Saturday, July 16, 2022

Summer Camp

When I was younger, I attended a day camp in Ann Arbor called Camp Hilltop. And as you can imagine, it was at the top of a very large hill surrounded by woods. I spent many years there and absolutely loved it. I eventually went to Camp Al-Gon-Quian, a sleepaway camp on Burt Lake. There are certain things about these two camps that I remember, and it was my experiences that led me to take a summer camp job during college. I worked at two different camps and both had profound impacts on me. 

I knew that when I had kids I wanted to send them to camp. There is nothing better than being outside all day long with new found friends. All three of my kids have attended camp. For one, it was not his thing. But it was for the other two. 

Both of my girls go to an all girls camp, Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha. It is located on Arbutus Lake in Traverse City. One of my favorite things about this camp is it builds strong girls into women. It is also a trip camp. The older you get, the harder your trips are. My youngest chose to go for two weeks this year. She spent most of her time at camp but was able to experience a two night, three day trip canoeing down the Au Sable River. She had a great time, but she is a two-week girl. 

My other is not. She would spend her whole summer there if I let her. She has already been there for four weeks and will go back for another two. Over a two week period, she backpacked 113 miles on Isle Royale. On our drive home yesterday, I heard it all. The stories. The moments. The memories that were created. 

Her cabin consisted of two counselors and eight campers. She spent the first few days at camp experiencing everyday camp life and preparing for her trip. Then they were off on their journey. She has been looking forward to this trip for years, and it was everything she imagined. We received a few letters from her that documented her trip. One of my favorite lines was, "Day 7, Today we hiked 11 easy miles." I am not sure if I would call hiking 11 miles easy with a 40 pound pack on my back, but kudos to the counselors who provided an experience for my daughter and her cabin mates where 11 miles is easy. 

One of the things that happened during this trip was writing. Each evening someone different would write in the trip journal. At the end of camp there is always a big banquet. Each girl in the cabin received a copy of this journal as proof of their amazing feat and as a memory of their time together. 

I am so glad that camp found me as a kid, and I am glad that both my girls have found a home at Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha. 

Isle Royale Trip Journal

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Twenty Plus Years

One of the things that I appreciated most about my mother is the fact that whatever activity my sisters and I wanted to try out when we were younger, she found a way for us to participate in it. I have tried multiple instruments, dance classes, art classes, and an array of sports. Some, I stuck with for many years. Others, it was a season or session. 

At 16, my sophomore year of high school, I picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time and instantly fell in love. I was fast and had a quick grasp of the game. I played both JV and Varsity that first year. My junior and senior year, I found myself on varsity with one of the quickest draws in the midwest. I lived and breathed this game and gave up my prom for a tournament out east. Unfortunately, my college did not have women's lacrosse at the time, so I hung up my stick and wouldn't pick it up for another 30 years. 

Well not quite 30. I picked up my stick four years ago and began coaching my daughter's U10 team. I used my stick daily in practice to explain a concept or drill, throw and catch with the girls. But it has been 30 years since I played in my last lacrosse game. Until this summer. 

I saw a post about a women's league for anyone 16 and older last summer. I eyed it all summer. Thinking. Could I keep up with girls half my age? Do I want to make the drive? The summer came and went, and I never followed through. Then I saw the post again in May. The Detroit Women's Summer League was back, all proceeds going to the Detroit Youth Lacrosse summer program. I reached out to the coordinator, curious about the age of the participants. She immediately calmed my fears and because of her and the mission of the league, I signed up. 

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. When I showed up, I couldn't believe the amount of women who had turned out and apparently the coordinator couldn't either. We had enough women to scrimmage full field (24) with six subs. And thank goodness we had subs. There were high school girls, women who were currently playing in college, and some slightly older who had played division 1 and won national championships. All could play both hands. I was clearly the oldest by 20 plus years. I started to wonder if I had made the right decision. 

When I played in high school, we used wooden sticks and mouthguards. You only played your dominant hand. Things have changed A LOT in 30 years. Gone are the wood sticks replaced by aluminum or titanium shafts and plastic lacrosse heads. And goggles. Something that makes a lot of sense that I never had to use. 

For this league, goggles and mouthguards are optional. I thought I would try the goggles out. Um no. I lasted three minutes before I tossed them on the sidelines. I don't know how my players play with them, and I must admit that after my three minutes of wearing them, I have a lot of admiration for my players. 

I played middie, the only position I have ever played and let me tell you something, I definitely was out of shape. I forgot how much running you have to do. And did I mention how much older I am than everyone? These women are young and fast but also incredibly encouraging! Despite my slowness, I found my stride and had a blast.

With each game, I am improving. My cuts are sharper, I have had a few shots on goals, and get most of the ground balls. I am starting to get compliments on my play from these women whose skills are well beyond where mine ever were. I am so proud of myself. Proud of putting myself out there and playing a game that I love, even though I could be everyone's mother. 

Except the ref. Her name is Ann. We played against each other in high school. We are the same age. But I am still older. I have her by a month. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Every Class Needs an Ian

I have taught for 25 years. Twenty-five. That is a really long time. A quarter of a century. And this past school year was the hardest year of those 25. Harder than my first year, where you either sink or swim. I have had people ask me what made it so hard. In one word: stress. Stress of distances, masks, behaviors, and the unknown. It seemed that changes were happening. Every. Single. Day. 

I love my job. After spending the majority of my career in a self-contained upper elementary classroom, I took a leap and found my place in a DK-1st grade creative arts setting. I teach STEAM and art (as an isolated subject) to littles. I have found my people. One thing I LOVE about this age group is they are happy to see you every day. It doesn't matter if the day before they were having a breakdown or sitting in the think spot. Every day is a new day through their eyes. 

I feel fortunate because I see all the students in my building. I feel like the fun aunt. I play with them once a week then send them back to their classroom. But this year was stressful. There were behaviors presented that I had never seen before (and I thought I had seen it all my first two years in Detroit). By the end of the school year, I was ready for a break. More so than I had ever been. But first, I had to teach two weeks of writing camp for the Red Cedar Writing Project at MSU. 

I was excited about my two camps but it took a lot of energy to get there. My first camp was a Storybook STEAM camp for kids going into 2nd and 3rd grade. It was four afternoons with five students. It was lovely. The following week, my co-teacher and I taught Wizarding World of Writing to ten students. On the first day, I recognized two kids right away because I had taught them STEAM just the year before. One of them recognized me right away but the other didn't. I said, "Hi Ian. Do you remember me? It is Mrs. Waugh. I was your STEAM teacher in K and 1st grade." It took a second and then the lightbulb went on. 

Our group of students was amazing! They loved all things Harry Potter, and the writing they produced was unbelievable. But one student stood out more than any other and that was Ian. Ian was easy going, talkative, excited to share, and write. Although he had just finished 2nd grade, you wouldn't have known it because he worked so well with everyone and had great writing stamina. He was patient and kind. He would be the first person to tell you good job. And he was happy. So so happy. 

Ian was a breath of fresh air when I thought I had nothing left to give. He got me excited about what my co-teacher and I had planned for the week. He helped me see things through his eight year old curious eyes instead of my tired ones. I loved just talking to him. It reminded me why I became a teacher in the first place. To ignite excitement for learning. 

Every class needs a boy like him. In times when you think you have nothing left in the tank, Ian will be your biggest cheerleader. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Thirty Days

Thirty days. That is how long I am giving myself although I hope it ends up being longer. I've read that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Then I read that it is a myth. I am not sure what to believe but 30 is the number that popped into my head last week and so 30 days it is. 

There are a lot of things I would like to do. And so for the next 30 days, I am going to do those things. 

This idea came into view last week while I was on vacation.  I found myself thinking about a friend who lost her father. It was an unexpected loss. One minute she was talking to him and the next, she wasn't. Her loss has affected me more than I imagined it would. I never met her father, but when she writes about him, I can tell the profound impact he had on her. The stories from her childhood have me wishing that I could have been one of the lucky ones to walk through the revolving door of her home. And these stories reminded me of the importance of writing. 

I sent her a card with three field journals. It was a small gesture to encourage her to write down these stories as memories not to be forgotten. And I found myself thinking. 

I know first hand the pain she is feeling as I lost my own mother 24 years ago.  I started writing when I was 14 years old. I have journal upon journal on a bookshelf in my bedroom. These journals tell of my everyday life. But then the writing stopped. June 5, 1998. The day my mother died. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to start back up. 

The death of my friend's father has brought up emotions and memories of what I went through so so many years ago. I know how she is feeling just by looking at her; it is as if there is an unspoken bond between us now. 

And this death has me thinking about my own family. What do I want them to know when I am long gone? What memories will they share about me? And I can't think of a better way to do this than through writing.

So for the next 30 days you can follow me as I try to pick up my pen again and write. Write about things that are important to me and memories that I have and things that are just floating in my head waiting to be turned into a story. 

And maybe, just maybe, you might be inspired to write too. Little pieces of you that will become treasures to someone else. 

Memories from my life that will one day become my family's treasures.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Sketchbook Town-My Take

I graduated from Albion College in 1996 with a degree in Elementary Education and Visual Arts. Part of the reason I chose a visual arts degree is because I just loved art. That's it. I had no intention of becoming an art teacher. I went on to teach in the gen ed classroom for 21 years starting in second grade and ending in fifth. My lessons incorporated a lot of art because it was fun for me and the students responded well to it. I also had this ability to see the lesson before I taught it. But after 21 years, I was burnt out. I just couldn't correct one. more. paper. 

But I knew that I wanted to continue to teach and found my dream job: a creative arts teacher in a DK-1 building teaching STEAM. Teaching STEAM did not make me nervous and was not new to me. This concept is how I had taught for 21 years. Teaching littles, however, was a different story. I quickly learned they are just like fifth graders but smaller. I mostly used the same strategies I had in my previous classrooms but at their level. 

My students come to my STEAM class for an hour once a week. For the first two years in my buidling, the K art program was almost non exisitent until it was. I tried my best to incorporate a separate art lesson into the STEAM classroom but this proved to be challenging. Then COVID happened. While we were virtual, I offered to teach art virtually along with my STEAM lessons. When we came back in person this past fall, I knew we needed to continue to offer a separate space for the K kids to have art, so they saw STEAM and art as different classes. My plan was not ideal, but it worked. I would see the K kids one week for art in the art studio and the next week for STEAM in the STEAM lab. And we have been doing this since the first day of school. 

I NEVER thought I would love teaching art as its own entity, but I do. Before I actually taught my first class of straight art, I found myself with that familiar panic from four years ago of uneasiness. I delved right into reading art teacher blog posts, joined art teacher communities, and bought a few books. I then stumbled upon Cassie Stephens. I liked her right away. I liked her ideas and the language she used to make connections with her students. I ordered her book Art Teacherin' 101 and read it in one sitting. There were many ideas in her book that definately would work for me. The one that I loved the most was her earlier finishers idea of Sketchbook Town. Because of the lack of space in my art studio (I share with two other teachers), I tweaked Sketchbook Town to work for me and my students.  It took months and an inquiry approach with my students to get it where it is today. 

When I first read the idea, I knew it was going to happen. During my first kindergarten art class, I had one container of early finishers coloring sheets. I explained to the students what they would be doing second, when they were done with their masterpiece. On this particular day, I showed them the coloring sheet and talked about Sketchbook Town. I told them that Sketchbook Town is a place they could visit when they were done with their masterpiece and would be coming soon but for now there was Practice Sketchbook Town. Sketchbook Town was sending different art skills to practice before they felt they were ready to make an appearance. Practice Sketchbook Town wanted to make sure they used small strokes when coloring and all white spaces needed to be filled in. I don't remember what masterpiece the students completed that day, but I do remember what one of my student's said. "I wonder what Practice Sketchbook Town will bring us next time we have art."

With that, I knew what direction this was going to head. 

The following art class, I set up a bulletin board with a title that read Sketchbook Town. I mirrored Cassie's painting, rules, and what you can do when you visit Sketchbook Town. I also added another activity in Practice Sketchbook Town, scissors skills. We had just learned how to use scissors in STEAM class so this fit perfect. When the students came in, I showed them the bulletin board and said, "It looks like Sketchbook Town is leaving us clues!" I also told the students that there was something new in Practice Sketchbook Town today, scissors skills. So now the students had a choice or could do both activities if they had time after their masterpiece was completed. 

The Finished Bulletin Board

For the rest of September, October, November, and December, Practice Sketchbook Town gained a new skill each time. Many of these activities were going to find a home in Sketchbook Town, but the students could practice them each time they came to art. There is playdough, how to draw books, coloring, scissors, beading, just creating, and the Beautiful Oops bin. During all this practice, there was no sketchbook for them because they were just practicing. And Sketchbook Town continued to leave us hints with rules to follow and a shelf of new materials.  The students were bursting with excitement and couldn't wait for the grand opening of Sketchbook Town.

It started as one practice activity and evolved to this!

It was in December when I told them that I heard Sketcbook Town was going to be open for visitors after winter break. I wondered with them what they would bring us. How would it look? Then a student said, "Do you think Practice Sketchbook Town will still be here when Sketchbook Town opens?' And with that question, I answered, "Yes." 

I spent a day over winter break getting the art studio ready for Sketchbook Town. Nothing elaborate but some new decorations and wall decor. Enough for the students to notice. I also wrote a nice letter and created 200 Sketchbooks. 

 Sketchbook Town

I am not sure who was more excited, me or the students. But the week finally arrived where I would repeat this lesson eight times. It was a hit! They all noticed the new decorations and decor, loved the letter inviting them to Sketchbook Town, and decorating their sketchbooks with paint sticks. Then they got to go visit Sketchbook Town. They loved the painted mannequins (another Cassie idea), little animals, and legos. I know they love to build because I have them in STEAM class, but this time after they build something, they sketch it out and many times, color in their sketch. Some students chose to not visit Sketchbook Town but went to Practice Sketchbook Town. 

Some new rules were put into place. You only need your sketchbook when visiting Sketchbook Town and no markers were to be used in these books. Sketchbooks stay until the end of the year but you could bring anything home you completed in Practice Sketchbook Town. Sketchbook Town and Practice Sketchbook Town would always come back on two conditions: 1. You don't rush through your masterpiece. 2. When I say it is time to clean up, it is time to clean up. If one or both of those don't happen, they will not come back the following art period. 

So far so good. The studnets LOVE the two choices to visit. No one rushes through their masterpieces and ALL the students know what to do when they are cleaned up. Sketchbook Town and Practice Sketchbook Town have made an appearance each and every time except one. They were both out of town BUT left their cousins in their place. Cousin Must Do and Cousin May Do. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Gift

About a week ago, I stopped by my friend Frances's house for a short visit. She had just returned from Houston where she spent five months fighting a disease that had invaded her body a second time. Her family thought it would be great for friends to stop by and say hello. It would cheer her up. I knew that Frances had lost weight and was slow to respond when she was awake, but I never expected to see my mother in Frances when I arrived. 

My mother passed away from the disease that was trying to take Frances. There were so many similiarities between the two of them. When I walked into the room where Frances lay, propped up at an angle by the support of the bed she was on, I was brought back to June of 1998. I was looking at Frances but seeing my mother. 

Frances's breath was steady and slow. I talked to her as her "sister from another mother" stroked her hand. I told her about school, how my district hadn't made a decision about what it would look like in the fall, and how I was patiently waiting. 

Twenty-two years ago, I had a similar conversation with my mother as she lay in almost the same position, unable to open her eyes, but able to hear my words. I was just finishing up my first year of teaching. She had grown fond of the students in my classroom and got to know them through the stories I told her. 

During that first year, I had a second grader named Kamiah. She was tall, kind, and hardworking. She was curious and always proud. I remember her infectious smile and detail to everything in her handwriting, daily work, and art. 

My mother took her final breath during the last week of school of my first year of teaching. I never completed the year but somehow everything got done. 

Recently, Kamiah crossed my path as Frances fought to survive. And I can't help but think my mother had something to do with it. 

Because of the pandemic, Kamiah was laid off from her job in April. Looking for something to fill her new found free time, she started painting. Kamiah has a natural gift. It is evident in her work. She recently started a daily challenge to practice and improve her skills. I knew the moment I saw the painting of Day 1, I had to have it. I reached out to her about purchasing this painting and received it a few days before I went to visit Francis.  

Day 1

This painting means so much more to me than I could have ever imagined.  Everytime I look at it, I see a young Frances. Forever loving life and touching those who were lucky enough to have crossed her path. 

My dear friend Frances lost her battle this morning with her family by her side. Rest in peace my sweet friend. You will be missed. 


To view Kamiah's art, please visit:
meahs_art on instagram 
Meah's Art on facebook

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Taking It With Me

It sits high at the corner of MLK and Malcolm X. I see it every single day when I drive to work right before I turn right to head onto the freeway. It's a white billboard with a large black circle in the middle of it. Inside that circle are white letters that remind me of my one little word (OLW) that I chose for 2019. Actually, it isn't really a word but a phrase: You got this. All year long that billboard remained there exactly the same. And every day as I drove past, I silently said those words.

There were days that life got overwhelming between the pressure that I put on myself at work to driving my kids to their activities to working a second job at night to this and that and the other. But the funny thing is that each time I started feeling that way, I envisioned the billboard and repeated those words because one day life will slow down and the kids will be gone and You've got this will have a different meaning.

As 2019 was coming to a close, I started to think about my OLW for 2020. A few days ago I had been reading an article in Magnolia by Joanna Gaines. She was reflecting on her year and how she likes to be busy all the time but realized that life moves fast. And in this article she talked about a phrase that she is going to work on for the new year. As soon as I read it, I knew that this was going to be my OLW (or phrase) for 2020: Look up.

So going into 2020, I am going to look up more. I am going to revel in my kids and the age they are now. I am going to slow down and live each day. Worry less. Know that things will get done when they get done because I am a doer. Take in the moments. And just live.

I am also going to be taking my OLW from 2019 with me into 2020 as well. I didn't anticipate this happening until about 12:30 in the morning, when not one, but both of my girls decided to ring in the new year with the stomach flu. As I woke every hour after hearing momma, helping them walk to the bathroom to finish emptying the contents of their bellies, pulling hair back, washing bowls, disinfecting over and over, I did take a moment to look up. At that moment, I was appreciative. Appreciative that I was on break so I could take care of them. Appreciative that despite of everything, they will get through this. And appreciative of the moments of silence when they are both resting so I have enough time to write this post.

Because sooner rather than later, You got this is going to run through my mind until this stomach bug is out of my house!