Too Sad

I learned this morning that my oldest son’s best childhood friend passed away. I don’t know any details, but I don’t really need to. It’s a tragedy no matter what the cause. Only 42. The boys met in Kindergarten and became fast friends all the way through high school. Always welcome at each other’s houses. Always hungry. Always laughing, wrestling, listening to music.

I’ve been sad all day. I considered not writing, but I know writing helps. I’m sad my son lost a part of his childhood. I’m so sad for our friend’s parents. I think that is the part that I am carrying today. How do people go on when they have lost a child? One breath at a time.

It’s late. Be safe. Sleep well. All my love.

Thank you TWT. You make a difference.

Stink Bugs

Happy to be participating in the SOLSC! Thank you TWT!

In September, I started teaching my granddaughter to read over Zoom. It’s one of the blessings of being retired. I have the time to build a relationship with Alice that I missed with her older siblings all the years I was working full-time at school. Alice has come a long way from not knowing all her letters and sounds to this week’s lessons using -nk.

-ank. bank. ank.
-ink. pink. ink.
-onk. honk. onk.
-unk. junk. unk.

Some of you may recognize this drill for teaching students word parts. Alice and I have been working with this pattern. She was ready to give it a try in a book called Stink Bugs.

We were reading along and Alice was decoding very well. She decoded rostrums which was pretty impressive. Did you know that a stink bug has a rostrum which is like a long straw for a mouth? It can stick its rostrum into berries and flowers to drink. When not eating, it tucks the rostrum under its belly between its legs. Pretty handy.

Next we read about the life cycle of the stink bug. The pictures were vivid. I was having a great time learning about stink bugs (which have migrated to Virginia only recently). Alice clearly wasn’t having as much fun.

“Excuse me, Grandma. I don’t mean to be rude, but why are we reading THIS book?” She was so earnest. I had to chuckle a little as I explained that we were reading it to practice -nk words. Then I mentioned that it’s good to read nonfiction because we can learn cool stuff. “But Grandma, stink bugs are gross and icky!”

What do you think?

Pentatomidae - Halyomorpha halys-001.JPG
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Holding Hands

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space to share my stories.

Feeling somewhat depleted, I absent-mindedly scrolled through Facebook for the umpteenth time. I stopped when I saw that my granddaughter’s kindergarten teacher had posted a new photo. I always love seeing Maggie no matter the setting. Today’s picture was celebrating “Colorful Day.” Mrs. S. is a young teacher in her second year of her career. I have been so impressed with how she has navigated this school year so that Maggie is happy and having a great introduction to school.

I touched the picture and spread my fingers to get a closer look. Where was my Maggie in this crowd of kindergarteners? “Ah, there she is!” I thought and smiled.

Then, imagine my delight when I could see that Maggie was holding hands with her friend, Kenzie. Is there anything more heartening than kindergarten friendships? It just made me so happy. For a moment, I wasn’t afraid she would get sick, or that she was breaking a rule. For a moment, I saw only kindergarten love.

Image from Google

Thirty Minutes of Peter

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for making this a safe, supportive space to write.

I had finished teaching on this blustery first day of March. I knew chores and bill paying awaited me at home. Considering the time, I texted my daughter to see if she was at home. She was.”Yes!” I said to myself.

My daughter’s apartment is on my way home from teaching. I was there in 2 minutes. As I walked up the steps, my heart felt light. I didn’t mind the wind or cold.

When I opened the door, I smelled the delicious aroma of homemade minestrone soup. We greeted and she handed me her Peter, now 5 weeks old. I sat down in the rocker. He fussed a little, but then he settled into my arms. He held my finger and was soon asleep. I couldn’t help but stare at his eyelashes, his little hands, his soft cheeks. We rocked, and I chatted with my daughter. I waited until he gave up a big sigh, knowing that I could hand him back without waking him.

Every now and then, it feels good to know that you can still give what a baby needs, and by that, receive what you need. It was exactly what I needed today. Thirty minutes of Peter.

3/1/2021

Poems in the Chat

For many of us, Zoom and similar platforms have been a blessing and a curse. For me, Zoom has been mostly a blessing which has allowed me to make new friends and stay in touch with family.

The chat function is an interesting feature. It can enhance what it being said; it can hold questions; it can provide humorous asides (or snarky comments); it can provide links for further study. In my experience with my writers group at TeachWrite, the chat does all of these things. Sometimes, serendipitous things happen.

One night, a group member was listing her writing goals for the week and ended with “and a partridge in a pear tree.” We all laughed. Next up, the science teacher. He listed his goals, but shook his head when others tried to add the partridge to his list. A chat opportunity opened!

I started with “A falcon in a fir tree?”
Someone else followed with “An owl in an oak tree?”
Then, “A sparrow in a spruce?”
And, “A cardinal in a conifer?”

I realized in that moment, my community of writers had extemporaneously collaborated on a small poem-ish text. It was a moment of happiness for me. I felt I belonged.

Image from Pixaby.com

Come, See

A friend introduced me to the Blitz Poem, a form you can read about here. I began the process with a simple line and was surprised by where the poem ended up. It was a lot of fun to play with. I hope you enjoy my first attempt at a Blitz Poem.

Read a book
Read a poem
Poem of love
Poem of joy
Joy in smallness
Joy in sound
Sound the trumpets
Sound the drums
Drums of gladness
Drums of warning
Warning against hate
Warning of storms
Storms inside minds
Storms clearing air
Air for breath
Air for space
Space for all
Space to be
Be just
Be brave
Brave to share
Brave to give
Give light
Give joy
Joy in sorrow
Joy in silence
Silence to honor
Silence to revere
Revere what’s good
Revere what’s true
True kindness
True to you
You are mine
You are song
Song of birds
Song of mothers
Mothers who walk
Mothers who run
Run to truth
Run to rivers
Rivers over rocks
Rivers through lowlands
Lowlands toward oceans
Lowlands looking back
Back to children
Children skipping rocks
Children playfully calling
Calling Hey Mom
Mom come see
See me

I think this exercise, or form, would be fun to do with small groups or even a whole class. There is so much unexpected pleasure in making the last word, the first word. The possibilities are endless!

Reading with Alice

In August, I asked my son if I could practice my teaching with technology skills with my granddaughter, Alice, who is a home-schooled 6-year old. I was thrilled when he and his wife agreed. Alice is the fifth of six children and has a spunky (sometimes sassy) personality. I figured I could help her with her reading as I became more comfortable with Zoom-style instruction.

We now have a routine to work together four mornings a week for about 40 minutes. I sent her a box of reading tools. She has magnetic letters and a tray, a mini-whiteboard, a “bumpy” board, crayons, markers, and a composition book. I also sent her some decodable readers and emergent readers to get her started.

One day last week, we were working with the word, “come.” I knew she would be needing that word soon. First, we tapped it on our left arms and said the letters, c-o-m-e/come. We repeated that several times. We wrote it in the air, on the whiteboard, and with our eyes closed.

I said, “Alice, can you build the word come?”

Immediately, she sat up tall. She pushed the laptop back a little. She moved some papers, and wiggled her bottom in her chair. Finally, she let out a big sigh, and said, “Okay, let’s DO this!”

Whereupon, she built it. I’ve never seen a prouder smile on a child’s face. She turned her tray to the camera to show me “c-o-m-e.” It was perfect.

Next, we got out our book for the day.

I said, “Alice. I think you know a word in this title.”

“Come!” she squealed.

A reading teacher grandma’s delight.

Not the first day of school

If I had not retired,
Today would have been the first day of school.
Today I would have had the jittery joy of a new beginning.
I would have combed my shelves for just the right book to read.
I would have had new markers and notebooks to share.
I would have worked hard to learn new names and remember names of former students.
I would have dressed up and put on lipstick.

But today is not my first day of school, so I spent the day imagining it.
September, 2020 marks a shift in what school is and what it may become. I hope that school will open like a dahlia bloom with every petal having its place in the Fibonacci sequence. Each petal important to the shape, color, and size of what is possible.

It’s not my first day of school, and I miss it deeply. September beginnings are in my blood. This is my time to find out what the school of life has to teach me next. Perhaps it can be my first day of school, after all.

Rage Against the Roach

It’s war. This week we have had many heavy rains and I have come across not one, but four large American cockroaches in the house. They are huge! More than 2 inches long. Some may think their cherry wood brown color a lovely match to my end tables, but I’ve been freaking out. I don’t know how they are getting in as their habitat is OUTSIDE.

I found one roach already dead downstairs. Relief. The next one I trapped under a glass. After showing it to the grandsons, my husband took it outside. The third I was able to wound and catch; whereupon, it was promptly flushed.

Then last Thursday evening, I happened to glance up at the painting over the fireplace and was horrified to see another creeping down the wall. It was huge! The biggest one yet with long feelers moving every which way. I jumped to my feet, grabbed a flip-flop, and was determined to end this invasion of my home.

It dropped. It moved so fast; I couldn’t find it. A few minutes later, I heard a noise coming from behind the lamp on the window blinds. Aha! I whacked it with my flip-flop, but only grazed it. It dropped again. I saw it hiding in the corner. Slowly, I crept toward that brown menace. Whack! Whack! [scream] Whack! I know I made contact, but that blasted roach took off again.

I moved the couch ready to pounce. It had vanished. I got up twice in the night to surprise attack. But there was no roach. I’ve been on edge ever since. Roach #4 is still at large.

My husband reminds me that cockroaches have existed longer than mankind, and that they will likely survive long after we’re gone. That was not comforting, thank you very much.

August 11, 2020

All the best to my teacher friends and colleagues who are beginning this unprecedented school year! You can do it!

*****

This may be a ramble, but I have many things going through my mind. As teachers are preparing for the fall and school decisions are filling the news, the reality of my retirement is sinking in. I think I have noticed it as a bit of relief that I don’t have to be the one to support the reading needs of an entire school during distance learning. Our county has decided on virtual instruction at least through the first quarter.

That said, I am retired, but I am also a learner. I have continued to sign up for webinars and virtual conferences to do my best to stay current with my skills as a reading teacher and to improve my skills with technology. I’ve also signed up with teacher/writers at https://www.teachwrite.org/ to participate in writing workshop. Many are virtual friends from this SOL community. I have loved writing with them and trying new things in my notebook.

I also signed up to take a course in learning to draw with https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/home. This is a stretch goal for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but lost my confidence when my 8th grade art teacher said things that made me feel like I had no talent and it wasn’t worth my effort to try. I realize now how sad that was and how many years have gone by that I let her voice speak too loudly in my ear. I’m ready to try, to enjoy, and not to worry if I have talent or not.

People often said that I had a talent for playing the piano. There may have been some talent, definitely exposure to classical music at home, but I also WORKED at playing the piano. I spent probably 15-20 hours per week for 10 years of my young life practicing scales, argeggios, Hanon, and the great piano literature of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Those practice hours have served me well. Music will always be an important part of my identity.

Now I have some freedom to explore and expand my identity further. I’m going to work at my writing and my drawing over the next few months. We’ll see what happens.