Thursday, January 30, 2014

#nerdlution Update Week One

First of all, it's weird to not use the #nerdlution hashtag everyday, like I did when blogging was my #nerdlution. But I'm quite sure it's not cool to Tweet pictures of my clutter.  ;)

Secondly, I've chosen some more "local" #nerdlutions for this round.  Here's how it's going:

Notes of encouragement:

This week, I intended to write to 5 different people.  It has ended up, I've written a note/email each day, but it's only been to my husband.  I'm considering this a success!  I may branch out soon, but as this becomes a habit, it's cool that he's getting the best energy I have for this.  Too often he gets what is left , and just is awesome anyway.  So I've just been writing encouraging notes and leaving them in his car.  It's been a good way to stay positive even when he and I are both working a lot right now.  This one might stay this way (only notes to my husband), so stay tuned...  I see the benefits of reaching out to others, I also see the benefits of taking care of my family too.

50 Bags in 50 days:

Well, I have filled four bags this week.  Not one a day though.  Monday night was crazy at bedtime.  I've been working through tiny spaces in the house, so I can feel successful.  Instead of tackling a whole room, I'm tackling 1 drawer/cupboard/space at a time.  I've done one drawer in the kitchen, the pantry, a bag of random clutter lying around, and the remnants of an old backpack that has turned into a hand-me-down for Little Brother.

So...week one?  A success!  Hopefully you are feeling successful about your #nerdlutions this week too!  Have a great week!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slice of Life Week of January 28th

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers.

So I'm lingering on some blogs this morning, and this post from Clare at Assessment in Perspective pops up.  It was so inspiring.  (A sidebar-- My Tuesdays seem to be inspired by everyone's blogging.  Keep up the good work.)  :)

And it reminded me that we have this book in our library bag by Peter Reynolds:

In this book, Leo is working hard to be industrious.  In his quest to get his to-do list done, he begins to multiply until there are 10 Leos!  Yet, they never seem to be finished!  When Leo finally slips away to take a nap and dream, the other Leos become indignant and leave!  Leo reminds us all that doing less is best, and there is time to dream.  

I thought about this book all day long.  It was a great reminder in the middle of winter, when I'm trying to be strong and industrious, there is time to dream!  Tonight I chose writing, reading, and relaxing because there is time.  As I kept a "reverse" to do list (what have I already accomplished), it was a great reminder that a lot happened today and it's time to dream and relax.  

Doing less.  Dreaming more.  When I consider my One Little Word, this fits right in.  Strong doesn't have to always mean industrious.  Strong can mean being established enough to understand that it is time to stop and dream a bit.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?.

So this post almost didn't happen. I've never seen a 5 year old put on quite a production at bedtime.  If you are familiar with Love and Logic, you will understand when I say I think Jim and Charlie would have been proud.  :)  (Maybe Saturday night, not so much...)  Anyway, the logical/early childhood side of me understands the 5 year old working on a sense of self regulation.  His Mama  however was in the hallway doing a yoga pose at one point just saying over and over again, "I know it's dark at night, I love you."  And I had to blog about it to have that little volcano eruption now that it's fine and all over since we are sleeping peacefully...So...on to the books!  This week in our reading lounge we have new nonfiction from our library. 

  A clever, engaging book on the states of matter.  It even dives into density a bit.  

This book shares facts related to what animals will do regarding behavior in a lifetime, or how an animal will change and grow in a lifetime.  The combination of nature and math is pretty awesome.  

I love the Pebble Plus brand from Capstone.  We are celebrating on Wednesday!  

#nerdlution: The Sequel

I learned a lot during #nerdlution Round 1, prompting me to declare mission accomplished on January 20.  Blogging became a habit.  (One I abandoned last week, but I'm blaming that on too many after-school commitments. Anyhoo...I'm getting back on track.)  Although my goal focused only on blogging, I began doing a Plank-a-Day challenge on January 2.  On Day 25, I can now plank for over 3 minutes, compared to 20 seconds of sheer torture when I first started.
This approach of setting a daily goal and focusing on making it a habit seems to be working for me.  Enter #nerdlution Round 2.  Last time, I suffered from Goal Envy.  I wanted to make sure history didn't repeat itself, so I read many of the posts from my PLN about #nerdlution today.  But, as I reflected on other people's goals, which I would surely benefit from (organizing, writing, random acts of kindness, swearing off Diet Pepsi...really I should do them all), I also thought about where I'm at right now.  One of the unintended consequences of blogging more is that I am reading more.  But, after watching last week's schedule demolish my reading and writing time, I know that I need to make an effort to be purposeful about reading time between now and Spring Break.

Goal #1: Read 1.32 books from my GoodReads to-read list every day.  Essentially, I want to read half of the 132 books on my list before St. Patrick's Day.  I also want to do this without purchasing a single book, meaning my library card is going to be getting a workout.  

Goal #2: Finish Plank-a-Day and begin another core-strengthening challenge.  (I'm open to suggestions...I found Plank-a-Day through Twitter.)

Bring on #nerdlution Round 2!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

#nerdlution Round 2

#nerdlution brought our blog back to life.  So, when round two was offered, my first thought was, "Why not?"  There's more to do to improve!

So I spent the weekend brainstorming.  I thought about food, exercise, reading, technology use, connecting through Twitter and blogging...the list goes on.  I also am starting to hear a crafty/artistic side speaking in my head, this might be my summer goal.  

I considered what I could realistically accomplish to make a positive shift for myself and my family and community. 

So I narrowed it down to these two #nerdlution goals.  For the next 50 days:

1.  I hope to write notes of encouragement each day.  Sometimes it will be handwritten, sometimes it will be electronic.  Some will be to colleagues.  Some will be to family.  Some will be to people far away!  Earlier this month, I received a handwritten note in the mail that was so encouraging to me.  I want to pass this feeling on to someone else!  

2.  Less is more.  50 bags in 50 days.  Some bags will get thrown out, some bags will get donated.  My donated bags will become part of our Saturday routine, as we move around town.  My goal is to fill at least a "Target bag" each day with stuff.  We have a lot of "stuff."  It's time.  

Here's to a successful #nerdlution if you are participating!  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrate! Week of January 25th

Discover. Play. Build.

I'm linking with Ruth Ayres, and her weekly link up.  Read More about that here.  

As January drags on, this will prove to be an excellent topic to blog about each week.  This took a little more reflection this week, but indeed there are things to celebrate!

1.  Basketball.  

This is a sport that is really bringing our family together.  The boys have an Uncle who is coaching basketball here in the Midwest.  We love cheering him on when we can in person, but usually our cheering happens via Twitter.  He had a great win last night, and the boys were so excited!  I then had the chance to take my youngest to a high school game, and watch our local girls remain undefeated in an overtime nail-biter!  It was so fun to be with my youngest.  He's really picking up on the game, and spent the night watching the score board, noticing free throws, and starting to pick up on when to cheer.  Our oldest is playing basketball, and this year he's playing full court for the first time.  It's been fun to watch him grow as a player, and we love the organization that he's involved in.  

2.  Being Industrious.

So my husband has been working every weekend in the month of January.   Oh, was I weary this week when I considered him taking off for work again this Saturday. It's necessary for his job, and I know he's ready to be done too.   However, when I look around, I've had to use that time to keep our boys engaged in life, or they would happily Kindle the month away.  :)  So we have been using this time to work on projects around the house and in my classroom.  It's kept things running smoothly.  And while sometimes it feels like a drag and monotonous, it sure feels good when you sit down to relax and things are actually completed and finished.  We've stayed on top of things this month, which is a good feeling.  

3.  Friends

I had a chance to be with some friends in this past week.  From pizza, to margaritas (just one please), to laughing out loud again and again to cupcakes to a therapeutic exchange of stories (read screaming, laughing, and several conversations taking place at once), the time I spent with my friends was such a blessing!  I sure do celebrate them!  

So, even in the depths of January there is still much to celebrate!  What are you celebrating this week?  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesdays!

Friends.  I have tried to be wordless.  I am a lady who has words to use!  So, I'm declaring Wednesdays to be almost wordless.

I woke up this morning feeling grumpy.  How much Vitamin D can one take before they just need to see some sunshine?  So below are some pictures that show how I try to brave the elements here in the middle of the Midwest.
Of course.  Let's start with the basics.  

Coffee anyone?

This turned out to be yummy!  Spinach, strawberries, blueberries, goat cheese, and honey roasted almonds.  At first I was grumpy because there was no dressing or bread.   :)   But it was delicious.  Eating good food in the winter feels good.

My picture of exercising was horrible.  :)  Just know there was one, and I like to do that.  I miss running outside, but am not hardy enough to run outside in this.  Any suggestions on how to do that (good socks, good mittens, etc.) would be appreciated!

These kids worked hard today!  We really do find a groove in January.

  These post it notes were everywhere today.  The kids are weary of playing inside and are asking for more puzzles!  Happy to help!

Don't get me wrong.  I Love Winter. (I have the snow pants to prove it!)  I'm just ready for a less Polar feel...that's all!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/20/2014

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?.  I spent lots of time this week reading for a graduate course, but I am excited that I found time to read for pleasure.  And I read some fantastic books!

Highlights from the Week:

 Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

 Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Down by the Station by Jennifer Riggs Vetter


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?. 

It's snowing.  Again.  But when I announced to the boys that they needed to find something to do, it got very quiet.  Then I walked in, and saw them doing this (Yay!):

Hooray!  My oldest took my suggestion and is reading The One and Only Ivan.  Li'l Bro is reading a book about birds.

So anyway, we've been reading a lot at school, and enjoying it!  I noticed this week that there were new titles in the media center.  I kept picking them up off the shelf and making a lot of oohing and ahhhing noises!  Our Media Assistant kept giggling as I kept picking books up off the shelf.  The kids are really enjoying these books in our reading lounge:

We really enjoyed Hello, My Name is Ruby.  This is a great story about friendship!  I could tell my students weren't too sure about The Dark, but it has a great ending!  They have also loved looking at Hank Finds an Egg.  

I keep a basket of library books in our small but mighty reading lounge.  This allows the kids to safely preview and try new texts without the commitment of checking them out themselves.  I keep a messy list of what I've kept in the lounge, so if they are wanting to check a book out for themselves, I can help with that.  

What are you reading this week?  My personal reading has taken a nose dive since we are back in a routine of school everyday.  I'm trying hard to make time for that, even if it's just a few pages each day.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

#nerdlution Gifts

(I just saw that Kendra posted her #nerdlution reflections, so I have to decided to hurry up and write before I read hers.  Apologies for any duplicate thoughts.)

In late November, Kendra and I decided to join in the #nerdlution fun.  We committed to each writing 50 blog posts in 50 days.  Rookie mistake.  I personally underestimated the time of blogging everyday (and everything that goes into it).  We rocked it the beginning of winter break, and then Kendra and I each recognized the need to decompress and be family-focused.  2014 brought a new approach to the blog, and I have posted most days in January.  For me, the purpose of #nerdlution was to make blogging a habit.  Mission accomplished.  As the 50 days of #nerdlution draw to a close, the connections from #nerdlution were the most unexpected and wonderful gift.
Kendra, Jillian & I at edCampDSM
Kendra, Jillian, and I began this blog as a way to reflect and connect.  At the time we were thinking it would help us connect with other educators.  But I am celebrating that #nerdlution has brought my dear friend Kendra and I even closer.  This has been such a gift since we now work at separate buildings and can no longer walk across the hall to celebrate/learn/cry/vent/figure it out.  It has been fun to learn and think about this blog together.    

#nerdlution has helped me to expand my PLN.  I have lurked on blogs and Twitter for longer than I care to admit now.  I lacked the confidence to share or contribute, so I would read without commenting.  I didn't realize what I missing out on by not joining in.  I approached #nerdlution with a "Why not speak up?" attitude ,and my thinking has shifted as a result.  I have linked up with It's Monday! What Are You Reading and Slice of Life.  I participated in a Twitter chat for #wildreading, and I was truly disappointed when I didn't get a chance to join in the #sharpschu chat last week.  Note: I will fix this with February's chat about Battle Bunny!  People I know "in real life" have asked or talked about something I wrote.  Thank you!  Fellow educators across the country like Kevin commented on our young blog.  Their comments provided welcome feedback and proved that someone other than Kendra and I were reading our blog.  Thank you!  It also showed me the value of comments, so I am making a more concerted effort to comment.  I was giddy when I found out via Twitter and e-mail comment alerts that thoughtful and thought-provoking educators (read as: I've read their books, their blogs, their articles from Choice Literacy, I've implemented their get the picture), such as CathyFranki and Clare, actually read something that we wrote.  I may have sent excited text messages to Kendra.  I knew she would understand.  She did.  

#nerdlution has helped me to see the world with a writer's eye.  Blogging everyday helped me to be on the lookout for inspiration and process my professional learning in a different way.  Being a reader makes me a better reading teacher.  For some reason, I hadn't extended that to writing until we began blogging.  Being a writer is now informing my approach to writing instruction.

#nerdlution also helped me realize that I can find time.  I had let go of some things because I didn't think I had time.  But I am able to find time to read and write most days everyday when I make it a priority.

Thanks, #nerdlution!  When does Round 2 start?


A Reflection on #nerdlution...or Random Thoughts by Kendra on Dusting Off Our Blog...

Almost 50 days ago, this hashtag popped up on Twitter, #nerdlution.  As I'm looking through my text messages,the short story is I see that on December 1st, Annie and I agreed to dust off the blog.  My original plan was to blog everyday for 50 days.  Here's what went down and what I've learned:

At first, I was blogging everyday.  It was exciting and fun, and that was awesome.  My posts were completely random and I waited for inspiration each day.  :)  Then Christmas break happened.  At that point, I knew I would be breaking the 50 days in a row challenge.  I didn't feel bad about that.  I have some strong feelings about unplugging and not letting work consume me over break.  (Even though I love it, I do treat blogging as a part of school--the part I do after hours--so I set limits on when it goes off. There were still devices, but I didn't worry about taking the time to write when I was in any kind of rural setting and with family.)

One day, as the snow flew, and the tea and coffee was flowing freely (along with cupcakes), Annie and I had an opportunity to meet and discuss organization of the blog.  (We've also stayed in touch more, which is awesome too!)  From that discussion on, I feel like there's been more purpose and direction with our little blog.  I sketch out a tiny plan each week, and try to stick with it as best as I can.  If a story pops up, I share it with you!

I've really enjoyed linking with other sites that are established.  It's allowed me to connect with some of you.  That's been my favorite part.  Your writing has inspired mine.  Thanks for that.

I've been encouraged to try to seek out more literature for my students.  I've read more myself.

I've learned, I don't Need to blog everyday if I really don't feel like I don't have something to say.  But #Nerdlution has shown me how to look for stories in the everyday and share them.  There are stories to share, and there is time.

Blogging has allowed me to sort through the 50 million ideas, thoughts, and concepts I carry in my mind, like most educators do.  I've seen some projects in my classroom from start to finish faster than if I would have not had an outlet to organize my thoughts.  If my thoughts resonate with you, and we can connect over that, then that's exciting to me.

Connecting with you has been my favorite part, and I hope it continues.

I saw today there is going to be a round two of #nerdlution.  I'm pondering and creating some ideas for what that might be.  But this hashtag has inspired some cool changes in the way I process my teaching.  Thanks #nerdlution!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mom Reflections: Big B as a Reader

For years my dear first-grade teacher-friends Kendra and Jillian have talked about the excitement of watching their first grade students grow as readers.  On paper, I understood the vast amount of progress children make during their kindergarten and first grade years.  Plus I taught second grade, where children continue to make an incredible amount of growth.

Big B entered kindergarten a non-reader.  Let me just say this did not worry me as a parent or a teacher.  He just turned five when he started kindergarten.  We read to the little man every night since the day he was born.  I knew it was going to be fine...and he had an amazing kindergarten teacher to teach him and reassure me that it was going to be fine.  He left kindergarten where we expect kindergartners to be, but I didn't feel like he had truly cracked the code.  This summer, I felt like we were starting to get somewhere.  But having him read to me didn't seem to go well.  Apparently, my teacher voice comes out, and Big B didn't seem to appreciate my talent and expertise in teaching children to read.  Shocking!  So, I just continued to read aloud picture books to him at night and let him read what he wanted to himself, primarily books involving Legos, Star Wars, Star Wars Legos, and Waldo.  As his mom, I didn't need him to read at a certain level, but I did want him to share our love for reading.  I decided that I just needed to be his mom and let his equally amazing first grade teacher handle the teaching.  The light bulb went off this fall.  

So, I now know what Jillian and Kendra have been talking about for all those years.  I totally get it.  Watching him become a reader has been phenomenal.  I thought I would take a moment on the blog to reflect on a few thoughts/observations of Big B as a reader.  (Look for the Little C version soon, hopefully tomorrow.)

1. Those Waldo books were really important after all.  Confession: As a second grade teacher, I rarely allowed students to read puzzle books or joke books for independent reading at school.  I encouraged them to "choose a book that will help you grow as reader."  My intentions were good, but I think I may have missed something.  In retrospect, reading is reading.  The hours he has spent reading joke books, finding Waldo, and studying the pictures in various Star Wars Legos encyclopedias and guides has improved his reading stamina.  He can curl up with a book for a really long time, which is serving him well as he starts to transition to longer texts like Nate the Great.  Graphic novels, which offer a combination of longer stories with tons of visual support, are becoming a staple in his reading diet.           

2. Big B is not interested in chapter books, not even a little.  This one actually makes me really happy.  I feel like we sometimes rush children into chapter books in first and second grade.  I'm in no hurry, and neither is Big B.  I even resisted the urge to read a chapter book aloud to him.  There are so many incredible picture books to enjoy.  I know he will start to read chapter books soon and there will still be a place for picture books, but I think it is a harder sell.  I want to linger here as long as possible. Along these same lines, Big B wants to be read to.  (Again, happy momma!)  He is reading more and more on his own, but I still read aloud to him every night and he often joins his little sister and me for her before-bed story.

3.  Most importantly, reading is a part of his life.  He takes a pile of books with him to bed every night.  He reads before he falls asleep and when he wakes up in the morning.  Big B set a goal as a reader at the start of 2014.  (He is using the Good Habits app to track his daily work on reading goal.  Very motivating!  I'll stop talking about this app, promise...)  Trips to bookstores and library are part of what we do as a family.  He even asks to check the book section when we go to Costco.  He comes home from school and talks about books that his teacher or librarian read to his class.              

As I reflect, it boils down to this -- is Big B a member/future member of the Nerdy Book Club?  I think we're on our way.


Readers who Love to Read

Friends.  Finally, the shift I had been hoping for, I think is happening!  I wish I had more pictures to share with you, but my wish is my words will show you what we've been doing.

As readers in first grade, we had what you need on the surface to be successful.  A large classroom library to make choices from, chances each day to read appropriately leveled text with guidance from me, shared reading experiences, read alouds, appropriate word work, chances to write each day, the list goes on and on as it does in a first grade classroom.  (Any early classroom really...)

Yet, something was missing.  They (my students), didn't seem to have that joy over books that every teacher dreams about.  And it bothered me.  A lot.  I felt like I was forcing the idea of reading.  That's not a feeling that I was proud of.  It hit me at the beginning of December.  I had to do something.  When they leave me, of course I want them to be able to read.  But I also want them to Choose Books.  I want them to Love Reading long after I'm not their teacher any more.  The excitement of holding a book that you chose, and getting to read it!

So, I began to reflect on what I know, believe, and do.  In our staff library we have this book:

I brought this home and began to read parts of it.  And knew I had to make more time for an authentic, uninterrupted read aloud with rich and joyous discussion.  It's really morphed into this: children are bringing me their favorite books and asking me to read them to the class.  Who is going to say no to that?  I didn't. So I've been honoring this.  If they are excited enough to bring it to school, I'm going to make time to read it!  

In this book, it also talks about the concept of a reading lounge.  I love this idea and dream of a large uninterrupted area where kids only go to read.  After mulling this concept for a few weeks, I finally had the chance to arrange this in my classroom:

Our small but mighty Reading Lounge!

It's our own reading lounge!  See that?!?!?!  As kids took a turn in the reading lounge, they all looked like this.  The official rule is only reading to self is allowed.  (My students just need to know what is acceptable, or the learning can get lost.) By day 2, I did have to ask students to leave the lounge because they weren't reading, they were trying to use the time for chatter that wasn't related to anything they were reading at all.  This is my favorite picture of the use, because the two friends who are chatting are discussing why the child on the sofa should or shouldn't read the book that the child on the floor is reading.  I house our Book Buzz selections (see below) and I have been checking out books from our library and placing them in there to encourage new titles.  Taking the time to create a space for only reading as made the statement in our classroom that this is purposeful and important.  And I think we've gone from compliance to engagement when it comes to reading.  

Then I read this book:

I'll say it again.  Run right out and buy this book.  I'll wait.  
A quick note about this book.  If you are looking for an inspirational, practical read for your classroom, this is it.  I was moved to tears by this book.  (I know that sounds...well...sappy.  But it's true.)  There was an awesome Twitter chat on this book that I was sorry to miss.  (Family first...)  So here's how this book has shaped the readers in my classroom.
In chapter two of Reading in the Wild, Donalyn Miller writes of creating a book buzz.  A few times a week, I'm featuring picture books that are from "my closet."  There are so many in there I won't get to reading aloud.  I'm putting them on display, speaking briefly about them, and then allowing the children to sign up.  I keep a rough journal list of who gets the book next to help us learn self control and sharing.  The enthusiasm for the titles I'm putting out has been amazing.  I started with some Mo Willems last week, and introduced some nonfiction this week.  I'll be gone through "my closet" next week to choose some other titles that I think the kids will enjoy.

As I reflect on these two shifts, I'm pleased with how it's going.  They don't take a lot of instruction time away from my day, and they have brought back a sense of joy and engagement that I was missing in my students.  

How do you keep your students truly engaged in what they are reading?  Do they naturally gravitate towards books?  Or do you have to encourage this often?  

Celebrate This Week! January 18th

Discover. Play. Build.

I'm linking with Ruth Ayres, and her weekly link up.  Read More about that here.  What a wonderful idea from Ruth Ayres!

1.  Let's Celebrate the Snow Squall!

Oh you read that right!  On Thursday, right at dismissal time, my part of the world was hit with a snow squall!  After my students were safely with their families, it was time for me to drive my own son across town to pick up the rest of the family and get home.  I've never seen wind, snow, and traffic come together in such a crazy way!  What I love about Iowans, is that the worst, (the weather and traffic) brings out our best.  There were countless stories about strangers helping each other.  This one is my favorite.  I also celebrate that my friends and family returned home safely to each other and to me!  (2 hour commutes and all...) 

2.  Celebrating School!

I'm working on a blog post that I've been trying to write for 3 days.  (Life happens.)  But this week, the short story is, we really turned a corner in our Love for reading.  :)  The Book Buzz and the Reading Lounge were a success!  Stay tuned, I really want to share the details...

I've also been problem solving with countless staff on how to help one little friend.  In a moment of clarity, I was able to put together a plan that I believe will protect privacy and dignity, but also provide the support and encouragement that is needed.  

3.  Celebrate Strong!

I blogged about my One Little Word here.  This week had some strong moments.  At school-it was when the love of reading and the act of learning to read came together.  Man, I love January in first grade.  

At home-our routine as a family is working pretty well.  As I sit here on a Saturday morning, I'm not feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done around here.  That opens up a lot of time for fun and relaxation.  As my Mr. was asking what I wanted to do this weekend, it felt good to answer with things like: blog, read, workout, shop (which I don't do really...) instead of rattling off a list of chores we 'had' to get done.  

A shout out to my blogging partner, Annie!  I was Strong in my workouts this week, with her support.  At 5 am daily, I received an awesome text message from her telling me to get up and go work out.  Sometimes I made it to the gym, sometimes I did some yoga at home.  Thanks Annie for the help and support.  Also, if you don't have the Good Habits app, Annie wrote about that here.  I have enjoyed marking off each workout to see my chain grow longer!  

I'm going to work on re-introducing the reading and writing that I've so enjoyed when there were 'cold' days, and winter break.  And I'm working on my Master's currently.  That too didn't receive the attention that it should have.  

What are you celebrating this week?  Here's to more celebrations next week!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


My husband and I are celebrating our eleventh anniversary today.  The white-out conditions here in Iowa means that he left work almost three hours ago and still isn't home.  (Usually it takes about 20 minutes.)  Meanwhile, I am going on Day 2 of laryngitis.  No voice.  We didn't have big plans, but I thought how fitting it was.

There is very little about our wedding that went as I planned, but it worked out even better.  Our wedding was truly about our love and commitment to each other.  We were married in something of hurry, in response to my husband's National Guard deployment.  In less than a week, my mom and sister, while I was recovering from surgery, planned a wedding.  We were married on a Thursday night (right before our pastor left on an anniversary cruise) in front of fifteen members of our amazing family who flew in from around the country during a snowstorm.

Cake at my mom's house after the ceremony
There is very little about our life that went as I planned, but it is has worked out even better.  Happy anniversary!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Getting Closer...Almost a Wordless Wednesday

I really need to train myself to just let the pictures speak for themselves.  But I'm using fewer words than last week!  Today I was thinking about favorite spots.

My new favorite spot in my classroom.  I'll use more words tomorrow.  :)

At home, I do my best thinking here...
Where are some of your favorite spots?  


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reading Memories

As Little C is becoming a more voracious reader, I find myself reflecting more about my children as readers.  This naturally led me back to my reading biography.  I am trying to reflect on my earliest memories of reading (and figure out what my parents did right).

I can remember books that we read like Jillian Jiggs. A Porcupine Named Fluffy, and The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed.  The Ordinary Princess stands out in my mind.  It is the tale of Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne (Princess Amy for short).  It starts much like Sleeping Beauty with fairies bestowing gifts upon the royal baby.   The most powerful fairy godmother declared, “Wit, Charm, Courage, Health, Wisdom, Grace…Good gracious, poor child! Well, thank goodness my magic is stronger than anyone else’s. She raised her twisty coral stick and waved it three times over the cradle of the seventh princess. “My child,” said the Fairy Crustacea, “I am going to give you something that will probably bring you more happiness than all these fal-lals and fripperies put together. You shall be Ordinary!” My mom read it to the three of us in her mini-van while waiting for the bus before school.  Second grade-ish, I remember her reading aloud from the magazine Cricket.  Cricket would sometime feature serial stories split up over a few parts.  My second grade self remembers The Ordinary Princess being divided into at least 30 pieces.  My sister and I would eagerly wait for the next issue of Cricket to arrive. We would laugh together as Mommy read it to us.  It was quite exciting the Princess Amy had brown hair and freckles, just like us, and would rather go play in the woods then do princess-y things, just like us.  The Ordinary Princess is a delightful story, but it is the shared experience that makes it memorable.

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers.

Slice of Life-An Idea and a Tribe

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers.

Good Morning!  I'm up.  It's early. The gym is waiting.  One peek at Twitter this morning, and I saw this blog post from Michelle Haseltine.   This post launched the inspiration to share with you the people in my life in my tribe.  I've wanted to write about them, but just couldn't figure out how.   The words never seemed right. However, after reading Michelle's words, the inspiration struck, and I was off.  From my family, to my husband, to my "ladies", to my co-workers, to members of my church, the tribe is small but mighty and I Love Them.

If you are wondering if this letter is to you, the answer is yes.  :)

An Open Letter to My Tribe:

Thank you.

Thank you for being in my life.  You know that most days I charge forward without a care in the world, knowing that the day will be awesome.  You also know that on days when I'm overwhelmed and can't seem to do one more thing, you wrap your arms around me and encourage me to keep going.  I can only hope to do the same for you as you do for me.

We laugh uproariously, cry openly, and hug often.

There are funny nicknames for each of us and it sounds crazy to others, but you know exactly how much it means we love you.

We cook food, eat food, and eat more food.  (Healthy and Otherwise...)  You share my affection for a good snack and a soda (or two).

We text each other late into the evening and at 4:57 AM to make sure I'm getting up for the gym.  My Husband has funny names for our Data Plan, he's named it after several of you.  (i.e. "I'm so glad we have the "insert your name here" data plan.")

When we sit in a meeting together, we can exchange ideas openly.  I love hearing about your days and what you do! It brings fresh perspective to my corner of the world.

In the classroom we can ask each other, "Why are you doing that?" with the understanding that we want to be better educators.  We can openly share ideas, knowing if it doesn't work for one of us, it might work for someone else.  I don't take this amount of trust lightly.  Thank you for sharing your classrooms with me.

We meet in the dark for runs.  We meet after school for all kinds of things.  (Tea, Coffee, Dinner, and yes a Beer from time to time...)

We pray together.  Talk together.  Ask questions that might not have any answers.  When I wasn't sure that church was for me, you kept pushing me through the door, so my Sons could see that my Faith wasn't based on just a feeling.  Sometimes it's a commitment to stick with it.

We've held each other's babies and practiced play dates when we had no idea how to do that.  We've cheered each other's kids on as they grow.  (This has been one of my favorite parts...)

When our favorite sports team is winning/losing we share more text messages. (And what we are eating.)

We've used the internet and social media to share ideas, and create new ideas, and stay in touch when we are far away or if we haven't met yet.   There is responding, praising and questioning.  It's amazing.

When I arrive at your house, you let me completely relax.  I can let go of whatever I'm carrying with me. Thanks for that.  Again, I hope to do the same for you when you come to see us.

When I look at you, I think about the person that I hope I'm developing into.  Thanks for being in my Tribe.


I'm sure there is more.  But when I consider my tribe, I think this describes them best.  So, to mimic Michelle's question from her blog post, who is in your tribe?  What do you love about them?

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  

Well--kind of.  We read a lot at school!  I'll incorporate some of that later this week, when I blog some more about some changes I made in my classroom.  Unfortunately, all the titles and images are at school, and I'm at home.  So I problem solve...

I present another version of the Family Edition of It's Monday!  What are you Reading?
I'm pretty sure I shared this book last week.  But my youngest son digs being in the kitchen with his mom.  We made the "Smore Cookies".  They have been a hit!

I'm trying to read some more middle-grade novels so I can be recommending good books to my oldest son.  I am loving this book!  Thanks Twitter for the recommendation!

I'm also reading The 19th Wife and still working through Orange is the New Black. It's taking me longer to get through some books now of course.   Less time to read now that I'm back in the swing of school.

We've all loved looking at this book!  It is so clever!

What are your favorite middle-grade novels?  For a 9 year old boy who will read anything, and is pretty good at it.  I want to be able to recommend some good things to him.  


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/13/2014

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?. There's less time for reading now that winter break and the bonus cold days are over, but I really enjoyed this week's reads.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas