If it wasn’t for Liam…


If it wasn’t for Liam, Mea and Kieran wouldn’t do as well in math.

If it wasn’t for Liam, I wouldn’t hear beautiful music in my home.

If it wasn’t for Liam, we would not have started running 5ks on summer, fall, and spring weekends.

If it wasn’t for Liam, we wouldn’t cheer on the band every Friday night and weekend in the fall.

If it wasn’t for Liam, I wouldn’t have anyone to talk with about poems or short stories that he was assigned, or learn anew about Imperialism and World War I history.

If it wasn’t for Liam, I wouldn’t have someone giving me hugs and telling me he loves me at least ten times a day.

If it wasn’t for Liam, there would be a huge hole in my heart and less rich experiences in my life.



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Kieran competed in Technology Student Association competition this weekend.

He probably joined the group initially because Liam had been so successful at it.

It’s sort of what we’ve been doing in our household for the past two years.

Two years ago, Liam had been the only 7th grader to qualify for nationals.

Last year, he had been the only middle school student to qualify.

Kieran was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work that was going into this activity.

He seemed to be struggling and I shared that he didn’t have to participate in TSA anymore if he didn’t like it.

I asked him to just get through Saturday’s competition and then make a decision.

Kieran placed 1st or 2nd in all of his four events.

I had slightly underestimated him, to be sure.

When we got home, I talked to him privately.

“Kieran, you tried cross country and did better than Liam did in his seventh-grade year.

Now you are have placed in more events as a seventh grader than Liam did, and he went to nationals.

You are seen.

You are talented.

You don’t have to feel like you are in Liam’s shadow anymore.

You are achieving and growing on your own.”

He told me he’d think about what I had said.

Ironically, when I posted his picture and success after Saturday’s event on social media, a few of my friends wrote, “Congrats, Liam!”

His comment: “I’m not in his shadow, am I, mom.”

But I will continue to know and tell him differently.


Heart Map

I was reminded of the importance of students’ completing a Heart Map to encourage their writing.

I had my pre-service teachers complete one as we embark on what could be their first experience in writing (and hopefully planning to one day incorporate into their own classrooms) a writer’s notebook.

Because I always write with them, I thought it was time to update my Heart Map as well:


What would be on your “today” Heart Map?

Quite Obsessed


Although I like to refer to it as “fastidious,” I have come to realize that I have an obsessive personality.

It’s genetic.

My grandmother dries out the sink after she uses it, among other things.

I have found myself stopping teaching to fix a book on a shelf – it was so distracting to me.

I cannot allow any “numbers” to appear next to apps on my phone or iPad.

In fact, if you have a notice for 237 emails showing on your device, I may actually move to sit in another seat.

I have found that I have steered these obsessions into “socially acceptable” avenues: collecting books, watching both seasons of “The Crown” in about two days over winter break, taking college classes… no seriously, after my 90+ credit doctorate (I took extra classes in ed. leadership and literacy coaching), I got my superintendent’s letter of eligibility.

Then, my ESL certification.

Then, my National Writing Project fellowship.

Only my credit card and student loans are privy to the detriment of my obsessions.

Kieran seems to have inherited my habits.

He collects stuffed animals, K’nex, Legos, rocks, and Minecraft.

It used to be Skylanders and dinosaurs.

I have to convince him to donate unused toys before getting new ones.

We have had days where he doesn’t play video games until he finds 10 things to purge from his overcrowded room.

Sometimes he brings me a string.

I cannot even take favorite PJs and shirts away without him finding them and putting them back in his drawers.

He obsessively checks in on his video games: there are rewards to logging in each day.

I was similarly obsessed with DuoLingo (educational, so good, right?)

I understand how he feels and pray that he also turns these obsessions into “good.”

Feeling Nostalgic


Flipping through the channels

To see what I could watch

Lo and behold some old cartoons

Still run during the day.

I immediately felt a wave of melancholy nostalgia

For “Little Einsteins” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”

But really for what they represented:

Simpler times

Frequent snuggles

A house filled with singing

I love each stage that my kids have and are going through

but I find myself during this cold winter, missing my little ones

and the warmth and light they gave.


Anxious Time


To know Liam is to know a mostly calm, kind, quiet young man.

But not during finals week.

Between last week, with final projects and essays due, and this week, with studying and a changed schedule, Liam is feeling stressed.

What does this look like? A kid who is not happy. His face is clearly showing me his displeasure with this time.

What does this sound like? Some raising of his voice to his brother and expressions of self-doubt.

What does this feel like? A lot of hugging and fighting with/hitting of his brother. He is also extremely hungry.

What do I do about it? I give him words to help him process through his time and activities. I tell him it’s okay how he is feeling, but that he cannot take it out on others. I tell him that this will soon be over and he will get some new classes that he is looking forward to.

So, while I usually have a calm, easy-going kid, I have to show extra patience and support during this stressful time.