Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Doodle. — Treasures Found.

I used to get so anxious when people messed with my lists and To Do notebooks.

I needed them to be pretty close to uncluttery.

But as usual, having kiddos has made me let that little obsession for perfection go.

(Just like Felix had to let go of the whole “no spots on the faucet’ thing he used to fuss about several years ago.)

Now,  every so often, I will flip through my To Do list notebook and find little treasures.

Little treasures left as doodles by the boy child.

Now, I’m so glad when I find these.

They are like snapshots of  his five year old thinking. Right now.


Yes. Yes, you are smart. Always believe this. But never ever begin to think that you are too smart to learn.

penguin named bacon

You have an awesome imagination. I hope you will always make time for play. And dream up penguins named “Bacon”. (Actually, the teacher in me thinks you are spelling “Penguin” there at the top…But as your Momma, I just think it is pretty ironic that it also looks a lot like “Bacon”.)

tgiving meal      santa

Holidays are magical. And I get the message, you are not a fan of turkey or … mashed potatoes, maybe? At least right now. I am betting that will change as you get older. But I think we both agree that Santa is awesome and should always be in color!


Always know this. You will always be in my heart, too, Buddy. (That is X and Me! Just in case you couldn’t tell!)

You. You are a treasure.

And so are your random doodles.


Switch. — The Witch and the Candy Bowl.

So, as the resident “Non-Fan of Halloween, But Faking It, Momma”, the hoards of candy of this holiday is a little bit of an issue for me.

candyMany of you know that we hit a switch last year and have been trying to reduce our collective sugar intake.


I told you about it here in the MommyVerb: Sweeten. (Which, by the way, is still THE most-viewed MommyVerbs blog post ever for some reason!)

But then I told you about how I am trying still to let the kiddos be kiddos, which includes some sugary … Balance.

So, as I was thinking about this Halloween which is tomorrow, I just didn’t feel good about buying $30 worth of candy for the Trick or Treaters.

I’ll admit it. It just felt wrong.

I can’t preach, less sugar, less sugar … and then hand out handfuls of sugary chocolate and goo on my front porch.

But it is hard. Because I don’t want to be THAT Mom at THAT house who gives out nickels or toothbrushes.

Nobody wants to be THAT Mom.

So, I made a switch.

I ordered $30 worth of glow in the dark goodies to hand out tomorrow night.

photo 3 (4)

Glow in the dark vampire teeth.

Glow in the dark skeletons.

Glow in the dark creepy crawlies.

Glow in the dark tattoos.

Glow in the dark cups and paddle balls.

Yes, I will be that Mom. That Mom that, at the end of the night, when all of the sugary goodies of Reese’s and Hershey’s and M & M’s look the same, the glow in the dark goodies will be remembered and played with … for at least 17 seconds before the sugar high sets in and they start bouncing off the walls.

But I’m taking it even one step further this year.  photo 4 (3)

I have introduced the concept of the Switch Witch to my kiddos.

You know, the Switch Witch. She’s right up there with the Elf on the Shelf and the Tooth Fairy. She loves candy and will show up on Halloween night to switch your children’s sugar collection for a new toy of some sort.

photo 2 (3)

While Y isn’t fully buying it, X is on board. At least in theory. And Y will be on board if it means she gets the coveted Rainbow Loom madness.

So, we are continuing our journey of making the switch.

From processed foods to whole foods.

From distracted time to intentional time.

These are little grape monsters. ...

These are little grape monsters. …

... and this is the kiddos working together to make them. Perfection.

… and this is the kiddos working together to make them. Perfection.

From sugar to well, not sugar.

It is time to make the switch.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: What is one thing you have switched up lately? What you eat? How you spend your time? Your attitudes toward work or health? What is a switch that you would like to make in your life?  Light-Switch-small

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

1 Comment »

Teach. — Of Shawshank Redemptions in the Classroom.


Dear Teacher,

If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out.

If you are a teacher, you probably haven’t left work for the afternoon yet. No, you will be there for a few more hours, grading papers, offering remediation (last chance before the tests!) courses, preparing plans for tomorrow.

And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.

If you are a teacher, you are willing to go to the ends of the Earth for your students and often do. You go above and beyond everyday. You are not only the teacher, you are often the parent, the counselor, the provider, the supporter.

You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready.

Because if you are a teacher, you know the name of the town you are looking forward to is called ‘summer’. You have your eyes focused on the calendar, counting down the days to the time when you get your comp time returned to you. For what most don’t understand is that you have already worked the time you get off this summer. You have volunteered your evenings, your weekends, your Friday nights, your Sunday afternoons. This is what the rest of the professionals in the world call comp time, and the month of July is when you get to take this back. So, time for chess? Time for reading? Time for reality T.V.? Time for the pool or the beach? Absolutely. You take your time.

Remember, Teacher. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day/Week/Year!

Your friend,



I am one of those people.

One of those people that got out. Escaped. Saw my chance and grabbed it.

Yeah, a regular old Andy Dufresne. (minus the ‘five hundred yards of sh!t smelling foulness’, as Red described.)

So my escape wasn’t anywhere near that dramatic. Truth is, I got an offer, the kind that can’t be refused.

Yes, I was an elementary teacher.

For ten years, I taught 2nd grade, then 4th grade, then 5th grade.

To this day, I’m extremely proud of my work in the classroom. I worked hard to create a safe place for all students. I focused on building students up, creating a community of learners, an environment where they felt connected and responsible for each other. I learned new techniques and strategies and focused on effective instruction. I read professional magazines and journals and books and brainstormed with my colleagues. I loved the art of teaching.

Mostly, I am proud of my students. Proud of the moments when I was witness to the light bulbs. My students who have now all graduated. My last class of 5th graders are now in (or should be in) college. Some are married. Some have families or are getting ready to have families. Some have started their careers, others are still searching for the right fit. I have high expectations of each and every one of them. And they know this.

But eight years ago, I left my classroom for what I thought would be a year. A year to stay at home with Y and get her started in this world. Just before I was getting ready to head back for the first day of school, I was offered another position. It was the dream job–a perfect mix of the things that I love about this teaching gig, minus the things I don’t enjoy. And let’s be honest, the classroom is hard work. Good work, but hard work. Probably some of the hardest work that there is with the biggest amount of responsibility.

So I grabbed it … and other than taking another year off to stay at home and get X started in this world, I’m still there, working with curriculum and professional development, working with teachers and counselors. It is good work and I think it is a gift to say that I enjoy most days.

But recently, I had the chance to do some classroom observations. I got to sit in the back of the room and watch other teachers hard at work at their craft. I watched students engaged in their learning. I watched teachers work the room, connecting with students, laughing with them. For 45 minutes, I watched as students wrote, read, asked questions, raised hands, discussed with each other, … there was even some singing that took place.

As the bell rang, and the students jumped up to tend to their social lives during the next few minutes, I became aware of a feeling. A strangely, odd feeling that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

I was a little jealous.

It is true. It was such great examples of effective teaching, that they did what I thought was impossible.

They made me miss the classroom.

So to all of the teachers out there. A sincere Thanks. Please know you are appreciated by many, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

And I’ll close with a little classic–“Get busy living or get busy dying. That is goshdarn right.”

(Sorry, my former students might be reading, I just can’t curse in front of them!)


–The letter to Red, adapted of course, from the all-time classic, “Shawshank Redemption”.


Show and Tell. — In Dr. Seuss Style

Daily Prompt: Show and Tell  —  You have  been asked to do a five-minute presentation to a group of young schoolchildren on the topic of your choice. Describe your presentation. 

Well, of course, the topic of the presentation was simply: Eat Well. Play More. In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday last week, I was able to visit Y’s 2nd grade class and share the fun of healthy snacks.

It was good to be back in the classroom for a little bit, even in the same classroom that I once taught my own crew of 2nd graders many years ago.  Things have changed a little bit, and yet most things are pretty much the same. It really is like riding a bike, I can slip right back into the Mrs. Z. mode pretty quickly.

We gave each student a paper plate, a plastic knife, a wooden skewer (with explicit directions about the expectations of how to use this tool and a description of the consequences for misuse!), a handful of strawberries and a banana. Done.

Then we proceeded to make a very tall replica of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. The kiddos had fun and they all enjoyed the strawberries and bananas. What an easy, healthy snack with a little fun and imagination mixed in.  And come on, food is always more fun when you get to eat it off of a stick!

snack 3snack 4y snack

Interesting, how life changes so quickly. Now, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, but…. last year, for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I made the exact same snack. Except….. I spent hours gluing red gummy life savers together with layers of white icing sitting on top of an Oreo cookie to send in to Y’s 1st grade class. It’s true. I’m so grossed out by that now, but am happy that we are all making better choices these days.

Biggest Lesson to Learn: It is never too late to start making better choices when it comes to what you put into your mouth and how you spend your time.

And in Dr. Seuss language: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”  Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go!

Decide: Eat Well. Play More.


Sew. — Sock Monkeys on Life.

step 1 socks

Everything has to start somewhere.

The potential is inherent. The possibilities are endless.

From there, it is all about imagination and what you can create.

use all the parts wisely

Use it all. Don’t waste a single thread.

All of your gifts. All of your talents. All of your resources.

Leave nothing behind.


It is about quality, not quantity. Stuff it full of good stuff. In every direction.

Make sure you are full of love, of health, of spirit, of generosity.

Caution: Don’t overstuff. And stay away from the cheap stuff…it could leave you feeling  lumpy.


Put all of the pieces together in a way that makes sense.

Carefully. Pay close attention to the seams.

Make your knots tight, so nothing (or no one) can come apart later.

soul of the sock monkey

The fun is in the details. And the eyes.

Look into another’s eyes and see who they really are.

Connect. Appreciate. Accept.

–Lessons Learned from some ‘sock monkey making’.

Want more?

  • It is ok to ask for help. (Sock Monkey clothes are hard to make!) Mess up. Start over. Buy a little extra fabric, just in case. 

  • See things for what they are and what they can be. What started as a sock, now has the potential to be a lifelong friend.

  • You can tell what kind of friend you have, by looking them in the eyes.

  • Ears are great for listening. And wiping away tears.

  • Where some only see that simple sock, I see friendship. I see handiwork. I see tradition. I see love.

  • Sock Monkeys made in a factory are like processed foods. They are not real. They have a little white tag sewn on instead of a soul inside.

  • Warning: Matching the cutie little girl to just the right sock monkey friend, can result in very high-pitched happy squeals at craft fairs.

Dedicated to Goldean, my Grandmother, a lady I adore who took the time to share this tradition with me and taught me how to make sock monkeys.

And to JoJo: My lifelong friend of 40 years.



%d bloggers like this: