"Mrs. Sokolowski, I made book one in a series, " one of my students told me today. Sure enough, she had created a book and declared it the first in the series. There was a blurb on the back, a dedication, a table of contents, and each chapter had a title. Her best friend had inspired her to write the book since she was also creating her own new series.
By the end of the day, two more students announced they too were going to create a new series of books.
It was so exciting and they were so happy!
Students did an on-demand personal narrative today and at a quick glance, I saw dialogue, sound effects, bold words....
Today my heart is happy.
I've made it to Day 20 before the "I have nothing to say" post!
I could tell you how my daughter's little hands felt like fire during the night and I knew before taking her temperature that she had a fever. I could tell you how sad I was she had to miss her favorite Arts and Crafts Club again, how guilty I felt to ask my mom to come stay with her all day when she hasn't been feeling great herself.
I could tell you how a tweet I read before 7am annoyed me- made me feel guilty for not reading more children's books and annoyed that the educator tweeting made it sound like it was easy to find the time if you just don't watch Netflix or stop surfing social media. As if I'm sitting around eating bon bons and consuming media instead of trying to stay afloat as both mom and teacher. I'm sure it wasn't what was intended, but it was the message I received and it shaded my morning before even arriving at work.
I could tell you how I made my son's First Holy Communion banner with my mom's help. How I just wanted to cross it off the to-do list of endless responsibilities.
I could tell you that my heart is happy that it the first day of Spring, that I'm working towards light and love and gratitude. I could tell you that I have so much work to get done since it's report card time and I'm not sure how I'll muster the energy tonight to work on it.
I could tell you all of that, but I have nothing to say.
"I think your spaghetti squash just exploded," my sister said before we both collapsed into fits of laughter.
There it was, sadly sunken in, strings of yellow spaghetti squash, seeds, and water dripping out of the microwave.
My sister and nephew had stopped by to visit and the kids were all playing. I was starting dinner but asking advice all along the way because I'm a fairly terrible cook and my sister is a very good one. She helped me properly brown my chicken and cook my peppers and onions far better than I ever did. While we were chatting and that food was cooking, my spaghetti squash was heating in the microwave. I poked lots of holes in it before I started cooking it, but clearly not enough.
The noise sounded like a person hitting the wall with lots of force. I was relieved the kids were all fine- it was the spaghetti squash who was in distress.
It still tasted good after all.
And the laugh made it all worth it, anyway.
When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
So, yes, the video above is actually an ad for some scotch. But, this morning, as I watched this video at the Suffolk ASSET Conference ( a conference that focused on technology in education) during George Couros' keynote address, I might have cried a little. Or a lot.
George Couros said, "We need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are hard to hear." This resonated as the negatives have been getting louder for me lately. All the difficulties and challenges of teaching have been overshadowing the ways teaching can be amazing. I've been thinking so much about how impossible it feels, at times, to do this job well. Thinking these thoughts does not change anything about the challenges and it just makes me feel frustrated, angry, and powerless. Basically these thoughts are not serving me.
I recently listened to the Rise podcast with Rachel Hollis where she was interviewing Nick Santonastasso. Nick was born without legs and with one arm. He is a body builder, model and a global motivational speaker. It was an incredible interview, but his message was mostly to focus on the things you can do and think positively. His parents were told there was a 70% chance he wouldn't live when he was born, but they focused on the 30% chance he'd survive instead. Nick talked about doing one thing each day to move you forward as a human being, especially those times you feel stuck or down. I found his story to be so incredible and in line with the presentation this morning.
It seems the universe is sending me signs that I need to shift my mindset to a more positive one. Or maybe it's my Instagram feed. From Rachel Hollis this morning: "You have to choose to be positive, to see possibility and to see the blessings in your life each day. You choose your thoughts, and there isn't one thing running through your mind that you don't allow to be there." (From Girl, Stop Apologizing).
I wrote about this earlier this month, but my thoughts are still in my thoughts! I am really going to work harder to have a positive mindset this week and put my energy towards that which I can change.
How do you keep positive?
The last 24 hours...
-I've sent two elves back to the North Pole, with glow sticks to power them up.
I've facilitated the treats left by a leprechaun who wouldn't be trapped.
I grocery shopped.
I prepared dinner for tonight and another one for during the week.
I sold Girl Scout cookies in front of a pizza place.
I marched with my Daisy troop in a St. Patrick's Day Parade, then sold more cookies.
I walked home from the parade with my daughter.
I made steak for my son.
I replaced my St. Patrick's Day decorations with Easter decorations.
And that, dear reader, is why this blog post is being completed quite late today.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hope it was a lucky day for all of you.
"What if I say something embarrassing?" my daughter asks me.
I am pouring birthday cupcake batter into the tin as we talk. On Sunday, she will be selling Girl Scout cookies and she's worried she will say something wrong.
"It's okay. Sometimes that happens. Let me tell you about the time I said something embarrassing. I was a high school student, working at a department store in the mall. My department was the costume jewelry area and across from me was the valuable jewelry. The lady who worked there always chatted with me and I liked her very much.
One day, I was unwrapping new earrings to put on display. They were hoops with dolphins and I thought they were so ugly and tacky. I walked over to her and said, 'Check out these ugly earrings! Aren't they awful?!'
And, of course, the lady was wearing the exact pair of earrings that I was talking about!"
"Oh no!" my daughter laughed.
"I felt awful. I never meant to be insulting. It was a mistake and I regretted it. Sometimes that happens."
"Tell me another story!" my daughter asked.
Stories are always good to share.
I waited until both children were safely, surely asleep.
To my closet, I crept, reaching to the top shelf. Behind a bulky, not-used-anymore pocketbook was a bag containing our Elf on the Shelf, Smiling Max, and our brand new girl elf, who will be called Olivia. I took them down, then grabbed another hidden bag full of streamers and decorations. It was time to decorate Megan's chair.
You've probably heard of the Elf on the Shelf, but did you know the elf is supposed to come back on your birthday and decorate your chair? We only found this out after Christmas when Megan was so sad that her elf had returned to the North Pole. She kept asking if he could come back on her birthday, to which I said, "Maybe we can write to Santa and ask." I'm not sure how we came to Google it, but there is a book called Birthday Traditions that says your Elf on theShelf can return to your house on your birthday! He spends the day with you and then leaves that night. He decorates your chair. The book, which we of course purchased, comes complete with a cupcake hat and outfit for your elf to wear on said occasion.
Today is Megan's 6th birthday and last night I made the magic happen.
Megan has made life more magical so it was really the least I could do.
(The glow sticks are how the elves are able to get back to the North Pole since they don't have Christmas magic or Santa to bring them back in March. Megan learned, by watching kid Youtubers, that you put glow sticks on the elves and that allows them to return to the North Pole. Ours are staying an extra day because Megan didn't want to go to school on her birthday so she could play with the elves all day. A compromise was reached and Santa Claus granted an extra day for the elves to stay and play.)
Six years ago today, I said goodbye to my 2 year old son as my mom took him for a sleepover. His little sister was about to be born, but oh, it was so hard to say goodbye to him, even for a night, knowing things would be forever different.
Six years ago today, I double-checked that I had everything I needed for my hospital stay.
Six years ago today, my husband and I had dinner at a diner. I had a cheeseburger and fries- last indulgence as a pregnant lady.
Six years ago today, I was induced in the evening since my baby girl didn't seem to want to come out of her cozy growing place.
Six years ago today, I was so over the uncomfortable feeling of being pregnant and so anxious to meet my little girl.
Six years ago today, I didn't yet know the amazing daughter I would have, how many laughs we would share, how many cuddles, how she would fill my heart, just like her big brother already had done.
Six years ago today, it was almost time to meet my daughter.
I am imagining a time in the future (WAAAAAY future) when I am not here, and being asked about the type of mother I was.
Interviewer: So, was your mom a really good cook?
Alex and Megan: Well, not really. She could microwave chicken nuggets. She made a mean bowl of cereal. Sometimes she reheated pizza in the oven or boiled spaghetti.
Interviewer: But she was really crafty, right?
Alex and Megan: No, not so much. She couldn't sew or paint. Our Aunt Christine made us all the special t-shirts we had to wear for the 100th day of school or recycling day.
Interviewer: Then she was super athletic, instead? The kind of mom who coached your sports teams?
Alex and Megan: No. Nope. We saw her doing workouts in the morning on the TV but she modified a lot. Couldn't do most of the moves. She hated to run. She didn't love playing sports with us, but she did watch our games.
Interviewer: Did your mom have any talents at all?
Alex and Megan: She loved books. She always found just the right book to read to us. At night, she would read us a picture book or the next chapter in a series we were reading. We laughed at the funny parts and talked about the sad parts. She also made time to play with us. We played Uno and Monopoly and Jenga and Sleeping Queens. So maybe her talents were picking out great books and spending time with us. That's probably it.
Not an awful legacy huh? Books and spending time.
A few months ago, I made the decision to address my hearing loss.
I realized I was losing my hearing over 6 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. One day, I went to talk on the phone and held the receiver to my left ear. It was so difficult to understand and I had to switch it to my right ear. I realized everything sounded garbled on the left. When I was in social settings and there was a lot of background noise or multiple people talking, I would lose track of what people were saying. If I couldn't see someone's mouth, it was even harder to know the words being said.
At 20 weeks pregnant, I went to an ENT and had a hearing test. The doctor couldn't believe how poor my hearing was in my left ear and I had loss in my right ear too. He sent me for an MRI to rule out a brain tumor causing the hearing loss. I had a feeling it was just my genes- my dad and his family all lost their hearing in their early 30's. Thankfully, no tumor at all. After my daughter was born, I went back to the ENT practice, met with an audiologist and got hearing aids.
I HATED them. They slipped out of my ear all the time (turns out I have a very narrow ear canal and need a custom fit. Of course.) My baby up on my shoulder was deafening, as was a paper towel ripping, but I still couldn't understand what people said on TV without close caption. They were very expensive and I was very unhappy, so I returned them. And I made peace with lip reading and doing my best to compensate for my poor hearing.
Then, over the summer, while on a playdate, the mom and I were chatting. She is a speech pathologist who works with students who are hearing impaired. She told me unaddressed hearing loss leads to dementia and suggested I try again. A few weeks later, on the soccer field, I felt so frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn't understand what other parents were saying to me. A grocery store encounter with a clerk left me clueless about what she was trying to tell me. I decided it was time to try to address the hearing loss again.
This time around, I let the audiologist know about my narrow ear canals and my passed frustration. We talked about appropriate expectations. I was fitted for hearing aids with blue tooth capability to let me stream conversations, music and podcasts. The hearing aids fit. I've gotten used to certain noises being louder (the click of a keyboard, the car indicator, and yes, a paper towel ripping.) I still struggle to hear conversation sometimes. I get closer to my students and ask them to repeat themselves. I still use close caption on the television. I still hold the phone to my right ear.
But I wear my hearing aids so that someone else who might feel embarrassed or sad about hearing loss might see that it's okay. They are not awful. They are a tool to help me have a better life. Why wouldn't I use every tool possible to enhance my communication with others? I got over the stigma of wearing hearing aids and being under 40 (for a few more months!). And I hope my story might help others who are feeling left out because you just can't hear everything the way you wish you would.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski