My 31st Birthday

Today is my 31st birthday.  OK, I’m not 31 years old (how I wish that were so), but 31 years ago I did give birth to my first child, and so today I am celebrating. I’m celebrating my 31 year old daughter, Mackensie.

Mackensie has already lived a pretty spectacular life and grown into a pretty remarkable person.

She’s accomplished a lot in her 31 years:

-She’s overcome childhood cancer (I’m sorry to start with that, but it’s a big one.).

-She’s the best sister a sibling could ask for.

-She can sing, act, draw, play piano, cook, and sew.

-She’s a caring, kind, interesting, and fun daughter.

-She’s traveled throughout Europe, and even into Africa.

-She’s scholarly and oh, so smart.

-She’s lived a year  in France.

-She’s completed her undergraduate and graduate studies.

-She has a good job.

-She has her own company.

-She’s been financially independent for years.

-She lives her own life in New York City.

-She loves art and music and dance.

-She has incredible friends, and she is an incredible friend.

-She loves her family, and we love her.

-She loves animals and the natural world.

-She reads… a lot.

-She’s incredibly creative and talented.

I could go on …..

I am not claiming that my first born is perfect.

-She can be complicated.

-She has strong opinions (that are not always in line with my own).

-She can be cranky (especially when she’s hungry – or hangry, as she calls it).

-She can be a bit inflexible at times.

-She is sometimes tough on me (I am her mother!).

But overall….

Mackensie is brilliant, without being an intellectual snob,

She is strong, without being callous.

She is kind to others, without pandering.

She is loyal, without losing sight of herself.

She is fun, without being crazy.

She is responsible, without losing her ability to take risks.

She is tightly connected to her family and friends, without losing her independence.

I could go on…..

But for now, I’m just going to celebrate my 31st birthday and my 31 year old daughter!



Finding a Focus

The school year has started, and I am already running at top speed.  We are only three weeks in and orders are unpacked and delivered, I’ve attended lots of meetings, materials have been created, lessons are being modeled, curriculum is being unpacked, new teachers are being trained, and assessments are being completed.  My schedule is full and it feels good to be off to such a strong start.  I think teachers are happy that they are receiving so much support from their Literacy Coach at this early time of the year.

However, I’m also concerned.  I know that supporting teachers is important and  that building relationships is essential.  Teachers really appreciate it when I help organize a classroom library or create materials for upcoming lessons.  They thank me when I help them score prompts and copy rubrics for a grade level meeting.  They are appreciative when I come to their kindergarten classrooms at the end of the day and help with pack up and dismissal.  But my work as a coach is more than that.  I’m responsible for taking the long view of literacy in my building and in my district.  I recently heard Barak Obama’s biographer say that President Obama always had the long view.  He saw the long arc toward justice. I need to keep my eye on the long arc toward literacy for all students. I need to be sure that my coaching does more than just “lend a helping hand.”  That will only get us so far.

I need to find my focus for the year.  Will it be:

building student and teacher independence (vs. compliance)?

helping teachers personalize the teaching and learning in their units of study?

studying student work to determine success?

I know I have to do the “hard work” of coaching, not just the nice helping work.  I need to help teachers to bring students to new levels of literacy learning.

What are your ideas for this school year?  I’d love to hear them.



The First Day

Tomorrow is the first day of school for our students.  I’ve had 26 plus years of these first days, but I still get excited. Yes, I do love school supplies and the shopping trips to Target and Staples for new notebooks and pens and post its.  This year I even purchased a fake candle with a vanilla scent to make my room feel calm and inviting.  And yes, of course I love buying all sorts of new books to share with teachers and students. But beyond the special lunch box and newly sharpened pencils,  I just love the idea of starting again,  outgrowing ourselves (teachers and students), and trying to grow our work from good to great, and then from great to even better.  We are lucky to be in a field where we get to do this over and over and over again.

I wish all of you who have started, are starting tomorrow, or are beginning the year in a few days or weeks, a very happy New Year!  Let’s make it the greatest year yet!


A Vacation Plan Says So Much

My 28 year old daughter, who works and lives between Ferrara, Italy and New York City, recently had a week-long vacation (a rare event). Here is how she spent her time.

-She came home to Connecticut

-She spent time with us (her parents)! We went to vintage shops, spent time at the beach, and had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

-She visited my father (He is 88 and was thrilled to see her!).

-She had a dental appointment (It wasn’t all just fun!).

-She shopped at Goodwill with her grandmother.

-She took walks.

-She read in the hammock.

-She went to the beach with a college friend.

-She cooked.

-She went for a run every morning.

-She watched Jeopardy.

-She just hung out.

I think the way a person spends their vacation time says a lot about what they value.  My daughter’s vacation plans made me smile.  I love the person she has become (and is becoming).



Cats and Daughters Cafe

Last week, I received this text from my sister:

Check out this cafe in New York! You can have Japanese snacks and pet cats!   I’m taking my girl to meet your girls there on Sunday.  Wanna join?

OK, I’m not a big  cat lover. Dogs are more my style. But an opportunity to spend time with my sister and our daughters….I’m 100% in. So I replied, “Sure. Why not?” It definitely sounded like a pretty cool (Lower East Side cool) kind of thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in summer.

So Sunday arrived, I met up with my sister and her daughter, and we headed to the city.  We arrived at the cafe, met up with my daughters (who live in NY), went up to the bar, ordered ourselves some coffee, and then headed in to play with the cats.  The woman in charge shared a long list of rules: Don’t pick up the cats, don’t touch the cats if they are up in the perches, watch out for the cats with the purple collars – they bite! Once we had agreed to behave, we entered the cattery.  The cats were few and were just sort of laying around (I guess that’s sort of what cats do.  I’m not really sure what I was expecting. Maybe some cute kittens?).  So we…sort of just sat around and pet a few of the feline friends who seemed interested.  We tried to engage the cats in some play, but most wouldn’t be bothered.  Two cats (brothers) were playing with each other, and that entertained us for a bit.  Our hour was up, so we gave the kitties a last pat on the head and headed back to the cafe for some Japanese snacks.

I can’t say I loved the cat cafe. This may be popular in Japan, but I’m not sure it’s going to catch on here (Now a puppy cafe.  That’s an idea worth investigating!).  But spending time with  my sister and our girls, watching them interact and laugh and talk.  That’s worth everything, even an afternoon watching a bunch of sedentary cats.



Summer Monday

I love the section in the Sunday Times where they share somebody’s weekend routine.  I love to hear about how people spend their leisure time. So today I thought I’d share a typical summer day.

Wake Up

On summer days, I wake up when I want to.  If I’ve gone to bed early, I get up early.  If it’s been a late night, I might sleep in a bit.  Today I woke with the sunlight and the birds singing and the sound of my husband grinding the coffee. I came down, kissed my husband, gave the pup a pat on the head, and headed to the kitchen to grab a cup of that fresh coffee.

The Morning 

I quickly checked email, Instagram, and Facebook.  I just want to make sure I check the Google Doodle, that I know if it’s National Doughnut Day or National Oldest Daughter Day, that I’m up to speed on the NY Times Breaking News, what my children are up to, and all the other silly stuff that exists in the world.

Then I make breakfast (homemade banana muffins this morning), and we sit out on the porch, dog at our feet, sipping coffee and eating muffins, and talking about the day’s schedule (or lack thereof).

Walk the Dog

It’s going to be a hot one today, so a friend calls to see if I want to join her for an early walk on the trail.  I grab the leash and the pup and we head out to take a relaxed 3 mile walk on the beautiful bike trail that runs alongside a gorgeous river.

Lunch with Friends

I meet some wonderful friends for lunch.  These are friends I taught with years ago, and we’ve maintained such a close friendship even though we have gone in completely different directions. We sit, relax, talk, laugh, share, and make plans to meet again.

Afternoon on the Beach

Then it’s off to the beach with another friend for the afternoon.  We sit near the water, the waves lapping at our toes, and we talk about everything from careers to husbands to children to grandchildren to traveling to concerns to celebrations, and then some.  We walk, we swim, we keep talking.  When we finally check the time, it’s after 5:30.  But who cares?  It’s summer! We stay a bit longer.

Time to Write

I return home, pour myself a nice glass of Chardonnay, and sit down to write.

I’m not sure what I’ll do next.  Maybe make some dinner, sit outside, read, and get ready for another beautiful summer day.



Mom’s Things

Last night, I finally decided to open the two boxes of my mother’s things that my stepfather had carried with him when he came up from Florida in June.  I wanted to open them right away, but for some reason, I just couldn’t.  These are the last two boxes of mom’s things.  Over the four years since mom has been gone, everything else has been divided up, shipped out, given to friends, sold, or donated to Goodwill.  So the boxes sat in the corner of the bedroom for weeks.  I’d move them to clean, think about opening them, and decide to do it later.  I’d move them to a closet when guests were visiting, take them back out, think about opening them, and then just leave them. I had no idea what was in these boxes.  My stepfather said they were just some papers and things that he thought we might want.

But last night I was home alone, the evening was quiet, so I decided that it was time.  I opened the first box.  The first thing I saw was a plastic zip lock bag.  I pulled it out of the box, opened it, and reached in.  The bag was filled with watches and jewelry.  I burst into tears and collapsed on the bed. Mom was a jewelry designer, and here were more of her wild creations. Earrings that spin and twist, bracelets made of reimagined found objects, and a necklace that was filled with crazy bobbles and bangles.  And then the watches.  How many watches did one woman need? There were elegant watches (no numbers, just one little jewel to mark 12), a modern plastic watch, and then a classic Timex.  This box was filled with mom. I could feel her energy pushing at the cardboard sides and the out of the top. I had the urge to close the box back up and save it (and her) for another day. I placed each piece of jewelry on the bed, trying to remember when she made it, what she looked like wearing it, and thinking about who might wear it now (some of the stuff she made was way too wild for me, but one of my daughters can carry it off).

I decided to just stay with this bag of items for a while. I went and got some silver polish and a rag.  I sat on my bed polishing up the earrings and bracelets and necklaces until they shone like the stars peeking into my windows. I looked at all of these memories just sitting there on my bed, reminding me of a woman who was just as spectacular, creative, somewhat wild, and elegant as these pieces of jewelry she made with her own hands.  I closed the box, taped it shut, and vowed to spend this kind of time with mom on future quiet evenings across the summer.