Sunday, March 31, 2019

Giving Back

Today I took my daughter, Sophie, to Justice to use a gift card that she received for Christmas. This was the umpteenth time we have been to this store in the past two months. There were a few things she had been eyeing and decided today to get one of those things. 

She is really good about money. Last fall, I had given her and her sister cash to use at their will for back to school shopping. She and her sister both went through all their clothes prior to shopping, so they knew what they needed to buy. They ended up giving eight bags of clothes that didn't fit to a family that has two girls younger than mine. They felt good that their old clothes were going to a new home, and I was giving them the opportunity to buy what they needed and wanted.

For me, though, this was all about budgeting. The first thing they asked about were coupons. Once they knew what stores they wanted to go to, we searched online for some. Surprisingly, we found a few. I made sure to give them cash so they could see exactly how much money they had left. I held onto one kid's money while their dad held onto the other. We followed their itinerary. Let's just say that a trip my husband thought would be over quickly lasted many many hours. Both girls would look at how much something cost before trying it on. They both wanted to make sure they bought the things they needed before they bought what they really wanted. I heard things such as "Oh, that's a good deal." and "That's too expensive." All in all, they bought a lot for the amount of money they had. I was proud of how they realized that you really must take your time to price things out and sometimes you can't have what you want. It was a really good experience, and one I will do again.

Ever since then, both girls have been very conscious about what they spend their money on. So today, Sophie bought a watch. She went to check out and the total was $15.74.

The cashier asked her, "Do you want to round up the total to $16.00 and donate to Girls on the Run?"

I explained to Sophie what that meant and she replied, with bright eyes and a big smile, "I do Girls on the Run! Sure."

I keep replaying her reply in my head. She was so excited to give to something that she was a part of. Something that she loves. It wasn't much. But it was something. And it made her heart happy to know that she is giving a little something to an activity that she adores.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Being Inspired With: Hello there...

Yesterday, I read and commented on a post that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and thought it would be fun to try. Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's post who was inspired by Aggie Kesler, here is my take on Hello there.

Hello there...

I am a rather quiet person. I always have been although people mistake me for bring shy, which is something I am not.

I keep a box of memories in a wood box made from a barn on my dresser. It contains my life with my husband since we began dating, shortly after the death of my mother.

I wish I could have one more day with my mother. I would tell her so many things. But most importantly the profound impact she has had on me as an adult.

I could live unplugged for the rest of my life and be happy. Life slows down dramatically for me when technology is not around.

I love my job. I have found "my place" and will be in this job until I retire.

I dance in my dreams. I don't really have much rhythm, only wished I did.

I sing a lot in the car. I am one of those people who will belt it out when I am alone.

I think that reading and writing should be taught together in upper elementary school. When students see the connection between the two, they see purpose.

I really enjoy running. There is something about it that allows me to think and clear my head.

I need to learn how to relax. I work too hard and never really take time for myself.

I should take it one day at a time instead of worrying about everything that needs to get done.

I can think of ideas quickly. It is one of the things that saved me in school because it definitely wasn't my grades.

I make my grandmother's Italian pasta and meatballs really well. It is the only thing that I can really cook.

I always am reflective. I reflect on everything I do, especially teaching.

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Five in the Tens’ Place

It was in the fifties today, my first day of spring break. The sun was even out for a while. And what a difference it makes when there is a five in the ten's spot.

My body had a renewed sense of energy.

My lungs felt lighter.

I walked almost three miles for the first time in months.

My kids were in shorts.

And we stopped for some ice-cream with the cousins.

It is amazing what a little math can do.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

These Feet

I knew there was something not quite right about my feet in seventh grade during one ballet class. I couldn't quite get up high enough without tremendous pain. I went home, told my mom, and was in the doctor's office within a week. No arches. My feet were as flat as they could get. The doctor had me fitted for insoles. I remember being in more pain with them in my shoes than without. I ended up abandoning them and just dealt with it. I quit ballet but remained in all the other sports (softball, volleyball, soccer, and basketball) that I was playing at the time.

When I was in high school, I fell in love with lacrosse. It involved a lot of running, which was something I was good at. I played center and had free rein of the field. After my junior year, I realized how much I loved to run. I ran my first 10K that summer and placed in my age group. I continued to run and ended up running cross country in college because my school did not have a lacrosse team. It was then that I realized I was a runner.

After college, running was my constant. But it was a few years into my teaching career that I realized those pains in my feet, that I had ignored for so so many years, were screaming at me. I ended up in a podiatrist's office. He wondered how in the world I was even walking on them. He said if I did not have surgery on my left foot, I wasn't going to be walking when I was 40.

At, 27 years of age, I ended up having triple arthrodesis, a surgery that fuses different joints to your foot. It ends up relieving pain. The four hour surgery became seven  because my foot was that bad.  I was on bed rest for a month and in a cast for three. If you ask my students, they would tell you that I limped for over a year.

My doctor told me that I most likely would never be able to run again.

I listened to him.

Until I didn't.

Four years later, I was back running but with a different appreciation for the sport. I started from ground zero and worked my way up to half marathons (my favorite distance). I have had set backs through injuries (IT band, tendinitis, unexplained muscle pain). Each set back gives me an even greater appreciation to be able to participate in the sport that helps define who I am.

Currently, nineteen years after my surgery, I run three days a week at a 90/30. Ninety seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking. When done correctly, you stay consistent. You never hit a wall, and surprisingly, can set personal records.

But now I appreciate my feet more than ever because it is not my feet giving me the problems, but my lungs. Four weeks ago I came down with asthmatic bronchitis. When this hits my lungs, it will be weeks before I can run. On Monday, I was able to walk for 20 minutes until my lungs were heavy. Today, though, I hit 35 minutes! Thirty-five minutes of walking with a friend on this beautiful spring day.

And my feet.

They led the way.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


I first started playing lacrosse my sophomore year of high school. It was new to Ann Arbor, and the only teams we played were in the Detroit area, mostly private schools. These girls were good because  they began playing at a very young age.

So when I had the opportunity last year to involve both of my girls in a U10 lacrosse program, I jumped at the chance. And I volunteered my time to help coach them. The team already had two other coaches (both volunteer dads), and we ended up making a really good coaching team.

Unfortunately, this year most of my players from last moved up to the U12 team, including the two other coaches. In January, if all players returned, I would be lucky to have had five players. You need at least nine players to field a team. So I did a little recruiting. Encouraged girls to come try the clubs free stick sessions. Before I knew it, I had 12 girls showing up consistently. Well apparently, these girls had fun, because they started recruiting their friends.

Currently, I have 24 girls on my roster. Tonight we had practice; it was such a fun time. Many girls were upset when it was time to go. They wanted to stay longer. I have been so impressed with how quickly they are picking up the sport, and I am beyond excited for the season. These girls have stepped out of their comfort zone to try something new.


That right there tells me a lot about who they are.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

This Girl

This girl. 
Smart and creative. 
Outside of the box thinker.
Actually, will get her own box.
Cardboard over technology.
Athletic. Kind. Thoughtful. Writer. 
This girl. 
My girl. 
Middle child. 
Just like me. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Teaching the Argument

My son's strengths in school are math and science. They come as easy to him as writing does to my daughter. Writing, on the other hand, is not his forte. We have an agreement. Because his English teacher (who my son adores and has helped him find his love of reading again) does not conference with him about his writing, Mom gets to. He is not allowed to turn in any final copies until we have sat down so I can give him honest feedback and offer suggestions through questioning. Actually, we have been doing this for years because no writing teacher has ever conferenced with him about his writing. This baffles me but that is another story.

Until this year, I taught fifth grade. And thanks to a good friend of mine, I  figured out the best way to meet with my 90 writing students about their writing. Each week. So I know it is possible. How else will a student improve as a writer?

Apparently my son has been turning in paragraphs at a time and didn't see this as a final copy. Tonight, he turned in his conclusion paragraph. He put forth good effort, but it was a mess. The only thing he had to go on was what needed to be included and according to him, he had everything. If everything includes at least four sentences, then he had that. So we talked about what a conclusion looks like. How one can restate their thesis with different words but getting the same point across? How do you summarize what you have already said? What can you say to make the reader think?

We had an agreement, and I was not clear enough about it. Now, we will go through the rest of his argument, paragraph by paragraph. I don't care about his grade because I know he put forth all he had. What I do care about is that he continues to improve and grow as a writer. And one of the only ways to do that, in my opinion, is through conferencing.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Some Days

Some days are better than others.

On some days, the ideas come. They are loaded in my mind waiting to come out through my fingertips.

Then, there are the other days.

On these days there is an idea or two or three. There is not much information in my brain and those words don't flow out of my fingers like they do on some days.

Today is one of those other days. I could write about my first lacrosse practice with my U10 team. Or I could write about studying French with my 13 year old. But I don't want to write just to get this written. I want to write to write.

I might have to wait until tomorrow. A day I hope to be a some day.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Power of Music

I am not musically inclined.

When I was younger I took lessons on the clarinet, trombone, piano, and guitar. I play none of those instruments today and struggled through those lessons 35 years ago.

I love music though. I love listening to choirs sing, bands perform, and orchestras serenade.

I love musicals too, Annie being my favorite. When I hear the orphans sing "It's a hard knock life," I am brought back to the beginning of my teaching career when a student of mine at the time, Stephanie, was cast in the role of Molly in the local production of the show. I remember sitting in the audience and listening to her belt out her parts. I can still picture her eight year old self.

Today while I was out and about, the Counting Crows came on the radio. Instantly I was back in college, sophomore year to be exact. Sitting in my dorm room. I remember it distinctly. I then got to thinking. What is it about music that elicits memories?

I don't really have an answer.

Because I am not musically inclined.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dede, Pronounced (Dee Dee)

When my daughter, Sophie, was about eight months old, we went camping in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. We were about an hour into the trip when I realized that we forgot Dede at home. I quickly alerted my husband and requested that we stop at the closest Target to get another one. She'll be fine. He said. She won't even notice. He said.

Let's just say that Sophie barely slept the entire time we were gone. She didn't have Dede. Dede has been a constant in her life since she was born. I would often find Dede over Sophie's face while she slept. When Sophie was awake, Dede was there on whatever adventure Sophie took her on. If Sophie was hurt, Dede was who Sophie went to before me.

Dede has been with Sophie for nine years. But last night something happened. I went to tuck Sophie in, and she tossed Dede to the end of her bed.

"Soph, what are you doing?"

"I need to work on not sleeping with Dede."

I didn't even ask why.

I was upset. Upset that my youngest is no longer little. Upset that her lovey might not be the most important thing in her life anymore. Upset that I was reacting this way.

Maybe Dede isn't just important to Sophie but to me as well. Because Dede reminds me of Soph's childhood. And she is growing up, and I am not ready.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Not Quite Ready

All day today I was noticing little things that I could use to write about this evening, but I am not quite ready.

There was the student I work with one on one who got it today, but I am not quite ready.

There was the one boy in my first STEAM class who made a connection to Iggy's love of architecture and the bridge falling in the book we read, but I am not quite ready.

There was my DK class that was so engaged and quiet today that I wondered if I should do more activities like the one today, but I am not quite ready.

There was the first grade group that was challenged to go unplugged after school, but I am not quite ready.

Then, there was my daughter and a friend leading 100 other third graders in sign language for a song they sang, but I am not quite ready.

Maybe tomorrow.

When I can focus more.

Maybe then, I will be ready.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kindgergarten Cuteness

My kindergarten STEAM students are currently working on part two of their mixed media art project. During this part, we learned about architects, looked at various buildings around the world, observed different skylines, and listened to Iggy Peck, Architect. I then gave the students a choice of which skyline template they wanted to use. They had three to choose from. Next, they needed to color their buildings. Not boring colors but bright, bold ones, that would stand out.

If you have ever been around kindergartners, then you know that some of them are scribblers. They just want that picture colored in and don't care how it is going to get done. It is just going to get done and fast. So I pulled out my skinny magical color neatly like an artist does markers for students to use. They worked for a few minutes, then I stopped them.

"Oh my goodness! Do I have fifth graders in here?"

"No. We are in kindergarten."

"Well you are doing such an amazing job coloring that I thought you were fifth graders. Why don't you stop what you are doing and walk around? Look at the bright colors your friends are using. Notice how neat they are."

As students walked around, I walked around, listening to their conversations.

A little boy said, "Sophia, you are doing a really nice job coloring. Usually you just scribble but look how nice and neat your picture is. And you are staying in the lines. I really like your picture."

The little girl didn't say anything back. She just sat a little straighter, smiled, and continued coloring. That compliment changed her for the moment. When she was done, she came up to me and said, "Mrs. Waugh. This is the neatest I have ever colored."

"You did a nice job. Do you like your picture?"

"Yes. Can you help me cut it out?"

I guess I should have also brought with me my super slow I can cut scissors.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Due to Old Age, I Guess

"Mom, do you know how old Grandpa is?" my daughter Kate asked from the back seat this evening as I was driving her to lacrosse practice.

"Yes, he is 78."

"I know. Can you believe it? I thought he was in his sixties."

This was the defining conversation that I knew today's slice would be about my father.

My father is in amazing health for a 78 year old man. He is very active. Walks five miles a day, seven days a week. He is not sure when the last time he took a day off was.

I have memories of my father growing up. Running. Running shoes. Lots of running shoes. At one time, I remember ten pairs lined up by the door. Who uses ten pairs of running shoes? And then there were the road races. Lots of road races.

But about eight years ago, my father had a health scare. I couldn't remember all the details, so I called him tonight and talked to him about it. This is what he had to say...

"I began running in 1979 when I was 38 years old in order to lose weight and get in shape. I ran until I was 65 years old (27 years) when I ran my last two marathons, The Big Sur in California, and the Rome Marathon in Italy on a trip with Judy. I ran a total of at least ten marathons in those 27 years.

Diet, exercise and medication kept my health balance. I graphed my cholesterol in those years to keep things under control. I never had any problems with high blood pressure, ever, as it was always under control thru exercise. I have been on cholesterol medication all those years thanks to my mother and the heart disease of my dad when he died of a heart attack at age of 62.

On August 26, 2011 when I was 70, I had a central retinal artery occlusion, mini stroke. I went to emergency to find out what it was and permanently lost vision in the center of my right eye. Today, I see about 60 % thru that eye. I have my eyes checked once a year at the Kellogg Eye Center.

Between August and October of the same year was when I started to have angina pains in my back and went to to a stress test and for first time in my life flunked it. I went in and had a catheter test and four blockages were identified. Fortunately, my heart was good.

On Columbus Day, Monday of 2011 I had open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass.
I had to walk next day with all my IV's and was home that Friday. I asked the doctor how did my heart start after being on ice? He said it started back up by itself once it was defrosted.

In seven years life has been good. I do everything I ever did before open heart surgery. I took about a year of rehabilitation at U of M in a variety of exercises. I try to keep active everyday by walking now more than jogging and watching my weight. Since my operation, also due to old age I guess, I do take a minimal of blood pressure medication daily, along with my cholesterol medication and have a physical and blood test once a year.

I keep a minimum of ten thousand steps daily to stay active."

My daughter spent the last weekend with my father and step-mother. If it wasn't for his love of being healthy and active, he never would have been able to keep up with her. She kept them busy. And by the sounds of it, they kept her busy too.

Kate and her grandpa, 78 years young. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Emperor Penguin Home Run Hitter

I see my developmental kindergarten (DK) classes once every other day for 3o minutes. I am a STEAM teacher, so we do all kinds of things. Currently, I am working in collaboration with both of their teachers on a huge animal project they are doing in their classrooms. Each student has an animal he or she is researching. This project includes many components, and the students are excited about it.

The other day I was reading a book to them called The Ice-Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds. It is an older picture book and the students loved it!

As I was reading, I thought that I needed to capitalize on this excitement. I decided that each student was going to use their animal and create an invention that could make life easier for them or someone they know. We talked about inventions. We talked about what was hard for them, their parents, and their friends.

I then gave them a planning sheet. In their plan they needed to include their animal and some parts for their new invention. These are turning out amazing. My favorite part is just talking to the students and listening to how much they have to say.

Below you will find a little boy's plan. He had a vision in mind and told me all about it.

"Mrs. Waugh, this is called The Emperor Penguin Home Run Hitter."

"Tell me about it."

"I have a hard time hitting home runs. So here is my Emperor Penguin and he has this extra long arm over here so he can hit the balls really far."

"This sounds like a great invention."

"It is!"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Six Words

Yesterday was my last day of taking a medicine that helps me to breathe a bit easier due to asthmatic bronchitis. And I can feel today the effects of not having it. If you aren't familiar with this condition, it is when asthma and bronchitis collide. It is a double whammy and takes a toll on your lungs. Over the years I have been able to be proactive and make sure it doesn't get this bad. But not this year.

It has been two weeks since I have worked out. Normally I would be going nuts but just walking from one end of the house to the other is exhausting. I don't know how people who deal with this all the time, deal with this. For me, I am trying to take it one day at a time. Hopefully wake up just a little bit better than when I went to sleep. And sleep is where I am going as soon as I am done writing this. Because my lungs need rest. So in honor of this little setback I am dealing with right now, I have created a six word memoir to describe exactly how I am feeling. 

My lungs are a weighted heaviness. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019


I read an article a few weeks ago by Jon Melham. If you haven't read the article, it is a must read. But I will warn you not to read it in a public place. You will end up in tears. The article was about the decision that he and his wife, Marla,  made not to tell their three girls that their mother had 1,000 days to live because "they'd start counting." Marla wanted their girls to have a childhood.

When I think back to my own childhood, I have happy memories. Memories of playing outside with the neighborhood kids until dark, making art projects, playing with friends. My parents encouraged me to try different sports and activities, never settling on just one. So with my own children, I try to do the same although they are growing up in a vast different world than the one I did.

My husband and I want our kids to try things they want to try. Sometimes they are one and done. Sometimes they participate in an activity and want to continue on with it. Whatever the case, I want to help make memories for them so when they are adults they can reflect back on their childhood with a smile.

Today my daughter had a play date with a friend from school. This is the first time I had met this young girl; she is a delight! My daughter and her friends decided that going to Zap Zone would be a fun place to meet up because sickness had taken a hold in both of our houses so that wasn't even an option. The girls opted for purchasing three tickets of fun. They chose laser tag, trampoline, and virtual reality. These are activities they both rarely get to do so it added a bit of excitement in their time together.

As I sat and watched both girls have fun just spending time together, I wouldn't even allow the thoughts of all the things I had to do today creep to the front of my brain. Because it wasn't about me at the moment. It was about my daughter. And her childhood.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Not My Post

This is not the post I want to write today because my 13 year old son woke up at 6 am puking in the bathroom sink after first making sure he left his mark on his fleece blanket.

This is not the post I want to write today because my husband had an early morning meeting and I had to drop the girls off to school while my son stayed in his bed.

This is not the post I want to write today because I had exactly four hours from when my son's medicine wore off and when I could come home to check on him because my husband's meeting was a few hours away.

This is not the post I want to write today because during my lunch I drove back home to check on my son and gave him more medicine so he could make it to when my husband would be home a few hours later.

This is not the post I want to write today because I feel as though my head wasn't with my STEAM students even though I was physically there.

This is not the post I want to write today because I left the two things at school that I needed for this post. Because that is how my mind has been all day.

This is not the post I want to write today...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Never a Final Draft

Along with writing for 31 straight days as part of the Slice of Life writing challenge during the month of March through Two Writing Teachers, writers are also challenged and encouraged  to respond to at least three different bloggers' posts each day.

So last night as I was looking through the posts on the website I came across a hook that brought me to another writer's post. Today I don't remember much about the post but it is part of the hook that I thought about all last night when I couldn't sleep and still today. This blogger had a title and in parentheses put (Not a band-aid story).

This stemmed from the blog post earlier that week on the Two Writing Teacher's site. The post talked about the difference between storytelling and band-aids. You can read it here if you want. I understand the gist of this post. The goal of the challenge is to write stories. Small moments. Don't get in the habit of throwing something down for the sake of getting your "story" done for the day. This post went on to also give some good advice about teaching students to write and not use band-aids all the time. But I am still clearly bothered by it. And maybe I am wrong but if someone needs to write "not a band-aid story" in their hook, maybe they are too.

Here is what I know. There are nights that I am tired. For example, Monday when I spent most of my evening waiting to be seen by urgent care then getting sent for an x-ray, then waiting to find out if I had pneumonia. The last thing I felt like doing was writing, but I signed up for this challenge and was going to follow through. It was not my best piece of work. Actually, I wasn't happy with it when I published it. But I also knew that I would go back to it at some point and work on it. Almost every post I make, I always read and reread, and revise and reread, and revise, and you get it. It is a constant cycle.

I read a tweet from  Kelly Gallagher a few years ago. It said, " No paper is ever finished. It is just due. Papers always remain eligible for revision, even after a grade is placed. Latest papers are called "best drafts," never "final drafts."

I loved this and started using this language with my fifth graders last year. I noticed a huge weight being lifted off their shoulders. No pressure. And I still received quality work.

To me a band-aid is the sign of an injury. A weakness for the moment. And I don't think that any type of writing is a weakness. It is just a starting point. For some people it is where they need to begin so they can get to their "best draft."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

You See Him

My son had a rough sixth grade year last year. Not in terms of behavior but just in terms of liking school. I am not sure if it was the curriculum or how it was delivered. At his fall and spring conferences I felt as though the teachers I was talking to didn't know my son. This bothered me, and I wonder if he felt the same way.

My son is in seventh grade now and enjoys school. He likes his teachers and is thriving. Today, I had the opportunity to have a five minute conference with a few of his teachers that I wanted to meet with. Five minutes is not a lot of time, but I get why it has to be that way. So I sat down at the table with Mr. G, his math teacher. For the first 3-4 minutes he only talked about John as a 13 year old. I didn't hear about test scores, strengths or weaknesses he has with math, no data. Just about John. Little things that teachers don't normally notice like how sensitive he is because that is his nature. How math isn't super easy for him but he is good at it because he is hard working and has a good work ethic. And that he likes to joke. Especially with the teacher.

Mr. G then apologized and said, "I am sorry about all that. Let's talk math."

I stopped him right there and said, "Don't be sorry. You see John. You see him for who he is, and as a parent, I appreciate that."

I think parent-teacher conferences need to me more about the child and less data. I see his grades each week. I see how he is doing. I know his strengths and weaknesses in all his subjects. But maybe it is easy for me to recognize because I am a teacher.

Thank you Mr. G for seeing him. Seeing him more than just your math student but the 13 year old that he is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

And No One Cried

"A leprechaun took my voice," I whispered to my kindergarten STEAM students this morning. And whispering was all I could do. I had no voice and what a better way to introduce an activity than trying to make it magical for them. It just happened to coincide with my asthmatic bronchitis that sucked the life out of me, voice and all.

Because this leprechaun took my voice, the students were going to try to trap him or her, depending on what type of leprechaun it was. The students watched a video book called How to Trap a Leprechaun. They loved it because it was a little girl reading the story. They noticed all different kinds of things from the story that many used in their designs.

After that, the students went to their seats to see what was in their bag. They could only use those things to build their trap. I did have tape, glue sticks, glue sponges, crayons, and scissors out for them on their tables. This time this bag was a little different. Normally, I show my students all the the materials and they have to make a plan first, followed by a list of exactly the materials they want. They then come shopping at my store for those materials. 

You should have heard the oohs and ahhs when they saw what was in their bag. Many took the things out one at a time to look at them as though they were sacred materials. 

Contents of the bags

The observing was followed by a plan then creating a trap. It was really fun to walk around, talking to the students about their traps and listen to them talk to one another. They were so engaged and super excited. And no one cried when it was time to clean up. Even those who weren't done. All in all it was a great lesson. One I will definitely use next year. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Pneumonia and Legos

I called a co-worker tonight, and she didn't pick up. She was probably busy with her three young kids at home. A little while later I received a text from her asking "What's up?"

I replied with, "If I have pneumonia, can I borrow your legos?"

After I sent it, I realized how funny that sounded and of course I heard her in my head saying "What? Of course!"

It started a week ago Sunday with a soar throat. I started my inhaler routine so my reactive asthma wouldn't set in followed by bronchitis. I have had a pretty good success rate with this. Three years now and nothing. But this time, I wasn't so lucky.

Sunday: Soar throat (Oh crap.)

Monday: Soar throat and so exhausted that it took all I could muster to put one foot in front of the other. (Oh no. I hope I am not getting the flu. It is going around my school.)

Tuesday: Still tired. Can't get up. (I muscle through the day.)

Wednesday: Soar throat is gone but now I have developed a little bit of a cough. (Still tired.)

Thursday: Feeling a lot better. (Sucking on cough drops all day long.)

Friday: Feel great. (Up at 4:30 am, at the pool at 5. Swam a mile. Had lots of energy. Celebrated my son's 13th birthday.)

Saturday: EXHAUSTED! Slept until 11:45 am (which is a record for me).

Sunday: Slept in again and went to a lacrosse coach training. We got out early and I didn't run around at all, which was good. (Went to bed at 8pm.)

Monday: Woke up feeling pretty good despite this annoying cough and loss of voice.

I am so in tune with my body that I knew this wasn't just a cold that lingered. So tonight I went to Fast Care. Told the nurse my story. She listened to me breathe. A lot. Had me cough. Listened to me breathe again.  She sent me for a chest x-ray. Might be pneumonia.

I asked, "If it is pneumonia, can I go to school tomorrow morning? I am taking the afternoon off."

"Um, no," was her reply.

I don't have time for this. Keeping my fingers crossed that it is my reactive asthma having fun with my lungs.

So now I wait but I would like a call soon. Those plans won't get done on their own. And of course legos would be involved.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I Don't

I don't want to write today because my head is in a fog. When I feel like this, my bed is the only place I like to be.

I don't want to write today because my breathing is worrisome. I woke up feeling as though there wasn't enough oxygen in my house.

I don't want to write today because the time change has messed with me. It is 7:20 at night but feels like 4:00 in the afternoon.

I don't want to write today because Sparrow Fast Care was a 60 minute wait. I drove right past knowing I should have stopped. I have already self diagnosed what I have.

I don't want to write today because there is another job I must do. And it can't be put off until tomorrow.

I don't want to write today because I didn't take the time to notice anything. I was trying to navigate through the day so I could get back in my bed to rest.

I don't want to write today.

I just don't.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Fight

The first time I got bronchitis was during my senior year of high school. No fever but just an annoying cough filled with the phlegm that goes with it. It was in the spring, smack dab in the middle of lacrosse season. I pushed through, didn't miss school, practice or any games. But it came back again the next year. And the year after that and the year after that until it became a yearly thing. Every spring, right on schedule, it was there. I would go to my doctor, tell her that I was at the beginning stages of bronchitis and she would reassure me that I was far from the beginning but smack dab full in. When you get something like this every year, it becomes the norm and trying to squeeze that doctor appointment in just to confirm your diagnosis so you can get some medicine kind of gets put on the back burner. Especially when you are teaching. And have two little kids at home.

When I was eight months pregnant with my third child, I knew I was getting sick before it actually happened. I am so in tune with my body that I can feel it in my saliva. This time around though, it was November and not March when it usually happens. I thought I could wait it out but when I went to the doctor, I couldn't really breathe. My lungs were so heavy. I ended up being diagnosed with exercise induced asthma (I am a runner), had breathing treatments, was sent home with two different kinds of inhalers, and missed four days of school. Not fun. That was nine years ago.

Fast forward a few more years. Bronchitis still arrives right on schedule but this time my doctor is worried. The bronchitis is having a hay day on my lungs. My exercise induced asthma turned into reactive asthma. The moment I start getting sick, my lungs pretty much shut down. Walking and talking take so much out of me. It is horrible. So my doctor decides we need to be proactive. The moment I feel as though I am getting sick, I have to start taking an inhaler with a steroid to kick this out before it turns into bronchitis. And it works. It has been almost three years since I have had bronchitis.

My current situation is a fight. I am fighting off a cold that so badly wants to turn worse. I have been using my blue inhaler for a week. I have almost lost my voice. I slept until 11:45 this morning, which is a record for me. And when I stepped outside at noon, all I wanted to do was go for a run. It was 40 degrees, and you could smell spring in the air. But I couldn't because my lungs are heavy and I am fighting a battle. One that I hope to win.

Friday, March 8, 2019

You May Not Know

During the current session with my first grade STEAM students, we are creating a collaborative piece of art. I have nine different first grade classes so as you can imagine this piece is going to be large. We are finding inspiration from Dr. Temple Grandin and using the style of Andy Warhol to create this piece. Today after reading the book The Girl Who Thought in Pictures to the first graders, we talked about being unique. What sets us apart from others? We played the game four corners discovering what makes us alike and different from our classmates. So I find inspiration for today's post from Dr. Temple Grandin, Andy Warhol, and Mrs. Park's first grade class. Here are some things you may not know about me.

1. I didn't learn how to read until third grade. I was so shy in school that I never talked and easily fell through the cracks. It wasn't until I met Mrs. Teles in 4th grade that I felt as though a teacher finally saw me.

2. I was held back in sixth grade. It did nothing for me academically but socially it changed my life.

3. I have my grandmother's feet. We would agree to disagree about who had worse feet. I won. I ended up having an operation on my left foot called Triple Arthrodesis. I was 26, on bed rest for a month and in a cast for three. And I limped for another year.

3. The only thing I can really cook is my Italian grandmother's spaghetti and meatballs.

4. I refuse to get the flu shot. The only time I had it I ended up with walking pneumonia.

5. I have a passion for teaching in the inner city. If it wasn't for a few odd things during my second year of teaching, I would probably still be in Detroit.

6. I am fascinated with dyslexia. I would like to go back to school and get a degree in Dyslexia Studies.

7. I would rather have the kids who struggle in my classroom than the ones who get it. I seem to understand those kids more because I was one myself.

8. If it wasn't for the recommendation of my high school math teacher, I probably would never have gotten into college. My GPA and ACT scores were nowhere near average.

9. I was an extremely hyperactive child. Although no one saw it in school, my parents did at home. I grew up on no sugar.

10. My wedding was in the same church as my mother's funeral. If she couldn't be there physically, I wanted her to be there spiritually.

11. I missed one day of school K-12 with a fever. Seventh grade. I remember it clear as day. I was so mad at my mom for not allowing me to go to school because I hated to miss things.

12. I love to write. Always have. I find comfort and peace in letting my thoughts flow onto the paper.

13. I am wildly creative. I can think of ideas for anything.

14. I love odd numbers. My favorite number is 17.

15 What about you? What is something people may not know? Share in the comments.

Image may contain: Elana Waugh, smiling, standing
Isabella and I on the first day of school last August. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019


My mother passed away two weeks before I met my husband John for the second time. I can't help but think she had something to do with our meeting. My mother had never met John or my three kids. She would have loved them all.

One of my fondest memories I have of my mother is how special she made my sisters and me feel on our birthdays. Our birthdays were the one day where all the attention was focused on us. She gave us birthday parties filled with fun, friends, and presents we didn't know we wanted. So when I had my own kids, I knew that I would carry on my mother's tradition.

Tomorrow my son turns 13. He rarely asks for anything and said he doesn't want anything for his birthday. He has everything he needs. This is hard for me. I want to make his birthday special for him, so I will drive him to school (something I don't normally do) and watch him play Fortnite (something else I don't normally do). I will decorate the dining room and surprise him with donuts for breakfast. Hopefully when he is an adult, he will remember these little things. As it is the little things that make for the special memories.

John at 9. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Bit Too Good

One of my favorite sports that I played growing up was lacrosse.  It was relatively new to my high school when I joined the team. And I found that I was really good at it. I played center and rarely lost a draw. I could read the field and know what was happening before it happened. I loved that game and went through a bit of mourning when I realized my college didn't have a team.

A few years ago the town where my daughters attend school began a U10 lacrosse program for girls. The high school has a reputation for being really good, so I was excited that my girls could be exposed to the sport I love at such a young age. Last year was their first year playing, and I found myself helping to coach the team. Almost all the players had never played before. They improved immensely throughout the season and had a great time.

Well, lacrosse season has rolled around again and a few months back I was a bit worried that we wouldn't even have enough girls to play because most of ours from last year were moving up to the fifth/sixth grade team. So I did a little recruiting. Maybe a little too much. The club offered free stick sessions to come try the sport out. I invited a few kids who ended up inviting a few more and well, you know where that ended up.

Currently I have 16 first through fourth graders on my team and I know of at least four more who will be signing up. Twenty is a great number especially when many of the girls play multiple sports. I am thrilled to be able to help instill a love of the game with players this young.

Now I need to figure out how to make sure all the girls get equal playing time!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


One of the things that my school does really well is meet the needs of students, whether this be in small groups or one one one. Besides my responsibility as a STEAM teacher, I meet with two students on an individual basis before my plan time, check in with another, and meet with two groups after my lunch offering support with their reading. This afternoon only one of the four students in my first group was here. The other three were out sick. Since there was only one student, I told this child's teacher that she would be back before her normal one o'clock time.

When we got to the room and started our lesson, this girl asked, "Can I stay the whole time?"

"Sure," I replied. "But don't you want to get back to your class?"

"Yes and no."

"What do you mean?"

"Yes because I like my class, but no because I like being in here."

"Why is that?"

"Because I like what we do. I feel like I am getting better at reading."

And just like that, we worked the full 30 minutes. We went through our routine but instead of competing with three others for my attention, it was just her. Something I think she needed.

And we did finish a few minutes early. But instead of sending her back, I asked if she wanted to help me get things ready for my DK class.

She was elated.

It was then when I realized that sometimes, those small connections make all the difference in the world.

Monday, March 4, 2019

An Old Bag of Tricks

A year ago during my first Slice of Life Challenge, I had a lot of fifth graders participating. Each day they would ask me if they could read what I wrote. Most days, I showed them, but sometimes I didn't feel comfortable letting them read my words. I realized about half way in they were searching for ideas. So during the commenting challenge, I compiled a list of posts that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I printed out the list and handed it to my students. It seems fitting that today, a day that I just don't feel well and can't really think straight, I am going to look at that document that I created to give me an idea for my slice. (Looking for ideas, read this post for inspiration.)

I can write with that....

I can write with the pounding going on inside my head as each side sees who could be louder.

I can write with the two kiddos marching down the hall for group saying "It's only the two Robertsons today."

I can write with the echo of the train as it passes my house across the river on this clear and cold evening.

I can write with the words of my son asking if I am ready to help him study for his science test.

I can write with the heater blowing full force trying to make its way into the cool house.

I can write with the heaviness of my eyelids trying to stay open as to not allow this cold to win.

And I can write with the clicking of the keys as they make their way across this page.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Gift of Time

I haven't heard my mother's voice in almost 21 years, but I can still hear it in my head most days. When I was younger she was a constant at every recital, sporting event, play. You name it, and she was there. She also made sure that my sisters and I were exposed to whatever activity we wanted to try. As a kid I tried piano, violin, trombone, and clarinet. I also played soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and softball. I took ballet, modeling classes and did art. Many of these lasted a session or two. Some longer.  It just depended on my interest. She never pressured me into making a choice or sticking with one thing or another. She also nurtured my love of the outdoors and sent me to dozens of day camps and eventually sleep away camps. At the time, I didn't realize the sacrifice that she and my father made in terms of money and time. I also didn't realize how fortunate I was to be able to be exposed to so many things.

Now that I have three kids of my own who want to participate in many activities, I find myself thinking of my mother. Spring is extremely busy in our house. There is soccer, baseball, lacrosse (for both girls and me-I coach), Girls on the Run, a full time job, a part time job, and just being a mother. When I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed, I think of my own mother and the sacrifices she made. The time she gave up to drive me and my sisters from one activity to the next, cheering us on.

And I also think that I don't have many more years of this. Five for the oldest followed by seven and eight. I know that I will never get this time back. I also know that when my own children are adults they will look back on their childhood and be thankful for being given the opportunities to find their passion.

I just wish my mother were here so I could properly thank her. Thank her for helping me to be the person I am today. Thank her for all of her time. But then again, she probably knows. Because mothers are like that.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Labor of Love

When I first graduated from college, I knew that I didn't want to be an art teacher although I had an art and elementary education degree.

I was drawn to the inner city. It could have been because I spent the first ten years of my life living in Detroit or the small town that I attended college in resembled a mini D. Whatever the case, I found myself back in the place I grew up in. I taught at a performing arts charter school located at Six and a Half Mile and Nevada. Not the safest neighborhood but one where I felt at home.

I didn't teach art.

Instead, I opted for second grade. I was a first year teacher. I don't care where you teach. Your first year is hard. From learning what works, how to communicate with families, figuring out discipline, and trying to just stay afloat. I had great mentors, asked a lot of questions, and just loved my students. The school I was at embraced creativity, and I found that many of my students had the same struggles I had as a student. So I did what worked for me in school. I started to incorporate A LOT of art into what I taught.

As the years went on and the districts changed, one thing remained constant: my love for art inspired lessons. There were quilts and digital stories and drawings and book projects and birds and a published children's book about plastic pollution. But I want to make one thing clear.

I didn't teach art.

So 21 years in, I traded my gen ed classroom position for a creative arts position. I teach STEAM and have a little more of an art emphasis than most.

Today, between my son's soccer games, I found myself cutting out kindergartners because they won't cut themselves. I have about 200 of them to do. I'm not even a quarter of the way through. It's tedious. But so worth it. They are part of a mixed media project. As I stare at the faces looking back at me, I am brought back to last week when the students were coloring their sky. It was a simple concept. Rub the background with your paperless crayon or crayons. When I first showed them how to do it, there was an eerie silence in the air followed my so many "Ohhhhhhs." It was as if I was a magician performing a magic trick. The skies were anything but blue filled with an array of colors then splattered with balloons. Ones the students will hold onto.

Next week, they will create skylines. Because, you know, life wouldn't be as exciting if you weren't holding onto a bunch of balloons in the sky high above the world below. Helping students see the potential they didn't think they had. Helping them see that anything is possible when you take it one step at a time.

This is magic to me because now, 22 years after I received my art degree, I finally teach art.

A kindergartner waiting to be attached to her bundle of balloons. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Changing Habits

When I changed school districts and positions this past fall, I never imagined that my writing would suffer. Actually, I thought the time I would be able to spend on it would increase but that is not the case. I went from teaching fifth grade writing to kindergarten-first grade STEAM. Things are different.

I have traded correcting papers for cutting out lamination.

Knowing the names of 90 kids to trying to remember 400.

Following a curriculum to creating my own.

Enjoying a quiet classroom to embracing and encouraging conversation.

When I first started out as a STEAM teacher, I had this vision of trying to incorporate journals into my daily routine. That worked for a split second until I realized that time was my enemy. I am a thinker and writer and maker. I mourned my idea and worked at trying to include literacy in different ways.

We have a caterpillar, EETCHY,  that leaves mystery objects for my kindergartners. They use this tool to help figure out the item. Little do they know that EETCHY will be the backbone to their research unit on animals.

My first graders are recording PSA's for the weekly announcements focusing on an issue in the school that is important for everyone to hear. Today, it was the rules of taking part in an indoor walking recess.

There are books. A few baskets of them for my early finishers or students that just need a break. The students get excited when there are new ones in the basket.

And mentor texts. Every single lesson I do is centered around a mentor text. It's our routine and works.

Someone once told me that the difference between kindergarten and fifth grade is simple. With kindergartners you have to be emotionally available all day long. The end of the day comes and you are too exhausted to think. With fifth graders, they can take care of themselves, for the most part, during the day but the exhaustion comes after school hours when you are up late correcting papers or worrying about the child in your class that needs to take care of her siblings so she can't do her homework.

But I thought it would be different. I thought that since I am a creative arts teacher that it wouldn't be so emotionally draining and I would have more energy in the evenings. Um, no! Just as tired as everyone else. Too tired to read. Too tired to write. So exhausted that I haven't participated in Slice of Life Tuesday in over a month. I have every intention of doing it. Plan out the post in my head but never get around to pulling out the computer and typing my thoughts up.

So with March, a month I would just like to skip because we are so busy it is a bit overwhelming, I am going to change some habits. One of them is writing. More time. A little each day to participate in this challenge. Thirty-one days. And hopefully when I am done, my writing will once again be a habit that is part of my day.