Begin Again

Thump, thump, thump, the hard cupcakes landed into the bottom of the garbage can.  How did this happen? I have made these cupcakes dozens of times.  Not including the two week stint when I made a batch everyday working to perfect the amount of oil in the recipe so that the wrapper came off cleanly.

I stood there disheartened and aware of the importance of continued practice.  It has been over a year since I made cupcakes and in my tired state, I forgot to allow them to cool out of the pan.  The perfect cupcakes continued to bake out of the oven and turned into small hard cylinders. Inedible.

Aspiring to be a writer, I have started, stopped, started again. Many times.  In the non-writing times, I have read, listened to, and watched many writing interviews.  The one common thread in all of them, “You’ve got to write everyday.”  It is a craft that requires frequent practice and the ability to seek out how to make your work stronger.

A writer looks at small moments in their day with a story teller’s eye.  The failed cupcakes provided a metaphor to starting again on this quest to improve my writing.  I had been a proficient baker when I practiced almost every day.  I can improve my writing by doing the same, practicing daily and taking note on how to continually improve.


Picture Book 10 for 10

I am delighted to share my 10 picture books.  Thank you to Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for developing this great way to share picture books!

Like many, I started the search early and got lost in piles of wonderful reading.  The 10 I’ve selected to share will serve double duty as we start the school year addressing both keeping a positive mindset and examples our first reading genre, biography.  They each share a story of perseverance in personal interests that the person continued learning and studying either through their work or as a hobby for the joy of learning.

Earmuffs for Everyone! by Meghan McCarthy.  Shares the story of continued perseverance of trying to perfect earmuffs as well at other items.  She also sheds some light on the patent process and how inventors are continuing to try to improve things.  McCarthy shares her research process in “A Note about This Book.”  I appreciate her description of the challenges in determining the truth.


Barnum’s Bones by Tracey Fern is another biography of perseverance.  Fern shares her challenge in trying to fact check during her writing in the “Author’s Note.”  Our county historical society  reminded students the importance of writing and recording our lives.  The author’s note reinforces this lesson for students.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh.  A little known astronomer who made important discoveries.  It shares the story of her love of astronomy and her challenges as a female scientist in the early 1900’s.  She was not giving the recognition she deserved during her work but continued her work as much for her own fulfillment as well as  the study of astronomy for all.

Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell is a great example of perseverance.  She heard many “No”s before being accepted to medical school.  I also appreciate reading this book aloud to students as Judy Moody is a beginning of the year read aloud and Judy aspires to be like Elizabeth Blackwell.

I have seen Snowflake Bentley on other’s lists.  I appreciate the beautiful illustrations as Jacquiline Briggs Martin shares the story of Wilson Bentley and his lifelong quest to photograph snowflakes.

Cloth Lullaby The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky is another example of how interests from childhood can continue into adulthood.  Teaching 3rd graders I want them to know that their interests can continue life long as well as lead and extend to other areas.

I love the collage illustrations of Melissa Sweet in this biography of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant. I was drawn to the book by it’s cover and so appreciated learning about this poet.  This biography shares how Williams love of words and poetry continued throughout his life not as his primary job but because of his love of words.  I also appreciate that Bryant included how Williams first started writing in the form of other poets (mentor texts) and then moved to make them his own.

There are several picture book biographies of John Muir.  I selected this one, John Muir America’s Naturalist,  as it is part of a series by Thomas Locker.  Each in the series contain beautiful artwork.  This biography like the books previously listed shares how Muir’s early interest in nature continued throughout his life.

There are also many picture book biographies of Leonardo da Vinci.  I selected this one as it contains many text feature examples as well as beautiful illustrations.  As I think of students writing informational text about a special person, this book is a great mentor text to demonstrate how to include important or interesting facts without creating tangents in their narrative.  It also gives students a glimpse at the broad interests of da Vinci.

The memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is an example of how children can make positive changes for themselves and their community.  Students who are further interested in Kamkwamba’s story can read a chapter book version of his story to learn more.

Continuing With My Best Effort


I missed two days of posting.  I know how challenging this task is that I put forward for myself and my students.  It is challenging to see the “seed” moments in everyday that would be interesting to other readers.  I know I appreciate and take note of more in my life as I look for these moments to share , but wonder, “Is it interesting?  Is it meaningful? Is it something I want to share with the world?”

Several years ago, a local photographer, Craig Blacklock, gave himself a monthly challenge that could be compared to the Slice of Life. He was only allowing himself to take one photo a day.  I recall reading his reflections discussing the challenge in not taking the large obvious easy photo(he was in the Superior National Forest), but look to see the beauty and art in the smaller view.  He had some beautiful sunrise photos of Lake Superior but also had photos that included small plants, driftwood, shadows, the things that may be overlooked.  Some were breathtaking and some were less so.  I I must not be so hard on myself.  Some days the writing is there in front of us waiting to be put on the page, others it will be a little less glamorous, but perhaps more meaningful.

As I read the work of other slicers, I connect with them as teachers, mothers, daughters, and shared human experiences on the planet. Their words inspire me to write and appreciate things in my own life.  I am grateful to those who comment and affirm my word choices and can place themselves in my shoes.  

This morning I have determined to continue to practice, share my comments with other writers and put out the best that I can each day.  It is all I ask of my students, it is what I should be okay with for myself.  I am a new writer.

Spring Has Arrived

SOLIt was 77 degrees warmer today than a week ago.  Last Monday, the students were inside for recess because the windchill was -22.  Today we had 55 degrees above zero!  It is amazing the smiles that appear as the snow melts.  People are kinder, more patient, and talk with one another versus bury their faces in their phones while in checkout lines.  Maybe all the heavy clothing makes our hearts heavy after such a long bitter winter.

We are on spring break and today it felt like spring.  I took time to absorb the sun shining on the deck.  It is amazing how powerful that warming feeling is.  The world felt better, tasks felt doable and my teenager was humorous.  Glorious.

New Challenges

SOLStarting new things can be exciting and anxiety building at the same time.  I began my Master’s program last week.  How would I fit this new responsibility into my life.  What will have to give and flex to fit it in. I’d watched as colleagues breezed through programs with mad rushes at the end of each 4 week period completing papers and reflections on what they had been trying.  I knew that if I were to be paying for further education I wanted to be challenged and feel that I was improving my knowledge and skills.  I wanted to know that I would be challenged and inspired to raise the level of my instruction, that the money and effort would be of value.

Only one week has passed and my students and I are benefitting from my coursework.  It was a crazy week with two nights of conferences, community ed, and track and field day.  I don’t know that it is a typical week to determine if my family is the piece that must always be in flex.  How fortunate I am to have such a supporting family to encourage me along the way and help in any way they can for me to achieve my goal.

We are always trying to reach for new things and keep things in balance.  Perhaps the balance is shifting so that no one piece is ever lost.

Spring Ahead

SOLFourteen years ago, daylight savings time was the first weekend in April.  I know this because I was in the hospital in labor waiting my first baby.  We arrived at the hospital at midnight and labor went very quickly.  I didn’t have any drugs so labor was rather intense. I remember looking up at the clock during a contraction and the minute hand spun around the clock quickly.  I thought I was losing my mind it hurt so badly.  It was just the hospital clock “springing ahead.”  My son arrived two hours later.  Isn’t it amazing how our minds blurs that waiting time for us.  I didn’t tell anyone at the time of my worry about the clock spinning.  There are so many crazy worries those first few days.  I think it was later in the week when we arrived home and the clocks were wrong that I realized what I had witnessed and knew it wasn’t just a pain crazed hallucination.