Slice of Life Challenge

The First Breakout

IMG_0039.PNGThe sound of my heels clicked in quick staccato as I flew down the hallway clutching my breakout box to my chest.  The last few students wandered off to lunch, their voices echoing in the stairwell.  I burst into the room and made eye contact with the teacher.  We practically squealed.  Then we set up the clues.

Today was my very first Breakout EDU game, a game that I had painstakingly created after scouring the games on the website.

The topic: Illinois

The purpose: Launch a unit of study

But more…so much more.

In essence students must solve a series of clues, to open the locks that are on the box.  Their purpose is to open to box but ours is to help them learn to collaborate in teams and use some critical thinking skills.  At least that’s what I thought the purpose was.  I now know that there is even more to be gained from this process.


The students returned from lunch.  We decided to do groups of 10, the other students in the class going to one of the other third grade teachers for read aloud.

I read the story and then I set them loose.

They scattered like a bag of marbles dropped on a wood floor.  I hoped they would settle, read clues, dig in.  That didn’t happen.  I watched them ping back and forth from clue to clue looking for an immediate solve or answer.  Things that I thought were obvious were glossed over.  I was beginning to wonder if I’d made the game too hard. Fifteen minutes in they used their first clue card.  Finally success!

They continued to struggle, wander, talk, get distracted, try.

When the timer was up they were working on the last two locks.  They were sweating and exhausted.  They had not opened the box.


As I sat to reflect I made a few adjustments.  We discussed some clues that were needlessly hard.  We discussed some that were hard but that we wanted to keep that way.  We discussed their approach to the task, how they gave up quickly, how they bounced back and forth, how they looked at one thing but not the other.

I was reminded that third graders don’t have very good web navigation skills and that some things I took for granted needed to be addressed or taught.

I learned that most third graders don’t know how to open a lock.

I saw how we desperately need to work on perseverance, tenacity, critical thinking, team work, troubleshooting, and so much more.

I watched as one little girl looked around completely lost and wondered how I might support students with diverse needs in this process.

I reflected on my own process as I built the game, looking at content in a completely new way.

Breakout EDU illuminated so much about how our students approach complex problems and I could see how this approach hinders or helps their work in all subjects.

Mostly, I can’t wait to do it again!


Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Searching for Home


Last summer we made a drastic decision to move to the suburbs.  With a second baby on the way and a job that fell in my lap we had to think fast, so we readied our condo to put on the market and bit the bullet.  Most of the bullet biting came with the decision to hold off on looking for a home and live with my in-laws until the spring.  <go ahead and make the face>

It hasn’t been terrible.  Frustrating at times, yes.  There are things I will never understand such as why everything in the pantry is not in it’s original packaging but transferred into large jars.  But it has also been good for the children, to have this special time with their grandparents.  Gigi’s Greek is excellent, and having a few extra sets of hands around with a second baby has been nice.  I know I will greet our move to our own house with joy, but I think it will be hard for Gigi.  She is so used to having her Papou to take her to the swings in the evenings.  It has been a special time for us, one that we will never forget.

Fellow slicer Michelle Nero reminded me yesterday of the importance of story and family in a home.  She reminded me that while we’re looking for houses we need to make sure we are looking for a home.  Families leave their imprint on a house, I believe this to my very core.

We lived in an older house growing up.  When we moved in my parents set about erasing years of poor interior design decisions; terrifying carpet, horrendous wood paneling, tragic wall paper.  The family that lived there before us had a few amateur carpenters in the mix.  They weren’t very good.  Whenever my dad encountered one of their messed up home improvement projects he would affectionately call it a “Henning.”  (The name of the family who lived there.)  Then I would learn some new swear words.

Eventually we made that house our own.  My parents had done as much as they could and right about the time I left to go to college they moved.  To a brand new construction.  I guess they were tired of fixing Hennings.

I don’t know what our house hunting journey will show us.  But above all I will remember that I’m not just looking for a house I’m looking for a home.  Preferably not one that the Hennings ever lived in.




Categories: Slice of Life Challenge, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 6 Comments



I’m always intrigued by Slices of life in different formats.  This slice was inspired by Fran’s post from a few days ago.  Since I’m struggling today I thought it would be a great time to play with something new.  I don’t know if the picture really goes but I told myself I’d do one for each post so, yeah…


Listening to the joyful sounds of a girl and her Pappou playing hide and seek.

Planning for the week ahead but really thinking about spring break.

Sipping Jasmine tea hoping for my stomach to settle.

Stalking my friends facebook for picture of her baby.

Hoping the weather is beautiful this week so I can go for a walk.

Ruminating on a blog post for the Educator Collaborative.

Waiting for my BreakoutEdu box to arrive, wondering if I’ll have to go buy supplies at Home Depot instead.

Searching the internet for a new house.

Reflecting on the fact that things aren’t so bad, in fact they’re pretty great.



Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

I’m Sorry About the Toddler


Dear Baby,

I’m sorry about the toddler.  I know she is loud and bossy, emotional and forceful.  She can shine her love like the first rays of sunshine after a long cold winter and shut it off just as quickly again.  She’s unpredictable and wild, sassy and sweet all at the same time.

She argues with me.  She likes to think of you as her baby.  She has bathed you, tried to help change you, frequently considers picking you up and carrying you around.  (Although with your meaty baby thighs you’re quiet a load to love these days.)  She tells me what you think and want, which just happens to coincide with what she thinks and she wants.  She is your BIG sister and I suspect she will never let you forget it.  (She’s a Dragon what can I do? You’re a goat, I don’t think you’ll mind.)

But despite whatever happens in the future.  Whatever sisterly spats you have over toys, then clothes, following rules, boys, friends… I want you to know.  Each morning when she sees you her face lights up, she squeals your name, she barks the commands.

I want to see her.

I want to snuggle her.

I want to kiss her.

So I’m sorry about the toddler. They are unpredictable creatures.  But so far you don’t seem to mind too much.  Because as the antics continue on a daily basis you watch the family circus with a mixture of wonder and amusement.  And your eyes are locked on her every moment waiting for a burst of love to come your way.  You are my gift to her, and she is my gift to you.  Sisters.

Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Cinderella, Youtube, and Homemade Playdoh


I’ve gotten used to stumbling onto strange things in my house; dolls in the baby’s carseat (not that strange), a castle of magna tiles filled with kitchen utensils and covered in kleenex, stacks of random items in last year’s easter basket sitting in the bathroom, and more.  So much more.

Yesterday my mom was watching the girls.  I never know what I’ll find when I walk in the door but yesterday was peaceful.  The baby asleep, Gigi playing calmly.  It was nice to have a moment to think and unpack, put milk in the fridge, take off my shoes.  Usually I walk in and it’s go, go, go until daddy gets home and I can pass one of these hooligans (I mean lovely angels) off.

As I chatted with my mom Gigi interjected with her narrative of the day.  At three I don’t always understand the full picture.  Something about a panda, Zoe not liking pandas or toys.  My mom filled in that Gigi had been playing Zoe’s panda all day and when she suggested that Gigi play with her own Panda doll she hid Zoe’s and said that Zoe doesn’t like toys.  (oh boy.)

It was then that I noticed another little oddity on the kitchen table.  A small Cinderella figurine wrapped in some of the Playdoh we had made the previous night.  As I looked at it in wonder my mom filled in the gaps, “It’s a hat.  A hat and a cape.  Gigi made it.”  There was no doubt in my mind who it came from.  That silly girl.

Of course the Cinderella and the idea to cover her had come from Youtube Kids.  A cursed app that I put on my iPad.  My intent was to offer up educational songs; English and Greek rhymes, alphabet songs, Daniel Tiger.  Media on my “approved” mental list.  This quickly gave way to unboxing videos, strange home made movies with Elsa and Anna barbies, people pulling Shopkins out of baby bathtubs full of gumballs, and a whole series of videos where someone makes new dresses for these little Disney princess figurines.  It’s enough to drive you crazy.  But with a newborn in the house my hands were tied and once Pandora’s box has been opened you’re hard pressed to get it closed again.

Oh well.  At least she was being creative.  At least we had made the Playdoh together.


Writer’s Reflection:  Although I found power in my title and the image I captured I couldn’t quite grasp the flow of words that I wanted for this slice.  Perhaps I wrote it too soon.  Perhaps the image and words are more powerful than the story written out.  



Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | 11 Comments

You Greet Me



You greet me at the door, dressed in your snowsuit.  “I need my boots, I’m going outside,” you state with confidence.  Before I even set my bags down and unload my work day you are searching for your hat.  Yia Yia arguing with you about wearing gloves.  You are shouting, “Papou! Pame!”  (Grandpa, let’s go)

You look at me and smile.  You have done this yourself.  Gazed out the window all afternoon waiting  as the snow fell.  I can imagine you asking to go outside over and over again while Papou and Yia Yia tried to distract you.  I can see the moment the snow stopped, you were tired of waiting so you went to the closet, pulled your step stool close, and yanked your snowsuit from the hanger with fierce determination.

You’re out the door in a whirl.  Bossing Papou into pulling you on the sled-barely enough snow to make it slide.  Falling on your back, you make a snow angel even though no one ever taught you how.  You are as wild and as free as the snowflakes themselves.

When did you get so big?

I turn my attention to your sister, kicking her legs furiously in the swing.  Her smiles have given way to impatience.  She uses grunts and kicks to communicate.  A stark contrast to your three-year-old independence and fire.  As I approach her she squeals with joy.  I hug her to me feeling her warm little heart beating.  We stand at the window and watch you take on the world.

Categories: Slice of Life Challenge, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Hello Old Friend


Hello old friend, it’s nice to see you again.  It’s been a long time.  Let’s catch up.  I haven’t sliced or at least sliced well in a long time.  Sure I’ve dabbled here and there but life has had me running.  I’m entering this month with a mixture of joy and trepidation.

It’s been two kids, two books, a new job, living with the inlaws, and many years since we’ve been together.

So much is different and yet so much still the same.

I still read your posts even if I don’t always comment.  I still greet each morning with a cup of coffee greedily devoured-more so now because of our new little one.  I still write a lot more in my head than I do on paper.  It’s something I’m working on.

Can we be friends again you and I?  Can you forgive me for all the days, months, and years I didn’t write?

Can we walk hand in hand once more laughing, crying, and wondering together.  Friends?

Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Day 4: A Mother’s Work Day Never Ends

The call comes at 12:45am-crying, moaning, wailing.  I lay in bed for a few minutes to see if she will calm down as she often does.  But tonight it continues, she needs her mama.  She needs me.

The minute I walk in her bedroom illuminated by the soft glow of moonlight she springs to her feet, arms outstretched from the crib.  I wrap her up in my arms, no easy task. She’s getting so big.

We snuggle into the chair.  Become one person cuddled there together, the wailing begins again.  How many nights have we spent in this chair together?  I play soft music on my phone and she slowly calms.

It’s been a long time since she’s need to be rocked in the middle of the night, I enjoy it in the moment.  Thinking of a time when she will be bigger and no longer crave the arms of her mama around her.  It goes so fast.

Eventually her eyes become heavy and her head rests against me.  I rise slowly, tuck her into her bed.  One blanket, one bear, one baby, two lovies.  Sweet dreams little one, I’m always here for you.  Forever and ever.

Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | 8 Comments

Day 3: Harvest Time

February 2014 page 1_0

The baby was whining, again.  (Getting teeth is nasty business.)  I had to take a break. “I’m going to run to Harvest Time,” I shouted to my husband as I walked out the door.  Even the Sunday afternoon crush of shoppers couldn’t dampen my mood.  There’s something about stacks and rows and piles of fresh fruits and vegetables that just make the day seem brighter.  I grabbed a plump looking orange and inhaled deeply.  Citrus scents fill my nose and jolted my brain awake.  I slowly made my way around the store, taking my time, meandering.  As I reached the meat section I noticed something odd.

A little girl, probably not more than a few months older than Gigi, sat in a shopping cart.  On her left foot she had a soft pink winter boot but her right foot was bare!  I noticed the missing boot sitting on the bottom rack of the shopping cart and laughed silently to myself.  I could envision the battle that must have taken place and the exasperated parent saying, “fine, don’t wear the boot.”  Toddlers are like that.

As I combed through the meat cooler I realized that what I needed was just behind the little girls cart.  I smiled at her and approached slowly, trying not to seem too creepy to her or her parent who was likely near by.  She sucked on one finger and it reminded me of Gigi.  As I moved on I couldn’t help but glance back at her.  There was no adult in close proximity.  A few more minutes confirmed that she was alone.  A young boy rushed down the aisle towards her and then right past.  The mom in me paused and as I lingered by the frozen foods section I kept half an eye on her.  She did not seem worried.  Suddenly a man rushed up to the cart and tossed a wrapped package in.  Daddy.  I breathed a sigh of relief and went on with my trip.  So often I worry about my little girl and all of the dangers of the world.  But it occurred to me in that moment that my instinct to watch after a child, any child, was not unique.  You see I realized that there is a secret army of moms quietly watching, ready to help at a moments notice.

I thought of my own husband at home with a fussy teething baby, trying to make do, both of them waiting anxiously for mama to return.  I moved quickly through the rest of the store grabbing what I needed, paid at the checkout, and headed through the door for home.

Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: | 4 Comments

Day 1: Over Easy



I can’t remember the name of the girl who opens the door but we know each others faces.  There’s something comforting in that moment of recognition, of knowing each other.  The bright lights and warm bacon scented air are a welcome contrast to the lingering winter outside.  We meander through the tightly packed tables.  Tables still waiting for sleepy occupants still lingering in bed.  Before I even get the baby settled in her high chair a steaming fresh cup waits for me…coffee.  Coffee I don’t even have to order.  We know each other so well the menu is already cooked into my brain.  It’s these small rituals that make this city feel like home.  Home on a cold winter day.


The annual March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted at Two Writing Teachers.

The annual March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted at Two Writing Teachers.






Categories: Slice of Life Challenge | Tags: | 16 Comments

Create a free website or blog at