Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Rest of The Story....What I'm Learning As a Stepmom

I dropped off the face of the blogging Earth for several days.
Three words for you.
Stepmotherhood to teenagers.
Married life is quite an adjustment, and I don't think I had a clue how much of an adjustment it would be with a 14 year old stepson and a 15 year old stepdaughter in the house. My sweet husband and I are doing our very best and learning lots these days about how to "blend" this two month old family.

A few weeks ago, I had begun to write the stories of my top ten favorite picture books, started by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek on August 10th.

Just this morning I decided to take a different look at my last four favorites, re-reading them all through the eyes of a teacher AND a stepmom.
So finally, here's the rest of the story.....

Cynthia Rylant's All In a Day is one of my favorites, and in my opinion, it is THE book to start your day. This book started every single school morning for my first graders and me. I love it because it sets the tone for the day and gives children (and adults) a sense of what's possible...."a day brings hope and kindness too...a day is all it's own, you can make a wish, and start again...".
"Rain could show up at your door and teach you how to dance...." Yes,there may be tough times and obstacles in our way, but those rainy days and tough days are opportunities for growth, learning, and dancing.
It invites children (and adults) to start fresh and make the most of the day that's been given to us..."this day will soon be over..and it won't come back again...So live it well, make it count, fill it up with YOU...the day's all yours, it's waiting now...see what you can do."

Words to live by for the teacher and the stepmom.

My Duck by Tanya Lynch is a light and humorous picture book with a powerful message. "At school my teacher told us to write a story. My story was about a duck who wanted to leave home. I drew a picture of him and gave him little shoes to wear to help him on his way. DUCKS DON'T WEAR SHOES, my teacher said. GO AND START AGAIN!" And so the story goes, with the child starting new stories and putting his voice and imagination on paper. And the teacher continues to disapprove. The teacher imparts her rules of "what's right and true" to the young writer rather than hearing and appreciating the passions, the creativity, and the voice of that child.
It's an important message for classrooms with rooms of children just aching to tell their stories and have their creativity embraced and voices heard. Same goes for me, the stepmom. I need to take a deep breath, and listen closely and carefully what my stepchildren are saying (and what they aren't), and put my "rules for what's right" aside.

Lester Laminack is a wonderful friend, and an amazing writer and teacher. His book, The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, has been a favorite of mine for years, and is especially touching to me because I've watched the journey and cared deeply for family members and friends with Alzheimer's.
This book has also taught me to be the "keeper of happy memories" for my students and now my new family. It's my job to remember all those glorious, groundbreaking, "ah ha", extraordinary moments in the classroom (and in the home). Not every day will be perfect, but it's my job to see past the not-so-great moments and be the keeper of the glorious ones.

Walk On: A Guide For Babies of All Ages was a gift from Debbie Miller. Debbie and I read this to a group of teachers at a workshop we presented together several years ago. It was to help those teachers see that change isn't easy, and that doing what's right can be difficult and feel a lot like learning to walk. Sometimes I feel like a baby in the classroom, fumbling and finding my way slowly(and with a lot of mistakes) with the students entrusted to my care. And hell yes, I feel this same way multiplied by a thousand as a stepmom. Thank you, Debbie for giving me this book to remind me to quit being a big baby and just WALK ON! I can do it!

To the possibilities of this new day...


  1. It's so great to read your final reflections for pb 10 for 10. I think the books we use in the classroom often have life lessons or connections outside. Take each day as it comes, you can do this. I've been the teenage stepchild, small steps and time. Your reflections show you are on your way.

  2. Hooray- you're back! I just requested these four from the library- can't believe I haven't read any of them!!
    THANK YOU so much for being the very first person to follow my blog- it really means the world to me! You have to check out my latest post- I plug your book and share a lesson I learned from you at Lakota Literacy View.
    Many beautiful self-portraits are hanging up in each grade level at our school...
    Wishing you luck in writing... and adjusting to being a stepmom. : )


  3. AM-
    I loved reading your thoughts and reflections. It all seems to be about jumping in and doing the best we can when things are new. Your careful consideration of your step kids and how to support and parent them is so admirable. Praying for your peace and trust in yourself today and are amazing!