Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Puppies!!!!!

This sweet little pile of goodness brings me so much joy!!!  I could watch them for hours.  They don't do much right now, but they are so innocently sweet.  They are only 4 days old and they are very similar to newborn babies.  They eat, sleep and snuggle.  Just like when my children were wee little, I am in awe of them.  It is amazing that they would grow and develop into these diverse little darlings.  I can't wait until they open their eyes and start playing!!! 
We didn't plan on the puppies.  This is Holly.  She is a foster dog that I care for and love until she is adopted by a loving family.  She was pulled from a kill shelter on the day that she was going to be euthanized.  I am so grateful that Danielle from Dash Animal Rescue saved her!  She is such a sweet little girl.  She is only a puppy herself at only 9 months old. 
When she first came to stay with us, she was a very sick little girl.  She had Kennel Cough and couldn't hold anything down.  She didn't have an appetite and slept all the time.  Little did we know that she was experiencing morning sickness while sick with kennel cough.
After a few weeks we noticed that she was gaining weight and we thought it was because she was getting better.  When she started to change in ways that only a pregnant dog could I took her to the vet.  Dr. Kelleher performed an ultrasound and we learned that she was pregnant with at least three!  This was not good news since she was only a puppy and since there are so many dogs and puppies without a home to call their own.  I couldn't help it though... I was excited!  :) 
Since we didn't know when she became pregnant we really didn't know when she would deliver.  We read up online and learned that she was at least 45 days along since we saw the spines on the ultrasound and dog gestation is 63 days.   She would have her puppies within a 20 day period. 
I started to read all about dogs giving birth and how to help.  I learned that sometimes mommy dogs don't get their puppies out in time and they die from suffocation.  I hoped and prayed that she would deliver when I was awake and home from work. 
Well... prayers aren't always answered and the night before she was going to see the vet, Holly woke us all up with loud yelps!  I ran into my son's room and there was a puppy on the floor still in the sack and the second puppy was already being born.  I knew what to do!  With only a slight hesitation, I grabbed the sack and ripped it open.  I didn't think that I had made it in time as the puppy lay lifeless in my arms, but then she took a BIG breath and started to move.  Whew! 
Holly continued to deliver puppy after puppy after puppy... She had SEVEN in all!!!!  I know that dogs sometimes have bigger litters, but Holly is only 11 pounds herself!  One of the puppies was stillborn, which was so so sad.  I know that Holly did her very best and that is what is important. 
I have to laugh at myself because I worry about those puppies just like I did my own children.  Are they warm enough?  Are they eating enough?  Are they sleeping enough or too much?  It is so joyful and so unnerving all at the same time.  :)  Only one of the puppies has a name and that is Mac.  He has the name Mac because he is half the size of his brothers and sisters so I call him that because he is the absolute opposite of being the size of a Mack Truck.  LOL 
I look so forward to the coming weeks and all of the changes that the puppies will go through!  I am going to try to post a video when they start running around. They will be SO cute! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

What has slicing taught me?

I am sure that I will forget something, but I am going to use my slice today to attempt to list many of the great advantages of slicing (and some of my new learning too!).
1.  Audience - I love to write with and for other people, but rarely write when it's just for me.  It is ESSENTIAL that my students have an audience for their writing.
2.   Feedback is a must!  After writing my post for the day, I would check my inbox to see if anyone had commented on my post.  It is so exciting to get feedback from others when you are writing.
3.  Feedback does not always elicit revision.  Sometimes feedback is just feedback.  You can revise after receiving feedback, but sometimes you just want to enjoy it.
4.  Don't be too intense about making sure that everyone has walked away with a specific thing each day.  I worry about what the take away is with my students and I am pretty hard on myself.  I think that for awhile anyway, kids need to write to build community, develop an atmosphere of sharing and giving feedback.  They really need to be comfortable and if I am sitting next to them asking them what they learned about writing that day (or sometimes telling them), it can suck the joy out of writing.
5.  You can use any container for any topic.  I learned this when I was in the writing project, but really noticed the truth of this statement as I was writing.
6.  Writing is fun!  It doesn't have to be laborious.
7.  Ralph Fletcher was right all those years ago when he said to write what matters.  Those topics tend to flow.
8. I CAN write for 31 days in a row!!!!   I LOVE TO SLICE!!!  :)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

World Bipolar Day

If you didn't know, today is world bipolar day.  It is a day for people with bipolar disorder to tell others about their disorder and their success with that disorder.  If you didn't read my earlier post about my son Connor, you would not know that my son has bipolar  disorder.  I initially thought about writing a post to Connor, in letter format, as I have seen other slicers do.  Then I thought more about it.  Bipolar disorder has not just effected Connor.  It has effected each of the members of our family in different ways.  So here's to my family and their amazing love for each other...


To Tim (my husband) - I am sorry that Connor has been "sick" for much of his life as I know that neither one of us would choose that for him.  Thank you for loving him anyway.  Thank you for sticking around because I am sure that there have been times when you wanted to run for the boarder!  :)  This journey would have been so much harder without you by my side.  Thank you!  I love you!

To Emma - You have been an amazing big sister to Connor!  You have always been there for him.  I remember you trying to calm him down so many times and sometimes you were the only one who could.  I wanted to protect you from the bad times, but you wouldn't let me.  You jumped right in and loved your brother no matter what!  I truly believe that God gave you a gift that I have seen in very few others that helps you to be there.  You talk him down. You give him a reason to live.  You never give up.  :)  You have also been there for your baby sister.  She was so scared of Connor's behavior sometimes and you helped to get her out of harms way and you distracted her when she was worried or afraid.   I am so sorry that you had to deal with some of the things that you have.  I wouldn't wish the hard times on anyone and I wish I could have made them better for you.  I love you very much.  You are strong and brave and you have a HUGE loving heart.  Thank you for sharing that with your family.

To Connor - I am so sorry that your life is not easy, that you have been so sick that you didn't even want to live anymore.  I am very proud of you for sticking it out.  I know that you have been in some places that I never could have imagined sending you and for that I am sorry.  Your comfort sometimes had to come second to your survival.  We have been in some scary places together, but at the end of the day you were always willing to do what you needed to do to get better.  I am so grateful for that!  Don't every stop taking your meds.  You need them to survive.  It is more than just mood swings for you sweetheart.  If you are not on your meds, you are not yourself and it almost always ends in a hospital stay.  You need to remember that bipolar disorder to you is what diabetes is to me.  We have to take our medicine to stay healthy.  You are NOT bipolar disorder.  You HAVE bipolar disorder.  You can do whatever you want as long as you take care of yourself.  I love you!

To Abbie - You were so scared when you were little.  I am so sorry that you were.  You have so many people who love you.  Remember how Mrs. Roberts used to take you to her office at school and just let you play and talk?  She did that because she cares about you.  Mrs. Clark offered to take you home for me when Connor was in the hopital.  All I had to do was call and she would be there to help us out.  Emma has always tried to protect you from the worst times.  She loves you so much.  Connor has worked hard to handle his anger in positive ways so that you are not scared anymore.  He loves you too.  I am so proud of you for going to counseling with me and talking about your anxiety.  You are a very brave and smart little girl and I love you so much!

I am so thankful to all of my family for their support and their love over the years.  I am thankful for the custodian at Memorial Middle School who saw Connor's teacher and I wrestling Connor in the parking lot trying to get him into school.  He handed me a business card and said, "Call this number.  They saved my son's life".  I called and it really did make a difference for Connor.  That's how we met Amber, the best counselor in the world!  She helped me get Connor where he needed to be to get well.  That's where we met Sandy, another wonderful counselor.  Connor's teachers have been amazingly supportive!  They have accomodated him where he needed it and they have also played hardball when Connor tried to weasel out of work he needed to do (ie going to school).  I really can't forget Adelle.  She works at OSU Psychiatric Hospital.  She was an amazing advocate for Connor and his needs.

I hope you are reading this and you are thinking about the HUGE impact that mental illness can have on a family.  We usually pull our family in and don't go anywhere when things are not well, but that doesn't mean that we don't need your love and support.  A phone call or a card can make a really big difference.  Connor and I made a video when he was 11.  We encountered some very ignorant people who were afraid of mental illness.  I am attaching the video below.  It contains a message for everyone.  Please BE there for people whether it is directly or indirectly...






Saturday, March 29, 2014

22

I don't go out very often.  I usually get everything I need to get done and then shower and watch my recorded shows in the evening.  Last night, however, my friend Michelle asked me to go out and I thought, what the heck?  I haven't been out in forever and it really sounds like fun!  We went to a place called the Bluestone which ironically, used to be a Baptist Church.  We didn't know what to expect, but quickly found out that there was a country concert there.  Exciting!
We went in and ordered our first drinks (one of two for me since I was driving) and walked around to check things out.  The first musician was getting started and so we went onto the dance floor and danced around to the music.  Pretty soon, we were talking to the people around us and dancing in a group.  It was SO MUCH FUN!  :)  I felt like I was 22 and danced like I was 22 (nothing like the girls in the video - I was NEVER that cool).  I raised my glass and hooted and hollered like I was 22.
I'm not saying that I am going to do this very often, but for right now, I have to tell you how important it is for all of us to make sure that our lives are balanced with work and fun.  Don't spend your life at home.  Get out and explore!  It will seriously be good for your spirit!  :)
So as not to mislead you, I will tell you that if you are in your 40's and you haven't danced in a REALLY long time, you will NOT feel like you are 22 when you get out of bed the next morning!  LOL  Thank goodness I had a scheduled massage today!  :)
I leave you with the song that inspired my title...  Enjoy and Happy Dancing!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Goodbye Scale!!!

I have been trying (using this loosely) to lose weight for about 18 years now.  When I was young, I was a skinny little thing who could eat EVERYTHING in sight and not bat an eye.  I never gained a pound.  This lasted all the way through college.  Then I got pregnant with my oldest child and I ate so much!  :)  I thought I had a tapeworm before I knew I was pregnant.  LOL  I lost the weight after E, but then I was pregnant with C by the time E was one.  Whew!  I was crazy hungry again...  I tried to have self control, but it was an epic fail.  One day I ate a WHOLE box of turtles (and slept for 2 1/2 hours after).  Bad choice, but anyway...
I gained ten pounds less with C than with E.  I thought that was better, but the doctor was not as enthusiastic.  I lost most of the weight after C.
When I trained to be a literacy coordinator, I worked long hours and ate at odd times... lots of fast food.  I stress ate and ate when I was bored, happy, sad...  I ate my feelings and found a new all time high on the scale.  I was actually thinner when I was pregnant with A because of gestational diabetes than before I was pregnant.
The scale became something that I would step on time after time after time, worrying that what I saw would disappoint me.  It did...  I would lose, gain, lose, gain...
So now I am training for a triathalon.  I am not doing it alone.  I am the swimmer.  My sister is biking and my brother is running.  I have not weighed myself in awhile.  I refuse to.  I go to the gym at least three days a week.  I work out for 20 minutes, lift weights and swim for about 45 minutes.  I feel good.  I'm stronger and I have more energy.  I do like to see progress though, so instead of weighing myself, I am measuring myself and the inches are coming off.  :)  It's exciting!
I can see the bones in my feet, the muscle that runs along the front of my calf, and I can feel my jaw.  I am starting to feel the difference in my clothes.  I even went down a dress size!!!  :)  This is it for me.  I am not working out to lost weight.  I am doing it because it feels awesome!  I love to eat healthy because I feel good.  :)  I am finally making lifestyle changes for me and not for the scale.  I have never felt better about myself since I gained all the weight.  I am looking forward to getting stronger and faster and hopefully one day, I will be able to compete in a triathalon all by myself!  :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Summer

Sitting on the porch
Riding bikes
Swimming
picnicking
baseball in the park
The hot summer sun beats down
Turning white into dark, freckled or red
Sweat beads and drips
Dust sticks to the skin
Popsicles drip
Ice cream slides
Down
Onto hands gripping cones
The sound of sprinklers tic tic in the distance
The air is still and hot
Setting sun brings no relief
Fireflies burst into the night
A cool breeze blows in to settle the heat from the day
Sweet sweet summer

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Curse of Being a Visual Person

I have a strength and a curse.  I am very visual.  By that I mean that I don't know what I want until I see it.  If I hang something in my house or lay a rug down or place jars on the counter and it doesn't look right, I will mess with it until it does.  It could drive other people crazy!  I have learned to just accept it, but it can be a pain sometimes.
Let's talk about my winter wreath...  I wanted more than just burlap and white so I added a little blue.  I put together and took apart the wreath at least 5 times.  I finally gave up and hung it on my front door.  I thought about that wreath every time I drove up to my house or left my house.  I couldn't stand it.  It didn't look right.  I was very proud of myself because I didn't take it down, but I was thrilled to death when Ash Wednesday came around and I could put my Easter wreath out.
Right now I am trying to figure out how to create a wall of pictures.  Here I go again...  I have tried the frames many different ways and each time I do, something is just not right, but I don't know how to fix it.  So here I go again...  :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just Breathe...

My son Connor has never been "normal".  He has been fabulous, wonderful, loving, kind, caring, smart, funny, and a wonderful human being all around.  He was born with bipolar disorder.  Now, he was not diagnosed at birth, but from the get go, he was symptomatically bipolar.  I didn't know this when he was litttle, but when I was reading about it later on, his infancy was pretty typical for one with a mood disorder. Connor NEVER stopped crying unless I was holding him close to my body.  He cried every time I put him down.  He cried when his dad was holding him.  He cried when he had a bath.  This teeny tiny little person was anxious from the time he came out of the womb.  He only felt comfort when in my arms, swaddled in a blanket and close to my neck.  I loved it when he was little.  He just seemed like a little cuddle bug.  I quickly adapted by carrying him around in a snuggly.  He was close to my body and I had my hands free. This was very important since I also had a one and a half year old little girl, my sweet Emma.
Just breathe...
As Connor got older, he seemed ok.  He didn't want to be away from me, but I just thought he was shy.  He cried really hard when I left (for four hours sometimes), but everyone went through separation anxiety, right?  My friend Michelle took her daughter to the same daycare I took Connor to, (Emma went to a sitter who used to have Connor, but she couldn't handle him).  She came to me one day and said, "Have you every looked into Connor's mental health?  I think he has bipolar."  WHAT?!?  Noooooo.....  I had never even thought about that.  I was a teacher and I knew all about behavior modification, right?  I thought I could just teach him to make better choices.
Just breathe...
Connor continued to concern me, but it wasn't until he was 6 that I was really willing to consider that something was definitely not right.  Every night, Connor would go into a rage when I told him that it was time for bed.  He did not handle doing anything that he didn't really want to do well at all.  I would hold him tightly while he raged on, until he would go limp in my arms, crying, "I'm so sorry mommy.  I don't mean to."
Just breathe...
My husband and I decided to take Connor to the doctor.  He was diagnosed with bipolar type two with psychosis (did I mention he was hearing voices?).  Initially, I thought that it would all be ok.   That Connor could do anything that he set his mind to.  Then we started trying meds.  Oy!  That was NOT fun!  Connor tried so many meds in the first month after his diagnosis and there were so many different side effects.  I remember when he tried one of the meds, my mother-in-law was over and Connor started laughing hysterically, rolling on the floor, scratching himself.  I was trying not to appear too concerned as to not scare my mother-in-law.  I called the doctor who said that I needed to stop the med.  I looked over at my mother-in-law and she was sitting on the couch, looking at Connor, tears rolling down her cheeks.  I had already been in the throws of this illness for long enough that I had forgotten what it looked like to others.
Just breathe...
We ended up putting Connor in the hospital.  I felt like I couldn't manage the many different side effects on my own.  I had my third child by this time and she (Abbie) was only a year old.  Getting your child into an inpatient facility is a horrific experience.  I took Connor to the ER (only way to get in), sat in a padded room (where they put all mental health patients) for over eight hours before anyone came to talk to us.  Hungry and discouraged, I admitted Connor into the facility with great trepidation.  I was leaving him there with other kids up to 18 years old.  He was only 8...
Just breathe...
Even though the hospital was hard, it was the answer to our prayers that we needed.  Connor was put on a cocktail of different meds that took the voices away and made his rages disappear.  The bad thing was that he now had a flat affect.  I was assured that this would get better over time.  I felt like I had lost my child and that I was choosing to keep him that way every time I gave him a dose of his medicine.  It was devastating.  I did a lot of praying and a lot of crying.  I was very brave all day and then, when the children were all asleep, I would go to the basement, listen to Michael W. Smith's song He's My Son and I would cry.  I didn't have the words to pray sometimes to Michael did it for me.
Just breathe...
For 5 years, things were good.  Connor went to the therapist every week and the psychologist every month. He was listening well and learning at school again.  Whew!  I knew that this would not last forever, but I sure was grateful that it was lasting as long as it did.  When Connor went into the 6th grade, he developed very significant anxiety.  He had always been anxious, but managed to do everything he needed to do.  Connor began to struggle going to school.  He was worried that someone would throw up near him and that he would get sick.  Flu season was definitely the worse.  Connor refused to go to school and began to refuse to go to the psychiatrist.  He was anxious about everything.  For years we tried to figure out why he was anxious, but we couldn't.  That is why it is called generalized anxiety.  Duh!
Just breathe...
We spent the next 4 years, trying to get Connor to go to school.  We dragged him there, dropped him off kicking and screaming, called the sherriff.  Connor only escalated.  He began to threaten to kill himself.  He also began to rage again.  Back to the hospital...
Just breathe...
Connor was in and out of the hospital through the beginning of 11th grade.  He escalated to threatening me.  I had to press charges.  It was the hardest day of my life.  It was the best thing that I have ever done.  Connor was on probation for his behavior.  He went back to the hospital to get his lithium level back up since he had stopped taking his meds.  He finally decided that he wanted to do well.  He wanted to stop fighting and start living.  I'm not going to say that this has been a walk in the park, but he is doing well right now.  He is still going to the psychiatrist monthly but we are taking a break from counseling.  Connor had therapy two days a week for two years and had become dependent upon the prompting of therapists.  I told him that he needed to take on his learning himself.  I told him that we would go back to counseling if he needed that level of support again.  He knows that it is there if he needs it.
Just breathe...
Mental illness is a life sentence.  There is no cure.  I can tell you that through this experience, you really find out who your real friends are.  You know who they are because they are the ones who look out for you and your other children.  They come and take your 9 and 1 year old daughters out for a little fun while you  deal with the side effects, doctor appointments and overall terror you are feeling, fearing for your child's life.  There were some days when I didn't know if Connor would run away, jump out of a moving car, take pills, cut himself, or try to strangle or suffocate himself.  It was scary stuff.  Your real friends hold you while you cry, meet you at the hospital or show up at your door with dinner because they know you don't have the energy to cook.  We have been through some scary stuff with our little guy, but I have to say that the one thing I always remember is that God has a plan for my son and that plan does not involve being overcome by this mental illness.  Connor's illness has helped a lot of people to learn and grow.  It has made me an advocate for the mentally ill.  I hope and pray that one day there will not be a stigma connected to mental illness, but until then, I think I will just breathe...  :)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Night night time

Bed time starts with bath
Warm and bubbly
Cupie hair and bubble beards
Splashing tales of adventure
With the toys!

Warm towels wrap them up
Soft and snugly
Eyelids growing heavy
Brushing teeth
Brushing hair
Jammies on.

Snuggle time
Story time
Cuddle up
Tuck in tight
Snug as a bug in a rug.

Eskimo kisses
Butterfly kisses
Regular kisses and hugs
Night night.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Chute

When I was growing up, we had a laundry chute in the house that went from the second floor hallway into the laundry room downstairs.  We always loved to throw our clothes down the chute, which was a brilliant way for my mom to get us to clean up after ourselves.  :)
Eventually my brother, sister and I got the idea that the chute could be used for fun!  We started with our stuffed animals.  One of us would go downstairs and open the cabinet door that the chute was built into and the other one would stand upstairs and yell, "Ready?"  That quickly turned into putting our Adventure People (remember those?)  on a string and helping them to "scale" the mountain that was the chute.
That turned into, "Hey!  What if we went down the chute?"  I think that it may have been my idea originally, but it was quickly accepted by my brother and sister.  Since Greg was the smallest at the time, we decided that we would start with him.  It looked like it was going to be a piece of cake until...  he was holding on to the outside of the chute, legs dangling toward the first floor.  We thought it might not be such a good idea...  We decided to pull him out, but he wouldn't come out as easily as he had gone in.  I decided that I was going to go downstairs to catch him.  I opened the cabinet door, threw all of the dirty clothes on the floor and put myself into the shoot to reach up to my brother.  I didn't think it was going to work because I could hear my sister saying, "Just let go" to my brother's "NOOOOOO".  :)  I reached up and grabbed his little foot and gave a tug.  I told him I was right there and I wouldn't let him fall.  I hear the telltale sound of him sliding his little body through the chute.  I didn't anticipate a curve in the chute, but no worries!  I grabbed his little foot and PULLED!  He slid down the chute and out into the cabinet.  It's funny... That was quite an adventure for the three of us as we laughed and prayed that we would get Greg out before our parents came home, but we never spoke of it again.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ready for Spring!!!

My daughter Emma and I traveled to South Carolina on Wednesday for her best friend's graduation from basic training.  It was a whirlwind trip, lasting only two days.  We were in South Carolina long enough to get my first taste of spring!  It is amazing how just that little time changed my energy level and my interest in the outdoors.  When I got home from work today, I crashed on the couch from the exhaustion from the trip, but after a few hours of vegging out, I was ready for more spring!  Luckily, the weather here in Ohio was cooperating a bit with 61 degree temperatures (briefly).  :)
I started by setting the table and chairs up on the deck.  Then, getting into it, I cut a vine back off of the deck.  I cleaned out the fire pit, started a fire, and burned the trimmings.  That was enough for one night, but I am ready for more!  Bring it on spring!  :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nature's playground

As I approach the playground
I am both in awe
And afraid.
Anxiety ripples through me from its size.
I am amazed by its beauty.
The sun and shadow
Play peek a boo
Among the dips and waves of land.
The fog comes in
Without warning
To play.
Adventure (or danger) lurks
Around every curve.
Ice on every bridge.
I stay awhile...
Not sure of the way things will go
On the playground.
White knuckled
Until I have safely returned
To the plains
Of my home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Spreading of Spring

Traveling down 77 south today
I discovered
The journey of spring
Creeping from the coast
Toward home

The grass turning greener
Barren trees show tiny buds
The further south we go

Spring is well on her way
South Carolina her home today
I'll travel home
And wait for her there

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Inappropriate Laughter

My family had been out to dinner at Max and Erma's.  We had a great time and we all joked around on the way to the car.  I couldn't have been that old... maybe 8.  My little brother was 4.  He was the cutest little kid!  He had REALLY big blonde hair (my mom could not bring herself to cut his curls), big blue eyes and this mole on his perfect white cheek, nose sprinkled with freckles.  He almost always wore soccer socks pulled up to his knees.
My mom always paid close attention to my brother and his whereabouts because he usually wasn't where he was supposed to be.  I don't know what happened, but I think she must have been distracted because after we all (or so we thought) got in the car and my dad started pulling away, I felt an emptiness in the seat next to me.  I looked over to see my brother, white knuckled, holding onto the seat of the car and the car door, legs moving so fast they looked like Flinstone feet!!!  His eyes were huge and I could see the fear on his face.  I wanted to tell my dad to stop, that Greg was not in the car and that he was running as fast as he could, holding on for dear life!  All I could do was...  LAUGH!!!!
I tapped my sister, who finally yelled, "DADDY!!!!!  GREG IS NOT IN THE CAR!!!!  STOP!!!!!!"  Thank goodness for my sister and her cool head!  My dad stopped the car.  My mom jumped out of the car, swooped Greg into her arms and our baby boy was safe.  :)
My baby brother Greg and my daughter Emma

Monday, March 17, 2014

Learning How to Teach Shared Reading

I want to point out that my entire post is underlined and I am not sure why.  There is absolutely no reason other than the fact that I couldn't make it stop.  :)  
When I first started teaching shared reading, I was very procedural.  I watched another teacher do it in a video and though, "Wow!  That is really cool!" and I started doing it in my classroom the very next day.  I had no idea of the power or the real purpose until much much later.  I realized how powerful it was after I learned about the literacy framework that my district uses.  Within the framework there are different levels of support.  Read aloud is the most supportive, then shared reading and finally guided reading and independent reading.I am a very visual person, so the image of the framework  really helped me to think about my teaching and the scaffolding of my students I needed to do.  I started to think about what my students need as readers.  I asked myself, "What do they have under control?  What can they almost do?  What do they need to learn next?"  I think of the framework as my toolbox, holding all of my valuable teaching tools.  I teach by using the teaching and learning model:  teach/model/demonstrate, prompt, praise, expect.  So, when I combine this with my toolbox, the teaching is very purposeful and powerful.  I don't just do things because they are cute anymore (well, maybe occasionally).  I use the tools that I have to move students forward.  Vygotsky and his Zone of Proximal Development has been a huge part of the way that I teach too.  He believes that we should teach in the zone.  That is when the child is able to do it with support.  Then you gradually release support as the child becomes ready, creating a new zone.  It's not just a theory to me.  It is my teaching life.  So...  on to shared reading.  When I think about what my students can do and what I want them to do next, I pick a shared reading piece very carefully.  If I can't find one, then I create one, using the book room books, poems or nonfiction pieces as my mentor text.  This isn't for sissies.  It's hard work, but it WORKS!  :)  Then I read the shared reading book and I think about my teaching point (as in guided reading).  I scaffold things like:  how to preview a book, how to use the pictures to understand the meaning, how to read dialogue, how to read punctuation, how to use nonfiction conventions to name a few.  I read the book with the children, often falling just a little behind so that I am not leading the reading, but participating.  When we find a tricky part, I stop when they stop.  I think, I ponder.  What are we going to do about the tricky part?  I prompt for what I have taught.  If I haven't taught it, I will teach it now.  When I teach guided reading, it is an opportunity to prompt the children as they practice what I have taught in shared reading.  Too much happens in guided reading sometimes.  Really it is supposed to be letting go of responsibility for the reading with support.  The children are to problem solve their own tricky words with prompting from the teacher because the teaching has already happened.  Shared reading is not too simple for older kids as well.  I can only imagine how things could have been different for Shakespeare and me if my teacher had engaged me in shared reading.  Left alone to swim in the words before me, I am pretty sure I nearly drowned.   




Sunday, March 16, 2014

Powerful

I was a literacy coordinator for 13 years.  This meant that I taught, while planning professional development for the teachers in my building.  I also presented the professional development.  I really enjoyed it for the most part.  I was so excited to share my passion for teaching literacy with everyone around me.  :)
Teachers often tell me that they don't know how I know so much (and I most certainly don't know it all).  I usually feel uncomfortable because I don't want to stand apart from the group.  I actually want more than anything to melt into the group some days.  I want to be a part of things.  I have been thinking about how I do have so much information about reading and writing in my head all the time, just waiting to be tapped into.  It has been a process for sure.
As I am writing this, I am cringing because I worry that people will perceive that I am tooting my own horn here.  I am not.  Just reflecting on how I would answer people who ask the question if they had all the time I would need to answer it well.  :)  
It takes a lot for me to learn anything.  Nothing really comes easily and it really never has.  I started my journey in rural Ohio.  I loved teaching there.  I met a lot of great people and I had a lot of opportunities.  My first year I taught kindergarten and title reading.  I felt really good about what I was doing, but I will tell you right now that I didn't know anything about how to teach.  I knew how to present information, but not the explicit teaching I would later learn how to do.
In July before my second year, I got a call that said that there had been a reduction in force and that if I wanted to continue to work I had to go to Reading Recovery training.  I had just had my first child and I just wasn't sure, but after my husband told me that I either go or we'll be living on the street, I decided to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did!  Reading Recovery Training was the first powerful thing I did as an educator.  I had a lot of heavy reading to do (Becoming Literate) and I was so so tired, but I found the thinking behind the teaching absolutely brilliant!  I could see immediate results in some of my students and it was very exciting.  I remember loving when my teacher leader came because she would watch me teach and then talk about the teaching and learning in a very open and honest way.  It was NOT always good, but I always learned.
Then came Behind the Glass.  Oh my goodness I was terrified!  I had to teach my student on one side of the glass while the other teachers in my group watched and critiqued my teaching!  Ahhhh!!!!  I felt just sick!  Since I was in a rural district, I had to drive to another town for my class, so I drove my little student to the training center and taught her a lesson.  I think that she was as nervous as I was because she acted like she had never had a lesson in her entire life!  LOL  What made it worse was that I could hear the others talking about the lesson as I was teaching.
It all worked out in the end because the expectation was not perfection.  It was learning.  I wasn't supposed to know everything this first time behind the glass or ever for that matter.  I was supposed to be watched, coached and learn from the experience, which I did.  Teaching behind the glass was the most powerful experience I have ever had!
My close second was when I went to Ohio State for Literacy Collaborative coaching training.  This training was also very intense!  We had class all week, watched teachers teach, rip apart the lessons after we saw what the children did and then build them back up.  There was no room for ego or being self conscience.  The expectation was that you put yourself out there and be ready to be wrong about something.
I really believe that we need to let down our guards and really work together.  It's not a dinner party where you need to use your very best manners.  This is serious business and we really need to be open to growth for the little darlings in our rooms.
Coaching is interesting.  You really have to get to know the teachers that you work with.  You have to know how far they are willing to go at the end of the day.  It's rewarding when you have a teacher who opens up and says, "Work with me!  Let's kick butt!".
I challenge all of you (teachers) to do something that you are not really sure that you can do.  Look at your teaching through a new lense.  Make sure that you aren't doing things out of stubborness, or because you don't know how to do it differently.  There are so many resources out there.  Find a friend who wants to try something new.  Try, talk, watch, talk, change, shift, have fun!
So, if you want to know how to become more knowledgeable:

  • Read professionally.
  • Try new things.
  • Have a buddy.
  • Watch others teach.
  • Have others watch you.
  • Look at the data to see if what you are doing really works.  The kids will tell you through their work.  That is a guarentee!   If not, shift may need to happen.
  • Make sure your students can do it alone and if not, back off.  You might be giving them too much support.
  • NEVER take yourself too seriously and have some fun!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ghost in the Graveyard

Oh how I loved to play ghost in the graveyard!  The neighborhood kids and I would make our plans to play while we were baking in the sun at the neighborhood pool.  We would all go home for dinner and baths and then we would meet on my front porch.
If you have never played, one person is the ghost and runs off to hide while the rest of the group waits on the porch and counts.  When the counting is done, everyone goes ghost hunting.  Whoever finds the ghost first gets to be it next.
We played night after night in the summer, interrupted only by a game of sardines or kick the can.  I love remembering this because I can actually conjure the feeling of the warm summer nights, crickets buzzing...  fireflies flashing.
One night, when we were all hunting for the ghost, we were having a particularly hard time finding him.  We looked in the trees, under bushes, EVERYWHERE!
Just when we thought that we were NEVER going to find him, a white image came around the corner of the house with an eerie sound....  "Whoooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaa!  Whooooooooooaaaaaaaaa!"  You have never seen kids scatter and run faster!  I ran around to the front of the house and up the stairs, terrified!  I hid under my bed, listening to the rapid beating of my heart and my own hurried breath.  I waited and waited...  Suddenly I heard my mom's laughter coming down the hall.  She was not just laughing, she was crying, she was laughing so hard!
It was my MOM coming around that corner with a sheet over her head.  :)  After I recovered from the fear and then indignation that followed, my mom and I went hand in hand to the neighbors to assure the other children that our yard was in fact NOT haunted.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Miracle Baby

Honestly, if you really think about everything that has to happen, every baby is a miracle baby.  My youngest, loves to hear the story of my pregnancy with her.  She asks me to tell it at least once a year.  :)  I call her my miracle baby because she almost didn't make it.  
I was about 7 weeks pregnant with Abbie when I found out that I was pregnant.  Tim (my husband) had decided that 2 kids was perfect.  We had a boy and a girl and he though that that was good enough.  Well, it was, but I always wanted a big family.  I just didn't feel done and I was struggling to accept it. 
 My mom and I were going to a friend's wedding and I thought that if I was going to drink champagne I wanted to make sure that I wasn't pregnant.  I drove to the drug store and bought 3 (overkill, I know...).  I did one and then the other and then the other and they were all POSITIVE!!!!  I was so excited that I ran outside to tell my neighbor Mark and locked myself out of my house!  The joy continued throughout my pregnancy, but the challenges were about to begin.  
One morning I woke up and felt like I had a bladder infection so I went to the urgent care.  They said that I was fine, but that my sugar was REALLY high.  I didn't have diabetes so I thought that was strange.  I told them that I was pregnant and they had me follow up with my doctor.  I had gestational diabetes at only 8 weeks along.  The doctor said that this was really early.  I could handle that.  I saw a dietician and went on a diabetic diet right away.  
Two days later, I woke up in the middle of the night with a pain under my right rib.  I thought it was gas, so I took a warm shower, drank some water, took a malox.  I was able to fall asleep after a few hours.  When I woke up, I felt a little better, but still had a gassy feeling.  This is not uncommon in pregnancy, so I went to work.  
I distinctly remember working away in my office when a very sharp pain hit.  I began to worry that it was the baby.  I tried to walk it off and it only got worse.  I was doubled over in pain and I called the doctor right away.  He was worried that it was an ectopic pregnancy, so he had me come in right away.  I had a very long drive around the interstate, but didn't want to wait for a ride or inconvenience anyone, so off I went.  I was sweating the whole drive from the pain.  I felt so afraid.  
When I got to the doctor's office, they ushered me to the ultrasound room right away.  The nurse handed me a gown and left the room.  It felt like any other routine visit.  Then she started the ultrasound and I started screaming.  It was so very painful I thought I was going to die.  I kept asking her about the baby.  She wouldn't answer me and only said, "Oh my God" and left the room.  The doctor came in right away and said that they needed to get me to the hospital for emergency surgery. I had a cyst in my body that was the size of a cantaloupe.  He couldn't tell where the cyst was attached and it was beginning to rupture.  He said that I could bleed to death if it did.  
My mind become painfully focused on the baby.  Will the baby make it through the surgery?  The doctor told me that no she wouldn't.  He said that he had to think about me.  I asked if there was a chance that it could stop.  My doctor decided to take a chance on me.  He agreed to wait on surgery if I spent some time in the hospital on the surgical floor in case it ruptured all the way.  I agreed.  Laying there for four long days was absolutely excruciating.  I couldn't eat in case they needed to rush me into surgery.  I just laid there worrying about losing my baby.  
I am so grateful to my Dr. because he was willing to take a chance.  He gave her the gift of time to get bigger and stronger before surgery.  He released me from the hospital after four days.  The agreement was that I would have the surgery when she was 18 weeks along because it was safer.  Whew!  He told me I had to have an ultrasound weekly, but I didn't care.  My baby had a chance!  
Eighteen weeks came quickly.  The doctor wanted to see me the Wednesday before my Friday surgery.  I went in and asked him how small it would have to have gotten to avoid surgery.  The Dr. told me 6 cm.  I asked him to do an ultrasound and he told me that he had been patient enough and that it was time to get this thing out.  I begged him to look.  When he did, the cyst was only 6 cm exactly!!! Praise God!!!  So many prayers had been answered in that moment!  
A few weeks later I had some routine blood work done.  The dr. called and told me that the baby could have Down's.  I thought to myself that it would be ok.  I will help my baby through any challenge, but I decided to have the level 2 ultrasound in case I needed to tell my  6 and 8 year old why their baby sister looked different.  Tim and I went through all of the genetic history questions and then we got to have a really good look at our baby.  They looked at her heart (all four chambers), and measured her arms, legs and head.  They told us that Abbie was really healthy.  
Two days later, my dr. called and said that my blood work was showing a potential for ovarian cancer.  He wanted to take the baby early and remove my cyst to do a biopsy.  I am a stubborn (or stupid) woman, so I refused.  Abbie's cocoon was going to remain intact and untouched.  No one was taking her early.  
When Abbie was born (a week early due to size from my diabetes), I had a complication.  This meant that I had to have my first c-section.  I was really scared, but so anxious to see my baby!  It actually turned out to be the best thing in the world!  My doctor took Abbie out and then he held my ovary in his hand with ZERO cyst in there.  
I believe three things happened.  I believe that God performed a miracle and took the cyst away, the doctor took a chance on me and saved my baby from being miscarried and I learned to let go and to count on God to do the best thing in my life, whether it was what I wanted or not.  AND I get to raise my sweet sweet Abigail which is the BEST part of all!!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Bathroom

Feel like sharing a poem inspired by drawing a map of my house...
The bathroom is
A crowded place.
There’s only one…

You step inside
For a private moment
Only to find it
otherwise occupied.

Emma is fixing her hair.
Abbie is brushing her teeth.
Connor is taking a shower.

No privacy here.

There is a dance
That has become
A part of life
In the bathroom

“I have to go”
Turn around
Face the wall
She has to go
She needs

Privacy

The bathroom is
A meeting place

“How was your day?”
“Did you pass your math test?”
“What’s new with you?”

Catching up.

I often think
That I would like
Another bathroom

Then I see
Three beautiful babies
Smiling at me
Through the frames
On the wall

This reminds me
That some day
I will be alone
In the bathroom
With all the privacy
In the world

Welcome chaos!
Welcome noise!
Welcome

To my bathroom.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Do I Write?

I recently saw a post asking others how they write, where they get their ideas and inspiration.  I have been thinking a lot about that and I have to say that I stand on the shoulders of other authors.  I have been very blessed to have been a literacy coordinator with the Literacy Collaborative from The Ohio State University.  I had excellent training, but still did not really know how to be a writer.  To tell you the truth, it took me several times to really buy in to the whole teacher writer belief.  I am a firm believer now!  :)  I didn't become a firm believer until I tried it.  I actually wrote and when I did, it's like my lesson plan pen had a mind of it's own.  I no longer had to labor over what to teach next.  I got it!  Writing is a process and when you know the process, you can see so much more clearly what your little writers need, whether they are in kindergarten, or college.
So, how do I write?  During my time as a lit coordinator, I had the GREAT pleasure of meeting and learning from and watching Georgia Heard, Katie Wood Ray, Ralph Fletcher, Lester Laminack, Carl Anderson and Tom Romano.  Each time I had an opportunity, a little seed was planted.  Write...  Write...  Write...  Each time I learned another trick about how to plan your writing.  I learned that everything my teachers taught me wasn't true, with the exception of the conventions and there is freedom even there when you write.
Ralph Fletcher taught me to write what matters.  That got me about three and a half stories (of course about my children and my family).  :)  Then he showed a child how to draw a sketch of the people in his life, the places he had been and the things that he does.  I have done this, and I can get hundreds of stories just from the map I made of my neighborhood.
 Katie Wood Ray emphasized the writer's notebook.  I started one...  then put it in a drawer...  then pulled it out...  I go back to that notebook now and harvest ideas from long ago.
 Lester Laminack is gifted at sharing stories from his own life.  I love listening to him read his books.  I love his craft.  I use his craft in my own writing.
Georgia Heard has to be my all time favorite.  For a long time, I wrote poetry.  I loved her ideas about looking out the window and really looking.  Thinking about things in a different way.
I have also read a TON of professional books.  I am actually a bit of a book hoarder to tell you the truth.  I love to read books by the authors I mentioned above.  I will read anything from the Teachers College at Columbia.  I loooooove Lucy Calkins and Shelley Harwayne!  I have heard both speak and they are so different and yet so very passionate.
My favorite go to methods are without a doubt, sketching people I know.  You can list them if you want to, but the picture does so much more for me.  I write in my head for a long time before I actually get anything down on paper.  My go to place for great thinking is in the shower.  I don't know what it is... the white noise or the quiet... or maybe the lack of interruptions on a good day or early in the morning.
I don't think I will ever stop using the methods that I have been taught.  I almost freeze with the question, "What are you going to write about?".  I have to slow down, relax, breathe...  Then I sketch out my thinking and off I go!  I don't like to revise.  I don't really like having others revise my work either, although I do it because I know that I want children I teach to be open to the input of their audience.  It's waaaaay harder than I thought though!
When I was in he writing project, I had to meet with one of the teachers to go over my piece and to receive feedback.  The whole time she was talking I felt a little oppositional.  I didn't want to change anything.  I had worked so hard....  I did try some different things that she suggested and I left others alone.  It was much better after working with her and I am forever grateful for her gentle touch.  :)
The point is... just write.  It doesn't matter if it's good enough, long enough or entertaining enough.  Each piece allows you to improve.  Each time you write, you think about different perspectives, crafting moves and you become more bold.
I wish you the opportunity for both joy and angst as you write, so that you can really feel what it is like to compose something that is meaningful to you and that it makes you want to share!  :)  Happy writing everyone!  You are NOT alone!  :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fostering


I just had the very fun, wonderful and blessed experience of being a foster mom to two puppies.  I only meant to foster one, but when I saw the two little sisters who had been rescued from a kill shelter, I just couldn't separate them.  I brought them both home.
I didn't know what to expect as a foster mom, but I will tell you that it has been an unexpected blessing!  I thought that I was doing something for them when really we were helping each other.  They brought me joy, laughter and fun!  :)
Here they are:

Megan and Daisy have a forever home now!  They leave tomorrow.  I can't believe how quickly they were adopted!  I have to say that I give so much credit to social networking when it comes to finding a home for these foster puppies.  I shared their pictures and my friends shared and their friends shared...  
They go "home" tomorrow.  I couldn't be happier for them!  They are being adopted by a young couple.  They really seem like great "kids"!  :)  
I am leaving this post feeling so much love for the puppies, for the animal rescue who saved their lives, and for their new family!  :)  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dumb Debbie

My sister and I shared most of our toys when we were little.  There were some toys that did not officially belong to either my sister or me, but we did claim some of them.  My sister decided to take a doll I firmly believed belonged to me to school.  She wrote the letters SS on the doll.  When I saw this, I was really infuriated.  I screamed, I cried and then I scrubbed the doll until you could barely see the SS.  Then...  I took the biggest, fattest, darkest marker I could find and I wrote DD.  My sister saw those two bold letters and she laughed and laughed (still laughing to this day).  I didn't understand initials yet, so I thought my sister had written SS for Sandie Sandie.  Well, that's how I got the nickname Dumb Debbie.  :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Maybe a little later...

I grew up hearing stories about my mom and her cousins.  I LOVED story time!  :)  One of my favorite stories involves my mom, her sister Millie, their cousins Marion Marie and Baby Al. 
My mom and her sister and her cousins were often up to "no good'.  They didn't have video games or tv to entertain them so they entertained themselves.  One day, they decided to sneak my grandma's cigarettes out of her purse and have a try themselves.  They walked up and over a hill so that they wouldn't be seen (or smelled) by their mothers.  When they had smoked all of the cigarettes, they sent Baby Al to get some more.  Al promptly walked up over the hill and into the house to tell his mother (my great aunt) and my grandma (Aunt Titter) that the girls were out of cigarettes and that they would like some more.  The grown ups ran to where the girls were and dragged them home, made them sit at the table and smoke cigarette after cigarette until they felt ill.  The funniest part is that my mom and Marion Marie both declined when asked if they would like another, but my Auntie Millie said, "Not just now, but maybe a little later." 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mom's Stories

I don't know if we just didn't listen to our mom or what, but she would often resort to telling us stories to get us to behave.  There are many, but I am just going to share a few right now...  to whet your appetite.  :)
The Casey Brown Story:  
My brother, sister and I often played outside as children.  On any given day, you could see us on a big wheel, roller skates, skateboards, plastic stilts, bicycles, you name it!  :)  My mom did not care what we played on, but she REALLY cared that we were wearing shoes while we were doing it.  She insisted.  Welllll...  sometimes I didn't listen very well and would run out of the house in my bare feet.  In fact, I usually had bare feet as a child.  I hated shoes.  My mom would find me wherever I was a bring me home to put shoes on.  Flip flops did not count.  Boo!
One day, my mom sat me down and told me the Casey Brown story.  She told me that a little boy who lived in the neighborhood (really) had been on his big wheel without shoes on.  She said that he was riding down the big hill by the pool when he lost control.  He tried to pull the break and it didn't work so he put his bare feet down to slow down.  Casey lost all of the skin on his feet and had to have bandages for a very long time.  He couldn't play outside and he couldn't ride his big wheel.
I don't know if this story was true or not, but I can tell you that I most certainly did not ride my bike, big wheel or anything else barefoot!  
The Sandman:
I am going to admit right up front that I was not a sleeper.  I never slept as a baby, a toddler or a young child.  I believe that my mom told this out of sheer desperation to get me to sleep so don't judge too harshly.  :)
My mom tucked me into bed every night.  It was a very special time because it was usually the only time that I had time alone with her.  I can't remember if she read to me or not, but we would often talk about our day and she would answer the ten million questions that I had generated that particular day.  :)  I remember one night when she was tucking me in, she said, "Now you go to sleep or the sandman will get you."  I promptly told her that that was NOT true.  She told me that if I put my head on my pillow I could hear his footsteps coming down the hall.  Of course I put my head on my pillow, and sure enough, there was the rhythmic sound of the Sandman's footsteps.  I was terrified!  I pulled my blankets up around me ears, pulled my legs up (lest he pull me out of my bed by my feet) and shut my eyes as tightly as I could.  Even if I couldn't fall asleep, I was definitely going to look like I was asleep!
Many years later, I realized that the sound of the sandman was actually my own pulse in my ears.  LOL  
Uncle Al:  
I had a MAJOR problem with playing with car locks when I was little, especially when I was in my grandma's car with the automatic locks.  I loved those things!  Click click.  Click click.  Over and over...
Well this bad habit drove my grandma crazy!  I remember one time when we were traveling somewhere around Texas all by ourselves, she was in the front seat and I was in the back seat and she had specifically told me NOT to play with the locks.  Hmmm....  That just made me think about the locks in an almost obsessive way.  It was like having an itch that you can't scratch not being able to touch them.  I just put my hand over the lock at first.  "Don't you touch that," grandma said sternly.  Click click.  Click click.  Now my grandma's arm was sweeping the backseat, trying to catch me in the act.  So terrifying and exciting at the same time!  Click click.  Click click.  Her arms swung closer and closer.  Click click.  Click click.  Grandma slammed on the brakes and pulled me out of the car to swat my bottom on the side of the road.  You would think that I would learn, but no...  So this brought on the Uncle Al Story....
One day, while my grandfather was driving the cousins home from their grandparents, Uncle Al was playing with the door.  Well, he had unlatched the door but didn't realize it.  When grandpa turned a corner, Al's  door flew open and Al  began to fall out.  Grandpa grabbed his foot and help on or else Al would have fallen out of the car.  When grandpa finally was able to stop the car completely, he pulled Al in and his head was full of rocks (literally).
I can't say that I never played with locks again, but I can tell you that that story made me cut waaaaaay back.

Well, I am proud  to say that I have not told my children terrifying stories to keep them in line, but don't think for a minute that I haven't been tempted!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Best Compliment EVER

I don't know about you, but I have been feeling every one of my 42 years lately.  :)  I am tired and sore for the most ridiculous reasons.  Yesterday a 5th grade boy (we will call him my favorite) told me that I am really good with children.  That alone was a wonderful compliment and it was very touching.  :)  I told him that I have three children of my own so I have had a lot of practice.  He gave me an odd look and then went to class.
Today, when I went into the cafeteria today, "my favorite" asked me how I have three children.  I asked him what he meant and he said that he thought I was 25 and that that was too young for three children.  It's one thing when a kindergartener thinks you are 19, but another thing when a 5th grader thinks you are 25.  And that, my blogging friends, is why today was a FABULOUS day!  :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Flaming Baby Doll

My mom was an adventurer when I was little.  She used to wake us up at 4 in the morning and head out on an adventure!  We drove everywhere...  California, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, Maryland, Florida, Texas, New York, Niagra Falls...It was always so much fun because my mom would see a sign or a billboard and stop at various places just because they looked fun.
My mom got this trait honestly because my grandma and my aunt were the same way.  They loved to travel at the drop of a hat.  On one trip to Texas, my mom, grandma and aunt were sitting around the kitchen table as they often did and they decided that they wanted to take us to New Orleans.  I was so excited!  I had never been there before and I couldn't wait.
When I was excited, I was often hard to manage, asking a million questions from the back seat.  Because of this, my mom and grandma had me sit on the hump in the middle of the front seat.  The windows were open and I got to listen to the ongoing conversation between my mom and her mom.  I was actually quite entertained.  I sat still with my baby doll in my arms, looking out the window and daydreamed about my imaginary friend, friend giant (that's another story).
My mom and grandma were smoking as they talked, waving their hands around as they always did.  My grandma was trying to make a point with her hand gestures and...   OH NO!!!!   I first noticed the situation when I smelled the strong, terrible smell of burning plastic!  My baby doll's hair had gotten too close to grandma's cigarette and it was ON FIRE!!!
"Help!" I screamed.  "Help my baby!!!"  As soon as my grandma saw my baby doll, she grabbed her and tossed her right out the window!  I crawled into the back seat and watched my burning baby until she became a little dot in the distance, crying the whole way.  I never understood how my grandma could throw my baby out the window, but now I smile wondering if I would do the exact same thing.  :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

C-A-N-D-Y Newspaper

I absolutely loved to visit my grandparents when I was little.  I didn't get to see them very often since they were in Texas and I lived in Ohio.  We made a trip every summer though.  It was important to my mom that we knew our grandparents.  In between visits, we would talk on the phone often.  My brother, sister and I would run to the phone to be the first to answer.  My grandpa always teased me, calling himself "bad grandpa".  I would argue with him over and over again, giggling as we played.  His special name for me was Stick in the Mud.  I didn't know until years later that he called me that because I was a stubborn little thing.
When we drove to Texas we would usually drive until we got there.  It was an 18 hour drive.  I always slept a lot because my mom told me that it would make the trip go faster (or maybe because of the dramomine she gave me).
The excitement would build as we drove down their street.  You could almost cut the enthusiasm with a knife.  As soon as we pulled into the drive, my brother, sister and I would burst from the van to be the first to knock on the door.  Sometimes we tried to trick our grandparents by pretending to sell something, thinking that they surely wouldn't recognize us after a whole year!  :)  They always played along, followed by exclamations over how much we had grown.
We had many traditions in Texas, but my very favorite one was C-A-N-D-Y newspaper.  My grandpa LOVED sugar more than anything and he would spell out the word candy, pretending that we were tricking my grandma.  The funny thing is that when I was really little, I really thought we were pulling one over on grandma!  Grandpa would tell us to hurry to the car before grandma figured out what we were really doing!  Squeals of delight would follow us out to the car.  My grandpa would drive up to the corner store, buy a paper (our cover) and let us pick out our favorite candy.
It doesn't sound like a lot, but getting our super secret candy with grandpa was such a treat for my siblings and me.  I am glad that I didn't know grandma knew until later.  The thrill of time with grandpa and tricking grandma was just so much fun.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CAWP

I participated in my first full Twitter chat this evening.  It was really fun and I was thrilled to have been able to follow along throughout the entire chat.  These things just aren't that easy for me.  :)  Not at first anyway...  Participating in the chat made me remember my time with the Columbus Area Writing Project.  If you don't know what that is, it is a group of teachers who gather together for professional development.  The whole idea for me was that I wanted to be a teacher who was a writer so that I could be present as a writer in the classroom.  I was going to grow as a teacher and unexpectedly grew as a human being.  
Up until this experience, I had never been in a group of teachers with different backgrounds.  That was very interesting.  I was there as a kindergarten teacher and everyone else was (I think) 4th grade or higher.  That's the really cool thing about writing.  You don't have to be from the same background or experience for it to be relevant to you.  If you really understand that writing is a process and you are ready to look at it at that level, it doesn't matter who you look at it with.  
My time with the Columbus Area Writing Project began with a retreat at Kenyon College.  Kenyon is in a beautiful setting near Mt. Vernon, Ohio.  I was paired up with another woman who quickly became my friend.  When our group would meet (on the 4th floor), we met in a large room with a huge table in the middle of the room.  We all sat around the table and would talk to those around us.  Dave, Robin, Kevin and Melissa were leading our group and they quickly engaged us in writing opportunities that allowed us to get to know each other.  This was an experience that was different from anything I had ever experienced.  The writing we shared elicited different responses from the audience.  Some laughed while others cried.  This new group was like an onion and the writing was beginning to peel the layers back to expose something we didn't even know we had... a community of writers or the writer within.  
For me, it was Gretchen's story of love and loss that really drew our group together and made us a community.  We had all been asked to walk about the campus and think about who had been there, what had happened there or the possibilities of both.  I can't remember Gretchen's story exactly, but I do know that as she read, everyone sat a little straighter, looking, listening, laughing.  It was the moment when all of the writers had arrived.  
The thing that I loved the most about it was that it was very personalized.  The teachers/facilitators would present an opportunity for thought for our writing but we could take it where ever we wanted to go and in the way in which we chose.  We could write a story, a poem...  The container for the writing didn't matter.   I loved meeting with my group, sharing writing and stretching and being stretched.  I would love to be able to explain how it all was done, but I just can't capture it.  Kevin, Dave, Melissa and Robin moved in and out of teacher, facilitator, writer, and friend throughout the entire process.  I never would have become who I am today without the experience of the Columbus Area Writing Project.  I am eternally grateful.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Creek

It had been raining for days and I was absolutely itching to go outside.  I typically spent the day, all day, at the pool and the three looooong days of rain and thunderstorms made me feel trapped in my own house!  I was kneeling on the living room sofa, watching each drop of rain slide down the glass when I noticed the sun peaking through the clouds.  "Mom!  Mom!" I called.  "The sun is shining!  Can I go to the pool?"  I think that my mom wanted me out of the house just as much as I wanted to go so she of course said yes and off I went.
I skipped down the hill to our neighborhood pool, towel over my arm and a smile on my face.  As I rounded the corner of the tree line I could hear laughter and splashing.  The sounds lured me in, curious...  As soon as I could see the bridge over the creek, I knew I had to join the fun!  There were several children teetering on the bridge railing over the flooding waters of the creek below.  Their shouts of joy sent excitement shooting through my body.  I loved the water and I loved adventure!
I heard my mother's voice in my head warning me of every bad thing that could happen if I jumped...  I considered turning around or moving along to the pool, but only for a moment.
I watched the other children climb up, jump off and yell out in sheer joy!  I saw their heads bobbing through the rapids of this little creek, catching onto a large tree that had fallen  during the storms.  To get out they had to wrap their arms around the tree, throw a leg up and slide over the moss covered trunk.  No problem!
As my turn approached, I became a little nervous.  What if I didn't catch onto the tree?  What if I hit my head on a rock?  What if I got hurt or died?  All of these things were running through my head.  I didn't care though.  This looked like so much fun and how likely was it that I would get hurt the first time I tried it, right?
I put my little hands on the top of the rail, hoisting myself onto the ledge.  I almost lost my balance one but caught myself.  The cheers of the other kids was giving me confidence that I am not sure I would have had on my own.  As I watched the swirling, rushing water below, I jumped far and high into the air.  I heard in the distance, "DEBRA LEE!!!!!!" Then the water was covering my ears, my eyes, pulling my body downstream faster than I thought it could.  I could see the fallen tree, my life raft, only briefly as I swirled around in the brown, murky creek water.
Just as I reached the tree, I felt a swift jerk on my shirt and I was suddenly not in the water anymore. My name had been screamed by my mother as she saw her daring, brave, stupid child jump into dangerous, post storm waters with wild abandon.  Now I was being pulled from the water with the adrenaline fueled fear of my mother.  "What were you thinking?" she screamed.  I was about to answer when I realized that she wasn't really asking a question.  The seat burning spanks started at the creek and continued all the way home.  My day in the sun was over....

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Tunnel

I grew up in the best neighborhood in the world!  I loved it there!  I was never bored and always managed to find an adventure or two.  One of my favorite things to do was to play in the creek.  It wasn't a very big creek, but it was visited by many.  I remember venturing either upstream or down, looking for treasures, creatures or just all around fun!  I loved the little water spiders that kept me company on my many adventures.
My mom didn't really like that there was a tunnel at the end of the creek where teenagers hung out.  She didn't want me to go down there and knowing me and my quest for adventure, she has to make me feel like I COULDN"T go down there.  :)  She told me that there were holes in the tunnel and that if you fell into one, it was very deep and probably went straight to hell.  
I guess that I should probably tell you that my mom was raised in a boarding school by nuns.  The reference to hell sounds cruel, but it was a big part of my upbringing.  
I am sure that my mom meant to keep me safe, but this time, the danger of falling into a pit straight to hell wasn't going to work.  :)  My friend and I decided that we were going to see what this forbidden tunnel was all about.  It was a very exciting adventure!  We waded in the water, stepping on stones and listening to the calm trickling of the stream as we moved toward our destination.  
As we entered the tunnel, we noticed that there were many spray painted words and pictures.  We stood staring at the entrance in awe.  I lived in a suburb, so grafiti wasn't even a part of my vocabulary.  The tunnel was very ominous looking, dark and forbidden.  My friend and I eased in, walking slowly and checking under our feet for especially deep looking water.  Not far in, we saw a dark black hole of water...
The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I swear I thought I felt a breeze that hadn't been there before.  Our pace slowed a bit the further we got in.  Our steps were more careful.  When we were almost to the middle of the tunnel, we saw the scariest painting we had ever seen.  It was the head of the devil, staring at us, daring us to go further...  
My friend and I were NOT playing around with that!  We turned and ran all the way home!  We did finally make it to the other side of the tunnel eventually, but it took many many trips down that dark corridor before we finally had the nerve.  :)