life lessons, Mom life

Find the Joy: The Challenge of My One Little Word of the Year

In January I tried something new for me – choosing one little word to focus on throughout the year. I chose joy because I thought it would help me be more present, positive, and reflective. I thought I could be creative by choosing joy, finding joy, and spreading joy. This has turned out to be far more challenging than I expected.

It feels like 2022 has been peppering me with one thing after another. COVID running through our family, our dog suddenly getting sick and dying, my grandmother suddenly passing away days after that, stock market hits, and the latest- a broken foot.

I definitely did not find the joy in kicking a clogged Shop-Vac to unclog it when cleaning the garage one Saturday. It led to a cracked navicular bone – small bone near the ankle/metatarsals above your arch – in my right foot (think driving foot). It went undiagnosed for three weeks, including one excruciating week where I walked around Disney World in my sneakers. After finally getting an MRI, I found out that I do indeed have a broken bone. So now the 4-6 weeks on crutches begins.

4-6 weeks is not that much time in reality. But, I’m an over thinker and was told this particular bone isn’t in an ideal place for healing and so after giving it the best chance to heal I still may need surgery to put in a screw. And so this was kind of crushing to me – more so mentally than physically. In my moments of self pity (and self loathing at my self pity because this could be far worse, other people have it far worse than this), I have tried coming back to that one little word: joy.

But where’s the joy in this? I’m busy. I don’t really like to relax because it’s hard for me to sit still. I’m juggling parenting my 6 and 8 year old with a husband who has challenging job hours that change on a dime. I am the default parent. It is hard. This is my first year literacy coaching and that’s half time. I have a second grade class full of loving yet demanding students. I am coaching my daughter’s lacrosse team (that began this week). I don’t have time to be down for the count. Too many people depend on me. Now my independence is waning (albeit temporarily) and the depression is mounting. So is the anxiety.

There has to be a way to pivot. There has to be a way to find joy in this. It’s in my supportive friends who have offered listening ears, validating comments, dinner offers, kid practice rides, and coffee visit promises. It’s in my children who looked at me wide-eyed when Mom couldn’t physically stand in the kitchen to make dinner like every other single night. They took out garbage, carried dirty laundry baskets down the stairs, got me a glass of water, and sat as close as possible to me on the couch and that felt really good.

I enjoy being a helper, a doer, someone other people can depend on. I often feel this weight on my shoulders of holding it all together for everyone. If I’m not managing my household (let alone everything at school), it will all fall apart. It’s hard for me to be on the receiving end. It’s hard for time to ask for help.

Maybe this is an opportunity to work on becoming comfortable with asking for help – letting go of tasks and expectations. Maybe my family will rise up and help out and we will be a stronger team who shared the load going forward. I am forced to let go of tidying things and taking umpteen trips up and down the stairs each day. Maybe I will find out I was making life harder for myself than it needed to be. Maybe being somewhat immobile will provide time for reflection and a way to change my mindset about what is important.

I am determined to still focus on my one little word of the year: joy.

A few of my accessories for the next 4-6 weeks.
first year literacy coach, literacy coach, Teaching, writing workshop, Young writers

The Magic of Sharing At Writing Workshop

When you think of how a writing workshop lesson is structured in a primary classroom, you probably know in theory that you will have a mini-lesson, some form of independent practice, and wrap it up with a share session at the end. Often times, the sharing portion loses out because of time constraints. But it is this share time that can be something quite magical – for learners and teachers.

Start by asking yourself what kind of writer are you? How do you get ideas to write about? What happens when you can’t think of an idea? Do you ever turn to the world around you or reading other people’s writing? I think about all the ways in which I was inspired during March’s Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Often times, when I read other posts that month I found myself connecting and thinking, “Oh that reminds me when….happened!” And suddenly my writer’s block was gone. So why would children be any different? Insert the share session.

When you find time to carve out and commit to ending each writing workshop session with a share you not only foster a close community of writers, you also empower writers by setting them up to feel inspired.

“Harper sparked an idea for me when she wrote about when her tooth was dangling!” “Quinn sparked an idea for me about falling down the stairs.” These are words that melt my heart as an educator – students seeing themselves and each other as authors with important stories to tell.

Some days our share is more guided by me. I might pull some student examples of something we are specifically working on – adding dialogue, specific word choice, elaborating by adding details, using a certain structure of a genre, and so on. Other days our share is a turn and talk and share what you have so far. Still other times we share with a “teaser” where students share their topic/title and read part of their piece. This serves to spark ideas for others to add to their list of things to write about.

Sharing is social and kids remember who shared what and when. Over time, when you commit to sharing each day, your students will hold you accountable. Did you run out of time? They’ll ask to share during snack time. And that engagement is powerful, in fact it can feel magical.

What do you think about sharing during writing workshop? What is a favorite way of sharing in your classroom?

SOL, sol22, solsc22

Day 31 #SOL22 Trip to the Old Neighborhood

You’ve gotta be kidding me!!!! I updated my billing address to our new house, but not the shipping address on an online order of shorts for my son (one hot day and I realized nothing fits him from last year). I also did this back in October with a clothing subscription I hadn’t used in awhile – apparently since we moved. When I realized why the box never showed up, I enlisted my old neighbors (they’re amazing) to go get the package from the new owners and then eventually I went to collect the package. I felt embarrassed that I made the same mistake again.

I called the shipping company and the store where I purchased the clothing from, but nobody could help. They couldn’t change the address and although I didn’t appreciate the mild scolding about not making errors but the customer service representative, I understood it was my mistake.

Today I got a shipping update that the package had arrived, so I decided I would just drive to our old house and knock on the door and get the package. This sounds so simple to me now, but when this happened in October, I felt I uncomfortable going there because of COVID numbers.

As I pulled up in front of the house, I walked past my old flower beds still asleep under last fall’s leaves. I walked up the steps that I painted a couple summers ago and knocked on the yellow doors I had picked out and painted. A kind woman answered the door and I smiled and laughed a little as I explained the package mishap. She handed me the package and told me that she would text me if it happened again.

I talked to her briefly, she doesn’t know me the way I know that house. I glanced past her and saw my staircase, the reason I fell in love with the house in the first place. My kitchen was still mint colored, a clock in the same spot above the peninsula, though their clock was cooler than the one I had. They had a sweet, quiet fluffy white dog who came to nose around. And then our exchange was done, we said bye and I turned to leave.

When I walked across the front porch and down the stairs, my neighbors were in their driveway and were surprised to see me, so I popped over to catch up. Their granddaughter just turned three! They wanted to know how tall Kris and Evie are now and what they’re into. So we talked about skiing and lacrosse, Cub Scouts and Daisies.

It began to rain, so I said good bye and hopped in my car. As I drove down the street, I felt nostalgic. I rode past our old babysitter’s house – Mary who raised my children in the most loving home before they went to preschool. I turned onto a main road and remembered running those streets – I had so many routes for so many distances. I thought about pushing baby strollers down the street and how when we bought our house I had dreamed of doing just that, years before we actually had a family of our own.

Our old neighborhood holds fond memories. So many firsts and so many friends. We stay in touch on social media and a get together here and there. I love our new neighborhood, too. The thing I keep coming back to is the importance of good neighbors and feeling connected.

Writing each day in March for the Slice of life story challenge. #sol22
Mom life, SOL, sol22, solsc22

Day 30 #SOL22 The Freezer Confession

Today’s slice is a confession. It’s short. It’s not healthy, but not that bad.

There are a few variables (some may see these as excuses) to know. We have an extra freezer in the basement for food and I’m the only one who manages our meals and plods down to the freezer when I need something. There was a miscommunication during a lacrosse frozen cookie dough fundraiser and consequently we have several boxes of frozen cookie dough in pre-portioned circles. You can probably make an inference here of where this is going if you haven’t already based on the title. To continue, sometimes my children are too loud and I need a break or I need to get something off the printer (which is also in the basement near the freezer because the clutter annoys me so I cluttered it all down there out of sight). And when I’m finding myself near the freezer it’s like the cookie dough is calling me.

Just one! You already ran so you have extra calories you can eat. The chocolate chunks will be the perfect combination of gooey cookie dough and crunchy, frozen chocolate.

You don’t need a cookie. They’re not even cooked. Your mom wouldn’t be happy you’re eating raw cookie dough – can’t you hear all her warnings about not eating raw egg which is surely in these.

If I just eat them then they’ll be gone and I won’t be tempted again. Except for the fact there are five other boxes. But those boxes aren’t all flavors I really like.

Don’t eat them now! You can easily bake them when you need to bring snacks somewhere like for professional development next week. Or have a movie night with the kids and enjoy them then.

Finally, I yank open the suctioned freezer door, prop open the box, break off a cookie, and savor the two bites it takes to finish.

To further this freezer confession, sometimes I trek back down for seconds. I can’t believe nobody in my family has caught on yet.

Writing each day during March as part of the slice of life challenge. #sol22 #solsc22
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Day 29 #SOL22 Grocery Store Music

I keep wanting to write about literacy coaching and how my first year is going, but I’m having such a difficult time thinking about how to get started. I worry (too much) about how my post will be received – is it too much whole language? Too little Science of Reading? Too much like a beginner? Too self righteous? Too positive and unrealistic? Too negative in this hard year? So instead I keep reflecting on the day in order to choose a slice topic. Here is today’s simple reflection: grocery store music.

While getting this week’s groceries, I found myself singing along again to the music over the loud speaker. It’s always “easy listening” type songs they play. In fact as I’ve stopped wearing a mask in the store, I’ve had to adjust my volume since nothing is covering my mouth.

Billy Joel’s I Go to Extremes belted out as I checked out. I knew all the lyrics and as I was singing to myself, it brought me back to playing a cassette tape my mom had in the car when we would drive my baby brother around every summer night after dinner to see farm animals. It’s funny how music stirs up vivid memories – I can smell the car interior, see the red vinyl dash and white Chevy Lumina, and feel the summer breeze through the cranked down windows.

We had our back road route, the planned out map to see as many animals as possible at different farms in rural New Hampshire. My brother would whinny and moo out the window. I was 12 years old so I thought it was so cute, but I felt very old. He named one cow Holly Wilbur at one farm and there was a sheep farm near Holly Wilbur’s home.

That summer we had Billy Joel’s greatest hits (probably mail ordered from BMG or Columbia) playing on repeat. When one side of the tape was finished, we would diligently pop it out, turn it over, and slide it back into the slot with a click.

As the song wound down and my bags were packed up with our meals and snacks for the week, I smiled having thought of the many facets of this memory in a few minutes while completing a rather mundane task. Maybe it is an avoidance tactic to write about lighter topics like songs and memories, or maybe that’s just where I’m at right now. Or maybe my thoughts just go to extremes.

Writing a slice of life story each day in March #sol22
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Day 28 #SOL22 Positive Anchors

In a spurt of cleaning, purging, and organizing our office/craft room/kids space, I came across a notebook. I love when I find one of my old notebooks I’ve stashed somewhere. It gives me a similar feeling as finding a dollar in last winter’s coat pocket when I pull it out of the closet on a cold fall day.

I flipped through and found some poetry I played around with last spring. Then I found a series of reflections and positive thoughts. I read Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One by Raphaelle Giordano a while back when a friend lent it to me. At the time school was hard, I was anxious, and the book was a fun escape. It’s a fictional book about a woman who has a chance encounter with a man who helps her turn around her “routine-itis” by following some simple exercises to build her positivity and look for the joy in her life.

Because I’m a student by nature and like to try new things, I decided I would follow along with some of the exercises the main character did. Today when I flipped through the notebook I remembered writing some of these things down. It was like finding a little gift! One exercise I followed was to jot down positive anchors – things I could go back and read when feeling overwhelmed. I had set up pages alphabetically and it was so fun to read what I had written months ago. In fact, I added more to it!

I managed to purge quite a bit today and for now the mess is under control. But my favorite find is the notebook and my list of positive anchors that was sitting just waiting to be read again.

Here is my “c” page. What is your way to bottle up joy to help you when you’re feeling down or overwhelmed?
Writing each day in March for the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers blog. #solsc22 #sol22
SOL, sol22, solsc22

Day 27 #SOL22 Shamrock Shuffle

Oh my Gosh I forgot how much fun this is! I thought as the five mile Shamrock Shuffle started. I was there with two of my girlfriends on this windy, cold, some sun and some snow type of day in upstate New York. We had planned to run this race solely based on doing something for ourselves (and to get a t-shirt).

I’m not really sure when my last road race was. I used to run a lot, before children. I ran all distances including several marathons. Running physically hurt after having my kids and then it became problematic with me never having time to go. I ran here and there, more in the summer. I remember running an Octoberfest 5k maybe five years ago. As I write this slice I’m actually in awe at how fast time seems to be flying.

So back to today. I hadn’t trained properly for this race because we’ve been so busy skiing every weekend and I didn’t manage time wisely, but I was looking forward to doing something with my friends. As the race began, the positive energy from everyone stood out to me in a new light. Running in a pack, smiles brightening the gray morning, spectators cheering, it was all so uplifting!

I love being around positive people! Life isn’t always positive, but leaning toward activities and people who make me happy has become easier the older I’ve gotten. Runners are positive people and running in a race is a positive, uplifting experience.

As I ran by thanking the volunteers (who were cheering us on while directing traffic), I began thinking about how grateful I was that people would even volunteer. There’s no way races could happen without volunteers!

I have made a conscious effort to do things that make me happy over the last couple years. Today was another step (pun intended) in the right direction. With skiing done for the year (though with the random snow and cold today maybe it’s not totally done), I’m turning my sights back to running and racing. The feel of all that positive energy is something I want to keep coming back to.

After the race and before we treated ourselves to lunch! I’m on the left.
Writing a slice of life story each day in March as part of the challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers blog. #SOLSC22 #SOL22
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Day 26 #SOL22 I Missed One!

I have been slicing at night this year, usually when I go to bed. This is my second year participating in the Slice of Life Challenge in March and rather than listing out topics ahead of time and writing in the morning, I’ve reflected on my day, picked something slice worthy, and written. At first it felt a little risky to me because I like to check things off my list rather than wait until the last minute.

Last night, Dave and I went to a fundraising event for our son’s lacrosse league. We had fun. There were raffle baskets, eating, dancing, and lots of people to talk to. We even won a few baskets! We’ve got several restaurant gift cards, bottles of wine, even tickets to a Premier Lacrosse League game (which to be honest I don’t really know what it is, but Dave and Kris were excited for it). So much work and planning went into the evening – this was the first of what will become an annual event.

Before I knew it, the night was over. By the time we finished unwinding after getting home, it was past midnight. I missed my slice deadline for the day! What’s funny is I was ok with that. Yes, I had planned on slicing about something different – the book projects our second grade students presented (now I’m set up for a future slice), but something else came up – a fun date night. It’s important to have goals and high expectations, but it’s also important to go easy on yourself and go with the flow.

Writing each day in the month of March as part of the #sol22 challenge.

Mom life, SOL, sol22, solsc22

Day 24 #SOL22 For My Girl

Earlier this week, I wrote a slice about watching my son at the playground. He longed to hang with the older boys, but had come with his little sister and so he played with her dutifully. Here’s a slice about my daughter helping out before bedtime last night when she repaid the favor of sibling kindness.

Hearing your brother say he’s hungry as he worked on his Pinewood Derby design, you silently crept into the kitchen.

Knife out, butter tub open, bread wrapper rustling.

Tiptoes, eyes inches above the counter, dig in the knife, a soft butter clump, spreading yumminess on the bread.

Working diligently, add a top and slice it down the middle.

Pad to the top drawer, the one with the bowls, and grab a colorful container. Pitter patter to your brother, plunk his snack in front of him.

“Here you go, Kris!” was all you said. An answer to an unasked question.

I saw you smile as you turned away to make one for yourself. You feel proud of your accomplishment.

You copy my moves, you leave me in awe, you watch me all the time.

Truth is, I also smiled as you turned away, watched your moves, and it warmed my heart.

Each day in March I look for a slice of life and write about it as part of the challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers blog. #sol22 #solsc22
SOL, sol22, solsc22

Day 23 #SOL22 The Rug is Back

Our classroom rug is back! Yesterday afternoon I rearranged furniture and plopped the rug back in its spot front and center in my classroom. It makes me so happy to have students sit on the rug for read aloud. It’s one of the things I missed most about teaching last year.

At the beginning of this year we still couldn’t have an area rug, so some kids sat close to me on the floor and others in their chairs. That was better than the previous year, but today’s additional step toward something we knew over two years ago made me so happy!

I also enjoyed sitting next to students reading on the rug and conferencing with them – I never thought about how I enjoyed that spot as well as the kids!

Writing a slice each day during March! #solsc22 #sol22