That moment when…

That moment when…

My eyes pop open and I realize it’s still really dark.

That moment when…

I grope for my phone to check the time.

That moment when …

I realize it’s 5:30,  a full hour before my alarm.

That moment when…

I debate. Get up now and enjoy an hour of solitute or roll over and doze another hour.

That moment when…

I coax myself out of bed and into my slippers.

That moment when…

I stumble down the hall and into the kitchen.

That moment when…

I flick on the first morning light and illuminate the stove.

That moment when…

the French pressed coffee, dark and muddy, pours into my cup.

That moment when…

I curl up in the big leather chair and take my first sip of coffee breathing in the comforting aroma

That moment when…

the dog comes out to lie down next to my chair affirming my choice this morning.

That moment when…

I open Brown Girl Dreaming to the page I bookmarked – page 88 and continue to get lost again.

That moment when…

The clock reads 6:40 and it’s time to wake the family.

That moment when…

I am pleased with my choice to get up early this morning and enjoy the sweet, sweet solitude.

Line Friends

I meet the nicest people when I’m standing in line. Today I did a bit of line standing. I waited in line at the bookstore vendor at the Michigan Reading Council. I had just attended the General Assembly and heard Peter Brown’s keynote. I grabbed one of his picture books, “My Teacher is a Monster”. It’s a great story and I love his illustrations. I also picked up “Gaston” by Kelly DiPucchio because Donalyn Miller recommended it. So, I was standing in line and eavesdropping on two women behind me who were buying “The Day the Crayons Quit”. One of the women was reading it aloud to her friend. They were laughing. It really is such a cute book. I couldn’t help myself. I turned and said, “I am really enjoying your read aloud. I bought that book yesterday.”  Just then, the woman in the next line over said, “Would you like to get in front of me? You’ve been here longer.” Wow! What an act of kindness. I thanked her. Then, we laughed about the fact that our line was suddenly getting behind the one I had just left. “It’s just like the grocery store.” I said. She laughed and said, “Ya, I always pick the wrong line.” We became line friends. Then she asked what I was buying. “Oh” I said with enthusiasm.”I’m buying this one by Peter Brown and I’m going to have him sign it and then I bought this one, I said showing her the cover of the picture book “Gaston” and I’m going to have Kelly DiPucchio sign it. She’s going to be signing next. “That’s me.”  she said. What?? The author I worship is standing in line and chatting with me? I guess authors are real people too. I do put them way up high on a pedestal. Kelly DiPucchio may be regular folk, but, wow. She does amazing work! And now we are line friends!

Zen and the Art of Parenting

I have not always been good at the part of parenting where you’re supposed to let your kids experience the natural consequences of their decisions. Today, I was presented with the opportunity to practice that skill again. It was about 8:15 a.m. this morning and I just sat down in my first session of the reading conference I’m attending. I was late but the doors were still open and I was not the only person just arriving. I found an empty seat near the back and pulled out my phone  to send a Tweet. I notice there were 6 calls from my son. The one who never calls. The college student who is spending his Spring Break in North Carolina with his cousin. Uh oh, this isn’t good. I called him and he picked up on the first ring. “Hi mom, did you get my voice mail?” Nope. Then he explained to me that he missed his flight. Just as “Mom-mode” was about to shift into auto-drive I caught myself. First an epiphany and then a Zen-like calm came over me. “Okay… Do you have a plan?” Yes, I can get another flight for $249 to O’Hare and I’m trying to get in touch with Erin. She’s in Chicago right now.” Erin is his girlfriend from Berkley, California. She and her parents must’ve flown to Chicago to spend some time before driving north to Appleton.

Now this is a college student who has very limited funds. I know because I provide those funds. He currently does not have a job. Pulling my credit card out of my wallet was a natural reflex. But, I again ignored my mom impulse and asked, “Do you have a plan for paying for the ticket?” “Yes, I’m going to use my PayPal account and pay it off in six months.” he said. I was pleasantly surprised he had a solid plan. Now, I don’t recommend a college student going into debt. But, that’s a conversation we can have at a later time. It was such a relief and surprise to, in the middle of a phone call, realize that this is not my problem to solve and that he has taken full ownership over it. He was not calling to ask me to solve his problem. He was calling to ask for my blessing on his decision. “Have a great flight honey!” Later he texted me “Getting ready to board.”  “Hey, proud of you for great problem solving!” I texted. I am really proud of that kid! And I have to admit I’m really proud of myself for allowing him to handle his own problem.

Snipits from Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference Kick-off

#MRAhappy

Book Nerd

Kick-off

H.B.4394 Section 1223b

Lip sync

Madonna

Writing

Donalyn Miller crush

Importance of inviting in great authors

Read aloud at assemblies

Share books

It’s amazing writing, not just blogging

Choice

Journey

Vine

Raffle

Secchia room

Making new friends

Sharing Twitter handles

Grand River

@SusanKHaney

NerdyBookClub

Pure Michigan

@dreambition

What will writers be like in five years? Ten years?

Get to know your kids

@ColbySharp receives MRA Individual Literacy Award

What’s in the water in Michigan? So many awesome people from MI

1. Stay current 2. Talk about books and authors 3. Turn students into mini-Flavs 4.Read Aloud

Live Tweet

Detroit Public Schools, National Heritage Academies, Forest Hills Public Schools, Central Michigan University sharing a table.

Guidebook app

Vote

Channeling Memories of Grandma Beck

Gladys Luella Maxson was born in 1908.

She was born to Charles and Alice Maxson. Charles was a miner and a farmer.

Gladys was the eldest of four children.

She had just turned eleven her mother died of influenza. Her mother was 29 years old.

Gladys remembered that her mother was in bed with only a sheet covering her and the windows were thrown wide open.

Alice died on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. There was a worldwide Spanish flu pandemic at the time.

The mortician came to the house. Gladys was made to carry out the embalming fluids in buckets.

Her brother, Albert, was only a baby when her mother died.

Gladys quit school to take care of the children.

She remembered that her teacher came to her house one day to find out why she wasn’t in school.

She recalled her teacher combing her hair because it was so tangled.

Albert became ill when he was a year old and died in Gladys’ arms.

Gladys came down with Scarlet fever when she was a  young adult. She was bedridden for five years.

After five years she convinced her Dad to let her come home to the farm on a short visit because she was unhappy living in town with her aunt.

Every day she took a little walk down the lane and she began to regain her strength.

My grandmother was very dear to me.

She was a tiny woman under five feet tall. She always told me, “Good things come in small packages.”

She kept Bit-O-Honey candy in her kitchen drawer and cinnamon candies in the pantry.

She taught me how to knit.

She taught me how to make apple pie.

She had blue hair.

Grandpa called her “Glad” and would stop to buy bouquets of Gladiolas for her after church.

She hated her name.

The fact that she had only a sixth grade education and lived in poverty as a child made her a very proud woman.

She lived by a code which dictated what was proper and what was not.

Writing thank you notes was proper.

Poor table manners were not.

She died in 2000. I miss her gentle strength.

Three Truths and a Lie

Today I found myself reading a lot of slices looking for inspiration. Lauren Lynfield’s “Three Truths and a Lie” caught my attention. This is an ice-breaker game that can tell you things that a person wouldn’t bring up in casual conversation. Here are my Three Truths and a Lie. Can you guess which is the lie?

1.  I run ultra marathons which are 50 milers.

2. I took Russian in college because I wanted to work for the NSA.

3. I cooked for workers in the orchards of a large Kibbutz in Israel.

4. I am color blind and so are my two sons.

This is a writing exercise that I can imagine doing with students. I now have now generated three new personal narrative ideas.

I Believe.

I believe that patience is not necessarily a virtue.

I believe collaboration wins out over competition every time.

I believe it’s only dessert if it’s chocolate (with one exception: Creme brulee)

I believe something miraculous happens when multi-age kids come together to learn.

I believe something miraculous when young children and elderly people come together for any reason.

I believe every child needs someone in their life who thinks they are the Bomb!

I believe it really does take a village to raise a child.

I believe every day is a new day; a chance to begin again.

I believe in the power of the human spirit.

I believe every child needs a pet, preferably a dog.

I believe people who do not have pets are somehow flawed.

I believe animals make us better humans.

I believe that reading fiction is a  balm.

I believe teenagers and parents of teenagers need to read a lot of fiction.

I believe in DREAMS!

I believe in second and if necessary third chances.

I believe in family.

I believe that family actually includes people who may not be related to me by blood but who are connected to me through love.

I believe I am my brother and my sister’s keeper.

I believe I am the only person I can change.

I believe in the power of one small voice.

I believe in tomorrow.

I believe in me.

Don’t Hold Me Back

“So, what’re you going to do next year?” My teaching position as a Young Fives Developmental Kindergarten teacher is being phased out next year. “That’s the $64,000 question” I reply. I may not know the answer today. But there will be an answer. I just don’t know it yet. And the reason is that I will not be tethered by a grade level, a position, a school, a district, a teaching program. I know who I am. I am an educator. I am ready. I am constantly reading, networking, Twittering, blogging. Because, I am on a constant quest for growth and improvement. I am a life-long learner and I am just hitting my stride. I want to create and be a part of thriving professional learning communities. I want to explore and share ideas with other educators. I want to reflect. I want to have an impact. So, what will I do next year? I don’t know the answer today. But, I can assure you it will be amazing and I will have a significant impact!

Rosa

I used to live in the city. Now I live in the suburbs. I miss the unexpected in the city. Last fall I dropped a friend off at her house in the city. I headed for home. It was late. It was a cold rainy night. I was headed eastbound on Michigan Street towards my home in the suburbs. I called my husband, Dan, to let him know I was on my way. Just then, I passed a woman, walking in the westbound lane. She was walking in the lane! I told Dan “I’ve got to go now. I have to turn around and go get her!” I turned around in the nearest intersection. I approached her slowly from the rear. I didn’t want to surprise her. As I said, she was walking in the lane, not at all alongside the road. I could not live with myself if I awoke the next day to headlines about a woman who had been killed by walking down the middle of Michigan Street, As I approached her cautiously, a car blared it’s horn at me and passed me on the right. Oh no! She was going to be hit and I would be the cause! At the last moment the car swerved and missed her. I pulled alongside her and rolled down my window.”Would you like a ride?” She did. She crawled inside the front seat of my car. She had a cane. As we headed back towards town I started asking her questions. “What’s your name?” “Rosa” “Where are you going?” I couldn’t quite understand her answer. Similarly I did not quite understand her explanation of why she was walking down the road late at night. She told me that she was Russian and had lived her in the states for about twenty years. The mere fact that she was walking alone late at night in the middle of the traffic lane led me to believe there was something wrong. My mind was racing. What should I do? Should I drive her to the police station? Did she escape from an institution? I think that she surely had some dementia going on to some degree. She could not tell me her address but she did direct me to her apartment. I asked her, “Do you have any family here?” “No.” I explained to her that I had taken Russian when I was in college. “Why?” she asked. I wasn’t very honest with her but I told her that I found it very interesting and challenging. I pulled in to Rosa’s apartment parking lot. She asked me to come up to her apartment for tea. I know that I should have. I know that culturally, it was her way of thanking me. It was late and the American in me didn’t want to. So, I said, “thank you but I have to get going home. My husband is expecting me.” So, she said in her thickly accented English, “I want to thank you. Here, take this.” She dug into the pocket hidden in the folds of her Babushka dress and pulled out a gallon sized Ziploc bag. She pulled out a bottle of beer and a meat and pastry pie. She pulled off half of the pie and handed it to me. It was still warm and greasy and I could smell the spices. “Oh thank you so much!” I said. I watched her get out of my car. And, as I used to do with my babysitters, I stayed in the lot shining my lights on the entrance until I was sure she had opened the front door and safely walked inside. As I drove away, I rolled down my window and tossed the potion of meat pie she shared  with me. I didn’t want to tell her “no thank you.” I didn’t want to be rude. I am vegetarian. I did appreciate her gesture. Since that night I have wondered. Should I have done more for Rosa? Should I have gone up for tea? Should I have checked in on her the next day? Should I have tried to connect her with some community services? This is one regret I have. I did not really want to risk anything. I feel bad about that. Rosa has really had an impact on my thoughts and on my life. I wish her well.

It’s Good to Buy a Car With Good Cup Holders

I have been wanting to buy a classroom pet for a long time. Finally I decided the time had come. My district has a “No fur. No feathers policy”. I am a fur and feathers kind of person. I currently have four cats and a dog. In the recent past there has also been a Chinchilla in the mix. I think the perfect class pet would be a dog. Or a cat. Or a Chinchilla. Or maybe a Parakeet. A “No fur, no feathers” policy leaves me with fish, Hermit Crabs, Geckos or snakes. I have nothing against these options except that I do have a problem with crickets. So that leaves fish. I’ve always had a prejudice against Beta fish. Are they even real fish? I mean Really. Aren’t they part of the designer pets craze? But, they are super low maintenance. One more tally mark in the “Get A Beta Fish” column. And it was on sale. So, I’m sold. I bought a male Beta, food, live plants, blue gravel, the food, and the water treatment stuff, and the combination fish tank/aerator system at PetSmart. After chatting my way through the check-out lane I walked out to my car in the parking lot. Then it suddenly dawned on me: I was alone. The Beta was in a small plastic cup of water with a hole in the top. No problem. The Beta cup fit in my cup holder almost perfectly. I pulled out onto 28th Street, a busy bumper to bumper east-west road that is lined with restaurants, gas stations and strip malls. It was Saturday afternoon. Lots of stop and go traffic. It was also winter. And, as I said, the Beta cup fit into my cup holder almost perfectly. My attention was focused on my driving and not on the fish. Suddenly, I realized the Beta cups had sloshed over so I instinctively reached over and uprighted it. Only, there was some water missing. I held it up to my eye level to see just how much water had sloshed out. Luckily, not much. Unluckily, just enough so that the fish escaped. He apparently saw his chance at freedom and swam for it. I looked down and noticed some water sloshing in my cup holder. Originally my cup holder had contained dried up coffee that I dribble as I drink and drive myself to school every morning. Yikes! There is only one place the Beta could’ve gone – he was swimming at the bottom of my cup holder! What??!! I called my son in a panic. “Maxson, you’re never gonna believe this but I NEED your help!” So I completed my drive down 28th Street with the Beta fish in my cup holder. I was very worried because I didn’t want him to have a coronary infarction caused by the concentration of caffeine in my cup holder. I pulled in the garage at home and my Boy Scout came to the rescue armed with a flashlight. He located the Beta, quickly scooped him up and replaced him in the remaining Beta cup of water. Whew! No lives were lost in the original version or retold version of this story. Speedy, the Beta, lives on in my classroom. He is resilient! And thank goodness for good cup holders.