SOL: White Christmas, Where Are You?

Sitting so close to Christmas here in Montana, we are still waiting for the landscape to look like Christmas. When I was a little girl, we were well into winter by Thanksgiving; ice skating at the local pond, and skiing at Big Mountain. As an adult, however, the pond rarely freezes over before Christmas, and we are lucky if opening day on the mountain happens by the early teens of December.

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas is in only a week! I am still fighting my kindergartners to keep their coats on at recess, despite the 30 degree temperatures. Don’t get me wrong though – I welcome the respite from the on-again/off-again of all the snow gear that literally steals 15+ minutes of instructional time over the school day once there is snow on the ground!

I wonder what it feels like to experience Christmas in a snow-less climate. How do people reconcile singing “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!” when there is no snow on the ground for a sleigh? Don’t kids in sunny Arizona miss “Jack Frost nipping at their nose?” as their mom smears sunscreen on their face before they go out the door? I think I would be greatly dismayed on Christmas Eve to peer out my window and see a family riding bikes together instead of dragging their sleds behind them on their way to the golf course to go sledding.

What is the Christmas landscape looking like in your neck of the woods this year?

 

Poetry Friday: ‘Tis the Season

Thank you to Laura Shovan for hosting Poetry Friday. Head over to her blog for a beautiful wintry poem that is sure to get you in the mood for Old Man Winter to come knocking at your door. If you live where I am in northwest Montana, you are getting rather impatient with his late arrival this year. My skis are in the basement waiting for an upheaval in the mild winter weather we have had thus far. My last check of the forecast isn’t looking good…to even consider that we wouldn’t have a white Christmas is unthinkable.

This brings me to my poem for today. Christmas and all of its hustle & bustle is upon us all. The Christmas cards went out this week, but I am still trying to whittle down my gift giving list. I just haven’t had it in me to brave the mall or box stores with list in hand, but instead have found myself shopping primarily online. Sipping a cup of hot coffee with my laptop and a dog on my lap is a far more pleasant shopping experience than scouring parking lots, fighting crowded store aisles, and enduring painfully long checkout lines.

How is your shopping coming along thus far?

SOL: I Don’t Remember The Last Time I Was

….bored.

I am my father’s daughter. Type A. Driven. Focused. Plate-spinner extraordinaire.

When I walk in the door at the end of my day, my mind is already thinking of what needs to be done next. Dinner prep? Empty the dishwasher? Perhaps finish something left undone at school; sift through a bulging e-mail inbox, research and/or prep for a lesson tomorrow? I don’t typically come home and sit down, but instead most often find myself on a trajectory of completing task after task until it is time to get ready for bed.

I can recall in my early 20s while working in the business world that my evenings were an open book. I left my work at the office (S-H-O-C-K-E-R!) and could do whatever I wanted when I got home each day. I didn’t have children back then, so for the most part, this down time centered around Must-See-TV until it was time for bed. I can actually say that honestly, I experienced boredom a lot in those days.

Fast forward 20 years, a husband, and four children later, my life today looks nothing like those years. The hectic demands of teaching don’t often allow me to leave work at work, and our home requires more of my attention than that tiny 800 square foot apartment ever did. But the person I am thrives in this place; I enjoy the fast pace and the multiple demands of my focus and energy.

But Christmas break is looming…. I am beginning to visualize myself in a more relaxed state of being. Our adult children won’t be home this year, so meal planning and house preparation will be nill, which thankfully, I welcome! I am making plans now for sleeping in, for slower paced days, for simple dinners, and for savoring a little more down time with nothing demanding my attention.

When was the last time you were bored?

Thank you to the dedicated team of teacher writers at Two Writing Teachers who open this space for others to share their Slice of Life each week. Click below to peruse a Slice or two!

SOL: The Season of Sweets

A fun side gig I have is that of a fudge maker at a local historic soda fountain and candy shop here in our little town. My two youngest daughters started working there as soda jerks early in high school, and two summers ago I joined them. Last spring I was asked to take over fudge production in addition to working part time in the restaurant alongside my girls and the other teenager crew.

The process of fudge making is such fun! I can be as creative as I like, and all executive decision making is in my hands when it comes to what kinds I will make. Praline Crunch, Maple Walnut, Tiger Butter, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, Rocky Road….any mouths watering yet?

Sunday I poured over my recipes, carefully choosing Christmas fudge that would be good sellers. At 7:00am I turned on the kettle, and hard to believe, but seven hours later, I stood back admiring all 20 pans of confectionary delight! It was a sight to behold.

My two favorites: Red Velvet Christmas Truffle & White Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch

What does your sweet tooth crave during the holiday season?

SOL: Skinning Up

Winter is slowly making its presence known here in northwest Montana. Snow-capped mountains surround the valley where I live, gently warning those of us down below that the snowline is beginning to make its way to us. It won’t be long before the streets, our neighborhoods, and the playgrounds will be blanketed in white.

Sunday my husband and I gathered our skis and all the gear we needed for an afternoon on the ski mountain. The ski resort is still closed, which for us is not a problem; we don’t need the ski lift to get up the mountain – we climb it. Our A.T. skis are equipped with special bindings that allow our heels to move up and down as we climb, but when we are ready to ski down, they can be adjusted to lock our boots firmly in place. On the bottom of our skis are removable “skins” that grip the snow so we don’t slip as we climb, and are peeled off once we reach the summit for a smooth descent.

I decided last winter after seeing the large number number of people – many far older than me – climbing up the mountain and skiing down. I thought if they could do it, so could I! Sunday was my first time skinning up, and it was supposed to be a day shared with my brother, who was my husband’s skinning partner last winter.

I missed my brother yesterday. It was the 6-month mark of his sudden & unexpected death, which made the day full of his presence. When the hill got steep and I began to tire, I imagined him just ahead of me, encouraging me in the climb. As I began my descent, I could see him just ahead of me, laughing and shouting his excitement in being back on the mountain, doing what he loved so much.

I certainly didn’t have my brother’s beautiful form while making my way down the mountain, but I know he was watching me, smiling as his little sister attempted a graceful decent.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life. Head over to their site to read more slices from our slicing community.

Poetry Friday: Found Poem in a Sculpture Garden

Poetry Friday round-up is with Irene @ Live Your Poem

After my weekend in Houston for NCTE, I took an extended vacation with my friend Margaret Simon to explore south Louisiana. After a day in her hometown of New Iberia, we ventured to the big city of New Orleans. She took me to the French Quarter for lunch and a walk through the quaint streets, ending at Jackson Square to see the beautiful St Louis Cathedral before enjoying cafe au laits and beignets at Cafe’ du Monde.

The next day we explored the Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art. While walking through the gardens, Margaret started drafting a found poem as we viewed the sculptures and read about them from the app on our phones. I followed suit, since Margaret is always such an inspiration to me in my poetry writing.

SOL: NCTE Weekend Decompress

For the past four years, I have attended the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference, which always takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. This gathering of teachers from all over the country is always such an inspiring time of learning for me. It is also a very special reunion weekend when I get to see old friends as well as meet and make new friends.

I am always left after these 3 days feeling super saturated with renewed vision for my teaching, new ideas for my students, and a suitcase full of books – many signed by the authors and/or illustrators themselves.This year I am feeling especially grateful for the friendships I have with fellow educators with whom I connected this weekend. They affirmed me, challenged me, and encouraged me as I return to continue the work and all I want to accomplish with my 20 young learners. My teacher soul is rejuvenated and excited to explore new ways to engage my students through reading and writing.

My new friend from Texas, Amy Bettis, a fellow kinder teacher comrade and I hope to find ways to connect our classrooms and have students share their learning with each other. Technology opens doors and crosses vast distances that otherwise would keep us from such opportunities, and we are excited to explore new possibilities with our students.

My NCTE weekend is again behind me, but I hold tight to wonderful memories, inspirational learning, and new friendships I took away. Facing the months before me, I have a reservoir of vision for my teaching and a belief in my students for what will certainly be a journey filled with joyful learning amidst much exciting discoveries together.