Friday, March 31, 2017

Loved and Lost

Today is the final day of the Slice of Life challenge.  I have not written every day, but I have come close.  I have done much better than a previous attempt and WAY better than not trying.  I will take that as a win.

Tomorrow, I drive another 824 miles to bring Alexis home. It seems an appropriate time to share our story.  If you have heard this before, no need to read on.  But, if not, hopefully this will warm your heart as it has mine.

Alexis's mom is a friend of our oldest daughter. They went to junior high and high school together.  Their friendship, as is often the case, had its ups and downs.

Alexis was born approximately a year after the two girls graduated high school.  Jen is Alexis's godmother. With this decision, our lives were forever entwined.

Fast forward a tad over 2 years later.  
Alexis's mom contacts us to let us know they are homeless - and she is pregnant. We invited them to stay with us for a week which led us to offering to have Alexis stay with us while her mom got a job and a place to live.

Alexis became a member of our family that day.  Not legally but in every other way. She lived with us until she was for almost four years - until she was just about six years old, at which time she went to live with her mother in MN.

Interesting bit of information - one state does not necessarily honor an agreement written in another state.  

We did not see Alexis for two years.

But, we were reunited 25 months later and have been a part of each other's life every since. Alexis spends a good part of her summer with us as well as one other break (Christmas, Spring Break  - -whatever works).  She has been the flower girl at two of our children's weddings.  She is a god-sister to my grandson.  In every way that matters, Alexis is one of mine. I love her no differently than if I birthed her.

Having Alexis in our life has been a blessing many times over.  Don't get me wrong. It has not always been easy.  Our life changed when she came to live with us. My husband and I were in our fifties, approaching empty-nest - ism. 

And when we didn't see each other for two years - - 

I don't think I realized how deeply I was affected until she came back into our lives.

I vividly remember a conversation with my father, in which he told me, "The more people you love, the more you have to lose."  

I have loved and lost this young girl.  But, if I had to do it all over again, I would.  Because it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. 

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this opportunity to share a Slice of my Life.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What to read?

Alexis and I went to Barnes and Noble today. Book shopping is one of our traditions; every time she visits, we go book shopping. Sometimes I have to work very hard to get her interested in reading. Today, that was not the case.  She knew exactly what she wanted - Thea Stilton books!  She choose two books she has been waiting to read (How I love those words - waiting to read!) and one of the Geronimo / Thea books. 

As we walked to pay, Alexis spied another set of books.
"That's what I've been wanting!"

"Do you want to put back one of the Thea books and start The Land of Stories series instead?"

She carefully considered her options and decided to stay with the Thea Stilton books because she knows she likes them. They are funny.  

As we walked up to pay for our books, we agreed to save The Land of Stories for this summer; we could read the series together.

Right now, as I write, Alexis is finishing Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. She is anxious to start one of her new books....but, we agreed, it would be silly to not finish the last 12 pages of this book. 

Our reading identity changes throughout our life and is often influenced by the people around us. Alexis does not read a lot at home but, when she visits us, she reads.  We go to the library and the bookstore.  We read together before bed.  She sees us all read when we have free time.  Alexis takes joy in the fact that she is a reader - and so do I!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I forgot to blog yesterday.  Literally - forgot.

There have been other days that I have chosen to skip due to exhaustion, extreme busy-ness and so on.  But yesterday...

I got lost in a book.


 have not had as much time to read as much as I like lately.  Yesterday, I grabbed Salt to the Sea to start while waiting for my doctor's appointment.  It followed along with me all day as we unsuccessfully tried to set up guardianship accounts for my brother.

Went with me as I went to visit him in his new residence (it is really nice there!).

Followed me back home again.

Then, after dinner, I sat down  to read a bit before a single make-up piano lesson.  Then, right back to the book I went.  I was just about finished when it was time to pick up Alexis from Jen's house.

Back home again.

Helped get Alexis settled in for the night.  We are reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

After she fell asleep, I turned back to my book to finish the last few pages.

When I looked at my watch it was after 11 PM - Chicago time.  That means, after midnight NY time.  So I missed my chance

But, as excuses go, getting lost in a book is one of the best.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for giving me this opportunity to share a Slice of my Life.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday

My family is not very good at celebrating holidays in a timely manner.  Earlier this week, my son Stephen texted me to verify that we were, in fact, celebrating Easter on Easter Sunday.  We are.

Tonight, we celebrated my husband's birthday - -which was actually on March 17th but I was heading to NY for the Saturday Reunion so it go rescheduled.  A week and a few days is not so bad, at least for us.

But tonight was a dual-purposed celebration.

My husband and I were also "receiving" our Christmas present from our children.  

We share the belief that time together is more valuable than more stuff.  Our kids, years ago, opted to stop exchanging gifts with each other.  Instead, they have Sibling Day. They all gather together to prepare and eat a meal. Lately they also play a board game or two. Their Christmas Sibling Day was earlier in March, I believe.

Our Christmas present from our children was Family Dinner and, as the children prepared dinner, my husband and I got a "date" with our grandson.

Dating out kids goes way back to when they were little themselves. The kids used to get TV tickets - 14 tickets, each worth 30 minutes of TV time. When they spent all their TV tickets, they were done watching TV for the week.  But, if they had TV tickets left over after the week ended, they earned stars on a chart.  Ten stars could be traded in for a date with either my husband or myself (we alternated).  The kids preferred the dates: a movie, a game for just the two of us, mini golf, etc.  They became masterful at collecting dates with us.  Even now, my husband still tries to get them one-on-one for breakfast several times a year.  I grab whoever is around as time allows for a meal or an afternoon.


Rod and I took our grandson to the Arboretum.  Alexis decided to join our date instead of helping cook, so the four of us explored the Children's Garden, went down slides, picked up wood chips, touched branches, squished dried leaves, when through the mazes, crossed rickety bridges, and found snails in the pond. As we explored, the 6 kids (our 3 from birth - each with their significant others) chopped, diced, sautéed, blended, and baked a delicious dinner.  When we got to our daughter's home, we feasted on an amazing mix of food.  Lauren planned the tapas-style menu with a mix of some tried and true favorites along with some new options.  It was all delicious.

The best part was watching and listening to these 6 together.  Each and every one of them pitched in - cleaning, making coffee, loading the dishwasher, playing with T.  

I am so proud of the people they have become. Not because they hold glamorous jobs, or have fancy houses, or drive expensive cars.  But because of who they are and what they stand for.

We may often be tardy in our celebrations.  I don't really mind.  We are tardy because we treasure the time together; it's important. Sometimes it takes a bit of scheduling for all 8 of us to be available at the same time.  But it is well worth the effort.  Because time is truly the best gift we can give each other.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

824 miles

Today, the first day of spring break, I woke up to my alarm at 5 AM, showered and drove 824 miles.  I drove to the Minneapolis area and back to Chicago.  13.5 hours round trip.  And I will repeat this process again next Saturday, as my spring break winds up.  Why?

Because a special 10 year old lives in Minneapolis and is going to spend her spring break with us. I have driven this route countless times, sometimes by myself and sometimes with company (other than my young friends).

Sometimes I go up for the weekend, driving up on Saturday, and home again on Sunday.  But, more often than not, I make the round trip because, in the end, I got more time with Alexis.

The story of Alexis and I is for another day.  All I really need to say is that she is family in every way that matters.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring break means

Spring Break
somewhere warm and sunny 
for some
no school for some
no work for some

but, for others, 
Spring Break is just
another week
of work

Sometimes I wonder
how I go to be 
so lucky to
still celebrate 
Spring Break

Last year, we took a trip
to Norfolk
I needed to 
get away
I needed sunshine

This year,
I am staying home
Family is requiring 
too much of us 
to get away 

But there will still be
time for fun
Beauty and the Beast
Girl's tea
Nonna time
Spring baking

Spring break
No matter where or when
means rejuvenation
means family and fun

I am ready
tomorrow at 3
Spring break begins

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Every time I hear the phrase "non-negotiable," I think of the staff at Teacher's College. I am not sure who I heard it from first (Lucy?), but it is a phrase I really appreciate. What is non-negotiable?  What am I not willing to budge on?

This morning, a group of teachers met to discuss non-negotiables in Reader's Workshop -- what belongs in a book box, how often students should get new books, what should a class library look like, how long should students be reading, per trimester, per grade.  We each shared what we value (the student) and how we can best meet the needs of all of our students. We created a list of non-negotiables that we could all agree upon.

Tonight, I am considering other non-negotiables. What is non-negotiable in my personal life?  The health and well-being of my family.  That's the big one that I can not, will not sacrifice.

But this feels a bit more blurry than the discussion this morning.  My husband and I are balancing a lot of things right now - my brother's health and long-term care, aging parents, our daughter's upcoming ankle surgery. All of these involve the health and well-being of our family. How do we determine what we are not willing to budge on?  There are so many factors that we have absolutely no control of that.

I have complete trust that we will get through this - because there is one other non-negotiable in our life - -our faith. At, bottom line, that is the one we need.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.