The Write Timing

My voyage toward publication

Far from Perfect June 30, 2015

Filed under: Funny Things — michellephillips @ 3:16 pm
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I’m intrigued by birth order.  In college, my Honors thesis focused on how birth affected students in the classroom.  As a teacher, I like to find out which of my students have which birth order positions and see if their personalities match typical birth order characteristics.  I like talking about it in passing with friends.

Any idea what birth order position I hold?

Yep.  Oldest.

The perfectionist.  The pleaser.  The rule follower.

Check.  Check.  Aaaaaaaaaand CHECK.

I like things to be “just so.”  My closet (organized by style and color).  My lesson plans (objectives in bold; left aligned).  My diaper bag  (tissue/Boogie Wipe/pacifier pocket should not be confused with diaper/wipe/changing pad pocket).

I don’t like to disappoint people.  If I just went to the store to get my groceries for the week, and my sister asks if I want to go to the Farmer’s Market, I will probably say yes even though I already have everything I could possibly need.

And rules?  Don’t even get me started.

But let me tell you about how far from perfect this oldest child is in one lovely example.

A few weeks ago, my cousins and I decided to get together for a play date.  We each have a child under the age of two and got together so the kids could play (and realistically, so the four of us could talk to other adults).  I was going to pick up something to bring, but the morning of our play date, thought – Hey!  I have an apple cake mix.  I can just whip that up really quickly.    And you know what?  I had apples.  I had time while Baby O napped.  So I did it!  I brought freshly baked apple bars to our play date.  They were delicious.  Everyone enjoyed them, including my darling daughter who ate one crumb by crumb.

Now you’re probably thinking – Michelle!  That sounds pretty perfect (except for the part where you gave your daughter sugar – shame on you!).  But that’s not where the story ends, my friends.

Oh no.

Because my delicious apple bars were not gone when I left my cousin’s house.  I still had about 1/3 a batch left.  But guess how perfect this was?  I was meeting up with some friends that same night to watch The Bachelorette.  So I sliced some apple bars, arranged them on a cute little platter, covered them with foil, and headed out to watch Kaitlyn make out with hoards of men (but it’s okay guys, she has to know if they have chemistry).

My husband and I left at the same time.  I grabbed the bars, dropped some cans in the recycling bin, tossed the diaper bag in the backseat, and nestled Baby O in her car seat.  Daddy followed us out of the neighborhood.  As we merged onto Dodge Street, I noticed a silver bird head straight for my husband’s car and just nearly miss!

What was that?!  I thought.  What a strange phenomenon.  It’s not every day you see silver wings take flight.


I felt the seat next to me for the apple bars.  The 6 apple bars that would have been the perfect complement to Chris Harrison.

But why would they have been next to me, when they looked so nice on the shoulder of the road?



Like a Tourist June 23, 2015

Filed under: Life Lessons — michellephillips @ 3:06 pm
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tigerBaby O and I have been making the most of our summer vacation.  A break from school means time off from lesson planning, grading papers, and pinning classroom projects (well, mostly).  The lack of those activities frees up time for other things like story time at the library, meeting friends for coffee/lunch/play dates, and outings.  Today, we met some friends at the zoo.

Now, if you’ve never been to the Omaha Zoo and Aquarium, I’m not quite sure what you’ve been waiting for.  You need to plan a trip this week.  If you don’t live in town, you need to 1.) plan a trip to Omaha, and 2.) go visit our zoo.  And there’s lots of great places to eat while you’re here.  You could even check out…nevermind.  Another post for another time.

As we walked through the aquarium today, I said, “I bet some of these people are here for the first time.  I wonder what they’re thinking about all of it.”  It’s difficult to image seeing the zoo for the first time as an Omahan, because you’ve most likely been there countless times.  If you’re like me, you grew up coming to the zoo – and dreading the long walk back up the hill by the giraffes – so it’s almost impossible to see it with new eyes.

But I tried.  (I squinted a little bit.) :)

I noticed the cleanliness of it.  I listened to the tram driver’s information as he passed us (Did you know Omaha has the largest salt water tank from Chicago to California?  I didn’t!).  I admired the lovely signage (provided by none other than my talented Uncle Rick of Dolphens Design and Sign).  And even though I always appreciate the zoo, today I appreciated it even more.

Which got me thinking.

Perhaps I need to look at other parts of my life “like a tourist.”  Notice the little things that make it special – make it different.

Like the trickle of the fountain in front of our house on a beautiful summer

The quick drive up to my parents’ house so my daughter can visit Grandma and Grandpa.

The freshly paved driveway at Church.

The smell of coffee coming from my favorite mug.

The library book I steal time to read while Baby O naps.

The little things.

Ahh.  I feel happier already.


Busy June 9, 2015

Filed under: Family — michellephillips @ 10:01 am
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It’s been just under a year since my previous blog post.  It’s always difficult knowing quite what to say when I return to The Write Timing after a long absence.  I always have a myriad of excuses ready.  But it always centers around one main thing; that luxury so many of us don’t have: time.

And I thought I was busy before.

I thought looking for houses, moving into a new one, changing jobs, packing a classroom, etc. etc. etc. kept me busy.


Now I’m a mother.

Now I know what “busy” is all about.


It’s figuring out the exact time to set the alarm in order to maximize sleep and look presentable before the baby wakes up.

It’s microwaving a bowl of oatmeal, grabbing a spoon, and just nearly sitting down when I hear cries from upstairs.

It’s folding laundry just a hair quicker than my darling daughter can take the clothes back out of the basket.

It’s scrambling to grab the most minute items from the floor because she will inevitably find every one.

It’s lugging the vacuum cleaner upstairs only to have it sit for a week until I can “find time” to actually plug it in.

It’s washing bottles, pump parts, baby food jars, and the cutest little spoons you’ve ever seen.  Constantly.

And now she’s crawling.  And teething.  Yeesh.

But it’s also the best kind of busy.

The kind where I sit and stroke her hair, not caring at all that the table is dusty.

The kind where the minutes are spent giving flurries of kisses.

The kind where we figure out the perfect combination of song, toy, and distraction to keep her still long enough to actually change her diaper before she rolls away with a bare bottom.

The kind where every clap, wave, and bubble is celebrated.

The kind where we support each other, work together, and – even through frustration and sometimes exhaustion – are so full of wonder and awe that she’s actually ours.

The kind where every look, every hug, every giggle, every moment is so utterly full of love that sometimes I’m not sure my heart can handle it.

Yep.  I’m busy.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


The Write Timing Indeed July 22, 2014

Filed under: Blogs,Classroom,Dreams,Family — michellephillips @ 6:50 am

Hello there, blog followers!  Are there any of you still out there?  I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.  And instead of listing my numerous excuses, I’ll just summarize it with a mini timeline of exactly why I’ve been absent from my blog for oh-so long.


Photo by Julian Adair

August-September 2013

Sold our house, moved in with my parents while looking for new house, had abdominal surgery

October 2013

Recovered from surgery, continued looking for new houses, made offers on two

November 2013

Found new house and offer accepted

December 2013

Closed on new house (that needed – and still needs – LOTS of TLC), and most importantly…found out we were expecting!!!!

January 2014

Moved into said house, began the long series of improvements that needed to be made, had first ultrasound, marveled that we were finally having the opportunity to do so

February 2014

Announced pregnancy to my students on Valentine’s Day (with pink and blue iced Krispy Kreme) and to the world via social media

March 2014

Enjoyed the end of my first trimester and the return of my former energy level

April-May 2014

Interviewed for and accepted new position for the fall  in a new district, school, and grade level (Ah! Am I crazy?!)

June 2014

Taught Children’s Literature at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, taught at Fine Lines Writing Camp, had first baby shower

July 2014

Had second baby shower (the clothes are so cute – and tiny!), began getting new classroom ready, tried to wrap my brain around the fact I will be a mom in one month

(Coming soon…) August 2014

We will be joined by our new son or daughter in mid-August!!!  Wish us luck!

Whew!  Busy year.  Thank you for continuing to read my blog.  I would promise to write more, but we will see what Baby Phillips has to say about that whole idea…




International Literacy Day September 9, 2013

Today will quite possibly rank as one of the best in my teaching career.  A few weeks ago, I opened an email from one of my favorite professional organizations, the International Reading Association.  It heralded the upcoming International Literacy Day, a day to celebrate the gift of literacy and promote literacy throughout the world.  I knew immediately that I wanted my class to celebrate it, but the question was – how?

As I pondered and brainstormed, our celebration day grew from a single guest reader to a day completely filled with literacy activities!  Here’s how our day looked in Room 311:


9:05 am – Students tumbled into the room, lugging pillows, stuffed animals, and bags full of books for our afternoon “Read In.”  One student brought me a wonderful sign to post in the room – Hooray for Literacy Day!

9:15 am – Dancing Classrooms and Music Class – Our physical activity and musical experience for the day!

11:00 am – Special guest reader, assistant principal, Mrs. Simmons came in and read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns.  We talked as a class about literacy and how it relates to math.  The students came up with all kinds of ways we use mathematical literacy (in algebra, reading and writing story problems, interpreting graphs, etc.).

11:30 am – We discussed literacy facts and figures from around the world.  My students learned that 115 million children around the world cannot read and write.  My students wrote the figures in standard, expanded, and word forms.  We tried to imagine how many people that would be and discussed what those children would be doing instead of going to school.  We all agreed that receiving an education is a tremendous gift.

12:20 – Recess and Lunch (Literacy loves sustenance.)

1:00 – Reading class!!!
Read In – Students camped out around the classroom with pillows, blankets, and books galore!  They munched on read-and-feed snacks, played literary element charades, and read some more!

Passing It On – Students were paired and went into a primary classroom (K-3) to talk about literacy and then read a picture book aloud.  The students were SO excited to share what they knew about literacy with the youngest students in our school.  They came back to the classroom chattering with stories to tell and grins from ear to ear.

Writing Prompt – Students responded to one or both of the following prompts: Because I am literate, I can… AND Literacy allows me to invent my future by…

3:00 – Science Literacy and Experiments

Throughout the day and evening, I was able to tweet from my classroom account all of the wonderful activities we were doing to promote literacy throughout our building and our community.  The cherry on top was a retweet this evening by the International Reading Foundation.  It was a quote from a student who is not my most confident reader, but who fully embraced World Literacy Day.  I can hardly WAIT to tell him about it tomorrow!

“Because I am literate, I can be the smartest me I can be.”


If Disney Ran the World… July 23, 2013

Last week, my family and I were in beautiful Central California.  We started our trip in Santa Barbara, then traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Luis Obispo (where my Grandma and Grandpa Mimick were married at the Mission in the 40s!), Monterey, Napa Valley, and ended in San Francisco.

The weather was beautiful; we traded in the heat and humidity of Omaha for the crisp high 60s to mid 70s of coastal California.  We had a marvelous time sipping wine, catching up with California friends and family, getting to know my sister’s fiancé (and his chocolate addiction) even better, and gazing out into the Pacific.


As often happens when you’re in a new place (or at least when I am), there are a few things that make you stop and think.  Why, oh why, do they do that?  What would possess someone to organize something like this?  And, being the avid (AKA obsessive) Disney World fan that I am, while waiting in line for a public restroom that had 6 stalls for a very large portion of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran, I started thinking: What if Disney ran the world?


(Cue foggy edges…)

1.) The world would be clean.  Even the restrooms.  Especially the restrooms.  Not a dirty napkin, discarded Starbucks cup, or empty pop can would be seen.  When a pizza crust or scrap of paper fell to the ground, a festively dressed man or woman would swoop in to whisk it out of the way.

2.) The world would be organized.  You would be able to grab a colorful map that could not only direct you how to get from place to place, but a times guide that would tell you when events were happening that couldn’t be missed.  When the need arose to wait in line for something, you would have fun activities to complete while you waited and themed decorations to keep you busy.

3.) The world would be colorful.  Decorated with poinsettias around Christmas, hoards of blooming colors in the spring, bright pinks and yellows in the summer, and deep reds and oranges in the fall.  And it wouldn’t only be decorated with flowers, but with buildings, street signs, and benches that are vivid.  Not a flake of paint or faded hue would exist.


4.) The world would be welcoming.  Every face you’d see would be smiling, every attitude positive.  Hands would always wave in welcome and the childlike grins present on each face would be contagious.  Every person would belong and you would be able to sense that feeling of belonging all around you.

5.) The world would remember the importance of family.  Disney World is all about family togetherness.  A world run by Disney would see families having meals together, playing games, talking to one another, and planning what they would do next as a family.

6.) The world would be respectful.  Everyone would be treated like a prince or princess.  Each person, especially children, would know he or she is a one-of-a-kind, very important person.

7.) The world would be responsible.  And full of cast members.  We would not be only considered citizens, we would be active participants in the world!  We would be the ones responsible for keeping our world running in a Disney-esque fashion.  All of us would work together to make our world the place it should be.  No one would sit and expect to be catered to and wait on by the cast members; everyone would have a role to play and be a cast member themselves.

8.) The world would be magical.  With fireworks every night for good measure.



Summertime Reading Week 2: The World We Found June 26, 2013


Back again with another (delayed) installment of my summer reading list!  During my second week of summer vacation, in addition to teaching at the Fine Lines Summer Writing Camp, I read my June Book Club book, The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar.  The book was published last summer, which means our book club found it earlier than we usually do!  Set mostly in India (with certain chapters set in the US), Umrigar’s book is the story of a friendship that stands the test of time and distance; and a story of the ways we change as we get older.

Four women, friends since their college days of utopian ideals and willingness to protest injustice, are brought together again by a diagnosis and a wish.  Armaiti, the transplant to America, has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and her prognosis is grim.  In her final months, she has a fervent desire to see her best friends once again and to introduce them to her beloved daughter.

Bringing this wish to fruition is not easy.  Each woman has her own dragons to slay in order to see Armaiti again.  For one (Laleh), it is grappling with self-imposed guilt over something that happened while they were students, and an admittance that the ideals she upheld as a young woman may not have been as realistic as she once thought.  For another (Kavita), it is dealing with the attraction she felt to Armaiti and her shame in admitting to her friends that she is in a long-term relationship with another woman.  For the third (Nishta), it is attempting to escape from the rigid orthodoxy her husband forced upon her following the Hindu/Muslim riots many years before.

I appreciated the way Umrigar gave each woman her own story and enjoyed walking beside them as they dealt with the issues that constrained them.  With each of them, at times, I wanted to turn and shake her.  Though I do not share the same political views or the women’s disregard for religion, I was able to identify with certain character traits of each of them.  These relatable characters made the book a very quick read.  Since I have never been to India, I also enjoyed having the chance to journey there through the eyes of these women.  I was able to see it as it was, and as they hoped it could be.

As a book club full of strong-minded women, we often choose books that emphasize the relationships women form.  This was certainly one of those books.  I am anxious to meet with my book club and discover their thoughts!



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