Birthdays, A Moment

It was finally time to open presents. Maggie had been waiting and anticipating this moment for HOURS. She sat in the middle of the living room floor as brightly colored packages and gift bags were carried over to her. Since she was sharing her party with her baby brother, Johnny, there was a little organizing to do.

“This one’s for you, Maggie.”

“No, that one is for Johnny.”

Every gift Maggie opened filled her with delight as her eyes got wider and wider. She squealed, “Ohhhh!!!!” Nail polish, beads to string, and a marble run were hits.

Then came a special gift from her mother. Jill decided that this was birthday for her to pass on her American Girl doll, Samantha, which she had saved for her little girl. There were two boxes. Maggie opened the box and was speechless for a moment. I wonder if she couldn’t believe a doll like that was hers.

The second box turned out to get a bigger response than the first. All the clothes, shoes, headbands, necklaces, and little Samantha knick-knacks Jill had saved were in this box.

“ACCESSORIES!!!” she cried.

The best birthday of her life.



We have a lot of birthdays in March. My son and his wife and 4 of my 12 grandchildren were March babies.

We traveled today to our youngest daughter’s home for the birthdays of Maggie and Johnny, age 4 and 1. Two of my other children drove here as well. It’s been a full, happy day. Here are a few snippets of the day.

Maggie: My birthday is going to be perfect.

Maggie: The cake is just right.

Maggie: Is it time to open my presents?

Maggie: Is it time to have cake?

Maggie: Hey, everybody! It’s time to sing to me!

Maggie: Now is it time to open my presents?

Maggie: Angela, it’s time to sing to me.

Jill: Maggie, it’s time for bed and tomorrow when you wake up, you’ll be four!

Maggie: Then I’ll be older than all of you.

Four-year olds are so wonderful.




Design, Cut, and Glue

Today was the day to celebrate our learning and enjoyment of Eric Carle’s art and stories! Sally, my art teacher friend, came to school and guided my first graders through the steps to think about what they know about Eric Carle, plan their piece, take their painted papers, design, cut, and glue.

First, we read The Man Who Painted a Blue Horse which Eric Carle wrote and illustrated to honor an artist who inspired him, Franz Marc. We talked about color, shape, and size. Then, we set them loose to go to work.  I loved watching each student work through the process. Each had their own idea and own way of working. The results made me so, so happy. Here are a few samples.


If I didn’t know it before, I know now. Humans, and especially kids, need to make art.


I’m lucky to have two friends named Sally. One Sally is my dear friend who writes here. The other Sally is a woman I’ve known for 25 years. We were young mothers around the same time. Her oldest and my 4th child were the same age. I’ll be referring to this Sally in this post.

Sally and I had common friends. The four of us often went to a movie, had lunch, met at the park. We bonded through raising our preschool children. Sally’s education was Recreational Therapy which I thought sounded so cool. Before children, she worked in a prison providing recreational therapy to inmates.

Over the years as our friends moved away, Sally and I were the kind of friends who were always excited to see each other. We could always pick up where we left off and have a great conversation. We continued to have friends in common, but our paths began to cross less often. We were both involved with raising families.

In recent years, Sally has pursued her dream and has opened her own art studio in her home. It’s an attic space with a skylight and tables for students. She teaches children and teens in her home. She also teaches at a facility for patients suffering from dementia. Her passion for bringing happiness through art is beautiful.

I was driving down the freeway on my way to work a few weeks ago when it occurred to me that my enrichment group of 16 first graders might enjoy celebrating their author study of Eric Carle with an art experience. I knew I would need help. I began to think of staff members who might help me, but our staff is stretched pretty thin. Then, I thought of Sally!

Tomorrow is the day she is coming to guide my students in creating pictures in the style of Eric Carle! On Monday, we painted our papers. It took me back to my student teaching days in first grade when my cooperating teacher had an easel set up in her classroom because she believed so strongly that children should have the opportunity to paint as often as possible.

My students were amazing with their use of color and in using a variety of tools to create textures and patterns. Joey is a wiggly, talkative baseball fan who often needs some redirection to stay on task. With a paintbrush in hand, he had the focus of a surgeon. You really see a different side of children when they are free to create. Happy chatter filled the room as color filled the paper. I painted too and felt something reawaken in myself that had been dormant for a time.

I wonder what they will create tomorrow!


The spring equinox can be problematic for some of us. There’s a feeling of being at the tipping point when there are equal parts night and day. Everything is waking up. Cells are dividing everywhere. Pollen agitates and irritates. It’s both beautiful and miserable.  The balance is precarious in each moment. That’s nature.

All day I knew I “should” be celebrating the first day of spring, but instead, I felt a subtle, mild, but pervasive sadness. I can’t explain it. It just is. Tomorrow we’ll lean a little more deeply into spring and a little more the day after that. Maybe I’ll feel better then.

Image result for vernal equinox

Image from Google Homepage, 3/20/2019

Either Or

One of the things I have worked to develop is a mindset that does not say either/or. I have found very few things in my life that are clearly one way or the other. I’m more and more comfortable with ambiguity as I get older. It seems okay to see multiple perspectives.

Recently, I have heard and read Twitter threads that seem to set up an either/or that made me uncomfortable. They seemed to say: Either we’re all in on reading workshop, classroom libraries, and independent reading; OR, we pay the price for having less than that with too many students needing intervention.

I am comfortable with both workshop and intervention. Reading workshops with lovely classroom libraries and lots of independent reading time do sound ideal. Most students will thrive and flourish as readers with such opportunities. But I also know there are students who fake read because they are afraid to let on that they need help.I think we need to think about making it okay to be a kid who learns to read differently. Whether that happens in the workshop or outside the workshop shouldn’t be the issue. As a wise leader once said to me, “Intervention is not a place.” The important thing is that children are met where they are and given what they need.

Some may question why I spend so much of my time at school providing intervention, teaching students to decode text. The short answer is there is a need, and I’ve studied a lot about explicit, direct teaching for students who read differently. I enjoy it and love to see the incremental progress that happens as children start to figure out the code. It means that I often miss the fun of book clubs, discussions, and writing workshop, but if I can provide a bridge or stepping stone for a child to be able to join in one day, I’m happy.

Need to Say

Over nearly 44 years of marriage, we have experienced a lot of living. Looking back, I have some regrets, of course. Who doesn’t? But I wonder if some regrets might not be as deep if at certain points I had been a little more grateful.

So today, I’m just going to say what I need to say.

“Thank you, Steve.”

First, for going outside to check the garden. Even more, for picking 8 daffodils. Even more, for putting them in a vase on the dining room buffet so that when I came upstairs, tired after work, their yellow brightness was the first thing I saw.

It was truly the best part of my day. And I’m deeply grateful.daffodils

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