Short Equations

Last week, Michelle wrote a fun post on writing equations. Thanks for the great idea, Michelle! This weekend, it finally warmed up in Michigan. I broke out the shorts and wrote some equations of my own.

And Then There Was One

Only one left. All the others must have fledged the day before. Tomorrow when I go out to check on the nest, it might be empty. I looked around the yard to see if I could spot a fledging hopping around. Since they leave the nest before they can actually fly, I will keep watching. They must be around somewhere because the parents will continue to feed them until they can forage on their own. Hopefully, the mother robin will want to use the nest again for a second clutch. I wonder if all my observing and picture-taking will discourage her from sticking around.

May 26, 2011. This is one crowded nest!

May 28, 2011. Only one left.

Same Room Different View

I changed around my writing area last week. I didn't think much about it until I read Juliann's post about how changing around her desk gave her a new perspective. My dining room table is now shoved squarely in front of the window. I'm also sharing the area with my daughter, Sam. She's taking a speech class at the local community college and uses the end of the table for her laptop. I thought sharing a work space with her would drive me crazy but it hasn't. Now the cat lays all over her stuff instead of mine. And sometimes we talk as we write. Right now Sam is writing an informative speech about serial killers.

"Mom, you gotta hear this, this is so gross. Can you believe that? I have so much I want to say in this speech but I need to narrow it down."

It is fun watching her devour books and articles, even on such a gruesome topic. Every once in a while, I show her a post I'm working on or a picture I'm editing and she doesn't roll her eyes, much. Occasionally, we have brief personal conversations about our relationships or dreams or interests. She doesn't seem to mind when my papers or teacups wander over into her area. Adding a leaf could give us more space but I think I like the table just the way it is.

I now share my writing space with my daughter and the cat.

Wannabe Gardener

My dad was and still is an avid gardener. Growing up, every house we lived in had a vegetable garden. My sister, Liz, is also a dedicated gardener. I've dabbled here and there over the years but never seemed able to devote the time and love required to really grow a garden. When I came across these cute little pots at Target, I thought, aha! I had found the lazy tired stressed cheap busy teacher's solution to growing a vegetable garden. The box said that the parsley seeds were guaranteed to grow. And they did! I'm supposed to transfer the plants to a bigger pot when they reach 3 inches tall.

My vegetable garden by the sink.

When Light, Water, and Air Meet

As I was quickly snapping pictures in the sprinkling rain, I saw several of my neighbors stepping out on their front porches to look for the rainbow. The two little girls that live kitty-corner from me were in their storm soaked yard in bare feet.

"Mommy, come look at the rainbow! Mommy!!!!

From inside my house, I could hear my teenagers talking about how weird I was for taking pictures of a rainbow. My daughter clunked out on the porch, letting the screen door bang behind her.

"What is the big deal Mom, it is just a rainbow. Don't tell me you're going to post that on your blog."

I kept snapping and she kept looking. I sat on the porch and watched the rainbow fade. I smiled to myself knowing that I had grabbed a moment and enjoyed it because I knew it wouldn't last very long. I need to do that more often.

May 23, 2011. The first rainbow I've seen since last summer. Can you see the faint
second rainbow above it? The black dot is a bird.

Celebrations: Parents, Poetry, and Pastries

There is nothing like poetry and yummy treats to bring out the smiles in children. Holli, one of the teachers I have had the honor of co-teaching with this year, organized a delightful party to celebrate the work of her student poets. Parents, grandparents, administrators, and teachers attended. It was very touching to observe these writers bust with pride and bask in the limelight.  One of my favorite moments was when the class divided into two groups and recited a poem for two voices as a poem for two groups of voices! They sounded like a choir in 2-part harmony.

A poem for 2 voices becomes a poem for 21 voices. Can you
hear the cameras snapping from the proud parents?

Tight Fit

 At least one of these North American baby robins will be ready to fledge any day now. I can see the young birds begin to stretch their awkward wings above the nest. The adult robins work together to feed their growing babies several dozen meals each day. Most of the time it is hard for me to tell the adult male and female apart other than the female sits on the nest. Male robins are supposed to have a bolder colored breast and grey tail and the female is paler. Since they are never in the same place at the same time, it is hard to compare them. As soon as I venture near the nest, the mother robin flies away to divert attention away from the babies. If I linger too long, the parents start the warning calls. Usually they scold me from the roof but today the warning "tuts" came right above my head.
Watchful mother robin or father robin. I'm not sure.

On May 23, 2011, the nest looks like a bowl of feathers.

Weeds and Seeds

Dandelions go from bloom to puffy white seed ball in
9 to 15 days.

I love dandelions. But I am hypocrite. I only love them when they are not in my yard. Dandelions are actually considered a beneficial weed. Tell that to my husband. They add minerals and nitrogen to the soil and provide pollen for bees. Dandelions are also edible from root to head.
Dandelion field in an empty lot near my house. The house next door should probably hope
the lot isn't mowed right away. Mowing disperses the seeds even faster.

Almost Fledglings

North American Robin hatchlings on May 22, 2011.

The nest gets more crowded every day. If the young robins are nine to ten days old, they should begin to fledge by Thursday. Mother robin is very patient with my daily picture-taking. I wondered if she would dive-bomb me but she hasn't. She is also a meticulous housekeeper. No signs or smells of droppings in the nest.

Everyone is hungry! Mother robin is nearby. I can hear her "Tut tut"
warning call from the nearby cherry tree.

Saturday Morning Reflection

Politicians, wealthy business owners, newspaper editors, and publishing companies have a history of behaving like they have stumbled upon the magic bullet that will solve the literacy achievement woes of public schools. This should be no surprise. Education is big business. In my early years as an educator, I was a speech and language therapist. I had deep knowledge of oral communication processing but my understanding of how reading and writing were connected to oral language was spotty. My assumption was that phonics was the magic bullet for students struggling with reading. I was bold enough to be annoyed that others had not figured this out. As I spent more time in classrooms, I quickly realized that maintaining this simplistic view of literacy was too narrow to assist language learning disabled students to become academically successful. My desire to better help children drove me to devour professional journals and books and co-create lessons with teachers. Wanting to know more propelled my thinking and practice. It still does. One would think that this experience would have cured me of being romanced by the concept that magic bullets can solve complex problems. Nope.

I bought a Magic Bullet for my husband for Christmas.  I don't have a good track record for choosing gifts that my husband actually likes. I wanted this year to be different. He had taken a liking to smoothies but I was tired of the noise and blender mess. I had seen the infomercial for the Magic Bullet and thought I had stumbled upon an easy solution to an annual problem. And it was on sale at a local department store. It looked cool so I bought it, wrapped it up, and put it under the tree. On Christmas, he opened it, looked at the box thoughtfully and said, "Wow . . . why did you buy this? We already have a blender. "

Hurt because he had essentially rejected my gift, I explained, "It is different from a blender and it is perfect for smoothies and it is easier to clean. Just look at the box!" He set the box aside and said, "Oh . . . very nice, honey, thank you."

Then my college age daughter chimed in, "If you don't want it dad, I'll take it. I think it's cool." I shot her a teacher look and said, "You don't even rinse your coffee mug. How are you going to clean it after you use it?" It was clear that we all had different agendas.

Later that afternoon, my husband spent at least 2 hours reading online reviews and checking out consumer reports. The verdict was in. The Magic Bullet would be returned. And not because it wasn't a fine product. It simply didn't serve my husband's purpose. And spending the money on a product for the cool factor didn't seem fiscally responsible. Our old blender, although it took more time to clean and required more counter space and was as loud as freight train, had a more powerful motor and was able to grind ice and frozen strawberries effectively without jamming. Please don't take offense if you own and love a Magic Bullet. And some Magic Bullet blenders may have more muscle than the one I bought. But for my husband, the Magic Bullet just wasn't . . . magical. 

Called to Be a Teacher But Not Called Back

On April 12, 2011, three hundred and forty-three teachers received pink slips in my school district. Yesterday, I found out that 6 teachers in the building I work in are not being called back. Some of them may end up being called back after all the bumping and shuffling of teachers is completed. Maybe. Nothing is certain. I can't imagine what these teachers must be feeling. And selfishly, I hope I never do.

Today, in the lounge, a place I rarely go, one of the displaced teachers talked excitedly about several of her struggling students and the progress they had made since the beginning of the school year. She wasn't complaining about her uncertain future or personal worries. Despite her own numbing stress, she was still focused on her students. It isn't fair. It isn't fair that a teacher, who so obviously should be a teaching, should lose her job.  

Say, ahhhh!

As of today, these robin hatchlings are approximately 6 to 7 days old. Now that they are a little older, I can clearly see all four babies. The feathers on their wings poke out like tiny drinking straws before they unfurl. Finer fuzzy feathers are beginning to cover the bulgy eyeballs. Their eyes are starting to open a bit. They only have about 7 more days in their nest. They have lots of growing to do before then.  
Somebody is hungry! May 19, 2011
I see four beaks! May 19, 2011

Growing and Changing

Near as I can figure, these robin hatchlings are between 5 and 6 days old. They will remain in the nest for another 8 to 9 days before fledging. After another two weeks, the young fledglings should be able to forage for food on their own and sustain flight. Assuming that a blue jay or crow doesn't rob the nest or this family doesn't experience some other disaster, the mother robin will hopefully produce a second clutch in the same nest.

Robin hatchlings on May 15, 2011. I think there are four babies in the nest
but it is difficult to tell.

Going on a Poetry Walk

Poetry hides everywhere. One of my favorite things to do with young poets is to take them on a poetry walk. Prior to our walk, I explain the rules: no talking, stick together, and write what you notice in your little notebook. As we walk inside and outside the school, we pretend we are invisible. We listen, watch, hear, touch, and notice. It is especially fun when another teacher or student tries to talk to one of the poetry walkers. They typically just look at them, smile, and shake their head. The rule is "no talking" and for the most part the kids stick to it. After we return from our walk, we head over to the meeting area. Often times, poets continue to write their noticings in silence. As a group, we create a list of these noticings. This list becomes the first draft of our poem. On my own, I consolidate the list and create a second draft of our poem. The next day, the students read the second draft and talk about what sticks with them, what patterns they see, and ideas about how to make the list look and sound poemy.

3rd grade writers on a poetry walk.

Group noticings recorded in my little writer's notebook.

Second draft of the poem with additional ideas from the students.

First Dance

Me and Mitch, May 13, 2011
It is amazing how good teenage boys clean up. He didn't want to wear his boring khaki pants and button down shirt from his confirmation to his first dance. So, we bought a fancy shirt and tie and new black pants. Mitch paid half. He borrowed shoes from my husband. No date, thank goodness. I'm not ready for that yet. He's only 14 for Pete's sake. Some kids had official dates but most of them went in groups. After gathering at a friend's house for pictures, it was time to head over to the school for the big event. On the way, Mitch begged me to let him go to Applebee's with his buddies after the dance. How could I say no? He was actually being quite charming and funny and sweet and wasn't acting completely embarrassed by my very presence. Was this my kid?


Things are starting to get crowded in Robinette's nest. The first fuzz is just starting to appear on the featherless bodies of her babies.  I am wondering when the fourth sibling will emerge. It is amazing to see the large size of the bulging eyes through the transparent skin.

Robinette's nest on May 14, 2011

New Life

Most of the blossoms on my pear tree have been blown away by the breeze. Branches of young green leaves now veil Robinette's secret nest.

Robinette's nest on Friday, May 13, 2010

A Bird's Nest

I call her Robinette. I see her every morning just before I leave for school. I found her nest by accident. I was taking pictures of one of my pear trees, white with blossoms. I got up under the branches and she suddenly whipped out of the tree. Then I saw the nest, perfectly cupped in the arms of the low branches. Where there eggs in it? I dragged a kitchen stool out to see if I could peer inside. The tree was buzzing with bees. I still couldn't see so I held my camera over the top of the nest and quickly snapped a few pictures. I figured Robinette was getting pretty distressed and I had disrupted her work long enough. After I dragged the stool back into the house, I saw her swoop back through the flowers and into her nest.

Mother's Day 2011

Still Writing

I haven't posted in days and days. I've been writing. Boy, have I been writing. None of it was really appropriate for a post. Most of it was angry whiny words that needed to be barfed up on the paper. I composed several potential posts in my head but didn't write them. I decided it was okay not to. Not yet. I took a lot of pictures of things I wanted to remember so when I am ready to write about them, if I write about them, I will be able to conjure up a feeling. I suppose I could have viewed this as a bout of writer's block but that isn't how it felt. It just felt like life happening. I was writing but not in a writer's notebook. I was journaling. Journaling served a different function than a writer's notebook. When I looked back at my writing over the last few months, I noticed that I threw all my energy into posting and not much into journaling. For me, journaling helped me wade through all the junk. My writer's notebook served as a place for ideas. I figured out I need both.

This is a tiny writer's notebook I received from my colleague, Fran.
Each page is only big enough for a word or two. It came
with the word "trust" printed on the first page.
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