Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dinner or Drink?

Slice of Life is hosted by the wonderful writing community attwowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Everyone is welcome to slice, and everyone is also welcome to comment. Join in!

Many of you know that my family and my parents live together. My dad has trouble remembering things and the living situation makes everything easier for all of us most of the time.

This week, my mother is away for a couple of days so we are all on full force dad duty. Last night, he wanted to go to Julia's soccer game.

"What time is the game?" he asked.

"Six," I answered. "You'll need to have some dinner before you go."

"But I'm not hungry."

"Just have a little," I answered. "You will be by eight."

Under duress, he skipped his cocktail (he has one at five every night) and he ate his dinner. Gin, rickety bleachers, and a forgetful brain don't mix well, so I try not to have him imbibe on game nights...

Wouldn't you know that as soon as he got home at 8:30, well past his usual bedtime, he went straight to his gin. 

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I didn't have a drink," he said.

When I encouraged him to skip it and just go to bed, he rolled his eyes and sighed, complaining about a night with no dinner and no drink.

Amazing to me that he can remember to have his drink, but forget that he had his dinner!

Happy writing!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Celebrating Mother's Day by Celebrating Our Daughter and Her Friends

Slice of Life is hosted by the wonderful writing community at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Everyone is welcome to slice, and everyone is also welcome to comment. Join in!

I have never been a big fan of Mother's Day--my first teaching job, well before my first mothering job, was at a residential school for children whose mothering had been mostly either non-existent or torturous. Our highest rate of restraints was always the week before Mother's Day. It's a day that sells a lot of cards but causes so much pain to so many people...

When my daughter asked if she could invite friends for a post prom party to our house in Rhode Island on Mother's Day, it never occurred to me to say no--that's my day. Some of my friends were surprised that I chose to spend Mother's Day making sure that a bunch of 18 year-olds stayed happy and safe, but I have to say it was like a Capstone mothering experience.

  • They were fun. They jumped in the ocean on mutual dares from each other. (I think that the water might have been 60, but it might not have been even that warm.) They played kadima and chased tennis balls and built sand castles and threw frisbees. It was nice to see a bunch of adult-sized bodies act like little kids. (No, my husband and I did NOT stay with them at the beach, but we did go for a walk and passed them.)
  • They were polite. They said thank you and please. They brought in their plates and their garbage, and they offered to help without ever being asked. Some of them even saw what needed to be done and did it. 
  • They were kind. They complimented our younger daughter Clare, who had come along to help out. While she spent most of her time with me and my husband, which was a wonderful Mother's Day gift, she served as their photographer, a perfect role for her. They were completely inclusive of each other. They snuggled, played, laughed, and cheered from each other.

All of the mothering milestones come up fast and furious. Not long ago, I struggled to take my girls to the beach, trying to figure out diapers and bottles and teaching toddlers to beware of rogue waves, and smothering sunscreen on to writhing bodies. Beach life got easier as we moved on to building elaborate castles and tunnels, coaching children to duck and dive waves, searching for sea glass and treasures, and packing picnics that would extend our beach days. 

How great it was to see our oldest daughter share all of those memories and experiences with her friends who loved the beach, their day, and each other! What a great Mother's Day I had watching so much joy!

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    I'm Wondering About Over-Compliance

    Today could be counted as the 32nd day of slicing, but it's also time for the weekly slice of life on Tuesdays. The weekly Slice of Life is hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Everyone is welcome to join in the writing and the commenting. 

    I have been saving this post, but after hearing about the SBAC debacle that went on in my daughters' high school yesterday, this post is inspired by the picture that I took last week of an unlucky computer.

    Our principal is holding this laptop which is on its way to the garbage, having been the recipient of a stressed out student's regurgitated lunch. Initially, there was a huge debate over what to do with the computer, but alas, there is no easy way to clean that sort of mess out of a keyboard.

     Yesterday, there were problems with the SBAC platform. No one could exactly explain the issues, but the pronoun "they" was prevalent. I have begun to wonder who "they" are. "They" have created these tests, "they" have developed the platform, "they" are administering this field test so that "they" can calibrate the test (which is another post, because isn't is a standards-based test and doesn't calibrating a test imply a norm-referenced test? Just wondering...), and "they" have established an incredibly complex protocol for teachers and set of directions for students.

    Before I continue, I should say that I fully support the Common Core State Standards and their intent. That being said, the administration of the test to ensure that schools are teaching them has me scratching my head. Yesterday, my high school senior had only two hours of school, my high school freshman watched a movie for 2 1/2 hours that they did not discuss, and my high school sophomore sat and drew her name in elaborate designs for two hours while the SBAC did not load. She was not sure what the other 150 sophomores did during this time while their tests did not load. Today went a little differently. My oldest went to school at 10, instead of 11, my youngest watched another movie and at least was asked to fill out a worksheet about it (sarcasm is dripping here), and my middle daughter was chastised by her friends because she wrote an essay, as opposed to writing strings of random letters, which most of them discovered would get them quickly through the test.

    Tonight, we had a family discussion about compliance, as I'm not sure that I disagree with her consonant-stringing friends. If we were all in Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiment right now, how high would the voltage be? I'm wondering.

    Thanks for listening,

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Day #31 of 31: Thank you to so many!

    Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, and Beth of twowritingteachers.wordpress.com--you have done an incredible job of inspiring so many writers throughout this month! Thank you so much!

    I can't remember if I struggled to think of what to write during the 2013 Challenge, but I have to say, this year, I never felt like I had a shortage of writing materials. Last year, I wrote several memoirs and vignettes about my dad. This year, I focused more on the here and now. I have had several highlights over the last 31 days that I will share:

    • Writing about the here and now for 31 days has made me focus on the here and the now. I have spent my days paying close attention to conversations, events, learning opportunities, sensory details, and working hard to remember them. I have loved this heightened sense of awareness that daily writing has given me for the month of March.
    • Sharing some of the daily events of life led to a community of people who knew where I was, and thereby an in-person meeting with Jaana, a fellow slicer. If you ever get to meet slicers in person, don't hesitate. We have much more in common with each other than just slicing for 31 days in a row!
    • Reconnecting on an almost daily basis with bloggers I "met" last year. Even though I have continued to read weekly posts from Elsie, Linda, Tara, Catherine, JaanaStacey, and Alan, it feels different when I'm reading about their lives every day. I wish that I'd had more time to reconnect with others, and I will try to do better next year!
    • Getting to know some of the new slicers whose blogs I checked and read every day. I was so excited when Loralee and Priscilla were highlighted for special posts that they wrote, and Kristine, Alyson, Beth, Meg, and Crystal were wonderful posters to follow and cheer on--hooray for all of you! Holly wasn't one of official new slicers, but I loved reading about her family all month long! I hope she keeps sharing farm adventures on a weekly basis! Some of my newbies fell off the slicing wagon, and I hope that they come back next year. 
    • Partnering with my daughter, Larkin, who also came back to slice every day for a second year. I was so proud of her for making this commitment and sticking with it during March of her senior year in high school. It was fun for me to read her insights and highlights of her life for a month! I'm hoping that one of my other daughters will join me next year, as well as Larkin!
    • Internalizing and reflecting about the writing tips and mentor posts that Stacey shared throughout the month. I loved working on repetition and patterns, conversations, perspectives, surprises, and words and their reactions.
    I am so grateful for the support, encouragement, comments, compliments and sharing that has gone on in this community. The audience sense of mission, and  community spirit made this a powerful learning experience during a busy and stressful month. Writing and commenting have been tasks that I've looked forward to and that I know I will miss.

    Here's to the 2015 SOLC!

    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Living Life Closely Through Daily Writing

    Approaching the end of the 2014 SOLC, as it is Day 30 of 31. So happy to have been a part of this wonderful community hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

    I'm writing late tonight, as I have been in New York City for the weekend, and I've been struggling with the second-to-last-day syndrome. This has been a wonderful month of paying close attention to my life, and making decisions about what to share with the wider slicing world. 

    While I made daily decisions about these shares, I have not shared my daily decisions with many of the people I see. My daughter, Larkin, has been writing for the month, and she and I share posts, but the rest of my family hasn't paid close attention--if I tell them about a post, then they go find it and read it, but mostly, it's been Mom's and Larkin's crazy writing thing. Most of my professional colleagues have been swamped enough with other issues and school priorities that they have not asked much about the March challenge when I've mentioned it, and I just haven't talked about it with friends.

    Because I spent the entire two days with three women I love and writing has been so important to me all month, I found myself sharing about the experience and because we weren't working or paying attention to our children or multi-tasking--we were actually spending time sitting and paying attention to each other--they asked me questions about the March SOLC.

    What I shared, and what I realized as a reflection of sharing, is how much more I notice when I am writing and reading other posts every day. Reading other posts has inspired me to think about daily experiences in different ways. I have found myself composing strings of words inside of my head, looking for signs of spring, studying people and wondering about them, even imagining the thoughts and lives of the animals around me. I collected more keepsakes, took more pictures, and listened more closely to the lives and stories within and around my world. Over the last thirty days, I have savored more, and then savored it again as I wrote, and then savored yet again as people commented.

    My friends were impressed with the commitment and discipline that we have all had to our writing throughout the month. Thank you to all of you for the inspiration, encouragement, and writing friendship during my second challenge!

    Until tomorrow!

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Day #26: Look out World--Another Meehan Driver is on the Road

    So grateful for the community of writers at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Happy Day #26!

    It's been a long day, but a day of milestones. I just walked in to see my youngest daughter's new set of blue and green braces, having been at the DMV with my second daughter to get her driving permit.

    Julia was far from pleasant before her driving permit test. Knowing her as I do, I know that when she is nervous, she is not her best self. I know, I know, not many people are, but some people are able to admit this and Julia is still working on this skill.

    When her younger sister wanted a bite of the brownie I had just bought for her, she sneered.

    "We got you your own cake pop," she said. "The brownie is mine."

    "You could share both," I suggested.

    She rolled her eyes and ignored me.

    (She only ate half of the brownie and Cecily moved right in for the other half when Julia left the kitchen.)

    When I told her that my bank statement would suffice as proof of her address, she argued.

    "It has to be my name," she said. "I'm bringing one of the college brochures."

    "Fine," I said. "Let's bring both."

    (The DMV lady wanted my bank statement.)

    When I called to her, asking her if she was ready, she snapped.

    "I heard you," she yelled. "I just have to finish studying."

    "You can keep looking over the questions in the car, but I'd rather be early," I said.

    (We arrived 15 minutes early and they took us right in--yes, you read that correctly!)

    Julia passed her test and was giddy, a state of being that rarely happens for this daughter! She took several selfies on the way home and gleefully put them up on instagram and whatever other social networks she is using to announce her news.

    I got up all my courage and had her drive the mile of back road from the main road to our driveway. We have some serious work to do, but she does look cute sitting in that driver's seat.

    Drive safely,

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Day #25: Some Challenges of Motherhood

    Happy to be part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Day #25!

    Just when I think that I have this motherhood thing going along pretty well, someone serves me up a piece of humble pie.

    I have asked my daughter, Julia, a few times about her application for a summer program and she has reassured me that she had it "under control." Until last night. Last night, that would be March 23rd, she informed me that the application had been due on March 21st.

    "You're going to be mad, Mom," she had said.

    I tried not to be as mad as I really wanted to be. Mostly, my madness was coming out of a place of disappointment for her. She had worked so hard on the essay and the program would have been so good for her. Oh, and, it is free to the selected students...it's a free hiking and leadership program through Colorado mountains. Oh well.

    "I will email the lady tomorrow and see if I can still send in my application," Julia said.

    I don't think so, but she can try.

    This morning as I drove Julia and Clare to school, I brought up summer plans again. Julia flicked through her instagram pictures and barely responded to any of my questions or suggestions. My blood was heating up as I was spouting out life's greatest advice to her and she was more interested in selfies of peripheral friends.

     Note to self: do not try to engage daughter #2 in any kind of meaningful discussion before 9 in the morning.

    Another note to self: make sure that anxiety is not getting the best of you. Anxiety leads to anger. Quickly.

    And another reminder to self: your one little word for 2014 is kindness. Kindness. KINDNESS!!!

    I did not manage to evoke any sort of summer plans for Julia in the 10 minute car ride, but I did avoid mother/daughter disaster by saying something along the lines of not being mad and just being interested in helping her figure out a great summer. It definitely helped to change the topic and analyze who is in the best position to win the family March Madness pool, since her bracket is in the best shape at this point.

    Clare caught on and winked at me in the rear-view mirror.

    I love those girls.

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Day #23: Spring Showed up for the Day

    Happy to be slicing with the community of twowritingteacher.wordpress.com!

    There have been many posts about spring this year, maybe because it's been so elusive. Spring was here yesterday and here's how I enjoyed it:

    • I wore flats without socks.
    • My nephews were here as they headed home to Florida from their Vermont vacation. We had a snowball fight in t-shirts. We also took pictures on the bench. This will make you laugh: they wanted to know where all the trees were since they have only ever visited before during the summer and right now, the trees are bare.
    • We took the dog on a long walk, avoiding the mud whenever possible, but enjoying watching him walking ahead of us with his tail held high.
    • We grilled hamburgers for lunch and served them with fresh salad, chips, and pineapple. It was like a summer picnic.
    • I took my car through the carwash and I didn't wince when I approached it in the parking lot later in the day.
    • I cheered Garth on as he cleaned out the garage which has been full of winter silt, clutter, and general acquisitions.
    Today, it is supposed to be cold again. We even have snow in the forecast for the middle of the week. One of these days, there's bound to me a more consistent welcome to the intrepid snowdrops and crocuses that have been peeking through.

    I'm ready.

    Happy Day #23,

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Day #20: Thoughts on I'm Sorry

    Today is Day #20 of the 2014 SOLC hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

    Several years ago, we were on vacation with another family and their seven-year old smacked their nine year-old, sending her sprawled out on the deck. There were tears, there was yelling, then there was the mandated apology. When it became clear to the smacker that she would not re-enter the group until two words came out of her mouth, she relented.

    "I'm sorry," she growled, her eyes squinted, her forehead wrinkled, her head shaking side to side.

    I don't think she meant it.

    Today, after school, the children who stay after school for the extended day program were in line by the bathroom. I have no idea what had happened, but one of the boys was crying angry looking and sounding tears. Two other boys stood nearby with narrowed eyes and tucked chins.

    "Just say you're sorry," the young woman who was apparently in charge was saying to the crying boy. "Then we can forget about it."

    I've given a lot of thought to apologies over the years between Margaret's growl and this young man's situation. One of my favorite pieces about apologies is the chapter in The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. He offered a three step formula for apologies, consisting of I'm sorry, here's what I did, and here's how I will make it better. I love that apology formula for when a person really means it. But what if they don't?

    A few years ago, I was embroiled is an issue with Julia and the rage was stoked even redder by her refusal to say sorry. "You actually are telling me to lie, Mom," Julia said.
    Right in the moment, I was in no frame of mind to stop and reflect, but clearly, I've thought about this statement since. What if you say you're sorry but you're really not? Isn't that not telling the truth? How is that not a lie? She had a point.

    I'm thinking that there are categories of apologies, although I am not sure how many there are, and I'm open to additional nominations.

    1. The "I was made to say it" apology. Here's the one that they boy in the hallway might say and definitely the one that Margaret squeezed out. I do not think that the skills learned in this sort of circumstance transfer to any sort of positive interaction. In fact, I suspect that forced apologies lead to some really hostile behavior when those involved are unsupervised. My authenticity rating: 1

    2. There's the "I need to get on with life" apology. This is the one that is given when a sister borrows a shirt without asking and the the affront is discovered during school hours. My authenticity rating: 3

    3. The "It's easier to say sorry than to deal with the real issue" apology. Sometimes my husband doles these out, but he rarely gets away with it. He would rather say he's sorry than talk about the fact that he needed a lot of reminders to stop watching basketball and help in the kitchen. (I write this lovingly...)
    My authenticity rating: 5

    4. The "I just can't say sorry, but actions speak louder than words." There are a couple of specialists of this type under my roof. We have an unspoken agreement that sometimes these can count as the real thing. My authenticity rating: 9

    5. The "My stomach hurts and my legs are wobbly and I might not sleep well because I know that I messed up and I feel really bad about it" apology. These are the ones that lead to the three part apology described by Randy Pausch. These apologies happen when someone's behavior has unwittingly caused serious hurt and I don't know that everyone really feels the sensation that I've described. Empathy is at the core of these interactions. My authenticity rating: 10

    The bottom line is that I really don't believe in forced or fake apologies. I believe in teaching children of all ages the importance of taking responsibility for hurtful behavior, whether the hurt is physical or emotional. I believe in teaching children that when they say sorry and mean it, that statement can go a long way in repairing a situation. And, I believe in coaching children how to express a meaningful apology. But I don't believe in asking for, demanding, or mandating a vacant declaration of two words that is at best a pathway of least resistance and, at worst, is a lie and a potential pathway to more destructive behavior.

    I will say that Margaret has grown into a really great young woman, although I can't attest to her apology skills. And, tonight, I'd guess that the crying boy in the hallway said sorry and eventually stopped crying. However, I doubt that he has forgotten about it.

    Would welcome others' thoughts on "I'm sorry"!

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Day #19: Happy Birthday to Julia

     Day 19 of the SOLC is my second daughter's sixteenth birthday. Today, my post celebrates Julia.

    Tomorrow morning, I will tiptoe into the room that my two oldest daughters share and I will celebrate their breathing. Tomorrow morning, Julia, my second daughter is 16. Sixteen. I will wait to kiss her, to wake her up with a quiet humming of happy birthday. She doesn't like kisses these days, but she tolerates them because she knows that I still can't resist. She denounced the presentation of a breakfast sandwich with a birthday candle in it, so tomorrow morning, I will just watch her breathe in and breathe out and I will celebrate that someone, something, somehow blessed me with her.

    Sixteen--I remember her legs, layers of legs that were irresistible and I remember the focus-- oh the focus..."I do...No...Mommy no do..."

    When we tell stories of Julia, we always head for the trouble she could find. One time I turned around to do the dishes and there was Julia in the middle of the kitchen table about to turn my vase of fresh peonies upside down.  Noooo, Julia. "Big mess, Mommy?" she said. And then she laughed until she screamed when I hauled her off of that table.

    Julia had a trail  of trouble. She  started in the bathroom, fascinated with the spinning roll of toilet paper and intent on flushing anything she could. She learned quickly to hold down the lever and watch the swirling water, then laugh when I'd run in. Laugh until I scooped her up and placed her on the other side of the safety gate, away from me, away from the bathroom and the kitchen table with the fluffy flowers. 

    As I plunged and used my best plumbing prowess, Julia was on the way to the open dishwasher. Imagine the treasures available to a curious toddler climbing in

    When Julia was one, she walked on legs that were irresistible to pinching, tickling, squeezing, and kissing. She belly laughed when I made fizzing noises on her belly, and she followed big sister Larkin wherever and whenever she could.

    When she was two, she had mastered the art of pole-vaulting out of her crib. If the safety gate was too low, she climbed over that too. If it was too high, she would try to crawl under it, sometimes getting stuck in the process and bellowing until I ran to rescue her. She knew what she wanted and she knew to bang her head on the floor until she got it. "She's gifted," the doctor told me because she perfected the art of the tantrum so early. Before leaving her in her crib, we turned her diaper backwards and wrapped duct tape around it, put on a onesie and a zipped and snapped set of footie pajamas. "Keep your clothes on," we'd say, but she always, like Houdini, got out of what we put on her and would fall asleep with nothing on until a wet mattress woke us all up.

    By three, she mastered all aspects of the bathroom--flushed what she was supposed to flush, emptied when she had to empty. She rocked and entertained and protected her younger sisters--first Clare and then Cecily. Although she was never my talker--yes, she still remains an inward soul, we knew when Julia was happy and we knew when Julia was sad. We knew when Julia was celebrating and we really knew when she was angry. My mother used to say, "When Julia's happy, we're all happy." There was truth to that. 

    Julia's focus has served her well. She was an early reader. I remain friends with her third-grade teacher who still tells the story of how I said nothing to her about Julia's prowess. "I knew that you'd figure it out," I told her. "And if I told you that her favorite book of the summer had been Black Beauty, you would have assumed the abridged version." Her teacher adored her and remains today Julia's favorite teacher thus far. Why? She respected, acknowledged, challenged and honored her. Julia's accomplishments then and now have not come from innate intelligence as much as they have emerged from hard work, from a drive and focus that I take no credit for, and from an appreciation for and commitment to hard work and high quality.

    Today she is 16. Sixteen. She has goals and hopes
    and dreams that go far beyond getting her driving permit tomorrow. She was my toddler with a trail of trouble, my 8 year-old with a teacher who inspired her, and a young woman with dreams that will propel her into making the world a different and better place. It is my honor to know her.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    Meeting Other Bloggers

    Day 18 of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

    Many of you have read my recent posts and you know that I spent the weekend in Ann Arbor visiting the University of Michigan with my oldest daughter, Larkin. Some of you also know that because of blogging and sharing, Jaana, another slicer, contacted me via twitter (you can read her account of the story here) and the three of us got to meet in person.

    Sometimes I worry that I spend too much time in my virtual world. I try to assess what it is that I am learning from my PLN and whether the time that I spend reading and commenting on posts is worth the time that I give up from the people who I can see and touch. Having met two slicers in person now, Catherine Flynn and Jaana, here's what I know. Like people attract like people and the bloggers I follow are passionate about education, teaching, learning, raising and producing responsible citizens, and sharing every ounce of knowledge they can. Additionally, many of them are literacy coaches, teachers of the year, published writers, educational consultants, or other organic leaders in our field. They are people who reflect on their practice all the time, share openly, respect and gleam from others, look to connect, and are constantly searching for ways to learn. Education aside, my blogging friends are pet owners, gardeners, knitters, weavers, poets, dancers, yoga lovers, beach walkers, soup kitchen servers, photographers, foodies, movie aficionados, family members extraordinaire; they inspire me to embrace the aspects of life that make me my best self and I never, ever get up from a blog reading session without feeling humble, inspired, and wanting to do live more fully.

    Meeting Jaana was wonderful. She provided us with an insider's view of Ann Arbor, as well as thoughts about how to approach and evaluate the whole college decision process. She was eager to share what she liked about UM as a parent and as an alumnus, as well as what she didn't like. She shared life stories and teaching tales. Her authenticity, positive outlook, and commitment to her work shone as brightly through in real life as it it does on her blog, made even more clear when a student recognized her at Starbuck's and initiated a conversation.

    If you ever get a chance to connect in person with another blogger, especially a SOLCer (is there such a term? There should be...) take it. The connections that we feel are through the power of incredible digital media, but are meaningful. Thank you to all of you who enhance my learning life.

    Happy slicing!

    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    SOLC #16: Celebrating Yesterday

    Day Number 16 of the Slice of Life Challenge. Thanks to twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for the encouragement and inspiration to participate in this great event!

    As I mentioned yesterday, I am spending the weekend in Michigan with my oldest daughter, Larkin, who is also blogging in the SOLC at lalalalark.wordpress.com. Yesterday, we wrote about the same event from our different perspectives. I know that she wrote a celebration post of yesterday, so I'm going to do the same. We loved the celebration posts that we read from Friday and hope that you'll all forgive our Sunday (not Friday) Celebrations. We'll see how much we agreed on to celebrate.

    In a somewhat chronological order:

    1. We made it to the airport on time for a 6 am flight and I had already printed the boarding passes so we didn't have to stand in a very long line.

    2. The lady at the Budget car rental counter upgraded our car from a dinky one to a Ford Focus. Larkin hates it, but I'm developing a relationship with our red Focus.

    3. Shout out to the Waze app. It has gotten us everywhere around Ann Arbor. Between that and Suri, we have found everything, including a place to have our nails done.

    4. My husband, Garth, who is at home with the other three daughters and my father (my mother is also away this weekend), entertaining their friends, chauffeuring to games, and keeping them all happy and safe. No easy task.

    5. The predictability of some stores and places: CVS, Whole Foods, Hampton Inn...You know what you need and you know what they will provide.

    6. The originality of other stores and places: We ate at Zingerman's last night and if any of you are ever in Ann Arbor, do not miss Zingerman's. I took some pictures of my meal, including the sweet potato fries and they were incredible. Larkin thinks it's silly to post pictures of my fries, but I might...

    7. The fact that UM students know how to have a good time. The campus is in full swing with St. Patrick's day on the horizon. Parties and greenness were everywhere yesterday.

    8. The incredible talent that exists in the college generation. We went to a dance performance last night, that also featured an a cappella group. They were all just. so. good. I never had the courage or composure to perform the way that my daughters and their contemporaries do and I am in awe of this.

    9. The incredible level of acceptance that exists in the college generation. At this performance, and all over campus, were students who would never have been able to express themselves and perform so openly and joyfully.

    10.  Larkin's declaration of excitement, appreciation and love at the end of the day. Please note that if this were not a chronological post, this tenth celebration would be first. Isn't it the best to see so much joy in your child?

    Off to bask in a day that doesn't feel overwhelming and over-scheduled.

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    A PSA for Taking Stomach Pain Seriously

    I had a post all ready to put up this morning, but I decided to change it when I went over to twowritingteachers.wordpress.com and saw how Stacey had featured my post about cheering for my girls. My original post for today was all about me. All about my list of things to do, the curveballs that get thrown at all of us, the unpredictability of our days--I may still post it one of these March days, but for today, it seems that I should write about motherhood again.

    I'm actually away with Larkin this weekend, visiting the University of Michigan, and we are right now sitting in a hotel blogging together--what a pair of nerds we are! For those of you who have not yet met Larkin, I recommend her highly at lalalalark.wordpress.com; she has taken the SOL Challenge, as well.  When we finish our posts, don't worry--we are heading out to a fun dinner! We talked it over and decided to do a mother-daughter post about her appendix rupturing. Get ready--I was one scared mother!

    Larkin is probably telling you that she rarely misses an opportunity for the world to be her stage, so when she told us all that her stomach was killing her, no one was jumping up to call 911. She got a little more attention when she spent an entire day throwing up, including a six pack of Canada Dry, free access to on-demand movies, and several check-in phone calls. However, when she still complained that her stomach hurt the next day through tears and heavy breathing, I reassured her. "It's tough on stomach muscles to throw up as much as you did," I remember saying. "Motrin should help."

    I need to shorten the story by jumping to the place where I was called out of my PPTs to hear that she was on the way to the hospital in my mother's car, not in an ambulance only because my mother had promised the pediatrician who had seen her that she would drive straight to the hospital. When I got there at noon (and yes, pay attention to the timing...) they hooked her up to an IV to restore fluids and give her morphine to ease her discomfort. I didn't believe that she could have appendicitis, much less a ruptured appendix, but by 4:00, I think that the medical professionals knew. That was when they did the ultrasound and did not see her appendix. I thought that was a good sign, but I now know that it was a bad sign. She had all of the symptoms for appendicitis--as the doctor said, "looks like a duck, sounds like a duck..."--I thought that since they didn't see that big swollen organ, we were in the clear, safe and sound and on our way to being better with a little more of that morphine and then some more motrin. Nope. No appendix meant ruptured appendix.

    When this was explained to me by a soft-spoken resident, I wanted that appendix out. Right away. He reassured me that she would be in the next available operating room. At that point, it was nearing 6:00. Garth was home with the other girls and my mom had stayed with me and Larkin. Larkin was calmer, sleeping a bit, and antibiotics were dripping into her body through that IV, as well. "The antibiotics will counter the rupture until they can operate," the people in the emergency room explained to me, but by this time, I was becoming more and more focused on getting that appendix OUT of her body. I wanted that poison to stop seeping into her. I had heard of people dying from a ruptured appendix. How could there not be an available operating room?!?!?

    "She is the next case," was the refrain for the next two hours. Please remember that I arrived at the hospital at noon and nowhere in here have I mentioned eating yet, because I hadn't. I say this because I was beginning to freak out a bit. I was trying to maintain my composure, but as I was picturing poison seeping into Larkin, my composure was seeping out of me. Finally, at 8:00, we were wheeled out of the ER room, heading toward the elevator and the surgery floor. Just as Josh, the volunteer who was bringing us, went to push the button for floor five, Anna, the nurse who had been with us, ran to catch us. "Take her up to the floor," she said. "We had an emergency."

    It didn't register right away that what she meant was that we had been trumped by a sicker person to get the next operating room. When the doors opened at floor 8, the floor where people stayed, not the surgery floor, it registered, and the nurse who came into our room got my full attention.

    "How can there not be an operating room? HOW CAN THERE NOT BE AN OPERATING ROOM?" Interesting that my mother didn't try to stop me at this point. I think that she was probably cheering me on. "We are at a hospital and I have a child with a ruptured appendix and people can die from a ruptured appendix and I need someone to fix that so that she can start getting better and whatever is leaking into her system can STOP leaking into her system."

    The poor nurse was kind, trying to validate my concerns, but also trying to explain that Larkin would be okay, that she would find out what was going on, that she would do whatever she could. She brought me and my mom some apple juice and Ritz crackers which helped to temporarily stop my shaking, but only temporarily. You are not going to believe when I write the next line.

     It was 11:30 when they finally came to bring Larkin into the operating room.


    Somewhere in between 9 and 11:30, I asked the nurse what a good mother would do at this point.  At some point during those hours, I asked to speak to someone, anyone who was in charge who could find an operating room ANYWHERE in that hospital to get started on my daughter. At my finest hour, I even asked for a knife, offering to take out her appendix myself.  (They said no.)

    My mom and I went and got ourselves soup at midnight. (If you ever really want to be depressed, go check out the people who are eating in hospitals in the middle of the night.) Then, we went and sat in the waiting room until 2:30 am. Ironically, we sat with the family of the girl who had "taken" Larkin's original operating room, and she was, in fact, much sicker than Larkin was. As I write this, I hope that she is okay, now. Larkin is. It's two and half years later and she is finishing her take on this event on the bed next to me.

    And now, we are on our way to dinner! Don't forget that you can read Larkin's take on this moment in Meehan history at lalalalark.wordpress.com!

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    Day #13: Tough to be a mom and a teacher sometimes...

    Still going strong in the Slice of Life Challenge that is hosted by the incredible writing community at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Thanks so much for hosting this wonderful event!

    I am finding it harder and harder to be the go-to person when my youngest daughter needs academic help.

    I love being an educator and I love being a mom, but man, it's hard to be both of those together, sometimes. Last night, Cecily, shared her literary essay with me. Quite honestly, I read it and I was worried. Cecily has always had a clear strong voice in her writing, but she is a rambler and tends to lose her way. She wrote about One Handed Catch, a fabulous book, and she made many good points about the main character and his friend, but she had not one unifying or coordinating point to be found. I'm never sure what the lessons are exactly, and I never want to confuse her by teaching something differently, so I helped her a bit with a conclusion (yes, that was tricky) and emailed her teacher as soon as she went to bed. She has written fabulous pieces this week, as a result of some great instruction, I am sure.
    Tonight, Cec came home with evidence of a lengthy conference with her teacher; her teacher's writing was all over the draft, giving her many directions on what to do and where to do it. As Cecily tried to interpret and integrate all of the comments,  she kept saying "This is what my teacher said to do," wanting so much to do the right thing, to write the "right" way, to be the good student. But, neither of us could figure it all out.

    After some tears and some Ben and Jerry's Phish Food (I needed some too at that point--probably more than she did!), we went back at that literary essay. Together, we studied the rubric and the mentor texts that were in her writing folder, and we talked about structures that could work. This definitely took longer than any teacher would have in a conference in between a mini-lesson, other students, and an end-of-workshop share, but she was able to then write a much more cohesive essay--I'm hoping that her teacher doesn't feel like all of her suggestions were completely disregarded!

    Funny that her essay was about the power of perseverance and hard work; I pointed out to her that she must have internalized the message of that book, given the effort that she'd shown on this essay! I hope that her teacher is supportive of her efforts and maybe, maybe might have a moment of reflection that sometimes less gets you more and that students' work needs to remain students' work if they really are going to internalize and transfer the important skills that they need to learn. I'm crafting an email to her teacher that lets her know how hard she worked on this and that she probably needs to move on from this piece. I think that another dose of massive corrections would be more that either of us could handle!

    Happy Day 13!

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    A Shout-Out to Peppermint Soap--and Great Gift-Giving!

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    This morning's post is in honor of Amy, my wonderful sister-in-law who gave me my favorite birthday present--a bar of soap.

    Last year, we lost power for a few days and we were not able to take hot showers at our house. My husband's brother and his wife live nearby, so we trekked over to their house with our towels and flat hair. Amy always has shampoos that smell good and exotic hair treatments, but during that shower, it was the soap I loved. It tingled. Really, positively tingled.

    I asked Amy about it and she agreed that it was pretty special soap--not your average Dove bar, which had been my bar of choice, up until that shower. Amy frequents many organic grocery stores and had discovered this peppermint soap at Trader Joe's. I made a mental note to buy myself a bar the next time I succumbed to my craving for the chocolate covered pretzels with peanut butter inside them that I can only buy at Trader Joe's. Peppermint soap. Dessert Essence. I vowed to remember. I forgot.

    Fortunately, Amy is not only a great stocker of bathroom luxuries, but she is also an amazing gift-giver. She has the knack for giving not the most expensive presents, but the presents that you don't even know you are coveting. Guess what was at the bottom of my gift bag, underneath the new Jhumpa Lahari book and the new Aerie undershirt?!? Dessert Essence peppermint soap!

    Since I don't have my own shower--I have to share with my husband--I had to share my soap. Garth also likes the peppermint soap. (Remember--it tingles!)  I winced when I watched him lather it up and he is a big latherer. I think he was inspired by the Irish Mist commercial as a young boy. (Anyone remember that commercial?) I really wanted my soap to last forever, so I finally told him that it costs $5 a bar. That's all I needed to say-- his lathering decreased. I offered him the option of having his and her soaps in the shower if the price tag was more than he could handle for a bar of soap and he declined. In fact, we ran out of not only Dessert Essence last month, but also Dove--we were left with only a mustard colored bar of Dial to use. I splurged for my peppermint soap and I had to laugh when the Dial remained dry and untouched in the shower, once the pricey soap bar showed up. Garth likes the peppermint soap, too.

    I hope that I haven't offended any Dial users out there--it's funny how we bond with our toothpastes and soaps! What I also hope is that I have inspired gift-giving. While I value my peppermint soap (remember--I have independently replaced the bar that Amy had placed at the bottom of my gift bag), I value the reminder of the love and friendship that the soap also represents. Gift-givers pay attention and remember and spend time tracking down that perfect present.

    Enjoying my soap and thinking about my gifts...

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    I Wish I Had Said Hello...

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. I go back and forth between this blog and the blog that I share with Melanie Swider, tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com, depending on whether my post is personal or education-related. Feel free to join the community with comments or linked up posts!

    I loved reading how Tara Smith wrote about her encounter with a woman at Trader Joe's here. Tara started talking with the woman who asked her about her plants, and found that the two of them had a lot to talk about in the chocolate aisle of Trader Joe's.

    I wish that I had read Tara's post before I stopped at Michael's craft store over the weekend with Cecily, my youngest daughter. Cec and I were on a mission to find miniature sombreros for her cultural fair that is coming up (we failed) and glitter for the signs that Clare (Daughter #3) and her friend are working on to sell at the upcoming Relay for a Cure (success!). As we waited in line, an older couple joined us. I had noticed them shuffling through the store. She led him, and was careful not to lose him. Using his cane for balance, he stayed close behind, watching her and not noticing the shelves of glittering beads, shamrocks, wooden stencils, and artificial flowers.

    In line, I looked more closely at him, and he smiled. He had half a face of whiskers, a half a face that reminded me of my dad when we don't remind him to shave the other side. His watery eyes focused on Cecily and her red hair. I loved that she met his gaze and said hello. Living with my dad has taught her a lot about people and kindness. I wish I, too, had said hello.

    The woman placed a pair of knitting needles, size 10's on the counter behind our jar of glitter. I wondered what she was making, who it would be for. I wish I had asked.

     I hope that she is making a sweater or blanket for someone who will love it. I hope that someone puts their arms around her and somehow knows the effort and care that went into every last stitch, but began before the casting on, as she packed her husband into the car, chaperoned him around Michael's, and selected the right set of needles. I wish I had thanked her. Celebrated her effort. Invited her to share her knitting project, offered her an opportunity to share snippets of her day, her plans, even her past.

    I wish that I had said hello.

    Happy slicing,

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    I'm Cheering for Cheering!

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. I go back and forth between this blog and the blog that I share with Melanie Swider, tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com, depending on whether my post is personal or education-related. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    Last night, I was so proud of my daughters, and my pride came not from what they were doing, but rather, from how they were doing it. Julia is a sophomore and she was the last player to be called up to the varsity basketball team in time for the post-season tournament. For those of you who don't know, that comes with the glory of a team uniform, the responsibility of continued intense practices, and the more dubious honor of sitting on the bench, usually for the whole game. Last night, the game was close, and Julia watched the whole thing. I was worried when she got in the car; she is used to playing in her games, feeling important on the field or court. When she settled into the back seat, she emoted about who had played well, how Cheray had stepped up her game, how Bridget had shut down the other team's star player, how Sophie had gotten her shot back after some beginning jitters. Julia had no resentment, and shared the note that her coach had passed to her at the beginning of the game where he acknowledged her importance as a member of the team. 

    Across the hall from the gym, The Sound of Music was going on in the auditorium, a play that Larkin auditioned for. Forgive me as I am going to sound bitter for a minute, but Larkin was the senior who was cast as Sophia the nun and decided to pass up the part. (Unless you are extremely familiar with The Sound of Music, you are asking who is Sophia. So were we.) Larkin has been in plays all of her life, literally. She has almost always been a lead and has even acted professionally at local theaters and off-Broadway. When the cast list was posted, I'm not going to lie, it was devastating to her since who doesn't want to have a good part in the high school musical when they're a senior? Some of the explanations given for the decision are long stories and not what this post is about, but the background just lets you know how proud I was that she went to the play. She was honest and clear with me that going was hard, she only stayed until intermission, but she went, and I don't think that any of her friends had any idea of how hard that was for her. I did.

    Sometimes, life is about cheering and not about being the star. It's about figuring out who to follow and not leading. It's about how to support people and honor them and step back away from the spotlights. I love to cheer for my girls when they are doing great things, but last night, I was cheering for them for cheering for others. 

    Happy 9th day of slicing, everyone! Isn't it amazing how differently we live, watch, and remember when we are slicing?

    Friday, March 7, 2014

    Slice of Life Day 7: Anxiety and Anger--Bring on the Kindness!

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    Isn't it so true that anxiety leads to anger? Seems that there was a lot of anxiety in our house yesterday...

    Many of you know that we live together with my parents and my dad has dementia. In addition to the eight of us, we also have three dogs. My father loves to feed the dogs. Their dinner. Their cookies. His nightly peanuts. Any available table scraps...He has them pretty trained to do whatever it takes to get treats from him since he gives them anything he can find. My mom has hidden the dog cookies in an effort to keep the canines svelte. However, she did not hide the heartworm pills that the dogs get monthly. Her dogs are small and mine is an 80 pound lab named Sonny. Today, Doc came across Sonny's heartworm pills and split one in two for a treat for his dogs, Phoebe and Holly. My mom came upon the scene as they were licking up the crumbs. Although she knew that yelling at Doc is futile, she admitted to yelling, and I can understand--she was scared, really scared, that the medicine would make Phoebe and Holly really sick. She found out later that they'd be fine--turns out heartworm medicine is pretty mild--but nothing like a good scare to inspire a good yell.

    My second daughter, Julia (almost 16), came in late tonight. She'd had basketball practice, followed by a pasta party (there's a big game tonight), followed by soccer practice (yes, she does two sports--she's crazy, no we're crazy...) Guess what? She was anxious. She had a lot of homework, not a lot of time, and she was ready for a shower. Just as she was about to head for the bathroom, Daughter Number Three, Clare, jumped ahead of her and into the shower. So much for the household peace. That was over, as the two of them battled it out for first shower rights. Clare won out, but Julia hid all the towels. Nothing like comic relief.

    I wasn't immune to the anxiety of the day. Clare had gotten to me, as well, earlier in the afternoon. I worry about her; she's working hard to follow through on things and to figure out her goals and priorities, but it's sometimes a shadowy path. I found myself inappropriately angry with her as we drove home from the post office, having not been able to get the pictures that we need to have taken (that's another blog post--stay tuned!) We worked it out, but I need to own my anxiety, as the issues were more mine than hers today.

    My OLW for 2014 is kindness and I can't tell you how many times I have already reminded myself of this, and it's only March 7th. I'm on my way now to give Clare a hug. Maybe she'll pass one along to Julia--I'll let you know.

    Enjoy your Friday!

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Clementines or Ice Cream-What Would YOU Choose?

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    Last year, many of my posts wound up being memoirs of my dad. When I met Catherine in person, one of the first questions she asked me was how was my dad. He's good, and actually, last night he was very funny.

    A little background information: he fell twelve years ago and he bumped his head, hard enough that he should have died. He didn't, but he suffers--we all suffer--from his premature dementia that has intensified in the last couple of years. His prostate cancer has also intensified in that last couple of years, and how lovely for him that he doesn't know a thing about that! We all live together in a pretty symbiotic living situation for the time being, but that's another story.

    Doc loves his cocktail at five, and he loves his ice cream after dinner. He's put on a little weight, so we've trying to manage the ice cream intake. Last night, when he finished his chicken, he pushed his chair back. His refrain is this: "Shall I get myself a bowl of ice cream?"

    The night before, my mother had talked him into a clementine instead of his Ben and Jerry's, so I responded, "There are delicious clementines on the counter."

    "Oh good," he said.

    We went bacak to our conversation, and did not notice what he was doing for a few minute. Guess what? He had gotten himself a bowl and was scooping ice cream and plenty of it.

    "That doesn't look like a clementine, Doc," my youngest daughter, Cecily said.

    "I don't think that he really wanted that clementine," my mom said.

    As Doc walked past the last remaining chocolate chip cookie, conveniently next to the clementines, he reached for it to put it on top of his ice cream.

    "Half, Doc," my mom said.

    Obligingly, her broke the cookie, but not in half, as you can see from the picture--this is the part of the cookie that he left behind...

    We had a good laugh at Doc's face, as he knew that he was being a little sneaky, but he enjoyed his ice cream!

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Bad PD Dreams

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    Last week, I woke up several times between 4 and 6 on the morning that I was to lead our second-grade teachers through a new writing unit. I was conjuring up every complication the corners of my brain could conjure. Maybe it was because the karma around this PD was a little shaky-- this was the fourth time this meeting had been re-scheduled because of snow days. (We have had six snow days and three were on days when I had scheduled PD for second-grade teachers! December 17, January 3, and February 5 are all days that the cancellation emails came through, canceling not only school, but also my PD sessions!!) Maybe my anxiety began germinating during the PD that I had the day before when the video wouldn't play correctly--I don't know why that surprised me since the videos NEVER seem to play properly in our schools these days. But there was more to my dreams...
    • the ELMO would not focus. Would not even turn on, in fact.
    • I could not find ANY of the materials that I had written as demonstration texts.
    • When I did find them, they were on crumpled post-its and the person who had come in to help with the ELMO swept them into the garbage can.
    • Everyone got up and milled around and some even walked out as I was talking. 
    It's funny how dreams are--even as I write this, I am remembering more of the details with growing clarity...
    • There was a staff developer in the room from TC, but she just sat there. why didn't she say something, add something, FIND MY WRITING SAMPLES??? I said to her that I couldn't find my writing samples and she just nodded and shrugged. (Please know that our TC staff developers are some of my favorite people EVER, and they would never, ever leave me struggling!!!)
    Donalyn Miller wrote that real writers write what matters to them. (If you need another blog post to read, I highly recommend this post!) I am writing about what matters to me. These sessions matter to me. So much that I still get nervous before them, going over and over that I have the right materials that will help, support, and engage teachers, that my timing will be as constructive as possible, that I will balance the delivery of information with the opportunities to digest and collaborate and ask questions, that teachers will walk away feeling excited and ready to try something new in their classrooms. That I'll be funny. That we will all laugh and learn--isn't that the best, when laughter comes along with learning?

    My PD session went fine. The ELMO focused, the video worked, the teachers were excited to teach the unit, and we even laughed a couple of times. And, I went to bed early!

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Ordering Dessert Before Dinner!

    During March, I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Bloggers from around the world are posting daily, committed to the practice of sharing, reflecting, remembering...writing! Feel free to stop by this incredible March happening and check out other posts or even join in--there's no rule that says you have to start on March 1st!

    At a conference last week, I had lunch with someone who shared that his aunt always ordered dessert first when she went out to dinner. She didn't like the pressure of saving room. I loved this idea. It reminded me of the days when my daughters were younger and we would occasionally have an upside-down dinner, starting with dessert. I can't believe I forgot about this!

    Last night, I took two of my girls out to dinner. My husband had one of them playing in an outdoor soccer game (that's another post since we live in CT and it was less than twenty degrees at gametime...) and our fourth daughter was away for the weekend with a friend. When the girls looked at the menu, they initially struggled. It was a little fancy for them, although their close reading skills eventually revealed the options of burgers and macaroni and cheese. However, you should have seen their faces when I asked for the dessert menu first.

    "Why are you asking for that, now?" Clare asked.

    "That's smart," Larkin declared. "We can decide what to get for dessert before we decide on dinner."

    "Actually, I think that we should get dessert first," I said.

    They both started to giggle.

    When the waitress came back, she asked us what we'd decided. She was a little surprised when we ordered the apple crumble and the warm chocolate cake, but I think that she assumed that we were just there for dessert.

    "Should we order dinner, now, too?" Larkin asked her.

    That got her attention. The girls ordered their burger and pasta, and I ordered my salad.

    "But, you want the dessert first?" she asked. I didn't blame her for double checking.

    We nodded and she laughed with us.

    We had a great time on Saturday night--it's fun to switch up family dynamics, but it was also fun to switch up eating routines. I can't wait to surprise my other two daughters with this new tradition! Who knew that I'd learn about a fun switch-up at a Zaner-Bloser presentation?