On Deck

  • Lesson Planning
  • Portfolio Work
  • Core Work
Sun prints on a sunny day. Art and science.

For folks who are nervous about balancing your work with managing your children’s education this fall/winter/spring, I’d like to impart some observations from my several years of homeschooling. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time or part-time worker, you’re a job seeker, or an intergenerational caregiver, you’re working.

Do not try to recreate the classroom in your home. It might be tempting (and a fun experience in consumerism!) to festoon your child’s work space with inspirational posters, educational banners, etc. that you now find everywhere, not just in the teacher-supply stores. Skip this. This stuff is distracting even in the classroom environment, much less in your home, particularly for kids with attention concerns. Keep it spare. What you should invest in is basic art materials, reams of paper, a bunch of pencils, etc. Consider getting them autoshipped on a schedule. Somehow, my couch has eaten at least a gross of pencils in two years.

Reinforce areas in need of development. Now is a great time to figure out the gaps in your kid’s knowledge. No school (public, private, or home) does it right all the time and children just develop blind spots in certain skills. To this day, I have no working knowledge of Roman numerals because I skipped this grade and never really went back and figured them out. I Google them every single time. There are easy assessments offered at low cost that you, a layperson, can use. Check out LetsGoLearn.com’s DORA or ADAM assessments in English Language Arts or math. They’re $25 and give you insights into where your kid needs some extra emphasis. You can also go to Khan Academy’s “Mappers” tool and plug in the NWEA/MAP scores your kid’s school is super focused on and you’ll get a customized learning plan for your child. It’s great.

Introduce new life skills. I’ve seen this tip a lot, and it’s completely key to your sanity and your child’s independence. They’re going to be all up in your business all day, eating snacks, making a mess, getting bored. And that’s okay—to an extent. I have been talking to my children about how this experience requires all of us to help in more intentional ways. Your workplace is a team, their classroom was a team, and this fall, your family is a team. Every second of every hour of every day in this pandemic. So, yeah, there will be more chores because there’s more life in the house. And life requires you to show up. Even you, little one. But it’s not all going to be all drudgery. You can teach them stuff you already know, have known for years, and tart it up as a treat. (That sounds so Mary Poppins, but it’s true and it’s all about marketing. Sidenote: the original Mary Poppins books are terrifying. Fun to read aloud!) Sewing on a button can be cool. Teaching your kid how to collect sticks, bark, and windfall branches so they can start a fire is totally cool. Showing them how to whisk properly (you’re doing it wrong and so am I; YouTube it and learn together) is cool. 

Give each other grace. (Who am I, Brene Brown or something? Love her, but I’m not there yet.) But please hear me because I know what I’m talking about here. You will have crappy days. So will they. You will screw up. So will they. You will have days where you feel so competent and so together. And so will they. I follow (in part) a method formed by a 19th century English teacher called Charlotte Mason. She has many principles of education, but the one I cling to is that children are born persons. They were created by whomever with their own mystery. They’re separate from you at birth. So when you don’t allow them to have a shitty day, or a supreme day, you don’t acknowledge their personhood. And, friend, please hear me that when you don’t acknowledge your own needs, values, and gifts, you aren’t recognizing yours either. To me, the “giving grace” thing is about holding a space for empathy so you can observe more keenly, make thoughtful changes, and communicate with love and purpose. You’re going to have to figure out what that means with your family. 

Be apart when you can. Hopefully, you’ve figured that out over the past few months. And from what I hear from friends, there’s been a LOT of device time. Be okay with that. If you weren’t already balancing working with schooling, the shift was too abrupt not to use devices. I learned how to read from TV commercials at age three, so I’m not throwing stones. But keep trying to introduce silence and solitude with your family. Try to take a quiet walk in nature. Do you own forest bathing. Between game noise, Zoom calls, TV sounds, you will need a bit of peace and quiet. Hopefully, you can find a bit of park, prairie, forest, or beach where you can go off in your own directions for a while sans device and just listen. Keep doing that, even into the crappiest part of winter. And buy your winter gear now. Triple up on the gloves.

Ultimately, this is going to be a lost year for many children. And that’s a shame—our shame. As a country, a city, etc. Our leaders failed us during the pandemic, and so many of our fellow citizens are not doing their best, either. We are living through a trauma, all of us. But for our smallest citizens, the pandemic is a generational wound. We need to think about this year differently. It’s never going to be the same again, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Good luck. And wash your hands.




I’m thankful to have been asked to be a panelist for this event from the Morton Grove Public Library. I’ll do my best to break down different homeschooling styles and offer tips and techniques—anything I can do to make these librarians proud. They’ve known us for several years and I’ve helped contribute to the homeschooling community here and beyond.

So, RSVP already!

With Taproot, I created identity programs, brochures, messaging platforms for area NPOs such Association House. That’s my tagline, which translates easily into Spanish.







I built and managed the social-media outreach for a not-for-profit organization I founded. Facebook, Twitter.

























I developed the brand for the 501(c) I founded and created identity materials, such as this postcard, business cards, t-shirts, banners, and more.











































I crafted a series of direct-mail pieces for a political candidate targeting hyperlocal issues, such as flooding and economic development.

























Marketing for change

If recent world events have shown us anything, it’s that what is most important is to be of service to one another. Whether that’s wearing your mask, agitating for systemic change, or making a contribution to a cause you admire, it is up to all of us to use the gifts we possess to enrich our greater community.

My gift is communication. 

When my freelance schedule allows, I have been grateful that I’ve been able to connect with not-for-profit organizations to create impactful communications on a pro bono basis. Through Taproot Foundation, I partnered with other remote-based professionals in ad hoc teams to tackle significant projects for the Association House, Chicago Urban League, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and Sarah’s Inn. Our groups produced a range of high-impact deliverables, such as messaging platforms, holistic rebranding, annual reports, and brochures. In 2011, Taproot Foundation honored me as Chicago’s Volunteer of the Year.

I also founded and ran a not-for-profit organization in my neighborhood, a diverse community in need of more investment from residents, government, and the business community. Through dogged organizing, I helped grow Albany Park Neighbors from six people around a picnic table into a politically powerful juggernaut with 501(c)3 certification. We carefully nurtured our social-media following to more than 3,000 engaged residents, discussing critical issues such as business development, crime, infrastructure needs, etc. I created business-recognition programs, informational guides, and community forums. We fought for more resources from local politicians, engaged community members in real debate, helped review zoning proposals, and more.

I’ve been thankful that I’ve been able to contribute my communications skills by developing direct mail, scripts, and speeches for local candidates. While I’ve also volunteered for national candidates, these local races are so critical to everyday, quality-of-life issues. 

I am currently working with other not-for-profit organizations on other projects and am always looking to take on other pro bono work. If you’d like to get on my schedule, contact me!



On deck

  • Picnic breakfast
  • AfterBite
  • Homemade granola
This is about a third of the masks we own. And this is around 20 masks.

Today, my boys and I were walking on a trail. The property required masks and distancing. Because that’s smart. The bare minimum, really.

The little one rarely resists. He wears the mask, doesn’t complain, and is a general champ about it. The older one chews on it, is chattier, and is more of a close-up connector. It cramps his style, though he knows why we wear them. That they protect the people we love. That this is our small sacrifice in this war.

He turned to me today and started a sentence like a lot of us are right now, “… when this is all over …” and trailed off, like a lot of us are right now.  So I said, “Yes, pal?”

“When all this is over,” he cleared his throat, “I want to start a bonfire and burn all the masks. I want to forget.”

But I want him to remember.

To remember this detail of the trauma his generation will carry.

To remember how our custom-made patterned masks were made with love by a friend to keep the rest of our bubble safe.

To remember the sacrifice the leaders of his country—the voters of his country—decided to make of this year (at least) of his childhood because we let that man run the nation into the ground.

To remember how we pushed through the masks to connect with strangers and friends, that we looked in people’s eyes, talked louder than usual, and amped up the hand gestures.

To remember that we sorted out the poor information from the good information to make the best choices. 

To remember that some people, even in the face of information and best interests, just will not do the minimum for collective benefit. 

To remember that this all could have ended months ago, but didn’t. And won’t for months.

To remember that this is one of the worst times in modern history. And that it could have been worse, but could have been so much better.

To remember that people loved him enough to scare him with the truth, to show him the graphs, to do the experiments to show him why he needed to wear it, even when it sucked.

To remember. To remember it all. To remember, and tell.

“Frame them,” I said. “Keep them, frame them. Keep the memories, keep the stories. Tell people. Tell the story. Do. Not. Forget.”

And then we turned a corner, looked at an amazing oak tree. Dead on one side, verdant on the other. Looking like a choice, a metaphor. 

We’re choosing the verdant side. And wearing the masks to get there.

To read something truly amazing about kids and COVID, please read this Esquire piece by Dan Sinker, “To Be a Parent Right Now is to Be a Liar.”




The subject line robs your lungs of air

But the words inside are empty, a sad sigh.

And what comes from you is a surprise

Not even a gasp, a choke, not even a chuckle

Just a slow exhalation of almost two decades

All the moments, the bliss and the bad,

And when that stream of breath is done,

Take another, full and fresh, all your own




On deck

  • Cat vomit
  • Waffles for Sundae Sunday
  • Booms and bursts
Three swallowtails creep and grow. I’m reluctant to bring in caterpillars anymore, but these guys are in my living room right now. Munch on.


I attended a Zoom class the other day about fireflies. Did you know that today’s fireflies were eggs laid two years ago? And the mating dance they’re doing now in my rain garden over the Joe Pye and the cupplant will be the lights that flutter two years from now. 

During my first Chicago summer, 18 years ago, these gorgeous little miracles enchanted me so, I’d spend hours reading about them. Their cold, chemical lights, bioluminescence, seemed like such a special thing in a place that I never have found comfortable. I have grown to enjoy many things about midwestern summer and they tend to be what most people hate, like humidity and extremely fragrant alleys on the hottest of days, but aren’t we all on team firefly? 

What person isn’t delighted by their dance, like little wishes with wings, present then absent, blinking in a rhythm seductive to everyone, but meant for a beloved?


Tonight, we sit in our backyard, watching the fireflies dance as we read, write, hum, together in the dying dusk.

I did a hard thing today, a repair I’d been dreading. I sought the wise counsel of two friends and the good hardware store. They walked me through the repair, offering tools and advice. One hopped on a few calls, as much help as pep talk. The other told me that, yes, he could fix it, but that I could too, and just do it already. I did. It works and I’m proud.

I wonder what would have happened if this issue had come up when we were all here. I think we’d have just bought a new thing, and stuck the easy-to-fix one in the basement to moulder, like so many other things that didn’t get tackled, gathering layer after layer of dust from disuse and resentment. 

But I dove in, head-first, after making sure. And I did it. I don’t know why I am so impressed with myself. I did these things all the darn time: finishing the front door, raising chickens, constructing a cozy space upstairs, starting a not-for-profit, homeschooling—it is a ridiculously long list of things wherein I thought, “Well, why not me?” And went ahead and did. However, this one made me nervous and I did it anyway. 


What’s your nervous thing. Do it anyway.



Gimme gimmE

  • Yes, I checked Target
  • No, not going to Wal-Mart
  • No, I will not try to make it

For Mom

Where Is the

A Parenting Pandemic Must

While every other rando on Twitter and podcasts is lamenting store shelves bereft of King Arthur or yeast cakes, every parent on my block is wondering where in the fresh hell has all the sidewalk chalk disappeared to. 

I’m a planner by nature. And there’s nothing in need of planning like a global pandemic, so your girl had a list of junk required to keep the kids entertained. (I’m always the mom who is foisting chalk and bubbles off on the kids to steal a few minutes of grown-up chat with the neighbors, so this is my jam.) 

But the pandemic hit while Chicago was still getting snow here and there. So I figured that two big boxes of the good stuff, the Crayola stuff, would see us through for a month. SO I FIGURED. As we enter month two of this slow-moving worldwide tragedy, I’m down to a few nubs of the worst colors. The grey, the beige, that weird green that reminds me of the worst flavor of antacids.

And I’ve looked—oh, how I’ve looked. The nabes and I were just asking each other, “Did you look at Wal-Mart?” “I don’t want to go to Wal-Mart.” “Wait, there’s that Wal-Mart pick-up location now so you don’t have to go into Wal-Mart.” Wal-Mart’s out of chalk, gang. It doesn’t even matter. All the office-supply stores. The teacher stores. Even this one weird site that supplies churches and vacation Bible schools? Out.

What are we all doing with the chalk? At least on our block, it’s mostly about the hopscotch. The kids spend hours (to them, anyways, that’s more like 12 parent minutes) making elaborate hopscotch deals that they’ll cycle through a few times. Mostly, it’s grownups on their fifth dog-walk of the day hopping through them, getting those steps in, falling into what is clearly a trap planned by the children.

Then there are those upbeat messages. The ones that seem trite, but when you’re jogging down the block in a mask and pause to check traffic at the corner, they make you burst out into tears. Hallmark-y ones that hit us right in the gut nowadays because everyone’s a GD raw nerve. And the messages of hope and thanks scratched on the asphalt for the nurses, the doctors, the postal carrier, the Amazon person. I feel like everyone is so abundantly thankful right now. And the chalk makes the day.

But we’re also writing really stupid knock-knock jokes just to break up the damn monotony of sadness and mask-wearing and gut-clenching uncertainty. If you can’t laugh at “Coronavirus who? Coronavirus stinks!” then you’re doing it wrong. We’re all trying, trying, trying to stay vigilant for each other, for the kids. And the kids are grieving joy, without either the context or vocabulary to really express it. 

So, JFC, someone start stocking the chalk again.