The End of the Road #SOL16 Day 31

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It is hard to believe the month has come to an end.  I’m not ready.  I have settled into my routine.  I look forward to coming up with the slice I will write.  I really look forward to reading people’s comments.  I very much enjoy reading others’ slices.  I am amazed by the honesty, the talent, and the heart in this online writing community.  Some blogs I’ve followed all month and now after reading and learning about the bloggers they feel like friends.  So it is hard to say goodbye.

My husband is a very private person and is probably relieved that I will no longer be putting our family moments out into the world.  But this came at a time when I really needed it.  I had just lost my dad and felt a little unmoored.  I wanted to be true to myself (which was one of my dad’s favorite pieces of advice).  I wanted to write.  I wanted to take on the challenge and prove to myself I could do it.  I wanted something just for me. Something apart from being a mom, a wife, and a teacher. I wanted to take time to notice, to reflect, to create.  It felt good.  It felt more than good – it felt necessary.

I would like to continue writing.  Now that I found my rhythm I am unwilling to let it end. However, when I’m writing just for me I’m not sure  if it will hold the same appeal. Reading people’s comments was so motivating and deeply satisfying.  Knowing someone else had read my words and took the time to respond felt like a gift. I will miss that.  Maybe the takeaway is to find more purposeful ways to let my library students write book reviews for an audience who can respond. Maybe the takeaway is to keep writing those moments for my son to look back on someday.

I want to thank Betsy, Anna, Stacey, Deb, Tara, and Kathleen for putting together this Slice of Life March writing challenge.  I want to thank all the writers who put their ideas out into the world each day.  It has truly been a pleasure.  I have learned through all of you and enjoyed myself immensely.

All the best to you!

Melanie

 

My Biblio History #SOL16 Day 30

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My Biblio History

The titles listed are the books that have resonated with me at different points throughout my life:

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (1938) – I was so taken with this book in first grade. I don’t have tons of memories from that time but I can clearly remember reading this one over and over.

The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla (1968) – My second grade teacher read this aloud to us and she had a spooky voice at just the right parts.  When I became a teacher she gifted it to me.  I tried reading it to my class but it was definitely not as good as I remembered it.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (1947) – I loved the magic and how she got children to behave.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton (1952) – I liked the idea of little people living within a house.

Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1975) – I could completely relate to Ramona worrying about her dad smoking.  To this day I could draw the layout of the Quimbys’ house that I had pictured in my mind.

Depend on Katie John by Mary Calhoun (1961) – It was my first encounter with a dumbwaiter and I was fascinated!

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961) – This was the book that taught me if there is a dog on the cover you won’t finish the book without a good cry.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884) – My eighth grade English teacher would assign a section to read and come in to discuss.  I couldn’t wait to get to class each day and hear the layers to this book. I thought, “I want a job where I get kids excited this much each day.”

A Separate Peace by John Knowles (1959) – This was required summer reading in high school and it was a tear jerker. This is why I like the idea of required reading.  I would not have picked up this title on my own.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) – This was another required summer read and it opened my eyes to a different time period.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908) – Imagine that I was only introduced to Anne Shirley in college by my friend!   We talked my mom into taking us on a bus tour to Prince Edward Island to see Green Gables.  It was one of the best trips and places I’ve been.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989)  – I liked the spiritual aspects of this book and gave it as gifts to people I cared about at the time.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (1998) – This is one of those books that starts a bit slow but, boy, if you give it a chance you will not be disappointed!

The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy (1984) – Each chapter is told by a different character who rides the lilac bus. Eventually their individual stories all form an interwoven story.  I fell in love with Maeve Binchy’s style of writing and the settings in Ireland.  I have read anything I can get my hands on by her ever since.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (1983) – I absolutely love the friendship and respect between a settler and a Native American boy and read it aloud to many fourth grade classes over the years.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (2000) – Oh my word, the message of not being afraid to start over is one we all need to remember. This is another book I read to many classes.

Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia by Barbara O’Connor (2003) – For years we did an author study before Barbara O’Connor’s visit and this was always my favorite.  Burdette Weaver is a character you root for.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (2004) – This is like listening in to the best gossip fest you could ever imagine.  I flew through this book and couldn’t believe my luck to find out it continued…

Something Blue by Emily Giffin (2005) – Yes, this time you hear a different point of view and you’ll be empathetic to both sides.  Truly, a page turning book!

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (2008) – This book ripped my heart out and I loved every minute of it.

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (2011) – This read aloud works for boys and girls so don’t get turned off by the title.  It’s such a great historical fiction novel and the best part is the sequel, Romeo Blue, is equally as good which is rare.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947) – Our first bedtime reading routines revolved around this book like so many other families.  It was my son’s first birthday theme and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this title.

Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2013) – This book is like those makeover shows that make you feel so good in the end.  It’s a tough situation that has the best possible solution.

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner (2014) – Love and loss are portrayed so beautifully in this young adult book.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (2015) – I was so surprised by the way she wrote this.  It was different from any book I’d ever read.  She is so incredibly masterful I told anyone with ears how much I loved it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015) – I really liked All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr but when I read this I was even more smitten. It is so heartbreaking to read what people during WWII had to endure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anxiety #SOL16 Day 29

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We met yesterday to discuss ways to help our students with anxiety.  Many caring adults offered strategies they are trying to teach their kiddos. Some have built in breaks throughout the daily schedule so their students know practicing these coping mechanisms are part of the routine.  We asked for the social-emotional folks to provide common language and strategies we could all employ from the get-go at the start of the next school year. One teacher said, “There are so many academics to teach but let’s face it, we cannot get to the academics until we get the social-emotional needs covered.”  So true.

The landscape has changed dramatically since I began teaching twenty years ago.  I often wonder about the factors that make it so.  I worry about adults making curriculum decisions for our country who do not have classroom experience and knowledge of what is age appropriate. I worry about the amount of testing children must endure each school year. I worry about the amount of data teachers must upload when there is so much more they also must do in such little time. I worry about the pace we expect everyone to keep up with.

I worry about eight year olds having to “try out” in front of a panel of adults to simply play baseball in their town league. I worry about kids no longer playing a sport per season for the fun, team-building experience but instead “specializing” in one sport and playing it all year long. I worry about the schedules between houses that little people must keep track of – “My library book might be at my dad’s house. I don’t know.” I worry about the amount of screen time they are getting because their brains do seem to require more stimulation and have less attention span than years past. I worry about the social media platforms they are exposed to before they are emotionally ready.

I worry that our tired overworked parents give in too much and the kids have not learned the word no.  I worry that our students have not learned to persevere and give up at a task far too soon.  I worry that their schedules are far too tight and they don’t get enough unstructured outdoor play.  I worry that we live in a society that does not want their children to experience consequences for their actions and we are left with an incentive-based economy for doing what is expected in our schools. All of these factors must be playing into the behaviors that manifest in many ways but can be linked to anxiety.

Most of all, I worry that I see so much that needs changing and I don’t know how to make it better.  Because I want better for these children who didn’t ask for this.  I want better for my son who will be entering school in a year.  Yes, as educators we will add anxiety-reducing strategies to our teaching.  Anxiety is part of life, I get that.  But does it have to be so  much so at such a young age?

Earache #SOL16 Day 28

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Soft whimpering…my body becomes alert.  More whimpering.  I recognize that sound of distress and know his ear is aching again while he tries to sleep.  We’ve been told he has a high threshold for pain.  That’s why his eardrum has ruptured in the past.  I worry that it will rupture again.  I can’t bear the helpless feeling of waiting for the pediatrician’s office to finally open at 9am.

I slide out of bed and head toward the bathroom.  “I’m going to get you a warm cloth for your ear, Bud.  I’ll be right in,” I softly call to him.  My husband has been sleeping on his floor so he is quietly talking to him.  I enter his room and he’s already on the floor waiting for me.  I lean against the foot board of his bed and he sleepily leans into me.  I put the warm wash cloth on his ear and gently swirl circles on his back.  After a minute or two he swats the cloth off, puts both arms around me, and leans his head on my shoulder.  He’s getting bigger now and I’ll admit I savor every moment when he wants to cuddle like this although I hate to see him sick.

“My ear is really aching.  We go see the doctor, Mom?  I get the medicine and then I’ll feel better?”

“Yes,” I answer, “We’ll bring you to the doctor in the morning and he’ll help you feel better.”

“I’ll take tomorrow off to take him to the doctor,” I say.  My husband replies, “No, you’ve been out a lot this year. I’ll cancel my meetings and take him. ” We know it is an ear infection.  We just don’t know the extent yet.  He’s in pain but we’ve seen him worse.  It is after 3am.  My husband has slept on the floor for two nights now because our son doesn’t like to be alone when he doesn’t feel well. I say, “How about if I get in your bed with you and Dad can get some rest in his bed for a bit?”

We climb up into his bed and get under the covers.  He has requested his Lion Guard soundtrack and although he isn’t feeling well I marvel at the fact that he still sings along a bit.  I finally hear some soft snoring and my body starts to rest.  I wake at almost 6am and leave him to sleep a bit longer.  He is sleeping soundly and very late according to his typical schedule.  Good, I think, his body needs the rest.

*It was an ear infection but thankfully it didn’t rupture.

 

 

Thankful Moments #SOL16 Day 27

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In the days leading up to Easter I tended to focus on the recent loss of my dad and traditions of years past.  But as I reflect on Easter 2016 I have so many thankful moments. It is these moments that are cause for celebration.

Saturday morning: Our son cleans up his toys in the living room without being asked and is beaming with pride when my husband and I tell him what a terrific and helpful boy he is.

Saturday morning: Our son’s face when we head outside to take a walk and a car pulls up with two of his preschool friends.  We surprised him with his first “play date” to color eggs with his little buddies. “We really surprised you, Bud!” I say.  He does the happy dance and yells, “What?  This is a BIG ‘prise! My friends are here!”

Saturday evening: Our son makes a card for the Easter bunny to leave out with a carrot and a cookie.  “Mom, can you help me make a heart?  I want to let the Easter Bunny know I love Easter!”

Saturday night: Our son wakes up crying with an earache.  My husband get him Children’s Advil and as he reaches for the medicine cup he says in a soft voice, “Thanks, Daddy.” My husband gets a blanket and a pillow and heads into our son’s room to sleep on his floor. We know from experience when he’s not feeling well he doesn’t want to be alone.  ‘What an incredible and caring man I managed to marry’ is my last thought as I drift off to sleep.

Sunday morning: Seeing our son squirming with excitement when he looks through the contents of his Easter basket.  Watching him gleefully discover Easter eggs the Bunny hid for him throughout the house.  Smiling to myself as he pops jelly beans into his mouth because I know he knows this is definitely not the norm.  “This Easter Bunny is a tricky bunny!” he exclaims as he finds eggs even hidden in his bedroom.

Sunday morning: My husband remarking, “Your Dad’s mind must be blown today with the way they celebrate Easter in heaven.” What an awesome thought!

Later Sunday morning: Watching my son hugging his grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Looking over and seeing my niece reading a book to our son.  Seeing the cousins all squished together on a sofa at the restaurant we went to for brunch.  Laughing when my brother relays a funny story about being in line and telling our son he plans to eat a LOT of fruit.  Our son says, “Moderation.”  My brother is floored that a person this small had that as a reply.  Watching my mom and mother-in-law laughing and enjoying the delicious meal.  ‘I’m glad these two are enjoying themselves.  How many holidays did they have to work hard to host?’

Sunday afternoon: Taking a walk with our son in the sunshine.  He brings along his new bubbles and chases them happily through the street and on to neighbors’ lawns.   “Where are all the kids?  Why isn’t anyone outside today?” he asks. “All the cars outside the houses lets you know they are celebrating Easter with their cousins just like you did this morning.  They’ll be back out another day.”

Later Sunday afternoon: Listening to our son do imaginative play with his new Lion Guard figurines while my husband puts together new dining room chairs.  Our son drifts in and out of helping his dad with this new “project”but the business of play at the age of four wins out.

 

 

 

Rice Pie #SOL16 Day 26

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Yesterday I wrote about my Dad’s Easter tradition.  Today I’m writing about mine: rice pie (pastiera). I discovered it through a childhood friend.  Her mom made it every Easter and once I tried it I was completely smitten.  She appreciated my enthusiasm for her culinary skills and for years she made one for my family.  When I turned 18 she said, “You’re old enough to make it yourself,” and handed over the recipe.  I have been making it ever since.  In fact, this will be my 24th year preparing this Easter treat I enjoy cold with a cup of tea on Easter morning.

There are many versions of this pie.  In fact, I lived next door to an older Italian woman who made seven different versions for her family.  One had Bailey’s Irish cream, one had grain,  and several were ricotta variations.  When you live in a state that has pages of local politicians taking out ads to wish everyone a Happy St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th) you can bet you’ll find many different versions of this dessert.  (On a side note, the zeppole is the traditional pasty you eat here on St. Joseph’s Day. There are lines out the bakery doors on this day).

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I double the recipe to make four pies.  I give one to my mom, one to my mother-in-law, I bring one in for the teachers’ room on the Monday after Easter, and keep one at our house. So far I have cooked the rice in milk and let it cool in the fridge overnight.  Today I will do the baking.

Here is the Rice Pie recipe I use (makes 2):

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. long grain rice
  • 1 quart 1% milk
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 pint half and half
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon, optional
  •  ready-made pie crusts

Put rice and milk in saucepan on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Watch carefully and continue stirring to avoid burning the bottom of the pan.  Add butter toward the end.

Let rice mixture cool.

Mix eggs, vanilla, half and half, crushed pineapple, sugar, and cinnamon by hand.

Ladle mixture evenly between two pie crusts.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Enjoy!

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My Father’s Easter Tradition #SOL16 Day 25

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Today is Good Friday…the day my father insisted on driving up to “the Hill” to buy all the ingredients to make his pizza rustica.  It is a recipe steeped in tradition which is what my father loved about it.  His grandmother would roll out her own dough so every year he did the same.  He spent a LOT of money on the ingredients (much to my practical mother’s chagrin): all sorts of Italian meats and cheeses.  “Why do you do this, Joe?  It’s so expensive and we end up throwing so much away,”  was my mother’s refrain year after year.

He would sing (from Fiddler on the Roof) in reply, “Tradition! Tradition!” He spent so much time and energy making this Easter dish.  I didn’t really care for it so it was not something I looked forward to.  Yet there was a part of me that loved and respected his sentimental side.  He made this dish because it was an integral part of his Easters growing up with his parents and grandparents whom he adored.  He wanted to keep a piece of them with him.  He wanted us to remember where we came from.  And the man loved cheeses and cold cuts more than anyone I’ve ever known.

It is hard to believe he has been gone for a month now.  The reality of it is starting to set in for us all.  There will be no pizza rustica this year.  In fact, we made reservations to go to a restaurant for brunch.  We need to get through the first holiday without him.  But I can smile thinking of his beloved parents and grandparents eating it with their little Giuseppe once again this Easter.

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