Welcome! Join me as I share my experiences as a wife, mom, and kindergarten teacher, and my reflections on them all. Come along as I share my crazy journey!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 31 - A Fond Farewell

At the beginning of March I started this writing journey with all of you.  I was hopeful, I was excited, I was ready to take on the challenge.  I shared this poem on day 1.
A slice of me
A slice of you
Mixing together
A tasty chew
Morsels of soul
Left on the page
Positive comments
The author's wage
A story of love
A regretful tale
A writer's heart
Our words prevail
Your very own stage
A place to call home
To play with your words
Let your thoughts roam
So, serve up a slice
Or read, take a bite
Sample sweet stories
Let your ideas ignite!
And now, at the end of March I end this writing journey with all of you.  We are 31 days stronger.  We are 31 days better at writing.  We are 31 days deeper in friendships, community and shared stories.  We are 31 days richer for reading the stories of this community.  I feel blessed to have been a part of this challenge and I look forward to seeing you again on Tuesdays...until March returns again.
A slice of me
A slice of you
Blended together
A filling brew
Pieces of heart
We shared each day
Tapping the well
So many words to say
Stories of friendship
Stories of fears
Words are powerful
 Filled with smiles or tears
Here is the place
Where all is shared
We left our comments
To show we cared
So, continue to share
Your tasty tale
See you on Tuesday
Please don't bale

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 30 - Science Fair Here We Come!

Today was a day full of science.  It's science fair week in my district so three of my children had project boards to complete today.  Sounds easy enough right?  The projects were all done, they just needed to be typed, cut and glued to the boards.  No problem.

My son's project was to see which type of apple rotted first: Red Delicious, Gala or Granny Smith.  In other words, we have had molding apple slices on our counter for the past month.  At least it wasn't warm enough outside to draw fruit flies!  He found out that Granny Smith apples took the longest to mold/rot.  We wondered if peeling the apples first would have changed the results?

My oldest daughter's project was to see which type of dishwashing soap made the most bubbles: Dawn Antibacterial dish soap, Palmolive Antibacterial dish soap, or Meijer brand dishwashing liquid with Extra Cleaning Strength.  Her project was pretty fun...we got to measure bubbles!  She found out that the Meijer brand (store brand) soap made the most bubbles with 12/16 of an inch of bubbles (the other two tied with 11/16 of an inch of bubbles).  The results were close, but I was lucky to get three new bottles of dish soap out of the deal!  :)  We wondered which soap's bubbles would last the longest?

My middle daughter's project was to see which color of Skittle is the most common.  She tested three bags to see which color was the winner.  Each bag actually had a different color winner!  We decided to add them all up and see which color had the highest total amount.  She found out that green is the most common color overall.  We wondered if the results would be the same if she used bigger bags of Skittles?

After almost 4 hours of creating project boards to display the projects and results, we are done!  Now I can start on my own school work...cutting out lamination!  Hurray!  ;)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 29 - Through The Years

I'm celebrating my family today.  These might not be my own words, but they fit.  Today, I own them.  I just wish I could figure out how to play the song in the background on the blog!  But, that's a challenge for another day.  Introducing...my loves!

"Through The Years"

I can't remember when you weren't there
When I didn't care for anyone but you
I swear we've been through everything there is
Can't imagine anything we've missed
Can't imagine anything the two of us can't do
My hubby!  And yes, she's really that sweet!  :)
Through the years
You've never let me down
You turned my life around
The sweetest days I've found
I've found with you
Through the years
I've never been afraid
I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I stayed
Right here with you
Through the years

My little man...my first baby!
I can't remember what I used to do
Who I trusted, whom I listened to before
I swear you've taught me everything I know
Can't imagine needing someone so
But through the years it seems to me
I need you more and more 

My biggest girl and her biggest smile!

Through the years
Through all the good and bad
I knew how much we had
I've always been so glad
To be with you
Through the years
It's better everyday
You've kissed my tears away
As long as it's okay
I'll stay with you
Through the years

Cheese!  My middle sweetie!

Through the years
When everything went wrong
Together we were strong
I know that I belong
Right here with you
Through the years
I never had a doubt
We'd always work things out
I've learned what life's about
By loving you
Through the years

My littlest cutie pie, Miss Independent!

Through the years
You've never let me down
You turned my life around
The sweetest days I've found
I've found with you
Through the years
It's better everyday
You've kissed my tears away
As long as it's okay
I'll stay with you
Through the years

At the zoo in 2012
At the park in 2013

Oh my the grow so fast!  This July will be my 13th anniversary with my husband.  Tomorrow my oldest will turn 11.  My girls are 8, 5, and 2.  Where does the time go?  I love them to pieces and I'm so blessed to spend my years with them all.

"Through the Years" - written by Stephen Hartley Dorff  and Martin Panzer, 1982.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 28 - Highlights

There were so many great things that happened this week that I feel compelled to compile a highlight reel today!  Here are my top five great moments from this week!

If you read my blog yesterday, you already know this one.  My principal asked if his admin team could use my classroom as a test site to get the team calibrated for observations.  The kids did a fabulous job while they were visiting and I received some amazing feedback from each of the team members who came to visit.  They filled my bucket to the brim!

I have been working on some assessment this week in preparation for report cards.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the growth of some of my students!  I had a child who STRUGGLES with everything read 18/22 of our sight words!  This is a H U G E accomplishment for him!  We did a happy dance!

As part of the March is Reading Month celebrations we, as a staff, have been calling families at home to see if we can "catch" kids reading at home.  If so, they are entered into a special prize drawing for a new book.  I have had a lot of fun catching my students doing some great reading!

Today I had the pleasure of watching two of my students as they played together during free play time.  They sang each and every song from the movie Frozen.  They were just too sweet and I enjoyed the show!

Come on now, isn't see just sweet?  Can't wait until she is big enough to come home!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 27 - A Note

On Tuesday morning, my principal met me at the door as I was arriving at school.  He asked if it would be ok if he brought some visitors into my classroom later that morning.  He explained that the middle school principal, the k-5 literacy specialist, the curriculum coordinator, and himself were all working together to calibrate themselves on the evaluations that are used to evaluate teachers.

Part of our evaluation process includes a walk through evaluation, which is a short 15 minute pop in visit.  It happens twice per year and is a new piece they are using this year.  As a way to get themselves on the same page with this process, they wanted to observe the same classrooms and then compare what they saw and how they would "score" it.

They came in during our Daily 5/Literacy activities.  This is one of my favorite parts of the day and my students love it too, so I was very comfortable with them coming in.  First, two of them came in.  They sat and listened to me give directions to get my students started, watched the transition into the independent activities and then watched the students working and looked to see what I was doing during this time as well.  They stayed about 15 minutes and then moved onto the next classroom visit while the two others arrived. 

I noticed that each of the visitors talked and interacted with my students.  They came in and sat right down at tables and joined readers sitting on the floor.  They asked what the kids were working on when necessary, they listened, they complimented, they smiled.  It was fun to watch my students show off a little bit for the visitors.  They knew what they were doing and wanted to show this group of adults what they could do!

Later that afternoon, I talked with my curriculum coordinator.  He thanked me for letting him come in and said that he enjoyed his visit.  He was impressed with how well everyone was working together and how they all really seemed to know the routines well.

The following morning I bumped into my literacy specialist.  She thanked me for letting them visit as well and told me that they were looking for student engagement on their visit.  She told me that my students were all 100% engaged for the whole time they were in the classroom.  She said she was very impressed by how independent the kids were with the high level activities they were working on.  She made me feel really great by telling me that I "really rocked it!"

Later that morning, I received an email from the middle school principal thanking me for letting them visit.  He was very impressed with the level of independence of my students and that they all were engaged in their work.  He noted specific kids and the things he noticed them doing.  His words were very kind.

The same day, I also received a handwritten note in my mailbox from my principal again thanking me for letting them visit.  He spoke about always enjoying his visits to my classroom, noticing how engaged the students were, and also (the words that will feed me for a long time) how lucky FPE is to have me on staff.

All of these notes were so kind.  They all built me up and fed my teacher's soul.  I truly saw the power of feedback and going above and beyond the expected.  None of the people who visited were required to leave me a note or provide any feedback to me, but they all did in one way or another.  They were all very kind and encouraging and made me feel like a rock star.

I'm so thankful for this experience today and the power of words.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 26 - Future Slicer?

"Mom, you know what I've been wanting to write all day?"  Emma asked me.

"No, tell me." I replied (I might have even sounded a little giddy that she was bringing this up!)

"I want to write about getting a new puppy!"

"Then you should write about that!" I encouraged her.

"I'm going to!  I'm going to write about it right now in my notebook!  I just need to figure out where to start.  Should I start with 'hooray' or should I start with 'I'm so excited'?

"Hmm, you have a decision to make."  I purposely skirted around answering her question.  After all, it's not my story to write.

"I know," she said.  "It's really important.  [insert chin tapping thinking pause] I think I will start with 'hooray' because I think that's a good lead," she explained.  (At this point I wanted to pat her teacher on the back.)

"That sounds like a good plan.  Will you read it to me when you are done?" I asked.

"Sure, but it will take me a while because I am going to try hard to remember everything I need to do when I write at school."  she told me. (High five to all of Emma's former teachers!)


It's so exciting to hear my daughter, or any child, talk about wanting to write something so badly they have been thinking about it all day!  I find myself thinking this same way sometimes during the month of March, not every day, but at least a few times per week.  Some days my topic finds me.  The other days I still have to search it out. 

Yesterday I was having that exact conversation with a friend.  Sometimes it's easy to figure out what I'm writing about and sometimes it is still hard.  Not five minutes later, in the van on our way home, my daughter begins this conversation with me.  Not only did she have something to write about, but now I did too!  My topic found me today, no searching required.

I wonder if she will be a Slice of Life Challenge participant some day?

I hope so.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 25 - A Heart-wrenching Tale

I was having a laugh with a friend after school today and explaining that I had enjoyed my day off with my husband.  We went out for lunch and did some shopping without anyone whining, complaining, or begging.  It was glorious!  I also shared a rather personal story with her about something exciting that happened. 

Now, this is the point where I will say, I wasn't NOT going to write this story, much less publish it for the world to read.  However, we had a good laugh over the story and she insisted that I write about it today.  So, I will write about it, but here are my disclaimers:

1.  If you don't want to read a personal story where I share too much information, stop reading now.
2.  If you are a man, stop reading now.  I promise, you will not understand.

Alright, if you decided to hang in there, you deserve to hear my story.  It's really quite sad, heart-wrenching even, but I will tell you upfront that there is a happy ending.

There I was, in the middle of teaching a guided reading group and I moved just right (or maybe just wrong).  I heard it.  That dreaded snapping sound that could only mean one thing.

Yep, my underwire broke.  I moved, it obviously didn't like it, and it quit.  Broke in two. 

It was my very favorite bra and I don't say that lightly.  I'm not that girl that has 59 bras in my dresser drawers.  I have a hard time finding a bra that both fits correctly and is comfortable.  You know what I mean?  Straps that dig into the shoulders?  Underwire that pinches?  It's awful!  It is a VERY RARE day that I find a bra that I like, and when I do I always buy two.

I found this particular bra at a store in an outlet mall that I don't often visit because it's more than an hour away from my home.  It's a once per year type shopping trip that usually involves school clothes shopping, so you can image when I found this bra and liked it, I snapped up two immediately.  They aren't anything fancy, they were plain, basic colors, but they were so comfortable!

Anyway, there I was, elbow deep in the guided reading group and I heard the almighty snap.  I knew what it was.  I didn't have to check.  I didn't need to feel the poke to know what had happened.  The sound was enough to send me spiraling into sadness.  I knew that when I got home at the end of the day I would have to part with her.  It was a sad day indeed, even my husband knew it was my favorite and felt bad for me.

Two days later, bra number one still a painful memory, I arrived at daycare to pick my daughter up at the end of the day.  She came running over with her arms held high and wanting to be picked up.  I bent over to scoop up my little lady and...SNAP! 

It was that sound again.  Are you kidding me?  I could not believe it!  The second bra!  Broken!  Just like that!  It was like the bras had a certain number of wears, I hit that number, they broke, job over!  Two bras purchased on the same day, died within two days of each other.  It was heart-wrenching!

Now what was I supposed to do?  I looked at all the stores in my town, the closest big city, and then another.  I still couldn't find a replacement.  I could find the correct brand but not the correct style.  It was awful.

Then I take a day off with the hubs and one of our stops was Kohl's.  I had gone into the dressing room to try on an outfit I had picked out and my husband took off for the men's department.  As I began to walk over to find him, I meandered through the children's section...I always have to check out those 70% off racks, right?  Next, I came to lingerie and I knew men's was just on the other side so I cut through the racks hoping for a short cut.

Guess what my purse strap caught on?  YES!  I literally got caught on a hanger of the exact bra I had been looking for!  Crazy, I know!  Not only did they have the bra, they had my size AND they had it in pretty colors!   I snatched up two immediately!  And then, like a gift from the heavens, my eyes landed on the sign above the rack.  It really wouldn't have mattered if they were $50 apiece, I would still have purchased two.  However, they were one sale!  Buy one, get one half off! 

It was amazing!  I heard angels singing and everything!  It was a shopping trip that was meant to be.

And that, my friends, is the bra story that had my friend laughing today.

I hope it gave you a laugh too!  :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 24 - Restoration Day

I got to be parent today
watching 6 more days 'til 11 years old
draggy feet walking into school
eight year old happy feet
and five year old skippy feet
eagerly dash through the doors

I got to be a parent today
I took the kids to school
and didn't walk with them down the hall
to my own classroom
instead I walked back out the doors
with lighthearted feet
and deep breaths of fresh air

I got to be a wife today
I spent the day together
with my other half
lunching without whining
shopping without tired feet
joking and talking without sensor

I got to live my other life today
the one without teaching
I enjoyed it
I would do it again tomorrow
in a heartbeat
but I didn't get to be a teacher today
I missed it some

until tomorrow


I get to be a parent
and a wife
and a teacher
and maybe a little bit of myself too

if there's time

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 23 - Blog Name Poetry

As the Giveaway Guru, I get the opportunity to see the names of all the blogs in this community every day.  I have been enjoying the creativity of each name.  There really are some great ones.  There are many that I wonder about.  Where did that name come from?  What does that name mean?  I have been thinking about how I could use those names to write something.  It's been nagging at me since the beginning of the month.  Today, after 23 days, it finally came together.  Check it out...maybe you will see your own blog name in there somewhere!

it's what we teach everystudenteveryday.
We say writereadlearn because
we want our students to lead
We ask them to
because learningisgrowing.
We want to get them into the
We want to teach them that
even when we are awesomelybusy
is important.
We want to wakeupandwrite
because they love it

To demonstrate
we livewriteteach.
We read even though there are
We write about fireflytrails
and chartingbythestars
and we teachtoinspire.
We teach about
We work hard at squeezingitallin.
We work hard to raisealithuman
or two or a thousand.

Some days we livelifeindaydreams
of sandandstone.
Some days our mantra is
And even though we know that
we have alittlefaithandalotofheart
and journey on.
We share our coffeefueledmusings
and dance our teacherdance
because wearethecape.
We are teachingyoungwriters,
and smilingalltheway.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 22 - I Miss Her

I have this friend,
she lives across the hall.
I see her everyday,
we talk once in a while.
She's a good friend,
she knows me well.
I know some secrets,
and she knows mine.
There isn't enough time,
to talk enough.
I have this friend,
she lives across the hall.
I miss her.

I have this friend,
she lives across 3 states.
I rarely see her,
we talk once in a while.
She's a good friend,
she knows me well.
Marriage, moves, & 8 kids,
come between us now.
There isn't enough time,
to talk enough.
I have this friend,
she lives across three states.
I miss her.

I have this friend,
she lives down the street.
I don't see her enough,
we talk once in a while.
She's known me forever,
she knows me well.
She's changed,
and so have I.
There isn't enough time,
to talk enough.
I have this friend,
she lives down the street.
I miss her.

I've had this poem rattling around in me for several days.  I knew it needed to be written for all sorts of reasons, many of which I will never give voice to, but I was a little afraid of parts.  It's one thing to be honest, it's another to wear your heart on your sleeve.  I wasn't sure what would come out when I put my fingers on the keyboard but I knew whatever it was needed to be said.  It was persistent.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 21 - Spring and a Funny

My students have been talking about spring.  They have been asking if it's spring yet all throughout March.  Now that it's officially on the calendar, they are asking why we still have snow?  It's tricky to explain to my kindergarten kiddos that Mother Nature missed the spring memo but I'm trying.  All day long, amid the "Do we have to wear our coats?" and the "When can we wear shorts?" comments and questions, I kept thinking about how much we all WANT it to be spring. 

Spring is in my heart
but not in the air
Spring is on the calendar
but not out my window
Spring is in our cabin fever
but not in the weather
Spring is in my heart
but not in the air

And on a totally different, but funny note:

I was helping a student write numbers today.  He has been struggling with the teen numbers.  After writing the third one together, we had the following conversation.

Me: Which number comes next?
C: Fifteen.
Me: That's right!  How will you write that?
C: Down.

Oh my.  I couldn't help but laugh.  They are just so literal, aren't they?  Thanks for the laugh today C!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 20 - Ten Things Right Now

Ten Things Right Now

1.  I'm a rock star because I (finally) bought the movie Frozen for my girls.
2.  The three girls are huddled up in the living room watching Frozen together...with popcorn and their Elsa and Anna dolls.
3.  The boys, my husband and son, are downstairs watching one of the basketball games and keeping an eye on our brackets.
4.  I just finished the tedious weekly task of writing the classroom newsletter.  It's not a job I enjoy but it's done for another week.  :)
5.  I have more work to do before I can kick back and enjoy my favorite night of TV...Gray's Anatomy and Parenthood!  Anybody watch?
6.  Tomorrow is my husband's 8th 29th Birthday!  (Did you follow that? lol) So, I have some gift wrapping and dessert making to do tonight before #5 can begin.
7.  Does anyone else hear the clock tick-tocking away the minutes before 9:00 p.m. or is it just me?
8.  I'm making a promise to myself to write a more substantial post tomorrow. 
9.  My pajamas are calling My NAME!!
10.  I'm hoping that I will be forgiven for not commenting a lot on SOL posts this year.  I love the March challenge and I have enjoyed reading and commenting when I can, however the gift guru job is fairly large and it doesn't leave a lot of time for comments.  I apologize but hope everyone understands.  :)  Write on!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 19 - My Wish

I always feel like parent teacher conferences are a double-edged sword.  On one hand, I really look forward to sitting down with parents and sharing the progress their child has made.  I love telling them stories about great moments in the classroom, showing them samples of their child's work, etc.  On the other hand, while to be able to share the good stuff, but there are also times when I have to share the not-so-good stuff.  I don't enjoy those moments.  I don't enjoy  telling a parent that their child may need to repeat kindergarten.  I don't enjoy telling parents that their child is really struggling with his/her attention span. 

I had a conversation with a parent this evening that just made me sad.  I have noticed that as the year has progressed, his attention span and ability to focus has dramatically decreased.  For example, I sat with this child one-on-one for 20 minutes to complete a task.  I had to redirect his attention back to his work 16 times in those 20 minutes.  Yes, I counted.  I made a tally mark every time I said, "D, back to work."  16 times in 20 minutes.  That is almost one reminder per minute.  Can you even begin to imagine how frustrating that must be to a child?  I was frustrated giving the reminders.  Imagine if you lost your train of thought that many times while trying to complete a task.  The work was easy for him, he had no trouble with the skill; it was completely about being able to focus!

I ask his parent if there was something that had changed in his life that could be contributing to this problem he was having.  His parent couldn't think of anything at all.  So, I decided then and there that I needed to be this child's advocate...even with his parents!  I bluntly asked about his medication.  This child started kindergarten taking medication for ADHD. 

"I remember at the beginning of the school year D was taking medication to help him focus.  Is he still taking that medication?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah he was but he isn't anymore and hasn't for a while," dad replied.

"I'm sure that is the change that we have seen.  D was able to concentrate at the beginning of the year and focus long enough to finish a task.  He has not been able to do that for some time now and it seems to be getting worse," I explained.

At this point, just as I was really feeling frustrated and irritated that a parent would be so lax about something so important for his child, he dropped the bomb.

"My wife has to fill out some new paperwork with the insurance company for them to pay for the medication.  We don't have a computer or internet so she has to go to the library to do the paperwork online because that is the only way they accept it.  She works so many hours now because I'm off work for disability that she has a hard time getting to the library to get it done.  We tried to pay for it ourselves but it's over $200 per bottle and we just can't find a way to pay that much.  I'll get on her to get it done this week though.  She's just going to have to figure it out if it's so important for him.  I just thought maybe it wasn't so important for him to have it anymore.  I didn't know it made it so hard for him."

Sigh.  Ok, there is part of me that has to disagree.  We have talked about this before, I have told him how much he has been struggling with a lack of focus a few times in the last couple of months.  However, I see why they are struggling to get it taken care of now.  And to top off the insurance issues and the cost issues, Dad is afraid of the medication making D act like a zombie.

I tried to ease his mind somewhat by telling him that other students I have had have worked with their doctors to make adjustments to the dosage to get just the right amount to allow the child to maintain focus and attention without turning into a zombie.  That isn't what any of us want for D.

No one taught me what to do in this situation.  No college class covered this one.  No professional development session covered this one.  I wish there was something more I could do to help, I just don't know what it could be.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 18 - Light

I don't know if it's knowing that spring is just around the corner (at least I hope) or if it's because of the time change, but I have been noticing the spectacular skies in the morning on my drive to work.  I have taken a few pictures but didn't really know what I would do with them.  I just liked them.

Today, as I snapped another picture, I started thinking about my OLW for 2014.  Back in January, I chose my word, wrote about it, even wrote a poem about it, but I haven't returned to it much since then.  My word this year is "light" and the beautiful sky this morning with the bright orange sun just barely peeking out above the tree line made me think of it again.

I can make several different connections here and since I can't pick one...you get a snapshot of all of them!  First, there is the fact that winter is ending and spring is coming...the sky I have been noticing is like the "light" at the end of the tunnel...finally!  Next, there is the "light" that is beginning to pop up above some of my struggling student's heads lately.  It's that time of year when things are really starting to click for some of them!  Third, there is the shift in the time change that makes it possible for me to see the sunrise.  For so long I woke in the dark, drove to work in the dark and even drove home in the dark many times.  Now, I get to see the "light" of morning again!  Finally, there is the "light" of a new day dawning that is just amazing.  It always makes me feel good when I think about a new day starting and all the new opportunities that come along with it.

Here are a couple of the pictures I have taken lately.  I hope you are able to find some light today too.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 17 - The Necklace

Yesterday I was reading a slice from Kris at her blog and her story got me, as it usually does.  I'm either smiling and nodding along as I read her writing or I'm teary-eyed with a lump in my throat.  It's good stuff...if you haven't seen her blog yet, check it out!

She wrote about a necklace that she wears and it made me think of a necklace that I wore once. 

My parents used to spend part of each winter in Florida.  Near the house where they lived there was a gigantic flea market.  There was literally one of everything in this place.  If you wanted to find it, it was there.  Each year, before returning home at the end of the winter, my parents would make a trip to pick out something for each of the kids and grandkids.  We often received some type of Florida t-shirt, but one year it was different.  One year, my dad decided to pick out jewelry for each of the daughters.  Mine was a necklace made from an Indian Head nickel.

To be honest, I didn't love it.  I didn't hate it but it wasn't really my usual style.  I wore it a few times but mostly it sat in my jewelry box.  I appreciated that my dad picked it out and he was very proud of that since gift picking was usually my mom's domain.

My dad was ill for quite a while before he passed away.  Near the end, I came across that necklace and put it on.  I looked at it differently this time.  This time it was perfect.  I wore that necklace every day until he passed away and he noticed too.  I remember holding his hand one day and he saw it and pointed and smiled.  I knew right then that I wouldn't be taking it off any time soon. 

He passed away soon after that day and I continued to wear that necklace every day.  It was like having a little piece of my dad with me every day.  When I was missing him I would touch it and think of him smiling at me.  It gave me comfort and it gave me strength, both of which I needed.  I continued to wear it every day for the next year.  I wore it until the necklace broke, which happened to be about one week after the one year anniversary of his passing.  I decided that was my dad's way of telling me it was ok to let it go now.  I still wear it on occasion (on a new chain), especially when I am missing him a little more than usual.  But now, I know he's with me even when I don't have the necklace on.  He's always with me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Day 16 - Puppy Preparations Begin

As it turns out, preparing a house for a new puppy is a lot like preparing for a new baby.  We have cleaned, rearranged and made room.  We have to purchase a bed and a cage (ok, that part is different).  We will have to purchase special food for this little lady, too. 

Today was a day of cleaning.  We cleaned the kid's bedrooms from top to bottom...and let me tell you, that is no small job!  We cleaned the living room, we cleaned the basement living area. 

Next up: a shopping trip to purchase all the "stuff" we will need.  But that's for another day.


The kids are tired.  The parents are tired.  But, we had the chance to visit the puppies again today and that made every bit of work worth it. 

 Sharing a few snuggles

And...an update!  We think we have settled on a name for this sweet little baby girl.  I threw out the name this morning and it was well received by all.  We think her name will be....


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 15 - She Might Be a Hoarder

"Why do you want to keep the paper booklet that you made two years ago?" I said to my third grade daughter.

"I don't know.  I like it," she replied.

"We can throw away the bag of Valentine's now, right?" I asked.

"But I like them!" she squealed.

"You can't keep every scrap of paper you've ever made or been given sweetie," I tried to explain.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why do you need to keep the old birthday cards from last year?" I wondered.

"They are really pretty!" she answered.

I think my daughter is a hoarder.  She can't let go of anything!  On the other hand, I think she might just be a teacher one day.  She collects things that she might need or want to use someday. 

We are trying to do some cleaning, sorting, rearranging in preparation for the new puppy who will officially arrive in about three weeks.  We started in the kid's bedrooms.

I am of two minds when it comes to cleaning out toys...I can clean them up (the help from the kiddos) and then fight to keep them picked up off the floor so still nameless puppy won't chew on them OR I can let puppy chew on them in an attempt to thin out the Toys R Us explosion of toys that we have at our house. 

Some things I have been wondering:

Would the kids actually notice if I cleaned things out of their rooms and found them a new home?
If they did notice, would they actually care?
Is it wrong to want to take a trash bag into the bedrooms and just pitch some stuff?

I know someday I will miss the toys.  I will miss stepping on Legos and Barbie brushes.  I will miss trying to find a place for all the toys in our not big enough house.  Today...not so much.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 14 - Hair

Have you ever given much thought to your hair color?  Many of you probably have.  I used to, more than I do now.  I've heard my hair color described in several different ways: dark blond, light brown, dishwater blond (just what everyone wants to hear), etc.  The color used to bother me...maybe because of the dishwater comment.

When I was little, my hair was very light blond, almost white.  As I got older it continued to darken.  When I was in middle school and high school I used to lighten my hair during the summertime.  In college, I even tried dying it a strawberry blond.  More recently, I have thought about getting highlights.  However, it always seems like a lot of work to maintain and I just don't have time to put a lot of work into my hair.  Maybe, more likely, I don't make a lot of time to put into my hair.

Yesterday, my daughter was snuggled up on my lap as we read together and I was noticing that her hair is getting darker all the time.  She started out with very light blond hair and it's getting darker over time, just as mine did.  I began to notice that the underside of her hair was almost exactly the same color as mine.  I took a small section of her hair and wrapped it around my finger, and then took a small section of my own hair and wrapped it around the same finger.  I couldn't tell where her hair ended and mine began.

It started me thinking.  I have always thought that it was cool that my hair, if you look at it closely, is made up of a mix of several different colors.  If you look at it strand by strand, you will find my mom's very dark brown hair.  It even feels more course than the rest.  Of course, it's just a few strands here and there so it doesn't really stand out in my head of mostly fine hair.  Next, you will also find red hair.  There are more of these strands in there.  They are very fine and very red.  The red strands come from my dad.  His hair was very fine and very red.  Finally, there are different shades that fall somewhere in between.  There are very light blond, medium blond, and dark blond/light brown.  I have decided that the blond ones are mine alone.  These are the ones that didn't come from my mom or my dad, they are just me.

I think it's pretty amazing to look into my daughter's hair now and see similar colors.  There are the dark brown course strands from my mom, fine red strands from my dad, dark blond strands from me, and brown strands from my husband. 

As I sat running my daughter's hair through my fingers I began to wonder what she might see someday as she looks at her own child's hair.  Will she see my parent's color in there still?  Will it be frizzy like her other grandparent's hair?  Will she pick out her parent's colors in there like I do? 

Time will tell. 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day 13 - A Little Minion Magic

My son is 10...for another 17 days.  I can't believe he is that old!  This week we completed our last Cub Cake for Cub Scouts.  Another milestone finished. 
Each year, our local Cub Scouts organization puts on a family activity evening.  There is a theme each year and each Scout is asked to bring a cake decorated according to the theme to be auctioned off in a silent auction to raise money for the group.  We have made several fun cakes over the years, but this one was probably the most enjoyable.  Maybe because it was our last one, maybe because we just had fun together in the kitchen.
The theme this year, was movies.  The cakes could be decorated any way we wanted, as long as they fit the movie theme in some way and as long as everything on the cake was edible.  Since I do most of the work for the cake, I told my son and husband to choose the movie but make it simple.  (I basically begged my husband to guide our son toward something simple as I knew I would be making this cake after a long evening of conferences!)
My son decided he wanted to make a minion from Despicable Me.  I googled minions to get some ideas and pictures to look at.  My son helped to measure and mix the cake ingredients.  He licked the beaters and loaded the dirty dishes into the dishwasher.  He helped me measure and mix up the frosting.  We had a lot of fun together in the kitchen...something we don't do together very often, though I'm not sure why.
We decided on the cake idea together and began working.  He helped me mix the food coloring into the frosting to create the colors we needed.  We began working together to frost the cake.  I grew up watching my mom make and decorate cakes for birthdays, weddings, all kinds of celebrations.  I taught my son several of the things that I learned from watching my mom over the years.  He asked questions about why I did things certain ways and I often told him that I had no idea why but that was the way my mom did it so that was the way I did it too!  And now, it will be the way he does it too!
Matthew had a great idea for making the buttons on the cake...Hershey kisses, upside down and poked down into the cake.  He also had the brilliant idea of using the inside cream from Oreos to make the minion's teeth.  We think it turned out pretty great!  It sold at the Cub Cakes auction for $18.  Not too shabby for a $5 project, but the memories we made together are worth so much more.
What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 12 - I Said No

I said no over and over.  I was begged.  I had to endure so many pleas.  I still said no. 

I could not think of any possible way to make this happen.  My kids wanted it so badly.  My husband wanted to also, maybe even more than the kids.  My husband reassured me that we could handle it.

I said no.

We don't have any more room in our house, I said.

We don't have any more time to give, I said.

We are already spread so thin all the time with the four kids we have, I said.

I can't possibly handle another mouth to feed, I said.

More pleading.  More begging.

And then...this happened.

We went to visit the puppies.  We held the puppies.  We kissed and hugged the puppies.

I still said no.

But then, the more I thought about it...the more I could imagine it.  The more I thought about it, the sweeter the idea became.  The more I thought about how much the kids all fell in love with the puppies, the more I began to think maybe it would work.  The more I thought about how much I loved snuggling those little puppies, the more I knew I couldn't say no anymore.

And so, this little lady is going to join our family in a few weeks!  She's the baby of the litter, the only blondie, and the last one to open her eyes.  She is the one that my baby fell in love with.  She's the one that I fell in love with too. 

Now we are on the prowl for just the right name for this little cutie.  We have a running list but nothing chosen yet...and we are still accepting ideas!  (hint, hint!)

On the list right now: Lucy, Daisy, Sally, Lily, Pearl.

We have about 3-4 weeks to get ourselves ready.  We have about a million toys to find new homes for where little puppy teeth won't be able to get them.  We have three bedrooms to clean and purge, as well as a living room. 

We have a cage and a bed to buy, and water/food bowls, and and and...so many preparations to make.

But at least it's a puppy and not a baby!  :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 11 - Looking for the Silver Lining

"Mrs. Sheldon, I know where I go today (after school)!  I go to extended day!"

What I felt like saying: Yes, A.  You go to extended day after school every day!
What I said: "Great job remembering A!  You do go to extended day today!"
Why: This child is as sweet and charming as can be but she doesn't remember things very easily.  This child didn't know which bus to ride (which never changes) until November.  This child didn't know her group number in the classroom (which never changes) until December.  She has been going to the extended day program for two weeks and already she remembers that she needs to go!  This is something to celebrate!  It may be a bit annoying that she has to tell me every day, but it's pretty great that she remembers.

"I was pretending to be a dog and I had to go to the bathroom."  (The response I got when I asked why she was lifting her leg and making the /ssssssss/ sound - why did I bother asking??)

What I felt like saying: Are you kidding me?  What are you thinking?
What I said: "L, that isn't appropriate at school.  You may pretend to be a puppy but you may not pretend you need to use the bathroom."
Why: I could have yelled or given a consequence but I didn't.  This child often has trouble playing with others without saying really mean things to them.  She also has trouble keeping her hands to herself most of the time.  So, I didn't like this particular choice, but she was playing well with the other kids.  This is something to celebrate!  I might not have been perfect, but it was pretty great to see her playing.

"I stayed up too late last night.  I'm really tired today Mrs. Sheldon."

What I wanted to say: Of course you are.  I mean, just yesterday afternoon I spoke to your mother about how tired you always are and she swore that you were always in bed by 8 every night like clockwork (her words, not mine).  Why wouldn't you stay up late after having that conversation?
What I said: "I'm sorry you are tired today.  What happened that kept you up so late?"  (He says he was reading a lot of books...I'm not so sure.)
Why: Even though I was completely irritated that she would do this to her child after just hearing about how tired he always is at school, I know it isn't this little guy's fault.  He can't help it if his parents don't make the best decisions.  Unfortunately, it impacts his learning and school performance and there were plenty of examples of that throughout the day.  However, there were also moments when he was trying hard and giving his best effort.  This is something to celebrate!  He can't help that he is tired, but he still had good moments during the day and it couldn't have been easy for him.

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about today.  I kept thinking about all these little things that seemed insignificant.  As I thought through them, I couldn't help but notice that instead of focusing on the negative (and there was plenty of opportunity) I instead focused on the positive and looked for the celebration.  I don't always do a good job of that, but today I did.  This is something to celebrate!  My students don't need another negative example in their lives, they need positive examples and today I was that.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 10 - Conference Night!

I'm standing in my classroom pondering the parent teacher conferences that are scheduled for tonight.  I'm thinking through my list.  What do I need to remember to tell this parent?  Did I make the flashcards to send home with that parent?  Will everyone show up?  How do I tell this parent that I think their child needs to repeat kindergarten?  How do I tell that parent that their child is really struggling but I don't think repeating kindergarten is the best answer?  How can I explain that I don't always know the best answer?  Sometimes it's just a matter of needing time, or practice, or more effort.

I enjoy the opportunity to share growth with parents.  I dread having to share the hard stuff...not that it should be a surprise since this isn't the first time we've talked, but still. I have all kinds of mixed feelings when I think about conferences.

As I pondered, I realized I was beginning to put together a poem in my head.

It's conference night
oh joy, oh joy
It's conference night
for girl, for boy

gather 'round
my table here
I'll show you growth
of your child dear

Concerns I'll share
and strengths too
I'll help out here
but we need you too

Sit with your child
to write, count and read
I can't do it alone
please hear my plead

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 9 - Just Read the Label People

Are you allergic to anything?  In my family, we have some pretty significant food allergies and have for the last three years.  My daughter is allergic to all nuts and bananas and my husband is allergic to all nuts and all fish.  Again, this is not a new thing.
When we have family dinners, it's important to be able to check the labels of the foods we did not cook ourselves so that we know what is safe and what is not.  It's not a difficult thing to do...you just read the label on the package.  You have to look for any of the allergens in the list of ingredients or in the warning/caution labels that tell if the food was manufactured in a safe place or not.  The packages almost all clearly state this information.
So...we found ourselves at a family birthday dinner today.  My daughter wanted a hotdog with a bun.  Simple!  I reached for the bag of buns and noticed it was an unfamiliar brand.  I turned the package over and it clearly stated that it was made in a facility that also processed nuts.  She would not be able to eat the bun.  Then I realized that the hamburger buns were the same brand and carried the same label.  My husband would also not be able to eat the buns.  The cake was a store bought cake made in a bakery which also (of course) processes nuts.  They would not be able to eat the cake either.
I realize that this probably seems like a small thing to people that don't have to deal with severe food allergies.  I do.  However, to my family reading the label is a matter of life or possibly death.  It really isn't hard to check the label.  It really isn't hard to find brands that are safe. 
It seems like people, especially family members, would be careful to make sure they are serving food that everyone can eat.  It's only one meal every once in a while but it creates huge amounts of frustration and often feelings of being left out.  Just a little extra care would really go a long way.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 8 - Frozen

I (finally) took my girls to watch Frozen today.  I know.  We are pretty late to the Frozen party, but better late than never, right?  I had seen the previews, my kids were interested in seeing it, but it just never really worked out.

Today I decided it was time. 

I just love taking them to movies and today was no different.  They are five and eight, so movies are still a big deal.  They were delighted to purchase the tickets, they could hardly contain themselves in the popcorn line and they skipped down the hall with their blond heads bouncing to theater #14.

It was a small theater room...I guess that's what you get when you wait so long.  There were maybe 20 others who were sharing the screen with us.  For a children's movie, it stayed pretty quiet too!  The popcorn was fairly disappointing.  It smelled better than it tasted and I'm pretty sure it was scraped from the bottom of the barrel.  The movie, however, was spectacular!

My girls were clearly enchanted.  From the moment the first scenes appeared on the screen, they were hooked.  They giggled, they smiled, they tapped their feet to the music, they frowned in all the right places and they fully enjoyed every minute. 

I fully enjoyed watching their faces.  The movie was amazing and the message it sent was fantastic.  Love conquers all, love makes things better, true love can thaw a frozen heart.  Yes, it was probably the best Disney movie I've seen in a very long time.  I'm sorry it took us so long to go see this movie, but there is a bright side.  It comes out on DVD in only 10 days! 

The girls were so in love with this movie that we had to stop at Target (oh, darn!) to see if they had any Frozen toys. 

"We will even buy them with our own money Mom!" they begged.

They can be pretty persuasive, and I do love Target.  Needless to say, we left target today with a lighter wallet, two Anna dolls, and happy hearts.

It doesn't get much better than that!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 7 - You Are Never Far Away

Today is my dad's birthday.  He would be 71 if he were still here with us.  It's hard to believe he's been gone for 8 years but today, like every day, I know he isn't far away.  Happy birthday Dad!

I know you are here each day
even though I can't hear your voice
you are never far away

I see your hands
when I look at mine
It's you who made
my eyes blue

I see you in my children's smiles
your laugh echoes in their giggles
no red hair to carry on
but determination is abundant

I can do anything
you often said
and this I know is true
more now than before

I wish my kids could learn from you
they've surely missed out
but they see your pictures
and hear of you in stories

We know you are here each day
even though we can't hear your voice
you are never far away

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 6 - Snow Days

In December...

slowly shifting
drifting down
snowflakes fall
all over town

kids hurray
teachers yahoo
parents grumble
what will we do?

blankets of white
a sparkly show
welcome breaks
bring on the snow

and then...
a shift

In March...

please stop the snow
we all want school
there's days to make up
we're mother nature's fool

we fall to our knees
please no more
school 'til late June?
my knees on the floor

praying for spring
hoping for sun
when will it end?
we need summer fun!

and then...
a shift
a bud
a light

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 5 - From Frustration to Productive Buzz

I have a friend and co-worker who is new to the blogging and slicing world.  She has decided to link up today and share her first slice with our community!  I hope you can find a few minutes to check out her blog and slice today!  Thanks!

And now...the rest of the story.

If you read yesterday's slice, you might remember that I was pretty frustrated during my writing lesson.  I thought we were doing really well, thought the kids were on track and ready to go, and really, the weren't even in the ballpark.  There was reteaching and discussion to try again.  There were deep breaths to take.  We started over.  We made it through and were ready to tackle writing to a prompt today.

The bad news:

I have all of 4 students (out of 18) who consistently use spaces and punctuation when writing.  It's March!  I'm beginning to feel the end of year crunch on my shoulders and as I walked around and looked over shoulders today, I was a little disheartened to see so many who has so far to go with conventions.

The good news:

We began to write our bowling stories today and most of the kids remembered their plan from yesterday.  The ones who forgot quickly remembered when given the chance to talk with a partner.  As they shared their plans with their partner, I heard many children ask what details their partner planned to include in their story.  They seemed excited to go off and start the drawing and writing.  Most kids worked quietly while a few who have lower stamina levels needed a few reminders to stay on track.  Many kids could be heard stretching out words and listening for sounds.  Many kids had their mini word walls out and their letter charts at the ready.  It was productive and there was a content buzz that filled the room.  It was a good writer's workshop day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 4 - A Moment

I had a moment today.  It was a moment (or two or four) of utter frustration. 

It was late morning and due to schedule changes we were going to have a short writer's workshop time today.  It wasn't really long enough to write much so I took this opportunity to introduce a new idea: writing to a prompt.

My kindergarten students were gathered at my feet.  We have just had a (brilliant) conversation about how boring "bed to bed" stories are, how we know that adding details makes our writing more interesting and how good we are getting at remembering to add details to our writing.

I told them: We are going to start a new story about our bowling trip!  A couple weeks ago we went on a field trip to the bowling alley and the kids had a ball!  I know they are going to write great stories about their experiences because they were so excited about the trip.  I told them today we were going to look at two stories.  One story I wrote only included one detail and was pretty boring, low-level type kindergarten writing.  The second story had four details and a strong ending.  We talked about why the second story was so much better.  They told me about the details: I talked about what it sounded like at the bowling alley, I talked about getting a strike, and I talked about how I felt surprised and excited when I got the strike. 

I just knew they were getting it!  They were all engaged, all participating, all seemed to be understanding my point today.

I gave them a minute to think about what they would write, to think about what details they thought they would included in their story, etc.  Then I went around the group and asked them to tell us what they were planning.

And that is when it happened.

First, I asked a struggling student what he was thinking about because I knew if he didn't go first, he would tell me everyone else's ideas and not his own.  He had a hard time but we were able to settle on him telling about getting a strike.  Good!  One detail is about all he is ready for right now.  I was satisfied.

Moving on, I asked a very capable student, and good writer, to tell us what she was planning for her story.  She said she was going to write about going bowling.  Of course, I nudged her for more.  She had nothing else.  She couldn't think of anything else to include in her story.  I told her to keep thinking and I would come back to her. 

Next, I chose another student who is also very capable and enjoys writing (and talking) because I knew he would have good ideas to contribute.  Nope!  He started talking about a completely different bowling trip.  I reminded him to think of the class trip; we were all going to write about our trip together this time.  (Remember, we are practicing writing to a prompt.)  He said he needed more time to think.

I asked the class as a whole if someone was willing to share their plan with the group.  Nothing.  Not a single child could tell me what they planned to write about.

FRUSTRATION!!!!!!  FRUSTRATION!!!!!!  FRUSTRATION!!!!!!  What just happened?  They were all engaged, understanding, participating not two minutes ago!

Deep breath. 

We ended up brainstorming some ideas together.  Again.  They shouted out all kinds of great things at me that they could include in their stories.  Then we started again.  I gave them time to think.  Then I had them tell me again what their plans were.  I wanted them to share as a whole group so that they could hear all the different ideas people had about the same topic.  This time it went much better.  They shared many of their plans and I could see that they were finally on their way.

By this time, we were almost out of time for the day.  I decided we better take advantage of the last few minutes to practice our stories one more time...I didn't want them to forget after all that hard work!  We moved into partners, sitting knee to knee, nose to nose.  We took turns telling the beginning, middle and end of our story and we listened carefully to make sure that our partners were including details in their plans.

This time, the sharing was a success!  We are ready to roll tomorrow and I know we will get some great writing...as long as they don't forget their plan before tomorrow!

I know there will be kids who forget by tomorrow, but I also know there will be many that remember and they will be able to nudge their friends just enough by sharing their own plans again.  Tomorrow will be a new writing day, and I hope, a less frustrating time!  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 3 - The Good Stuff

A few snippets from my day:


My husband's alarm goes off at 5:30 am.  This morning the bed was hardly cold when my eight-year-old whispered to me.

"Mom, can I lay down with you?"

A snuggle is a nice way to start a day.


My two-year-old wakes up a little groggy in the morning.  As my husband held her this morning, she was busy brushing her hair back out of her eyes.

"Hi Mommy," she said.

A few minutes and a fresh diaper later, she was asking to be picked up.  She wrapped her little arms around my neck, pressed her sweet little face into me and patted my back.

"I love you Mommy," she said into my neck.

A few sweet words said into your neck is a nice way to start a day.


My ten-year-old is a fairly normal fifth grade boy.  Each morning he calls goodbye to me as he walks off to wait for the bus.  Once in a while I get a lean-into-the-side-of-me hug on his way out, but only if he thinks no one else will see him.

Today, I was surprised to get an actual, full-on hug from my little man before he left for school.

"'Bye Mom," he said as he hugged me.

A real hug from a fifth grade son is a nice way to start a day.


My daughter is in my kindergarten class.  It's been nice to be able to watch her grow and change this year.  She has blossomed into a reader, a writer, and a thinker right in front of my eyes!  It's been a blessing to have her in my classroom.  The few days that I have had to be out of school this year have been a little harder on her than the other kids.  She not only misses the teacher but she misses mom too.  On those days she has been a little extra clingy as I tried to make my way to the door after dropping her off.  On those days she has been a little teary eyed as I made my exit.  She's fine after I leave, of course, but it's not easy on a mom.

Today I had to be gone.  I told her ahead of time that I wouldn't be at school today and tried to give her a little extra time to get used to it.  I guess I didn't need to worry today.  Today she was fine.

I said goodbye to her at her locker and she looked up at me with a big smile.

"Goodbye Mom!"  Then, she went back to reading her book.  Simple as that.

A smile and a happy, growing more independent everyday girl is a nice way to start a day.


Be sure to check out the Two Writing Teachers blog for more slice of life stories today and every day during the month of March.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 2 - I'm From

In the last few weeks I have seen several people write or talk about poems about where they are from.  I always enjoy reading them but I haven't ever had quite enough inspiration to write one myself.  Yesterday, I was thinking about what I might slice about next.  The ideas just started flowing!

I’m from campfires and late night talks
Snowmobile rides through winter frosted forest
Summer swims in the lake with friends
Hot sunshine on our backs burning hot

I’m from riding bikes all day
Dune buggy rides through a sun dappled forest
Playing hide and seek with friends
Until it was too pitch black to see
I’m from climbing trees to the top
Walking muddy spring trails through a newly greening forest
Acting out movie lines with friends
And planning our own blockbuster remake

I’m from four siblings and two parents
I’m from a husband and four kids
I’m from the moments in time
That capture it all

Remember to visit the amazing ladies at Two Writing Teachers as they host the March Slice of Life Challenge.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 1 - a slice poem

It's March! It's March!  It's time for the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers blog.  Join in by sharing a slice or just sit back and read a few.
This is my third year participating in the March SOLC and usually, a couple weeks before March begins, I work on a list of ideas for the days that the ideas don't come easily.  I just have felt a little better knowing I was starting the challenge with a few ideas in my back pocket.  However, this year when I sat down to generate my list, instead I wrote the first two stanzas of a poem.  The next time I tried, I ended up working on the poem again instead.  I took it as a sign that maybe I didn't need a list to fall back on this year.  It's my new challenge to myself.  No list.  I'm starting fresh each day with my writer's eyes wide open to all the things around me, seeds of a story just waiting for me to notice.

A slice of me
A slice of you
Mixing together
A tasty chew
Morsels of soul
Left on the page
Positive comments
The author's wage
A story of love
A regretful tale
A writer's heart
Our words prevail
Your very own stage
A place to call home
To play with your words
Let your thoughts roam
So, serve up a slice
Or read, take a bite
Sample sweet stories
Let your ideas ignite!
Now...sit back, enjoy your coffee, read some more slices...it's going to be a great month!