slice of life: at this time

It’s quiet inside my house.  I hear the wind blowing through pines on the hillside. Distant chimes then stillness. The hum of the refrigerator. A gust. This pattern continues as the light fluctuates with passing clouds. I didn’t know the subtle changes my backyard experienced at this time of day.

I used to hear playground noise, the vacuum next door, and the sound of movement above me as I made comments on post-its, reshelved books, picked up the pieces left behind. At this time of day, I used to sit in the cocoon of my classroom, readying for the next day with books, charts, and papers.

Now, the clouds cover the sun, and my living room darkens.  I turn the light on to click through the streams of messages. Google docs, Google classroom, gmails, school email, texts. All of these connecting tools give a false sense of feedback. At this time of day, I miss making a list of kiddos to talk with tomorrow. As we distance ourselves from our kiddos, the face-to-face, pen-to-paper interactions that are the heart and soul of the day-to-day teaching and learning cycle feel dearer.


slice of life: sassy resilience

The California poppy grows in our nature preserve. Our delicate state flower propagates easily, making spectacular shows in desert conditions.  When I found a few this morning, I was thrilled. Even though it’s a common sight, its sassy presence never fails to make me smile.


Golden, she gravitates
toward the morning light
still mixed
with the dark of dawn

Tightly wrapped she rises
protecting her petals
waiting for lavender
her mate

slice of life: searching for a rhythm

The majority of my life revolves around a schedule. Now that routines have been interrupted, I’m yearning for a rhythm that makes me feel productive and purposeful.

It’s not what I need to do, that list is neverending.  It’s when. All of a sudden, time has no boundaries, so why hurry? With that mindset, it’s dinnertime, and I’m wearing my morning workout clothes.

I’m working on the details, but I have come up with a bit of order that will make my current routine more like my old one.

First and always, workout. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just something that requires me to get out and move. Then, notice the world. Be on the lookout for the curious or beautiful. Stop and double back. Take a slightly different path.

My Friday Zoom meeting made me realize the value of being presentable. Not just for others, but for me. So, second, get ready to go somewhere, even if it’s virtually.  This requires a shower, a different outfit than the day before (ok, maybe the same jeans, but a different shirt), shoes (not slippers), makeup, and hair.

If it’s a weekday, I check in with my Google classroom. There is always something that needs further explanation or a link that doesn’t work and needs correction.

After that, it’s a muddle of responding to students mixed with planning for the next day.

I’m working on lunchtime before 3 pm. Reading at 3 and writing after dinner.

And in between all of it, repetitively letting my cat out, and back in.






slice of life: last week

After a weekend of prep, that made me feel like I was planning myself out of a job, distance learning began on Monday.  Students had books, devices, internet connections. It looked good on my google classroom page that was set up with links to various learning opportunities. But, the reality was a different story.

There were technical issues. Blocked sites.  Password and class code trouble.
There was a need to re-explain.
There were times my instructions needed correction.
There were students who didn’t show up, and students who struggled.
There were countless texts, emails, and phone calls to families and students.
There were students who could do the work.
There were students who needed small group and one-on-one help.

And, there was our first whole-class meeting on Zoom.
We met pets and siblings, saw bedroom posters and stuffed animals.  As crazy as it was, it was a hit. With a little more management, Zoom meetings of various sizes could become the best way to learn electronically. Next week, we’ll do more.

My big takeaways from the week are not surprising. Social-emotional needs must be met. Always. Especially now, when kids are separated and their lives are turned upside down. Friendships and connections are first. Academics are secondary.



slice of life: hiding spots

I sit in my living room reading and hear purring. I look around but no cat.

My cat likes places where he can be close but unnoticed. With this in mind, I look for the source.

Perhaps he’s under the ottoman. A spot to be unseen and in the middle of things. I bend down and look. Only the torn lining, evidence of his former presence, hangs down. No cat.

The purring continues, I accept his Cheshire cat-like magic and go back to reading. Wherever he is, he’s content. Something he hasn’t been for days. My around-the-clock presence has disrupted his routine and made him irritable.

I look out the window, and the darkness prompts me to check the time.  Surprised by the hour, I close my book. Stand. Stretch. And then, I notice him, curled up, needing the blanket that has fallen behind the chair.


I turn off the light.
Purring continues.

slice of life: meditation on a cup of tea

With distance learning now a part of my teaching life, I’m finding it very difficult to disconnect. Seeking a lack of stimulation, I turn to poetry.

This Slowdown podcast. featuring poet Craig Arnold’s Meditation on a Grapefruit, inspired me to meditate on my morning ritual.

I walk down the hall
refusing the light
running my fingers along the wall
till the curved edge guides me towards
the kitchen
where my cup is waiting.

I touch the switch
grab the kettle
pull a lever.
Tap water fills to
just below the spout and
I stop the flow
still and cold.

I unlatch the loop and stick that locks the bamboo box
where my tea
organized by type
sit in neat squares for my selection.
Ignoring the black Assam again
I choose green jasmine from the top middle box
leaving only two.

I tear the paper packet
not the sachet.
Pulling the tag it falls
into my floral china cup
that waits for boiling water.

Steam rising, bubbles banging
against stainless steel, I reach for the pot.
Water meets tea
making bag and string rise
saturated sink
to the bottom where
dried leaves open infusing water with
its gentle grassiness.

I lift my cup and blow
hurrying my first sip
remembering my mistakes
I wait
knowing patience makes for a good cup of tea.



slice of life: finding beauty, walking on

I started my hike before sunrise, hoping to capture enough to last me.
The rain had just stopped,
“The trails will be a mess. Take a hat,” my husband warned.
I didn’t care about the muck or the wet.
I walked out. A sliver of a moon and high clouds filled the sky.

Entering the nature preserve, I turned on my flashlight.
My shoes crunched along until I meet up with a puddle, the width of the path.

I step into the high grass on the border of the trail and sink down.
The cold water fills my running shoe, but I squish on moving toward higher ground.

Once the sun is up, my senses are on overload. Birds hide amongst the barren limbs. Don’t they realize their song gives them away?
They flit off as soon as I come too close for comfort.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20dc.jpg

I walk on, and fragrant sage leans into the path.
Around the corner, I meet dewdrops clinging.


As the sun rises,
I’m surrounded by the buds,

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e3UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e5 waiting to open.

It is so hard to believe all is not well in the world when I’m in this place.

I’ll be back tomorrow.


slice of life: distanced from our future reminded of the past

The shut-in shut down mode of the world has reminded me of what’s only a 20-minute walk from my house. IMG_9181.jpeg

The trails weave up and down and around. The narrow path makes avoiding puddles challenging. I hear birdsong, someone calling their dog, and the occasional patter of a runner coming from behind. I take a left up the hill, not sure where this trail might lead. It winds around and connects with another. This space is at most two square miles, but I could walk around for hours without (knowingly) retracing my steps.

This peaceful plot of land has a surprising history.  It’s been home to native Gabrieleños,  Spanish landowners, Japanese farmers, the US military’s WWII and Cold War weaponry.  Now, these open fields are home to small creatures and native plants protected by the Nature Conservancy. Humans and canines plod through the trails distanced from the past, moving respectfully in this restored habitat.

As I walk by the Nature Preserve building and the occasional historical plaque, I think this would be a fantastic field trip. When it might happen and for which group of fourth-graders I don’t know.

For now, we are all distanced from each other and our future plans.


slice of life: plans for play

I made a wide turn to enter my driveway, avoiding the GMC 4×4 truck to find an abandoned bike and scooter. The owners are two houses down, oblivious to my car and the possible destruction of their toys. There is ample room, so I maneuver around and park. This is my neighborhood.

I’m surrounded by little ones on wheels. They scoot and bike up and down the street. I overlook their helmetless status, their scattering of toys, and am grateful. They are lean and agile. Doing exactly what kids should be doing. Playing.

While I get my online learning ready for tomorrow, I hear wailing. Then, Dad appears to pick up, dust off, and kiss a scrape. Not long after, there are screams of play that echo through our house.  This goes on until dark.

It’s an idyllic scene. Kids run free with an adult nearby to help out if there is a problem. This is not the scenario for many families.  Schools, sports teams, afterschool programs provide this kind of adult-supervised play for many of my students. Now, these outlets are being shuttered. No practices, no games, no play. More than the academic loss of school closings, I worry about the impact of losing playtime.

So as I pull together academic opportunities for my home-bound kiddos, I’m looking for ways to encourage play. Kinderart projects don’t require many supplies and have easy to follow directions. Jarrett Lerner’s blog activities will be perfect for my cartoon-loving students. And of course, there is Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poetry Farm, who is providing daily inspiration so we can play in our notebooks.

In times like these, our kiddos and we need to find ways to play on.



slice of life: school is closed

Around 9:30 am, the emails and phone calls went out to parents informing them that our schools would close for two weeks. The “fluid” situation now had defining edges that shifted our classroom’s direction on Friday.

I pose the question.
What if we had to learn at home for a while?

The electronic solutions came first.
Google classroom, slides, docs, blogs.
But what about kids who don’t have devices?
And what about WiFi?
How about notebooks, books?
But how can we communicate with our reading partners?
What about setting up chats?
Back and forth.

We settle down, eat breakfast, play math games, write, get books, set up shared google docs for book conversations, share Gold Rush learning.
I make sure all students have a device for home use.
Do an experiment with electricity, distribute textbooks, and memos from the district. Play games.

Normal and not so normal.

Students are unsettled.
D– says he will miss school.
C– says she is looking forward to sleeping in.
K– sits alone, writing up her daily plan.
A– mentions this is the second year we have had to leave school in the middle of the school year. Last year was the strike.
M– says that was sooo boring!

I talk with students privately.
About who will be there for them at home.
If they need anything.

The day ends too quickly.
Off they go.

I pack up my plants. IMG_9177Take pictures of charts I might need to send students, and then I see this

The graphic novel section of the library my students maintain.

So sad.