Sunday, March 31, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #31

Wow--what a month this has been!  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was debating about whether or not to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge.  I'm so happy that I took it on!

This month...
  • I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about the type of person that I am, about the things I love and value in my life, and about what writing means to me.

  • I pushed myself to write every day--31 days to be exact--the most I probably have ever done consecutively. Even when I was tired, cranky, feeling lazy, or had come down with a serious case of writer's block, I pushed through!

  • I read so many amazing slices from all of you.  Your stories and writing inspired me, every day.

  • I looked forward to coming home from work and slicing.  It was actually a really relaxing way to unwind after a long day. And I started to really think about all of the things that happened during the day--the funny, interesting, sad, and happy moments.

  • I started to appreciate the little things, the little moments in my life.  I found that the little things can be significant, they can be powerful.

  • I became even more excited about teaching writing and about writing myself.

  • I remembered why I became a teacher in the first place and realized how lucky I am to be a part of a community of such truly amazing people.

I'm so thankful for everyone who participated in the March Challenge.  I'm thankful because I got to be a part of a wonderful group of supportive and encouraging teachers--of creative and reflective writers.  Your kind comments put a smile on my face every day, and I felt uplifted from reading your remarkable writing.

Thank you for a great month! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #30

My students are doing such an amazing job writing their slice of life stories. So far, I've read some excellent slices--and the comments, especially have been great--very positive and encouraging.   I think that the commenting is probably their favorite part of slice of life.

I just had to share one of my student's slices today because it blew me away:

The Great Fall

It was a normal Saturday up at saddle ridge riding center. The big bare trees around the barn and pens were whistling in the wind. Frosty air bit our noses and toes. (leather boots aren't as warm as they look!) Horses were walking around in their stalls, people were petting their soft noses, and thankfully, it wasn't wet. As my family's car rolled up to the barn, I had high hopes. I hadn't even touched a horse in a few months because we had been away for ski weekends and was hoping for a good riding lesson that would make me look foreword to the next one. 

Soon, we met with my teacher, Barbra. She gave us a big smile and took us and the horse that I would be riding today, Toby, up to the ring. He was big and the color of a flame in the sunlight. He always looked sad, staring at you with his big black and brown horse eyes like he was thinking 'give me a carrot please!" I mounted his tall back and Barbra told me to walk around. After a few minutes of that, I put my feet into my stirrups and at her command, started to trot in half seat. Half seat, for those who don't know, is a position on the horse when your feet are in the stirrups and your hand is holding the horse's mane. It's sort of like the position jockeys do for racing. 

Anyway, I was trotting in half seat which isn't a really stable position on the horse, when Toby, the horse fell. I don't mean he wound up on his back, but he stumbled onto his front knees and I, as you might have guessed, fell off. One moment, I saw Toby on his knees. Then I blinked. Then, I was falling. Then I blinked again. Then finally, I was on the ground, and Toby was standing over me. 

For one terrifying moment, I was afraid that I was going to be stepped on. That was probably the reason why I got up so fast. Barbra came rushing over to me.

"Are you OK?" She asked.

I nodded. She looked at my eyes.

"Can you wiggle every thing? Do you remember where you are?"
I nodded.
"Good!" she said." That was a pretty crazy fall! I would actually call it one of the few ones that was actually Toby's fault and not yours!"
I looked over at Toby to make sure he was OK and fortunately saw him looking at me expectantly as if to say can we do that again?
"That was lucky on both of our accounts!" I thought.

B. That was a great story.  I could really picture Toby falling to his knees and you falling behind him.  I also liked the way you used dialogue in the story.  I hope you don't have another fall with Toby.

E. I loved how you told us what Toby was and who was Barbra.  Great job on your slice of life!!!!!

Ms. S.: Zoe, this was a great slice of life! I really liked how you described what the horse looked like-- "the color of a flame"--wow! I got such a strong image in my mind of Toby. He must be a beautiful horse.

W. This was a great slice of life, i especially like your remarkable description, like how you described when Toby fell and how he was right above you. I could actually visualize what was happening. Excellent story!!!! :) :)

Z. Wow that sounds so scary!! I'm happy your'e OK.  You had me in suspense!!!

My students are awesome. And there are so many more great slices coming in by the day! Even my kids who have been struggling all year posted some really great slices--full of details and their thoughts and emotions.  I'm a happy teacher on this beautiful Saturday morning!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #29

I love to cook. I think if I hadn't become a teacher, I might have gone to culinary school.  My love for cooking probably came from my mother who is an excellent cook.  Family parties and holidays have always been centered around lots and lots of good, homemade food--always made, with love, by my mother.

As a kid, I was always in the kitchen with my mom--either sitting and watching her cook or making my way in there myself to try, usually only resulting in an utter mess in the kitchen.  Those moments are some of my favorite memories I have with my mother.

Just like my mother, I never measure anything and I can't follow recipes. I just taste and add and add some more until it comes out just how I like it.  Not that that method has always worked for me, but I'm learning.  Baking, on the other hand, I have no patience for.  Too much measuring and following recipes precisely and making sure not to forget about how many more minutes are left before everything has to come out of the oven.  I've burned more chocolate cookies and cupcakes than I can count at this point, and I've pretty much given up.  I just stick to cooking.

Anyway, here's what I made for dinner and my recipe (minus any precise measurements because I just don't have any).  I guess I'll call it Pasta a'la Rachel: 

  • Saute onions and lots of garlic in a little olive oil.  
  • Add dashes of red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic salt, and fresh black pepper.  
  • Add a generous amount of dry white wine and let the wine cook down a bit. 
  • Then, add chicken broth and a few spoonfuls of tomato paste.  Let this cook for some time.
  • Next, add clams, scallops, and shrimp. Taste along the way to adjust for seasoning.
  • Add the sauce and seafood over any type of pasta that you like. I used linguine.

Finish it off with a little bit of parsley (so it looks nice) and a little Parmesan cheese (or a lot if you really like it like me).  After adding a little of this and a little of that and tasting along the way, here's what the final product should look like...

Oh! and  of course, don't forget to finish it off with a healthy glass of your favorite white wine.

Bon app├ętit!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #28

Dear Mr. Christopher Paul Curtis,

I am writing to inform you that something most miraculous occurred over the past few weeks in my class--all thanks to you.

You have changed the lives of a group of students (and I'm sure many more) in my class.  In fact, you have transformed four rambunctious, eleven-year old boys into readers--a seemingly impossible feat I myself have struggled with all year.  After try and try and try, I just couldn't find the right book that could magically make these boys want to read--I mean, really want to read.

And then, I assigned them Bud, Not Buddy and everything changed.

You gave them a character they loved--Bud, and a story they couldn't stop reading.  You surprised them, made them laugh, and gave them so many wonderful ideas to bring to their lively book club discussions. You gave them their "favorite book ever"!

You even made this group fight a bit over who would read The Mighty Miss MaloneThe Watsons Go to Birmingham, and Elijah of Buxton first from our classroom library. They even had to make a list of who was reading what and when it had be finished by, so they could swap books--because they are that serious about your writing!

Your book was the greatest gift my students, and I, their teacher, could ever receive.  I can't thank you enough.  What would we do without authors like you in this world?

Yours eternally grateful,
Ms. S.

P.S. expect another letter soon from four enthusiastic boys from room A-204!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #27

Spring, are you here? We think you have finally arrived--it was warm, breezy, 
and sunny today, and we couldn't help but notice.  It was all the talk around here...

We're ready. We've been waiting and waiting  for our buds, 
the color of flames, to spread and grow. We long for being planted in the front yards 
of aged, brick homes, along worn pathways, and crumbling stone walls...

We don't want to get too excited, though--not just yet.  We thought you were finally here the other 
day, but then it grew frosty and cold--and we ended up feeling disappointed and sad...

 But we're hopeful, Spring, because you showed  up today, and we were happy and 
we smiled.  Our colors grew brighter with the warm, beautiful weather. Our souls felt restored.

Please, do your best tomorrow, Spring.  We hope you come back to visit.  
We'd love for you to stay for awhile...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #26

A list of some random/cute/interesting/funny things that I observed today in 6th grade:

  • One student (during quiet, independent reading time) screams: "Ahhhhh, I just got to the surprise part in my book! I've been waiting a whole 136 pages for this!!!! " And then proceeds to tell his entire book club group what happened--not a happy group, to say the least.
  • One group in my social studies class brought poster lights (which I didn't even know existed) to put on their Industrial Revolution poster--and we had to turn off all the lights to see the poster flashing and ohhhh and ahhhhh at how cool it was. It was necessary.
  • I overheard two girls discussing what they wanted to write their slices about, with smiles on their faces.
  • My afternoon block begged me to let them take the social studies test tomorrow, instead of Thursday, because they felt super ready--and I told them they were going to rock their test!
  • A sweet 6th grader, whom I don't even have in class, said good morning to me and held the door for me and asked if I needed help carrying all of my bags.
  • It was crazy hat, hair, everything day--and I teach sixth grade, enough said.
  • I graded several feature articles--and one student wrote all about pickles, yes, pickles, and it was best topic I could imagine!
  • I watched my class working together so well today--like we're all friends, like we're a big family.
  • I walked down the 6th grade hallway and was rammed into by about 5 kids--because in 6th grade, we have no concept of where we're walking/if we're going to walk into anyone--we just walk as if we don't have a care in the world.
  • I was told by a student that my missing hall pass was lodged in a toilet in the boys' bathroom--and then he proceeded to ask if I wanted it back--umm, no thanks!
  • During writing workshop, one of strugglers said, "This essay writing is actually getting easier" and it made me smile.
  • Kids crowded around my desk to hear a silly story I was telling another student after the bell rang--instead of taking a four minute break to socialize with their friends--and they love those four minutes.
  • One of my students said, "Thank you, Ms. S!" and another, "Have a nice day, Ms. S!" after leaving class--and they do this every single day.

What a great, and always interesting, day in sixth grade. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #25

Slice of Life has officially been launched in our classroom today!  My kids seemed really excited about it, too.  I actually think this may have been the first time that my sixth graders haven't complained about a homework assignment--that says a lot in itself. Excited about homework--my class--not in million years! Maybe they're having a change of heart.

But the best part of this already has been that the student in my class that dreads writing--really dreads it--one of most reluctant writers, posted the first slice! How cool is that?!

So, I've been sitting with my computer up since after school waiting to see if my kids would post any slices today.  After looking at the first few, I realize that some of their slices are going to need some work for sure.  We'll have to go over again tomorrow in class what makes a good slice and I'll have to show them some more examples.  But I think this is going to build an excitement for writing overall in my class, and I can't wait to see how my students are going to grow as writers the rest of year because of slicing!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #24

I've decided that I'm going to start Slice of Life in my writing workshop class tomorrow!  I'm currently working on creating a blog for my class. We have a blogger section on our class website, so it's going to be great for this! I'm so excited for my kids to get started, and I can't wait to read what they're going to write.  I think I'm even more excited about them commenting on each other's posts.  I know my students are going to love that.

Well, only a short slice for tonight--I have lots to do for tomorrow at school.  I'll post about how it's going soon, I'm sure.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #23

This morning I had to get my hair done. It needed to be cut and colored so badly.  I generally avoid getting anything done to my hair, until it absolutely has to be done. For some reason, getting my hair done stresses me out. I think it's probably because I've seen and had some pretty scary outcomes from drastic dye jobs and hair cuts.

There was a time when I was blonde and a time when my hair was almost black--my hair's been pretty much most shades of the rainbow--minus blue and purple and green.  It's been short and very long and somewhere in between.  

And I've even dabbled in being a "hair stylist" myself.  I remember one time when we were on a family vacation, I attempted to dye my sister's pretty light brown hair to blonde and it did not go so well.  Her hair turned pretty much as orange as a carrot. Not a pretty sight.  Lauren was in tears, her prom was two weeks away--of course, and we had to make an emergency appointment at a local salon to fix the havoc I had wreaked on her head.  Three hours and 200 dollars later, she emerged with a slightly lighter, fried head of orange hair--now about the color of orange sherbet

So you can see why my level of stress rises as I enter a hair salon.  And I know this is not normal--most people enjoying getting their hair cut--it's relaxing they say.  But I'm not fooled by that guise.

As I was driving to the salon today I realized that these were the reasons why I don't enjoy getting my hair done:

  1. Scary things can happen when you dye your hair--I've seen and experienced them firsthand
  2. I usually never know what I want to get done
  3. When I think I might have an idea about what I want to get done, I'm never sure if it'll look okay on me and my hair stylist never seems to know either
  4. My hair usually doesn't come out as I expected/hoped, and I never leave the salon looking like a model and/or celebrity, which I always think will happen when I walk into the salon
  5. The lights in salons can be deceiving--everyone's hair looks shiny and beautiful and the perfect color--until you walk outside in the sunlight and it looks totally different

Anyway, I tried to go in there today with a open mind.  Maybe I'd try a new 'do, I thought.  But then I remembered how my sister's hair had turned out that time and thought I should probably just stick to something simple--and I did and I'm happy with it.  Yes, it pretty much looks exactly the same as before, but a few inches shorter.  But nothing drastic occurred and my head feels lighter and I feel happier, so I guess it was a success, after all.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #22

One of my goals this year was to incorporate more projects into my social studies class.  So with almost every unit we've done, I've tried to develop some sort of project.  I think its really important that kids get opportunities to work as a team, problem solve, and just be creative.  Not to mention, a project seems like it's just what my kids need.  My students are starting to "check out", and I think they need a little bit of a break in a way.  A project is well-needed right about now in our class.

Right now, we're studying the Industrial Revolution and have learned about lots of important inventions and inventors. For this project, the students are working with a partner to further research an invention from the Industrial Revolution--the one that they think is the best. Then, they're going to create a poster advertising their invention.

To get the kids hyped up about the project, I told them that they had just been "hired" by a prestigious advertising firm and their "job" was to work as a team to create and design a poster that would convince the public to buy their  invention.  Any time my students have to get into character or are given a "job" for a discussion or project in social studies, they'll all about it! They get excited about some of the silliest things. That's what's so great about sixth graders! 

We were off to the library today to research our inventions! And my kids did such a great job!  We had a successful day in social studies researching and gathering information and working together and giggling and learning a lot while having fun. I'm excited for Monday to see their projects start to come together!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #21

Tonight I've decided to tackle grading the papers that I've been putting off for some time now.  They have to get back to the kids. I have to get them off my mind, too.

But for some reason, I feel like my pile of papers is only growing by the minute, not shrinking like I'd hoped.  So much of what I'm grading is writing intensive, and it seems like it's never ending reading and commenting and responding.  It just takes me forever.

I have a stack of feature articles to finish, reading journals to grade, personal essays to look through...and other assignments coming in at the end of the week to be graded!!

Even though grading can sometimes make me grouchy, I usually stumble across something a student wrote that's really sweet and makes me smile or something ridiculous that makes me laugh.

I love the comments in their reading journals like, "I love the book I'm reading right now!! You should read it too! Thanks for reading my letter. I hope you enjoyed it reading because I sure enjoyed writing it!"  These types of comments make me smile and also make me realize that my sixth graders are slick--they know just what to say to win their teacher over! :)

And then you find some very important notes that are wedged in between a reading entry or two, clearly written during class, like this...

which actually make me laugh.  Figuring out who is going to your sleepover and what games you're going to play is way more important than anything we're learning right now--well, at least to a sixth grader.

Well, I'm off to power through my grading and find even more interesting things that are hidden among the piles.  I'm sure I'll have a laugh or two tonight, at least!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #20

My day:

Woke up too early to finish school work
Book clubs in language arts--lots of discussing and noise and smiles--a happy, productive class
Vented at lunch with friends from work
Came home... and walked the dog
Cozied up in my pajamas...feeling exhausted
Made dinner
Plopped on the couch and closed my eyes--only for 10 minutes, I told myself
Fell asleep...
Woke up at 12:07--oh no! Didn't write my slice but I promised myself I wouldn't miss a day!

Currently awake at 12:18--this will have to do for today's slice. Tomorrow's slice will hopefully be more exciting and written a lot earlier.

Back to bed...zzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #19

Though I generally avoid malls nowadays, today, I had to stop by the mall and make a return.  After taking about twenty minutes to park and walking past crowds and crowds of people, I made my way to one of the few stores that I really love--Anthropologie.  

Everything in this store is so, so beautiful--from the floor to the ceiling--I mean everything.   Yes, the clothes are pretty outrageously priced--but the interesting window displays, bright home decor, and clothes that hang like artwork on the walls make it feel like a visit to an art museum.  There are so many interesting pieces to look at...and wish I could buy.

I could wander around this store for hours just looking in every corner, admiring all of the beautiful things.  Stopping here today made me not so secretly wish that I could win the lottery or marry rich just so that I could afford everything in the store!  

Until then, I'm going to have to settle on shopping in the sale section and admiring the artistry and creativity without buying it. Or perhaps it's time to get a second job working there!  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #18

It's only two days away until the first day of spring--probably my favorite season of the year.  But where are the birds chirping, flowers blooming, and warm, sunny days? They've currently been replaced with snow in New Jersey.  

I thought Puxsutawney Phil had forecasted an early spring! What is taking so long? Why more snow?

Since I'm clearly longing for spring and sick of this snow business, I Googled  "how many times has Punxsutawney Phil been right?".  Yes, I really did Google this.  I stumbled upon some interesting results...

According to's predictions have been accurate 100% of the time.  I find, however, it a little hard to believe anything from a website that promotes a groundhog club and groundhog souvenirs including groundhog cookie cutters, groundhog  travel mugs, Groundhog Brew Coffee (Phil's Blend), and groundhog day hot sauce.  Clearly, I've spent a good deal of time on this website.

Continuing my research in hopes of a more accurate source, I found that according to, Punxsutawney Phil has only been correct approximately 39% of the time. Just as I expected.  I had my hopes up for weeks, only to be let down by old Phil.

Even though my favorite parts of spring may not arrive just yet, I am going to try and enjoy the snow nonetheless.  It's actually a pretty beautiful sight outside right now.  The roads are lined with a dusting of fluffy snow.  No one has driven down my street all night, so it's a pretty undisturbed, peaceful sight.

If we're in for a little more wintry weather, I may be okay with that...only if it brings us a delayed opening tomorrow morning! I could use a few extra hours of sleep.

Until then, I'm still awaiting spring! And still holding a grudge against Phil!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #17

I'm calling it quits for the night. A day spent lesson planning, reading, and studying has left me tired and ready to relax for the rest of the night.  I'm ready to unwind, cozy up on the couch, catch up on some T.V., and scoff down a large bowl of pistachio ice cream--yumm.

What I didn't finish today can always wait until tomorrow...and I'm perfectly okay with that tonight.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #16

I love bookstores.  They make me happy.  Especially the children's section, which is always the brightest, cheeriest spot to be in the whole place.  I don't know what it is about the kid's section--maybe it's the colorful book covers or cozy nooks where you can read or the laughter and smiles of children running around with their new books.

Today I spent my afternoon at a local Barnes and Noble, checking out the collection of children's books.  After grabbing a stack of books to look through, I sat on the stage in the kid's corner and read for a bit.  It was really nice--and relaxing.  As I read, I observed the scenes unfolding in front of me...happy children rummaging through books, parents curled up with their kids on the floor sharing a good book, and the wonder and joy on children's faces as they became so wrapped up in the story they were reading.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #15

My desk is a total disaster! Papers and books and nick-knacks pile high-- piles grow larger and larger by the minute! I rarely am even able to see the desk itself! At this point, I've learned to navigate through the mess-- oh it's under that pile over there, on top of that stack of papers, wedged in between there somewhere. It's a sad story, but true. I've just become so used to it.

My desk is at the point of no return. No amount of organizing, cleaning, or straightening up will help. I valiantly attempt to tackle this nightmare every day, but it only lasts for so long.

By the next day it will only look like this again...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #14

Day 14- Almost halfway through a month of slicing.  16 more posts. My brain's feeling a bit fried today and I'm having some serious writer's block.  But I can do this!  Thank goodness for the list of 31 topics to write about from Two Writing Teachers.  It's come in very handy today.

Here's a list of things I'm feeling thankful for:

Thankful for...

Having a family that supports me
Friends that keep me sane
My cozy, oversized, red flannel pajamas
Good books--the ones that make me want to be right there in the story
Co-workers who support me when things aren't going so well
The bright yellows and oranges and reds of sunrises and sunsets
The ability to see and hear and touch and feel
Rainy days--because they can lead to rainbows
Laughter on a hard day
Almond and Sea Salt Dark chocolate
Barnes and Noble's childrens' corner
Lazy days
The kindness of strangers
Challenges--because they help me become a better person
Naps on days like today
Dakota and Ginger and Eleanor
The ability to travel and see new places, meet new people
Sunshine through the clouds
Genuine smiles
Good health

This puts things into perspective...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #13

After work today, I went with a friend to my favorite local coffee and pastry shop. As I walked through the door, I was greeted by the strong smells of espresso and buttery pastries in the air.  The smells reminded me of my favorite cafe in Rome that I used to go to when I lived abroad.  Every day, I would stop there and order a steaming cappuccino that always warmed my hands on my cold, wintry walk to school past the Colosseum and all of the beautiful sights in Rome.

Though this little place can't really compare to my Roman cafe, I still love it.  And today, I couldn't help but notice the happiness on the other customers' faces as they devoured their chocolate croissants, sweet and savory crepes, and coffee in the largest mugs I've ever seen.  It seemed like everyone in there was just plain happy.

As I went to the counter to order, I noticed the beautifully arranged pastries, brightly decorated cakes, and delectable-looking baguettes.  Even though I've been there many times before, I can never decide what to get--because everything just looks that good.  So I usually stop and stare and debate and then decide and then see something else that looks even more delicious and then seriously consider ordering one of everything and then finally decide on about five different treats.  

But today, I had a different strategy--I looked around the cafe to see what everyone else had ordered.  I thought that might make my decision easier.  I noticed a woman, smiling ear to ear, eating a crepe, sipping on a latte, and laughing with a friend.  Whatever she was having I wanted--it looked too good to pass up.  So, I asked and she began to rave about her strawberry and Nutella crepe.  After hearing that, I knew what to do.  I ordered the same...and a cappuccino. 

As I waited, I watched the crepe being made and marveled at how artfully it was being crafted--watched as the  gooey Nutella and bright, red strawberries were carefully spread onto the delicate crepe.  When it arrived at the table, I took a bite of it and big gulp of my cappuccino.  It couldn't have been more delicious.  Even though this wasn't Rome, I couldn't help but feel like all of the other customers there: happy--just plain happy. 

There's just something about that place...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #12

I'm not sure why, but even after taking a day off yesterday, I felt exhausted and drained and ready to crawl into pjs at 4:00 today when I got home--which is just what I did.

It's hard coming back to school and getting into the groove of things again after taking a day off.

But I guess a day off is usually not really a day off when you're a teacher. Yes I slept in, yes I relaxed a little, yes I finished the book I was reading, yes I wondered and worried about how out of hand my students could potentially be for my sub. And yes, I put off thinking about school and planning for most of the day.

And yes, at around 9:30 pm, I realized I had better get started on getting my things ready for school tomorrow. And yes, I absolutely could and should have started this earlier-- I had all day off, after all!

So after my day off...and then late night of planning, I think I ended up more tired than if I hadn't taken the day. But, nonetheless, I was happy to be back today. I missed my students yesterday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #11

I was organizing and rummaging through old pictures today and came across this.  The third-grade version of myself wrote this about why my dad was the best...

I must have been pretty wise at the ripe old age of eight because this describes my dad to a T.

Because it's my dad's birthday today, here's my twenty-something year old version of why my dad's the best...

My dad is...
Always there, always listening, always caring, always encouraging,
Always watching, always cheering, always guiding, always teaching, 
Always selfless, always gentle, always patient, always proud,
Always the person I hope I can be just like, someday soon

Thanks Dad, for everything.  Happy birthday.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #10

My relaxing weekend away, in pictures...

Drove along roads lined with colorful row houses--
bright yellows and blues and weathered brick...

Stayed at an apartment full of charm, with pretty views 
and interesting pieces of art from travels around the world...

Marveled at the breathtaking views at Niagara Falls--
sounds of rushing water and clouds of mist in the air...

Tasted delicious wines at local wineries--
reds and whites, sweet and dry...

Stopped to feel the cool, billowing 
breeze on Seneca Lake...


A great weekend away, but always happy to be back home...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #9

This morning we rose bright and early to visit Niagara Falls. It was really beautiful seeing the falls, especially this time of the year, because they were covered with mounds of perfect, fluffy-looking snow.

Niagara Falls was different than I imagined it would be--more touristy I guess, but pretty amazing nonetheless.

Even though I live in the state over, I had never been there before. Visiting Niagara made realize that there really are so many great places to see in the United States that I need to start exploring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #8

My entire family is together today--my sister flew home from out west, my brother's back for the weekend from college. All of us siblings haven't been together like this in years.

It's a been a happy house today filled with sounds of laughter and joking and catching up. Even though each one of us is living in different places, in different stages in our lives, we seamlessly fall back into the way it was when we were younger. It's been really nice.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #7

Waiting until the last minute to pack for a trip is never a good idea--especially, if you're an "over-packer" like me.  Any time I go away, I put off packing until the night before.

Even in college when I was going abroad for three months, I waited until the last minute to pack.  The night before I left, there were piles and piles and piles of clothes scattered throughout my room just waiting to be squeezed into my bag that seemed to be growing smaller by the minute. I tried every which way to fit all of those clothes in because they were all coming with me.  It would have been too overwhelming to just sort out the necessities.

I've pretty much mastered all the techniques for fitting an inordinate amount of stuff into a small bag--from  laying on top of the suitcase and zipping around the sides to folding every article of clothing meticulously so it saves the most space to using those space saving bags that do save space but leave your clothes completely wrinkled.

Tonight, I find myself facing the same dilemma.  I'm only going away for the weekend, but the options of what to bring seem endless and overwhelming. I have to be prepared for the unexpected, after all.

I probably should just look up the weather, grab a few sensible things, and be done.  But for some reason, I find myself unable to get past my over-packing syndrome. So, I think I'll just throw all of the piles of clothes I gathered  into my bag, zip it up with a struggle, and be done. I can figure it out when I get there!

Looking forward to getting away for the weekend...while carrying a very heavy bag along the way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #6

Today in class we finished reading our read aloud, Nory Ryan’s Song.  When I first started reading the book, my kids didn’t seem like they were really enjoying the story all that much.  I even had a student come up to me and say, “This book is so not as good as Wonder.”  Wonder was our first read aloud and my kids absolutely loved it.

As we got further into the book, though, they came around.  They started to become invested in the characters and worried about what might happen to them.  And today, as I finished the last page and closed the book dramatically, all I heard was…Awwww, no!!! It’s over!! What! Are you kidding me?  Does Nory make it to Brooklyn? What about Patch!? And Anna? Arrghhhh!

Listening to their responses reminded me of this quote I read once that stuck with me:

“Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend.”

It was true— finishing up our read aloud was sad, like we had lost a close friend that we’d gotten to know for some time now.  Maybe it had taken them a little longer to get into the book, but they did, and now they were really upset that it was over.

And then after school I was in our library and I saw one of my students.  I asked him what book he was getting and he said Maggie’s Door.  He had to find out what happened to Nory and Sean and Patch and Maggie and what their life was like in Brooklyn.  It was such a great way to end the day! J

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #5

Feeling slightly overwhelmed with all the things I have piling up, so I figured I’d make a list to sort it all out. 

My to-do list:
  • Type up my observation lesson plan
  • Walk the dogs
  • Start training for the triathlon I signed up for this summer—go for a run
  • Put together packets for book clubs
  • Grade a stack of tests
  • Relax and have a glass of wine
  • Start studying for another Praxis exam
  • Finish Delirium
  • Write letters back to my students in their reading journals
  • Figure out my life
  • Plan my weekend trip to the Finger Lakes
  • Write my slice
  • Book a flight to see my sister
  • Plan a summer trip to Italy
  • Watch the news, because I’m feeling uninformed
  • Call my best friend and catch up on life

Now, if only I could get it all done tonight. I better get started. Time to prioritize.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #4

One of my favorite parts of the day is my drive to work. Fifteen minutes of almost straight highway with nothing particularly special to look at. But there’s something about that quick, blissful drive that clears my mind.  For those few minutes, I’m in my own world. I get to roll down the windows, feel the cool air, and listen to a sweet song.

As I drove to work this morning, I smiled as one of my favorite country songs came on. There’s something about country music that always puts me in good mood. Listening to the lyrics made me wish I was driving along some back road and blasting the radio… maybe even in a beat-up, old pickup truck.


Even though I probably won’t be driving down a road like this anytime soon, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s drive all the same.  Looking forward to hearing a new song to brighten up my morning.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #3

Mornings and I— we've never really gotten along and I’m not sure if we ever will. 

6:00: My eyes reluctantly open and I look at the clock.  6 a.m. on a Sunday morning. No! I must be dreaming.  Close your eyes. Pretend this never happened. Go back to sleep!

6:15: Great, I can’t fall back asleep.  Let’s try this one more time.  Close your eyes and drift back to the pleasant dream you were having—the one where you had the most amazing day ever because you slept until 11 a.m. and awoke refreshed and ready to start your day.

6:30: Alright, this going back to sleep thing isn't working.  Grrr, I muster the strength to pull myself from the warmth of the cozy bed and groggily stumble down the stairs. My legs feel heavy and my eyes cloudy.  Should I just go and climb back into bed?

6:45: I make it the kitchen…finally.  First cup of coffee.  Yumm…blueberry coffee with lots of milk and sugar.  I could be a morning person if it means that I have an excuse to drink several cups of these before noon.

7:15: Second cup of coffee.  Still groggy. Is there even caffeine in this? Why isn't it working!?

8:00: Feeling a little more awake…and I mean a little. Alright, that’s it.  I’m going back to bed.  Wait, no, I can do this.

9:00: Okay, it’s been three hours since I woke up.  I’m feeling grouchy… still don’t want to talk to anyone. Should I have a third cup of coffee?

9:30: I need to do something productive.  I guess I’ll write my slice!

10:00: Finished my slice! I should reward myself for being so productive already.  I know exactly how…I think it’s time for a mid-morning nap! 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #2

I remember telling my class how obsessed I was with Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and how I didn't think I would be able to make it until October 22, 2013 for the third book to come out! 

After recommending the series, one particular student immediately checked out Divergent  from our classroom library.  Two days later, Insurgent was in his hands. For the next few days, whenever there was even a second to read, he did.  Even during social studies class, he hid the book under his desk so that he could read. I felt a little bad about asking him to put the book away and to pay attention to the lesson. I knew how hard it was to put that book down.  I'd been there.

The next week, he stopped in at lunch to tell me how he had finished the second book and how obsessed he was with the series too.  How would he make it through seven, long months for the third book to come out?

That night, he sent me an email that made my day.

Dear Ms. S.,

I found this awesome Divergent website that I thought you’d like!!!  I wonder who will play Tris and Four in the movie. What is that new book you are reading and said was really good? So far I've learned you have the best taste in books of anyone I know. Please write back today. I really need to go to the library and get a new book!

Naturally, I thought it was so “cool,” as my sixth graders would say, that he sent me this note. So, I emailed him back telling him about all of the new books I was reading and asked him if he had any suggestions of books I should read next.  And after that, I have to admit, I went onto the fansite to find out for myself who was going to play Tris and Four in the movie!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #1

To slice, or not to slice, that was today’s question.

As I sat with a teacher-friend at work this morning, she excitedly shared that today was the first day of a marathon of slicing that she was participating in.  Thirty-one days of daily writing!  Wait, had I heard her correctly? Thirty-one days of writing—no breaks, no days in between—every single day in March?

And with her ever-cheerful demeanor, she prompted, “You should participate! You should create a blog!”   Then I thought, I could do that. It couldn't be so hard, right? 

So, we sat together and created my blog—my very own blog, my very own space to write and to share a part of myself.  I felt a thrill of excitement as I started to create my page, but then I had to think of a title for my blog.  A title? I needed to think of a title? Oh no, my very first challenge! And choosing a background? There were just too many options.  And what would be the perfect font!? How could I ever decide? Such big decisions to be made!

Finally, my page looked complete.  The hard part was over—the designing was done.  The rest would be a breeze.   Of course I would be able to do the writing part—I am a writing teacher, after all. 

As the periods raced by, I began to rethink what I had done. Would I be able to do this? What would I write about? What would I say? What would my first slice be about?

And then as I conferenced with a student during writing, I realized something.  I teach writing, yet I don't make enough time to write myself anymore.  How can this teaching thing be authentic if I’m not going through the motions myself?

As I’ve scrambled to gather my thoughts, my ideas, my musings, I get it.  I really get it. I understand how challenging it can be for an 11-year old to get their ideas across, to be vulnerable, to be a writer.

I’m excited for this challenge, excited to practice what I teach.  I’m excited for 30 more days of slicing, excited for 30 more opportunities to put myself in my students’ shoes. I owe it to myself, but more importantly, I owe it to my students.