Who Stood Behind You This Year? #SOL21

I’m 7 school days away from the end of the most challenging year of my 23 year teaching career. I’ve taught in person for the majority of the year though I did teach remotely for a short time in September and again between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I spent the first two and half months of the school year teaching a 2nd grade hybrid class where every day I had 14 students in person and 5 students join my class remotely. I’ve heard this modeled referred to as “the unholy hybrid model” and I have to say, I agree. Thankfully, my district realized this wasn’t best for K-2 students. Sadly, my 3-5 colleagues have continued teaching this way the entire school year.

We teachers have been through a lot this year. Personally, I could not have made it through this year without my husband by my side every step of the way. While I went off each day facing the risks of exposing us to a possibly deadly virus he worked from home. As he worked from home he also assumed many of the domestic duties that we used to share. Laundry, cooking and dishes pretty much became solely his responsibilities. While we planned our meals together and I pretty much did all the grocery shopping, he’s been cooking and doing all the dishes for the entire school year. This school year has left me exhausted at the end of each day. We would have starved if I was responsible for the cooking and our kitchen would have looked like the kitchen in The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes.

We went away this weekend to celebrate his birthday so we didn’t do our usual menu planning and grocery shopping for the week. I texted him at lunchtime to let him know I couldn’t get to the store after school. Between after school meetings and needing to be ready for tomorrow it just wasn’t going to happen. I knew we were running low on most things but he texted back a thumbs up emoji followed later in the day by “I’m working on dinner now.”

He pulled together the most amazing mediterranean influenced dinner of marinated grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, brown rice and an amazing garlicky sauce. I could have been convinced he ordered take out from our local Greek restaurant but I actually watched him cook it. Coming home to our nightly dinners has been the highlight of my day this year. Most nights if I even attempt to start doing the dishes he just waves me away. I never could have made it through this year without him and I can’t thank him enough for all the love, help, kindness, patience and understanding he has shown me this year.

Teachers, we’ve had a rough year but many of us have had family and friends who have stood behind us and held us up throughout this year. Give them an extra hug and kiss this evening.

Part of the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Knitting a Heritage Day 25 #SOL21

Over the past year knitting has been the activity that has brought me peace and helped me to escape all that has been happening in the world. I didn’t realize the key role my knitting had played during the pandemic until I took some time at the end of 2020 to reflect on the year. I’ve been knitting for 35 year and this past year I’ve probably knitted more than any other time in my life.

I’m intrigued by the stories of how knitters learned to knit. While most knitters have taught themselves to do a variety of stitches and techniques it seems every knitter learned from someone else the basics of knitting and purling. I especially enjoy the stories of knitters who have been taught to knit by a relative. I appreciate the family heritage that is created by passing on knitting skills from generation to generation.

I learned to knit from my husband’s grandmother. At the time she was called Gram but she came to be called Grandma Myrtle once she became a great-grandmother. I don’t recall where my interest came from but Grandma Myrtle was always knitting something as she relax in the evening so I asked her if she would teach me to knit. Most people start with something easy like a scarf but for some reason I decided to tackle a sweater for my then 1 year old nephew. Thinking back on that now I wonder if she thought I was crazy. I would never recommend a sweater as a first knitting project but I don’t recall Grandma Myrtle being phased by my ambition.

Grandma Myrtle guided me through each step of the project from ribbing to knitting in the round, increased stitches, decreased stitches and weaving in ends. I would often have to wait until I saw her to move on to the next step because at the time there were no YouTube videos to help me. She never discouraged me and was patient when it took me a few tries to learn something new. I eventually finished the sweater for my nephew and actually knitted several more sweaters for friends’ babies and even my own son.

My knitting journey has included blankets, shawls, dish clothes, socks, mittens hats and more. Grandma Myrtle left us almost 10 years ago now about 6 months after she turned 100. I’m so glad I learned to knit from her. There’s a piece of her in every one of my knitting creations. I’m passing on what she has taught me to my daughter-in-law and I know it would please her to see her craft passed down. I know she passed on her craft to her granddaughter and I hope between the two of us we are able to keep this family heritage going for generations to come.

Sharing a little of Grandma Myrtle in the hats I knit for my daughters-in-law for Christmas 2020

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

Revelation #SOL20 Day 25

“You sound different.”

“What do you mean I sound different?” I said as I descended from my office classroom. I had just finished doing my daily Morning Meeting over Zoom with my 2nd graders and it was time for a late morning snack so I ventured to the kitchen.

“When you’re teaching, you sound different. Your tone of voice, it’s different. You’re just . . . different.”

It seemed like my husband thought a stranger had emerged from our upstairs office but then I realized he’s never really seen me at work. He’s never really seen what I do day in and day out when I’m with my kids. He sees all the preparations. The hours of making plans, creating materials, reading children’s literature and this year pouring over my Units of Study in Phonics as I learn yet another new teaching resource, but he’s never really seen me carry out all those plans.

I’m an introvert by nature but elementary teachers, especially in the primary grades, need to have the qualities of an extrovert. So, every day as my kids stream into my classroom I transform into Teacher Beth. Teacher Beth loves to get silly at Morning Meeting, do read alouds and get kids excited about books, use my mascot Gus to help me teach phonics, get over the top excited when someone shares a math strategy, or embellish a personal narrative to help make a teaching point.

“My job is a little like acting, you know, putting on a performance.” I explained. “I have to act different when I’m in front of a group of kids.”

“I guess I never really thought about it.” he said.

“As an introvert I really do need to become someone different in my classroom. It takes a lot of energy for me to do that.” I shared.

“That explains why you’re exhausted when you get home.” he concluded.

“Exactly!” I replied.

There’s so much we’re learning through this strange experience of social distancing and quarantine. I’m sure we’re all seeing a side of those we live with we’re not used to seeing. I hope my husband likes Teacher Beth, I’m not sure I can tell yet. Maybe once he gets over the shock I’ll know.

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Two Writing Teachers

#pandemicbirthday #SOL20 Day 24

“Is it over yet?” I asked my husband as I woke up this morning. I have asked the same question many mornings since this started but this morning was a little different because I woke up a year older this morning.

Hopefully celebrating a birthday during a pandemic is a once in a life time thing. I decided to take the opportunity to preserve my special day in photos.

My husband decided since we were stuck at home we would do things a little differently this year. I opened gifts throughout the day rather than after a family birthday dinner. So after my Zoom Morning Meeting it was time to start unwrapping.

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Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 11.16.49 AMNext came some Zoom fun with colleagues.

#who’speelingtheapples?

 

 

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The daily walk in the sunshine was part of the plan.

 

 

 

We practiced some social distancing with the in-laws too.

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And finished the day doing a Google Hangout with all the kids, IMG_3550

We made the best during this strange time. We focused on the important things family, fun and getting out in the sunshine. It will be a birthday to remember. #pandemicbirthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Writing Teachers

 

There Will Be Good #SOL20 Day 22

On our daily walk with the dog today my husband and I were surprised by the number of people we passed out in their yards or walking our neighborhood loop.

“It’s like when we were kids,” he said. I nodded in agreement.

“Everyone’s at home, nobody has sports to go to or activities keeping them busy,” he added.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost 5 years now and I have never seen as many people out and about as we did today. I also realized I don’t know many of them. I know most of the people on my own street but I realized when you no longer have your own kids running around the neighborhood, you don’t meet those who live around the corner or on another street. I guess now is not the time to meet them. For now we’ll just continue to smile and wave from a distance.

Although we’ve only been at this social distancing for a week now we’ve talked about what might change because of this. A few questions my husband had tonight as we cleaned up after dinner were:

Will employers see that people can work from home and be productive?

Will more people start homeschooling?

Will families be less busy with outside activities?

Like the aftermath of 9/11, I believe there will be good that comes out of this. I don’t know what it is right now, but I’m looking forward to seeing it. The reports of less pollution are encouraging. I’ve heard the waters of Venice, Italy have become clearer and dolphins have even been spotted in the water. I would love to see that as my memory of Venice is murky water and the smell of exhaust from the vaporettos.

As difficult as this time is, there has been good that has come out of it. I’m walking more and getting more sleep. I’m writing more regularly and I even have managed to establish a little bit of a routine on the weekdays. Tomorrow is the start of remote learning for my students. I’m having my first Morning Meeting using Zoom tomorrow morning. I’ve received several messages from students and parents telling me they miss me and they’re looking forward to our meeting tomorrow. One parent expressed her appreciation for all my school has done to get ready for remote learning. If nothing else, I believe we will all have a greater appreciation for each other and being able to gather together. I’m looking forward to seeing the good.

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Two Writing Teachers

It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Dishcloth #SOL20 Day 20

I don’t like to admit that I knit dishcloths, but I do. It’s something old ladies do and I’m not an old lady, yet. Knitting provides a creative outlet for me and it helps reduce stress. I’ve seen memes that say I Knit So I Don’t Kill People and I’ve read articles that cite research showing knitting reduces blood pressure so it must be true that knitting reduces stress. Dishcloth projects are very portable and they’re a great project for traveling so I always take one along on a car trip or if I’m flying somewhere. I’ve recently decided I can justify my dishcloth habit with the thinking that a knitted dishcloth is more environmentally sound than a sponge or other disposable cleaning device. I’m on a mission to make knit dishcloths cool.

IMG_3441On my recent spring break trip I knit the yellow dishcloth. It’s for my older sister. The purple one is for my younger sister. We were supposed to be getting together today for a girls’ weekend and I was going to deliver the butterfly dishcloths to them. We were getting together with their daughters for a girls’ weekend because we were supposed to be celebrating my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s wedding shower tomorrow. Thing 2 and soon-to-be Mrs. Thing 2 are getting married in 8 weeks. (I’ll just leave that sentence sit there.)

IMG_3244_2I also knit a dishcloth for my older brother who was a huge Wizard of Oz fan when we were kids. The pattern is called Emerald City and when I saw it I knew I had to knit it for him. Now that I’m blogging about my dishcloth habit I’ll have to find a pattern to knit for my oldest brother in case he reads this post.

If this social distancing and remote teaching go on for any length of time it’s hard to tell who might get a dishcloth from me. Hence my need to make dishcloth knitting cool. My husband’s grandmother taught me to knit and she was pretty cool and, no surprise, she knit dishcloths. My husband’s cousin and I are carrying on the legacy of dishcloth knitting. I’m hoping to pass it on to Mrs. Thing 1 and the soon-to-be Mrs. Thing 2. They both have knitted dishcloths in their homes and I’m sure they think they’re cool.

Follow the link to see some of my cool dishcloths over on Instagram Beachnitter

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Two Writing Teachers

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.