All in an Unplanned Ten Minutes

Today in class, small math groups ended early.  I looked at the clock and realized that I had about ten minutes in which I had nothing planned.  I usually have lined up across the lip of the white board, a row of books the students or myself have selected for class read alouds.  On this day the selection was slim so I walked back to our classroom library, swiftly flipped through some books, and grabbed a Shel Silverstein book.

I did not give it much thought until I was seated in my “Teacher Chair” (which is really just a student chair that resides next to the rug we meet on several times a day).  It was The Giving Tree.  Now I don’t know about you, but this book gets me choked up every time I read it.

It started out fine.

The students like it and made connections to times they had climbed trees.  The boy in the story grows up, spending less time with his friend the tree.  The tree, missing the boy who used to play in her branches and rest under her shade, gives him her apples to sell to make him happy.  And it made her happy too.  The students again made connections to their lives and the conversations we have about “filling buckets” by giving compliments and making our friends feel good.

Then it got a bit hairy.

The tree offered the boy her branches.  A hush fell over the students and small gasps escaped their lips when the boy actually cut off the tree’s branches.

The boy stayed away for a long time.  When he came back he was old and wanted to get away.  The tree offered him her trunk to make a boat.

He took her trunk, leaving only a crooked stump.

The students protested.  A few sat quietly, eyes moist.  My voice wavered and I paused in places during my reading, not for effect, but to keep myself in check.

At the end, the boy, now an old man, returned.  The tree lists off all the things she can no longer offer him.  The boy, for each, replies that he no longer needs any of those things.  He is tired and wants only to rest.  And so the tree straightens herself up and offers him her stump as a quiet place to rest.

How can you explain the depth, the willingness to give anything to those you dearly love?  And yet this book, these words, paired with simple illustrations could, did.  Most of my students, maybe not fully understanding it, felt it.

The tree was happy.  And the boy was happy.  The story ended.

At the end of the ten minutes, which had turned into twenty, I had a lump in my throat and a couple of my kids were wiping away tears.

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1998 Was a Good Year for Sidewalks

A person who has a great appreciation for and deep knowledge of wine is called a oenophile.  But what about a person who has a great appreciation and interest in sidewalks?  What are they called?

Let me tell you.  They are called Carter.

Carter and I had the task of walking Haley around our apartment complex for her final nightly walk tonight, a job usually reserved for Husband who is off on an all day fieldtrip with Cody.

Carter, who is not used to the evening walk, had a great time using his flashlight (even though there was enough lingering day in the sky that a flashlight was not really necessary).  He became quite interested in the company name and date stamped into various sections of the sidewalk.  As we strolled along he would stop to squat down and examine them closely with his beam of light.  In an excited voice he would call out the date stamped into the concrete as if it were a long lost snippet of Shakespeare (or in Carter’s world, a forgotten rhyme from Dr. Seuss).

Most of the sidewalks were dated 1998 and it caused me to chuckle as the comparison of dates and good bottles of wine, with dates and good sections of sidewalk, popped into my head.  Knowing Carter would not appreciate my odd sense of humor and Husband was not here to wow with my wit and whimsy, I thought I would share it with you.  You are welcome.

Oh, and while I mostly trusted Carter with his sidewalk-date reading abilities, I did have to question him when he proudly announced that the sidewalk squares right outside the entrance to our apartment were made in 1398.  Hum.

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Simple Sunday – A Nest to Call My Own

We have found a house.  It is nice, not perfect, but nice.  It is a short walk away from a wonderful park and it is located in central Phoenix.  We are in love with the neighborhood, the location.  We are also quite taken with the house.

The process of trying to buy the house is another matter.  It has been awful.  I have cried – more than once.  We have convinced ourselves to walk away, but we can’t quite bring ourselves to do it.  We are staring down the last hurdle in a long line of maddening hurdles.  We will know if the house is ours either late this week or early next.

Today we loaded up the dog and the kids, hooked Carter’s bike to the bike rack and drove to the park that both Husband and I secretly consider our future neighborhood park.  We have not verbalized that the park is ours, the neighborhood is ours, the house is ours.  What if it is too much to ask?  What if it does not come to be?

As we entered the park, I paused in the shade of a small tree and happened to look up.  This is what I saw.


A nest in a tree.

I am ready to move from this apartment, this temporary dwelling, to have a nest to call my own, our own.

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Another Wonderful Year

This will be his last year in the single digits.  Today Cody, my first born son, turns nine.  As my long time readers know, Cody was born premature – a 26 weeker.  He weighed 2 pounds 1.5 ounces.  I consider it an honor to be his mom and I cannot tell you how much he means to me, how much he has changed my life, has shaped me and bettered me as a person.

I wrote this on his birthday the first year I started blogging.  I reread it a couple times a year – his birthday being one of those times.  I have reblogged it each year and will continue to do so.

It tells a story of one day.

It is a small story but a very large part of how I am where I am and how I have become me.

I hope you take the time to read it – even if you may have read it once (or twice) before.

Happy Birthday my sweet, compassionate, wonderful miracle of a boy.

Cody BirthdayCollage2015

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Simple Sunday – Desert Stroll and Tic Tac Toe

We are members at the Desert Botanical Gardens, a fabulous place that I highly recommend you visit if you ever find yourself in Phoenix.  This morning after lounging over coffee and lingonberry oven pancake, we headed out to the gardens.

Desert Landscape

It was beautiful, the cactus in full bloom their vivid colors popping amidst the multiple shades of dusty green and parched soil browns of the landscape.  I took many photos but none really did justice to simply being in the moment.

Desert Botanical Garden Collage

The birds were dancing their Spring inspired dance and we got to see many a nest being tended to by a doting feathered parent.  After nearly two hours the boys were tired and we were all hungry.

We headed to a once favorite brewery and restaurant of ours from back in the day when Husband and I lived here pre-kids.  The place was still wonderful although the feel was different being twenty years older and having our boys with us.  I don’t recall ever playing tic tac toe there before – or being referred to by a server as ma’am…

Tic Tac Toe at Four Peaks

Cody and Husband deep in thought during a Tic Tac Toe game. From the smirk on Cody’s face, I would say he is winning.


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Walking and Talking

The boys accompanied Haley and I on our morning walk today.  The weather was perfect, the cool before the heat of the day.  Walking with the boys, one must be prepared for all types of conversation topics and they rarely disappoint.


Flowers, Moon, and Contrail on our morning walk.

Today, much of the walk talk centered around the strength of ants.  I listened as Cody and Carter discussed what they knew about ants.  Cody spouted off facts he had learned from books and school.

cody:  Ants can carry ten times their weight! 

And then he added a bit of special Cody wisdom.  I love Cody wisdom.

cody: The queen ant, or queen termite if we were discussing termites – which we are not- are like the soul of the colony.  They are special and necessary for there to be worker ants, or any ants at all!  Without the queen – poof!- no ants.

Carter was more concerned with how many ants it would take to carry certain objects.

carter:  I think it would take seventeen ants to carry a shiny key!  And one ant could carry one whole leaf.  A whole leaf!  All by itself, momma!

The conversation got heated as they went back and forth over whether ants could carry a person.  Cody thought they could, but wasn’t sure how all those ants could get under a person.  Carter pointed out that an ant could get under his shoes by going inside the pattern on the bottom of his shoe (his shoe tread).

It was determined that it would take exactly three thousand nine hundred ninety eight ants to carry a person.

I thought about asking them for the specifics of said person, the height and weight, but the lull in conversation – the silence between topics – was a delicious delicacy I chose to savor.

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At Least I Have More Teeth

Today is my birthday.

Today I also stayed home from work so as to take Cody into the hospital for his outpatient Botox procedure (I am too tired (and not sure I could adequately explain it anyway) to go into detail about it but I am sure you could Google Botox and Cerebral Palsy to learn more).

Long story short, Cody stayed home from school today.  Since I moved into Arizona from out of state, I am required to take a Professional Knowledge test (as if getting a Master’s in Education was not enough) to prove I am competent to teach in this state.  And so while Cody rested, I studied.  I studied with my lovely progressive lensed glasses on.  I had to get them last year with all the reading I was required to do in the Master’s program.

My eyes were tired at the end of the day and so I continued to wear my glasses – not something I typically do.  Cody and I went to pick up Carter from the after school program.  As Carter was gathering his back pack, a boy who is in Carter’s class and also attends the after school program came running up to me.  For some reason he is always excited to see me, gives me a big hug and calls me “Hi Carter’s Mom!”  It is cute.

Today he runs up but stops short of the hug.  He looks up at me and says, “You look like my Grandma.”

I am a little taken back, never referred to before as Grandma material, and say to him that it must be my glasses.  It is my birthday, but really?  I take them off.

He looks at me hard and says, “No, it is not your glasses.  You still look like my Grandma.  You have the same hair.”

He picks up a dodge ball that has drifted his way and turns to reenter the game that is in progress but stops and turns back after a couple steps.

“My Grandma has lesser teeth than you have so that is a difference.  Bye, Carter’s Mom!”

Fewer teeth” I call after him, “Fewer”, in a desperate attempt to correct his grammar.

Today I turn 41.  I may look like a Grandma to some (or at least one) but I win when it comes to the question of number of teeth.

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Simple Sunday – What Would you do if…

This is not your typical Easter Sunday blog post.  In fact, it is very loosely based upon the topic of Easter, and even saying that is quite a stretch.

Over the years, I have found it necessary to give guidance to Cody and Carter about what they should do if they come across one type of wild animal or another.  There was the post about what to do if you come across a cougar (complete with my Google Image search of cougar – providing me with an additional conversation to have with the boys – if you don’t know what I am talking about Google it.)  Then there was the “What do you do if you meet up with a bear in the woods” conversation after this happened in our backyard.

The bear

So this Friday, which happened to be Good Friday (there it is, the loose tie into Easter), the boys and I had school off.  Cody filled up his Camelbak, Carter loaded up his backpack with water bottles, snacks, Band-Aids, emergency tweezers, and a magnifying glass for those times when you want to more closely examine rocks on the trail, I got a water bowl and poo bags for Haley and we headed out on a desert hike.

As we drove along the final stretch of road, I felt it necessary to review desert hiking 101 rules such as: don’t stick your hand (or other body parts) into holes in the ground, don’t run on the trails, drink lots of water, watch out for errant cactus that sneakily encroach onto the trail.

Then I remembered the last hike we took and the large snake Carter came across that was minding its own business sunning itself while draped across the trail.

me: Boys, I want to remind you to be be aware and alert for rattlesnakes.  What should you do if you see a rattlesnake?

carter: Gleefully, he pipes up from the backseat, I know!  You stop, drop, and roll!!

me:  Oh, dear…

Come to find out, or at least according to Carter, it was only a joke.  We reviewed the appropriate action to take if one sees a snake and then we went hiking.


We saw no snakes.

And nobody stopped, dropped, and rolled.

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Tuesday’s writing assignment in my second grade classroom was to write about someone the students considered to be a hero in their lives – someone who has been important to them, has inspired them.  We brainstormed ideas of who this person could be, did a “turn and talk to your partner” conversation.  Then we shared out our thoughts so those who were struggling to come up with a person to write about would have some guidance.

I consider modeling to be an important part of teaching as well and as such I had written a brief piece highlighting my dad as a hero in my life.  I pointed out my topic sentence and the supporting details.  I gave a couple examples and then wrapped up my short piece with a nice closing statement.

A student raised his hand.  I called on him.

student:  Mrs. M, why did you write ‘was’.  My writing regarding my dad was in the past tense as his has been dead for three years.

me:  I wrote that my dad was funny, smart, kind and supportive because he is gone now, he died several years ago.  I was surprised that I could talk about it without tearing up, although my voice did waver.

The students got their Writer’s Workshop offices (these consist of two of those manila folders stapled together so they could stand up forming a tri fold, upon which I attached various writing related items and then laminated the whole thing.  They put up their offices to minimize distractions and provide them with their own space for quite writing), I turned on the nature sounds CD we listen to while writing, and they wrote.

After about twenty minutes, where they write and I conference with students about their writing goals, I was about to call them back whole group for a few Writer’s Workshop shares, when a student raised her hand.  She is a rather quiet girl with a shy smile that she instinctually hides behind her hands.  She wanted to read to me her writing.

Her hero was also her dad, but her words were not mine.  She wrote about how her dad could tell great jokes and played games with her.  She continued, telling how her dad made her laugh and how nice and kind he was.  I knew from conversations throughout the year that her dad was not in her life but I did not know any more than that.  And so I gently asked – maybe I should not have.  But she began to speak.

Her dad is in Mexico.  She does not get to see him.  She does not get to visit him.  She does not get to talk to him on the phone.  And she misses him something fierce.  She stopped talking.

She bend her head down onto her desk and tucked it into her arms.  Her  little eight year old body shook as she cried quietly.  I stood there feeling completely inadequate and out of my depth.  I placed my hand on her back and thanked her for sharing her beautiful writing.  I told her to take as much time as she needed and that when she felt able, she could join the rest of the class.


It was a big and more complicated topic that I had anticipated.  But it is important and it will be a topic that I will use again next year.  But I hope by then that I will be better equip to handle the largeness and emotion of it.

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Simple Sunday – Questions for our Realtor

Today we looked at some houses with our realtor.  There is one house in particular that we are interested in and Husband and I spent a lot of time talking about it after we came back to our apartment.

Time passed.  Husband went off to take care of his dad’s lawn and the boys and I went out grocery shopping.  On impulse we bought some Oreo chunk ice cream (it is very good and I recommend it).  As we three sat around the table eating ice cream before dinner, we started discussing the houses we looked at today.  The house that is at the top of our list came up in conversation.  There were some concerns on the part of the boys’.  You see, the house has two fireplaces (a strange thing indeed in the center of Phoenix, AZ).  How would Santa know which one to come down?  Cody thought a note stuck to the side of the correct chimney would suffice.  Carter figured we could just hang stockings at both locations, just to be safe.

Our realtor told us we should email her with any questions we may have.  I am tempted to email her this question just to see what she says…

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