Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Years are Short {SOL 8.23.16}

When you are holding your newborn baby in your arms, staring into its barely open eyes and listening to its sweet coos, time seems like an infinite thing.

When a wise friend tells you to cherish every minute because time moves quickly, you brush their words aside because time seems endless.

When you ask your sweet child what he wants to do when he grows up and he answers that he wants to be a superhero, you gently laugh to yourself because you can't imagine a time when he will have to be something other than your little boy.

When you sit through band concerts, scout ceremonies, parent teacher conferences, volleyball games, birthday parties, and play dates, they seem like mere appointments on your calendar that you check off in a blur.

When your little one learns to walk, takes the bus to school, goes to sleep away camp, gets his driver's license, and graduates, you don't realize what is happening.

Then comes the day you were warned about.

That day that seemed like it could never, sometimes would never,  come.

That day that is the culmination of every day that came before it.

Your sweet child leaves the nest.

And you realize that the days may seem long, but the years are very, very short.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Exploring Barn Swallow Babies {SOL 8.16.16}

I'm a little bit of a bird fanatic. Living in the country will do that to you.

In the spring, I love to watch the bird feeder outside our front window to see who is visiting. I will often find cardinals, woodpeckers, and yellow finches all hanging out together.

Later in the summer, I become fascinated by the barn swallow.
It is a beautiful bird and it flies with such grace and ease. It swoops down to catch insects and can turn on a dime or reverse directions easily. It's fun to watch!

When the baby barn swallows are old enough to leave the nest (about 3 weeks old), they like to fly up and sit on the gutter on the backside of my house. I often will wake up to the sound of their singing to the rising sun. They are fluffy and their beaks are too large for their faces. I just love them!
I sat for a few minutes and watched the babies and saw how the feeder bird (both moms and dads -- and older brothers and sisters) bring insects to the baby. As they approach, the baby will stop its singing and wait with its mouth open. The feeder bird swoops in, drops the insect in the baby's mouth, then flies away. It never stops to rest during feeding, it all happens on the go. Pretty impressive!

Yesterday as I was cutting the grass, the barn swallows were swooping around me. I used to think they were trying to dive bomb me when they did that, but I now realize they are catching the insects that fly up from the grass as I pass over with the mower.

Here are a few interesting facts I found about the barn swallow:

* A male barn swallow who has not found a mate will often destroy the eggs in a nest as a way of "breaking up" the mated couple to try to steal the woman bird. (How rude!)

* Legend has it that the reason the barn swallow's tail is so forked is that it stole fire from the gods to bring it to earth for man. As it was flying away, the gods threw a flaming spear at the bird, singeing the middle of its tail as it flew.

* Barn swallows mate in the air. (That's talent!)

* They can fly up to 600 miles in one day.

* They can live up to 10 years. 

* Legend says that the first person to see the barn swallow return after winter will have good luck all year long.

My curiosity about my favorite summer bird led me to find these interesting facts.  Then it dawned on me that these facts would make a great exploratory notebook that Ralph Fletcher describes in his book:
I'm looking forward to sharing my notebook with my students to show them how our personal interests and curiosities lead us to writing topics.

But for now, I hear the birds chatting so I've got to go!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Time Flies {Celebrate This Week 8.13.16}

This has been a busy week.

My son is leaving for college a week from Monday. There is a lot of shopping we are doing to get him ready, in addition to washing laundry, packing and going over lists of things he needs.

He had his wisdom teeth pulled on Tuesday and has had a tough recovery. The mom in me is torn. On one hand, I am trying to prepare myself for letting him go as he heads off to college. On the other hand, I get stuck thinking that he is still a little kid who needs his mom to heal his hurt, make sure he takes his medications, and bring him ice packs.

It is a funny contradiction.

I am trying to focus on the celebrations instead of that sinking feeling I get when I think about sending my first born out into the world alone.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who can set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to take his antibiotics and pain meds.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who takes himself shopping to get some things he needs for school and then doesn't even ask me to pay for them.

I celebrate the little boy who grew up to be a man who still comes in to kiss his mother goodnight when he gets home from work at midnight.

I celebrate the little boy he used to be and fine young man he has become.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing is Hard {SOL 8.02.16}

Writing is hard work.

But I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?

One of the things I wanted to do this summer was write some stories that I could share with my 5th graders.  Funny school themed stories that capture the lives up upper elementary students.

I want my students to see me 'walk the walk', but I also want  them to know that I know how difficult writing can be because I've been there.

I go back to school in three weeks and I still don't have even one story to share with them.  I've tried writing. A lot. While I feel like I may actually be on the verge of a story breakthrough, I've learned quite a bit along the way that I will take back to my classroom:

* Writing IS hard, especially when that little voice is telling us that we don't have any ideas. We need to learn to tell that voice to be quiet or tell the one that is cheering us along to speak louder.

* Timed writing actually works for getting words out of your head and down on paper. Writing continuously for 10 minutes has brought me some pretty cool ideas that I never would have found if I had just sat and stared at my computer for 10 minutes.

* Sometimes, you just have to get it out. Keeping an idea in your head that you don't write on paper actually blocks your creativity like a dam blocks water. Even if you don't think you'll use it, write it down. You can always edit it out later.

* Imperfect is okay. I am a natural born perfectionist and I want my writing pages to look just a certain way. This summer, I have worked on being okay with scribbled out words, messy margins, and bad handwriting.

I truly feel that when we allow our students the freedom of choice in our classroom, they take writing more seriously, show more growth, and take more risks in the writing. However, choice can be messy. My writing this summer has shown me that.

So even though my writing has been challenging this summer, I'm still glad that I am a teacher who writes. I will return to the classroom a better writing teacher because of it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

No News is Good {Celebrate this Week 7-23-16}

We all know that the world is a pretty frightening place right now. Shootings, bombings, murders, despair and tragedy are flashed before us in a constant news cycle.  Reporters report on the same stories over and over, sometimes repeating the same events for days on end. Over time, this has a tendency to wear us down and numb us to all the goodness in life.

This summer, I've made a conscious effort to turn off the TV news. I have seen about two newscasts since the end of May, and those were because my husband was watching as we were heading off to sleep.

I still know all the bad stuff is happening out there, but I don't need to be reminded of it 24/7. I don't need the emotional stress of all the tragedy. I don't think it's healthy. I still hear about events through conversations with other people, on the radio, or through social media. I'm not completely oblivious, I have just chosen not to constantly expose myself to bad news. The only thing I miss about not seeing the daily news is the weather forecast.  Luckily, there's an app for that.

Since going on a news vacation, I am definitely happier. I have more time for reading, gardening and cooking. I am not drawn to a schedule dictated by when the news is on.  I can think about world issues and come to my own conclusions, not those that are voiced to me by news people with their own agenda. As a side benefit, my husband is picking up a book to read more often than reaching for the remote control at night.

I truly feel more mindful and peaceful. And happier.  {Did I mention happier?}

For this, I celebrate.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fear Not {Celebrate This Week 7-16-16}

I feel a shift coming.

It's a change that I've known would be coming some day. As it turns out, that some day is now.

This fall, I will be sending my oldest off to college. His sister, my only other child, will begin her senior year of high school. Major changes are coming.

I used to fear this.

Fear of not being needed, not being busy, not having a house full of kids. Fear of losing my identity as a mother and not knowing what comes next. Fear of being bored or feeling useless or unneeded.

But it turns out, those fears may have been for nothing.

I've gotten a taste of this parenting change this summer. Both of my kids work two jobs so they are pretty much gone all the time. My husband is a retail pharmacist, working several nights a week. Often that leaves me. Just me.

And I have to say....It is okay.

I find lots of things to keep me busy, possibly even busier than I was when the kids were younger. But it's a different kind of busy. It's a busy that is focused on me. It's a busy that leaves me feeling fulfilled in a way I didn't expect.

I read, I write, I work in the garden, I sit in silence with the dogs and watch the sun set, I make myself dinner (or not), I meet friends for coffee. I run on my own schedule, not someone else's.

I've spent a lot of time this summer thinking about this new way of life. It's not as bad as I thought it would be.

Sure, I will miss my kids desperately when they go off to college. But I also recognize that this will allow our relationship to grow in new ways.

It is all going to be okay.

For this, I celebrate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Positivity Bubble {SOL 7.28.16}

"Mom, I need help."

My daughter's voice came through loud and clear on the bluetooth speaker in my car. My stomach dropped. This was not the phone call I usually received from her.

"What's wrong?" I asked, ready to whip the car around to go rescue her from whatever tragedy she faced.

"My positivity bubble is bursting."

I released the breath I didn't realize I was holding. Thank goodness. 

I kept driving.

"Everyone here at work is in such a bad mood. I got yelled at twice already and I don't even know what I did. I'm trying to be positive, but it's just so hard when everyone is so....crabby."

My daughter is a cashier at a local store. It hasn't been easy going for her. There has been a lot of turn over (two people quit the day she called me) and despite the store manager's call for 'positive teamwork', there hasn't been much of that.

"Well..." I began giving my daughter some of my positive words of wisdom:  The only person you can control is yourself; Find something good and focus on that; It's 90 degrees out and everyone is a bit cranky; and finally -- Remember that you are making $100 for working today. (The money one would surely stick with her.)

We chatted for a few more minutes, her spirit uplifted a bit, and she went back to work.

I pondered a few things as we drove on:

1. My daughter reached out to me in her time of distress. I am grateful that she feels that she can do this. I am grateful for our continued closeness, even into her late teenage years.

2. My positive outlook has apparently rubbed off some on her. She's been listening.

3. She recognizes how important attitude is to creating your reality and how your attitude affects others. She was trying to be positive and upbeat, but everyone's "crabbiness" was making it difficult. Maybe (maybe!) she will remember this when she is in a crabby mood.

She came home from work that night in a pretty good mood. Apparently, she was able to re-inflate her positivity bubble.

Thank goodness.