writing this piece, drinking a second cup of coffee and I am still in my bathrobe on this rainy Friday morning.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

While on the Ice, It is Not Just a Game


Last night my husband and I attended a play-off hockey game at a local college. We attend as many home games as possible during the regular season. The play-offs are always more tense and more exciting.

This game had all the elements of a great hockey game. There were many penalties including several majors and even a DQ. Each team dominated a period and then swapped ends of the ice in the third. Pucks went into the stands, sticks flew across the ice, and goalies were pulled from their nets and then driven back into their nets diving for the puck. There were fights, complaints to the refs, and fans cheered and booed alike.

These young men gave all that they had to win a game they train for year round. Each team came to win and try to win they did. It was 1-0 and then 1-1, and then 2-1. The last 19 seconds seemed to last forever but when the buzzer sounded  our Polar Bears were victorious. Each team lined up and skated past the other shaking hands and bumping fists. The hard checking, fast skating, game was over. The intensity dissipated as the team members morphed back to civility.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Pumps Remind Me of My Choice

I live in a rural state. It is a choice and one I have never regretted. It is sparse and beautiful. Our idea if a big city, is just  70,000 people and it is our only big city.

In this beautiful state,the housing is not too expensive. Many people grow their own food during the short summer months. Recreation can be found in one’s back yard.

We do pay a price for this beauty and serenity. The price comes in the form of anything oil or gas based. Our furnaces burn oil through long cold winter months. Our cars have to travel further to reach work, shopping, and school. Food purchased in grocery stores is more expensive due to shipping costs.

So…when I gassed up yesterday and it cost me almost ten dollars more than the last time I gassed up (my husband filled my tank a couple times before) I was shocked and a little angry until…I remembered I make a choice to live in this beautiful place. A place with no public transportation. A place where you have to drive your car to work. A place where you have to heat your home nine months per year. A place where the sun wakes me with stunning colors of purple and orange shining on the water and sets with a fire flame not to be replicated in any piece of art. I choose to live in this beautiful rural state called Maine. Ten dollars at the pump hurts a bit but also reminds me of all that I have.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I attended an IEP meeting yesterday. These meetings are pretty typical as many of the regulations for them come from the federal and state governments.

What was different about this meeting was the amount of conversation and brainstorming that took place. Rather than the dry, sterile meeting where a protocol is followed with each person reporting out, conclusions being made, and the meeting adjourning; this group talked, asked questions of each other, continuously pulled the mom into the conversation, and made plans beyond who was responsible for how long.

This IEP had the potential for being a disaster. The information given to the mom no parent wants to hear about their child.  Every IEP member in the room did their part by explaining their information in layman’s terms and by making sure to follow-up problematic news with positive observations and comments.

It took and hour and a half to complete this meeting but the mom left with a smile and information in hand which will help her out at home. The staff left knowing how they will approach the learning difficulties this child faces. Everyone exited upbeat and took the time to compliment each other about a job well done. A little extra effort and a lot of collaboration made this meeting one I am proud to have joined.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Better Late Than Never


Monday mornings are always hectic. No matter how much I prepare over the weekend, there is always more to do than there is time. Today was no exception.

I was half way to school in a driving rainstorm going through a checklist of things to do…

set up for a sub

set up for the kids

gather materials for an IEP

check to see what is needed for the staff meeting after school…

All of a sudden, I remembered… I forgot to slice this morning! Greatly disappointed and in bewilderment of how I could have forgotten, I had to go with the flow and just accept the fact that my slicing would have to happen at the end of the day, probably after dinner.

And so, here I sit slicing about slicing because my brain is not very creative at this time of night. Tuesday will be better, I just know it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Classy Place


Last night my husband and I went to a little independent theatre to see The King’s Speech. The theatre is nestled amongst a strip of shops. It offers up one or two movies every few weeks. Many of the movies, made by independent film-makers, never make it big.

Going to this movie theatre is like stepping back in time. There is one person manning the ticket counter which doubles as the snack counter. People get stacked up waiting for the snacks and tickets. Upon entering the theatre old movie theatre seats (probably hand me downs from one of the bigger theatres) and several very used sofas and chairs with dowdy blankets and throws covering their worn facades greet you.The screen is about half the size of a modern theatre and the speakers are a couple black stereo speakers you or I would have in our homes twenty years ago.

The theatre is not quiet but the goers are speak softly. The room dims and the trailers begin. Chuckles are heard from the audience during the more humorous glimpses of movies to come. Then the movie we all have been waiting to see, begins. A hush falls over the room. The audience is hooked from the start. They listen and watch respectfully as the artful story is told.

The end comes much too soon. I am comfortable snuggled next to my honey and thoroughly entertained by a story that must inspire everyone who sees it. It is classic: human conquers a challenging deficit with help, hard work and perseverance. This time, the human is a king.

We exit out a door near the bottom of the theatre, single file, all extoling the acting prowess of the two men who dominated the screen. It was a great movie in a quaint little movie theatre with an appreciative audience…a perfect night out.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When Do You Write?


I always think I should write at night after a long day of events. I turn on my laptop and think and think and think…usually, nothing happens. I can’t grasp onto a topic that inspires me. I am blocked before I even press a key on my keyboard.

Early each morning with a hot cup of coffee in hand, my results are very different. There are all kinds of topics that come to mind. I bounce like a ping pong ball between them trying to select which topic suits me best for this day.

Why is it this way? I don’t really know but I have been aware of this for years as  I have worked my way through two graduate programs and written almost all of my papers between the hours of 4:00 AM and 7:00 AM. I believe the way I am wired…my brain needs to mull things over for a night. It chooses what is important and what is not and I am usually left with plenty to choose from but not overwhelmed. My brain works like a good administrative assistant, only bringing to my attention things of importance and scuttling away those things that are not worth spending time on.

So here I sit, explaining to you, how a list of writing topics are beginning to align in my head for future use. I am fresh with thoughts and clarity after a long night of sleep and a little java to give me a jumpstart. I wonder if that is how the phrase “sleep on it” came to be?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Run, Just Run


I don’t know why but exercising is always so difficult. It sort of reminds me of grocery shopping. I dread going and conjure up a dozen excuses not to go. Once I finally get there, I actually enjoy myself only to find I am dreading going again the next time.

Exercise is important. I know I feel better when I run, do aerobic step, ride my bike, or use the elliptical trainer. I have a great set up in my basement. I don’t even have to go to a gym. And yet, here I sit composing on my laptop, drinking a cup of coffee, and scheming about why I should not don my yoga pants and plunge down to my basement for a half hour of heart saving activities.

My students would be ashamed of me if they only knew that the teacher who constantly talks about how important it is to exercise your heart and make the muscle stronger is a slacker who would rather sit on the couch and compose while taking in another cup of caffeine.

Well, I would love to keep telling you about my shameful ways just a bit longer but my guilt overwhelms me and I am now ready to take responsibility for my body and plunge into the deep dark dungeon for a run. Yes, I said a run. During the winter when the snow banks are high and the wind howls I run with my Wii along the Golden Gate listening to the birds chirp, following other runners who probably procrastinate just like me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Theodor Geisel

In honor of Dr. Seuss, my school had an evening celebration. Children were invited back to school for a scavenger hunt. Upon arriving, children looked for rooms with a place to move, a place to have a healthy snack, a place to receive and read a book, and a place to make a special hat.

Each room was filled with teacher and parent volunteers ready to help kids try out a variety of physical activities, snack on veggies and popcorn, choose and read a favorite book, and decorate a well-known red and white hat.

For one hour, our school building was filled with smiling, laughing children dragging their parents from room to room and then returning to their favorite rooms. The parents were smiling and laughing watching their children and chatting with acquaintances perhaps not seen this long winter.

My job was passing out bookmarks as our young friends exited. Parents and children were generous with their thank yous. Thank yous for bookmarks and thank yous for a fun filled winter evening that gave everyone a much-needed lift.

Thank you Dr. Seuss!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


When February gives way to March, I get spring fever. A simple change in the calendar has me thinking of biking, golf, gardening, and drifting along the river. I savor the sun as it seems a bit stronger and warmer looking for any sign of the impending change in seasons.

In my search I observe four feet of white wet snow. My driveway looks like a luge track with snow banks hugging an icy ribbon just wide enough for my car.

There are no yarding deer yet, no skunks betraying their presence before I see them, and no foxes running across the icy river searching for food for their young. The bulbs have yet to poke through the snow looking for sunshine and the trees remain in deep sleep without swollen buds.

But it is March and I no longer feel the dark, cold of winter. Instead I am hopeful and continue to search for the signs of spring soon to come.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Fifty Dollar Surprise


As I dragged my bags into our mudroom my husband, a few steps ahead of me, was opening the mail. “Hey, why are you getting fifty dollars from your teacher union?" he inquired.

“I have no idea.”

“Well check it out,” replied my husband.

I looked over the check and slowly it registered. Several months ago I signed up for a program offered through my health insurance company (which is purchased through the teacher union). I had to answer questions about my lifestyle including my eating and exercising habits, take a couple quizzes, and keep a log of my daily exercise online. I was enthusiastic at first but eventually I stopped logging into the program.

Evidently, I completed enough steps to qualify for a bit of money back for my healthy lifestyle. I have to say, it felt good to get such a surprise on a stormy last day of February. My husband put the check on the refrigerator and said, “Go do something nice for yourself.”

Hmmm…what to do…not sure just yet so it sits on the refrigerator waiting for me to think of something. I am inclined to log in once more and stick with it this time. Getting money back from my insurance company is motivating.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Husband


My husband is the kind of man that women wish for. He is always thinking about the kids and me. He puts the ones he loves first and himself second.

My husband is a Yankee through and through. He is careful with our money and opts to fix things himself instead of hiring out. He seldom purchases things for himself unless it is a tool to get the job done. And yet…if I want to splurge he puts up no fight. When the kids ask for help, it is there in a wink.

My husband works hard. He is in the public eye and takes much abuse. Somehow he compartmentalizes it, so we do not become victims as well. He never takes out his frustrations on his family. Like cream, when he walks through the door, we rise to the top.

My husband is intelligent, funny, good looking, and the most honest person I know. And… I am the very lucky woman who calls him, my valentine.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A White Miracle

Another snow day in the northeast has blanketed us with a fresh fluffy wrap. I keep gazing out the windows…watching. Watching the snow banks grow, watching the birds flit to the feeders, watching limbs receive the light white covering protecting them from winter’s harshness…or so it seems.

One would think after fifty plus years of snowstorms, it would just be another day but I am always drawn to the snow. It presents itself like magic each time it arrives. I think about moving to a warmer location for the winters but there is something almost therapeutic about snowstorms. I retreat inside to read, bake, perhaps sit by the fire. Warm soups and stews simmer on the stove.

Later as the storm subsides, I will take great pleasure in keeping the feeders full for my feathered friends. Squirrels will peek out of their nests to spot extra seeds upon the ground and race each other to a gluttonous feast. My dog and I will embark upon an outdoor adventure of shoveling, hiking to the water’s edge, and racing up a snow bank to be queen of the mountain (she always wins).

Another snow day in the northeast. I think I will stay and enjoy it for a while.