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  • Day Thirty One

    Time to celebrate! The challenge was accepted and completed. It is a good day to reflect on the past thirty-one days.

    When I first thought about taking on this class, I asked a couple people who took it before to see if it was something I might enjoy. I was surprised to hear that they were signing up again. They loved it! Everyone said writing every day was a challenge, but they enjoyed it most days. They also said the best part was reading all the posts from so many different people. People of different ages, different genders, different occupations, different perspectives, all sharing from the heart. Well, oh course, I signed up for the class.

    I enjoyed the writing. It helped me slow down and notice my day. I was always on the lookout for something meaningful hidden in my daily routine. And the cool thing is that there was always something. And those “somethings” probably would have gone unnoticed if I wasn’t taking this class. So thank you to the universe for pointing me in this direction.

    My favorite part of the class was actually commenting on other slices. It was an interesting learning experience. There was lots of practical advice about teaching and parenting. There were stories from the past that held valuable lessons. There were people sharing their personal stories of loss that touched my heart and connected with the losses I have had in my life. Reading their truths about their grief was comforting to me. It made me remember we are all living through incredible highs and devastating lows. It makes the journey easier when you can find comfort in knowing we are not alone. This class has had a positive impact on the choices I make every day and helped me to be more present and grateful for my beautiful, imperfect life.

  • Day Thirty

    When I was in college, I spent a summer in an apartment over a 7-11 convenience store. They were actually called the 7-11 apartments. It was the summer of 1988 and we were in the middle of a terrible drought. It was a jillion degrees all summer and our apartment did not come with air conditioning. We lived on the third floor and we were melting.

    I had a job waitressing at a restaurant called Around the Clock. There was always leftover food to share, so this was a bonus. One of my roommates got a part-time job at a family shoe store in the neighboring town and the managers( a husband and wife) of the store listed us as children which allowed us to get in on their pass to the local pool. Another bonus that made the summer great.

    But the real savior that summer was something called the Big Gulp. If you grew up in the eighties, you know where I am going with this. The 7-11 store introduced a cup that held 32 ounces. This was a huge deal at the time. Before this change, people drank much smaller drinks and there were no free refills at fast-food restaurants. This was a game-changer. To make things even better (or if you value your health, much worse) occupants of the 7-11 apartments were given their Big Gulp cups for free. The idea was you would come in to fill it and inevitably buy more stuff. So we basically had a refillable Big Gulp cup for the summer. And refill it we did! I drank more cherry slushies than I could count that summer. In spite of the awful weather, that summer was a blast! So many great memories…

    Fast forward to today, I am in the McDonald’s drive-through wondering if there are still any Shamrock shakes around. (This is the only thing I like about Mcdonald’s, so I don’t frequent the restaurant, but I can’t help myself in March.) And there I see a picture of a frozen cherry slushie. Thankfully it is not the size of a Big Gulp, but I don’t need 32 ounces to remember. I have to try it. It looks like summer, it smells like college, and it tastes like I am 19 again. Cheers!

  • Day Twenty Nine

    Today one of my students brought me a small sparkly flurry pink flamingo that is also a holder for your hand sanitizer. It is as bright as one might expect a flamingo hand sanitizer to be. You may be thinking that I like flamingos or that my favorite color is pink, but in both instances, you would be wrong. Not that I have anything against flamingos, just more of a cardinal gal who loves the color green. So why the super sweet present……

    When I returned to teaching several years ago, I noticed that the whole morning meeting (counting, calendar activities, etc.) was no longer a part of the first-grade curriculum. But I also noticed that my students were often confused about what day it was and the month and seasons were also in need of review. So enter, Joy, a large stuffed Flamingo I rescued from the Meijer clearance bin. Now, here comes the weird part.. Joy is shaped like a flamingo, she has wings, very long legs, a long neck, and a tail. But just like the girls who all wear the special jeans in the book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Joy is able to fit comfortably in all my daughter’s old Build a Bear outfits she had for her longtime companion Stripey the Bear. Stripey was a gift from her best friend who moved when she was 4 years old. They were neighbors who had spent their first four years doing everything together, so it was a very special bear. They went to Build a Bear together and made bears for each other adding a message in their own words inside. Because this bear was so special, she never wanted to make another. When she went to birthday parties, she would just choose a new outfit for Stripey and help others build their bears. Fast forward, we have a lot of Build a Bear clothes. So I decided Joy would be our calendar girl. Changing her outfits to welcome the new month, holiday, or season that came along. The kids really embraced the concept. They helped decide that her hat or crown or headband would always signify the season and only change four times a year. Her outfit would change with the month. And special accessories were added on holidays. It really helped with their understanding of the calendar. But something else happened and along the way, Joy turned into our class mascot. She developed her own personality. She does book reviews and is the president of the class joke club. When we were remote, I was moved to the music room which faces the parking lot with a wall of windows. My husband made a swing for her to sit on so she could be seen from outside. When the kids came to drop off/pick up packets of new books and supplies for online learning they would take pictures with her through the window. My students from years past would stop by to check her out. It was a little bit crazy but very endearing.

    So that is how I got here, I am the teacher who has a famous flamingo, so in turn, kids think I love flamingos. It is amazing how many things you can buy with a flamingo on it. My Christmas gifts have included mugs, keychains, bracelets, tote bags, pens, note cards, tiny stuffed flamingos, and crafty quote signs. I love my students, I love their generous hearts, I love my job, but honestly, not a huge fan of flamingos. Haha

  • Twenty Eight

    So spring break has arrived in Woodridge, IL. I guess technically it began on Saturday, but we don’t work on Saturdays, so in my mind, this is my first official day. I am not traveling, so I slept in this morning. I took the time to have a hot breakfast, lingering over my scrambled eggs as I let the sprinkle cheese melt. I am enjoying not using my microwave this week, because I am no longer in a rush to get things done. It feels great.

    I have not looked at the clock this morning. I will eat when I am hungry. This is such a fabulous treat. I usually eat a quick yogurt for breafast. I quickly scoop it in my mouth as I am doing what I need to do to get ready. But today, I am sitting at my table looking out at the bunnies in my yard and savoring every bite.

    I have lunch and recess duty at school. The students eat in the classroom, so more people are necessary for lunch coverage. I do not eat with them at that time. Typically, by the time I have helped everyone open thermoses, start to peel oranges, put straws in juice pouches and clean up the daily water bottle spill, there is not much time to enjoy eating my lunch. Plus I have no chance to get my lunch from the lunchroom, so I can’t pack anything that needs to be heated and whatever I pack has been sitting in my closet for hours because we can’t have a refridgerator in our wing of the building. So, an editable lunch is not in the cards at this point. I wait until my specials break to eat in the break room. It is quiet and dreary, so usually I just eat a quick sandwich and head back to my classroom to get stuff done.

    But this week, I have plans for lunch. I will be meeting friends, family and neighbors. I will catch up with people I don’t normally see during the week. We will laugh and share stories. We will enjoy delicious food, served at the correct temperature, an eaten at our leisure. I will be thankful for the company and the time spent together.

    This week will be a BREAK from my routine. I will not be worried about the time, (in fact I have left my watch on my dresser) These days are my own and I have discovered, for me, the best plan is not to have a plan. Hope everyone enjoys a nice hot, delicous meal this week with someone they love. Happy Spring!

  • Twenty Seven

    I woke up this morning to a beautiful blue sky. For the past several nights, my husband has been struggling with a terrible cold. I have tried to be supportive. I have made soup, given him the tv remote, and tried to stock the house with soft tissue and various cold medicines. That being said, I have also tried unsuccessfully, to sleep in our bed. The cold has made for some very loud snoring, that usually wins out and sends me to the couch at about 1am.

    We have a skylight in our family room. Over the past couple of days, I have woken up to a grey, heavy sky. But today the sky was the most beautiful blue, like the color of a Caribbean sea. I intrinsically felt better and was convinced the weather had improved. My husband said the same thing as we sat at the table for breakfast. Looks like a beautiful day! When we headed out for some fresh air, we realized the temperature was still in the 30s. But that sky, what a gorgeous sky.

    We decided to stay inside, watch some basketball and catch up on some paperwork. But the blinds are open and my mood reflects the bright sky above me. Maybe I will use this as a lesson. Find something beautiful to start your day, let it set the tone to drive you forward to see the beauty in something meaningful.

  • Twenty Six

    I just woke up. It is 10am and I have slept for twelve hours. I feel like a new person. I didn’t know that my body was in such an exhausted state because I have not taken the time to think about me. I have been in a mode of getting it done and adding to my plate when it was already full.

    I had a list of things I wanted to finish up today. I have made the decision to disregard the list and do nothing. I think my body was sending a very clear message today and I intend to listen very carefully.

    When I pulled up the shade, I was greeted with snow. Not a lot of snow, but there is snow. The tiny paw prints across my deck let me know that everyone will be scurrying today. Hustling about trying to get things done, while bracing themselves against this biting wind. I have made the decision to hibernate. Given the information at hand, I think it is the right decision for me.

    I think I will eat the leftovers in the fridge and watch a Netflick show that I read about on another slicer’s post. I will wrap myself in a warm blanket and read from the pile of books that have sat untouched for so long on my nightstand. I will finish the Wordle and then call my dad to compare our first words. I will write a card to send to my daughter at college. I will do nothing that doesn’t rest and recharge my body. Because today I will listen:)

  • Twenty Five

    Worms

    wet, wiggly, twisted and pink. It is definitely spring here in Woodridge, IL. Today at recess, after a long night of rain showers, (And I actually think it was still raining throughout our lovely recess time today, but I digress) the worms returned to the blacktop driveway the kids play on. The grassy area was a giant puddle today leaving the blacktop the only option. But we would be sharing that area today with about a jillion wet, wiggly twisted pink worms. This creates a several reactions from the students and it is hard to predict who’s who until they actually come face to face with the this unique sign of spring.

    Some students were actually oblivious to the worms. They played tag and basketball and stepped on the little squirmers without missing a beat. Others spent their time gathering up the little worms and carefully transporting them to greener ( and safer) pastures. Some students spent their time convincing the nervous kids that the worms were really quite harmless. Some remained unconvinced and spent their recess safely on the concrete next to the entrance to the school. It is pretty amazing that a creature so small can have such a varied impact on our group of seven year old kids.

    We talked about our reactions during our SEL time and used the experience to reinforce the important fact that we are all very unique and different individuals. We need to remember we are all a part of our school family and we need to respect each others feelings. We are what makes the world interesting, because there are no two people exactily alike.

  • Twenty Four

    I have found a way to have 10 seconds of quiet. Actual – you can hear a pin drop – quiet, in my first grade classroom. I created a March Madness Bracket for my class but instead of teams, it is filled with all the favorite books we have read aloud this year. I put all the book covers on a bracket with a backround that looks like a basketball court. I have it on a google slide and present it to everyone on our class tv. The students have taken this Madness quite seriously. They put up their privacy folders before the daily ballot with all the match ups is handed out. They fold the ballot several times before placing it in the box to ensure secrecy. There is definitely no way to peek at the results early.

    I tally the votes after they leave and adjust the books on the google slide by advancing the winners. I then create a new ballot for the next day’s “games.” The kids are totally invested in the Madness. They talk about it as soon as they come into the classroom in the morning. They make predictions and compare their reasons. The conversations are thoughtful and the students use the vocabulary from our persuasive writing unit to convince one another to join in their opinion. It has been an interesting activity. What I planned as a class builder has actually turned into a great review of our opinion writing strategies.

    But back to the quiet… once everyone has arrived and settled in, I announce that the results are ready to be posted. I go to the computer and open up the file, I hesitate, to build some suspense. When I look out at my kids, the are mesmerized. All eyes looking directly at the tv. Some of them are holding their breathe. And for those 10 seconds, it is absolutely quiet. And then the slide appears…

    And that’s why they call it March MADNESS!

  • Twenty Three

    This year the students are eating lunch in the classroom in an effort to stay 6 feet apart for the covid protocol. Our school has been using a site called Swank to show movies in the classroom while they eat. The movies are an odd bunch of both animated and live action movies. Lots of old classics like Wizard of Oz and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I loved these movies growing up and it is cool to share them with the kids.

    The kids made a funny comment today. We were watching Charlotte’s Web and the kids were mesmerized by the scene where Charlotte is building her web with the eerie music playing. The kids were trying to predict what was coming next, when one child jumped into the conversation. He said, ” I don’t want to spill the beans(this is what we say when we write a book review) but I know she is writing something cool in her web.” When asked how he knew, he said, “I saw the first movie.” He was referring to the live action movie with Dakota F. It is wild to think that he thinks this movie was made before the cartoon. The cartoon has such a retro vibe. To me, it seems to shout, I was mad a long time ago. And the songs are very old school. This has not had an affected on the fact that we have all been singing Chin Up, Chin Up for days. That is one catchy song.

    It really just comes down to perspective. We live our life and take in an enormous amount of information along the way. We process the information for ourselves and relate it back to our own experiences. Our perception comes from our experiences. It makes it easier to understand where someone is coming from when we have a better understanding of what they have experienced so far in their life. Doesn’t really matter with the movie mix up, but this is a great gentle reminder that when we are dealing with kids, it is worth it to take the time to find out their reasons for their thoughts and actions. We can connect with each other when we take the time to find out each other’s unique perspective.

  • Twenty Two

    I am not a picky eater. Growing up we had family dinners. My mom or sometimes my dad would make a meal for dinner. There were no special orders, everyone would eat the same dinner. At the same time, at the table. We had dinners of goulash, stuffed peppers, tacos, pork chops, lasagna and stew. Hearty, hot and delicious. These meals were a staple growing up.

    So now, as an adult, I love to eat at a local restaurant that has a menu that reads more like a book and is filled with all the yummy foods I love. I am sure you have been to a similar place. Definitely something for everyone. I guess it is actually a picky eaters paradise. When my kids were little, they loved to have breakfast for dinner. Check When my dad comes to visit, he craves Grecian Chicken. Check My daughter discovered she loved Monte Cristo sandwiches. Check When the kids would get their braces tightened and could only eat soup and milkshakes. Check When you meet your neighbors for a hot turkey sandwich covered in gravy. Check When you need trays of homemade gelato for a high school graduation party. Check When you have a picky eater. Check

    If you are in the Woodridge area I highly recommend a stop at Stevens Restaurant. You may order a classic recipe from your childhood or try something new. But no matter what you order, it will be delicious. If you do stop in, tell Pete that Jill sent you and make sure you try the cherry cheesecake gelato.