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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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In early September, my middle daughter gave birth to precious Thomas. She asked me, and I quickly agreed to travel with her to Monroe in North Louisiana for a leadership program meeting with the Louisiana Tourism Association. She is still on maternity leave, but she didn’t want to miss this meeting. What’s more important than being grandma? So I took a few days off to go with her.

I thought I would be stuck in a hotel room, that I may get some reading, writing, and lesson planning done. I was pleasantly surprised by a park connected to the parking lot of the hotel. With the baby in the stroller, we headed out to the trail.

The beauty of this fall day greeted me with a cool breeze and sunlight through the trees.

Red spider lilies dotted the path.

Baby Thomas slept through the outdoor adventure, the first of many to come.

A lone egret looked at its reflection in the lily-covered swamp.

I read the kiosk to learn about this beautiful, wild park. For 50 years, the area had been a sand and gravel pit. Later, many residents used it as a dumping ground. What do you do with such an eyesore? The city of West Monroe excavated the trash and created a wild space, restoring the area to wetlands that accomplish a number of goals, controlling flooding as well as providing the community with a beautiful place of nature to enjoy. Not to mention, a place of peace for a grandma and baby grandson.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Nature and beauty
is pretty.
The trees, the wind,
and everything you know.
Beauty in the diamonds
and when I look inside,
I see the face
I love.

Annie, 4 years old

I was asked to teach a writing workshop for kids at the Hilliard Museum’s Play Day. “You have to be flexible because we’re never really sure who will show up.”

Annie came in with her father. I’ve met Annie a few times because our paths have crossed. I’m friends with her grandmother, and her mother is a journalist who has connected me with writing opportunities. So when she walked in, I greeted her, “Hi Annie. We are writing poems today. Would you like to write a poem?”

She began… “Yes. Nature and beauty is nice because…” and she continued.
“Wait,” I said pulling out a clean piece of paper and a pen. “I wasn’t ready. Now slow down, and I’ll write what you say.”

Me with “Princess” Annie posing for a picture to send to Nanna B.

She is already a poet. I didn’t read one of my poems. I didn’t talk to her about forms. I didn’t give her any suggestions. She already knows how to write a poem.

Then we made a zine, a small foldable from a single sheet of paper. “Now,” I explained. “I could write the words for you, and you can draw the pictures.”

“No, I can write the words.” And she could! She copied the words she had dictated to me into the book. This took her at least 30 minutes. I was amazed at her focus and her determination. I was also amazed at her father’s patience. He sat comfortably while she meticulously copied each word.

The gifted teacher in me noted signs of perfectionism. When she messed up a letter, she got upset and rubbed it as if to erase it. I said, “Don’t worry. You can just make that a picture.”

Her letter a with the too long tail became what looked to me like a bug. I asked her, “Is this a butterfly?”

“No, it’s Diamond. Daddy, does it look like Diamond?”

“Yes, it does,” Daddy promptly said.

I looked at him and whispered, “Who’s Diamond?”

“Her imaginary friend” His whispered reply.

Annie continued writing word for word. An i placed in the wrong place became a tree.

When she finished, I said, “You need to sign it ‘by Annie’.”

She asked, “On the back?”

I showed her my book, Bayou Song. “On my book, my name is on the front. It says ‘Poetry by Margaret Simon.'”

Of course, Annie wrote on the front “Poetry by Annie.”

She is the youngest poet I’ve ever met, yet I have no doubts she is a writer. Just like her mom.

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Kelo is gone. I can’t wrap my head around that fact.  With her long weaves, gentle hazel eyes, and golden front teeth, Kelo danced with a mop and sang while she worked.  She would greet you in the hallway with a genuine kindness that made you want to stop and talk.  

“How’s that grand baby?” she’d ask me often because she knew I had a new grandson.  

Kelo was so much more than a custodian at our school.  Last year when I first started coming to the school to teach gifted, she knew my name well before I knew hers.  She was pregnant with her 4th son, and my daughter was having her first, so we always had things to talk about. She’d encourage me with, “Girl, that baby’s coming soon!” We’d share photos and anecdotes. She was a friend.

I don’t understand how one day you’re here and the next, you’re gone.  So much can change in an instant. Taken too soon by an innocent ATV accident, Kelo’s death has left a hollowness in the halls. My heart is heavy.  

Kelo makes me want to be better about caring for others, to show genuine kindness as she did, and to sing like no one is listening, except Kelo from above.   

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Slice of Life: Fancy

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

She appeared like a tiny white handkerchief waving in the breeze, barely noticeable on the windowsill of my husband’s office, mewing with every strength she had.

Over the course of a week at the end of August, one of the hottest weeks ever, my husband fed her, getting closer and closer, but she always darted back to safety under the steps at the house next door.

Jeff enlisted my help. “Do you want to try to catch her?”

When I was able to get close enough to take a picture, I could see how beautiful she was, with bright blue eyes and a white coat. Three colors hinted that she may be a female kitten. I called her, “Sweet Kitty! Come here, sweet kitty!” She’d respond with a mew, but she wouldn’t venture out far enough for me to grab her. And I was soaked in sweat and covered in mosquito bites. I tried for three evenings.

Peeking out from her home under the steps, no older than 4 weeks.

Finally, we bought a little can of Fancy Feast. She couldn’t resist it, and I was able to grab her. We brought her home and set her up in the “Cat Camp” on our back porch. Named her Fancy, of course.

At her first visit to our trusted vet, Dr. Eric, she was too young for shots. We treated her for worms and fleas and were to take her back in a week for shots.

Unfortunately on her visit the next week, she had a hypoglycemic episode. They revived her with fluids, and gave us instructions to feed her every four hours. Things began to go wrong after that.

At home for another two days, she was eating, but she developed a terrible case of diarrhea. Back to Dr. Eric. He was cautiously optimistic and diagnosed her with colitis. They kept her for two nights treating her with antibiotics, feeding, and fluids. Dr. Eric rejoiced when she went from one pound to 1.4 lbs. He took a special interest in our pretty kitty.

This weekend we enjoyed a new kitty, one who jumped and played and ate and ate. She is getting better. Hallelujah!

Who can resist that face?

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One of our favorite days of the year is Dot Day. Created to celebrate the publication of The Dot by Peter Reynolds, Dot Day encourages creativity and playful art.

My students and I drew dots and wrote Zeno poems. The Zeno form was invented by J. Patrick Lewis. The form uses a syllable count of 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1 with each 1 syllable line rhyming. This is a playful form. We folded paper into a zine. To see how to make a zine, go to this post from last year.

Imagining the brightest knot

see the colors

of the dot

colors of the

rainbow

spot

Brightest of the

ones I’ve

got

Breighlynn, 4th grade

It is true that you have talent
you are so high
in the
sky
you should always
attempt
try
you are in clouds
try to
fly
 

Chloe, 4th grade

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With my gifted kids, I’ve been using Linda Rief’s Quickwrite Handbook. She offers mentor texts and prompts for writing. These mentor text quickwrite prompts give a jumpstart to a blog post. I write with my students. Today I want to share a few responses to “When I was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant. Linda Rief wrote “When I was Young at the Ocean” and included many sensory images. We were able to see how using senses in our writing creates strong imagery for the reader to understand. Karson took us to his eye doctor appointment.

When I was young at the eye doctor, I was very nervous. I did not know what I would look like with glasses on. I did not know if I would even end up with glasses! We went to the eye doctor at Lens Crafters in the mall. They called me,” Karson, we are ready for you.”
        When I was young at the eye doctor they had to check my eyes. The room was really small.  The light was dim.  I sat in a rolling chair like my teacher’s. They made me look at a farmhouse while they took pictures. Then they made me look at a green light. That scanned my eyes. 
         When I was young, I cried and cried because I did not want to do the thingy where it blows air. The doctor was a woman, and she was so nice, she let me skip it. 
When I was young at the eye doctor, I thought I had to dilate my eyes but I also cried and cried and I had tears dripping with sweat because I was scared. But because I was crying, I did not have to do that either. 
          When I was young at the eye doctor, I eventually got glasses.  I was okay with it because I look so cool.  My glasses are my friends.  They still are. 
         

Karson, 5th grade

This summer I had to say good-bye to my parents’ house on the lake. The memories are bringing me back, and writing helps me process them.


When I was a Daughter at the Lake

When I was a daughter at the lake, I swung on the porch swing pushing off from a little plastic stool and listening to the squeak of the chains. Sometimes my father sat near me with his newspaper and a bowl of cereal. He’d look up to tell me a bit of news.  “Listen to this!” he’d exclaim, and I’d laugh internally at his total exasperation at the world.

When I was a daughter at the lake, I’d sleep late with no alarm set, waking to the scent of coffee and pancakes, maple syrup, melting butter.  Mom in her robe stood near the griddle and greeted me with a smile. “Good morning, sleepy-head.” 

When I was their daughter at the lake, worries melted away like the sunset on the horizon. We’d talk and talk.  Sometimes we’d sit silently watching the heron fishing. Their presence was enough. It still is. 

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

Shaelon remembered his vacation to Florida this summer. Using the form helped him describe many details of the trip. This is just one of his four paragraphs. The repeated line is helpful in creating a framework for writing.

When I was nine at the beach, we got to the beach.I ran and felt the nice soft sand on my toes.I ran to the water and touched it.It felt warm and soothing.I ran in until it was to my waist.Now it felt cold.I hurried back to the shore and look for my mom.My sister and I sat down on the sand next to my mom and attempted to try and make a sand castle.We had made good progress until the tide came in and washed it away.I gave up and walked along the shore, picking up shells and looking at their beauty.I tried to see if I can hear the water lapping in the shell because my sister had told me I can.I ran back and showed my mom all the shells I had collected.

Shaelon, 6th grade

I will continue to find inspiring writing prompts in Linda Rief’s book. When we study other authors, we discover our own way to writing.

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new baby blanket waiting

My middle daughter, Katherine, is waiting. We are all waiting for her baby to be born. His due date is Sept. 5th, so he will be here soon.

Last summer in August, Katherine had a miscarriage. It was tragic, yet her doctor told her then that she expected she would be holding a baby within a year. The day after the procedure, I took Katherine to a little yarn shop to pick out yarn for a blanket. I have been crocheting prayer shawls and blankets for the last few years. She said, “I’ll pick out the colors, but I don’t want you to make a baby blanket.” That was her sorrow talking. The blanket above is complete and waiting.

One method I often use for finding my way into a poem is to observe outside, then go inside, and back outside. Driving home a few weekends ago following the Mississippi Book Festival, I looked outside and inside and outside for this poem.

So We Must Daily Keep Things Wound
(title from a Madeleine L’Engle quote)

I love how the raindrops
glisten on glass
dotting the landscape
green and awake.

I keep the cell phone charged 
ready for her call
when cramps turn to contractions.
I wait, want, worry.

I read somewhere that the egg
for this child was planted
in her womb from my womb–
this curious circle of life.

I keep my eyes on the clouds
fluffed up and pregnant
with rain, more rain.
It keeps on coming. 

(draft) Margaret Simon

NCTE Note: I’ve registered for NCTE 2019 to be held in Baltimore Nov. 21st-24th. I am looking for a roommate. Let me know by email if you are interested.

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