Thursday, August 10, 2017

The JOY of Cooking

I think I'm experiencing a sort of "nesting."

You may be familiar with the concept of nesting as it pertains to pregnant women. Right before labor, moms get this overwhelming urge to prepare their home for the arrival of their baby. They clean, organize and do other preparations to create a welcoming home for their new one.

The thing is though -- I'm not pregnant.

As a matter of fact, my two children are both leaving for college in a few weeks. My husband and I will be EMPTY nesters.

So why do I think I'm nesting?

As my kids are getting ready to leave, I'm feeling the overwhelming urge to send a bit of home with them. To create mementos of home that will remind them of our nest and all the love it holds for them.

Food is one way I find myself doing this.

As the number of home-cooked meals they have left to enjoy is counting down, I find myself wanting to make their favorites (fettuccini alfredo with chicken, terriyaki chicken, PMS Pie...).

Last week, I baked their favorite cookies (soft pumpkin).

This week, I've made four batches of jam (strawberry x 2, blackberry and mixed berry) so they would have some to take to school with them.
I have always found that cooking is one way I show my love for those I care about. It brings me great JOY to cook or bake something for someone else to enJOY.

So as my baby birds are getting ready to fly away from our nest, I will continue to stuff their bellies with the goodness of home. It is my hope that once they are out in the world and they think back to their time at home, they will feel JOY remembering the taste of home.


What does JOY mean to you? What brings you JOY? How do you sprinkle JOY in your day? Write about it and share your post with the #TeachWrite community by linking up to our blog here.
The #TeachWrite chat is dedicated to supporting teachers of writers and teachers who write. Join us for our next chat on Monday, September 4th at 7:30PM EST. You can sign up for the Remind here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I Was Not Expecting This {SOL 8.08.17}

We all know writing can be a lonely act.

The writer sits alone at the computer or journal and pours her heart out onto the page. Those words will often stay silent, only seen by the writer's eye.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Thanks to communities such the Slice of Life community, and Twitter, we are able to connect with other writers -- to share our words, our hopes, our fears, our celebrations, our reflections, and more.

Last night was the debut of our #TeachWrite chat and let me just say -- I was overwhelmed with the response and the sheer number of teachers and teacher-writers who came out to be a part of the conversation about how we can grow our practice of being teachers who write. At the end of the hour long chat, there were over 1,000 tweets!

I came up with the idea for this chat a few months ago after trolling Twitter for tweets about teaching writing and not finding much. I found a lot about reading, Genius Hour, makerspaces, and innovative teaching practices, but not a lot about writing.

Twitter is an amazing connection tool, but it is also an excellent professional development tool. There needed to be more conversation about this topic.

So I went to my friends Michelle Haseltine and Leigh Anne Eck (who I met right here at SOL) with the idea of starting a Twitter chat and they jumped on board without hesitation. A little later, we talked Margaret Simon (another SOL friend) into joining us.

We want the #TeachWrite chat to serve the teachers who participate in the chat, whether actively tweeting, lurking, or reading the archives after. So we came up with a few guiding beliefs:

1.  The chat would focus on nurturing teachers as writers, not necessarily on teaching writing. We strongly believe that by being teachers who write, we are better writing teachers.

2. Every chat would end with an invitation to write. This is based on our experience with the National Writing Project Summer Institutes. (August's Invitation to Write can be found here.)

3.  Writers of ALL level are welcome to join in the conversation. You don't have to be published or a regular writer to participate and have a voice. You don't even need to have a blog. If you are even thinking of becoming a teacher-writer, we hope you will join us.

4. We would do all we could to support teachers who write.

I hope you were able to catch the #TeachWrite chat last night. I saw many familiar names and faces there.  If you missed it and would like to catch up, you can read the Storify here.

You can also answer the invitation to write on this month's topic - JOY! - and share your words by linking up on our #TeachWrite Chat blog.

Our #TeachWrite chat will be the first Monday of every month, rain or shine, holiday or not. That means our next chat will be Monday, September 4th (Labor Day) at 7:30 PM EDT. Need help remembering? Sign up for the Remind here.

What did last night's chat teach me?

1. My words matter.
2. Connections matter.
3. I don't have to do this alone.
4. Teachers are the most generous, caring, supportive people on earth. (Actually...I already knew this one. The chat just cemented it deeper in my heart.)
5. There was a desperate need for a regular conversation around writing.
6. Sometimes tiny ideas turn into huge wins!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Unexpected Surprise {SOL 7.25.17}

My husband is out of town which, of course, is prime time for everything in the house to misbehave.

On Monday of last week, our septic pump broke, bringing water into our finished basement. Luckily, we have good friends in town who were able to help me out. John came over on Monday night, pulled out the pump, diagnosed it as broken, went to the store and got me a new one and even installed it for me. (Isn't he AWESOME??!!)

As I wrote John a check for the cost of the pump, I was immensely thankful that he saved me a large expense from a plumber. However, the $246  was not in our budget we had planned for the month. I thought to myself: It is what it is. We will figure it out later.

On Thursday, I picked up the mail and noticed an envelope from my daughter's oral surgeon who recently removed her wisdom teeth. I opened the letter and almost fell over:
This unexpected check would almost completely cover the cost of the pump!


The Law of Attraction worked hard for me last week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Let's Talk About Writing!: #TeachWrite Twitter Chat

If you are a teacher who writes, I'm pretty sure you know its benefits when it comes to your teaching of writers. 

Teachers who write....

...Know the messiness of the writing process from the inside out.

...Are better at conferring and talking one-on-one with their student writers. 

...Understand that writing is hard work, but so, so worth it.

...See the value in writing and the depth and clarification it adds to our thinking.

...Have a stronger connection with their students as they can empathize with the writer's journey.

...Are awesome!

Becoming a writing teacher who writes has truly changed my instruction....and my life. I have come to enjoy teaching writing (enough so that it is the focus of my new business, Teach Write LLC) and have met so many amazing teacher-writers from around the world that have brought so much friendship to my life.

It is with all of this in mind that three of these such friends and I have decided to start a new Twitter chat dedicated to teachers who write and to help others see the benefit of this rewarding habit.

Join us the first Monday of every month for #TeachWrite, a new Twitter chat dedicated to growing teachers as writers and teachers of writers.

Do you….
Believe that teaching writing is easier when teachers are writers themselves?
Believe that our own writing lives deserve to be nurtured?
Believe that all writers grow through dedicated writing time?
Believe that all writers need support and encouragement?
Believe that writing is a messy process and the best way to learn this is through our own practice?
Believe that when teachers write, they make writing a priority in their classrooms?

Our chat will support teachers not only in their quest to become better teachers of writers but to become better writers ourselves.

In addition, each chat will end with an invitation to write!

Please join us!

Our first chat is Monday, August 7th at 7:30 PM EST with the topic of  “Writing for the JOY of It!”

You can sign up to receive a monthly reminder of our #TeachWrite chat by signing up for a Remind: 
Hope to see you August 7th at 7:30 pm EST! (Don't forget to sign up for the Remind:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Power of the Phone {SOL 7.11.17}

If you are like me, you carry your cell phone with you everywhere. To be without it is to feel like I've lost my right arm. I constantly check to make sure I have it: in my pocket, in my purse, on my coffee table. 

My cell phone is not just my phone, it is also my watch, my alarm, my camera, my to-do list, my notepad, my weatherman, my entertainment center, my map and probably a million other things.

So on Friday, when I went to Six Flags Great America with my family, I panicked a bit when I realized I had left my phone at home. (How that happened, I can't quite figure out.)

At first, I considered going home to get it. But then I thought...seriously?? 

Nope, I would make-do all day without it.

And you know what?  It felt weird, but it was actually kind of nice.

I didn't feel the draw to check it every hour (or sooner, given a state of inactivity).

I could enjoy moments with my family instead of trying to see them through the camera's viewfinder.

It even felt a bit devious to be disconnected from text messages...What would people think if they texted me and I didn't get back to them right away??? (Oh, the horror!! :)

I didn't have those up-to-the-minute updates of who was doing what and where from Facebook.

The only bad part about not having my phone was that I also didn't have a watch on so figuring out what time it was became a bit of a challenge.

What began as a day of panic, actually turned out to be very nice. It also made me realize how much my phone controls me. (Which is actually a pretty scary thought!)

I plan to have more phoneless days in the future. I think the more I do it, the easier it will become. I won't feel like I'm missing a body part.

And maybe I'll take back some of that power I've given away to this inanimate object.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

She's Baaaack! {SOL 6.27.17}

We waited at the end of aisle outside the doors in the international terminal at O'Hare Airport marked Exit A. There were lots of others waiting there with us, stretching tall up on their tippy toes every time the doors to Exit A opened to see if their loved one was on their way out.

Behind those doors, I imagined long lines of passengers waiting to claim their luggage and pass through the customs screening. I'm sure many were weary from hours of travel but also excited to walk through the doors to see their dear ones waiting on the other side.

People from all different worlds streamed past us. Many stopped to hug a friend or family member waiting in the crowd. Then there were also others who simply walked out, pulling their suitcase, trying to find the most unobstructed route to the exit doors because they did not have anyone waiting in the crowd.

We continued to watch the doors of Exit A flap open and shut.

Open and shut. Open and shut.

I kept glancing at the clock.

Waiting. Waiting......

Open and shut. Open and shut.

Then we saw her....our Hannah was back.
{Thing 1 is Hannah, our German daughter. She stayed with us for the 2015-2016 school year. Thing 2 is our American daughter, Kara. She stays with us all the time. Hannah is back to visit for the month of July unless we can talk her into moving here permanently. We just love her!}

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Making Connections {SOL 6.20.17}

It's almost here....!!!

Tomorrow, I will pack up the car and head four hours east toward Warsaw, IN for the ALL WRITE conference.

This year is my 4th year attending and I couldn't be more excited!

When I went to my first All Write conference four years ago, I went completely alone. I did not know a single person. (And, I might add, I was pretty darn proud of myself for being so brave to go it alone!)

My bravery paid off. I was quickly swooped up by a group of amazing ladies -- Linda Baie, Mary Helen Gensch, Ruth Ayres, LeAnn Carpenter, Leigh Ann Eck, Christy Rush-Levine, Kim Barrett, and others that I'm sure I am unintentionally forgetting -- and welcomed into their group.

Looking back, I think my professional life really started to change when I went to my first All Write conference. I feel like I found my tribe. I connected with other educators who believe in the same things I do -- the power of writing and leading a literate life.

Tomorrow I will see many of these ladies again in real life (versus on blogs, Twitter chats, etc.). I am so looking forward to it.

But I wanted to tell you.....

If you are going to All Write, especially if you are going alone, let's connect! I'd love to meet you and welcome you into our tribe. Look for my "Teach Write" shirt. Send me a tweet (@laffinteach) or stop by my session on Friday and say "Hey!".  I'm presenting on "The Cartonera Project: Every Student an Author" during the final session on Friday.

Safe travels!