Tuesday, June 15, 2021

From Indian Two Feet to Fry Bread

Tuesdays at TWT!
When I was a scrawny first-grader with a long blonde braid that swung back and forth across my back as I skipped down the hallway, I checked out an Indian Two Feet (cringe, right?!) book from my school library. For some reason, I fell in love with Indian Two Feet. I checked out every book in the series. I read them again and again. I made my two best friends play Indians with me at recess in a clover patch that we decided was our tipi. I always pretended to be Indian Two Feet (I used to marvel at my oldest daughter's bossiness, but looking back at my childhood play, nearly everything was my idea, and I always played the main parts), while my poor friends played the parts of Indian One Foot and Indian Three Feet (face palm). (Apparently we used up all our creativity imagining that clover patch was a tipi...)  

I couldn't tell you anything about what happened in those books now, although the name was obviously enough to make me terrified about what I'd find when I Googled them. (I found some read-aloud videos of one, and while the story isn't actually as problematic as I'd feared, the original illustrations are atrociously stereotypical, and not much better in a newer version.) But for some reason, my heart and mind were completely smitten with the idea of American Indians after I read those books. (It's entirely possible that these books may have been one of my first encounters with the fact that Native Americans even existed, and I know I wasn't alone.)

As soon as I finished all the Indian Two Feet books in our school library, I wanted to read every book about American Indians I could get my hands on! Fortunately, I was grade levels ahead in reading, with a mom who was passionate about reading, so when I wanted to read about something, I had more than the typical access to materials. I quickly moved on from Indian Two Feet (thank goodness) to devour a wide array of historical fiction, collections of traditional stories, biographies, and informational non-fiction. I researched Tecumseh for my 3rd grade biography assignment and ended up presenting my project in front of the whole school. I'm probably the only kid who ever read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (~ 500 pages) and A Sorrow In Our Heart (~ 800 pages) in their entirety before even becoming a teenager. (Sadly, I now recognize that even so much of that wide reading was problematic, mis-informed, embellisheddeficit-minded, or too anchored in the past.)

Luckily, my parents fostered my desire to learn in more ways than just with books. We attended powwows where I got to ask questions, hear traditional music, taste delicious foods, view beautiful artwork, and even participate in dances. (Powwow culture is VERY welcoming to visitors and a great way to learn about traditions! It's not weird if you aren't tribally enrolled; public powwows welcome everyone and the people are happy to share with you!) We visited countless museums, historic sites, and cultural centers. We attended every educational program we could find. I learned and learned, and slowly, the stereotypes so easily acquired gave way to a more accurate understanding of various tribes, their unique histories and cultural traditions, and some awareness of modern tribal life. More accurate books were published, and I started learning to discern reliable sources and problematic portrayals. 

When I got a middle school assignment to write to a famous author, I wrote to Joseph Bruchac, an Abenaki author who sent me back a beautiful art print from one of his books. My 35 page senior thesis for AP Lit (I lost a few points for going over the recommended guidelines of 15-20 pages... but I was so excited!) explored themes and symbols of modern American Indian identity in works such as Ceremony and House Made of Dawn. My dad signed me up as a founding member of the National Museum of the American Indian when it opened, and I've learned so much from our trips there and the articles in the member magazine. 

Now, I'm so thankful to be able to share incredible books like Cradle Me and Fry Bread with my daughters and my students; books that show the beauty and resilience of modern American Indians with tribal specificity and cultural accuracy, and a sense that these people are still here. I'm thankful for tribally enrolled citizens who educate on social media and high-quality internet resources that make it possible to access information (and ensure its accuracy) more easily. From home this past year, I've learned about various tribal languages and history from amazing tribally enrolled members across the country through incredible virtual museum and library events.

And the more I learn, I realize there's just so much more to learn. My reading list and my Twitter feed grow. 

I also realize how uncommon this learning is for so many Americans. What would I know about American Indians if I hadn't done my best to learn about them for my whole life? What do most Americans know? Some stereotypes brought on by problematic childhood books. Great big holes in history classes, with a few quick sidebar notes that usually serve to further stereotypes. The impression that American Indians lived a long time ago, and/or in the West. Racist mascots and catchphrases that are so engrained in popular culture that it's easy to think they're ok, just like those old books. Even some recently published books (that you'd hope would be high quality) turn out to be problematic

When I Googled Indian Two Feet (and watched the read-alouds to see what it's really like), I was dismayed to find so many positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. Too many reviews mentioned being excited to find a favorite childhood book to share with children, the beauty (?!) of the illustrations, and even using it to teach kids about American Indians (!!!!). 

We have to get this right. We, on this stolen land, need to to filter out the stereotypes, inaccuracies, romanticizations, and omissions and find the real stories of the people who were here long before us, and the people who are still here now. We can do better, especially with all that is available to us in this moment. We must do better.

I'll miss being able to share so many of my favorite childhood books with my girls, but I'm more grateful that they'll have access to books that affirm, honor, and accurately portray these important cultures. Please join us. 

Rainbow Girl enjoying the back pages of Cradle Me. 
She loves to point to each cradleboard and say either the name of the tribe or what the baby is doing (from the earlier text of the book).

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The girl and her mama

Tuesdays at TWT!
 "Can we read girl and her mama?" Rainbow places a chubby little hand on my knee and gazes up expectantly, locking her blue eyes onto mine as if she's trying to channel maximum cuteness.

"Ummm, which one?" There are way too many books that fit this description.

"Girl and her mama! It's new! It's a present..."

"Ummm..." New? Is there a story about a girl and her mom in one of the most recent issues of one of their Spanish magazines? I want to figure out what book she wants, but I can't come up with one...

"The name is a song?" She crinkles her eyes.

"OH! Yes! Your Name is a Song! I got that for Sis for her birthday! You want to read Your Name is a Song?" I got that for your sister because her name is beautiful and often mispronounced, but sure, of course!

"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" she squeals in increasingly high registers as she hop-gallops in place in excitement. I pull her onto my lap and she runs her tiny fingers across the front cover. "There's the girl! And mama!" She spins halfway around to gaze up at me again with that crinkly smile. "Like Mama and [her name]!"

"That's right, honey bun, just like Mama and you." I give her a squeeze and kiss her hair.

She loves the cover & all the illustrations! <3

Settling back against me in her floppy reading position, she narrates the wordless first pages herself. "There's the kids, playing. There's the girl. She's not playing." Then she happily points out whenever the mom and girl are together, little finger shooting out in delight. "There's the girl! There's the mama!"

When the names come, she tries out the first few, grinning and wiggling as if savoring them in her mouth as we tap our feet to their rhythm together. "Olumide! Kotone!" She smiles when I pat her chest and tries out "Ahlam", then giggles when I poke her in the belly for Ngozi. 

The singing part gets her cackling and squealing as we sing "Miizzz Annnnnndersonnnnnnn," Bawawawab!", and "Kooooraaaaa Jalimuuuuuso" together. 

After we read it, she demands to see the video of the author pronouncing the names, which we'd watched after the first time we read it. "Hear the names, on Mommy's phone?" She tries out a few more names as we listen, and often interrupts to ask, "The girl? the girl?" When Kora Jalimuso comes, I point it out and rewind so we can hear it again.

That night, as she talks herself to sleep in her crib, I can hear her trying out names from around the world. "Bilqisss! Ju-long!"

And a couple mornings later, when I can't quite figure out what she's saying in a singsong voice in the monitor, I'm astonished when I realize that she's singing, "Koooraaa Jalimuuso" to herself. 

Nearly every day since, she's toddled over at some point to ask again. "Can we read... the name is a song?! It have the girl and her mama!"

And every time we read it, she interacts with it in nearly the same way: loving the pictures of the girl and her mom and connecting them to us. (One day, she even points out to me that the girl and her mama have matching flowers on their bags!) Trying out the new sounds in her mouth. Dancing and wiggling, smiling and giggling. Delighting in the rhythm, the musicality, the pride, the joy, and the beauty of kids of different colors and names with different sounds. 

Definitely music to the ears of this mama and her girl. 

Kora Jalimuso's name song moment!
(the explanation for this name in the back matter just takes it up another level!)

Thank you, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, for such a beautiful story honoring and lifting up the children (like my students and Rainbow's big Sis) who are tired of their names getting "stuck" in others' mouths. Thank you, Luisa Uribe, for bringing so much beauty into the illustrations, from the vibrant body language to the matching flowers my 2yo noticed before me, the hair details, and the whispered thread of"salaams" stretching between the girl and her mama's mouths before school. I'm grateful to see my girls delighting in a book that is so rich in so many ways. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Dancing dream

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

Nearly 4 years ago, when she was just 2, Sweetie fell in love with the Irish dancers at our town's Irish Festival. I've always loved the music and dancers too, but she was absolutely mesmerized, even as far from the stage as we sometimes were. She stood on my lap, clapping, bouncing, and pointing. 

Sweetie at 2 years old, clapping to the dancers

When I set her down, she started dancing immediately, and over the next few days (weeks, and months), we were astonished to see how much detail she'd picked up as she watched. She pointed her toes, she kicked up her legs, she brought her foot to her knee. On the car ride home, she started asking for "Irish songs" and then wanted the one I already had on my phone "again!" and "again!", causing me to download more songs in a weekend than I usually do in months. I figured it would be a phrase that she'd outgrow in a few weeks, but by the time the next festival rolled around the following year, she was dancing in an unmistakably Irish style anytime she heard music (and plenty of music-less times)!

That summer, at 3, she self-taught-Irish-stepped her way around every dance floor at the festival, to the delight of all the musicians on stage and all our fellow festival-goers. One local band even invited her up to the stage to dance with them, but she couldn't quite figure out if that was really ok. We scoured the festival program and tried to hit every dance show we could!

3 years old, dancing in front of the dancers

Most thrilling for her, she got to participate in an Irish dancing lesson from a local Irish dance school at the dance floor in the children's area. That did it. She started telling everyone she was an Irish dancer! 

her first "lesson" / first time dancing "on stage" <3 

This was definitely not a phase. Whenever she met someone new, she'd declare that she was a dancer and break into something that definitely resembled a jig enough that the new person would grin and say, "Oh yeah, Irish! I see!" Thankfully, the spring she turned 4, the local Irish dance school decided to add pre-beginner class sessions for kids as young as 4, so she finally got to start learning real steps instead of making them up! All summer, she practiced her jig steps: "cross over, up, back-two-three-four", until it was finally time for another Irish Festival. Now, she knew the teachers and some of the "big dancers" from her school, so we targeted their shows on the program and she spent her weekend waving wildly and pointing to the dancers she knew. Now, she was starting to talk about someday dancing on the stage.

4 years old, waving to her teachers as they danced on stage!

We spent every waking minute of the festival weekend watching dancers, and we signed her up for the 3-day mini-camp at her dance school the week after the festival.

1st mini-camp, she's the one in the air on the right!

Now that she was an official student of the dance school, we got to attend their ceili (Irish dance event) in February 2020, where we all learned to do reels just before the world shut down.

ceili reel!

In August 2020, we danced at home to a livestream "festival" with footage from previous years and Sweetie moved up to real beginner level, earning a practice uniform and real ghillies (soft shoes)! All this school year, her little sister frolicked around her in our family room as she did her lessons on Zoom, finally looking like a real Irish dancer, but with nobody to see her. 

Zoom lesson, in her practice uniform!

This past weekend, nearly 4 years after that festival when she fell in love with the dancers, her dance school had an outdoor recital, right on one of the stages used during the festival! 4 years of dreaming, pretending, and practicing, and now here she was, in a beginner performance uniform, doing the cutest two-hand jig (with masks and no hand-holding) that has ever been performed. 

3rd from the left (with her leg way up)!

in her uniform, watching the older dancers, still dreaming

After the beginners danced, the school even surprised them by calling them back up on stage to receive "first recital" medals, which she insisted on wearing the rest of the day. "I want everyone to know I'm a dancer and I got a medal!" she declared. 

What a pleasure it is to watch as a dream dances in your child's heart!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Eagle wonder

Tuesdays at TWT!
Bright blue smocks hunch over bright clipboards on raised knees, patterned pants perch on seat cushions to stay out of the muddier-than-I'd-hoped grass. Little hands carefully craft numbers, words, and drawings. Big eyes peer out of raised binoculars. 

"When scientists study a special animal, they write down what it's doing at different times. Let's write the time, a few words, and a sketch to show our big idea! A sketch is not a careful art picture with lots of details, it's a quick drawing to help us remember an idea." I take a deep breath through my mask. Writing in D'Neilian letters (which I just learned this year from Sweetie's remote kindergarten classes) while holding a portable whiteboard with one hand is hard, and I try to strike a balance between being neat and not taking excruciatingly long. "It's about 11:25, and I want to remember that we can see one eagle sitting in a nest. We don't know if it's the mommy or daddy because they look the same. You can copy my words or write your own."

A little voice pipes up. "It's the mommy, because mommies take care of the nest!" 

Perfect. Watching eagles, busting stereotypes. I crinkle my eyes. "Actually, the mommy and daddy eagles take turns! One is always near the nest, but it could be either the mommy or the daddy. The other one is probably out looking for food, and then they'll switch! Just like how maybe different people in your family take turns helping you, cooking the food, and taking care of the house!" 

This one eagle has been sitting in the nest for the 20 minutes our troop has been here, and while I'm glad it gave us a chance to start our meeting and get settled, I hope it will do something different soon, or our observation log won't be very interesting! We might have to draw a more detailed picture of what we see, but I'm hoping we'll get some activity, like our family has seen before, so we can make a real log.

our Daisy Girl Scout troop observing the bald eagle nest (up in the center tree),
photo credit: one of the troop moms

My mask clings to my face for a minute as I take another deep breath, trying to project my voice as much as possible without yelling to hold the attention of the 7 wiggly kindergarteners spread in a socially distanced, together-but-too-far-apart circle on the bank of the pond. "Now I'm going to tell you a story about how people helped make the world a better place for bald eagles!" 

"I love stories!" The closest girl on my left crinkles her eyes above her bright magenta mask. 

"When I was your age, bald eagles were endangered. I never dreamed I'd be able to see one in the wild!" I talk about overhunting, DDT, and too-thin eggs. Their eyes are wide. 

Suddenly, a little arm reaches out, pointing at the treeline behind me. "LOOK!" 

I turn around in time to see majestic wings spread out, flap a few times, and glide to the parents' favorite nearby perching tree. A chorus of "WOWWWWWW!"s echoes around me. I pop up my binoculars, and 7 Daisies scramble to do the same. "This is a great time to really see the whole eagle! Isn't it beautiful?" Just as I get my binoculars perfectly in focus, a white stream shoots out from the eagle's bottom. "Did you see that?! It pooped!!!" I giggle, and 7 Daisies do too. They keep giggling. 

"Let's write that in our log!" More giggles. 

At first, I write and sketch about the eagle flying to the tree, then I glance at the giggly girls. "We should probably add that it pooped, right?!"

Once the giggly scientists have mostly settled and recorded our delightful observation, I get out the graph I made to illustrate the story of the eagle population's incredible recovery. I've never taught a lesson that was interrupted in quite this way before! "Ok, so I'm going to tell you the story of how people worked hard to make the world a better place for the eagles when they figured out how much they were in trouble!" I walk around the inside of the circle to show each girl the graph up close, then talk them through the highlights of the amazing success story. Just as I finish, the second eagle comes back, cruising into the nest. Perfect timing! I'm used to adjusting my teaching on the fly, but leading a lesson outside to socially distanced kindergarteners about an active animal doing unexpected things behind my back is a whole new level of multitasking and responsiveness.

"Look! See, the two parents are taking turns!" We all scramble for binoculars again. "This one's probably going to feed the baby now!" Sweetie and I have been able to see the baby pop up to be fed before, but unfortunately, the baby stays buried in the bottom of the nest this time, and whichever parent this is goes far down to meet it. We make another notation in our logs, and I point out that we won't write anything about the baby since we can't actually see it, even though we know it's there. 

eagle observation scientists!
photo credit: the same mom

We've barely finished that entry when the parent that was perched on the tree takes off, circling around us several times, regal black against the bright blue sky. "It's putting on a show for us!" The other moms and I are scampering, pointing, and gasping as much as the girls. We're all mesmerized. 

I could stay here all afternoon, and they seem like they could too, but our time is up, so we scurry to record one last log entry, sing "Make New Friends", and do our imaginary, socially-distanced friendship-squeeze-from-far-apart. I tuck the whiteboard under my arm, pick up my bag of extra materials, and remind them to try to look where they step since the ground is so wet. They follow me through the meadow like a family of little ducklings, mostly missing the biggest puddles and patches of mud. 

"WE SAW THE EAGLES!" Little voices screech with excitement as they run to the parents who came to pick them up. "We saw the mommy and daddy! In the nest! And they flew!"

"Thank you so much! I learned A LOT about eagles!" proclaims one of the moms who'd stayed the whole time to help. 

"Yes! I learned SO MUCH!" another chimes in.

"I'm so glad they put on such a show for us!" I reply, and I feel like I'm soaring right up there with the one that circled over us. God is so good.

I need to work on remembering the tails on my D'Neilian l's, but it's not too bad for a HS teacher, right? And I guess I didn't need to be worried about how active the eagles would be!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spring song

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

chirp chirp chirp                                    who's hiding here?

thweeeeet thweeeeeet                           a flash of red & yellow on midnight black:

                    redwing blackbird on a soft cattail!      


chirp chirp chirp                                     a favorite feeder friend,           

chickadee dee dee                                  cute little cap, named for his song,

                    little voices shout: black-capped chickadee!

coo coo                                                    who could it be?

coo ah coo, coo coo                                 mourning dove's sweet song

coo ah coo, coo coo                                 gentle and low

chatter chatter tweet                                not all songs are easy                             

twitter twitter cheep                                but the chorus is so joyful...

buzzzzzzz flutter zip!                            Dragonflies! Bumblebee!              

                            Don't forget the bugs!

It feels like summer today! We enjoyed a bike ride and lots of time in the backyard, surrounded with plenty of sweet songs in both places!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Majestic parenting

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

a dark blob

stunningly huge against the thin branches

constructed carefully,

even lovingly?

a dark shape on top

perching, nodding, surveying its territory,

leaning towards

a much smaller lump

a great wing flaps

then unfolds, reaches, stretches majestically

hooked beak forward,

sharp talons hanging,


"Look, look! It's flying!"

outstretched wings

seem to scrape the cerulean sky, but

the regal silhouette 

leaves no mark

with eyes and mouths open wide

we gaze upwards in awe

watchful mom or dad:

soaring circles never stray too far,

then glide gracefully

to a nearby branch

giving a little space

but staying just close enough:

that's love

I grew up seeing bald eagles at our local zoo and learning how endangered they were. I never dreamed that I'd be able to take my daughters to see real wild bald eagles at their nest at all, let alone that the nest would be right across the street from their school! (The nest is the huge blob in the tree above my older daughter, and one of the parent eagles is the smaller blob in the tree above my younger daughter.)

One eagle has always been sitting in the nest (with at least one baby) whenever we've visited, but yesterday it was a treat when the parent suddenly took off and delighted us by circling right above us for several minutes before landing in a nearby tree! We also got to see both parents as they switched shifts, with one flying away to hunt while the other one stayed near the nest!

Friday, April 16, 2021

para Adam y todos los demás


I blog in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to copy this post's url into Google Translate and experience the magical imperfection of machine translation!

13 años. 7o grado. 

Aficionado de las películas de Disney / Pixar. 

Manos vacías, escuchando, obedeciendo.

Adam Toledo.

Muerto. Matado. Fusilado. Asesinado. 

13 años. Menor que mis estudiantes.











y más...




llenos del orgullo, el poder, y la sabiduría

de civilizaciones magníficas:

los maya, náhuatl, taíno,

mandinka, kongo,

asirios, kurdos, beréberes...

mis estudiantes



llenos de esperanza y sueños,

tristeza, desafíos, desesperación.

valientes, fuertes,


jactándose, pavoneándose, bromeando,

o encerrándose 

para proteger 

sus corazones,

sus emociones, esperanzas, y sueños. 

mis estudiantes


A veces, arrogantes.

A veces, derrotados. 

A veces, animados, alegres, 


A veces, enojados, frustrados, 


A veces, toman decisiones sin pensar.

Se meten en líos. Se equivocan. Se distraen.

No consideran las consecuencias. No prestan atención. 

Pero también tienen ideas que cambiarán el mundo.

Aprenden, crecen, superan obstáculos.

mis estudiantes


¿Y qué van a hacer

si algún día, 

(si ya se fusilaron a un niño escuchando,

si ya se asesinaron a un muchacho obedeciendo,)

qué van a hacer

mis estudiantes multilingües

si un policía que no entienden

les pide hacer algo que no entienden

en un idioma que no entienden, 

o que les es difícil entender 

en un instante de terror?

¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía sólo ve 

su piel?

¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía 

no tarda 

apenas un segundo

en disparar?

¿Qué pasarán a sus sueños,

sus esperanzas, sus futuros,

si son asesinados 

en menos tiempo que tardan en traducir 

un pensamiento?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Too beautiful

Tuesdays at TWT!
What do I write? The sun is pouring across our yard, birds are twittering and chirping their greetings as they flit around our deck, and my heart is full of sweet moments with the girls. It's beautiful here. I could write a hundred beautiful, sweet slices. 

But that's just it. This life is too beautiful to not be bothered that once again, someone who should be in this world is now not. Someone who should've woken up today to hear the birds and see the sunshine (or whatever the weather is doing in Minnesota) did not. Someone whose two-year-old should've covered him in cuddles today, just like my Rainbow did for me. Daunte Wright. How do you tell a two-year-old that their daddy isn't ever coming home again?!

It's too beautiful here to not remember that mere days before that, Lt. Caron Nazario almost wasn't here either. In what kind of country should an active duty Army lieutenant be afraid to get pulled over? (Obviously, in the kind of country where an officer tells him he should be afraid.)

It's too beautiful here to not feel my stomach twisting with the recognition that they, like so many others, were just doing an activity so commonplace that it became one of our favorite, lighthearted ways to get out of the house during the long months of pandemic winter. That we are excited to hop in the car for joyful drives where we take the long way home. We're not scared, even if we happen to see a police car on the way. We just keep singing and driving. 

Which is why the beauty of today just makes my head and heart hurt more. I don't want to live in a world where I can leave my house without fear (I mean, other than the deadly pandemic and the general experience of being female...) while others can't. I don't want to live in a world where when my girls get older, my lists of worries for them will be much smaller than the lists of other mothers whose children simply have more melanin than we do.

Those of us who are privileged enough to not be directly, disproportionately affected by injustice can't just keep living like nothing happened, over and over again. Nor can we pause briefly to read some books and articles, feel better about ourselves because we're "learning", and then keep living, teaching, and parenting the same ways we always have. Learning is good and important, and we should all keep it up. (I'm certainly a different person and teacher than back when I was shocked when one of the first ELs I ever worked closely with told me there are lots of racists in my hometown.) But we can't stop there. 

Because what can I write today that I haven't written before? And then again? And all the times, too many to name, that I didn't write anything? And all the countless times before, for hundreds of years?

It's too beautiful here to ignore another trial, filled with the usual spin, underway about another Black life cut too short, unable to enjoy this beauty. George Floyd. Why is his daughter, just a year older than my Sweetie, spending these beautiful days missing her daddy instead of playing with him?

It's too beautiful here to forget that, for all the attempts at victim blaming, white mass murderers are lead calmly out of their crime scenes and white insurrectionists get to go home after documenting themselves attacking the United States Capitol.

It's too beautiful to also not recognize all the recent brutal attacks and harassment against Asians, who now have to wonder if they'll be assaulted or blamed for the virus if they step outside to enjoy a day like today.

It's much too beautiful here to not recall that these are not isolated incidents, small blemishes that we can just brush past in a return to some idyllic "normal". No, they are merely the latest drips in a long, deep storm of terror and injustice sprung from the very formation of our country.

"America, the beautiful," we sing. And it is. But also, it is not. 

And until we confront the truth that in many ways, America is deeply, menacingly ugly, it cannot be as beautiful as we want it to be. 

NPR, A Decade of Watching Black People Die, May 2020

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A slice of summer, in early April

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

Golden rays pour onto sun-starved skin

that soaks them up like flowers opening for the first time.

"Your headie's hot!" shrieks the big sister,

gentle hand patting the shining streaks of brown and almost-gold

of her little one's hair as they catch their breath,

still beside each other for just a moment

before running, flailing, spinning, laughing,

up and down the hill 



Instinctively, my hand shoots up to my own head,

my own streaks of gold and brown,

and yes, the sun is here, close enough

not just warm but hot!

Neighboring houses are tiny mirrors of themselves

set in matching white and pink sunglasses

above wide smiles, teeth too big for little mouths.

A cheerful bird serenade 

as we eat ice-cream truck treats on the deck:

they can feel it too. 

Swimsuits! Sandals! Back outside!

"WATER TABLE!" the youngest squeals, "with UNICORNS!"

I can't believe she even remembers it.

Splash! Splat! 

Giggles, smiles, giggles.

And I know it's just teasing;

I know it won't last

for now;

I know there's more waiting to come...

But I also know 

summer is coming,

summer will come, 

and it's not as far away 

as it has been.

Friday, April 2, 2021


Celebrating languages on Fridays!
I write in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to experience the magic (and imperfection) of machine translation by pasting this post's url into Google Translate! And if you can write in a language other than English, join me next Friday!

Hemos cocinado torrijas por la primera vez. 

No me había enterado nunca de las torrijas hasta la Semana Santa que vivía en España, hace dieciséis años ahora. Un día me desperté para descubrir que mi "mamá española", Carmen, había cocinado un desayuno especial. Parecía semejante al French Toast, pero con un sabor distinto. - ¡Son torrijas! - me dijo ella. - Es un desayuno típico de la Semana Santa. ¡Y estarán más ricos mañana! -

Me las encantaban. ¿Cómo podría esta gente comer un desayuno tan delicioso sólo una vez al año?

Resolví intentar cocinarlas cada Semana Santa. Pero la verdad es que no me gusta cocinar, y menos si es algo que no he intentado antes. Y cuando por fin encontré una receta, me intimidaron los muchos pasos. 

Hasta el marzo de 2020, con el mundo en pedazos, cuando no pareció divertido cocinar unas recetas nuevas durante las semanas (¡jajaja!) en casa. Se me ocurrió otra vez el idea de cocinar las torrijas, y casi lo hicimos, pero el tiempo transcurrió en una neblina de trabajo y paternidad, y se me olvidó pedir los ingredientes necesarios antes de la Semana Santa. 

Entonces, cuando las semanas encerradas en casa se convirtieron en meses, y en un año, y nos encontramos otra vez en casa este marzo siguiente, decidí que éste, seguramente, era el año de hacer torrijas. Y este año, logré recordar pedir los ingredientes necesarios, y encontré una receta en inglés para que mi esposo la pudiera leer. Los muchísimos pasos de la receta casi me dieron un ataqué de pánico todavía, pero, por suerte, a mi esposo le encanta cocinar y probar recetas nuevas. Él se encargó de leer la receta temible y seguir sus pasos, y pronto, la cocina se llenó con el olor de aceite. 

mi esposo haciendo las torrijas bajo la mirada vigiladora de Sweetie

-¡Huele a España!- le dije. Carmen cocinaba tantas cosas con aceite que casi todos los días, su olor difundía por todo el piso pequeño. En el almacén, ¡había un pasillo entero de botellas de aceite de oliva! 

Guardamos las torrijas en la nevera por la noche, recordando las palabras de Carmen. Y hoy por la mañana, desayunamos con el sabor de la Semana Santa en España. 


-¡Es mi desayuno favorito!- declaró Sweetie. 

-¡Estarán más sabrosas mañana!- guiñé, pensando en Carmen. Y casi podía ver la cocinita de su piso, tan pequeñita comparada con la nuestra, el sol madrileño brillando entre las cortinas verdes, la vista desde la ventana donde yo buscaba cada mañana el autobús que llegaba antes del mío, y las sonrisas grandes y orgullosas de Carmen y Gerardo cuando nos enseñaron algo nuevo a mi compañera de cuarto y yo. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A different 31 days

Whew! 31 days at TWT!
There's something exceptionally strange about the passage of time in a pandemic. Every day feels like a week, every week seems to drag on for a year, and yet, every month, I'm astonished to find that the calendar is changing again. Things that happened last week feel like they were months ago, but when I feel like surely I got that email or last texted that friend last week, it turns out that it's actually been a month or more!

Blogging every day for a month is always challenging (as proven by the fact that I haven't actually done it since 2016!), but just like everything in 2020 (see? how can it even be 2021 when every day since March 17, 2020 has been practically the same?), it felt very different this year.

Usually, the excitement of writing and connecting propels me forward on a wave of enthusiasm until at least mid-month, and I start to get stuck around the late teens or 20th day. This year, I felt exhausted at day 6 and wondered if I could really pull this off, then absolutely hit my stride mid-month and mostly cruised the rest of the way with just a couple of days where I was slightly, but not even really, tempted to not write.

Usually, my slices are a mix of classroom snapshots and family moments, with the occasional nature slice or reflection thrown in. This year, my posts were just like me, adrift in a sea of endless mom moments with no classroom in sight, with a couple of reflective posts thrown in.

Usually, I try to really work on my writing craft, trying new forms or gaining inspiration from others, and tapping into my poet side at least a couple of times. This year, it was all I could do to get a slice written each day, so I stuck to my typical writing style, trying hard to excel at the strategies I'm comfortable with, but not really trying anything new or anything in the least bit difficult (other than the hard work of slicing in Spanish on Fridays). However, I did push myself to include a song in each slice to celebrate my love of music and its power in my life. While some slices were about a song or included a song easily, there were others where it was a challenge to find the right song or artfully tie a song to my story. 

Usually, I have at least one day where I feel like I don't have any writing ideas, but this year (probably because I'd only written 4 posts in the past 2 years), my list of possible slices grew longer all month, and is currently sitting at 36 future slice ideas! (Looks like I have no excuses for slicing Tuesdays & Spanish Fridays!) I wasn't even sure I wanted to try the challenge this year, and now I can't believe I missed so many Tuesdays over the past months. (Truly, there were many days I realized on Wednesday that the previous day had been Tuesday, resolved to try the next week, and promptly proceeded to forget again. There were also plenty of Tuesdays I just decided I was too tired or writing was too much work, of course.)

Usually, I'd look for Linda's posts about nature or her family, Deb's posts about her dog (RIP, Chloe!), elsie's walks, and LeeAnn's amazing teaching ideas. This year, for the first time, most of my original slicing friends are either no longer slicing at all, or not slicing every day. I had fun welcoming new slicers and falling in love with stories and writing styles I'd never "met" before, but it felt very strange to navigate this challenge without the people who lifted me through so many others. (However, the fact that many of them continued to comment on my posts or like them on social media reinforced the special bond we've formed. They're not slicing friends now, they're... friends!)

Usually, slicing in Spanish on Fridays was something I did by myself, for myself. This year, I realized it could be so much more, and I'm so grateful to the TWT team for embracing my #MultiFri idea! It was incredible to read and listen to slices in so many different languages, to stretch my Spanish by engaging with native Spanish-speakers, to see language learners and heritage speakers engaging with their linguistic identities, to read other slices written in English but reflecting on the impact of world languages in their lives, and to just bask in the celebration of multilingualism, while embracing the pride that comes with knowing that my ideas matter. 

Usually, I talk up my blogging journey with my students as I prepare them for the student challenge in April. Now, I miss them. I miss designing mini-lessons to show them the power of their words and the beauty of crafting those words in impactful ways. I miss sharing my writing with them and seeing them change the way they see me, then seeing the spark in their eyes when they realize that they, too, could be writers, storytellers, even poets. I miss the connections we form through reading each other's slices and commenting, the way this challenge strengthens a classroom community, even this late in the year. I miss sharing their blogs with my colleagues and seeing the way my students' eyes light up when they receive a comment from their math teacher or guidance counselor, as well as the way those colleagues are impacted by my students' stories and writing styles. This year, I will carve out more time to support the participating classrooms with comments that note where I'm from, remembering how much my students loved knowing they were getting comments from teachers and students in faraway places.

It's a different year, for sure. But despite all the challenges we're all facing, different isn't always bad. After all, here we are, 31 days after I almost decided not to participate, with new (and still old) friends, a new way to highlight multilingualism, an overabundance of ideas to propel me forward, 31 very unique moments captured (including so many family memories to savor), a lot of reflection about the role of music in my life, and an aliveness in my heart reminding me that yes, I am a writer. 

I did it!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Mask parade!

Day 30 of 31 at TWT!
"We can get shale rocks! With Meemaw and Grandaddy!! I need my MASK!!!" Rainbow Girl squeals with excitement as soon as I tell her that my parents are going to meet us at our favorite park.

After packing lunches, rain boots for creeking, and extra clothes, and seemingly half the house, we choose our masks on the way out. "Pink unicorn! Pink unicorn!" she shrieks, reaching out her little arm and opening her chubby fingers. 

I think back to how excited she was to finally be big enough to wear a mask. All summer and fall, she'd been watching us put on our masks to see my parents or pick up her sister's school supplies. She was pretty good about wearing the little faceshield sunhat we'd gotten her, but she knew it wasn't the same. After a few times asking if she could have a mask, she learned the answer and started announcing, "Sis is big enough! Mommy's big enough! Daddy's big enough!" whenever we got them out. It was perfect. As her birthday approached, we started hyping, "You'll be big enough soon!" 

We made sure the mask pack was the first present she opened on her birthday, right away in the morning. As soon she pulled the tiny unicorn and rainbow masks out of the pack, she grabbed the pink one and held it up to her face. I cheered, "You're big enough!" and helped her pull the loops over her ears. Clenching her little fists in excitement, she tilted her head up and squinted her eyes in her happiest smile. 

The birthday girl, finally big enough!

"MASK PARADE!" she announced gleefully, flail-dance-running in circles around the family room with Sweetie close behind.

She wore it to my parents' house. She wanted to show it to Sweetie's kindergarten friends during their school meeting. She played in it. She colored in it. She read in it. She played in it some more. Hours later, if she could've eaten her snack in it, she would have!

Now, she usually only wears a mask when needed, although we still have the occasional mask parade. But she always keeps them on so happily that people ask incredulously how old she is when they see her. (It's a fair question since she's still wearing 12-18 month clothes!) 

"I'm two!" she declares proudly, often followed by an excited index finger jabbing at her face. "I have my MASK!" 

creeking today with the same mask (her absolute favorite), since my parents were with us

(When Laurie first started putting on a mask for a few minutes during her Facebook Lives last spring, talking about how we could all be superheroes by wearing a mask and washing our hands, Rainbow Girl burst into tears, but soon, she was much more curious than scared!)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Ride in the car!

Day 29 of 31 at TWT!
Sun streams through the windshield, making Rainbow Girl's hair in the mirror seem lighter than it really is. It's chilly today, but it looks deceivingly beautiful as we zip along the country roads, taking the long way home, as always. For most of last year, she hated the car (probably because the only place we went all spring and summer was to the doctor to get shots!), but in the fall, she suddenly decided riding in the car was so fun that she didn't want to get out, loudly yelling "I don't WANT head home!" when we approached our neighborhood. Suddenly, she would screech "YEAH! RIDE IN THE CAR!" when I said it was time to pick up one of Sweetie's free school lunches for remote learners, and one of our sanity-saving winter activities became driving around for an extra 20-30 minutes on any day the lunch is something Sweetie likes. 

Just a few minutes from our house, we can zoom along safe, fun backroads with rolling hills, gorgeous views, and few other cars. One minute we're gliding past wide-open, placid farm fields, and around the next bend, we're winding through wooded areas where long, gated driveways lead to mansions we can barely catch glimpses of. On one of our favorite routes, we even sail past the historic, well-preserved farm where the namesake of Sweetie's school, a freed slave, became the first Black farm-owner in the county and hid escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Just down the road, we peer at the reservoir that now covers the riverbank caves where the escaping slaves would hide until the farm owners rang a bell that signaled safety, and we think about the courage of all involved.

When we're not contemplating history, the girls balance singing loudly along to their playlist, looking at books, and looking out the window. With her musical car mirror, Rainbow Girl can see out the front windshield too, even though she's rear-facing, and I love seeing her little finger in my rearview mirror, pointing into her mirror at something we're approaching. "LOOK!" she'll screech, "DIGGERS!" (Both girls are in love with construction vehicles of all kinds.) Or I'll see her holding up a book, tiny finger on a picture, declaring, "A rabbit! Look, a rabbit!" or "I see Brown Bear, Brown Bear!"

She also loves to introduce each song by shrieking her special nickname for it when she hears the first few notes. For example,"How Far I'll Go" from Moana is "Pig!" because she likes watching for Moana's pig friend to appear in the music video during our YouTube playlist dance parties. "For the First Time in Forever" from Frozen is "Quack Quacks!" or "Duckies!" because she loves the little family of ducks that waddles by Anna at one point in the video.

In the car, it's astonishing to see how much she's memorized each video as she narrates her favorite songs by describing what happens in the video, exactly at the right moment in the song, announcing when Moana "dives in the pool!" in "I am Moana", or when Elsa shoots off ice fireworks in "Some Things Never Change".

Even better, she narrates the Spanish ones too, and while I know she just has the songs and their videos memorized like the English ones, she's also connecting the Spanish lyrics she's learning to the pictures in her head from the videos, and starting to learn what some words mean. I'm so proud when she declares, "Nariz means nose!", "I like melon!" or shakes her body at the correct times when "Hormiguita" comes on in the car. (Sweetie loves to help by tickling her in the correct body part as the ant crawls around!) Or when she tells what each letter does in "La Ronda de Vocales": "He bring a present for her mommy! He eats! He rides her bike!" (At just over two, she's still working on English too, and one of her more adorable explorations right now is pronouns that don't always agree with themselves.) 

Sweetie, who loves to be Elsa, mostly asks questions about the sights and helps make sure her little sister has the right book or her water cup... until the Frozen songs come on. Then she's fully focused on singing every word at the top of her lungs, making Elsa-ice-power motions with her hands (sometimes copied by Rainbow). 

I'm glad we'll be able to start enjoying more time outdoors and using the car to really go to parks (and eventually more normal places), but these winter car rides have been a fun way to get out of the house and yard while still being safe at home together!

"Hormiguita (Ant)" is one of our favorite songs, and I'm so grateful that there are amazing YouTube channels like La Gallina Pintadita with high-quality visuals (and sing-along lyrics for my budding reader) so I can give them access to a whole wider range of Spanish input! Before I discovered this and curated a playlist, Rainbow Girl (with her aversion to new things) was not a fan of me trying to use Spanish. Now, not only does she love Spanish songs, she's gleefully starting to use Spanish to communicate, just like her big Sis and Mommy!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Little language learners

Day 28 of 31 at TWT!
"Manos!" Wriggling her hands, Rainbow Girl proudly smiles up from the changing table with her biggest squint-eyed smile. 

"That's right! Manos are hands!" I lean close, touching my nose against hers, and start singing, "La la la, las manos a lavar!" 

She giggles, holds up her hands and wiggles them some more, and joins in. "La la la, las manos a lavar! A lavar!" Then she tilts her head up in that squinty proud smile and half-shyly murmurs, "Muy bien!" 

"¡Muy bien!" I agree, "¡Buen español!"

I think of how she asks for "más leche, por favord" (I can't get her to stop adding that extra d sound, but on the bright side, it's super adorable!) at every meal, sometimes adding, "Más means more!" or "Agua is water!" in a firmly declarative tone. 

Or how when Sweetie asks for leche or jugo at breakfast, then chooses between "de uvas, de manzana, o de frutas," Rainbow often interjects "jugo is juice!" or "manzana is apple!" (or sometimes, not as correctly, "uvas is juice!")

Sometimes I wish I'd spoken to both girls in more Spanish all along, but that would have been so much work that I just really haven't had the mental energy for, especially coupled with how hard it was to find quality Spanish children's books (we have some, but not nearly enough!), and both girls' early arrivals to the world. Moreover, there's truly something special about speaking to them in my first language, using the same silly little English phrases and family colloquialisms that my parents used with me. 

So I'm content that I'm exposing them to Spanish in a way we all enjoy, even though that means they're not bilingual... yet. (After all, with the exception of a little Spanish club I attended in kindergarten, I didn't start learning Spanish until middle school.)

Being home with them this year has given me the opportunity to build more Spanish into our daily routines, and that has certainly paid off, although again, I'm disappointed that I haven't had the capacity (perhaps the most useful phrase I've learned during the pandemic!) to do more. But they are learning to understand and speak more and more, and even more importantly, they're learning that languages are fun. I love hearing Sweetie say, "Mommy, I'm so glad you're teaching us Spanish!" out of the blue just as much as I love hearing them ask for something they need en español or sing a Spanish song.

(As I was drafting this, I heard Rainbow screech "Agua! Agua!" several time to Husband downstairs!)

Best of all, they're learning that we choose our words carefully (even Rainbow now knows which books Daddy can or can't read to her, often announcing "That's in Fpanish" or "That one's in Enguhlish!"), that how we speak is part of who we are, and that there's more than one way to be in the world.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A taste of summer

Day 27 of 31 at TWT!
"Eat outside! Eat outside!" Rainbow Girl's dainty nose and chubby fingers are pressed against the sliding glass door. At her shoulder, Sweetie fidgets impatiently. Apparently this suggestion was a hit! I giggle as Husband and I take turns shuffling the highchair, plates, cups, and dinner items out to the deck, dodging the increasingly wiggly sisters each time.

"Lunchables! I can eat it outSIDE!" Rainbow Girl bounces wildly against me as I lift her into her highchair, clutching her new favorite dinner.  Sunbeams stream across her hair as the golden low sun wafts through the woods and across the backyards. "Bologna meat! It tastes good!" she declares, opening her mouth as wide as it can reach. "It's my fwavworite!" 

"That's right! You're such a big girl, eating meat like a big girlie! You tried a new food and it tasted good!" Over the past week, she's finally decided (at several months past 2) to eat meat, and I still feel a deep sense of relief whenever she chooses it. "Meat makes you strong!"

The breeze ruffles our hair and tries to swipe our napkins as both girls chatter over the sounds of birds chirping, neighbor kids playing, and a few vehicles driving down the street. Some weight I didn't know I was carrying seems to be lifting from my back as I squint into the setting sun.

"Guess what we have for dessert?" Sweetie leans towards her little sister, jittery with excitement, once Rainbow has polished off all the bologna and most of the crackers. She's had a hard time keeping this secret for the past few hours. "While you were napping, the ice cream truck came! And I picked you out a special treat!"

Our ice cream truck cruises through the neighborhood so fast it's notoriously hard to catch, so Sweetie was ecstatic when we managed to flag it down today, after several failed attempts already this spring!

By the time I come back outside from grabbing our surprise desserts out of the freezer, Rainbow's legs are jutting straight out and her little fists are clenched in delight. "Heppa Kitty! Heppa Kitty!" she squeals as I hand her the bright package. "Can I eat it?!" 

"Of course!" I open the wrapper and hand her the pink Hello Kitty bar, showing her how to hold the stick. She tentatively bends her mouth towards it and takes a small nibble, then keeps going. I realize we should get a bowl, spoon, and bib, but she looks so cute eating it off the stick!

Enjoying the treat her sister picked out for her during our successful conquest of the ice cream truck!

The sun sinks lower as I bite into my Creamsicle and Sweetie gleefully jabbers about her humongous Jolly Rancher Bomb Pop. Our neighbor waves as he grills burgers on his driveway, and the shouts of the neighborhood kids echo around us. I can't believe it's March! Some years we have snow still! It's chilly enough that Sweetie ends up asking for her sequined Elsa jacket before we're done, but it's still an unmistakeable taste of summer. Or at least, the assurance that summer is coming.

As I lift Rainbow out of her highchair, she announces, "I'm happy! ... because..." (long pause) "I like Heppa Kitty! I loooove Heppa Kitty!" In her patented snuggle gesture, she sticks up one elbow and buries her head in it.

I hug her a little tighter and whisper into her silky hair with a kiss, remembering all the times I ran out to the ice cream truck with my dad. "I'm happy you're happy, honey bun!"

One of our favorite Laurie songs pops into my head. It doesn't take much to make a party day now: just some beautiful weather and time together (of course, an ice cream truck surprise doesn't hurt!). 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Fé, en un mundo pesado


Day 26 of 31 at TWT!


I blog in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to paste this post's url into Google Translate and experience the wonder (& imperfection) of machine translation!

-El mundo pesa mucho ahorita.- He escrito estas palabras demasiado veces durante la semana pasada. (Y las semanas, meses, y el año entero antes.) Las he escrito en varios comentarios que he dejado en los blogs de otros participantes del desafío de marzo, en respuestas en Twitter, y en mensajes a mis amigos. Y las he pensado, dentro de mi mente, mil veces más. 

La verdad es que siempre ha sido pasado el mundo en que vivimos ¿verdad? Es cierto que han existido siempre las problemas que amenazan a derrotarnos ahora. La violencia, el odio, el racismo, el egoísmo... estos no son novedades. Quizás nos pesan más ahora porque estamos viviendo todo esto Y esta pandemia, como si el virus fue un peso más de lo que podemos cargar?

Desde niña he soñado con crear un mundo mejor. Recuerdo mis intentos en primaria a crear un club sobre el cuidado del medioambiente, los juegos imaginarios de parar la guerra que inventé con mis amigos, la recogida de comida que organicé para el grupo local de gente indígena. Recuerdo que tanto me angustió la historia colonizadora y violente del cristianismo que casi no quería confirmarme cuando acerqué a la edad típica de la confirmación en la iglesia metodista. (Lo hice por la presión social y también porque estaba segura que creía en Dios, aunque de veras, en el momento, no estaba segura si quería ser cristiana, sabiendo todo lo mal que hicieron los supuestos cristianos durante dos mil años... pero por suerte, me encontré con Cristo más tarde y ahora sé que ser cristiana no tiene nada que ver con lo que han hecho otras en el nombre de Jesús, sino lo que hago yo en mi relación con él.)

Por toda la vida, he sido muy empática, muy sensible, con emociones muy fuertes, hasta sentirme fuera de lugar con los otros niños (y aún mucha gente ahora), porque me preocupa tanto este impulso a cambiar el mundo. (Un día de primaria, llegué a casa y le dijo a mi mamá que -Mis intereses son distintos que los de mis compañeros.-) He deseado tanto un mundo con donde la gente se cuidaran, no sólo los familiares y los amigos, aún no sólo los conocidos, sino todo el mundo cuidándose, los unos a los otros. Un mundo donde todos cuidarían de la tierra, del impacto de las acciones ahora y en el futuro. Anhelaba un mundo donde cada persona se sintiera que le importara, de verdad, a alguien más. Un mundo con menos odio, menos descuido, y más amor. 

Por eso, cuando por primera vez escuché la canción Fé por Maná, la llamó mi atención de inmediato. -No puedo entender este mundo como es...- Era como si cada letra de la canción fuera escrita directamente de y para mi corazón: -...El mundo puede cambiar, / sólo hay que intentarlo. / No hay que odiar, / hay que amar...-

(Para Uds. que no entienden esta canción hermosísima, aquí hay una traducción al inglés.)

Mientras crecía, he llegado a entender que tengo muchos privilegios, que el mundo es mucho menos pesado para mí que para muchísimas personas. Y aunque siempre me han molestado mucho las injusticias, y he intentado luchar, hay mucho más que puedo y debo hacer, aunque sea difícil e incluso incómodo. 

Entonces, cuando me siento desanimada o desmayada con el estado del mundo, con lo mucho que hay que hacer, con lo pequeño que parece el papel que hago, ésta es una de las primeras canciones que pongo a escuchar. -¡Fé! ¡Dame fé! / Dame alas. Dame fuerza...-

Y sé que la fé que busco viene en varias partes: fé que Dios está trabajando siempre, sí, pero también fé en mi misma para seguir adelante, fé en las personas que me apoyan, fé que aún si me siento un poco sola a veces, hay mucha gente alrededor del mundo que desean lo mismo que yo. (Y recuerdo que muchos de ellos son Uds. que leen esta entrada ahora, mis -amigos- de blogging y Twitter, y les agradezco mucho.)

-Hay que amarnos como hermanos. / Tenemos el valor para darnos más amor, yo sé... / Hay que intentar, hay que intentar, / no hay que perder la fé- 

Gracias por intentar conmigo. ¡Adelante, con fé!