Where My Writing Is…

In case you missed it, I have a few articles floating around the internet…

This month at the Educator’s Room, I’ve posted about what all teachers should be reading this summer, and it’s not just “teacher books”!

I also put on my serious, political pants and talked about the very real feeling that there is a conspiracy against public education among politicians.

With school starting, I wrote about the important task of creating safe spaces for kids in our classrooms.

Just this week, I posted an introduction to a series that I will be working on this month about Close and Critical Reading and strategies I/we use in my district that have really helped students improve their literacy.

Also a post I wrote originally for The Educator’s Room was re-run on The Washington Post! I know! So exciting! It’s the one about Job Insecurity in education.

My writing is also on BonBon Break again this month with a post I did about my feelings concerning School Dress Codes from a teacher’s point of view.

And lastly, I was interviewed by UpWorthy about what the deal is with Back to School Supply lists. (In Michigan we can’t require students to buy supplies; we have to supply them. Which is why I have a Wish List on Amazon, in case you are interested in helping out)

There you go!

School starts for me on September 1, and for the kids (Eddie included) on September 8. I’ve been busy busy BUSY with To Do Lists and creating stuff and I’ve even been into my classroom already setting things up for a new year.

There is a lot of excitement about it over here, I won’t lie!  Eddie is going into first grade, Charlie is starting his last year of “full-time” daycare (next year he will go to preschool part of the time), Alice is starting full-time daycare, and I will be teaching a new year of eager 8th graders.

But I’ll keep writing too! So stay tuned!

Me Before You

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This was a book I didn’t think I really wanted to read, but I caved to the pressure. I was certain I would quit this book because it would be too “Chick Lit-ish”.

Louisa is a twenty-six year old who gets laid off from her job at a cafe. She lives with her family (mother, father, younger sister, nephew, and grandfather). They don’t have much money. She gets a job caring for Will, a quadriplegic man. A wealthy quadriplegic man. An attractive quadriplegic man. The thing is, Will doesn’t want to live like this. He was very active before the motorcycle accident, and now lives in constant discomfort and pain. Lou makes it her mission to show him just how beautiful a life he can still have.

See? Sounds incredibly sappy, right?

It’s not though. I don’t know how JoJo Moyes did it, but Me Before You is fast-pace, witty, and even suspenseful. I found myself worrying about the characters when I wasn’t reading. Yes, there are a bunch of cliches and the premise itself is pretty sappy, but somehow Moyes made me care about the characters. She made me root for Louisa and Will…and not that they would get romantically involved, but that she would be successful in showing him a wonderful life. On the other hand, the book also made me seriously think about my own views on assisted suicide.

It was a deep topic that read like a light beach read.

That is writing talent, right there.

Even before I was finished with the book, I recommended it to someone and promised to bring her my copy the next time I see her.  I don’t do that with many books.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book that you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving?


Want to contribute to my classroom library? Check out my students’ Wish List!

Links are affiliate with Amazon. Anything purchased via those links will give me Amazon credit toward books for my classroom.

Her First is My Last

Just this week Alice got a tooth.

Ok, it’s not all the way through yet, but the little ridged top is. When she laughs, I can see it. Her first tooth.

She rolls like a mad-woman these days too. If I lay her down on her back, she rolls onto her tummy and kicks. Last night, she planted her feet and pushed. Cortney called it “snow plowing.” She was clearly trying to move from one end of her play mat to the other to reach a toy. She pushed her face to the floor and shoved herself with her feet and knees! I was shocked!

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Lately we find her not at all in the same place we laid her in her crib. At night we place her on her back in the middle. In the morning, she wakes up on her tummy all the way to one end. This morning she was reaching her arms through the slats.

As with the boys, all these firsts are bittersweet. It’s so exciting to watch kids grow and change and learn, and yet our momma hearts mourn the loss of the baby things too.

I knew Alice’s firsts would be harder on me because, even though I am 100% cool with our decision to be done, each of her firsts marks the end of something.

I know, that sounds morbid. And I promise I am not walking around depressed all the time because she can roll over. I really love watching her figure things out and become her own person.

And yet…

Once that little tooth pushed through, our days of gummy baby grins was swept into the past.

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It seems like every day there is a new change, she’s just a little bigger, she can do one more thing.

I notice that when I set her in her car seat or bounce seat, she tries to lean forward…to bend at the waist…as if she wants to sit up. While she still technically fits in her rock n play, swing, and bounce seat, I can tell the days are numbered. She humors me though, and actually plays with the toys on her swing (the boys couldn’t have cared less about the swing, let along those toys), bounces herself in her bounce seat, and snoozes in her rock n play during the day.

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Why can’t they be babies just a little longer?

Why does it have to go so fast?

Sometimes when I think about her getting bigger, I have to literally catch my breath.

With each child, I have loved the baby phase more. I am not sure if it’s because she’s third, a girl, or just Alice that this time around has been the sweetest.

Last night I made her giggle so hard she did that silent laugh thing and ended up with the hiccups. I laid down next to her and she turned her face to mine. I put my nose against hers so I could smell her baby-ness and I whispered, “let’s always love each other like this, ok?”

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We have two weeks left to snuggle on each other as much as possible. For me to try not to miss any minutes of her growing and changing and smiling.

Because these are also my last two weeks of a summer with a baby in tow.

Getting Ready for Back to School

It’s that time of year again…back to school! I started thinking about this all the way back in June when I was technically “done” with  my maternity leave. I have been off for over five months at this point, and I am pretty ready to be back working.

Actually, I am mostly ready. My boys are definitely ready for a school day schedule, but Alice and I could really just hang together.

When I think about getting back in my room and planning for a new year, I do get pretty excited. Another year of lighting up young readers!

As usual, I need a little help. I’ve gotten some great new books for my classroom library, but I always need more. The more the kids read, the more, well, they WANT to read! So there are two ways you can support the addiction I hope to ignite for reading:

One is by choosing to purchase a book or two from our Classroom Library Wishlist. Everything on here is either requested by students or things I found I know they will love.

Another way is a fundraiser I am doing via Thirty-One. Whatever proceeds from what you buy via this “party” link, will go towards my classroom library and supplies. This is open to US shipping addresses only, but it’s a great way to get some great items and give to a great cause at the same time!

And lastly, if you’re not into buying books, I have a list of supplies I could use too! Each teacher in my school only gets $100 to spend. That doesn’t even cover the cost of one notebook per student for me (I have around 135 students). Therefore, I created a Supply Wish List as well.

I know I ask a lot and you all give a lot.

Please know writing these things and asking is hard for me. I am ashamed that we cannot afford to buy the things I need to make my classroom great. I am sad that my school doesn’t have enough funding to give every teacher unlimited access to great supplies for our students.

I was asked about supply lists by UpWorthy this week, and I admitted we (in Michigan) cannot even send supply lists home. Public schools here cannot require that students purchase anything for school. We must provide it. Truth be told, most of my students wouldn’t be able to afford supply lists anyway.

I want you to know that every donation makes my heart happy, but more than that, it helps students.

I want you to know that even if you can’t donate, your prayers for my students and sharing my need with others who may be able to donate is even more valuable than you can know.

I want you to know I love my job, but I hate the politics of it.

I want you to know I work for a district that loves LOVES its students and would give all this and more to my classes if it could. I don’t work for a stingy district. I work for one that has only one focus: kids’ learning.

I want you to know that I appreciate the ability to write this knowing somehow the supplies and books will come in and my students will have what they need.

Thank you.

And happy back to school! Let the learning begin!


It Was A Sunday…

It was a Sunday ten years ago.

I’ve told the story over and over. Sometimes with lots of details. Sometimes with almost none.

But I still remember every single detail.

It’s almost all I have.

Cortney had abdominal pain. I went to do his Fantasy Football Draft. Lots of phone calls about coming to his dads. Finally we went.

Just in time to say good-bye.

Just in time to release him from his pain.

Just in time.

Then there was the appendix surgery.

We were still newlyweds. I didn’t even stand when the doctor came out to get the next of kin to come in the recovery room.

I forgot that it was me, not his mother, who should go in.

Temporary bliss of forgetting.

His dad was gone.

“My dad died today,” he told the nurses.

The looks of disbelief that I had to confirm.

Everyone agreed he won “shittiest day ever.”

I had to make phone calls.

“Cortney’s dad died. Cortney had his appendix out.”

That night we slept in a tiny hospital room together.

I couldn’t leave him alone. His dad had just died.

I couldn’t go home alone either. My father-in-law had just died.

It was a Sunday ten years ago.

Today is Friday.

The sad truth is that I really didn’t know him.

The more time that passes, the more I realize, I didn’t know him.

I know he loved me.

I know he was happy I married his son.

But I didn’t get any time. None.

Not once did I sit down and chat with him by myself.

Never were we randomly alone in a room together.

I think of all the family gatherings we have had in the past ten years, and wonder what it would be like to have his jokes and observations and laughter injected into it all.

How significantly would our lives be different?

It’s impossible to imagine.

That impossibility is what hurts the most–the things I will never know.

He was my father-in-law, and I didn’t know him at all.

And yet, every day I think of him.

Every day I miss him.

It was a Sunday ten years ago that my father-in-law died of lung cancer.



This Is Where We Live

We are lucky to live where we do.

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Michigan has some of the best beaches ever…and I say that having seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific. I definitely prefer fresh water and the clean beaches here.

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All of our kids love the beach.  Eddie could stay in the water for days, but he settles for hours. Charlie likes to wander off by himself and play in the sand or watch the waves. And Alice is content to take it all in–and also take a cat nap here and there–from the shade of the umbrella on a lap.

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I wish I could say this is where we are every possible moment, but it’s not true. We are lucky to have friends who invite us out because going to the State Park brings out my anxiety. It’s not nearly as relaxing with all the crowds.

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This is much more our pace. Thankfully we DO have friends who have lake front property both on the Big Lake and on a small inland lake.

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Next year will be even more fun since Alice will be able to wear sunscreen and play in the sand too. Not that she minded her spot on a lap this year.

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And Eddie will be a year older, a little stronger swimmer, and hopefully I won’t have to worry about his overconfidence in those waves like I did this year.  Thankfully Charlie is cautious about the water and the sun. He sticks close to the beach and wears sunscreen, his life jacket, a bucket hat, and goggles at all times. Safety first, right Bird?

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Yes, we are beach people. Good thing it’s only about a 15-minute drive to a beach.

What is the best part about where YOU live?


Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Last fall I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I adored it. I couldn’t talk it up enough in my classroom, and for the rest of the school year there was a wait list for it. I meant to read Fangirl next, but due to the popularity of Eleanor & Park, it was also checked out all year, so I moved on to other books and other authors.

This summer I was perusing the “new in paperback” section at the book store and saw Landline. I picked it up even though I had a pile at home of other books to read.

I will admit the premise of a telephone that calls the past was weird, but I trusted Rowell. I knew if anyone could make it work in a quirky, witty way, it was her.  And I was not disappointed.

Georgie McCool is a writer for a TV comedy series with her best friend since college, Seth. She spends a ridiculous amount of time at work, leaving her husband, Neal, home with their two small daughters. Georgie and Neal love each other, but there is always a tension. It comes to a head when Georgie chooses to spend their Christmas vacation home working with Seth rather than travel Omaha with her family. Over the time her family is gone, Georgie discovers that the phone in her childhood bedroom at her mom’s house can call Neal–not present-day Neal–but Neal from when they were in college. Her phone is like a time machine.  Now she has to figure out how to make things right with him by talking to the past.

I don’t tend to pick up a book if I think it might be a sappy love story. This is not a sappy love story. It is funny and ridiculous and a little sad in places, but not sappy.

Rowell tells the story from Georgie’s point of view. It bounces back and forth from present-day to her memories of meeting and dating Neal when they were in college, when they were first engaged and married, and to when their daughters were born. Rowell’s characters and dialogue quick and spot-on. She even manages to make me a bit nostalgic for the 90’s.

I think I even liked this book more than I liked Eleanor & Park. And that is saying a LOT because I gushed about that book.


Want to contribute to my classroom library? Check out my students’ Wish List!

Links are affiliate with Amazon. Anything purchased via those links will give me Amazon credit toward books for my classroom.

My Girl

Dear Alice,

It’s all going too fast. Thursday you were five months old and I missed it. I knew it was this week, but it sneaked up anyway. I noticed yesterday morning as I fed you. I turned on the Today show, settled into our spot on the couch, began feeding you your morning bottle, and there it was on the TV: Friday, August 7.

The day after your five month day.

Admittedly, Thursday was difficult. We had the funeral for Mary in the morning. They boys went to hang out with Grandpa, but you came with me and Daddy. It seemed right since she was so excited about you. You slept in my arms as Karsten delivered the message. He talked of her love of children–specifically the Children in Worship program. She knew every child by name. And she knew you too. She talked about you in her last days. Knowing she won’t be around to watch you learn about Jesus’ love for you hurts my heart.


You are growing and changing so much, Alice. I looked back on both Eddie’s and Charlie’s five month posts and I realize I felt the same with them. Five months is a game changer, apparently.

Gone is the new babyness. No more infant. Nope, you are a baby with a rapidly developing personality, tons of smiles, and a penchant for rolling over in your sleep and playing with your feet.

You are no longer happy just lying somewhere with toys. You roll immediately to your tummy to be able to see what everyone is doing. Then you yell. Being left out irritates you. You work those abs and try to sit up in your bounce seat and swing, yet unlike your brothers, you still like them. You actually play with the toys that are attached to them–something Eddie and Charlie had no interest in.

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You are still on bottles only–no solids. Both of your brothers were into cereal at this point because formula alone wasn’t satiating them anymore, but you are good. Although the way you watch us eat is hilarious. So intent on watching us put things in our mouth.

You are no stranger to putting stuff in your mouth though! Everything that is within your reach goes in there!  You have been teething and just this week I could feel the ridge of a tooth on your bottom gums. The days of gummy smiles in our house are almost gone. It’s bittersweet.

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Eddie was a pretty smiley baby, and Charlie was pretty serious. You are extremely social. You clearly recognize certain people and reward them with giant grins. Your Church Grandma Nancy is one of those people. She loves you so much and you are starting to show her that you love her too!

You have a tickle spot on your ribs. When we kiss you or nom on your ribs you giggle so hard your eyes tear up. You love to shout-talk at us too, which is also hilarious. I am starting to think that just like me and Eddie, you might not have an indoor voice. You cannot stand to be ignored, so you will growl/shout/cry until someone looks at you. Then you will smile. You’re kind of a stinker.

The only time you get truly angry and cry is when you are hungry. And as soon as you’ve eaten, you’re back to being your happy pants self.  Most of the time. Like I said, you are teething. You’ve been a bit clingy because of that, but by and large you are our easiest teether yet. Eddie was pretty good–he would get a little butt rash and be a little warm. Charlie was awful. Poor guy got a million teeth at once and his life was hell during that time. You felt a little warm to me a few times, but nothing I thought twice about. When you were being particularly clingy, I stuck my finger in your mouth and low and behold, a tooth was coming through. No big deal.

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This month you had your first beach day and went to your first funeral. You began to enjoy bathes and cry when Charlie cries. You are happy to sit in your bounce and watch me do something, but not happy to sit there and watch me write or read. Apparently that is boring.

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You love going places, but not being confined to your carseat/carrier. You would rather be held or put in the Moby/Ergo. You love to be outdoors because there is so much to see and take in.

I don’t remember much about Eddie’s first year. I don’t remember taking his picture for his 5 month post. I remember a lot about Charlie. We spent his first 6 months almost inseparable. That is how it is with you, Alice. We are almost never apart. I would say I was better at leaving Charlie with a sitter than I am with you. I just don’t mind you being along for whatever I am doing–most of the time.

When I need to be alone, it’s not because you’re driving me crazy, it’s that I have to get some things done–like writing or school planning. It’s never because I need to be away from you. I know that will change as you grow and change more. I know your toddler years will be more demanding. I know this because I am going through it with Charlie right now.

But I want you to know you make me very happy.

I have had some pretty dark days lately, and I never didn’t want to have you around. Feeding you or holding you or just talking to you somehow lifting the ugly thing on my soul, even if just for a little bit. You are starting to “hug” and “kiss” my shoulder and face. I love it. I find myself wondering if we will always be this close. If you will always be My Girl who loves me best and likes to “talk” to me when you are sleepy. Will we always prefer each other’s company?

I hope so, Alice. You are my smart, funny, pretty girl. And I love you so so much.



I realize this could be the same baby, but I assure you, it's three different children.

I realize this could be the same baby, but I assure you, it’s three different children.

We Are All Made of Molecules

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I am on the biggest YA Lit kick since I was a teenager myself, I think. I am going through them fast and furious this summer. I never set out to do that either. In fact, before this summer I would claim to not really enjoy YA Lit that much other than the occasional stand out like Winger by Andrew Smith.

This summer I am finding myself not just enjoying YA Lit recommendations, but seeking out titles for myself. While searching for new reads a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Neilsen. I had never heard of the book, but I read the inside flap and thought it was definitely for me.

The story has dual narrators: thirteen-year old Stewart and fourteen-year old Ashley. While I am getting a bit tired of the whole “two points of view” trend, I decided the story seemed like one my students (who are also in the 13-14 year old age range) would relate to: a blended family.

Stewart loses his mom to cancer. Ashley’s parents divorce. Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mom date and move in together. It’s like the Brady Bunch. Only it’s not at all like that because there are only two kids and it seems they have absolutely nothing in common. At all.

Stewart is, well, he’s different. He’s taking all ninth grade classes (even though he’s technically an 8th grader) now that he is enrolled in the public school after transferring from the Little Genius Academy.  This means he is in some of Ashley’s classes.

Ashley is not interested in school. Or books. Or learning. She is interested in fashion, boys, and herself. I spent most of the book hating Ashley. But I liked Stewart. He was my kind of kid–totally nerdy. He’s got the brains of Sheldon Cooper, but he is nice and thinks of others.  I mostly love the way he loves his mom and his relationship with his dad. I also love how he truly seeks to find the good in everybody. Even Ashley. Even when she gives him no reason to.

I think I gave the book three stars on GoodReads. I think it’s one my students would really like. The characters have very authentic voices–especially the teenagers.  I enjoyed all the characters (well, Ashley was pretty awful and so was Jared, but you will have to read to find out about who Jared is). It took a while to get to any real action though, and once there was finally something going on, it all ended quickly. I felt like 3/4 of the book was a day by day narration of how things were going being a blended family and then BAM 1/4 of the book was about bullies and other stuff and then it wrapped up.  My head was sort of spinning at the end.

It was a quick read though, and like I said, lots that teenagers can find to relate to from blended families, to bullies, to the hierarchy of popularity in high school, to deciding to stand out or blend in.


Want to contribute to my classroom library? Check out my students’ Wish List!

Links are affiliate with Amazon. Anything purchased via those links will give me Amazon credit toward books for my classroom.


We Are Trying

This summer is a bit less…exciting…than I thought it would be. I thought we would do all these adventures and go to the park all the time and hit the beach once a week.

We have not done that because, even though she is my easiest baby yet, we are sort of on Alice’s schedule rather than our own most of the time. Also? Three kids is way more exhausting than two.

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So rather than go to the library every week, we have opted for every other week…or just when the books are due. We try to get to a park once a week, but sometimes we don’t.

My kids are whiney and bored most days. Even when I kick them outside, they complain there is nothing to do.

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So I gather up Alice and we go outside too.  And they plop their toys and chairs by us under the tree and complain. I come up with games and ideas for them. They play nicely for a few minutes.  Then they are back over by me tattling about what someone did to the other.

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There is only a month left before we go back to school. Technically a month plus a week, but I go back in a month. I finally got my teaching assignment: All 8th Grade English this year. I’m pretty jazzed about having only one class to prep and hoping to do some awesome things with Reader’s Workshop this year.

We are still waiting to find out who Eddie’s first grade teacher is, when orientation is, and what he will need as far as back to school supplies.

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We still have some summer left.

And I am determined to make some fun memories. We have a couple beach days planned, a zoo trip as a family, and hopes for a few other things.

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The boys are starting to feel the need for their regular schedule. I can feel it too–the pull back to the classroom.

I also feel the sadness that means by going back to school, the whirlwind will start and Alice’s baby-ness will start to go even faster as I don’t get to see her all day, every day anymore.

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We are trying to make the most of this last month of this last summer of having a baby around. We are trying to breathe it in rather than look forward to “it will get easier” and “it will get better”.

We are trying to live in the now.

Even when the now makes me want to pull my hair out and run screaming down the street.

We are trying.

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