One Last Look

Dear 18 Year Old Me,

It’s almost time to leave so take a long look before you head westward because you won’t be back except for summer visits. Notice the way the sun sparkles on the water as you drive along Maple Avenue. Do you see how the water touches the sky? You won’t be able to see the horizon like this every day anymore so don’t take it for granted. Take in the sun and the ever squawking seagulls as the cool morning sand oozes between your toes. The sun will only be a sometimes visitor where you’re headed.

You’ll never live in this house again so take a walk around the yard. Make sure it’s when the rhododendron are blooming and not when those hard nuts are falling from the tree in the front yard. Take in the forsythia that grows along the neighbor’s yard right outside your bedroom window. The screened in patio is just to the left. Remember that August night when we sang Happy Birthday to Mom as 40 candles illuminated her face? She wasn’t happy with us. Who knew she would never make it to 60. Mark milestones because you never know when you won’t be able to mark them.

The maple tree still has the L shaped scar from the night the car came barreling through the backyard only to be stopped by the boat anchor in the shed. What a night that was. It was the first time I heard my older brother swear and he didn’t even get in trouble. Remember how Dad tried to coax the neighbor out of the car but she wouldn’t emerge until she had her wig back on? Little did she know there was a gas can nearby. Fortunately, the only damage was to the tree and the contents of the shed but it was a memorable night in our quiet neighborhood. Be thankful for near misses.

The roses are just around the corner. Mom loved the roses. Be careful of the thorns though. Life is kind of like those climbing roses. There will be many beautiful moments but there will be some thorns along the way. You’ll suffer the occasional pains from them but in time you’ll see the beauty. Sometimes it takes a while to see the beauty though. Keep searching, it’s there.

The last stop around the yard will bring you to the tree. You spent hours under that tree watching your little sister play in the dirt with her Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks.  That tree provided shade for your 11 year old self as you watched her blond banana curls blow in the breeze while she rode her Big Wheel in the street with the neighbor boy. Someone would always be there to yell “Car!” as kids played. Kids don’t play in the streets anymore because they are over-scheduled. Make sure your kids have time to play in the street.

You’ll have a few more places to call home after this one and you’ll make great memories in all of them. This first one will always be special though so keep it close to your heart. In the future you’ll only be able to drive by to show your kids and husband but you’ll marvel at how much the trees have grown. Though most of the families have probably moved on each house will always belong to that family who lived there when you were a child. I hope our neighbors are driving by their childhood home and remembering our family and our street games of Kick the Can and Cops and Robbers. There’s no place like home.

Love,

Much Older Me

 

 

 

 

Milestones and Decorating Bags

The cookie baking started today. Forty-five of the 160 cookies I’m baking and decorating for Thing 1’s wedding are baked. The butter for the next batch is on the counter warming to that perfect consistency that makes it dreamy when creamed with sugar. This would have been my life if Food Network had existed when I was teenager. Instead I teach for a living and I’m a cookier in my free time.

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While cookie decorating is a new found hobby my interest in decorating started years ago as a teenager. My younger sister has a Halloween birthday and being the youngest of five children my mom didn’t really have the energy to put a lot of effort into birthday desserts so I delved into cake decorating around the age of 12 or 13. Her Halloween birthday provided many opportunities to practice and maybe helped me land my first job at a local bakery. Not long after, I traded my decorating bag for an ice cream scoop when I was offered a higher paying job at our local Friendly’s restaurant and my cake decorating waned.

Once I became a mom I reignited my interest in decorating and upped my game from icing star covered cakes to fondant. Thing 1 had my first ever fondant cake complete with a family of three bears on a picnic for his 1st birthday. His next birthday brought a return of the icing star covered cake in the shape of Winnie-the-Pooh. I was actually decorating that cake while I was in labor with Thing 2. I distinctly remember finally coming to an agreement on his name between contractions with a decorating bag in hand. Thankfully, my mother-in-law arrived and finished the Pooh cake for me so it was ready for Thing 1’s 2nd birthday party the day I came home from the hospital.

After countless birthday cakes and one Easter lamb cake disaster that has forever been referred to as the “Spam Lamb”, I realized no one in our family really likes cake. Our birthday dessert tradition has expanded to include a peach/blueberry pie, cheesecake and a dessert my family calls Peanut Butter Stuff.

The decorating bags and tips had been packed away for years until this winter. Thankfully, I didn’t get rid of my supplies during the big move of 2015. I knew the decorating bug might hit me again and I wanted to be prepared. When Thing 1 and Thing 2 both got engaged last year I decided it was time to pick up my decorating bag once again and jump into the cookie decorating craze I had been admiring from a far.

I’m now hooked and while many around me express their concern about the daunting task of making 160 cookies for the favor for Thing 1’s wedding next month, I can’t wait to get to the decorating stage of things. I’ve been practicing since my first class back in January with Goody Two Chews and I’ve watched a lot of cookier videos. Thankfully it’s summer and my time is my own. So while many of you may be reading professional development books, attending workshops or taking summer classes I can be found in my kitchen with a decorating bag in my hand once again just like it has been for many other milestones in my life.

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A sampling of my practice cookies. 

A Season of Not Writing?

The last time I blogged was August 7, 2018 while I was sitting on a beach in my home state of Connecticut. Today I’m sitting on a beautiful beach on the Jersey Shore reflecting on the school year I just finished last week. It was a long hard one this year which might explain my season of not writing.

Last year writing was the focus of my evaluation project. This year it was math which was driven by a change in curriculum and a new resource. My writing suffered as did my teaching of writing. A teacher of writing must also be a writer. I feel like I failed at this somewhat this year.

I did write this year but only for my students. I wrote pieces to model the obligatory genres of narrative, information and opinion writing to meet the ever looming standards. Don’t tell, but my colleagues and I snuck in a little poetry at the end once ALL the assessments were done. I modeled using my poet’s eyes to write about something but the topic escapes me now and it’s locked away in my file cabinet until the next time I feel I have the time to sneak in a little poetry.

I’m sure I wrote narrative pieces back in the fall about my new puppy, Milo, but I can’t remember those either. If you’re an elementary teacher you really do need a pet so you always have something to write about. Feel free to quote me if you’re trying to convince your significant other of your need for a pet.

Milo helps out when I’m all out of small moments ideas. His dad is pretty awesome too.

My greatest accomplishment as a writer this year was the information book I wrote about decorating cookies. A new passion I acquired this year as a way to relieve stress and prepare to make cookies for Thing 1’s wedding next month and Thing 2’s wedding next May. Exciting times for my family.

I delved into Book Creator this year with the help of my technology coach. This endeavor motivated even the most reluctant writers in my room this year. I highly recommend it if you’ve been hesitant to give it a try. Learning along side my students was one of the highlights of the year. Here’s my how to book about cookie decorating https://read.bookcreator.com/qSvMHc97kBcJnk9RQkOPfJ0IE9Y2/TC17THBcSdG7Ffw9vf_fDg

Through the encouragement of a much younger colleague (I could have a daughter her age:) I also gave Google Classroom a try during our opinion unit. I had been feeling overwhelmed by trying to conference with 24 writers throughout the year and Google Classroom helped to alleviate some teacher guilt. Though I have to confess I did sometimes feel like I wasn’t really teaching as I sat at my computer commenting on student’s work. Being able to view and comment on their pieces at home had it’s pluses and minuses. In the end, I’m hopeful the experience prepared them a little more for third grade. In addition to MANY changes in my school district this year, 2nd graders having their own Chromebook was new this year which made using Google Classroom more feasible.

I modeled opinion writing with a piece I wrote last year with my husband in mind. Unfortunately, my opinion piece on We don’t need anymore cars at our house was still pertinent so it made its way to my document camera again. I also wrote a passionate plea about our ever shrinking carpet to my principal. This piece helped me model how to write for change. Sadly, the carpet remains and we still have 5 cars at my house. To be fair I haven’t actually shared my letter with my principal. I need to put that on my summer To Do list.

I started this post feeling guilty about my lack of writing this year but as the breeze provides relief from the scorching sun and the waves roll over the sand I’m reflecting on all the good that happened in my writing workshop throughout the year. I may not have blogged or sliced but I wrote for the most important audience I have, my students.

July 24, 2018 . . . Before That

Today is a lazy summer day due to the rain and nothing pressing on my schedule for the day. Not all summer days are like this but many are now. It’s one of the things I treasure about summer, unscheduled days to do as I please or do nothing at all. This morning as I sipped my coffee with a sleeping puppy on my lap Facebook reminded me of past events on July 24th which made me think about writing a Before That Slice of Life.

July 24, 2018

Sipping coffee, puppy sleeping, rain arriving soon.

Before That . . .

July 24, 2017

Breakfast in Venice on a silver tray, train to Verona, gelato in the rain.

Before That . . .

July 24, 2015

Packing up memories, starting a new chapter, first dinner at our new house.

Before That . . .

July 24, 2014

Caribbean sun and a shady palapa with my love.

Before That . . .

July 24, 2013

The nest was full, the sun was shining, reading on the deck with Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Before That . . .

July 24, 2009

Painting shutters by day while taxing to and from the golf course and theater rehearsals.

For the most part time spent scrolling through Facebook posts can be a huge waste of time but it is fun to look back on the memories. Some would have been forgotten without the reminders. I have no idea what might have happened on July 24th in 2016, 2012, 2011 or 2010 but it’s fun to be reminded of the other events. I often don’t look back fondly on the summer of 2009 because all I recall is trying to paint 28 shutters while taxing Thing 1 and Thing 2 to their various summer activities. Today, Facebook helped me to see that time in a more pleasant light. It’s funny how your perspective can change.

If you’re a Summer Mom shuttling your kids to and fro counting the days until they go back to school take some time to enjoy your time with them. These days don’t last forever and while you will enjoy your new found freedom you will miss these days. Take some photos and write some silly Facebook posts so you get a reminder of days gone by in the future and think about what was happening Before That . . .

 

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Two Writing Teachers

 

 

Puppy Training

“Off!”

“Leave it!”

“Drop!”

“No!”

This has been my summer vocabulary as I train my now 12 week old puppy, Milo. We’re currently practicing “Settle Down” as I write. This means I’m sitting with my foot on the middle of a six-foot long leash ignoring the chewing monster on the other end. He is supposed to be sitting quietly at my feet. Instead he’s gnawing on the leash, the leg of my pajamas or the underside of the chair I’m sitting in. We’re supposed to practice this for 30 minutes. It can be a struggle.

Puppy training is exhausting. We take two steps forward and one step backwards all day long. Milo has learned many things over the past 4 weeks. He knows his name, he sits on command and he comes when called. These are huge milestones in the life of a puppy. He still has a lot to learn and some days are better than others.

Yesterday was one of the more challenging days. My knitting bags live in the rocking chair now, my computer cord is laced through the chair and around the top of the table so my computer can charge and my new math materials are stacked on the couch to protect them from puppy teeth. I’m still working on keeping him from chewing the stone on the hearth, the legs of the coffee table and the rocker my husband made entirely by hand without the use of power tools.

Chair

You can visit his woodworking site at Hopkins Woodworking

I know this stage is short lived and all this hard work will eventually pay off. He actually has “Settled Down” as I write and he’s looking up at me and melting my heart. BagTraining a puppy is a lot like teaching. There will be great days and not so great days, strategies that work and ones that don’t and struggles that lead to success and growth. Focusing on the success and growth is the key to staying motivated and moving towards the end goals.

For now I can’t resist the puppy licks on my toes, or is he gnawing on the carpet? It doesn’t really matter because it’s time to grab the umbrella, put on my Muck Boots and head outside. There’s no indoor recess when you’re puppy training.

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Don’t ask me how many treats it took to get this shot.