Food from My Childhood

I’ve just finished Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  I just loved reading her short vignettes on everything from signs she came across in the bathroom to thoughts about how quickly people can slip away from us.  Reading this book after Rosenthal’s recent death at such a young age made it all the more profound.

One of her entries was a table (She said she enjoyed creating all sorts of tables) of food from her childhood with notes and reflections about each one.  I loved it, and thought I’d give it a try!  

Food Item Notes
Carnation Instant Breakfast and Coffee Cake Juniors for breakfast.  Sometimes we added a Pop Tart! My stepfather once explained to my sister and me that Carnation Instant Breakfast was supposed to be a whole meal, not just a drink you had with breakfast!
Cube Steaks When mom came home from work after a long day and commute on the train, she would grill up some cube steaks.  We thought it was kind of fancy at the time.
Bananas grilled in butter and brown sugar Dad made these every now and then (for breakfast!).  I thought we had died and gone to heaven.
Jarlsberg cheese and Triscuits A staple then.  A staple now.
Popovers We had our first taste of popovers on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. How I loved when they would deflate and then I would fill the middle with butter.  It was like eating a bit of magic.
Fig Newtons The best cookie ever invented.
KFC whipped potatoes They really did taste like styrofoam, but for some reason, I loved them!
Devore’s Muffins I would pick up 4 muffins from Devore’s Bakery and bring them home to be divided among 3 of us.  It was so much fun to try to figure out how best to divide the fourth muffin.
Breakfast for Dinner It was a special night when we could have pancakes, sausage, and applesauce for dinner.  It felt like the day was upside down.
Chicken Paprikash This comforting dish of chicken, sour cream, paprika, and a bit of ketchup (!) placed over warm egg noodles was the very definition of comfort food.  It’s often a request from the girls when they return home for a visit in the fall or winter months.
Karp Burgers We had a neighbor growing up named Marshall Karp.  He would grill burgers and then top them with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo (Yup…no ketchup).  They were delicious!  A staple summer food. And now a Griffin Family Favorite!

Thank you, Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  Part of your legacy will be to inspire writers like me!

The Listening Experience

I have been spending a great deal of time in my car lately as I now have a longer commute to work.  The bad news – traffic (and lots of it).  The good news – more time to listen to books. I had never spent much time on Audible or Hoopla, always believing that nothing could surpass the experience of curling up with a ‘real’ book.  While I still love holding a book in my hands and turning the pages, the smell of the paper (especially when the book has been purchased at a tag sale and is just a little bit musty), the ability to stop and jot a favorite line, or read parts aloud to anyone who might listen (usually my dog, Bailey), and the ability to flip back and reread pages easily, I have become a real fan of the listening experience.

In some ways, listening to a book feels different to me than the act of reading a book.  It’s more like watching a play or a movie.  The readers bring their own interpretation of the story to the text. I suppose it’s what our students experience during Interactive Read Aloud!  In other ways, I find the experience can be similar. I still get that “lost in a book” feeling and arrive at work wondering how I got there.  I find myself laughing out loud or on the brink of tears as I listen. I can’t wait to get in the car and see what’s going to happen next.  At times, I don’t get out of the car because I can’t “put the book down.”

Recently my daughter recommended that I listen to a podcast.  I decided this might be a new kind of listening experience.  I listened to the NPR podcast “S-Town.”  Again, it was a different experience to listen to a story told in this format, but I enjoyed it immensely.

I’ll never give up curling up with a print book, but I’m enjoying the listening experience.

I’ve Renamed My Blog!

I’ve renamed my blog!  My daughter told me that “Poonam 1” sounded more like a password than like a blog.  I’d have to agree.  Poonam has meaning to only a few people in our family (my daughter being one of them). It doesn’t really say anything about me or about my writing.  So…..I’ve renamed my blog “Writing to Learn, Learning to Write.”  So far, I like it much better.  I hope I don’t lose any followers.


The Red Squirrel

I was sitting outside yesterday, just sort of watching the day go by.  The temperatures were finally feeling spring-like (in the mid 60’s and sunny), so I was sitting on the back porch in the late afternoon reading my book, my dog curled up at my feet. I looked up between chapters and let my eyes gaze over the back lawn. I noticed the sun streaming across the yard in large bold stripes, the buds starting to open up on the tips of the trees, the yard filled with  branches (I will need to clean those up this week, but not now.), and the daffodils and tulips pushing out of the warming ground. That’s when I noticed him (or her – not sure how to tell).  A little red squirrel.  Yes, red!  Almost the color of a red fox.  I’ve seen black squirrels in town, and of course the usual gray ones, but never a red squirrel.  He (or she) skittered here and there, up trees, over branches, across wires, and then he was gone.

This is what I love about vacation days.  Noticing.  Looking. Taking it all in.  On a normal day, I never would have noticed the red squirrel.  I wake up early, run around getting dressed and ready for the day, and head off for the long drive to work. By the time I get home, there are so many things to do and complete before getting to bed early to prepare for another day of work.  Even the weekends feel too busy.  They are always fun, but they are busy.  In the book I was reading on the porch (Amy Rosenthal’s The Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life), she says that the typical response in America to, “How are you?” is, “Busy!” Why are we so busy?  And why are we so proud of being so busy?  I want to find more time to sit and relax and enjoy the red squirrel.

Making Coaching Sticky

My job as a Literacy Coach is to  build teacher capacity.  Sometimes that means jumping in and helping with lessons or materials or planning, but sometimes it means stepping out and saying, “Now you try!”  I have to remind myself that this work is not about getting things done quickly or correctly, it’s really about approximating the work over time to build the teaching muscles that the teacher can use over and over and over again and in multiple settings and situations. I need to make sure there is transfer.  I need to make my coaching sticky.

Some days I see the muscles building. Recently a teacher and I attended a session with one of our staff developers.  The staff developer talked about the power of read aloud and how critical it is that the work students do during read aloud transfers to their independent work. We learned about something called the Repertoire Read Aloud.  Over the next few days, the teacher not only tried this out in her classroom, but asked me for some more information on this technique, and then invited her colleagues (and me) to come and watch.  These are the days when I know I’m building teacher capacity. These are the sticky days.

But then there are the other days…. The days when the muscles seem to atrophy.  The days when a teacher stops in and says, “Can you model that lesson again.  It was so great!” or, “You are just a natural.  I can never get my kids that engaged!  They always like a new voice.” These are the days when I think, “Well THAT didn’t work!” Or days like today when I’m running to a classroom with my materials to continue working side-by-side with a teacher, and when I arrive there is no evidence at all of the work we have been doing together in our coaching cycle all month!  Clearly my work is not sticking.  The muscles are not being built.

What is it that makes our coaching sticky?  Why does it work in some situations and not others?  What can I do to make sure I’m building capacity and not creating dependence?