Show Up

Saturday, October 17, 2020


     There I was, on a Saturday afternoon, listening to Lucy Calkins close out their first ever virtual Saturday Reunion.  Of course, I had forgotten all about it, so I only got to see 1 mini session and this closing message, but I tuned in all the same.  I was hoping she'd talk about an article I had just read about early literacy.  She did not.  Instead, she brought me to tears.

     She talked about the need to Show Up.  That, in this crazy time, we need to show up for each other.  She told the story of her adult children (2 of whom have my own children's name- extra tears for that) showing up as her husband passed away last spring.  I was listening to her speak as I was working on a forth grade planning doc, and the screen started to get a bit harder to read.  Tears were clouding my vision, as I could hear the strain in her voice.  Her heartbreak had now become a metaphor for all of us, as we struggle and grieve with what the pandemic has done to the world we knew.

      Her closing message had nothing to do with reading or writing or phonics.  It was a message about humanity.  She reminded us that we need to be as connected as we can be right now.  We just need to show up for each other.

      We don't need to be perfect.

      Our presence matters to others.

      Show up for your students.

      Show up for your colleagues.

      Show up for our country.

      Hold on to the faith that we matter.


      As I wiped a tear, the doorbell rang.  I was in the middle of working on 4th grade Quarter 2, and was crying, so I didn't want to get up.  My husband wasn't home, and I thought maybe he left his keys at home.  So, I sent him a message. 

     In he walks, holding a delivery.  Indeed, it was a pumpkin of flowers.  It was sent by one of our 4th grade teachers, who "just wanted to put a SMILE" on my face.  That smile came, of course, while I was working on 4th grade curriculum and crying over Lucy's words about showing up for others.

     Theresa Sievers, I have no idea how you managed to show up just when I needed you, but you sure did.  In fact, this past few weeks have been so very stressful for so many many reasons, and the stress was less because people that I work with kept showing up.  Kind emails.  Coffee and chocolate deliveries.  Thankful words.  Text messages.  Twitter tags.  Why?  Simply because I work with the best staff in the world, who SHOW UP for their colleagues.

     We are going through some pandemic level stress right now.  Instinct often leads us to show our stress by criticizing and pointing fingers.  It is happening all over social media.  The reality is, though, that in order to get through this, we need each other.  We need to show up.  Some days, we are showing up for others.  Some days, they show up for us.  Together, we will get through this.  In the meantime, I'll just stop and smell my pumpkin of flowers and be thankful for my D100 family.

      I challenge you to stop and take a moment and send a kind message or do a random act of kindness right now. This very second.  It could be a text message to a friend you haven't seen, or a kind comment on a coffee cup left on a doorstep.  It doesn't matter what it is.  It will matter to someone.  Show up with kindness when the world seems upside down.


Pandemic Slices of Life

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#SOL20: March 31st

          I had high hopes that this year I'd slice every day.  But, here's a secret about me.  I don't like to write and share thoughts that are completely deep and dark and scary.  I like to share stories that have at least a glimmer of hope, even in mostly bad situations.

          Pandemics, it turns out, cloud my mind and hide the glimmer.

          I'm sad for the front line workers, like my sister, who have to put their lives on the line.

          I'm sad for my students and coworkers, whose worlds are so completely disrupted.

          I'm sad for my children, who've had events cancelled that they've been planning for all year.

          I'm nervous and anxious and fearful and sad for the world.

          And yet...

          I'm thankful for the days that I did slice, because on those days, I was able to put my fears and anxiety aside and share things that helped me feel gratitude and hope and joy in the middle of all the fear.  I'm thankful that slicing helped me see the glimmer, even if it wasn't the full 31 days of March.  

          See you next year.  In the meantime, keep washing those hands.

New Pajamas

#SOL20: March 28th

Some days I put on new pajamas.  Some days I don't.

Today is an old pajama day.


LEGO Injury

Monday, March 23, 2020

#SOL20: March 23rd

          My daughter had a bandaid on her foot.  

          "What's that on your foot?  Why do you need a bandaid?"

          "Oh, that's from that LEGO I stepped on.  It's pretty bad.  It was one of those hinge pieces.  I didn't think it would hurt that much, but it really did."  My daughter said this as she walked into the front room.

          "What are you doing now?" I asked.

          "Playing with my LEGOs," she replied.

           I wanted to tell her that there is no such thing as LEGOs, just LEGO bricks, but I knew she wouldn't appreciate the correction.  I just found it funny that she was so quick to return to something that hurt her so bad.  I suppose when you love something, you find a way.  Even if it's a LEGO brick!


The Birthday Party that Never Happened

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#SOL20: March 22nd

          There she was, standing next to me.  Her eyes were filled with tears, but she wasn't saying anything.  My 9 year old daughter was just staring, ready to break down.

          "Bars and restaurants are closed?  I just heard Daddy say that!  That means I'm not having my party."  He did just say that on the phone to a friend.  Clearly, she hears everything.

          Here we go... again.  That was the 3rd party we cancelled, but never actually planned.  She's turning 10 next Tuesday, and has been talking about her birthday for months.  First, she wanted a pool party.  When she announced that back in January, I had heard about the coronavirus, so I waited to book it.  I kept waiting and waiting, and the virus kept spreading and spreading.  I finally told her that the pool wasn't available that day.  The idea of putting kids into a pool just wasn't a risk I wanted to take.

          How about mini golf?  Now that March was here, we had to make a decision.  Mini golf clubs could be wiped down.  How about that?  Then, cases started happening in Chicago.  I had to tell her that I just couldn't book a birthday party right now.  No one would come.  We can wait until the summer, I said.  Your friends won't mind waiting, I said.  She cried and cried.  I was too upset to cry.

          I found out that the frozen yogurt place near us would let us have a small gathering with no big planning involved.  Froyo with just close family?  Perhaps that we could do.  I told her that we could invite just her aunts and cousins for a small gathering.  That made her feel better.  In my mind, I could wipe down the froyo machine handles, bring sanitizer, and we could even eat it outside in their courtyard.  Yet, I sat on the news.  I couldn't bring myself to even making the invitation, because in my heart I knew it wouldn't happen.  

          That day with tears in her eyes, they closed restaurants and bars.  That day, the last ditch effort to make her 10th birthday even a tiny bit of a celebration came tumbling down.  I reassured her that we would still celebrate her birthday, even if it was just the 4 of us.  I didn't tell her that I already have her birthday presents stashed in my closet, just in case the stores close down, too.  Good thing I do, because she wanted to go to the American Girl Store on her actual birthday.  They closed that day, too.

          A few days later, it was confirmed by text.

          Here I am, standing in my kitchen, watching a few robins fly around the yard.  They are free to go wherever they want, totally oblivious to the lockdown the rest of our state is experiencing.  Today is the day that we had set aside for those birthday parties that were never destined to happen.  I poured her a glass of milk, and walked out of the kitchen.  I was afraid that she'd see my eyes filled with tears.  She seems to have no idea that today should have been her party.  Honestly, I wonder if she even knows what day it is.  That's what life is like in lockdown, I guess.  You don't even realize the things you miss when the days blend together.  Perhaps even the big things.

          We have 2 days until she turns 10.  I have a feeling she won't be so oblivious that day.  I hope she someday realizes that on her 10th birthday, she helped save people's lives instead of swimming, mini golfing, or eating froyo.

Monochromatic LEGO Challenge

Friday, March 20, 2020

#SOL20: March 20th

            There we were, sorting LEGO bricks into colors.  Today's challenge was to build something in all one color, a monochromatic build.  My daughter was super excited, and I had no idea whatsoever what I could build.  I made a pile of red for her, and green for me.  She wasn't sure what she was going to make, but seemed confident.  I declared, "I'm building a house."  I mean, that's super creative.  I started sorting bricks into color categories for us.

          I sorted for awhile, and then changed my pile from light green to dark green.  

          She changed her mind from red to yellow, because we don't have an all red mini figure.  I started making her a pile of yellow.

         I changed my mind from green to white.  We apparently have a lot of white.

         At this point, I had no reason not to start building my generically boring house.  She had a whole space ship thing going, and I started putting down the bricks to make my house.  My boring, old house.  

         As we were building, Keira started talking about how her life is so much better with LEGO in it.  She said that it made her so creative, and that she didn't know what she would do without LEGO.  Listening to her, I realized that I needed to be a bit more creative myself.  I looked down at the house that I was building, and thought to myself, "What could this white house be?"

          An igloo...  
          A clean house... 
          A hand sanitizer factory!!!

          That was it.  Here, in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, what the world needs is a hand sanitizer factory!  I built a pump and found a little white cabinet piece to hold imaginary Clorox wipes, too.  My daughter, when I announced my improved concept, found me an all white mini figure and helped me build the hand sanitizer pump that is on the roof.  Apparently, she didn't like my original design.  (She was right, by the way.  Her's is better.)

          With that, here is our hand sanitizer factory and her banana space ship!

Sidenote:  My son skipped this challenge so that he could build a rollercoaster on the computer.  I wasn't thrilled with his decision at the time.  He then told me that his design was the best he's ever made by himself, and that he couldn't stop watching it when he finished.  We all show our creativity in different ways.  :)


Mommy Class is in Session

Thursday, March 19, 2020

#SOL20: March 19th

          "Mom!  We are waiting for you!  School has started!!!"

          I walked upstairs to my son's room, and there they were, my smallest class on record.  It's a multi-age class of 3, spanning from kindergarten to 5th grade.  My niece and my own two kids had now formed a class.  They had set up their own lap desks, and were sitting in them, waiting for the teacher to arrive.  And here I was.


          We started with a LEGO challenge, based on a LEGO Quarantine Challenge group we are in on Facebook.  The challenge was to make a build from 2070, and so off they went.  My niece built a dog house, my son built a futuristic car show, and my daughter built a scene where robots took over the world.  We shared our builds in "morning meeting" and then headed to lunch.  (Yep, we were behind schedule a bit.)


          After lunch, we had writing.  I asked the kids to name all the types of writing that they know, and we made a web on the best chart paper I could find.  When we were done listing genres, I passed out some notebooks I had around the house with a variety of paper choice, and told them that they got to pick what to write about and which type of writing to use.  I, of course, blogged my slice of life from yesterday, because teachers are writers, too.  We wrote for 15 minutes, and then they each got to share out their favorite piece.  I had dug in my garage for my Yoda self assessment of free choice writing, and they self assessed their ability to have an idea and write with volume.  Sadly, I only got a 2 for volume.  I was not writing the whole time.  (They saw me stop and take a few pictures.)

          For math, we read Color Farm by Lois Ehlert, which is about animals made of shapes.  They were all challenged to draw an animal using just shapes on their iPads, and then they went onto various math apps to practice skills.  By reading Color Farm, now my niece would have a book to add to her reading basket, too.


          For reading, we just did read to self.  No lesson today, just setting up workshop.  We talked about picking a book we wanted to read, and finding personal space where we could read for 15 minutes straight.  I told them that kindergartners often read out loud, so they needed to take charge and find a spot that avoided that if it bothered them, and they all read.  I did, however, have to force my niece to take a hand washing break after she sneezed into her hand.  Ick.  I then pulled her into a reading conference and she read a book to me with some prompting, and then I sent her downstairs with her iPad to record herself reading while the other 2 finished their 15 minutes quietly.  At the end, I made a quick status of the class document and we recorded our reading for the day.

         For art, they wanted to color in their coloring books.  Go ahead!  Then they all started fighting.  That was a real joy.  I might have threatened to send them to the principal, which is ironic because in my real classroom I rarely ever did that.  But, tough times call for tough measures.

         To end the day, my daughter wanted to do a Model Magic clay challenge of an animal, and then she had us write in our journals about our learning for the day.  What a great idea!  So we did that.

          My son then did a virtual ballet class with his dance teacher, Mrs. Brenda.  He was using my computer, so that put a stop to my own productivity a bit.  

         This was Day 1 of Mommy School.  
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My Own Reflections:
Teaching is hard.  We already know this.  But, teaching in a multiage classroom at home (with your own kids) without having the supplies that we are used to is a challenge, and I'm a teacher by trade.  I happen to have all my old classroom supplies stored in my garage, which are not easily accessible but they are there.  I was also trying to work from home while doing all of this, as the curriculum work I do still needs to get done.  Why am I saying all this?  My kids were SO excited for Mommy School, honestly because they NEED the routine of what they know.  For now, this is the new normal.  But, as moms and dads who are also tasked with working from home, it is hard to teach class with multiple levels and do what they need to do.  So, give some grace to the families that you serve, and give grace to yourself.  We'll get through this, one day at a time.  Just keep kids reading and writing and creating in the meantime.