Saturday, July 26, 2014

Celebrate! Week of July 26th Fruit Snacks and Family

Discover. Play. Build.

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

This week I'm celebrating fruit snacks.  Yep.  Fruit Snacks.  

Not the teeny bags of sugar that you can buy at the store.  These ridiculously large bags that allow you to wolf down 2 servings at a time.  Like this:  

Alright, so it's not really about the fruit snacks.  It's more about the family.  

I went on a long run this morning.  Necessary if I'm going to complete a half marathon in October.  

All the H's were working against me:  heat, humidity, hunger, hydration, hormones.  Man.  This run was Hard!  (With a capital h!)  If you run, you may be familiar with the term "bonking."  I bonked today, but I'm choosing to celebrate a completion of the miles.  If you aren't familiar, I looked like this when I got done:

As I finished and started to walk home, I knew this wasn't going to go well. At this point, I'm about 1/2 a mile from home.  I send a text to my husband:

"Walking home.  Send fruit snacks ASAP.  And chocolate milk."  

I get one in return:  "Gatorade too?"

Me:  "No, but I'm closer now, so don't worry.  I'll make it."

Husband:  "Too late.  A (our son) is already out the door."  

At this point, I'm meeting Brutus the Baby Bulldog of the neighborhood who has rushed out to say hello.  (Cute puppy alert!) 

As I look up, I see my oldest son racing around the corner with the fruit snacks held high above his head as if he's waving a victory flag.  He has a huge smile on his face.  

When he reaches me, I fumble with the package and he takes them back from me, "Open them here mom.  I'll help you."  (Did I mention he's 9?)

As we walk home, he listens as I chatter about how hard it was, and how tired I am.  He has just finished his first cross country camp, and it's been so fun to see him connect with his mom and dad about miles, hills, and snacks!

We are a family of runners.  That's awesome.  

But I'm really celebrating all the servant hood that is in this family.  At our best, and at other times, we will stop and help each other with the big and the small.  

What are you celebrating this week?  


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading in the Wild Ch. 5+ (#cyberPD)

I'm joining in the fun for the final week of #cyberPD!  Plus there's the live Twitter chat on July 30 at 7 p.m. CST with Donalyn Miller!  Woohoo!

My Thoughts on Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
When it comes to my reading life, I've always been a girl who knows what she likes.  I remember rushing to the small bookstore in our local mall to read each and every title available in The Baby-sitters Club series.  (Oh, the excitement of a Super Special!) My mom recalls asking my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Zefting, if I should be reading something else.  Wise Mrs. Zefting told my mom that "reading is reading."  I think I broke my dad's heart a few weeks ago when I announced my disdain for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Hand me nonfiction and picture books, and I'm in.  Add some realistic fiction (usually for middle grade/young adult readers), and I'm in.  But strange fantasy worlds with strange creatures and strange powers (excepting Harry Potter)...I'm out.

So, it should come as no surprise that my children are developing preferences, and sometimes it's a challenge to embrace those preferences.  Right now, Big B is all about graphic novels and "encylopedia" nonfiction.  There is so much awesomeness in graphic novels, as outlined in Ch. 5, that I'm a happy teacher-mama.  But, as he is reading the Captain Underpants series in order (because, yes, we own the first ten), there is a part of me that, to quote Kendra (in this post that sums it all up), "rip the books from his hands."  Does he even know about all the amazing books that are out there, waiting to be read?  I don't think I'm alone in this feeling as a parent.  As Donalyn Miller writes, "preferences are not always informed opinions. True preferences come from wide reading and lots of positive encounters with books.  Sometimes students' stated preferences reveal they haven't read much." (pg. 167)  I think the message for me to remember and to share with parents is that a child's preferences will "become more valuable, reliable, and accurate the more they read."  Likewise, as a teacher/reader, I am blessed with a working knowledge of "if you like this, you'll probably love this..." titles.  This allows me to offer a wider choices to my children.  How can we support parents as they try to stretch their child?

Thanks to all that shared their thoughts during #cyberPD!  I've enjoyed learning and sharing with you!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#sol 14 Summer is for Relaxing?

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Two Writing Teachers are hosting Slice of Life.  Join us!

I finished graduate classes for the summer.  There is a post in that statement somewhere.  I just can't get the words to come out the right way without sounding like a whiner.  I'll keep trying.  

So--we relax right?  Right?  

I look at the calendar.  

This weekend.  The house.  Me in the house.  Maybe even no children.  Even with children.  I envision:

All of us on the couch doing this.  All day.  With snacks.  

 Note--the reading is still happening.  Just not on the couch.  Spontaneous Road Trip!

 That's because we saw life long friends.

 We saw a teenage boy, my nephew, participate in a baptism in the river at his church camp.  Beautiful stuff.

 The baptism allowed for some hiking.  In between these reeds, can you spot the turkey head? (It's toward the left of the picture.  Turkeys can be mean, so I didn't get any closer.)

I'm a homebody.  It's true.  I like to plan out activities and build in downtime.   As the boys get older, I'm learning to redefine what it means to relax. 

How are you relaxing this summer?  


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reading in the Wild Ch. 3 & 4 (#cyberPD)

Time for Week 2 of #cyberPD!  Last week's #cyberPD led to a discussion about collaboratively developing parent workshops, so I'm going to continue my thinking through that lens.  It's fitting since Chapter 3 discusses the importance of fostering school and home reading communities.

Thoughts from Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers
Big B was gifted some money for his birthday.  We were online shopping at the LEGO store today, as he debated how he might spend his money.  He naturally gravitated towards the reviews to guide his decision (despite my encouragement to check out something other than the Guardians of the Galaxy sets).  I'm thinking I need to find ways to build off of how he "naturally" interacts with technology.  Checking reviews is a part of the shopping experience for him.  He doesn't even know a world without Amazon where you couldn't go online and find out what other people are thinking about a product.  Similarly, I rely on social media (Goodreads, Twitter, blogs) for my book recommendations, especially since leaving the classroom.  So, how can I (or any parent) teach our child about sharing books and reading with other readers that they can use forever?  This is a twist on one of the big questions that Donalyn Miller shared at nErDcampMI -- What am I teaching my students about reading that they can use forever? I am going to start by letting Big B (such a lucky kid!) try out BiblioNasium.  I'm hopeful it will expand his reading his mother, teacher, and teacher librarian are not his only epicenter readers!  

This chapter also made me long for a classroom of my own, which happens from time to time in my new role.  So many great ideas, such as shelfies, book commercials, and reading doors! I'm wondering how I could adapt the Reading Graffiti/Reading Doors idea for parents or teachers.  The Padlet wall for our #cyberPD group made me wonder if we could create a virtual Reading Graffiti wall for some of our professional book study groups in our district.  With the widespread popularity of Pinterest, could we create shared boards for parents or teachers to pin book recommendations?

Thoughts from Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
At the beginning of this chapter, Donalyn writes, "The difference between readers and nonreaders is that readers have plans."  During my hiatus from fiction reading, I didn't have a plan, except to read any book that Jodi Picoult writes.  Here's how that looks -- read My Sister's Keeper, wait a year, read Nineteen Minutes, wait a year, read Change of Heart, wait a year, read Handle with Care, wait a year, read House Rules, realize you can now predict the endings, stop reading.  Don't worry, I have much better plans now.  In fact, I have a TBR list of 171 books and a physical pile of about 10 books.  (I am trying not to buy and make better use of my public library!)  This spring, I tried to read off of my TBR list by genre -- fantasy one week, nonfiction one week, historical fiction one week, etc.  Right now, Big B's plans seem partially based on series and partially based on what is sitting on his nightstand.  He's reading the Lunch Lady books (plus Comics Squad Recess!  Woot woot!) and the Disney encyclopedias, which were birthday gifts.  As Big B gets more into series chapter books, I look for this to become more of his reading plans.  I'm also thinking it might be fun to get Little C into the action.  I'm wondering if we might do an Elephant and Piggie challenge.  We've read most of them, but I'm certain we've missed a few and we tend to reread We Are In A Book! and Let's Go for a Drive.  But this does mean that I need to the order the newest Elephant and Piggie book immediately! Off to the bookstore...

Happy reading!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

#celebratelu Summer Is Here

Ruth Ayres hosts a weekly link up of celebrations here. Join us!

Yesterday I finalized everything I needed to to complete 2 graduate course I took for the summer.  Oh is that a blog post in and of itself.  I'm having an inner struggle with graduate work.  This is not celebratory, so let's save that for another day, shall we?  

I tell you that, because I've caught myself this summer moping about what I haven't gotten to do.  Today I wanted to celebrate-mainly in pictures-what I have done to rejuvenate and recharge for the fall!  In no special order, a celebration of summer:

I spent time with family.  While I ran, I was able to look at this each day.

Coach was so gracious to us during basketball camp.  We have Bulldogs for life!

This hat was made by a woman in a small town in Nebraska.  It's amazing, and my little minion loves it and wears it everywhere.

This fish.  Bee, Nebraska.  Population: 191.  Get there to eat this fish.

I'm loving all these kids and the time we've had with them this summer!

There's a frog in the bucket.  At the bottom of the hill is a spring that we let it out in.

#nErDcampmi was amazing!  This is Annie and I after the Nerd Run, where Annie re-reserved us a hotel room while running the 5K(long story, see her post), and where we awarded ourselves winners of the Iowa division of this race.  (We didn't know there were actual awards.  Oops.)

I-80 West Please.  I'm not a great traveler, but #nErDcampmi was worth it, and I'm so thankful that I was able to go on this trip!  

So graduate school is no longer hanging over my head. (For now!)  I can't wait to lounge in the pool, read some more books, start training for a half marathon in the fall, and gear up for school.  

Let's Celebrate!  Joy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#nErDcampMI Gems

Twitter has helped me to create an incredible PLN.  But there is a downside.  Every few weeks/months, I am filled with conference envy.  I watch the hashtags for ISTE, NCTE, ALA, and AllWrite conferences (to name a few) and, while incredibly grateful for those sharing their learning, I want to be there.  If I win the lottery, I plan to make it my job to travel to conferences, sharing and learning from other educators (and take the kids to Disney World and go on a vacation with just my husband).  After watching the #nErDcamp feed last year, I knew I needed to figure out a way to be there this year.  I knew it would be an incredible learning opportunity.  I knew I needed this type of professional experience to feel invigorated.  I was right.  Boom.  It wouldn't have been possible or any fun without my dear friend Kendra!  Simply talking and processing with her helps me to grow as a teacher, wife, and mother.  Plus Kendra didn't scream at me for dragging her halfway across the country during our Day 1 adventures, and she ate at a Celtic public house in South Bend with me.  Her friendship is such a blessing!

Day 2 was really all about the Nerdy learning.  (Except for the problem with our hotel room that night.  Blerg.)  Kendra and I grabbed a seat in the front row for the board building.  This part of the edCamp experience leaves me in awe.  Kudos to the individuals that led sessions!  Sitting in the front row allowed me to watch some of their faces as they leaped over their fears.  (I am also making a commitment to myself to lead a session at edCampDSM in September or nErDcamp next year.  Time to push myself in this way!)  The talents and wisdom within our professional community are truly remarkable.

Here are three "gems" from nErDcampMI:
Gem 1: The difference between readers and non-readers -- plans for future reading!  This one comes from Donalyn Miller's keynote.  (You can see my reflections on her keynote and the first two chapters of her book here.)  nErDcampMI definitely resulted in even more reading plans for me.  I added numerous books to my TBR list, resisted the urge to spend thousands of dollars at Amazon in less than an hour, and put several books on hold at my public library.  I even sent a friend a message asking if I could borrow her recently-finished copy of I Kill the Mockingbird (which she brought over today! Yay!)  I also moved Grasshopper Jungle to the top of my pile.  Any book that prompts someone to hand it to their teenage son and say "read this, but we will never, ever talk about it" is worth checking out.  You can check out a list of the best books of 2014 so far from Donalyn and Katherine Sokolowski and the crowd in our session here (courtesy of Katie Muhtaris).

Gem 2:  What is the pinnacle of choice in the math classroom?  This one comes a question asked by Katie Muhtaris during an afternoon session.  Kendra and I tossed this one around the most on our ride home.  I think it is essentially going to be my professional inquiry question for the next year.

Gem 3: Kids need access to problem solving opportunities every single day.  Take the stories your students are telling you and turn that information into rich mathematical problems.  This one comes from Darcy Oberdorfer and Andrew Smith during their session on math workshop.  I was intrigued by the model they shared for math workshop, and I want to think more about inquiry in the math classroom.  Plus I need to read 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions and Number Talks.

Plus a few new-to-me tools/resources that I can use for professional development (or teachers could use in their classrooms):
The Kid Should See This
Padlet (I was already familiar with this tool, but I thought of some new ways to use it after Katie shared her school used it for a school-wide discussion about Cosmos series)

I am beyond grateful to Colby & Alaina Sharp and the entire team for their hard work to make nErDcamp a fantastic opportunity to learn and collaborate!  And I hope to be back in 2015!


Reading in the Wild Ch. 1 & 2 (#cyberPD)

I am excited to participate in this year's #cyberPD conversation around Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  Thanks to Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Michelle Nero for hosting and facilitating!

Re-reading this text came at the perfect time for me.  I read Reading in the Wild when it first came out--pre-ordered and moved right to the top of my TBR pile!  But I've been thinking a lot about the habits I'm modeling and promoting in my own children, so I read it with a different lens this time.  I also had the opportunity to hear Donalyn speak at nErDcampMI earlier this week.

Thoughts from Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read
As a second grade teacher, there was NEVER a day that went by without my students reading.  NEVER.  I read everyday in some form, even if it is only reading blog posts while eating Cheerios and to my kids at night.  If I "had time" to read, I read professional books.  But, until about six months ago, I had gotten out of the habit of reading fiction books, unless they could be read aloud to my children (read as: picture books) or I had time to read an entire book in one sitting (read as: it never happened).  This chapter helped me to re-envision my reading time.  As Donalyn writes, "If I didn't make reading a priority, it would be easy to skip it."  So, I began to start reading on the edge and sneaking time to read.  A huge part of this was choosing to read fiction, instead of looking at Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, or other media.  And, of course, it worked its magic!  I have read more middle grade and young adult novels in 2014 than I have in seven years.  And the more I read, the more I want to read.  A colleague even asked me how I was able to read so much, and I shared the reading-in-the-edges strategy.

I am also becoming more intentional about modeling this for my children.  For example, when we go to the doctor's office, I tell each of the kids to grab a book.  We don't play games on the iPad/iPhone to entertain us.  We read.  Such a simple shift, but I think it's a really important one.  The kids and I each keep a book in the car for a "reading emergency" and we rack up a lot of reading time during these emergencies.

Thoughts from Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material
The children's department at our public library was recently remodeled to reflect a more open floor plan.  I'm a big fan, especially since Little C can now play Legos or blocks while Big B looks for books.  We no longer need to travel in a pack of three for me to keep my eyes on everyone.  It has also led to this observation...Big B needs to work on this.  I watched him wander the children's department only to come back with one Lego book.  The image of him wandering has bothered me ever since.  Where did I go wrong?  I think an unintentional consequence of having a mom who taught second grade for many years and LOVES books (especially picture books) is that his choices are always structured.  There's literally hundreds of picture books in our home, but I am the one ultimately curating our collection.  At the library and the bookstore, I am typically by his side to guide his choices.  (Helicopter mom, apparently, when it comes to book choice.)  I need to think more about how to show Big B to use multiple sources (not just Mom) to find out about books, starting with the tools available at our library.  In this chapter, Donalyn discusses preview stacks, and I also jotted down a note to myself about this during her keynote at nErDcamp.  This would narrow the choices, thus avoiding The Wanderer effect, but begin to develop his ability to make his book choices.

Next Steps
In the next few weeks of the summer, I picture us doing some binge reading together as a family.  Just sitting in bed in our jammies and spending the morning(s) reading.  I can't wait!  I also want to figure out an authentic way for Big B to keep track of his reading life.  I enjoy using Goodreads.  (And I almost did cartwheels in the middle of the store BookBug when I discovered the Scan feature.  I'm envisioning a technology component for him, but it needs to be authentic and he needs to own it.  (Maybe Big B will share my love of Google Forms!?!?) I think this will be springboard into noticing patterns in his reading and reflecting on preferences that he can use to self-select reading material.  

I am also mulling over how to share this information with parents in our community.  When we think about our students' reading lives, parents are a natural and powerful piece of this.  Perhaps a course through Community Education or our library.  Hmmm...more to come on this!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reflections from #nErDcamp Part 2--A Top Five List

Back in Iowa.  

Annie wrote a great post about our adventurous trip out to Michigan here.  What she didn't tell you is what a rock star she was driving us through all of that.  She is Ah-May-Zing.  (Yes, I just wrote that.)

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After we made it to South Bend last night, we ate this bread pudding at an Irish restaurant. And it was Delicious.  I just had to share it with you.  Thanks for watching.  

And then the "swirling" began.  You see, I watch and take things in first, swirl them around a bit, and then process them.  Which means I'll be talking/tweeting/thinking #nErDcampmi for a couple more weeks. What is it that I really took away from nErDcamp?  How am I going to improve the classroom for my kiddos in the fall?  So--a top five list (HEY!  :) We left South Bend at 5 AM central time-I'm sleepy) of what's going through my mind as I think about nErDcamp (in no particular order--most are still pretty random):

5.  Teachers are brilliant.  
4.  I'm going to be dwelling on the idea that Katie Muhtaris shared during a discussion on math:  "What is the pinnacle of choice in math instruction?"  Even though I said no order, this is the concept that will probably stay with me the longest, and the one Annie and I mulled over the most on the way back to Iowa this morning.  Thank you Katie for giving words to my ongoing struggle to get this right in math!  
3.  nErDs can run.  The nErD run was amazingly fun, and a great way to chat and enjoy some more of Michigan. 
2.  Blogging must happen in my classroom next year on some level.  No excuses.
1.  After hearing the Top Books of 2014 discussion, books may need to become a line item budget in our house.  Like groceries and electricity.  

There is more "swirling" taking place right now.  But sometimes less is more.  

Speaking of my house, I was reunited with my favorite members of my reading community today.  This was taken literally 5 minutes after I walked in the door (after he pilfered the Origami Yoda cards from me):  

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It was followed by a trip to the library with #5 and my Mr.  Because we are Nerdy like that.  

Thank you team #nErDcampmi for an amazing time.  We'll be back in 2015. 

Joy!  Kendra

Monday, July 7, 2014

If We Go to #nErDcampMI

If we go to nErDcampMI, we're going to have to leave early.  When we have to leave early, the alarms will ring around 3 am to be on the road by 4:15 a.m.  When we leave at 4:15 a.m., we expect to arrive at your destination on time.  (Spoiler alert: We were mistaken.)  We will travel across the state of Iowa and stop at the World's Largest Truck Stop to obtain nourishment for the driver and feel good about the great time we're making.

When we've got some coffee flowing through the driver's veins, we will develop a plan that allows us to avoid all toll roads around Chicago (we're boss like that) and shorten our trip.  When we have a fantastic plan, we will be excited to realize that we will arrive at nErDcampMI in five and a half hours and head towards Peoria, Illinois.

When we make it to Peoria, the excitement will continue to grow as we get closer and closer to Michigan.  Only to be crushed.  When we travel through Illinois and Indiana and Michigan, we will hit an unthinkable number of travel obstacles -- seemingly endless stretches of mostly construction-free construction zones with 45 mph speed limits complete with photo enforcement, alternative routes through previously unknown towns such as Mazon, Illinois.  Holy Via Galactica!  (There's another little #nerdybookclub reference for you.)

When we encounter travel obstacles, we will add two hours to our travel time, dooming our chance to hear from teaching rock stars.  When we arrive two hours late, we will dart into the auditorium of Western High School and grab a chair in the back to hear Donalyn Miller's keynote.  When we hear her keynote, we will ponder.

  • Do our students have a book when the time appears?  (Like we do!)  It's about access, not time.
  • How do we curate our classroom library?
  • How do we effectively guide serial abandoners?
  • How can we use preview stacks to maintain choice for our children at home and in the classroom?
  • Who are the authors we need to introduce our children to?
  • After years of focusing on reading levels with teachers and parents, how do we shift the conversation?
  • Who are the reading epicenters in our lives?  Whose in our reading community?
  • Should we take a shelfie?

As we are pondering, we will realize that we've missed calls and texts from  When we realize that we've missed them, we will speak with a representative from and discover our room is overbooked.  When our room is overbooked, we will get a little feisty with the representative until we are finally able to locate a room at another establishment.  As we are busy being feisty, the NerdRun will begin.  When the NerdRun begins, we enjoy an awesome run/walk along a beautiful course, complete with some "off-road running."  When we enjoy an awesome run, we will cross the finish line (complete with amazing, cheering fans like Colby & Alaina Sharp) and decide we should get an award and tweet about it, not realizing that actual awards are being given.  Whoops!

After our award, we'll again obtain nourishment.  We will discover a fantastic local pizza place.  After gobbling down our pizza, we'll collapse into our beds and write a blog post, filled with anticipation about the learning ahead in Day 2 of nErDcampMI.  And, if we want to go to Day 2 of nErDcampMI, we're going to need to leave early.  But not 4 a.m. early.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#sol14 The Great Summer Veggie Challenge

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Two Writing Teachers are hosting Slice of Life.  Join us!

Disclaimer:  If you have big, strong opinions about eating and nutrition this may or may not be the post for you.  It involves snacks, fried veggies, and ranch dressing.  You've been warned.  

A confession:  I Love Junk Food!  I love it.  My Happy part of Happy Hour are the snacks.  
And if we are getting together?  There must be food.  
It's how I connect with people.  Let's share some food and make it an experience.  

Enter:  Motherhood.  A push for fruits and veggies, but really, just a chance to embrace snack time.  Please pass the graham crackers.  

Enter:  2nd Child. I wrote about his food allergy journey here. As we continue down this path, we are so blessed.  He is healthy and thriving.  He is also adding food allergies instead of losing them.  (Shoot!)  

Embracing a lifestyle of unprocessed foods has really become more of a necessity than a passing fad at our home.  Fresh fruits and vegetables in their pure form?  They really need to be the norm, not a novelty.  A skill this mama needs to embrace.  

We have fresh fruit eaters.  But veggies?  Are they fried?  With ranch dressing for dipping?  Mama needs to change her mindset.  (Mama because she is primarily in charge of the food that comes in the house.  Don't worry-we are an equal opportunity kitchen!) 

Enter The Great Veggie Challenge for our house.  

The Rules (for our house):
1.  At lunch time, a tea plate of veggies is offered to all contestants in the house.  Like this:

2.  Before you help yourself to the crackers and dip (or any other delicious treat), you must finish your plate of veggies.  We use a set of 3 veggies for the week.  

3.  Keep track of which ones you like, and which ones you need more practice on.  

The Results:  Some days are great, others aren't.  I'm eating more veggies each day.  So are my kidlets.  That's a good thing.  

What the kids say:

"It's helping me like new veggies.  I don't like tomatoes."

"The only thing I like are the sugar snap peas.  Actually the only thing I like is--I don't like anything about it."  (He's feeling contrary AND honest today!)  

So, this is our summer challenge.  It kind of reminded me of #nerdlution fun I've had in the past.  
Are you working on anything challenging this summer?  

Snacktime!  Joy!