Life Lesson for Today


I thought I was going to have nothing to write about for today’s Slice.  I mean I could write about how my daughter made her First Holy Communion this weekend.  It was a great time – but, ehh I wasn’t really feeling that slice.  Or I could write about how PawPaw and Grammy flew up from South Carolina for the weekend for the communion  – but, again, ehhh I wasn’t really feeling that idea either.  There’s too many parts and I could write a few slices about it, so I’ll save those for another day.  So, there I was last night thinking to myself “What in the world am I going to write about tomorrow?”  And then this morning happened….

It was just a typical morning in our house.  I was running around like a lunatic trying to get myself ready for school before waking up Emma.  “Am I going to get happy Emma or mad Emma?” I thought to myself.   Luckily, happy Emma decided to show up this morning – well, for the most part.   And thank goodness for that because of course, I was running a little behind schedule. Why does this always seem to happen when I need to get to work a teeny bit earlier?

Anyway, while Emma was brushing her teeth and hair in the bathroom, I was trying to fix my hair in the hallway (we have another mirror there).  Since I was running late, I decided it was going to be a ponytail day – quick and easy (or so I thought).  While I was brushing my wet hair into the ponytail, I started to get what felt like a muscle spasm in my back by my shoulder blades.  But, instead of stopping what I was doing that was probably causing the pain (because that would’ve been too smart), I continued to brush and brush and then attach the hair band, as the pain worsened.  I, apparently, just couldn’t abandon the hair – a decision I now regret.  Once I finished twisting on the hair band and put my arms down, I couldn’t bend my neck or turn my head without feeling pain radiating down my back, up my neck, and through my shoulder blade.  I tried to stretch – it got worse.  I tried to lay flat and stretch – it got worse.  Today was my first graders show for their parents, so I gathered the rest of my things (slowly), took some ibuprofen, and got on my way.

I completely believe that everyone learns something new every day.  And all day today, as I was trying to manage the pain, I was trying to figure out what lesson I was supposed to learn from this morning’s turn of events.  Here’s the two life lessons I came up with –

  1. I need to make sure to stretch before brushing my hair (and all other activities that may require movement).
  2. I need to do some (ok,
    a lot of) strength training exercises so I don’t injure myself carrying out my day to day activities.  I mean, if I can get hurt doing my hair, imagine what could happen if I were to clean the bathroom?!?


Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful writing community where we can write and read slices and grow together as writers.  

How Many More Days???

“Momma – How many more days til PawPaw gets here?”screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-am

Emma’s favorite question for about a week now.  To say she’s excited that he’s coming to visit would be an understatement.

Whenever I’ve answered this question, her usual response has been loud groaning and whining “Ughhhhhh, that’s too long.”

And I totally get it.  She’s frustrated that he isn’t here yet.  I probably should have never shown her the countdown app on my phone.  She’s 7 and doesn’t exibit that level of patience (at times I don’t either).  She misses him, wants him here, and there are just too many days left on that count down for her.  You see, she hasn’t seen her PawPaw in over a year – and of course that feels like an eternity for her.  Yes, she gets to talk to him on the phone – not as often as we’d like to.  And yes, she gets to occasionally FaceTime, but it’s not the same, and she knows it.  We have to keep reminding her that Grammy is coming too.  It’s not that she isn’t excited about Grammy (she absolutely adores her), but the bond she has with her PawPaw is indescribable and he just takes precedence – over anyone and anything.  (My two previous posts The Reunion and Precious Moments might help explain the bond a little more)

Last night, while PawPaw and Emma were on the phone, I really got to see how much she adores him.  The laughing, giggling, jokes, and small talk all while smiling.  (I imagine he was beaming on the other end too).  They haven’t spoken in a little while, but it was like no time has gone by at all.  I found myself getting teary listening to them towards the end of their convo.  Here’s a little snippet:

Emma (dramatic whining): “How mannnnny more daaaayyyyys til you’re here?”

PawPaw: “Miss Emma, I’ll be there in four more days.  All you have to do is wake up 4 more times and you and Daddy will be picking me and Grammy up from the airport.”

Emma (whining and throwing her head back): “Ugggghhhhh, that’s tooooooo long.  Toooo. Many. Days.  I wish you were here now!  I haven’t seen you in sooooo long!”

PawPaw: “I know, PawPaw wishes too.  I sure do miss you.”

Emma: “I miss you sooooooo much.”

They said their “I love yous” and “see you soons” and talked about getting/giving their “sugar” and got off the phone.  I couldn’t help but tear up and smile at the same time.  It’s just amazing to listen to them.

But, seriously, thank goodness they’ll be here Friday morning and the countdown can come to an end!  They are flying in for Emma’s First Holy Communion and staying for a long weekend.  We’re looking forward to a s-l-o-w four days of spending time with PawPaw and Grammy.  I think there may be a teeny bit of spoiling, but I know there will be lots and lots and lots of hugs!


Reflecting on my Writing Workshop

I just finished reading Joy Write, by Ralph Fletcher and am in love with it.  I would recommend it to every writing teacher.  Even if you don’t agree with all he talks about – he makes you think, reflect, and wonder.  In this short book, Ralph managed to get me to shout “yes this is what we need” over and over and over.  He got me to reflect on my current and past writing instruction.  He got me to question.  I put down this book thinking “this is what we need.  How will I make this happen?” I’m not totally sure yet, but I know I will find a way.

I’ve been teaching for 15 years and my favorite time of the day is Writing Workshop.  I remember my first year teaching kindergarten in the Bronx – I was skeptical.  Can my kindergarteners really be writers?  My mentor led one writing workshop while I observed – I was sold and never looked back.  Yes kindergarteners are writers – all kids are writers.

Reflecting on my Writing Workshop – I now teach 1st grade, am still a believer in the Writing Workshop, and writing remains my favorite subject to teach.  But, I think I may have been letting the joy of writing slip away a bit.   I think I may have been teaching more formulas – more unit plan than joyful writing.  I think I may have been having them too focused on editing and publishing and the end product.  I think this may have blocked their voice from emerging.  I think I may have forgotten how important studying mentor texts are.  I think I may have been over focused on curriculum calendars and units of study.  I’m not sure why this happened.  Was it because of the curriculum calendars and scripted unit plans?  Was it because I just have more learning and growing to do?  Was it because I never considered myself a writer? Was it because I never experienced the joy of writing myself? (well until the March Slice of life challenge!)

I think the answer is yes to all of those questions.  And now I want to apologize to all of my past kiddos for letting the joyfulness go to the side a bit.  Yes, there is a definitely possibility that my kiddos didn’t know the difference and still had fun writing.  They definitely still wrote and wrote and wrote and would groan when Writing Workshop was over.  But kindergarten writing and first grade writing is in many ways naturally fun (for most kids).  They’re drawing pictures and writing words and creating stories, poems, or informational pieces.  Their pieces weren’t graded in the way older grade children’s writing may be graded.  We celebrated our published pieces, and I told them they were writers.  There’s still some revising to do to my writing instruction but luckily during this school year, I began some of my revision of teaching writing.

Here’s how my road to revising my teaching of writing began…This past summer I was part of a curriculum writing team.  I was one of two people who wrote a procedural writing unit for our first graders.  Writing this unit, and spending time with good mentor texts for this unit is what jump started my revision.  I realized that I wasn’t using mentor texts enough.  I wasn’t highlighting the craft moves. We weren’t reading as writers.  This When I taught this unit earlier in this school year, I made sure to read the mentor texts to the kids first as readers, then as writers.  We pointed out the techniques we saw the authors use, and then the kids went off and wrote.  They experimented with craft techniques.  They used the texts as mentors in so many ways. They laughed while writing.  They couldn’t wait to share their ideas.  They smiled and you could feel the joy in the room.  It was contagious!  To quote Ralph from Joy Write, I “cut ’em lose, and let ’em write.”  Of course I taught mini-lessons, taught strategy groups, and had conferences.  But this time, I let them do more writing first, rather than jump in to the mini-lessons that were written on the unit plan.  I let them drive my instruction, rather than the scripted unit plan (which I was a writer of) – Duh, right?!

We need more of the writing Fletcher writes about in Joy Write.  We need a balance between curriculum units of study and low-stakes writing.  We want our kids to feel like writers – to be writers.  We want them to know that writing isn’t just producing narrative pieces, or informational pieces, or opinion pieces.  Writing is more than that.  Writing is a process.  It’s personal.  It’s a way to communicate, to express ourselves, and let our personalities show.  Writing lets us think, create, and figure things out.  Writing is so many things and it can be full of joy.

Let’s do what Ralph Fletcher suggests in his book – “cut ’em lose, and let ’em write!”

Sending Signs

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI’ve always been a firm believer that our departed loved ones send us signs from time to time.  I’ve talked with other people who feel the same way and I’m sure there are plenty of people who think I’m just talking crazy.  It wasn’t until losing my dad, that my beliefs in signs were confirmed and continue to be.  On Saturday, he sent me 4 signs within an hour.  I still have chills thinking about it.

Emma had a birthday party at a bowling alley, and Brad and I seized this opportunity to have a little date while she was at the party.  We had a little more than an hour to ourselves so our first stop – Smashburger.  I actually had never eaten in Smashburger until that day and was way too excited about it, by the way.  After surveying the menu, I decided on a burger with bacon and avocado with fried pickles.  Brad just went with the classic Smashburger.  Since we were dining there, we got our order number card for the table – number 57.

57 is how old my dad was when he died – sign #1.

After Smashburger, we went to check out this Blinds store.  We are in desperate need of some new blinds and the cheap-o ones are just not cutting it anymore.  We looked around, chatted with the owner of the store.  Brad was wooed by the motorized blinds with remote.  Oh boys and their toys!  As we were leaving, the man gave us his business card and said “Give me a call and I’ll come out and do some measurements.  My name’s Bob.”

Bob was my dad’s name – sign #2.

After that second “coincidence” I told Brad that we just had to go into the wine warehouse.  There were rows and rows of wines from all over.  I didn’t know where to look.  As I looked to my right, I saw a sign that said “recommended wines under $15.” – Jackpot!  I headed straight to those shelves.  While scanning the first shelf, this one bottle just seemed to catch my attention.  It was a bottle of a merlot, shiraz, and cabernet blend names Bob’s.  The way the B in Bob’s was printed looked almost identical to the way my dad used to write his B.  As you can imagine, I just had to have this bottle of red (and it was only $10) – Sign #3.

As I was turning around to the right to walk the other way, my eyes were draw to the shelf below.  And right there, on the shelf underneath the bottle of Bob’s wine, was another bottle of red named “Jeanne Marie” – my mom’s name.  The one difference is the way she spells her name – Jean Marie.  Either way, there was sign #4 (and second bottle of red in my hand).

Can someone consider all of these to just be coincidence?  Of course.  But for me, they each worked together as a sign from my dad in heaven.  Maybe I would have thought it was just a coincidence if the only thing was the order number 57.  But in that hour and a half, each of those little signs were my dad saying “Just stopping by to say hi, Jennifer.  I love you!”  They made me smile and filled my heart with a joyful feeling.  After that, I went to my mom’s to share my story – and we sampled some of the “Bob’s” wine – we just had to!

Thank you to the team of writers at Two Writing Teachers for created this amazing writing community!  


Poetry inspires…

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-42-06-amI never enjoyed poetry when I was in school – reading or writing it.  All of the analyzing and dissecting – ugh!  I never got to just read it and feel it.  And I really don’t remember writing any kind of poem but an acrostic poem or maybe some haikus.

I guess you can say that I never experienced the joys of poetry until I became a teacher.  I use poems for different purposes in my classroom – word study, read alouds, shared reading, writing, and the list goes on.  When I was a kindergarten teacher in NYC, I taught my first Poetry writing unit.  It was during this unit when I fell in love with poetry.  I saw, firsthand, it’s magical powers.  My reluctant writers who struggled to write/draw three page stories with a simple sentence on each page were pouring out poems.  They were writing list poems and circular structure poems on topics they loved.  They were using sound words and repetition, and looking at ordinary objects with “poets’ eyes.”  They were motivated and were experiencing success with writing for possibly the first time all year.  This may have been when they finally felt like writers.  On the flip side, writing poetry provided my more proficient writers with a challenge.   Writing poems pushed all the learners in my room to different places.  It touched them all in some way (and me too!)

Since that first teaching experience with a poetry writing unit, I was hooked.  I’ve always made time to incorporate poetry writing into my curriculum (even if it wasn’t on our calendar – shhh).  I have a poetry literacy stations – reading, illustrating, and writing.  My kiddos have poetry notebooks where they keep copies of the poems we read together. Sometimes, they’ll even choose to write poems during morning or afternoon choice. Poetry inspires kids to express themselves in a different way and motivates them to write.

Over the weekend – I saw the effects that poetry had on a very special person in my life and I fell in love with it all over again.  My daughter, Emma, is a reluctant writer (and reader).  Literacy has always been more challenging for her than other areas.  This has probably been harder on me because I’m a lover of literacy and I read to her since before she was born.  Her comprehension is great – cracking the code is her challenge! Anyway, she has writing notebooks.  Many, many notebooks – all filled with drawings.  She’s an illustrator.  Don’t even ask her to write words to accompany her illustrations!

I’m not even sure how it happened, but over the weekend, she started talking about poetry. Maybe I read her one of the poems I posted?  I’m not sure.  But she just started talking about poems and then said what sounded like a poem.  I asked her to repeat it, and I wrote down what she said.

I told her “you know, what you just said sounded just like a poem.”

She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and shoulders up – “I did?!?”

I showed her the paper I recorded her poem on and told her if she wanted to write more poems that maybe I could post them on my blog for other people to read.  Well, that did it.  She put her hands to her mouth, gasped, smiled so big –  there may have even been some tiny tears in her eyes.  She hugged my neck – squeezed actually.  And ran right over to the computer.

“Ready, Momma – let’s put my poem on your blog.”

She wrote one poem that first day and then two more the next day.  (You can read them here and here if you’d like).   I’ve never seen her smile and beam with the pride she did those two days when writing her poems.  Maybe, just maybe, my girl fell in love with poetry like her mom.  Yup, I’m sold – poetry inspires reluctant writers.

More Poetry by Emma

Emma is inspired by poetry.  She’s a reluctant writer and will choose to just draw but poetry has brought the writer out in her.  Simply amazing!

Springy  Spring  – By Emma D.


Springy  spring    


Springy  springy  springScreen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.09.40 AM

Here comes the


Here comes the


Here comes the animals

Coming out to



Springy  spring


Sunny  SummerScreen Shot 2017-04-17 at 7.10.35 AM – By Emma D.


Sunny Summer


Sunny sunny summer

Go to the beach

Play in the water

Go have



Sunny Summer


Poetry by my daughter

This morning my daughter decided to write a poem (more about why this makes my heart sing in another post to come!)  Since I’ve been blogging, she’s wanted her own blog but for now I told her she could be be a Guest Blogger on my blog.  Hope you enjoy her poem.

Snowflakes  – By Emma D.

Snowflakes snowflakes

falling down.


Tickle me on the



When I go sleighing

Snowflakes cover

My whole entire






This week I get the pleasure of being on Spring Break and we’re having a staycation (the hubby isn’t off this week).  I was inspired to write this poem, by waking up to this gorgeous morning and not having to rush around.  I think I can appreciate these mornings because they aren’t my every day thing.  Enjoy! 


A usual morning-

Rush, rush rush

Alarms blaring, WAKE up!

Jump out of bed

Quick make coffee, lunches in the bags

Jump in the shower, brush your teeth,

dry your hair, get dressed,

Shoot – coffee’s cold

back for a new cup, “ahh that’s better”

Wake up E and let the battle begin

Out the door, run run run

Do I have everything?  Hope so, off I go!

But a vacation morning –

Eyes flicker open – then close, open – then close

stretch and roll, looks like B went to work

gaze out window

feel the breeze

the orange glow of the sun peeking in

birds singing their morning songs

s-l-o-w-l-y get out of bed

time for some coffee

sit by the window –

alone in the quiet of the morning

staring out at the river –

Sipping, thinking, breathing

Just being…

What will I do today?

Enjoy it!

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 7.49.02 AM


Thank you to everyone at the Two Writing Teachers for starting this community of writers where we can all learn and grow together.



Proud isn’t even the word…

My brother and I grew up in the fire department.

My dad was a volunteer firefighter in our village for 39 years.  26 of those years he spent in the Fire Chief’s rotation.  The way it works is that there are 4 chiefs in the department; one from each fire house.  We have 3 engine companies and 1 hook and ladder company. All of the houses are filled with volunteer members and many of these firefighters are also part of the volunteer ambulance crew.  Each fire house nominates a chief; hence the 4 chiefs.  The Chief of the department holds that position for 2 years, and under that chief are 3 assistants.  Every two years, they move up the “ladder.”  The first time my dad was the chief of the department was from 1983-1985, and then he went around the rotation a few more times.  When I was born, he was the 3rd assistant chief or baby chief.  When my brother was born, he was the head chief.  In 2006, while my dad was a Deputy chief, he died in the line of duty while directing operations at a house fire.

Yes, my brother and I grew up in the fire department.

40 years ago, in 1977, my dad became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.

40 years later, on April 4, 2017, my brother became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.

This was a bittersweet moment for me.  My heart was sad that my dad isn’t here to see his son become a chief and follow in his footsteps.  Is he really missing this journey, or is it that I’m missing see him beam with pride about his son?  It’s probably me missing my dad being here because I know he doesn’t miss a thing.  My heart is singing and I’m beaming with pride.  My brother just amazes me.  He is so dedicated to the department, does research to keep his “firematic” knowledge current, and he has this passion to make the department the best it can be.  He’s basically been groomed for this position since he was young.  After losing my dad, being a part of the fire department was painful for him, but as he got a little bit older, the fire was lit within him again, and I’ve never seen him more determined than he is today, taking on this role.

About 3 days before the swearing in ceremony, my brother texted me, “you and mom for my badge presentation on Tuesday, FYI.”  I read this text, and immediately my eyes filled with tears.  He wanted me to present him with his badge with my mom.  When we lost my dad 4 months before my wedding, he’s the one who stepped up and took my dad’s place walking me down the aisle.  It was now my turn to take my dad’s place and present him with his chief’s badge.  So many emotions flooded my body.  I was shocked, honored,  and then anxious. How was I going to get up there, in front of all of the members, and speak about this moment without crying hysterically?  I wrote and rewrote my little speech about 10 times.  I’m an over-thinker, and that’s what I did for 3 days – over-think.  The day of the ceremony, it just hit me.  I didn’t delete the longer speech, I just knew I was gonna keep it short and sweet, with a little humor.  My brother and I know how we feel about each other without speaking the words.  Let’s just say, we’re better at writing from our hearts than speaking from them.  So here’s my little speech (I think – don’t totally remember what I said):

I could stand up here and say all of these heartfelt words….but that’s not how we roll – So I’ll just text them too you later.  Congratulations!  We’re all very proud of you.  You’re going to be very successful in this position, it’s in your blood.  And yeah, that’s all I got! (as the tears started to roll down my cheeks)

I did text him my heartfelt words later that evening.  He once told me (via text!) that he just wants to make dad proud and be half of the man he was.  I hope that one day he will see how much he is like our dad and know that dad is beaming with pride.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 12.19.27 PM

Hugging the 3rd Assistant Chief!


My View

Missing just one day of writing made me sad.  Guess I should try to blog a few times a week.  The Slice of Life challenge has left me with this need to write.  It’s my nightly relaxation. Here’s a little poetry rough draft tonight.  There’s always revision that can be done!

My View

I’ve never sat at this window

Looked out and listened


An enormous tree

With branches hanging down

like long hair

Stands in front

No leaves yet,

So I can see the river.


The long skinny branches

dance in the breeze

There’s a nest

Up high in the tree

Maybe a home for the squirrels –


The wind switches direction –

A gentle breeze blows in the window

The sun peeks into the room

Onto my notebook

It’s warmth brings a smile to my face

I look out to see that sun

glistening on the water

Shimmering off the tops of the tiny waves

like twinkling stars in the night


I look to the right

White puffy clouds

paint pictures in the sky.

Tall, tall evergreens sway back and forth

as if they’re waltzing –

Birds are singing their own tunes.


As I stare out the window

I think about what will happen

once this big tree gets its leaves

New life will begin –

my view will end.