Monday Morning

I was driving to Starbucks this AM and had my writing idea all set. I was finalizing the plan in my head to describe the birthday “date night” planned for my husband tonight. As I drove, I rehearsed in my head about starting with dialogue. I also wanted to research what might be happening at the Capitol One Arena. I suspect something big because we couldn’t get a reservation until 7:30pm. Really? On a Monday night? I just looked it up and laughed – Bruce Springstein Concert! No wonder all the restaurants are packed!

Instead, as I drove down my street, the idle of the car was acting wacky. An indicator light went on. I changed my mind, went through the drive thru at McDonalds (I love their oatmeal), and drove straight to school. The car manuel said to not drive on the highway and to check the tightness of the gas cap. The gas cap was on but not tight. Hope it is just that. For now, I’ll teach my classes, drive straight home and walk to Metro for the birthday dinner. I just may have to listen to Bruce today, too!

I’m as old as….

Today is my birthday (Monday, October 11th). Students don’t have class today as they celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day so on Friday, I celebrated with my students.

First I played this video of one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, reading his poem Cheerios. Do take 2-minutes to view it HERE.

Next I shared this poster I made showing books of a few children’s books published the year I was born. It also shows inventions made, an historical event, and buildings built. But best of all, the foods first found on the grocery store shelves the year I was born are listed. Yep, I’m as old as Chip-Ahoy cookies!

Students used their iPads to find out what was going on the year they were born. They began a list on the white board. We laughed as we compared.

We stepped outside to safely to enjoy a Chip-ahoy cookie and returned to view this video of a classic picture book. Then we returned to our regular Reading lesson for the day. I’m glad I took 15-minutes to celebrate my birthday with my students! Poetry, a little research, a laugh, a cookie and an read-aloud. The perfect birthday celebration for me as I turn 58 years young!

Can you find out what you are as old as?
Do and then share as a comment!

DIY-Birthday Cards

“I need 2 bananas, a loaf of bread, extra sharp cheddar cheese, chicken thighs, the ones on sale, and more postage stamps. And I needs another packet of blank cards from Michaels.” I jot down my mom’s list and place it in my purse with her credit card. Since last March, my routine has been to stop by my mom’s condo, just 3 miles from where I live, on Thurdays. We enjoy the take-out meal I bring, followed by a card game of 2-handed Pinochle. Currently, I am winning by one, 14 games to 13. Then I leave with my errands list to execute on Sunday. Always to the grocery shop and sometimes a craft store errand. This allows my mom, at age 85, to stay home and safe which is the best antidote for staying well during this pandemic.

My mom has always kept track of her friends’ birthdays, long before facebook began sending electronic reminders. Even though wishes can easily be sent now through an email or a text message, she still utilzes snail mail to send her friends paper birthday cards. And she isn’t letting this pandemic stop her. Instead, she has turned this kindness into a new pandemic hobby. I call it “DIY-cards”. First, she searches through her many photo albums with her birthday friend in mind. After finding a kodak moment, she removes the photo and glues it to the front of a pre-folded cardstock blank card which the Michael’s craft store sells. After adding a personal handwritten note to the inside, she slides it into the accompaning envelop, adds the address and then walks it down to her condo mailboxes to place it in the outgoing mail.

This month, I became the recipient of one of my mom’s creations. Immediately, I recognized her slanted left-handed cursive writing as I retrieved the mail from my mailbox. As I pulled the card from its holder, I was surprised to see the photo. It was of my two daughters, probably at age 12 and 15 and a much younger me, all smiling. Sporting their favorite college-wear, Bridgit was in her much-loved Columbia sweatshirt and Anne in her UVA soccer t-shirt. Me, looking through my wire-rimmed glasses, look vacation-relaxed. And in the background flowed the Mississippi River. This photo took me back to our All-Girl Road Trip to see the St. Louis Arc over a dozen years ago. My mom, often asking us to stop and pose, did so here as we departed the Tom Sayer Riverboat, our lunchean spot after touring the St. Louis Arc.

Looking at this handmade birthday card, I paused and instantly I was back in Missouri. standing outside the sleek silver structure, climbing into the small capsule which took us up the one side of the arc, disembarking to peer out the windows, revealing a birds-eye view of St. Loius. Then climbing back into another capsule and sailing down the Arc’s other side. This one birthday card took me back to this other time and other place. What a lovely birthday gift!

On Sunday, wearing my mask, I stopped first at Safeway and gathered all the grocery and then stopped at Michaels. As I grabbed a 10-pack of blank cardstock cards and headed to the checkout, I wondered who would recieve a photo memory from my mom next. Whoever it was, I knew the recipient would enjoy where my mom’s creativity would take them. To another place, at another time and that is definitely the kind of birthday card that is needed in 2020!

My Birthday

“Hi Mom. Happy Birthday! It’s already your birthday in France,” my younger daughter’s voice sweetly said as I answered my cell phone. I glanced at my clock and quickly did the math – 6pm for me but midnight and the next day for Anne. I muted the Gilmore Girl rerun I was mindlessly watching in the TV room. For me it was that time after-making-dinner but before-Brian-gets-home to eat with me. So I was watching a rerun and glancing through the daily newspaper. But now I wasn’t alone. The perfect birthday gift – a phone call from France.

After a 45 minute chat, I hung up Then minutes later the phone rang again and again a voice said, “Happy Birthday, a day early!” This time it was my oldest daughter, Bridgit. She was heading home from her job in Manhattan and the sounds of a busy city could be heard in the background. She caught me up on all her lastest work news and we exchanged info for when we’d be together in 2 weeks in New York and she listened to how my school work was going. Before I knew it, another 45 minutes had gone by, Brian was home and it was time for dinner.

Having 2 kids  – one living in another time zone and one living many miles North, it made me happy that they took time to wish me a happy day via a cell phone chat.

The next day, at 7:10am, my own mom sent me a birthday wish text. At 7:19am I saw a teacher friend from years ago posted her wishes for me to my facebook timeline. Two cards arrived by the postman and one card was given in person by my sister along with a restaurant luncheon.

All through the school day, I passed out Smartie candies as a Birthday treat! I also shared a video version of the picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. “This book and me are the same age – 54 years,”  I told me students!

Then at 7:10pm my husband and I headed to a nearby restaurant. I ordered a cocktail, had the soup of the day,  and enjoyed time to chat, catch-up, and reminiscence with my husband. After I enjoyed my yummy steak and potatoes meal prepared Spanish-style and he devoured his Salmon, a lovely plate of flan surrounded by rasberries and blackberries was placed at the table. One lone candle, stuck into a berry, was aglow. I blew it out, making a wish.

So many ways to celebrate a birthday!



Monday Date Night

It was Monday.
It was also my husband’s birthday – 53 now!
It helps to have a 28 year old daughter who can ask her friends and then suggest the a restaurant.
It was fun to end the yummy meal sharing this:

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I look back and see 35 years of fun with this man I call my a great friend/husband/father.
Here’s to many, many more fun years partying together!


My birthday – halfway to 104

It is still Tuesday, barely. I still have time to make a post and my personal writing goal is to make a post every Tuesday. All day I wondered if I had anything to write about. But I did just have a birthday and today at school, I celebrated it with my students. So that is what I’ll write about.

A week ago Friday, I found myself unexpectedly watching The Kelly Ripa Show. It was her birthday and she announced, “I’m halfway to 90.” Her comment stuck with me and here is what I wrote as my Morning Meeting Message today at school:

Dear 3rd graders,
Over the weekend I celebrated my birthday.
I am now halfway to 104.
How old am I?

In the bin, I collected books that are as old as me.
Let’s collectively try to read as many books as my age right now.
Get a book and read it. Then add a tally mark below.
Then get another book and repeat.
Have fun reading books written in 1963!

Mrs. Donnelly

In the bin I placed:
Where the Wild Things Are (it’s copyright  is 1963 and it won the Caldecott in 1964)
The Snowy Day (1963 Caldecott winner) and other Keats books
Swimmy by Leo Lionni (1963 Caldecott Honor winner)
Amelia Bedela books (as the first one in the series came out in 1963)
Clifford The Big Red Dog books (as the first one in the series came out in 1963)

Along with gathering GREAT children’s books published the year I was born, I made a poster showing images of the following,  also “born” in 1963:
Captain Crunch
The St. Louis Arc
The NYC MetLife Building
The first push button phone
The smiley face 🙂
and ME!!

As a read-aloud, I typed up Where the Wild Things Are as a Readers Theater and after I read it through once, I divided the 22 students up into three teams and asked them to decide who would be Max, who would be The Wild Things and who would be the narrators. Our goal is to practice all week and then on Friday, perform it for the Kindergarten classes!

Celebrating my birthday with third graders is fun, even when I suddenly find myself halfway to 104!!

March 27 – Birthday Letter to Brian

Dear Brian,

Happy Birthday!!

Last year, on your 50th birthday, this picture was taken of our project:

Today, on your 51st birthday, these pictures were taken of our project:


Neither of us expected that our project would still be a work in progress after a full year.
However, I truly believe that in another year, we WILL live in our project, our completed project.

We will awake on the 3rd floor each morning when the sun streams into the big, bedroom window.
We will slink out of bed and walk across the radiant floor for a morning shower.
We will sip coffee on the rooftop deck as we read the morning paper.
We will watch Jeopardy after work in the 2nd floor TV room.
We will prep and cook and grab a beer from the street-facing kitchen.
We will entertain in the double-height dining room space and onto the backyard deck.
We will retire to read before bed in front of the living room fireplace.

Neither of us expected that our project would take so long to complete.
This whole past year, you were architect, designer, project manager, quality controller, lawyer, bank negotiator, tour-guide, dad, and calm husband. Soon, we WILL inhabit 5218 N 12th Street.

May all your wishes come true this birthday!
This amazing house you are creating for us is making mine come true!
Happy Birthday!


* photos from

March 27 – Happy 50th Birthday to my husband

At 18, he was my date to the Senior prom.
The next two years, he filled my college mailbox with hand-written letters.
We walked The Lawn as graduates in ’86, married in ’87 and had our own Wahoos in ’88 and ’92.
The 90s were spent raising the girls and renovating our townhouse.
The 00s were about supporting our girls through High School and College and relaxing at the beach.
Now the 10s. We both are in our 50s, he just joining this decade today.
Both have good jobs.
Both enjoy our time with our grown girls.
Both still like each other.
The 20s…I can’t wait!

March 4 – Mom’s 70th Birthday!


“Brring…brring….brring…The alarm sounded and Mom and I awoke. We were still tired from taking the evening train last night from Washington, DC to NYC but we had a big day planned, so we quickly dressed and hurried out the hotel door.

First stop – The Today Show at Rockerfeller Center!! Holding the sign I made, we entered the outside courtyard and joined a large crowd of people. Suddenly, the crowd cheered very loudly and walking onto the platform in front of us was the Today Show host, Matt Lauher. He was speaking to the home TV audience and we were his live audience. His segment ended and the TV went to a commercial break and Matt walked right to where we were in the crowd. He began shaking hands and once in front of us, with his left hand, he signed his autograph to our poster!! WOW! What a great start to my mom’s 70th birthday.

(Though this “slice of life” happened on May 6, 2005, it is fun to recall it today and share this blog entry with my mom. I am reminded that I have just over a year to plan an even better 80th birthday celebration for her!)