Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Taming the Crazy-Busy Slice of Life Tuesday

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can check their blog for more Slice of Life stories.


I read Brene Brown's Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead last week.  I need constant reminders that being vulnerable isn't a sign of weakness and that striving for perfection is not healthy for me.  So much resonated true  as I read the book.  I came to a halt when I read her term..."crazy-busy."  

"We are a culture of people who've bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won't catch up with us."

Wow...was she speaking directly to me?  I am the queen of keeping busy so that I don't have to deal with things that might be wrong in my life.  I could teach classes on how to stay busy to numb yourself from certain harsh realities, whatever they might be.  I tell myself that I should stop, that I need to quiet myself, and the next thing I know, I'm in the middle of being crazy-busy again.  

The last 3 weeks have forced me to quiet myself.  It's given me the opportunity to start over again and try to find my foundation.  I've had a head start on summer break, and learning relearning how to take care of myself is taking precedence.  It feels a little selfish, but I know that if I'm going to be any good to others, I need to have a strong foundation for myself.  

I created a slide show that illustrates how I'm taking care of myself.  I hope it will give others some ideas.  We all need to tame the crazy-busy side of ourselves.  It is then that we can find peace and strength to face our challenges.



Taming My Crazy-Busy Life on PhotoPeach

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thank you to Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  You can check out their blog for some great ideas for new reads.  I'm so glad to be back into joining this wonderful group.


I marked One Crazy Summer as a book I wanted to read all the way back in March of 2010.  Three years later, I finally got around to reading it.  It was a touching story about three African-American girls who go to visit the mother that abandoned them when they were very little.  The year is 1968 when the girls fly from New York to Oakland, California.  It's evident their mother still does not want them around. She makes them eat Chinese takeout, they're not allowed in her kitchen, and she sends them to the local center run by the Black Panthers.  The story broke my heart at some points and made me smile at others.  I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it.




I'm currently reading Rump, The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin.  More about that next week.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Final Writing Celebration

Today I went to visit my students and see their final writing projects.  First of all, it felt so good to be in the classroom with them.  I've missed them like crazy while I've been recuperating from surgery.  It just feels right when I'm surrounded by kids.

Mrs. Bauer, my friend as well as my long-term sub  led the students through their final writing cycle. The kids got to choose their topic as well as the genre that would best fit the topic.  I saw such a wide variety of work.


  • stories written as books
  • scientific reports
  • a timeline
  • posters
  • webpages
  • fantasy
  • adventure
  • informational writing
  • personal narrative
  • fiction 
  • characters' points of view
I had a wonderful time with my young writers.  We ended our sharing time by sitting in a big circle and talking about some of what they focused on in this last piece of writing.  They named things like finding interesting details, writing a strong lead, using subheadings and other nonfiction text features, using dialogue correctly, and figuring out where to put paragraphs.

I'm very proud of their hard work.  It's been a great year for learning and I'm going to miss this great group of kids.  Please enjoy the slideshow.  





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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Secret Keeping Place Slice of Life Tuesday


Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can check their blog for more Slice of Life stories.






When I was a little girl, my family would spend part of every summer at my grandparents' cabin in Geneva, Ohio.  It was one of my favorite places to go.  It wasn't anything fancy; in fact, it was quite simple and plain. But, oh, the fun we had there.  Cousins and aunts and uncles and Grandma and Pop falling over each other; canoe rides, swimming in the Grand River with our orange life jackets keeping us afloat, and sitting on the swing with Pop early in the morning eating powdered sugar doughnuts are some of my best cabin  memories.

Pine trees surrounded the cabin and I loved inhaling their piney scent.  My cousin Brenda and I had a special spot; a little grove of pine trees that was ours.  It was here that we huddled together on a blanket of pine needles, planning our trip of a lifetime...riding motocycles to California.  We carried our journals out there and wrote stories that only adolescent girls can write.  We whispered our fears and our dreams in our little copse.  It was here that we giggled about boys as we discovered that they were't so bad after all.  And then later. as teenagers, we cried about boys in the same spot.  We poured our broken hearts out to each other.  And always, standing mighty and strong around us were the pine scented trees, keeping our secrets sacred.

Last night, as my husband and I were walking in our yard, I crept back toward our little stand of pine trees and discovered that the trees (which were little sticks when we planted them 15 years ago) had now grown enough to enclose an area that brought me right back to our cabin.  The shaded area carpeted with pine needles transported
me back 20 or 30 years and it just made me feel happy to be out there.  I've decided it's going to be my new secret keeping place.  We bought two adirondack chairs to put out there and I am imagining it to be the perfect place to quiet myself, get lost in a good book, or do some writing.  And since I'll have two chairs, it will also be the perfect place to share secrets with someone special.

I'm excited about designing this space.  I'll post pictures of the final product when it's finished.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Thank you to Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  You can check out their blog for some great ideas for new reads.  I'm so glad to be back into joining this wonderful group.


I was finally able to read The Runaway King, the next book in The False Prince trilogy.  I bought the book as soon as it came out and it's been making the rounds in my classroom.  Since I couldn't bear the thought of taking it out of my students' hands (nor do I think they would have allowed it to happen), I downloaded another copy on my Kindle so I could read it at home.  Like False Prince, this one is a page turner.  Prince Jaron is at his best as he outsmarts those who are out to get him.  It's been very popular in Room 114 and I think I'll need to get a few more copies for my classroom library next year.



I've seen Timmy Failure:  Mistakes Were Made on Goodreads a couple of times, so I decided to read it next.  This funny book is going to appeal to many of my readers.  Timmy has his own detective agency, but unfortunately, he's not very good at being a detective.  There are many opportunities to help kids infer what is REALLY happening in the story, when poor Timmy hasn't a clue.





My professional read this week was Assessment in Perspective:  Focusing on the Reader Behind the Numbers.  Today is the beginning of the blog tour, so I hope you will check it out.  Claire and Tammy succinctly explain the many types of assessments we give our readers, the purpose of these assessments, the importance of triangulation, as well as the need to share our knowledge with our students.  This book gave me so many things to think about in our data driven world as well as put a new light on the work we do when assessing our students.  I highly recommend this book.


Finally, this next book isn't about or for school, but it is about educating myself about eating in a more healthful way.  I read The Engine Two Diet last year, dabbled in plant strong eating, and then went back to old habits when life got very busy and we began eating out a lot.  I felt so good when I was eating a plant strong diet and decided to get back into it at the beginning of the month.  My Beef with Meat arrived at my door early this week and I was so glad it did.  There is lots of information dispelling myths of eating a plant strong diet, and some great recipes.  It's a quick, easy read and pretty funny in some parts.  If you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, the author, Rip Esselstyn will be at Whole Foods in Upper Arlington this Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anticipation... Slice of Life

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can check their blog for more Slice of Life stories. 

Photo by Moyan Brenn
In 40 days, my husband and I will be landing in Istanbul and I will see my daughter for the first time since September.  My heart aches to have her in my arms.

I can't wait...

to touch her, kiss her, and smell her...just like when she was a baby.  (That may sound a little weird...maybe it's a mom thing).

  Two days later, Sana, our daughter from India will be joining us in Istanbul and the four of us will tour Turkey together.  We haven't seen Sana in two years since she ended her youth exchange year with us.

Again, I can't wait...

to hug that girl.  I can already hear the incessant laughter and chatter that will be coming from the two girls.  I am going to love every minute of it.

I can't wait...

We're already planning Annie's Welcome Home Party.  When I asked her what she wanted me to make she replied:


It's a good thing I like to cook.  

There are so many more things to look forward to this summer...

My son's job working with inner city kids at summer camp...it will be a good experience for him and those kids are so lucky to get to spend time with my boy.

My oldest daughter travels back to San Francisco for a summer internship in design.  It's a wonderful feeling to sit back and watch her be successful and happy.  The good thing is it's just for the summer and then she's back close to home.

I'm teaching a digital writing class with 2 exceptional educators and friends for the Columbus Area Writing Project.

I'm hoping to catch up with friends who I don't see very often, read some great books, bike on Ohio's Rails to Trails, garden and try some new recipes.

It's going to be a wonderful, wonderful summer.

I can't wait!

What are you looking forward to doing this summer?








Monday, May 13, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Thank you to Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  You can check out their blog for some great ideas for new reads.  I'm so glad to be back into joining this wonderful group.
Since I have some time on my hands due to a little surgery, my "books read" list has grown quite a bit.  At the same time, I've been adding to my "to be read" list.  I forgot what it was like to have space in my day to enjoy a good book.  :)  I've read some phenomenal middle grade books the last two weeks (as well as some books that are just for me).

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban was wonderful!  In this story, Ruby Pepperdine deals with the death of her grandma, messing up her friendship with her best friend Lucy, and a budding new friendship with Nero.  The story takes place in one day, with flashbacks to fill in the gaps.  This touching story does not make light of the worries of students in this age group.








A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff was another great story.  Franki Sibberson introduced me to Lisa Graff, and I'm so glad she did.  This book is full of quirky characters, my favorite kind, who are all connected together in a giant web of life's experiences.









Hold Fast by Blue Balliett was powerful!  The story tells about the harsh realities of homelessness, with a twist of mystery.  I talked to a few colleagues about using this book as a read aloud with my fourth graders.  Some of the images portrayed in the homeless shelter will be very foreign to my students.  However, I think that this book would be perfect to use to talk about empathy, helping others, perseverance, etc.  This book is a must read.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who Do You Appreciate?

As I was meandering through Choice Literacy's "Thank You Teachers Facebook Series," I began to think about my own teachers who had the most impact on my learning.   My mom tells me that I became a teacher the day my sister was born.  I guess I was a natural from the beginning....holding school with first my sisters, then later the neighbors...anyone I could corral into paying attention to me.  As a bonus, I could also fill in as a priest or nun (based on my experience at St. Patrick's Elementary School grades 1 - 8).  To say the least, I knew from an early age, that education was in my future.

Of course my first teachers were my parents. Books filled our house; we didn't go to bed without at least one bedtime story.  We cooked with my mom and used our own money to buy candy at Sterlings, the local market where Mom could pick up a gallon of milk.

My first encounter at public school introduced me to Mrs. Motter, my kindergarten teacher.  Mrs. Motter was young and smart and beautiful and I thought she was wonderful.  (I still do).  I loved going to school:  learning so many different things, coloring carefully in the lines, playing in the housekeeping center, having a snack break (chocolate milk was $.03), and taking a nap.  Mrs. Motter read wonderful stories to us and she made us laugh.  She taught me early on that learning was joyful.  From her classroom, I received a strong foundation on which my entire education was built.  I still remember her invitation to have a Coke with her that summer after school was out (and yes, she kept the date).   At 5 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher like Mrs. Motter.

When I was in first grade, and going to parochial school, we moved out into the country. Guess who my new neighbor was...Mrs. Motter.  I was lucky to now have her as my neighbor and see her out of school.  When she and her husband had children, I babysat.  I no longer had to call her Mrs. Motter, but could then call her Sue.  My dream of being a teacher like Sue never wavered.  If anything, my conviction became even stronger.

I often wonder if Mrs. Motter has any idea of the influence she had on me.  Her love of children and love of learning keep me going even today, all these years later.  (Oh my gosh...that was 45 years ago!) I want my students to look at me the way I looked at her.  I want my students to know that I feel privileged  to spend my days with them, helping them  move toward their dreams.  And so to Mrs. Motter (my friend Sue), I say, "Thank you for launching me forward.  Thank you for helping me to build my dreams.  Thank you for everything you did to help me be who I am today.  Thank you."


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Receiving and Accepting the Gift of Time Slice of Life Tuesday

I am not a very good patient. I have a hard time sitting still and being quiet, even though I know it's good for me. I've been absent from blogging since SOLC ended over a month ago for a couple of reasons. Graduate school and my health put a little detour in my plans. The last 2 months have been crazy busy...I worried and sweated through writing my first academic papers...I don't think they were up to par, but they were my first and I'll get better. (At least that's what I tell myself). I also said good-bye to my fourth graders for the school year because I had to have surgery last week, which meant getting lesson plans done for 5 weeks and 24 reading assessments completed before I left.

Thankfully, everything is fine and I'm healing well, but like I said above, I'm not very good at being still. So for the next four weeks, I have to take it easy. I can take short walks (and the weather is perfect for that), go for short drives (ice cream anyone?), and of course, I will have time to read and write. Oh, heavens! I am so looking forward to blogging (I have a bunch of things I've been wanting to blog about) and reading. 

My Kindle is loaded up, my iced tea is brewed, and I am ready.  Some of the books I'm looking forward to reading are: 





This came in the mail today.  Thank you Penny Kittle!


You can preview this online at http://www.stenhouse.com/shop/pc/viewprd.asp?idProduct=9717



And I've already read and LOVED:



You can see I have a variety of personal reads and professional reads.  And I haven't gotten anything yet to help me get ready for our trip to Turkey in June.  :)  I really am looking forward to this time for renewal, reflection, and peace.  I will accept this time as a gift and make the most of every moment.


Thank you to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Live Tuesdays. You can read more posts at their blog.