Wookiee Flashback

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#SOL19: March 28th

     They stare at each other, him crouched down, her on her feet.  Eyes locked, wordless.  Just staring.  He looks her up and down, this cute little girl wearing a Stormtrooper outfit in the presence of the Rebellion.  He shrugs, and his hairy head showed his confusion.  Chewbacca does not like Stormtroopers, but he wants to like this little girl.

      We were at Disney World, and my daughter had insisted on wearing her costume, despite the 100+ heat.  She wore it during the march of the First Order, she wore it to meet all the Star Wars characters in the Launch Bay, and she wore it again to the Star Wars themed fireworks show.  My girl is an Empire girl.  The Stormtroopers saw her and gave her special treatment.  The Wookiee, however, wasn't having it.  

     And now, sitting here at my kitchen table in March, thinking about what to slice about, my coffee mug transported me back to that hot summer day almost a year ago.  I always buy a coffee mug when we go on a vacation, and this is why.  Memories last forever, as long as we remember to remember them. 

Mini Corn Dogs

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#SOL19: March 27th

      Two cousins, bumper bowling together on Spring Break.  There they were, knocking down pins and building up an appetite.  So, we ordered some mini corn dogs from the kitchen.

      My niece tore through her corn dogs and requested more.  But, there weren't many left. I was puzzled for a minute, because they tend to eat pretty slowly.  Were they really so hungry that we ran out?  

      I glanced down at their plates.  My daughter, owner of the white plate, only eats the breading.  She carefully ate the breading and left the mini hot dogs, discarded on the side of the plate.  My niece, who was just eating out the basket, had a pile of mangled breadings, with no hot dogs to be seen.  The simple solution?  I grabbed the hot dogs that had been abandoned by my daughter and gave them to my niece.  Everyone was happy once again.

      These two are an odd couple.  They could grow old together, sharing one meal if they wanted to.  Together they would finish one corn dog.  What a team!  

Double Headed Serravallo

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

#SOL19: March 26th

     It was literacy night at the school where I taught/coached for 18 years, and I love to go back there on nights when families return.  I secretly hope that students I taught years ago come back with their younger siblings so that I can catch up.  I also look for parents and ask for updates on how they are doing.  It used to be just my second grade students, but now it's kids that I worked with as a literacy coach.  This evening was a mystery themed literacy night, so I scanned the room looking for students like a detective on the case.  I spotted one, and made my way across the gym to chat.

     He is a current 8th grader at one of our middle schools, so I had seen him recently in the hall, but I had a better chance to chat this time as he was making a mystery note from old magazines.  He was a student I knew as a coach, so I've been checking in with him since he was a third grader.  His little sisters were sitting across from him, also cutting and searching in magazines to create a masterpiece all her own.

     From across the table, his littlest sister started talking to me about her creation.  I glanced down, and then I spotted it: a double headed Serravallo!  In her creativity, she had taken my favorite literacy guru, and turned her into a double headed Jennifer Serravallo.  It dawned on me that perhaps even our students see that Jen Serravallo has the literacy wisdom of at least two people in one person!  I chuckled a bit, and wondered what type of magazines the teachers had put down as sources of print. Apparently Heinemann catalogs were on the table somewhere...  

     As they got up to leave, I took a picture of the three siblings.   They all looked right at the camera, and the littlest one even held up her creation to be forever cemented into my memory of the night.  It's no mystery why I love moments like these at family literacy nights.  


***Thanks Katie and Kim for letting me slice with your students again today!  


Monday, March 25, 2019

#SOL19: March 25th

     Read the book, then watch the movie.  In that order.  Always.

     Those are words I live by.  If there is a movie out that was based on a book, and I have ever had any intention of reading the book, I read the book.  Then, I watch the movie.  That's my rule. My sweet daughter disagreed with me a few years ago when her 2nd grade teacher read The Tale of Despereaux, and then they watched the movie in class.  She followed up by reading Mr. Popper's Penguins, and then watched the movie, and my daughter claimed that the books ruined the movies because she knew what happened already. At the time, I felt like a literacy coach failure.  How could my daughter feel this way?

      Fast forward a few years, and we were sitting at our dinner table, talking about Willy Wonka Jr. before we headed to a nearby school to watch it.  My colleague's daughter taught the middle schoolers there, and I love that novel, so why not!  As we were talking about the play, anticipating how they were going to set the stage up, I realized that both my son and daughter had no idea about what I was talking about.  They didn't know anything about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Somehow they hadn't read it in class, nor at home, and apparently we hadn't watched the movie (which is LOVED by my husband).  How had this happened?

     We got to the play and met Lucy and Becky, and Keira was immediately drawn in by the chocolate concession stand.  Evan was a bit disappointed that we didn't have front row, but as soon as the lights went down he sat on his chair in the back row, on his knees the whole time, comforted by the scarf Lucy put on his chair to kneel on.  Keira, on the other hand, spent most of the play sitting in my lap, whispering in the darkness...

     "So who's the bad guy in this play?"

     "What do you mean the kids are the bad guys?"

     "He didn't find the golden ticket?  Now how is he going to find it?  He only gets one bar a year!"

     "Oh, that's what you mean.  They are all spoiled."

     "Mom, he's going to find it now."

      "Does his grandpa get to go with him?"

      "Mr. Wonka isn't very nice to the kids, either."

      "No!  Don't do it Charlie!  Don't drink that!  I wish this part wasn't happening."

      "I think Veruca Salt is going to be next."  

      "Well, she really was a bad egg.  I liked those squirrels."

      "You mean the whole factory is his?  Will his family move in?"

      It was clear to me that perhaps there is value to watching a play before a book after all.  Those quiet (and not so quiet) whispers in the theater were little golden treasures of my own, peeking out of Wonka bar and waiting to be discovered.  To hear that curious voice in my ear, thinking about the play and making predictions and hearing her reaction, was priceless.  My son, on the other hand, hardly said a word during the play, but afterwards commented on how the cast from Act 1 was almost completely different than the cast in Act 2.  He guessed it was because the settings were different.  And he liked all the costumes and songs.  Those observations are also different from the take aways he would have had from he book, so perhaps he will still read the novel at some point.  Perhaps you can watch the play, and read the book.  

     I think I'll stick to my own rule, all the same. 


Saturday, March 23, 2019

#SOL19: March 23rd

      My kids were both at ballet class, but in their two different classes.  I saw my son's class leave their studio and head into the other studio, perhaps to watch their dance.  The classes become audiences for each other frequently.  But that was not the case today.     

      Dum duh da duh dee doo.  Dum duh da duh dee doo...  A familiar song started up in the big studio, and I rushed to the glass just as words filled the air.

      "Happy Birthday to you,
       Happy Birthday to you,
       Happy Birthday, dear Keira,
       Happy Birthday to you!"

     I watched as both ballet classes formed a huge circle around my daughter and sang to her as she stood in the center in surprise.  They held hands in a ring and spun around her, and then at the end they did some sort of ballet pose thing and she ran around the circle, giddy and proud.  And my eyes filled with tears as I saw my nearly nine year old daughter filled with joy, and wondered where the 9 years have gone.  

     Happy {almost} birthday, K.  

It's A Hard Knock Life

#SOL19: March 22nd

     "So, how did you put them on?"

      "Let me show you."

       I reached into our just arrived dance duffel and reached for a make-up bag filled with things that I myself have never used.  Lip liner, lip stain, eyelash glue, and fake eyelashes.  I pulled the eyelashes out of the bag, opened the case, and peeled one out of the container.

      "Put the eyelash on the clear cover you took off the case.  I use the glue that has a brush applicator.  Put the applicator in the glue, and put a thin line of it on the eyelash.  It will shimmer a bit so you see it.  Let it sit there for a minute or two so it dries a bit.  I highly recommend putting the eyeshadow and eyeliner on first.  If you put some eyeliner on the upper lid, then you don't see your mistake as much if you put the eyelash on a bit too high.  The eyeliner helps cover it.  When you put the eyelash on, just press it down in the center first, and then do the sides.  You got this."

      Our kids were getting dressed in their full costumes for the It's a Hard Knock Life portion of their competition dance, and here I was telling another dance mom how to put on eyelashes.  Two weeks ago, I almost had a full blown anxiety attack over the mere thought of gluing my daughter's eye shut and making her go blind because of a dance competition.  But, here I am, talking eyelashes without losing my mind.  There was even a calmness in my voice that surprised me.  I'm still not thrilled that this is the conversation I'm having, but at least I'm calmer about the process for my daughter.  I'll call that a win.

      The team went on to practice their number, eyelashes and all.  They are going to be ready for their competition in two weeks.  Let's just hope their {dance} moms are, too.

Bilingüe/ Bilingual

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

#SOL19: March 20th

Porque hablo español, 
puedo leer los cuentitos de mis estudiantes 
y decir estudiantes, escuela, comunidad.

Because I speak English, 
I can communicate with others 
and say We are #BetterTogether.

Porque soy bilingüe, 
puedo tomar café y coffee
tener orgullo y pride
leer libros y books
tomar fotografías y photographs
y entiendo doble.

And one day, 
because our students can speak 2 languages, 
they will do twice as many things, 
read, write, listen and speak twice as much, 
and they will be twice as proud of themselves.

This slice was inspired by a poem written by Alma Flor Ada. It was shared by Maribel Gálvez after she did an Así se dice lesson with her class. I decided to use it as a mentor poem instead, and used the structure but changed it to reflect my own bilingual experiences. Thanks for sharing, Maribel (and Alma Flor Ada).

In our dual language classrooms, we use green font for Spanish, and blue font for English.

Tap Tap Tap

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

#SOL19: March 19th

Tap Tap.
There he goes again, tap dancing around the kitchen floor.

Tappity Tap.  
He's supposed to be listening to his dance teacher, not tapping away to his own rhythm.  

Tappity Tap Tap Tap.
Well that sequence looked pretty good.  This competition is going to be cool to watch.

Tappy Tappy Tap.
I told him to change into his gym shoes already.  Let's go!

Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap Tappity Tap.
Don't dance while you eat your dinner!  Sit down and join us at the table.

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.
Bedtime.  Now.  No, not when your dance is done.  Now.  

Do you know what happens when you tap too much? 
You need tape for when the screws fall out.


Monday, March 18, 2019

#SOL19: March 18th

Ice cream for dinner after RE!

    A scoop in a cup, but also in a cone.  

     My daughter feeding her seal.

Talking to my kids about their day.

More than just an ice cream cone label.  It's a state of mind.  :)

South Side Irish

Sunday, March 17, 2019

#SOL19: March 17th

      My extended family's claim to fame is our connection to the theme song for the South Side Irish Parade.  My uncle, Tom Walsh, was one of the three men in The Irish Choir who wrote the theme song so many years ago.  Apparently, it happened right at my uncle's kitchen table, back in the same days that the very same table was a part of all of our extended family gatherings.  Their house was where all my Walsh cousins and I have our fondest memories.  And there are a lot of them, cousins AND memories.  In true Irish fashion, the Walshes are a large clan, and we always embrace our South Side history at two major events: St. Patrick's Day and weddings.  Our anthem gets blared at both those events.

      Today, one of my Walsh cousins posted a picture of the 45 of the song.  I used to have the album, as that was the format it was released on so many years ago, and it was well played.  At some point, I "upgraded" to a cassette tape, because record players were getting harder and harder to come by.  This morning, when I went into a drawer to pull out the cassette, I realized how obsolete this format has become, too.  I couldn't play it for my kids if I wanted.  I haven't owned a cassette player for years...  

      Isn't it funny how so many of our memories are tied to things that the current generation will never understand?  They will know this song, as it will be passed down to them.  They will play it on YouTube, though.  They'll never experience having to be careful holding the 45 so that you don't get fingerprints on the vinyl, or dropping the arm slowly so the needle won't scratch it.  They won't understand having to rewind or fast forward a cassette to play it again, or how hard it was to record on a cassette if you did want to catch it from the radio.  They just search and play, and it many cases watch.  But, the song can remain the same.  Traditions and family don't change, even when everything else around it does.  

***D100 people, ask Molly McEldowney about her connection to the song!  

American Girl and A Green River

#SOL19: March 16th

     It was St. Patrick's Day Eve, and the Chicago River was getting dyed green.  It happens every year, but we have only seen it on TV.  My little family and I choose to go to a local waterfall instead and watch it change to the bright lime green that happens annually (and does not harm the wildlife, we have been assured).  However, our little waterfall stopped doing it last year because so many people discovered it.  A little waterfall can't handle large crowds.

     This year, we couldn't go to the actually dyeing event because my kids had dance.  But, my friend, Bea, did.  She posted the picture above to Facebook, so while I was at dance I saw it and I asked my sister a question...

     "Hey, Jen.  K and G have been wanting to go to the American Girl store since Christmas.  I know the parade and river thing was this morning, so this afternoon it should all be over in the afternoon but the river will still be green.  Should we go to American Girl today?  That way, we'll see the river AND get their dolls.  What do you think?"

      This question was asked by someone who had never been to the city on parade day.  This became very clear.   We approached Lake Shore Drive at 3, and it was a parking lot.  Roads weren't closed necessarily, but it still felt like they were.  People is green kept coming from every direction, and the number of buses and taxis that cut people off mid intersection as the light changed to red was shocking.  So, we sat, and slowly moved.  We tried to go to State Street, since our phone said it would save us 4 minutes, and apparently saving 4 minutes also meant adding 40 more.  

      The big plan was to park somewhere near the Chicago River, head there, take pictures with our Irish gear on, and then walk the rest of the way to Water Tower and the American Girl Store.  Well, when we finally approached the river, we realized that we wouldn't have time to do the walking and make our reservation for dinner with our dolls anymore.  So, we told the kids to look at the river from the car.  They saw it.  My dreams of a green river photo were dashed.

      Once we got to the mall, we pulled out the doll stroller that my 5 year old niece brought with to carry her Bitty Baby, Lilly.  G then pushed a doll stroller on a Chicago city street, looking pleased with herself.  My daughter kept trying to push it, too, and she doesn't really play with dolls.  When we got to the front entrance and she looked in the window and started shouting in glee, I knew that the river picture didn't matter.  This day was for G, and for my daughter, who brought her Bitty Twins, Jack and Annie, back to celebrate her 9th birthday.  

      I found it a little ironic that my namesake doll, Lea, is on display with a camera around her neck.  That is so me.  I always want to capture the moments on camera.  Well, today it wasn't meant to capture a green river, and that's ok.  


Friday, March 15, 2019

#SOL19: March 15th

      It was an impulse buy, on Pi Day.  

      At the end of dance class, my daughter heard that it was National Pi Day.  One of the other moms was explaining the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  She kept saying 3.14159.  What did my daughter take away from the conversation?  Pie.

      "Mom, we need to go buy a pie!  It's National Pie Day!" she exclaimed.

       We got to the car and buckled in, and a little voice from the back kept whispering, "Pie."  So, instead of taking a right, I took a left, and we headed to Target.  We walked directly to the bakery aisle, and scanned for the pies.  There were a few mini pies in sight, but they were triple berry and pecan.  She does not consider those pies.  She suggested we ask, so I did, and we soon discovered that Target doesn't sell fresh whole pies.  (I was actually kind of shocked.). And our favorite bakery was closed, as it was 7:45 at night.  She did ask.

      The look of disappointment on her face was a bit too much for a mom who also now wanted pie, so I thought a minute and remembered that they sometime sell them in the frozen section.  I announced our next location, and she looked a bit confused. 

       "Why would a pie be in a freezer?  That doesn't make sense."

       "No, it's frozen because you need to bake it.  We would need to make it."

        A big smile crossed her face, and my little baker was even more determined to find a pie now.  We found ourselves in the freezer section admiring a rather small but somewhat diverse selection of pies to purchase.  I was pushing for the French silk, as that one could just thaw, but she went apple.  It was going to be a late night.

        I got home and put the pie in the oven.  Because we had dance, they still hadn't finished up their homework, so they did that.  The timer went off for the pie, just as I told my kids to go to bed.  A flash of anger crossed her face, and she uttered that single word again.  "Pie."

         "Well, you are so lucky.  That pie needs to cool down for a few hours, so you can go to bed, and when you wake up, you can have pie for breakfast."

       National Pie Day is going to be celebrated the day after Pi Day in the O'Donnell House.  I wonder if I should still have her measure the diameter and circumference of the pie and explore their ratio before we dig in in our jammies this morning.  :)

Photography Lessons

Thursday, March 14, 2019

#SOL19: March 14th

Photography Lessons

It's not easy becoming a better photographer.  
I know.  I took an on-line class.  

My course admins were pros, like professional photographers.
"Take our year long course to become a better mom photographer," they said.
"You'll capture moments of your children that you treasure."

Week One was Aperture.
"Try this," said Amy & Heidi.  "Shoot in Av priority mode, and you'll get background blur."

I tried out Av mode and posted some pictures to our closed Facebook group.
I was impressed with the work of others mom photogs like me.  It challenged me.

Week Two was Shutter Speed.
"Freeze the action," said Amy & Heidi.  "Use Tv mode and change your shutter speed so that you are catching action frozen in the moment, avoiding blur in your photos."

I took a deep breath and switched to Tv mode at my daughter's indoor soccer game.
"Nice start," said the Facebook group moderator.

Week Three was ISO.
Amy & Heidi showed us that the final element in exposure is measuring light by changing the ISO setting.
"Can I really change the aperture, the shutter speed, AND the ISO setting accurately?" I asked myself.  "Maybe I should just go back to auto settings."
Heidi & Amy disagreed.  "You can do this!"

Next we practiced Focus Modes, then Focus Points, then White Balance, and we just kept taking pictures to practice it all.  

Week Seven?  Manual Mode. For the first time since I have owned my camera, I am consistently choosing to pick my own settings and shooting in manual.  Thank goodness we have many more weeks to go in this class to keep practicing.  

I wrote this slice in the style of Jon Agee in Lion Lessons.

The Remote

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

#SOL19: March 12th

      I am not a big TV watcher.  I have a full DVR, just waiting to be watched.  But, most days, it remains unwatched and waiting.  Today was a day where I needed to just reach for the remote, pick a show, and decompress.  I needed to fall into the world of Magnum PI for a while, and say aloha to my worries and to-do list.  I needed to just focus on Jay Hernandez and his floral print shirts.

      The kids went to bed, and I fell into the couch and reached for the remote.  My hand remained empty.  The kids leave it on the couch 95% of the time, so I looked under a pillow and a random pajama shirt that was on the couch.  No remote.  

      I got up and walked over the the chair they usually play video games.  It wasn't on the chair, under the chair, on the floor, in the video game case basket.  No remote.

      I found three other remotes.  Three.  But not the one I needed.  My life is a bit messy, but my house is a total MESS.  This wasn't helping me decompress.

      I went upstairs to ask my husband.  I thought he might be still awake, and maybe for some reason he had found a new spot to store it.  Lights off, sleeping soundly, my hopes crushed.

      Is is silly that frustrated tears started to well up in my eyes?  Over Magnum PI?  All the tensions and worries and frustrations bubble up to the surface because of a remote.  Is this what they mean when they say the straw that broke the camel's back?  A remote control broke a lit coordinator mom's back, I guess.

      I sat back down on the couch, dejected, and grabbed the lap desk that I put my laptop on while I work.  I might as well slice about my remote.  As I lifted it to my lap, I found the remote under it.  It was right near me the whole time, and I swear I had lifted it up first.  Or did I?

      Slicing with Jay Hernandez makes it all better.  Aloha, Magnum.


Monday, March 11, 2019

#SOL19: March 11th

     One of our favorite traditions at Christmastime is going to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the trees from around the world.  We always go bright and early on Christmas Eve, when the museum tends to be a bit less crowded.  That way, we are are able to study the trees a little closer and take pictures with our favorites.  Each year, the favorites change, based on the countries that my kids have learned about throughout the year.  I find that if they learned about a country in school, or through a book, they appreciate that tree more.

     One year, it was the waffles on the Belgium tree, because they learned that my cousin lives there.  She got a kick out of our picture of the tree when we shared it with her on Facebook.  She even taught us some new words and some history behind the ornaments.  

     Another year, it was the lanterns on the tree from China, because my son's teacher did a whole study of Chinese New Year.  My mom even had a friend donate fortune cookies and menus from her restaurant for his whole class, so they noticed the words on the tree were like the words on those placemats.

     We always stop at the Irish tree, and take a picture with the Claddagh.  My kids don't really know this, but it was the symbol for my wedding way before they were even here.  Faith, loyalty and love still matter to the O'Donnells, especially now that we have our little clan.

     This year, my 5 year old niece was with us.  She runs around and notices a whole set of new things, and this is quite fun to watch.  She is curious and inquisitive, and she says it like it is.  I was still surprised, though, as she started pointing high up into the Canadian tree, and started shouting.

      "Aunt Leah, it's Harry Potter's owl!  Look, way up there!  How did he get up there?  Silly, Harry Potter owl."

       How on earth did my 5 year old niece know about my love for Harry Potter?  And how on earth did she see an owl at the top of a tree that tall?  It's not like she has seen the movies or read the books.  Did my daughter tell her?  I have been trying to get my own kids to be Harry Potter fans for a while now.  Perhaps my niece is my way in.  Maybe she'll convince my kids to love Harry and his friends (Hedwig included) as much as I do.

***This slice was inspired by the flags hanging in 5SVW.  I didn't know what to write about, but a quick glance around their room transported me back to MSI in December.  Thanks for letting me slice with your kids today!

First Albums: In Haiku

Sunday, March 10, 2019

#SOL19: March 10th

(I was thrilled with this album on my birthday.)

First vinyl record
PYT, Beat It, Thriller
Childhood memories

(No picture of me here, but this was my first CD.)

Angsty teenager
Today was the greatest day
I got the Pumpkins.

Happy Birthday, Barbie!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

#SOL19: March 9th


Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday, dear Barbie,
Happy Birthday to you!

       Barbie turned 60 today!  In honor of the occasion I dug out some pictures of her.  It brought back memories of birthdays and Christmases of the past.  Me, surrounded by old friends, cousins, and always my little sister, holding up a new Barbie with a big smile on my face.  

       It also brought back memories of our basement as a child.  That's where we built our Barbies' houses.  We used folders or boxes to create walls, and furnished their houses on the concrete floors of our unfinished basement using the furniture we many times bought from a garage sale.  We had a big bucket of clothes for our Barbies, many handmade, and all straight out of the 80's.  I remember dumping out the bucket on the ground, searching for just the look my Barbie needed for the day.  Finding the matching shoes and earrings?  Now that was the challenge.

       Barbie, you always were a woman with determination in my basement.  You had a family and were a great mom and sister, yet you still had time to be a literal rockstar.  Thanks for giving me hours and hours of imaginative play, way back in my early days.  :)