Looking Forward To…Slice of Life Challenge Day 13

Thanks to several other Slicers who posted some variation on a gratitude list or an inventory of what makes them happy. Gravity Goldberg has been saying how important it is to look at the world from a place of admiration. I readily believe her, but there are days when I could use some more practice shaping my perception.

So…it’s Monday. What am I looking forward to in delightful anticipation this week?

  1. A bright afternoon and evening. The morning dark can feel like a fortress of solitude, but evening light energizes me when I transition from my  full-time day-job to my full-time parent job.
  2. An impending blizzard. It’s true, I don’t want to miss the days from school, but there’s something exciting about being snowed in. (Plus both my boys are old enough to help shovel.)
  3. Waking up to the hush of snowfall outside the window.
  4. Admiring the smooth, untrodden snow in the back yard.
  5. Stocking up on must-read books before the storm. I’m going to visit my school library and talk with my book dealer. I’m also going to raid the school book room (which I’m in charge of) for a stack of new books that I haven’t had a chance to read yet.
  6. The bacon that has been waiting, patiently, on the shelf in my fridge!

Looks like it’s going to be a good week!

Living in a Space: Slice of Life Challenge Day 12

IF you’ve been reading these posts lately, you may have noticed breadcrumb clues that we are new to our neighborhood and this house.

Place has been invoking in me a sense of before and after, then and now, and… what do we do with this space?

When I gazed out the window and saw headlights slipping past, they were only two car lengths away. At our old house, our front windows were a football field from the road.

Here, the recycling blew across the neighbor’s lawn, and my egg-hunt cleanup was witnessed…because here we have neighbors nearby.

Here, I have curtains in the front windows, because the neighbors across the street could watch me eat dinner from their dinner table.

I’m pleased with the move–which was less about a house than other goals–but still feeling unsettled in the house.

Today’s debate is with the “stupid space,” the name my husband gave the area between the front door and the kitchen. It’s a tricky space because it’s not exactly a room. The front is dominated by double wide windows with about 2 feet on either side. One end is open to the front/living/piano room (which still has its own set of issues). The room backs up to the staircase, meaning it’s not a wall so much as an angled railing. And the fourth side features the door to the kitchen, smack dab in the middle of the wall. And since that is the only way from one half of the house to the other, it’s a high traffic area. What to do with this prime/not-so-prime real estate?

Currently we’re using what was maybe once a porch as our dining room. It’s heated and enclosed, but it’s a narrow space. Now when you picture our table, picture a wide old farm house table. I mean I could seat hordes of vikings at this table; it’s big. But in the room where it is, we have to literally climb over one another to get a glass of water in the middle of dinner.

Add to that, the current ‘dining room’ has become a repository for winter coats, school backpacks, and the assorted detritus that collects at entrances. It’s like the space wants to be a mudroom. My family collectively refuses to hang their coats on the coatrack in the unheated sunporch just past the ‘dining room’ because their shoes and coats are too cold. I wish I could say dinners are cozy, but they’re really just crowded.

So we’re eyeballing the stupid space as a potential solution. Could it be a dining room so the other narrow space can fulfill its destiny as a stuff-collecting-room?

I’m a firm believer in you have to live in a space to get the feel of it. I enjoy rearranging furniture periodically to get a new feel in a space. We’ve been living in it for months. This isn’t the right arrangement. My husband purports: put it where you want it the first time because it’s going to stay there.

The debate has been lively.

And we’re about to be snowed in for days…just the right amount of time to empty and move and rearrange these spaces. So I’d like to imagine the right solution quickly.

We’d all like to feel more comfortable, like we belong in this new space.

 

Out of the Mouths of Babes–Slice of Life Challenge Day 11

This is tournament time for hockey, so I anticipated a heart-thumping, energized post about game time drama. There were possibilities as we learned just before the puck drop that our only goalie is out for two weeks with a concussion! Who would stand in net for us? What would a stand-in goalie mean for my son as a defenseman? Maybe tomorrow- we have two more games today.

Instead I settled on a quieter moment from our dinner after the game.

small dinner moments

I’m only now realizing how long we sat around together during dinner and after we’d eaten. There was a time when a restaurant meal with two kids meant a strategically filled bag of tricks and the in-and-out efficiency of a bank robbery. But they’re getting big.

I had no bag of tricks. Their grandfather (Pepere) had a pencil in his pocket. And Reins Deli has amazing pickles.

Before dinner, the boys sat to one side, quietly negotiating something as Qaiden munched half a bowl of pickles. The adults chatted.

Once the plates had been cleared the back of a placemat was transformed into a hockey rink, and with only a nickle and one pencil they choreographed the game they had negotiated before dinner. Players moved. Shots fired. A brief inquiry concluded that this was, indeed, a game of their own invention, which became evident as they continued negotiating rules along the way as situations called for them.

At some point, Qaiden stood up and walked around behind Pepere on the far side of the table. Q Stood behind his left shoulder. These days they’re the same height–when one is standing and the other sitting. So there they were brown head to salt-n-pepper head. Qaiden rubbed Pepere’s hair absently.

“Your hair is soft,” he said, “like a white kitten.”

The noise of the deli paused for a heartbeat as we took in what he said. Time paused for the blink of an eye. My dad, chuckled. So the rest of us did, too.

I missed the picture of that moment with the camera, but I’ll hold it with me just the same. A night when he could be big enough to not mind his older brother re-inventing previously agreed upon rules, and small enough for an innocent remark to tickle us all.

An Unconventional Egg Hunt–Slice of Life Challenge Day 10

Yesterday was a blustery March day. You might be thinking of Pooh and his Blustery Day.

It was just tipping toward light as I zipped my jacket over pajamas and slipped bare feet into sneakers. I ducked out the kitchen door and made my way through the bushes alongside the driveway. I stepped gingerly onto the grass, wondering how soggy it would be from a soaking rain a few days past. When no dampness seeped into my feet I shifted my focus to the dormant winter-weary lawn ahead.

There was one

And another.

They  were spread across half the neighbor’s front yard.

I did my best ninja-mom impression as I crept from one to the next, collecting them as quickly as I could.

When my hands were full I made my way back around the bushes to the barrels at the end of my own driveway. The lids had flopped open and flapped in the gusts. Pressing my collection back into the recycling bin, I replaced the lids and leaned into them, willing them to stay.

The coast was still clear. I scurried back into the warmth of the house.

“Have a good day, Q! See you tonight. Remember, Daniel has band after school.” My hand rested on the edge of the door as I started to close it.

Then something caught my eye. I scanned the area. Oh no.

This time in my work clothes and slippers I slipped through the door behind my son. “Q, help! Quick, help me get this before your bus comes.” We could already hear an engine down the hill and around the next corner.

Together we fanned across the neighbor’s front yard and down the street collecting bits and bobs. An egg carton. A sale flyer.

I imagined the annual egg hunts that probably happen in this new-to-us neighborhood where the neighbors go carolling together for the first snowfall and trick-or-treat by the hundreds. Lost in this revery, I almost didn’t see the around the corner neighbor walking towards us with her dog, and a puzzled look.

We’d been spotted!

And here came the bus.

Q hurriedly made the handoff of his haul and scrambled for his school things. I just as hastily thought up a clever response for the curious onlooker.

“This isn’t your usual egg hunt, is it?” I smiled, and made a shy wave once my hands were empty.

Please let these lids stay closed once I leave for school!

 

 

Slice of Life Challenge Day 14

There is something mesmerizing about watching the snow.

Sometimes it’s mesmerizing because it drifts weightlessly down, flake after flake. A peaceful meditation like a breath. In those moments my heart slows to the pace of the falling. Thump…thump.

Today’s is not that kind of snow.

Today my gaze is transfixed by the power and fury of snow. It is whipped relentlessly by an angry wind. That anger drives it straight ahead down the road charging an unseen foe. Then suddenly it curls back on itself as if rebuffed, swirling in a chaotic retreat. It returns wave after wave of an attack,  once more into the breach. Yet somehow within the fierce onslaught there are small islands of calm, where the flakes hover, civilians stranded between opposing forces.

My heartbeat quickens, matching the intensity of the storm.

 

An embarrassing realization…and the right expert–Slice of Life Challenge Day 8

slice-of-life-badgeThese are the things that make me late.

I was sitting in my office cranking out reports on our new universal screening results, feeling productive. Ten more minutes until I was scheduled to be in a classroom to read with a certain little face that lights up.

Don’t ask how I came to notice it; that detail is lost to history because the shock of the discovery brought instant focus to what came next.

Back up with me for a moment. I learned to sew when I was younger and from time to time I am inspired to sew again. Last spring I made several skirts for myself. I’d been nervous about actually starting to cut the pattern (in case I got it wrong), but I dared and I did. This is my favorite resulting skirt. It looks like work clothes, but since its flannel, it feels like comfy clothes. Which brings me back to cold, wet, dreary today…

My mind snapped to attention as my fingers ran across the fabric. I expected a smooth, soft expanse of flannel, but this was NOT. What was this? No. It couldn’t possibly be. It was. A three inch hole along one seam.

No! This is not good. I’m at school! I don’t have extra clothes here. Could I borrow something from the nurse, I wondered momentarily? A picture of my little toe sticking out of a pair of Dora sweatpants fluttered into and out of my imagination. Nope. The elementary school nurse is not a source of emergency clothing for grown ups.

At this point I could feel the adrenaline surge as I imagined walking into a classroom only to have the hole get worse.

I could staple it. That would preserve my modesty for today. But it would ruin my favorite skirt. I needed help, fast.

I can go see Donna. Our school secretary can find solutions to everything. Plus, she runs an after school enrichment sewing class. Maybe she has a needle.

Donna saved the day again. Not only was there a needle, there were three sewing machines just down the hall. One of them had thread that matched the colors in my skirt. Bonus.

Ok. For any of you who have used a sewing machine, you typically sit in front of it, with pieces of fabric pinned together inside out, easily maneuverable so you can make a straight, invisible seam. That was not going to happen since I was still wearing the skirt.

Imagine, if you will, standing in front of the table in the computer lab, with a chunk of your skirt compressed under the foot of the sewing machine. You can see the foot pedal through the hole in the computer table, the one meant for power cords. Balancing on one foot, looking over the top of the sewing machine to where the seam of the skirt is held in place, you press gently with the other foot to start the needle pumping…

WAIT!

I don’t have scissors. If I stitch myself now I’ll be stuck to the sewing machine two doors down from the nearest help.

Scamper back to the office for scissors. Reset the precarious position: skirt under the foot, balancing, peering over the back of the machine and through the hole to the pedal. Go.

Well, it’s not pretty. I’ll have to carefully pick out these stitches tonight when I get home to my jammies and my own sewing kit. But at least I don’t have to worry about splitting the seam in front of anyone today.

Please!

Today’s lesson could be: come prepared. But I think it’s actually: Know the experts around you.

Donna is always expert at solving problems, but she was uniquely able to provide the solution to this embarrassing sewing emergency. At home I have go to family members for different needs. At school are we recognizing and validating all the experts among us? Do we know which teachers in our buildings have a special knack with diffusing tense situations or crafting read alouds? Do we know which of our young readers and writers have a know how that they could lend us or teach their classmates?

It just might save the day!

A Little Nudge–Slice of Life Challenge Day 7

new-slicer-badge

I tapped the twitter icon and refreshed the page.

Oh, there are 4 notifications I mused. I wonder what got a retweet?

I clicked to the notifications screen.

Well, how about that? I haven’t heard from her in a while.

My eyes squinted as I tried to read the post on my phone.

Yup, that looks like an invitation! Hmm. I hadn’t decided whether to go to that. Sounds good but…there might be…stuff…people might need me for…      

…nothing. People don’t really need me for anything that day. I’ll just ask if she’s really coming. If she is, I’d go.

I love to travel, and I love going to anything literacy related…but sometimes I need a little nudge to get out of my proverbial pajamas and go.

So thank you to the colleagues and friends who nudge me from time to time.

I will be going to the Teachers College reunion March 18th. I look forward to seeing friends there. The old, and maybe some new ones! Do you need a nudge?

 

 

 

To the Gentleman Who Felt Disrespected and Dismissed–Slice of Life Challenge Day 6

new-slicer-badgeHe stepped to the microphone on the far side of the auditorium. The first thing I noticed wasn’t his expression. That corner of the room was poorly lit so his face was difficult to see. It was how straight he was standing. His back and shoulders were rigid. His wasn’t the temerity of the petite teacher-mom who preceded him, folded in on herself and practically vibrating with nervous energy. What was it?

“My name is John* and I’m from [town X]” he announced. “I have two questions, although depending on the answer to the first one, the second may be self-evident.” He turned at this moment so that instead of facing the Congresswoman he faced all of us sitting in the theater of the community college on a Sunday afternoon. “I’m a conservative. You all probably hate me for that. Admit it.”

A murmur rippled across the room.

“No sir, I do not,” I heard nearby.

“There probably aren’t even any other Republicans here today. Are there any?” he challenged. Ten different hands pointed high. Most calmly. A few proudly. None of them defensive or defiant. The fingers were relaxed.

John began to explain why he was so upset. He’s been noticing, as many of us have, a divisiveness in our society. He’s felt himself and his ideas to be the target of hateful rhetoric. He accused what he perceives to be a (left leaning) majority of moral narcissism.

He shared an anecdote about a long time acquaintance of his. After one conversation that had them both a bit aggravated from their opposing viewpoints the other man stood up and said, “I don’t like what you said, but I respect that you told me.”

I’ll admit that John’s combative challenge to the crowd initially prickled my own defenses. The charge of moral narcissism stung. What if he was right?

The town hall meeting ran far past the scheduled conclusion and I had family expecting me at home for dinner. But I found myself looking over to where John sat as the final community members wrapped up their questions and concerns. I found myself still looking to him as I was carried by the tide of people when we stood to leave. Once you’re in the stream it’s tough to move out of the current.

I was torn. A not small voice was telling me to walk over and introduce myself. But I’m a little shy about stepping outside my comfort zone socially. And the kids. And…well before I had talked myself into doing it I was out the door.

It just seemed like maybe we’re all feeling attacked lately. No matter which side of the issues we’re on. And when our fists are balled and our backs are stiff with strong feelings, it’s easy to glaze the other as the worst possible version of himself. We set up strawmen that would be easy to revile. Except I bet John isn’t someone I would truly revile if I knew him. For one thing he had the courage to face a room full of what he was convinced were hostile opponents. For another, he seems to believe, like my dad, that “while I may not agree with what you have to say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Maybe if we each reached out and introduced ourselves to one person across the spectrum, not to debate, but to find the places where what we hope and hold dear is the same. As the Congresswoman pointed out, if we took the time to show up on a Sunday afternoon, we all care about our country and our communities. That’s a  start. What else do we share? My guess is that while our plans for how to go about it may be wildly different, we’re really not.

 

*I didn’t catch his actual name.

From My Window–Slice of Life Challenge Day 9

The first few moments of morning move slower than the others.

Soon the kitchen will hum with breakfast grabbing and lunch packing and last minute arrangements for the day. Lights will flicker on one after another.

But now is the slow, quiet time.

I pad to the kitchen, my bare feet relishing the cool, smoothness of the wood floor. I lean against the sink and let my focus drift out the window.

It’s still as dark outside as inside.

I stand a moment longer as a pair of headlights stalks on silent feet toward me. Another pair slides across from left to right. A third set creeps forward, but pauses at a curb for a beat, another, another, before it pulls away.

All is still again. The neighbor’s motion sensor has triggered their driveway light. The inviting house across the street comes into focus. A row of mailboxes stand sentinel on the corner.

Two breaths. The space of three heartbeats.

Finally, I click on a single light above the sink.

Good morning.

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the degrees– Slice of Life Challenge Day 5

How do I love thee? Let me count the degrees.

I love thee to the depth the temperature

Can reach, when feeling in my toes and cheeks

has fled and left me leaden without heat.

I love thee most when least degrees there are,

For on those cold dark days what games do come–

Aye there’s the rub.

We shuffle in all bundled from the core

With coats, hats, scarves, with gloves, and mittens more–

As big around with poufy layers on

As I am tall beside your skated form.

Oh, to be warm!

Yet week on week we pack the hockey bag

Climb in the car, and to the rink we drag

All manner of layers, blankets, clothes

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield (the warmth).

 

I was inspired by the suggestion to try a poem…and by a particularly cold early morning game today. Points if you can identify any of the various mentor texts represented here. Bonus points if you can spot where I inverted one of my mentor texts.

 

Being cold is quite possibly the thing I like least in the world.

So both my boys are hockey players.

 

Lots of things make the hockey life a hard one…long drives, long hours, early mornings, late nights, seeing your children hurt or injured (those are not the same thing). But for me, the cold is usually the hardest. 2/3 of the way through any game my toes start to ice up and the chill climbs up through my bones into my soul. On the days when the games are back to back, when hour three at the rink begins and the second game won’t end for another two…it would take an industrial, mammoth sized hand dryer blowing across my icy appendages to start to thaw me out.

So, Boys, always remember I love you both.