Maternal Instinct

We had our 3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout this weekend. We stayed up until after midnight and by the time the girls and I arranged our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and pillows right where we wanted them, we were Tired with a capital T. It didn’t matter that I was on an air mattress in a tent in my neighbor’s backyard, I drifted right into a deep sleep. I slept so well, in fact, that I didn’t hear all the ruckus.

I didn’t hear my neighbor snoring loudly in his tent next to us. It was reported the next morning that the snoring was so loud it sounded like an approaching grizzly bear, but I didn’t hear it.

I didn’t hear Maddie’s friend complaining of mosquito bites, and I didn’t hear her and her mother exit their tent to find itch relief cream in the wee hours of the morning.

I didn’t hear the teenagers creep out of their tents at 2:00 am to sit on the patio and tell ghost stories. They were hot, they said. They needed some air, they said.

I didn’t hear another neighbor come home from his shift as a State Trooper at 2:00 am and come by to check on us. Apparently he came at the exact time the teenagers had decided to venture up to the patio which scared the daylights out of all of them.

And I didn’t hear Tinley, the faithful pup, who also spotted the visiting State Trooper and barked in alarm, running around our makeshift campground like only a good watchdog would.

I didn’t hear any of it. Like I said, I was in a deep sleep.

What I did hear though was the faint sound of our tent zipper opening at 3:00 a.m and the shuffling of Maddie pajamas pants. She was sleepwalking, as she has a tendency to do. When I bolted upright, she was halfway out of the tent, heading who-knows-where.

“Maddie!” I whispered in alarm. “Get back in here!” Maddie turned around and looked at me in a sleepy haze.

“Okay, Momma,” she whispered as came back in the tent and snuggled up against me once more.

I breathed a sigh of relief. That, I heard. Thank God.


3rd Annual Neighborhood Campout



The Summer of Yes

This was meant to be the summer of no.

No to cheerleading camp and dance class. No to daycare and camps. No to conferences and workshops and classes. Just no. The girls and I, we needed a minute. It’s been a hell of a year for us, and we needed to catch our breath. We needed to settle in to our new house, our new neighbors, our new life. So I decided to say no.

Instead we spent our time doing things that really matter with people we really love. There were pizza nights and sleepovers and playdates. There was ice cream and after dinner walks and jumping on the trampoline. There were lazy mornings and fun afternoons. It turns out that saying no gives you the space in your life to say yes.

All parties must come to an end though. The summer of yes is ending and yesterday brought dentist appointments, grocery shopping, a pick up at the library, a stop at the bank, and loads of laundry to do.

We were enjoying a late a breakfast and getting ready for our day of errands when my phone binged.

Do you and the girls want to meet us at the pool at 11:00?

I set down the phone and looked at my grocery list. I mentally skimmed the day’s To Do list and considered whether the library and bank would be open tomorrow. I couldn’t.

But then I looked at Maddie and Katie, sun-kissed and smiling from our long summer of yes.

Sure! I texted back.

“Girls, go grab your swim suits.”


Slice of Life Story every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers



New Room, Old Tricks

Katie moved to a new room at her daycare. She is now in the four-year old preschool room with new routines and new teachers. Change is hard, of course, so I gave her a little extra love as I dropped her off Monday morning. I thought about her all day, wondering how she was adjusting.

I stepped through the door of her new room after work and surveyed the scene. I saw groups of kids gathered around Lincoln Logs and the kitchen area and the Play-Doh table. But where was Katie?

“Hi, Mrs. Murphy,” her teacher greeted me. “Katie had a great day, but she’s over there now,” she said gesturing to a bean bag chair in the corner of the room. I could see Katie’s braids peeking out from the sides of the book she was reading.

“Katie said her tummy hurt,” the teacher continued.

Oh I know this game, I thought to myself.

“Did you ask her to clean something up?” I questioned.

“Well, yes,” the teacher hesitated. “We were cleaning up for Centers.”

I shook my head in embarrassment.

“Katie, do you want to go watch Maddie get off the bus?” I said.

Katie leaped up out of the bean bag chair and skipped across the room. “The bus!” she exclaimed as she jumped up and down.

The teacher and I made eye contact, and she laughed.

“I see,” the teacher smiled.

New room, old tricks.

This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two  Teachers every Tuesday.

Grown-Up Like a First Grader

I took Maddie shopping for some new school clothes. For all of Maddie’s life, she has basically been wearing the same brand of clothes – affordable, durable, cotton, washable, mix & match sets from the same department store. Much to my dismay, Maddie has outgrown our beloved brand of kid clothes, so we found ourselves in the “big kid” section of a different department store on Sunday morning.

Maddie immediately spied some clothing sets hanging on a nearby rack. Each set contained a pair of pants, a shirt, and a necklace and/or scarf. The designs were not the ice cream cones and rainbows we were used to, but rather a tribal print or an elegant depiction of the Eiffel Tower with a scrolling Paris written underneath. How very chic.

We found an empty fitting room, and Maddie tried on one of the outfits. I watched in amusement as she stared at herself in the mirror, turning this way and that. She struck a pose with her hand on her hip and smiled at her reflection. Without taking her eyes off herself she asked, “Can I get this Mommy?”

“Sure,” I replied, smiling.

“Mommy?” Maddie said as we left the fitting room. “I’ve been thinking. I’m not gonna act so much like Katie anymore. I’m gonna start acting more grown up. You know. Like a first-grader.”

I squeezed her hand, and we went to pay for her new clothes.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.


Comforts of Home

I collapsed into our bed late last night after we returned from a weekend at the lake. I suppose it is good to be home.

I mean, the lake house is missing some of the comforts of home. The beds at the lake house are lumpy and worn. The blankets are used, mismatched sets from our pile of old stuff in the basement. The pillows are second rate. The tiny, window unit air conditioners in the bedrooms rattle and hum all night long. The water from the faucet smells like the lake, and there is that spot on the kitchen floor that buckles when you step on it.

So, I suppose it is good to be home. Here at home we have large, cozy beds with warm blankets and fluffy pillows. The air conditioner silently keeps the whole house a cool 73 degrees at all times. You can drink the water and depend on the kitchen floor not to buckle.

But here at home we don’t have the lake. Or the beach where the kids play for hours and hours. We don’t have friends and family visiting for the weekend or long boat rides along the shore of the lake to look at the houses we could never afford. We don’t have Maddie and Katie squealing with excitement at their first tube ride or my husband’s constant smile at his dream having actually come true. We don’t have dinner on the patio or paddle boat rides or ducks to feed or long days stretching out endlessly with nothing to do but swim.

It is good to be home in this big, beautiful house where we have everything we could ever need.

I guess.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

(I am taking a break from Slice of Life Tuesdays for the month of July. I will be back to share more stories in August.)

Home Is

As I write this blog post, I am sitting on the front porch of a gorgeous Bed & Breakfast in Indiana. The sun has risen and cars are starting to fill the street outside. Every now and again, a cool breeze sweeps across the porch lifting the corners of the papers stacked beside me. It is the third day of this writing retreat, and my fingers fly over the keyboard releasing my words into the air. Writing. It feels like home to me.

Later today I will load my luggage into my car and make the two hour drive back to Illinois. A kiss from my husband will welcome me home, and I am sure to be greeted with hugs and tales of the adventures that took place in my absence. Thoughts of Maddie and Katie flit through my mind, fleeting as the cool breeze. Images – Maddie’s missing teeth, Katie’s wild hair, Maddie curled up on the couch with a book, Katie lost in some imaginary world with her dolls – images so familiar, so much like home for me, I don’t even have to see them to see them.

The images of my family float away on the breeze, and I glance at my computer screen. I smile, caught between these two worlds, both of which feel like home to me.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

Her Turn To Dance


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

Katie has sat through three of Maddie’s dance recitals.  She has spent countless hours with me in the hallway of the park district building, waiting for Maddie’s dance class to end. She has watched the videos of Maddie’s recitals and memorized the dances.  She has worn Maddie’s retired recital outfits around the house, flitting from room to room in Maddie’s old ballet shoes.

As the younger sister, Katie has been playing the waiting game.  Waiting until till she’s older, waiting for her turn, waiting for a class for her age group that fits into our schedule. Poor Katie.

Last fall, I registered Katie for ballet class.  She literally jumped with joy when I told her. Then we got a call from the park district to tell us there was a misprint in the catalog. They were sorry, but Katie was actually not old enough to take the ballet class.  They were sorry, but Katie would have to wait.  I felt my heart break in two when I told Katie.  My tears mixed with hers as I tried to hug away her sadness.

All of this is to explain why my eyes filled with tears this morning when I finally got Katie dressed for her very first ballet class.  It is why I snapped a million pictures when all the other moms just sat and watched.  It is is why Katie was the only ballerina smiling ear to ear during the entire class this morning.

Today was Katie’s day.  She finally got her turn to dance.

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Morning Faces

My school year as an instructional coach hasn’t quite ended yet.  I still have three more days of work.  The girls have already started their summer without me.  Thankfully my husband was able to take the day off work today to transport the girls to cheerleading and the library.

Since my husband was home this morning, I didn’t have to…

coax Katie awake, pull a comb through Maddie’s tangled hair, squabble with Katie over the purple shirt, hurry the girls down the stairs, slap breakfast on the table, plead with them to eat faster, holler ‘get your shoes on please’, rush out the door, run back in the house to grab Katie’s monkey, usher them into daycare, give a quick kiss-i-love-you-have-a great-day, scramble out the daycare door, and speed off to work.

I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door in silence.  I walked at my own pace, not Katie’s.  I pushed play on my audio book and lowered the driver’s side window to let the cool breeze in.

I could have thought about the nice break in my routine.  I could have felt grateful for my husband’s offer to take the day off work.  I could have felt relaxed.

Surprisingly, I felt a little sad and wistful.  I left the house without even seeing their faces.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.

Going Nowhere

We spent Memorial Day weekend at our lake house.  As we waited for the burgers to cook on the grill Saturday evening, the girls and I went for a walk.  We meandered down the lane, stopping to inspect a fallen leaf or a lazy caterpillar making his way towards the lake.  Katie slipped her hand in mine.  Maddie skipped ahead a few strides, her curls still wet from an afternoon swim.

“This is my favorite thing ever.  This is why we bought the lake house,” I said aloud.

“What’s your favorite thing ever?” Katie asked.

“This.  Walking with you two.  Having nowhere to go.  Taking our time.  All of this.”

“It’s my favorite, too,” Katie agreed.

I gave her hand a gentle squeeze.  We kept walking and going nowhere at all.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.



Sweet Reminder

I walked out of the district office with my principal, chatting as we made our way to our cars.  Our conversation was punctuated by the sound of our heels hitting the pavement, and I struggled to shrug my computer bag back up to my shoulder.  Our minds were reeling with possibilities after our mid-day planning meeting for next year, and we talked about School Improvement plans and benchmarking systems and data sources.  My principal glanced at her watch.  “We can talk more next week,” she said as we parted ways.

I tossed my bag in the back seat and turned the key in the ignition.  A tired sigh escaped my mouth, and I leaned my head back on the driver’s seat, letting the air from the A/C wash across my face.  I straightened up and turned around to check my blind spot before backing out of my parking spot.  My eyes landed on the car seats:

Sweet Reminder

A giggle escaped my mouth at the sight of these unexpected guests. No wonder it took the girls so long to exit the car this morning at daycare!  I had stood filled with impatience, tapping my foot in the daycare parking lot.

Sometimes, I think, the universe sends you just the reminder you need.  All the talk of School Improvement Plans benchmarking systems and data sources disappeared, and I was reminded of what waits for me at home after a day’s work.

Two little girls who take such sweet care of their babies.


This is my Slice of Life Story. Share yours at Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday.