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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I know school looks different for most teachers this year. For me, I spend my whole day in one building. For the last 12 years, I’ve been an itinerate teacher, traveling to 3 schools each day. Now I travel through a screen to different students. I’m providing virtual gifted services for students who’ve chosen the virtual option. I’m learning very quickly what kinds of writing activities work well and which ones do not in this virtual setting.

Last week I presented a question for quick writing. Yesterday I used a different approach. I presented a poem and asked students to take a line and write from that line. It seemed to go well; however, the kids were not throwing their hands up (or turning their mikes on) to read what they wrote. This is the part I can’t quite figure out. Do they just need more time or is this how it’s going to be?

I still believe in writing alongside my students, so I wrote a poem with them. The poem we were reading together came from Teach this Poem from Poets.org, Cento Between the Ending and the End. The lines I took frame the poem. Before sharing my poem, I explained that when we write together in quick writes, we often write about whatever is on our mind at that moment. My youngest daughter is getting married in our backyard in 3 weeks. As plans begin to finalize, I am getting excited about the family (immediate family only) that with gather with us.

Unopened Gift

Everyone we love
is gathered
around the bride and groom.
Side by side,
their eyes glow.

We understand
this kind of love,
tender and new,
like a gift
waiting to be discovered.

We hold their hearts
in our hands,
bless them
with all that we have.
Send them to the blue sky
brimming
with golden light.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Secret Garden from Pexels

With my 6th grader, Daniel, we wrote back and forth (in a shared document), adding lines to create a Cento* poem. When the first stanza turned out to rhyme, it was a challenge to keep it going. We were both pleased with the results.

I soar to the sun
Look down at the sea
Bloom how you must, wild
Until we are free.

I wish I could share
All that’s in my heart.
It’s like the world
That keeps us apart.

Everyone we love
Gathered at the lakeside
Marble-glow the fire
A new one inside

I wish I could live
The body whole bright-
Of the day beautiful,
Honeyed light.

Cento from I Wish I Knew by Nina Simone and Cento Between the Ending and the End by Cameron Awkward-Rich

*From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I recently read Anna Quindlen’s Nanaville. I could have written it. Replace her son with my daughter and give Arthur the name Leo, and we are the same! Her grandson Arthur is learning Mandarin and English while Leo is learning Spanish (from his babysitter) and English. Quindlen’s book has inspired me to capture “Small Moments” about my grandchildren.

Leo calls milk “che-che” which is Leo for Spanish leche. He calls water for drinking agua while wawer means bath or swimming pool. Sometimes we assume a word is one he learned in Spanish because we don’t know what he is saying.

Leo is becoming himself and asserting his own language. He has decided to call me “Gon.” This, I guess comes from “grandma”, but it’s not very cute. He says it as a command like “no” or “mine.” We have been trying to get him to call me Ma mère because his grandfather wants to be Grandpère. Grandpère has become the sweetest soft sound of “Pee-père.” Leo has made the connection now, so following his command “Gon!” comes sweet eyes and “Ma mère.”

In addition to language, I am fascinated by how Leo plays. On Saturday a friend stopped by and brought me two quilts she had made for the boys. Leo chose the one with fish and gators on it. We laid it out on the kitchen floor, and I opened a drawer full of paper products: plates, napkins, and cupcake holders. He went back and forth from the quilt to the drawer to create a picnic. Here is a picture of him with a paper plate of goldfish, a favorite snack. “Shish.”

The thing about language is that it it the ultimate transactional process. If you watch children acquire language, you can see them not only speaking but arranging the known world. We ask them questions we know they know the answers to–What color is the ball? Where do frogs live?–so that they can practice the arrangement. It’s also pretty thrilling to be part of the process, and for a grandparent it’s tantamount to learning a new dialect.

Anna Quindlen, Nanaville

We ask Leo questions all day long. And he labels things. He also makes connections. He will point to the bayou and say “wawer” and follow it with “boat!” Then he waves because that is what we do. Watch for boats and wave to them. He sees a man wearing khaki pants and a hat cutting the grass and says “Pee-père.”

One of my favorite connections he’s made is the portal we use to call my parents. He says, “Pop!” He’s getting to know my parents in a different way using technology, but they are a part of his life and his vocabulary.

At 11 months, Thomas, Leo’s cousin (my second daughter’s son) is experimenting with his body, crawling at lightning speed and climbing stairs equally as fast. I could have sworn last week when I kept Thomas overnight, he echoed, “Night night.” I recall that his mother spoke early.

As a grandmother, I have the luxury of time with and time without my grandsons. I can pay attention to these milestones. Make note of them. Marvel at them. I am an observer. On the sidelines to the great miracle that is language and love.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Temperatures are high in these parts, and the virus doesn’t care. I haven’t seen my parents in person since Christmas. My mother sent me a Portal that works like Facetime through Facebook Messenger. The screen props up on the counter in the kitchen. Every time Leo (20 months) comes over, he points to it and says “Pop!” That’s my dad. That’s how he knows them, through the Portal.

My father has not been big on social media, but in the last month, he’s posting almost daily reports, “Reports from an independent retirement home.” They have been on lockdown for two weeks and were finally released on Saturday (Covid tests negative) to go downstairs for meals again. Here is one of my dad’s posts.

What does one look forward to when you are in quarantine? It’s different I imagine for everyone. As days go by, the options diminish. It gets down to such things as the next nap, the next meal, the next unexpected package, even the mail. Then there’s TV, which ends up being a search for the never found good program. My solace is a good book, which often ends up being the next nap. And so the circle goes on and on. The challenge becomes the acknowledgment that where you are is where you are and you’d better adjust to it. Part of the adjustment is to occasionally posting my thoughts. I hope you don’t mind.

John Gibson

Dad doesn’t know it, but I’m collecting his posts. I started doing this thinking I’d make a found poem, but now I like the way they speak themselves, full of his unique voice.

Andy Schoenborn posted the #OpenWrite prompt on Monday’s Ethical ELA. (Click the link to see the full prompt and read some amazing poetic responses.) Here is my poem draft:

My dog, Charlie

Weather Report

The dog lies at my feet
on the cold floor because
Heat is unbearable at 91
in dog years, the age of Mac
in human years, when the virus
took him.

Heat doesn’t care
if you are young or old
or if you have people
who love you. I see my parents
through a screen.
Their weather changes daily
with temperature checks, sticks up the nose.
(It was reported that my dad yelled from the pain.)
Funny
if we didn’t care so much
about isolation, the comfort
of a friend to eat ice cream with.

Hurricanes come in late summer
when we’ve let our guard down,
when masks fall to our chins,
when we just want to hug
because another person, human,
grandmother, friend has died.

The weather channel
broadcasts
24 hours
a map covered in red.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Early in the first days of the pandemic, people were posting about cleaning out closets. At the time, my attention was on my students, my family, and the gorgeous spring we were having. I did Zoom meetings and made videos outside. I was fulfilled. Not at all bored. And couldn’t imagine why I should clean out anything.

But here we are 5 months in, and the weather has turned to mush: wet, hot, and humid. Going outside you risk all sorts of maladies, mosquito bites, dehydration, etc. So now I have turned to the closets.

I am not sure why we humans hold on to so much stuff. I’ve been looking at everything from photos to Christmas ornaments to baby stuff. The cleaning is cleansing. I’m also creating a room just for the grandkids. With show tunes in the background, this process has been rewarding and fun.

Speaking with my writing group last night, we are all making our way through with a variety of diversions. Heidi is making playful poems using magazine cut-outs. Check out her post here.

Molly started a new hashtag on Twitter. #poeticdiversion I posted this photo and poem that captures the beauty of resurrection fern after the rain. I never get enough of this miracle.

All day rain
Brightens green
Resurrection

What are your diversions? How are you coping? Consider joining in with poetry. #moreplay #magazineticpoetry #makesomething #poeticdiversion

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

The greatest joy of my summer has been spending time with my grandsons. Leo is 19 months and is learning new words every day. One of his words is “bird” that sounds more like “bir,” and he has the cutest tweet sound.

In our courtyard, I’ve been working on attracting more birds. We’ve hung a few feeders. We have chickadees, titmice, and cardinals visit. Leo has noticed them. He will stop what he’s doing to look up at the sound of a chickadee.

It was time to change the suet feeder. I wanted to involve Leo, so I googled “DIY bird feeder for kids.” This video popped up.

I wondered if the recipe would work using the wire suet feeder rather than cookie cutters.

Easy peasy and great for toddler time. I boiled a quarter cup of water in the microwave and added it to a large metal bowl along with one packet of gelatin. Leo understands the concept of hot. He said, “Hah. Hah.” I gave him a wooden spoon to stir with. After stirring the gelatin, I held a measuring cup of bird seed (about a cup) while Leo scooped the seed using an ice cream scooper.

Leo focused on stirring and scooping.

With the metal frame on a baking sheet, I scooped the mixture in ready to wait and let it harden. When I took Leo off the chair he was standing on, he immediately screamed “more! more!” while making the more sign. It’s the only sign he knows, but it’s an important one. So, we did another batch. Why not! The metal frame was big enough to hold two batches.

I am amazed that, with heat indexes in the 100s, the mixture is holding up, not melting. I sent Leo (his mom) a picture I took looking out the kitchen window of a male cardinal perched on the feeder.

Cardinal at the feeder.

While the news is bleak, let’s remember the simple joy of watching birds. “Bir! Bir! Tweet! Tweet!”

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Before leaving my students for the year, I offered an assignment from Scholastic Magazines, the My History Project. We spent a Google Meet session looking at Animoto for creating interesting videos.

I knew this project would be a difficult endeavor without me overseeing and coaching the process. I honestly didn’t think any of them would take the time to pursue it.

You are a part of history.
You are living through an important and unique time in history—the COVID-19 pandemic. Years from now, historians will learn from the experiences of people who went through it—people like you and your family.

Lauren Tarshis, Scholastic

The projects were due to Scholastic by July 1st. I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from Chloe’s mom with a link to her completed video. I’m excited to share it with you. I love how Chloe used equations “Laura Purdie Salas-style” to communicate a lot with few words. Please share comments to Chloe here, and I will pass them on to her.

My History by Chloe, 2020

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

My milkweed/monarch journey began a little more than a year ago in a school garden. There I met Meadow. (Yes, Meadow is the name of a naturalist in our area.) She taught me about capturing monarch caterpillars and caring for them through emergence to a butterfly. (Slice of Life post here.)

I wanted some host plants of my own, so I took cuttings from the garden and planted them in a flower bed. This spring while sheltering at home, I was able to nurture caterpillars on my screen porch.

In May, I was visiting a friend, safely distanced in her backyard, and she gave me a few milkweed seed pods. I had no idea how to cultivate them, but I planted them in two pots of potting soil and kept them watered.

Milkweed seed pods

A miracle of Mother Nature, the seeds sprouted. I had 42 little seedlings about 3 inches high. I could have taken a few and planted them in my flower bed, but what about all the others? I couldn’t bear the thought of letting them die.

I ordered some cheap plastic pots on Amazon, and planted each little sprout. Putting out a call on Facebook, I had some takers. The surprising part for me was how excited the receivers were. And how welcomed the visits!

On Sunday, Sisters Sarah and Emily came by to “rescue” some seedlings. I taught Emily in elementary school. She is now headed to 10th grade, so it was great to see her. (Oh, how I just wanted to hug her!)

Mary and Brittany arrived at the same time, donning masks and staying distanced. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other in a more intimate way than Facebook allows.

On Monday, I delivered seedlings to some friends and took a walk through a beautiful backyard and met a new grandbaby.

This morning, I noticed an opened seed pod on one of my milkweed plants. The cycle continues…

Milkweed seed pod

Milkweed seeds provide life for the butterfly and hope for this lonely planet, as well as Joy to this lonely planter.

Notice the green seed pods on the milkweed plant.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

What is Peace?

Watching the birds on a spring morning because you are home
and not busy?

Folding paper into an origami crane?

Holding a baby as he tries to stand alone?

Crying when you watch the news?

Making a sign for a march?

Praying in a small church wearing masks, no hugs for passing peace?

Packing boxes of food to give to anyone who drives by?

Is it ever enough?

When will we know?

These cranes will become part of a senbazuru (group of 1000 paper cranes) for display in Lafayette, LA.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

There’s a part of me that is afraid to write. I’m afraid to get it wrong. But writing nothing doesn’t feel right, either. So, when I read the daily email from the New York Times, I found a poem of voices from the protestors.

In every city, there’s a George Floyd–
my father, my brother, my cousin, my friend–
I speak for everybody
beaten up. If we don’t fight
for change, we’re not going to get it.
I took six rubber bullets, but
no one kneeled on my neck.
I came out peacefully
to show my support,
Yeah, it’s really like that.

Margaret Simon, found poem from New York Times June 2, 2020

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Taking a morning walk every day seems a mundane task. It’s exercise, yes, but so much more. Walking is my daily therapy.

This last week, I’ve been walking with a stroller. My daughter is home with her 8 month old while her husband works off-shore. She needs help with the baby while she works from home. We love having them here.

While walking, I stop to chat with neighbors. People are in less of a hurry, and it shows in the way we linger in the shade and talk about the weather, the baby’s eyes, or how we are faring in the pandemic.

While walking, I stop to check on my neighbor’s century plant, now in full bloom. This plant has been in the process of blooming for ten weeks. It has been a source of wonder and hope for all who have seen it. These plants bloom once in their lifetime. After blooming, it dies. I posted it in April for “This Photo wants to be a Poem.”

Century plant in full bloom.

While walking, I discover Sesame Street songs. When Thomas gets fussy, the best antidote is Elmo. I didn’t know how many popular musicians have done songs with Elmo, Dave Marshall, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Adam Sandler, and many more. Even after he’s asleep, I keep listening. The songs are uplifting and catchy.

While walking, I may catch a poem of presence.

Morning walk with stroller
Elmo’s song La la la
la’s him to sleep.

Margaret Simon, draft

There are some wonderful #poemsofpresence on Twitter. Consider joining us. What mundane task is keeping you going these days?

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