Posted in Family, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 23: Tyler

His name was Tyler. He was fifteen years old, he loved BMX bikes, and he had a beautiful smile, joyful brown eyes, and dark hair that was always a little too long. He was my little brother’s best friend.

On an autumn night, almost eleven years ago, Tyler and some of my brother’s other friends piled into a car to go to a party. They weren’t drinking, they weren’t texting, they weren’t even going too fast. They were young, they were having fun, and they made a mistake. Two young drivers, inexperienced, collided early on that Saturday evening on a quiet country highway. The kids in the front seat walked away without a scratch.

The kids in the backseat were laid to rest four days later. Tyler was one of them.

My brother has never gotten over the loss. That night, he lost more than a friend. He lost his youth. He lost his innocence. He lost hope. For the past decade, his grief has cast a shadow over his life.

Until this week, when he was given a gift: a beautiful baby daughter. He, in return, gave her a gift most precious to him: the middle name Tyler. His scars are deep, and his wounds may never fully heal, but this innocent little baby has brought back for him something that has been lost for far too long: hope.

Note: I had a very difficult time deciding how to write and share this piece. I know my brother gave his daughter Tyler’s name as a way to remember his friend and to keep his memory alive. I, too, share this story with the same intention: to remember and honor a boy who continues to touch so many lives, who was so loved, and who held a special place in this world for far too short a time. May he rest in peace and know that his story lives on.

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Posted in Family, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 22: Overnight

Last night: Sebestyen and Szofia went to bed as my parents’ only grandkids.

This morning: They woke up cousins.

Last night: I ended my day as a mother, daughter, sister, wife.

This morning: I’m honored to add the title aunt.

Last night: My baby brother couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to parent.

This morning: He’s a father.

Last night: The baby was only a hope, a dream, a wish.

Today: She has arrived.

Welcome to the world, Westlynn Tyler Ann!

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Posted in Literacy, Reading, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 21: WWW Wednesday

Last week, Tammy at Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life shared WWW Wednesday. This was new to me, so I had to check it out when I saw that she was writing about books. I love the open format and I’ve finally had some time to read over the past few days since we’re on Spring Break, so I’m excited to give this a try today!

1. What Did You Read Last?

Since Spring Break started last Friday, I’ve finished the following books:

  • Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green. I was hesitant to pick this one up turtles.jpgbecause I’ve read some mixed reviews about the pacing of the story from some readers I really respect. However, I’m really glad I decided to give it a try anyway. Like the other Green books I’ve read, this one was also full of intrigue and hope for the happy ending that probably wasn’t going to come. This combination mystery/exploration of mental illness left a lasting impression on me.
  • Granted, by John David Anderson. I fell in love with Anderson’s work when I read Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and again when I read Posted. While Granted is granted.jpgcompletely unlike those stories–it’s a fantasy story focused on the wish-granting journey of a fairy–it still brings to readers the same depth of character and life experiences as his previous two novels. This story was beautifully written and I’m glad it was the first middle grade novel I tackled during my time off.
  • Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. I picked up this novel because it’s on my school’s list of titles for Battle of the Books this year, and I wasn’t out of the dust.jpgdisappointed. It’s  a heartbreaking novel in verse, raw and full of emotion. I walked

    away from this one not only feeling like I had been on a journey with the main character but also like I had a glimpse into a part of our country’s history that I never knew about before.


2. What Are You Currently Reading?

I’m working through my #MustReadin2018 List, and am currently reading these two middle grade novels:

  • Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King. I’m currently about halfway marvin gardens.jpgthrough this book, and while it took me awhile to get into the story, I’m beginning to appreciate the messages about friendship, loyalty, and respect this book holds for readers. I’ve also gotten to the point where I can’t predict the ending and I’m anxious to find out how everything turns out!
  • The Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd. I’ve read a few other books by Lloyd, and am always captivated by her approach to fantasy and magicproblim children.jpg. Right now I’m about 40 pages into this middle grade novel and am still trying to keep the many characters apart.


3. What Are You Reading Next?

Several books have spent quite awhile gathering dust waiting to be read on my nightstand. These titles are up next this week:

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What books are you reading during Spring Break? Please link or share ideas in the comments!


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Posted in Literacy

Slice of Life 2018, Day 20: The Clouds Cried

Tomorrow morning, after 10 weeks visiting the US, my husband’s parents–Mima and Papa to their grandkids–leave to fly back home. That meant today was the day of goodbyes.

They arrived at our house in their usual fashion this afternoon–loud, bearing candy and toys, almost larger than life. They played with our kids and spoiled them for a few final hours. Then the time came.

It’s almost a routine now, a way of life that has been in place far beyond our kids’ six and four years of life. The goodbyes, the hugs. The knowing that it will more than likely be six months before returning. Six months of the kids changing, growing, and learning.

Six months means our kids will finish kindergarten and preschool and develop tans that even the strongest sunblock can’t prevent. Six months means missed dance recitals, swimming lessons, and school Grandparents’ breakfasts. Six months might even mean a first lost tooth or taking the training wheels off a bicycle.

My mother-in-law held each of the kids close for a final moment, soaking in their youth, their energy, their love. Then she turned to go, eyes dry as always.

She told me she doesn’t often cry. Though I can’t begin to understand her, to figure out why, I know it’s true. She won’t cry in front of the children, even though it must break her heart every time she has to get on that airplane and fly away again.

Today, after letting go of the kids one last time, she walked out of our house once again. Though she leaned on her cane, her head was held high as she crossed our porch and stepped out into a downpour. Torrents of rain splashed her shoes, ran down her umbrella, soaked the edges of her pant legs as she slowly made her way to the car.

It was almost as if the clouds were crying for her.

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Posted in Literacy

Slice of Life 2018, Day 18: Good Job

After our usual dance classes and hockey lessons and quick Saturday lunch, we stopped today at a local used sporting goods store to pick up a few items my son needs to play his first 4-on-4 league in a few weeks. We split up, my husband taking Sebestyen to look at hockey equipment while I went next door to a department store with Szofia to browse.

It was less than 20 minutes later when we met back up, and it was obvious things were Not. Going. Well.

Sebestyen was in tears–not injured tears, not sad tears, but the angry kind that means a tantrum is in the works. He seldom throws tantrums, but when he does it isn’t pretty.

We switched kids, leaving me standing by the door of the department store with a wailing six-year-old while Daniel and Szofia went to pay for our small purchase. He was almost inconsolable, explaining about wanting to buy something and Daddy telling him no. I talked to him calmly, softly, firmly, letting him know his behavior wasn’t acceptable and that he would not be buying anything at all today. His wails only got louder, his anger greater. But I didn’t budge.

Soon enough, Daniel and Szofia exited the checkout and headed for the door. We switched kids again, Daniel leading Sebestyen out while I took Szofia’s hand. As I pushed on the door to leave the store, a voice behind me called out.

“Ma’am!” A woman, about my age, paused her cart behind me as she got my attention. She smiled, connected with me. “You’re doing a good job, Mama.”

I smiled what must have been an exhausted smile at her, grateful to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be supported–especially at a low moment.

This leads me to wonder: How often do we reach out like this to others?

How often do we walk by the classrooms of our colleagues to tell them we notice they’re doing a good job?

How often do we tell the parents of our students they’re raising good people?

How often do we tell our spouses they’re doing a great job parenting alongside us?

And how much better would our world be if we reached out just a little more often to say “Good Job!” with no strings attached?

Posted in Literacy

Slice of Life 2018, Day 17: Party!

Today kicks of Spring Break, and what better way to begin 9 days off than with a party? When I saw Dani at Doing the Work That Matters share this post inspired by Leigh Ann Eck the other day, I knew it would be a great format to try out.

Thanks for the inspiration and invite, Leigh Ann and Dani! I’m looking forward to joining this party!

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What I’m Bringing:

Favorite Book: This is an incredibly difficult question because I’m usually quite smitten with whatever I’m currently reading, but my absolute favorite book ever is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Her beautiful writing, coupled with the messages this book delivers about humanity and humility, make this a book that has changed the way I view the world.

Favorite Person: There are many I’d like to bring, but ultimately I couldn’t go to a party without my husband Daniel by my side. One of the first things I ever loved about him is how comfortable and easygoing he is in groups of people, a complete opposite to my shy and introverted nature. With him by my side, I know I’ll have a fantastic time.

Favorite Food or Beverage: My party would have warm chocolate chip cookies and cold glasses of milk. I’m not sure if it’s the warmth or the sweetness, but this is my go-to comfort food.

Favorite Song:  I have pretty quirky taste in music (fueled by the fact that 90% of the time I’m accompanied in the car by my 4- and 6-year-olds who are currently obsessed with The Wizard of Oz soundtrack), so this is a tough question for me. This isn’t my favorite song, but as I head into Spring Break the one that keeps running jubilantly through my head right now is Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” It may not be for summer yet (and I’m certainly not ready to say goodbye to my students), but this much-needed break definitely warrants a little “free from school for a week” celebration.

Surprise: I would bring everyone a special pen (Inkjoy gel pens, to be exact) in an array of bright colors. I have a bit of a pen obsession, and something about sharing pens with everyone symbolizes to me that there will be memories to be made and stories to be told, and what better way to capture them than writing them down?

And now it’s YOUR turn! What will YOU bring along to the party?

Posted in Family, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 16: Another First

“Mom,” he announced, walking into the kitchen last night. (I still want to be Mommy–at least until he turns seven.) “I need to count my chest hairs.”

Ever since my children were born, I’ve been known to be a little crazy about milestones. First bath. First holidays. First teeth, first solid foods, first steps. So many firsts, too many to count and capture. Each one passing by so fast, marking how quickly time really does go.

But this moment? I really wasn’t ready.

I watched in amusement as he hiked up his shirt, revealing his skinny little tummy and ribcage, pale from months of winter.

“Hmmmm… well, that was easy to count! Zero!” And he went on his way, delaying this first for (hopefully) quite a bit longer.


Posted in Classroom, Literacy, Read Alouds, Reading, Reflection, Slice of Life

Slice of Life 2018, Day 15: A Recipe for Lifelong Readers

Yesterday I wrote about the beauty of just sitting back and watching several of my readers in class this week. Many people commented about sharing how I got to this point in the year with my class, so I decided to turn my thoughts into a fun little recipe for Growing a Lifelong Reader. Bon appétit!


  • 26 fifth graders of varying abilities and interests
  • Hundreds of books in a variety of genres, lengths, levels of difficulty and formats (make sure to pick out some strong graphic novels and picture books–they will not be wasted)
  • Plenty of time each day
  • 1 teacher who is a passionate reader

To create lifelong readers:

  1. Spend the summer before the new school year reading as many books as you can get your hands on. Stock and organize your library in a way that is accessible and exciting for kids. Focus on making this space appealing instead of driven by letters and levels (the kids will find the right books, trust me).
  2. Welcome students on the first day with a smile and a read aloud (if you’d like a suggestion, School’s First Day of School is a great way to kick off the year). This will become the first book of your daily #Classroombookaday read aloud.
  3. Give the kids space and time to explore the library. Notice their interests while they browse by observing closely, chatting casually, and paying close attention to which books are snapped up right away. An interest inventory will also give you valuable information about reading attitudes.
  4. On the second day of school, haul every bin of books off the shelf and set them around your room. Create an assembly line of kids and make sure every student browses every bin to make a “Must Read in 5th Grade” list. This will allow them to get their hands on every single book in your classroom to see new prospects and old favorites.
  5. Dedicate non-negotiable time to reading. Give the kids an opportunity to sit and read a book of their choice every day. Talk to them, listen to them, watch them, notice them. But don’t deny them access to this time. It’s crucial.
  6. Establish routines: #Classroombookaday (a picture book read aloud every single day); It’s Monday! What are you reading? check-ins once a week; Status of the Class; and digital Padlet walls to celebrate every book a student finishes.
  7. Book talk as often as possible. Allow the kids to see you as a reader. Be honest about the books you love and the books that didn’t resonate with you–and reinforce that each reader gets to form their own opinion about a book.
  8. Don’t forget to give kids opportunities to talk about books, blog about books, do their own book talks, and share recommendations. Developing that social reading identity is critical.
  9. Read aloud the best novels you can find. Give kids a voice and a choice in which books are selected, making sure to select various genres and main characters. Check to make sure that this is as important to the class as it is to you by seeing how angry they get when you have to skip a day.
  10. Around mid-November, host a book tasting to re-ignite the excitement for reading. Create ambiance with some cheap tablecloths and battery-operated candles and bring in some snacks. Snacks, obviously, are essential for the success of this experience.
  11. When you return from winter break, set new year’s goals–and model your own with a #MustRead list. I recommend making your own list visible in the classroom and crossing off each book as you read it to show students how you progress toward lofty goals over time, too.
  12. Get yourself through the doldrums of March with a March Madness book challenge. Encourage students to nominate their favorite books, then savor the competition as the book battle begins.
  13. By Spring Break, celebrate the growth you have seen. Not every reader will become a lifelong, passionate lover of books overnight, but with a strong example, plenty of time and books to choose from, and a cheerleader providing ample access to books, most will turn out just right.