Spidery Tulips and Stupid Birds

I have a confession: I haven’t been writing much. Life has gotten in the way. I miss the moments with my keyboard and miss mulling over my word choice and letting inspiration flow through me. I miss the community of writers that were doing the same. I feel like a dundering dope sitting here now wondering what to write about. I have 4 drafts sitting there, none of which I remotely like. There is no flow. My river has run dry.

So I’m going back into my notebook and finding some poems my students inspired me to write during our poetry unit. I felt that community of writers when we were sitting side by side, poet to poet, writing, giving, taking, reveling.

Spidery Tulips

There they sit
in the vase

so unassuming
so red
with bits of yellow

I lean in
to inhale
their tulipy scent

And I shrink back
in surprise

For inside my tulips
so red, with bits of yellow

A spider!

** We had tulips in our room and a student commented on how the insides looked like big, black spiders. And a poem was born.

Dear Birds
I try to sleep,
a cocoon in my bed.

Morning starts
creeping in.

It’s lovely…
until you arrive

My silence,
my solitude,
so rudely interrupted

your chirping,
your singing,
your caterwauling,
your incessant noise

You bring the end
to my slumber

And I do NOT appreciate it

* The kids wanted to write a poem to something they didn’t like. I don’t like birds.

So, pieces valuable to me as a writer because they remind me of feeling like a part of a community of writers. Hopefully, I can find myself polishing some pieces and finding my motivation one day soon…


3rd Grade Poets

We have been doing poetry in my third grade classroom the last few weeks. I may be a bit biased, but my kiddos have blown me away. They were with me every step of the way during our March Slice of Life challenge and were so encouraging to me. They asked if I would post some of their poetry and from the look of hope sparkling in their eyes, I had no choice but to say yes. So bear with me as I spend a few posts over the next few days putting their words out into the world. Please leave some love for them if you feel moved like I have!


Dear Shelter,
I hate…
how I can’t have them

Some may be…
Some may be…
Some make me

And I try
to pick the perfect…


She’s just
like a…

She smells
like a…

In the sun
with water
on her petals.

In the moonlight
she sparkles.



That’s how I felt
when the 3rd Sacrament
came to me.

Just looking out at all
those people
made me…


I played it cool.

Dear Rainbow
You are the
silver lining
to my day

After such
a cloudy gloomy
cascade of rain

I wish you
could be
in my house

to make my day better

The way all your colors
glisten in the sun

I think you are the one

 The one to make my day

Hope for the Good to Outweigh the Bad

So I got emotional in a meeting yesterday. It doesn’t happen often, okay, never. I typically have a steely resolve when it comes to holding in feelings. I am champion of the carefully constructed house of cards. But we all know it takes just one wrong move and it all comes tumbling down. I’m always surprised by the small thing that starts to topple my towering emotions. Yesterday it was remembering a feeling of being overwhelmed. Four. Months. Ago.

Then I got in my car and started to catch up on the day. My small thing was replaced by a very large thing. Having had a busy day I was blissfully unaware of yet another attack on humanity. Every single minute across the world, people are hurt. By themselves or by others. No matter the number, no matter how severe, they are all equal. I typically live like most people, in ignorant bliss. It’s one of those carefully constructed houses again. I think we all do it. I’m not proud of it. As a member of humanity, I should most certainly be more outraged at the gross injustice that takes place in this world.

Yesterday, my husband and I took turns catching up the most recent horror to slap us in the face and remind us to be outraged. Keeping Maddie in her cocoon of safety and maintainting her naivety to the world’s faults was a priority. So we splashed puddles in our bare feet, we ate ice cream, we played the matching game and then we played it again. We read 4 books at bedtime instead of 2. We gave extra hugs and blew extra kisses at the door. And then we snuck in to hold each other and watch her sleep and thank everything that is good in this world that we were able to do so that night.

I was emotional all night. I am still so this morning. But as I stare at my husband, my daughter, and as I think of all that is good in my world and I see all that IS good in this world, even in the face of this tragedy, and I hold onto hope.

Hope for the future.

Hope that my daughter will grow up in a world where the good people far outweigh the bad.


Crossing over to the other side

Stinky the skunk was so smelly.
He had only farts in his belly.
Everyone ran away in fright
when he crossed their path at night.
Til he met his dear friend Botticelli.

This was a limerick written in my classroom yesterday. Its author felt the words flow freely until the fifth line. “What on earth could I rhyme with smelly and belly?” she asked herself. Another poet quickly interjected with the last line you see above. (Botticelli the rat from Despereaux , of course) Said limerick was read to raucous laughter throughout the walls of Room 14 and led to a furious frenzy of pens on paper.

Not an eventful or even slightly extraordinary moment most would say. However, what if that poet was me? What if you knew that the TEACHER wrote that limerick about farts? Would it make you cringe? Would it make you frown? Are you tsk tsking and shaking your head? Does it cross the line?

We’ve talked a lot about content and modeling and what is appropriate or UN in the classroom. I can say with confidence that my particular flatulent limerick did not inspire any grand prose that morning. However, not many consider the limerick form to be that anyhow. It did however open the door to a flood of hilarious and clever verse. Me crossing the line to the other side, the eight year old male side, did not make my classroom fall apart. The ceiling did not fall on our heads. It DID bring us poets together. It DID unlock the door for some reluctant writers (who coincidently did NOT write about farts – who knew?)

It also got me thinking about my colleagues. Our doors are open and our dialogue is as well. We cross to the other side often, even if the feeling is a bit uncomfortable at first. Even if we are uncertain of what lies behind that door, that idea. We trust each other to listen, to question, to try. I’ve come to depend on this over the years and if I am expecting my community of students to do the same, I am so glad that my community of teachers sets the example. I know they’re watching and I’m so glad.

My Heart Map

photo (2)I was leafing through my writer’s notebook and happened upon that obligatory entry we all do with our students: the heart map. It’s a staple for writing instruction. Whatever variation you prefer, it is probably stuck in the pages of every notebook across the world: folded or not, colored or not, detailed or not, illustrated or not…it shows the things that are deep within. Or at least the things that you can write about in front of your kids. 🙂

As I look at my heart I chuckle, I cry, I cringe, I reminisce, and my mind starts creating. What piece of my heart stands out today? The gargantuan buckets of candy my mom provided to us on our trips to Florida? Freddie, who my seven-year old self-created as a doodle that I still use today at 34? How I probably single-handedly supported Oak Lawn Public Library growing up due to me taking out so many books there was no conceivable way I could keep track and ended up paying an insane amount of fines? The snow igloos we basically lived in as kids whenever it snowed? I already wrote about how cancer broke my heart. I already wrote about when Mr. Koehler claimed my heart as his own. I already wrote about my pets, my nieces, and my love of chocolate.

When I sit and stare at the blank screen, I must remember that I have a multitude of possibilities. Maybe I just need to sit in my notebook for a bit longer and let some of them fester. One thing that I have learned through this challenge and now, beyond it, is that as a writer, I just need to write. For me. And only for me. So I’m off to fester and maybe you’ll see some of it and maybe you won’t. 😉

Because she can’t stop

She can feel the symptoms start to build. The craving, the tremors, the withdrawal. She starts to pace the floor at a frantic pace. How can she not? How can she stop? The thrill, the healing, the peace. How can she give that up? How can it end? The comments, the love, the encouragement. Where will it come from now? Where can she go to seek it next?

Her psyche is clawing its way out to tell a story. Her memories of the past, her child, her work, the daily grind, the small moments that make her heart sing.  She’s hungry to take in others moments and her fingers are itching to commiserate, to praise, to savor in the slice of someone else’s moment, to be in awe of the talent that she’s been privilege to for the last 31 days.  How can she thank them? How can she express how she is changed through their words? How they have touched her heart and taken her along on a journey?

She can get a hit every week, but will it suffice? She’s not sure. The symptoms are already overwhelming. She’s seeing a story in every moment. The whispers of a three-year old to a scared kitten, the way the cold wet morning gave way to a bright sunny afternoon, the discarded plastic eggs lying on the table already forgotten.  She’s left wondering what the others are feeling. It’s like the breathtaking scenery outside her window has had the shades drawn closed before her eyes. She can no longer take in the beauty that she has been devouring for the past month. She’s wondering if they are feeling the same tremors, if their fingers are itching as much as hers. What would they find their solace in?

She’s  must power through and wrangle her way past the frantic and find comfort in her words as her fingers fly over the keys and scrawl the words across the pages of her now filled and bursting collection. Knowing that filling it for her own satisfaction is the best buzz of all but unable to quell the craving. Until Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, she goes back.