Friday, April 1, 2016

That is a Wrap wasn't pretty....but I finished. I completed the writing challenge. This is my last official Slice of Life for the month of March....a day late. Spring Break and a road trip across the country visiting family along the way made writing on time each day much more difficult than I anticipated...but that is okay. 31 days and 31 posts....just not one each day there at the end. Even though I didn't complete the challenge exactly the way I was supposed to, I completed it and it wasn't a failure. It wasn't a failure because I took my writer self off of the shelf, dusted it off and nurtured it. I am a writer again! I had the same feeling last year after this challenge. And then, I put that writer self back up on the shelf. If I take it down once a year, that is okay. I am comfortable with that in the season of life right now--the season of raising kids and supporting learners. That writer self will wait for me on that shelf. That's the joy of it.

I appreciate this opportunity and I admire this community of writers. I am better for having been a part of it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Am, Revisited

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.
I am chronically 2-3 minutes late for everything.
I am a believer in balance. I don’t always achieve it, but I always work towards it.
I am a learner, always, and I am very aware of all that I DON’T know.
I am well-aware of my faults (probably too aware).
I am a lover of dessert.
I am a grudge-holder (but I am trying to knock that off.)
I am a person who smiles and waves at people I pass on the road.
I am a post-it user and list-maker.
I am a "the glass is half-full" kind of person.
I am sick of politics. 
I am a home-body, a lover of travel, a country girl and a city kid all wrapped up in one.
I am a reader.
I am a teacher.

And now, I am a writer. Again.


Spring Break Recap

Two grown-ups and three children. Eight days. Forty hours driving. Seven total states. Three destinations. Mountains, prairies, Kansas. Cousins. Love. Laughter.  Family. The Denver Zoo. Late nights and early mornings. Lots of chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookies. The open expanse of road. Creating memories. Family road trip. 


Spring Break Failure
I failed the writing challenge. Well, officially, anyway. Last week on Wednesday, I was packing and getting my family prepared to leave the next day for a Spring Break family road trip. By the time I sat down to write, it was 11:30 Wisconsin time…which meant it was 12:30 eastern time…I had missed the deadline. Disappointment washed over me. It had been going so well! I felt pretty bummed. I kept going, though. With a very long road trip on Friday, I wrote and then posted when we arrived at our destination. I kept going! Even though I had officially “failed” the writing challenge…I really didn’t fail. I was thinking about writing; I was drafting pieces in my head. Most importantly, I set aside time to write and made writing a priority in my life again, at least for the month of March. I participated in the writing challenge last year, too, and those posts are a record of my life at the time. I captured what was happening in my life, what I was feeling and what my thoughts were at that time. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

And then, I got really busy visiting family and missed posting two days in a row and REALLY failed the writing challenge. J

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Playing and bonding
Making the most of the days
To last the next year.

Similar yet different
Hours of togetherness
Laughter, memories.

Forging meaningful
Relationships together
lasting through the years.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Scenes from a Road Trip

4:00 am: Pitch black. Chatty children. Excitement mounting. The road trip has begun!

6:30 am: Children are sound asleep in the back, heads to the side and mouths open. Husband is listening to comedy Pandora station. The sky is lightening. Coffee is needed. 

9:30 am: Frozen soundtrack playing. Everyone appears happy. Chocolate chip cookies all around!

12:00 pm: My turn to drive. Time to catch up on Serial and What Should I Read Next podcasts. Naps, please!

4:00 pm: The boys took turns napping while the two-year-old did NOT nap. The kids are getting restless. Jack keeps complaining about being hungry. We should probably stop for dinner soon.

5:00 pm: I am sick of being in the car.

6:30 pm: I am REALLY sick of being in the car. Trying to listen to the Wisconsin basketball game, I keep hearing complaints about not sharing the iPad mixed in with, “How much longer?” every few minutes. “Daddy is trying to listen to the game!” My husband hollers to the backseat. Someone get me out of this car.

7:30 pm: Almost there. It’s been a long day.

8:00 pm: We have arrived! It’s a flurry of cousins! Everyone is so excited to be here! Yay!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Way Too Many Glasses

We have a plethora of canning jars at our house. In the basement, shelves and plastic trays hold a variety of sizes and shapes. There are random canning jars in our kitchen cabinets, freshly washed after finishing up the jelly or pickled beans. A few crafting projects with canning jars are also scattered about. I love them. I turned a blue one into a soap dispenser in our downstairs bathroom, which really means it was my idea, but my husband turned the blue jar into a soap dispenser.

Recently, probably as a result of all the Fixer Upper episodes I have been watching lately, I decided to use some of these canning jars as glasses. So, I went to the basement and rounded up a collection of jars I thought would make good glasses in a variety of sizes. Then, I pulled all of the rejected glassware out of the cabinet and put in a box to store in the basement. Mind you, I have already pared down our glassware by storing an entire plastic tote of it down in the basement. As I was putting away a few wine glasses by the bar, I kept thinking, “Geez, do we have a lot of glasses.” Seriously.
When we got married, I had a pretty decent supply of glasses, my husband had drink glasses for every kind of cocktail you can imagine, we registered for and received a nice set of everyday glasses and I am pretty sure between the two of us, we had pint glasses for every restaurant and bar we ever visited. And I haven’t even mentioned the vast collection of shot glasses! We both collected shot glasses from our travels when we were younger and neither of us knew the other one collected them. Now they line the top of the bar area.  We have an obscene amount of glasses. Goodwill has nothing on us as far as glassware goes. As I was putting these glasses away, I kept thinking, “We should get rid of some of this stuff.” But, then, I noticed a pint glass from a friend’s wedding and another one from one of my favorite restaurants, and I put them in a box and thought, “We might use them someday.”

This is happening more and more lately. I keep saving things I would not have saved five years ago. I blame my husband. He is a notorious saver. I can’t count the times, though, that I have mentioned something I would like for the house (like a ladder to hold blankets), and he has said, “I have one in the barn,” or goes into the basement and returns five minutes later with the mentioned item. Now, every time I think to get rid of something, I think, “What if I need this someday?” or “That wedding was so fun! I love this pint glass!”

And now the basement storage shelves are out of room.

I can’t even blame my husband. Well, not entirely, anyway. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday

This post was inspired by a slice I read a few weeks ago. Here is my version!

I am thankful for my home, full of windows and memories and laughter.
I am thankful for unexpected surprises like pie and snow days.
I am thankful for the friends of yesterday, the friends of today, and the friends of forever.
I am thankful for a job that I love and learn from Every. Single. Day. Teaching is the best.
I am thankful for words I read, words that resonate, words that change me and words that make me think.
I am thankful for parents who filled my childhood with goodness, gave me strong roots and showed me every day, through example, what a loving marriage and family was all about.
I am thankful for a brother who will still duet "Regulate" with me if I ask very nicely. Neither of us should probably be singing out loud in front of other people.
I am thankful for family--the one I was blessed with, the one my husband brought with him and the chosen family of friends I have found along this journey.
I am thankful for coffee. Every morning. So very thankful for coffee.
I am thankful for Mason, who leaves notes on my pillow that say, "I love you, Mom." Pure joy.
I am thankful for Jack, whose exuberance for life and gentleness for all things vulnerable fills my heart.
I am thankful for Amelia, my baby who is not really a baby anymore, for her giggle and for the way her sweet little head still rests on my shoulder when I sing to her before bed.
I am thankful for my husband--my best friend and partner in this beautiful life.

And it is a truly, beautiful life. For this I know and for this I am forever thankful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Story Time

I love reading to my kids. We always read right before bed. They each pick out a story and we all snuggle up together to enjoy stories. My oldest is reading now, so sometimes he reads to us. Tonight he read Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold (yes, the same Tedd Arnold who writes the Fly Guy books). It is a super cute book that was great fun for my son to read. My kids especially liked listening to all of the different shades of the colors Vincent used to paint his house (helped with that part). I read Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats and Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook. All of these books came from the library. When I hear about good books from professional presentations or blogs I read, I put them on hold at the library so I can read them and share them with my kids...the ones at home AND at school. These particular books have been sitting on my desk for almost 2 was time to read them! Enjoying these books with my kids was definitely a highlight of my day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Smoothies in the Morning

My son Jack, who is almost five (Did I really just write that???? Is he seriously almost FIVE?!?!), enjoys smoothies. One day, quite a while ago, he saw me making my morning smoothie (with spinach) and asked if he could have some. "Absolutely!" I said as I excitedly poured him some, thinking to myself, "YES!! He is getting fruits AND veggies in his system first thing this morning! Point one for Mom! Score!" From then on, sharing my smoothie with him was a sure fire way to make sure he got at least SOME fruits and veggies in him.

Jack is very interested in cooking. He loves to make cookies with Grandma and he likes to make what he calls his "mixes". The kid would go nuts in the kitchen if I'd let him. He would mix eggs with fruit and water and bread and then bake it. He might get one heck of an egg bake. It's hard sometimes to let them do something you KNOW is a bad mix random, weird things in the kitchen. I think I just wrote a mouthful of truth about's hard to let them do something you know is a bad idea. Hmmpth....back to smoothies...

He was pretty excited the other day when I brought a mango home for him from the grocery store. He wanted to put it in a smoothie. This morning, with about 20 minutes until we absolutely had to be pulling out of the garage, I was helping my incredibly persistent and wonderful little boy make a smoothie. You couldn't have paid me to be anywhere else. He was so excited to add all kinds of fruit. He put in raspberries and strawberries, and he let me put in frozen pineapple because I told him it made the smoothie really cold and smoothies are best when they are really cold. He was alright when I explained that we should put a banana in to make it really smooth. He wanted to put in yogurt (straight out of the Go-Gurt squeezee tube), so I helped him cut the top off and squeeze it in. I drew the line at putting muffins in the smoothie. No muffins in smoothies. We all have limits. We mixed it up and tasted it. He said it was good but that it didn't taste enough like mango. I smiled. I don't think he has had enough mango to know what mango is supposed to taste like. He shared his smoothie with his sister and insisted his brother try it.

He was so proud.

Me too.

More than he will ever know.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Boy and His Dog

This evening as I prepared dinner, my oldest son took the dog outside to throw the ball for her. I watched them from the kitchen window as I washed a few dishes. He would throw the ball, she would chase after it and Mason would chase after her. He'd throw it again and she'd chase it and he would run and skip after her. They repeated this for quite awhile. I love seeing them play together.

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, my husband and I talked about how we hoped our dog, Lola, and our child would grow to be good buddies. We imagined she would be protective and loving towards her little human. We thought maybe she would sleep in the baby's room. What a lovely picture we painted!

When we brought Mason home from the hospital, Lola was pretty indifferent. As he grew, she continued to be indifferent. When we brought our second son, Jack, home from the possible, she gave me this look that I took to mean that if she could talk, she would have said, "Seriously? Another baby???? Seriously???" She was not amused. And while you could tell the kids made her a little nervous, she tolerated them just fine; she has NEVER been the slightest bit aggressive. She has never been the kind of dog that is comfortable with them crawling and laying on her, though. She doesn't LOVE them. She looks at us like, "Please help." But she takes it. When we are outside, and she brings me a ball, the boys want to throw it and she brings it back to me every time. I wanted her to love them! I wanted her to play with them! Go! Let them play with you! It made me so sad that Lola didn't love the kids.

To see Mason and Lola playing together tonight warmed my heart. I am hopeful that relationship I hoped for many years ago is blooming now between Lola and our children.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Favorite Movies

Last night during dinner, someone at my table asked about everyone's favorite movie. I mentioned that I liked a lot of movies and it was hard to choose a favorite. I listed a comedy I love (Old School with Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn). He then asked what my next favorite movie was and I froze. I went blank. All of I could think of was There's Something about Mary, which I didn't want to mention because I was trying to think of something a little more important, like Shawshank Redemption. While that movie is good and I liked it, it doesn't really qualify as a favorite. I am probably not going to choose to watch that over There's Something about Mary if I am flipping through channels. It makes me sad. So, of course, since then, I have been thinking about movies I love. Truthfully, I don't really have favorite movies. I have movies I really enjoy--movies I can watch over and over again and while I like movies, I don't really LOVE movies in general. I am not a "movie buff" like some people I know. I don't go to a lot of movies in the theater. I don't watch all of the Oscar-nominated movies; I didn't even watch the Oscars this year. When I think of someone who loves movies, I think of my brother. He watches a lot of movies and he can have a pretty deep conversation about important themes and messages and what thought processes the movie evoked in him. He embraces movies, learns from them and connects the movie to his own life if he can. A movie he convinced me to watch was Gran Torino. Excellent movie. Hard to watch at times. Important message, and Clint Eastwood was amazingly convincing.

Growing up I watched a lot of movies, so I have a good working knowledge of movies from the eighties and nineties. Not so much anymore. The truth is, I don't watch a whole lot of new movies these days. By the time the kids go to bed and my husband and I could sit down and watch a movie together, I am bound to fall asleep and miss half the movie. We tend to flip through the channels and settle on a good comedy we have seen twenty times already.

My definition of "favorite" movies would have to be movies that thoroughly entertain me and make me laugh. I love comedies. I have seen many though-provoking, feel good movies with excellent messages, and while I do enjoy those, I am not going to watch them over and over again. I also enjoy a good chick flick (like Sweet Home Alabama). I would not say that my favorite movies are Oscar-deserving or cinematic marvels...these movies make me laugh...usually these are not the movies that make me think really hard. These are in no particular order, but here are some movies I love to watch over and over again. I am sure there are many more, but these are the ones that pop into my mind.

1. Old School ("Let's go streaking!!")
2. There's Something About Mary
3. The Hangover (Seriously. I have never laughed so hard in my life.)
4. Both of the National Treasure movies--love them!
5. Baby Mama (Tina Fey AND Amy Poehler!!!)

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Every year in March, the high school music department in our district puts on an amazing event entitled Cabaret. There are a variety of performances including ensemble performances, solos, duets, musical and vocal performances. In addition to preparing for their performances, the students also decorate, help prepare and serve a meal to the audience, clean up, help each other prepare and practice. It was an absolutely amazing event. 

I find it fascinating what songs and music the students chose and why. Music speaks to us all differently at different times in our lives. I imagine the task of picking songs could be quite daunting. How would you pick songs? Would you pick the ones you just love? The ones that speak to you? The ones that remind you of someone or something? 

A variety of music were chosen by the student. The theme was "Time Warp" so as you can imagine, there were songs from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. It was so fun to see what they picked. One of my favorite numbers was "Unpretty" (originally performed by TLC in the late nineties). The young women who performed it have beautiful voices, and to see two beautiful young women sing a song about the importance of looking inside of yourself to find beauty rather than what you see on the outside, was incredibly inspiring. I hope all of the young girls and women who were there tonight took what I took from this song. So many of the numbers performed tonight were songs I remember listening to growing up--songs originally performed by bands such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. So many songs took me back to meaningful moments in my life. This is the beauty of music, right--it speaks to us all. 

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to attend this event. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Basketball and Pizza

It is an awesome Friday night. My husband picked up Papa John's Pizza (my favorite pizza) including dessert, and we are watching our Badgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Now, basketball isn't usually my thing...until March Madness. I'm into it come March...but truthfully, only as long as the Badgers are in it. The kids are thrilled because we are letting them have a "picnic" in the family room, which is definitely a treat. It is Friday night, we are enjoying family time, pizza and basketball. We have the whole weekend looming before us. After a long week, this is perfect!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Laundry Chute Etiquette

We have a laundry chute in our house. It goes from our master bedroom to the basement where the washer and dryer are. The laundry chute also passes through our mud room/den, which is great for dirty clothes when the kids come in from outside. In theory, the laundry chute is a great asset to our home. The kids can throw their laundry down the chute and there is less clutter around the bedrooms. Sounds great, right? Well, it would be if anyone besides me in this house knew how to appropriately use the laundry chute!! BLAHHHHH! I can't tell you how many times I go to the laundry chute to toss down my clothes--one at a time so the chute doesn't jam--and there are clothes stuck and blocking the chute. It is not a super wide laundry chute, which is part of the problem. But, seriously--adjust accordingly! One piece of clothing at a time. And if it looks stuck, it is stuck! Pull it out and try again! MOST of the time, the laundry will NOT just slide down the chute. It is stuck. I spend a fair amount of time pulling clothes out of the laundry chute and then putting the clothes back down one at a time. Tonight I seriously considered just putting a laundry basket in front of the chute and I will just do it myself on a nightly basis. I bet you it would take less time and therefore be more efficient. Isn't that what we are all after when it comes to housework? 

Laundry chute etiquette classes begin tomorrow.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Girl Scout Cookies

The other day I realized we were running low on Thin Mints. Slight emergency! My favorite treat these days is a Thin Mint milkshake. My husband makes the best milkshakes. So, I quickly texted a friend from work (her daughter sells Girl Scout cookies), ordered up five boxes and breathed a sigh of relief. The next day, the cookies were waiting for me on my desk. They were her last five boxes of Thin Mints! Whew!  That night, I tossed the boxes of cookies into the freezer (because everyone knows frozen Thin Mints are the best Thin Mints). Crisis diverted!

As I tossed those cookies into the freezer, I thought of my mother. My mother LOVES Thin Mints. When I was a Girl Scout many moons ago, she would order at least eight to ten boxes each cookie season. She was one of my biggest orders. She still loves Thin Mints. She recently confiscated a box from my pantry as I have a little more access to Girl Scouts than she does, what with working at an elementary school and all. She's allowed to steal cookies. From me. She probably shouldn't steal cookies from other people.

I used to walk around the neighborhood door-to-door style and sell cookies. I remember working cookie stands at grocery stores and how proud I was when I earned that 250 boxes of cookies badge. I have no idea if that is still a lot or not. Maybe the modern Girl Scouts are pushing out like 300-400 boxes.

I love it when students come and ask me to buy cookies. I gladly order a box or two of thin mints, and I think of my mom every time. I think when all is said and done I now purchase more than eight boxes each year, but that's okay because I have to have spares for when my mom visits.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I was at work today when a colleague told me a recent graduate from our school district--the brother of a friend of mine--had been in a car accident that morning. Pretty serious. Broken vertebrae. My heart went out to my friend. As we were talking, my mind immediately went to a time not all that long ago that this same work colleague, along with many other community members, family and friends were trying to find me because my husband had been in a pretty serious car accident. Definitely different situations but also eerily familiar. My friend's brother is in the same hospital my husband was in and I am assuming he is in the same ICU.

All afternoon my thoughts have been bouncing between thoughts of my friend and her family and how scary this all is with memories from that day. How I felt like I went into auto-pilot in order to get to the hospital safely with our three children in tow. How I desperately tried to recall if I said, "I love you," before I left the house that morning. How fear of the worst took my breathe away. How relief overcame me in waves when I got the phone call that he was in the ICU but that he would be okay. Tears still well up when I think of that moment. I cannot explain the relief. I remember how I watched him that night in the ICU, so relieved that I still had him. I wanted so badly for him to sit up in that hospital bed, hug me and tell me it would be okay. Others were doing that, but you know, it just wasn't the same. I could go on and on. There are parts of that day--of that weekend--that will remain crystal clear in my mind my whole life. There are other moments of that time that are a complete blur. It turned out to appear far worse in the beginning than it ended up being. We were so, incredibly lucky because this could have been unimaginably worse. With that being said, it was still a pretty traumatic day. At the time, I didn't realize how that day would continue to effect me--sometimes out of the complete blue. I didn't know then whenever I heard about an accident, it would take me back to that day. I remember months and months after the accident, the movie We Bought a Zoo was on. I didn't think anything of it; I knew the man in the movie (played by the incredibly handsome Matt Damon) was a widower, but I did not expect the onset of tears and emotion at the end of the movie when viewers witnessed the love this man had shared with his wife. I remember thinking, "That could have been me." I can't explain the guilt I feel over even thinking that because it wasn't me. He is here. He is okay. I am so lucky. I never forget that.

We all have those moments and experiences in life that change us, shape us--sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. That accident was one of those moments for me. Never before have I felt such clarity and blurriness all at the same time. Never before have I ever felt so relieved in my entire life.

I will continue to pray for my friend's family. I will continue to hope for the best possible outcome for her brother. And when my husband gets home from a late night at work, I will give him yet another hug, so thankful to have him here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's a Monday

Do you remember my nice, "the weekend was so relaxing and I am ready to take on the week" blog from yesterday? Yeah, well. Shortly after posting that, my oldest son came downstairs, clearly not feeling well. I spent half the night up with him and was tempted to call in to work, but since he could stay with Grandma today (another perk to family living so close), I powered through and headed to work. A few hours into the day, I thought to myself, "I should have called in." I knew it wasn't just me when I heard a colleague say, "Is there a full moon tonight?" Later, another colleague lamented about her day as well. It was definitely a Monday.

Now, I am home. Ah, home. Nothing better to cure a less than fantastic day. I sat on the porch and watched my children enjoy a bit of fresh air together. I made homemade mac and cheese and played dinosaurs with my son. I read my daughter stories and snuggled her close before tucking her in. My oldest son is on the mend (I hope) and I anticipate an early bedtime for me.  Bring on Tuesday!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Dinner

Earlier today, my mother-in-law called and invited us over to dinner. My husband's stepsister was coming with the new baby and she was making spaghetti. Sounded great to me! I threw the pork chops I had thawing in the fridge and finished up a few things before we headed over for the evening.

When my husband and I were engaged, we bought his childhood home. His mom and step-dad now live across the road in a home they built. I feel very lucky to have family so close--close enough that when your mother-in-law calls at 3:30 and invites you to dinner, it is super easy to say yes.

We had fun taking turns holding the baby and it was nice to catch up with everyone. The spaghetti and chocolate cake were delicious, and it was a nice, relaxing end to an equally nice and relaxing weekend.

As I sit here with my husband, the kids are bathed and tucked in to bed, I am warm under a blanket reflecting on the best kind of weekend. The kids got to play outside almost all day yesterday, we got a ton accomplished around the house, church service was inspiring this morning, and I feel refreshed and ready for work tomorrow morning.

I couldn't ask for a better end to a great weekend.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Grandma's Porch

When I was a little girl, I LOVED visiting my grandma and aunt. Every summer we would spend a week with them at their house. The best part of the house was the screened in front porch. Some of my best memories were on that front porch with my family. When I think of my grandma, who passed away eleven years ago, I think of her on that porch swing, quietly watching the world and maintaining the steady back and forth rhythm of the swing. Sitting with her on the swing was a highlight of our summer visits. 

Last March, my aunt, who still lived in that house, passed away. With her death came the inevitable reality of selling the house, which came with mixed emotions. When we left the house, the swing came with me. My husband promptly hung it on our back porch. 

Today was beautiful and mild; a perfect day for cleaning out the porch. As I was sweeping the floor and wiping down everything, I thought about how happy I am that I have a part of my grandma and aunt's house--my mom's childhood home--in my home. The little table I used to play "office" at as a child sits out there as well as well as a picture of my kids and me sitting on my grandma's porch. And, center of it all is that swing. I still feel close to them when I sit there. I think  my mom does, too. She sits out there when she visits and it makes me happy that we are able to have a part of that house and them with us still and always. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sharing Books

One of the hats I wear at work is "Reading Specialist". It is not a big hat, but I take very seriously my role as a resource for teachers and parents. Last week at our school's family literacy night, I read aloud a book I had discovered at the reading convention I attended in February. I shared I Yam a Donkey by CeCe Bell (who also wrote El Deafo, which is a very meaningful favorite book for me). It is a hilarious book about a persnickety yam with a distaste for poor grammar and a lovable and grammatically incorrect donkey. There were many laughs (mostly from the parents) and comments on how it was a pretty funny book. Usually, I do not work on Fridays, but I was there today for Family Fun Day in my son's classroom. One of the parents who attended the literacy night came up to me and told me how she had purchased I Yam a Donkey for her girls and that they read it over and over at home and really loved it. We chatted a bit about the book and I told her how happy I was that she liked it. She told me I could always give her more suggestions about books. As I walked down the hall with my children, I smiled to myself and thought, Yes! I was a resource for this family! Sometime I feel discouraged when resources I put together do not appear to be used or needed. This encounter reminded me of the importance of sharing and trying and being a resource even when it feels like no one is utilizing what I am offering. You never know when you will make that difference. This inspired me to update my book blog and add book chats to my website.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sweet Home Wisconsin

I live in a small town. A very small town. The population is about 1,000 people. There are four churches and four bars downtown, so we have as many bars as churches, which is pretty standard for Wisconsin. There is a vibrant small school district in our town, which is where I work. There is a gas station, a handful of small businesses and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I love our town. When I was growing up, my family moved a lot, so I didn't really have a hometown. We mostly lived in cities. While Air Force bases definitely feel like small towns, the population turns over every few years, so it not the same as growing up with the same people and knowing them your whole life. I realize that to some people a town of 1,000 may not sound THAT small, but to me, it certainly did.

When my husband and I were engaged, we decided to buy his childhood home and settle down in his small town home town. I continued to teach in a town about 45 minutes away until a few years and two babies later. When I did start teaching here, I felt like overnight I became a local. I went from knowing very few locals to knowing more than my husband. Now, our kids go to school with the kids of some of my husband's classmates. They will have a few of the same teachers. They will grow up in a place where most people know them and care about them. People look after each other here. I love that. It doesn't mean it is perfect here, because it most definitely isn't, but I feel like I belong. I feel like it is MY hometown now, too. It's a good feeling.

Now that I have explained the background I can get to the ACTUAL slice of today. I had a meeting at the high school today around lunchtime. When I was done, I stopped downtown to mail some things at the post office and grab lunch to-go at the cafe. Five bucks for a homemade BLT isn't bad. As I walked into the cafe, I felt like I was in a scene from the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon--the scene towards the end of the movie when the lawyer goes to the town diner and asks about how to find Reese Witherspoon's character. All of the locals, including the town cop, turn and look, disapprovingly assess the stranger and basically give him the cold shoulder. They do not help him find Reese Witherspoon. As I walked through the front door today at the cafe, the locals turned to evaluate. I walked up to the counter to put in my order and exchanged pleasantries with the town cop. Totally reminded me of that scene from the movie.

On the walls in the cafe, there are rows and rows of coffee mugs with names on them for the regulars. I do not have a coffee mug here. YET. I guess that is what happens when you live in the aren't local enough for a personalized mug.

I like being a part of this small town and feeling like the people here are looking out for my family. And they really are. I have seen enough proof of that in the last eight years. While I may not be a "true blue-born and raised here-local, I like to believe I am an adopted local. It's nice to belong. And if a stranger rolls into town looking for me, I'd like to believe the locals would be suspicious and protective and pretend they don't know me...just like in the scene from Sweet Home Alabama.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Walk Outside

I started today off on the right foot. I turned off the alarm clock, found my tennis shoes, and headed outside. The morning was quiet and the air was damp.  Fog hung heavily and unevenly over the fields. The sky was lightening and clouds scattered the horizon. I breathed in and out and began my walk...enjoying the fifty degree morning. It was peaceful. I could hear my feet thumping along the road and the train in the distant background. I could hear myself think. Yes, I most definitely had a great start to my day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Loose Tooth

Mason was about eight months old when his first tooth FINALLY popped through his gums. At four months old, he was drooling all over everything and chewing on his hands like they were laced in sugar. Everyone said, "He has to be teething!" Being a first time mother, I thought that meant he would actually cut a tooth sometime very soon. We waited through four months of "teething" until that tooth finally showed. 

I remember my joy when he hit all of those exciting milestones...his first smile...the day he rolled over for the first time...his first birthday...when he started walking...potty training...his first day of kindergarten. Today, Mason excitedly came to me with another milestone...his very first loose tooth. It is legitimately loose, too. At our last visit to the dentist, he told Mason he had a few teeth a little loose. But this is an ACTUAL loose tooth that feels like it will ACTUALLY fall out of his mouth very soon. And he will look at me with that goofy toothless grin. And he will keep loosing teeth and he will keep growing up. 

Mason is an incredible kid. He is insightful and level-headed. He reads to his sister and plays with his brother and leaves notes on my pillow. When I see him working to figure something out, I think this must be what my husband was like when he was six. They are so much alike. 

He is so tall now and I can barely pick him up anymore. When he crawls onto my lap, I enjoy every moment he sits there because I know this won't last forever. When did this happen? When did he get old enough to lose a tooth? 

Seeing my child's joy at this new experience filled me with excitement--true and real joy at this new stage in his life. This made me think of all the new experiences to come with all three of my children. How blessed I feel to be a part of this journey with them. This realization made me think of my own parents, and how they must have felt at all of those milestones--first tooth, first loose tooth, graduation, marriage...and most recently, watching each of their children become parents. It makes me understand their love for my brother and me that much more. It's amazing the perspective you get on your own parents when you become a parent. 

And so here we are, excitedly awaiting for that first tooth to come out...another beautiful milestone on this beautiful journey. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spring is Springing!

I wore my winter coat to work this morning. My boys had their hats and mittens. At lunchtime, someone mentioned how beautiful it was outside--60 degrees. 60 degrees!!!! 3:45 couldn't come fast enough. I was so excited to go outside with my kids and PLAY! OUTSIDE!

3:45 came and it was time to go home. I flung my coat over my arm and when my son asked if he could go outside in his short sleeves, I said, "Sure!" Off we went. The world just seemed brighter today.

I live in Wisconsin where March really is a mixed bag. It can be 60 degrees one day and snow the next. You never know when the weather will turn from early spring back to winter. So, you learn to embrace these beautiful early spring days when there are puddles and piles of snow everywhere--but you are able to be outside with just a sweatshirt!!

The kids and I grabbed sweatshirts and headed out to the puddles and piles of snow. It was wonderful! We went for a walk and played on the swingset. The fresh air on my skin and the giggle of my children felt invigorating...thawing, even. While I know there will be many more days when I need my winter coat and there might even be actual inches of fresh snow on the ground, I know the days when I was can wear my Toms and no socks are coming soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Thoughts on Potty Training

A while back, my youngest child (almost 2 1/2) started showing signs of being potty-trained. She was ready long before I was. I mean, she is my last baby. Sigh. She was ready, and so, here we go. I checked the calendar for a clear weekend, picked one and started talking up how cool it is to go on the potty. 

The day arrived. As I expected, the first 2 1/2 days were rough. We had to start after naptime that time due to dentist appointments and an unexpected visit to the clinic for a rapid strep test for my oldest son. After her napped, I excited explained she would be going on the potty now! She chose some princess panties and she was ready to go. Shortly after that, I had to leave as I had plans to go to Costco with a friend from work to get supplies for Literacy Night. I turned the reigns over to my husband, made sure he had plenty of princess panties for her and off I went. It went as well as you could expect on the first day of potty training. She peed on everything! He sent me texts for every accident. She went through six pairs of panties in those 3 hours. One of last texts included, "This is hard." I giggled a little. I reassured him that this was the hardest part...he hadn't really experienced this part when we potty-trained our sons. By the end of the second day, just like with the boys, I started thinking, "This was a terrible idea. Maybe she isn't ready." And then, towards the end of that third day (just like her big brother), the idea of peeing on the potty started to click!! She started to figure it out! It was getting better! After 5 days of potty-training, she went the whole day without an accident!! Yes! Less laundry! She was getting there! Today we will be leaving the house and Amelia will be wearing underwear. No safety diaper. Extra clothes packed. I think she is ready. As far as me, well, fake it until you make it, right? 

More thoughts on my last baby another day. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Poems in the Attic

About a month ago, I attended the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference. This is like Disney World for reading teachers--at least it is for THIS reading teacher. I have seen so many incredible teachers and writers at these events. Last year, I was able to tell Donalyn Miller that she is my idol AND I got my picture taken with her. It is safe to say I geek out a little bit. One of my favorite presentations to attend at the conference is the presentation of the best books published that year by the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

 One of the books presented was Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes. This book tells the story of a young girl who finds poems her mother wrote when she was a little girl in her grandmother's attic. The mother's poems tell about all the places she lived as a little girl. Her father was in the Air Force and they moved all over the word, including Alaska, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Japan. The little girl learns about her mother and responds by writing her own poems and then presents her mother with a gift of the poems she wrote as a girl along with her own poems. It is a beautiful story of family. The book switches back and forth between the mother's poems written in tanka form and the young girl's poems written in free verse.

What drew me to this book right away was the connection I have with the girl's mother. I, too, grew up as an "Air Force brat" and moved around quite a bit with my family. We moved from Michigan to Utah to Iceland to Las Vegas. I was sixteen when my father retired from the Air Force and we moved to Wisconsin. As I was listening to this book yesterday (I checked out the audio version), I was able to connect to the mother and how it felt to move and make new friends and start over. I remember exploring the grocery store in Iceland with my family and discovering a full sheep's head in the meat section. This was quite traumatic for my eight-year-old self.  We were in Iceland for almost two years, and I missed my grandma so much and wanted more than anything for her to visit. I remember starting a new school in Las Vegas and it feeling so strange that the classroom doors and hallways were outside. Weird.  My parents took us to explore our new home, no matter where it was. We explored mountains in Utah and saw the beaches in Iceland. We spent weekends at Lake Mead and walked the strip in Las Vegas.

Many people have asked me if it was hard moving around so much as a child. Sure it was sometimes, but I didn't know any different. I know there are benefits to growing up in one place and having those roots in a community, there are also great benefits to living in many places. My brother and I grew up knowing the world is a big place. We got to see different places and meet different people.  I ate kimchi when I was seven, and I used to love it when the neighbor, who was Thai, would bring fried rice over for me. And no matter where we lived, we had roots because we had our parents. They gave us special memories and experiences. I wouldn't change anything about the way I grew up. It gave me a wider world view and I wouldn't trade in those experiences for anything.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Happy Friday!

It has been quite a week and a half! After suffering with a pretty nasty sore throat for a few days, I finally decided it might not be a virus and called the clinic. Strep throat. It then worked its way through my three children at an interval of every few days. So far my husband does not appear to have it. By the third child, we didn't even have to go to the clinic; they just called in the prescription. So, four cases of strep, three visits to the clinic, three visits to the pharmacy--and a lengthy wait each time, mind you (my husband picked up the fourth prescription), four of us on amoxicillan ("Everyone line up for your medicine!"), and a few days off work and I think we are on the mend. During that week and a half, we have also had dentists appointments, we have (almost!) potty-trained the two year-old, AND this week was Read Across America Day AND our literacy night at school, which are big events for this teacher. And now it is Friday (breath of relief). As I sit and I look out the window at the snowy landscape and sip my coffee, I breathe in the moment of peace and quiet. Here's to a wonderful weekend to all!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What I am Loving Right Now

I was inspired to write this by a blog I have recently discovered, Modern Mrs. Darcy. Anne Bogel writes about books, reading, life, kids, goals, marriage, inspiration--pretty much everything and I am really able to relate to her writing. She also has a podcast, which is on my list. I recently read a post she wrote about what is saving her right now. Sometimes I get to a point where life feels really hectic and I feel like I can barely keep my head above water; I am fairly certain this happens to us all at various points in our lives. This post reminded me to find think about those things that keep me grounded and give me moments of peace. When we think about all that is right about our day, we are much better able to handle all that isn't right about our day. So, here is a little list of little things I am loving right now.

1. Fixer Upper on HGTV. I LOVE watching what Joanna and Chip Gaines do to these houses!! I think my husband does NOT love this show, as I am constantly wandering around the house wondering where we could put shiplap and subway tile.
2. What Should I Read Next? Anne Bogel's podcast (see above) has quickly become my favorite thing to listen to in the car. She features a guest (usually a fellow blogger) and the guest shares his/her three favorite books, a book he/she hated and what he/she is reading right now. I love listening to WHY people love the books they love and what books they hate. A little side-note here; two of the seven or so guests have hated Go Set a Watchman...kind of makes me want to read it even more now just to see why. My to-read list is getting longer and longer and I tell all of my book-lover friends about this podcast!
3. LL Bean Slippers. Oh, I love my slippers. They keep my feet warm and they are wearing so well! They were so worth the money as I definitely splurged on these babies.
4. Aveda Hand Creme. It is still winter here in Wisconsin, which means seriously dry air. This hand creme smells amazing and soothes my dry, cracked hands. I love it.
5. Brass Tacks. This is a newer furniture and home furnishings consignment shop near where I live. They have amazing pieces and I am inspired to create when I go there! Imagine the best of what you would find at St. Vinny's or Goodwill and projects with milk paint already completed!
6. Ghiradelli Brownies. You know, the brownies you make from a mix from Costco...amazing!! Better than any homemade brownies I have ever made.

And there you have it...just a few things I am loving right now. What is something that would be on your list?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lessons from Dr. Seuss

Today is Read Across America Day! As I always do when I read Dr. Seuss to my children and to my students, I tell them how Dr. Seuss' books entertain us and usually teach us a lesson, too. There are so many lessons his books teach that I want my students and my own children to learn and live by.     Every time I read Oh, The Places You Will Go, and I get to the line, "Kid, you'll move mountains," I get a little emotional and think..."Yes...that is exactly what I want my children to believe." We could all use a reminder now and again that we can move those mountains...because we can. In Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are, Dr. Seuss reminds us that while things may be less than perfect for us, others have it far worse. Humility. Perspective. The Sneetches teach us that it doesn't really matter if we have stars on our bellies or not. Horton teaches us that, "A person is a person, no matter how small." Tonight as we were listening to Green Eggs and Ham at bedtime, we talked about how when we try new things we may find that we like them.  The Lorax lended itself quite nicely to a conversation my husband and I were having with our sons about trees and why we need to be careful about how many we cut down. "Nothing will change unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot." This could be said about more than just the environment. Every Christmas when we read The Grinch, I love the reminder that "Christmas doesn't come from a store." If you do a Google search on inspirational Dr. Seuss quotes, you will not come up empty handed, that is for sure. His books are obviously inspiring. But still. I never get jaded from these lessons. They don't get old. These lessons that we adults need just as much as the children we are reading the books to. And the lessons aren't lost to the children; they get it! Tonight I am thankful to Dr. Seuss. I am thankful to him for creating fun, engaging books. I am thankful to him for writing books that teach our children important lessons about life. Mostly, though, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn right along with my children. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I Am...

When I was in middle school, there was a poetry unit. One of my favorite poems to write was the "I Am" seemed easy to me--write about yourself, your interests and what is important to you. As an adult looking back on that, I feel like there is a lot to learn from taking a look at ourselves...what makes us tick, what is important to us, what inspires us, what we love. It is in that spirit I begin this month-long writing challenge. And so, here "I Am" poem.

I am enough.
I wonder why there never seems to be enough hours in the day. 
I hear the laughter of my children--the song of my heart.
I see my husband, my partner, my best friend next to me always.
I want to be a writer.I want to make a difference. 
I am enough.

I do not pretend well. What you see is what you get.
I feel content, happy; life is good.
I touch the smile lines by my eyes-evidence of almost 37 years (but 37 is totally the new 27).
I worry too much about what others think.
I cry when I am tired; frustration seeps in.
I am enough.

I understand I have one life to live.
I say, "Just because you can say whatever you want, doesn't mean you should."
I dream my children go out into this world and leave it a better place.
I try to smile at people when I walk past them.
                   I hope
                                                I am enough. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Slice of Life Writing Challenge: Year Two

Last year was my first year participating in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge. I participated because I wanted to reconnect with writing--a part of me that has mostly sat on the wayside, which is pretty evident as the last date posted on this blog was last April. With so many other important aspects of life taking priority, writing time sinks to the bottom of my to-do list. And, this is okay...because I have discovered March and the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Writing Challenge. It is an opportunity for me to reconnect to writing. I do it for me. Last year, the only person outside of the Slicing community I shared the writing with was my husband. There was something safe about writing in a pretty anonymous setting; I could open up and I didn't worry much at all about expressing myself. I tried different formats and found that I really looked forward to writing a snippet about my day. Looking back at last year's posts reminded me of moments I would have otherwise forgotten, which is one incredibly important reason to write. I look forward to seeing where this month takes me and the moments I am able to capture. Here goes!