Sunday, January 27, 2008

Top Book Picks

Another cold winter day in northern Indiana. Darrell is visiting family in Utah for the long weekend. I am alone with just the kids: Murphy, Nickey and Oliver. They are all curled up asleep in various places around the house. I know IU plays this afternoon and I will probably turn it on just to see how they are doing. But the majority of my day will be spent quietly curled up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate...reading! It is quiet. It is warm inside. The books are piled high beside me. As I was thinking of what all I would get read today, I noticed the local paper had a list of favorite book picks from the area libraries and book stores. I began thinking of all my book picks. We just had our Book Club last Monday night and now have a new book I can't wait to get and begin reading. We talked about books most of the night...between personal conversation. So, in this Sunday Message I am going to give you MY TOP PICKS. It is for a variety of age levels. They are books I have read lately and loved, besides books I WANT to read and have in a pile by my bed. So here it goes:

A Kiss Goodbye--Audrey Penn...just got this book from my good friend Lou Ann Homan-Saylor. Audrey is a friend of hers and she signed it for me!
Cherries & Cherry Pits--Vera B. her other books and this one will be great for craft lessons in writing workshop, too!
Tacky the Penguin...Helen Lester...I think my friend and book expert, Mary Helen, already told me about this one, but I just read it and love it.
Dear Fish---Chris Gall...I have used this at every grade level for comprehension, letter writing and just sharing. It is awesome!
If You Were A Writer...Joan Lowery Nixon...good way to get kids to write...I am going to use it for fiction writing mini lessons
Love,---Jerry Spinelli...if you read Stargirl, you will love this one, too!
Buford High-The Bully---Paul Langan...just started this but it is great for teens
100 Days & 99 Nights--Alan Madison....child whose father is in the army and away from home...I think it will be a good read aloud
After Tupac & D Foster---Jacqueline Woodson...what more do I have to say!?
That Workshop Book---Samantha mentor book club is reading this. I love the fresh, new way she is writing
Talking, Drawing, Writing--Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbi...great for those young writers. A way to start in Kindergarten.
Second Grade Writers-Stephanie Parsons....Can't wait to read this. Loved First Grade Writers, so I know I will love this!
Already Ready--Katie Wood Ray & Matt Glover...been waiting for this forever. Love Katie, Love Matt...we need this book!
Eat, Pray, Love--Elizabeth Gilbert...our new book club book!
Three Cups of Tea--Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin...runner up for book club book...Sarah says it is awesome!
Love in the Time of Cholera--Gabriel Garcia Marquez..Oprah book...Julia says it is tough but good
Kite Runner--Khaled of my all time favorites
A Thousand Splendid Suns--Khaled Hosseini...even better than Kite Runner
Kabul Beauty School--Deborah Rodriquez...just saw it listed, looks great
What am I reading right now? A book by James Patterson--The 6th Target. Darrell has been devouring Patterson books and I need to catch up. It is light and fun. Something I need a little of in my life right now. What are you reading on these cold winter nights????

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Powerful Words

In the last week or so several of the bloggers I share with have been picking a word to make their own this year. Mine has been FLEXIBLE. The others have chosen equally powerful words to make them better individuals, family members and teachers. This week the power of words was made even more apparent to me. I was in a title school this week. For you who are not in education or at FWCS, that means the free and reduced lunch rate is VERY high. Many of the children come from homes where life is not the same as it was for me growing up.

In a fifth grade classroom, we had been working on responding to literature. We were trying to "think about out thinking" in the area of questioning. What questions do you ask as you read...before you read, while you read and after you read. It was the last day I would be with the class. I wanted to do something in nonfiction. I finally picked the book, Martin's Big Words. Since MLK Day was going to be observed on Monday, I thought it was appropriate to do that book. The student teacher introduced the FOUR BIG words that Martin had used. Then we watched a United Streaming video of someone reading the book. It was powerful. The kiddos wrote the four words on their sheets before the video. They took notes on their questions as they were reading. We listened to it twice. After completing their AFTER section of the paper, they went to their notebooks, picked a word and wrote. It didn't have to be a word that was a "Martin" word. They could pick their own, and many did: RESPECT was the most popular.

When we were done they needed to hurry to their special of the day. They were going to share when they came back. As they were filing out of the room, one boy stayed back waiting to get my attention. I finished talking to the teacher about what he would do next after I was not there any more. The boy had to rush out of the room to catch up with his class. I caught up to him in the hall. I asked him if he had wanted me to read what he wrote. He said yes. So I assured him I would. What he wrote knocked me over. I couldn't believe the power of it. I wrote it in my notebook and took it with me. I let the boy know how impressed I was with his entry.

Here is what he wrote:

Around every corner,
In every alley,
And within every shadow,
Lurks the presence of danger,
But never lose hope.

Words are very powerful!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Shopping Game

Tonight the Big D and I went for our weekly date. We go out to eat, usually at a local Mexican restaurant, and then do our grocery shopping. I hate to do the shopping so it helps to have him with me. Actually, he does a better job of it than I do.

I wanted to share a "game" we play while shopping. It helps to pass the time for me and almost makes shopping fun. We both read StarGirl by Jerry Spinelli and love the game she played...The Card Game. If you don't know what I am talking about, read the book! The shopping game is our weird type of made up game like Star Girl's. Here's how you play:

As we shop we look for merchandise that is out of place. You know how shoppers pluck something off the shelf and then decide they don't want it so they plunk it down somewhere else? We look for those objects. The first one who sees something like that asks a question. It could be: "Say, did we want to get some dish soap tonight?" This is while we are pushing the card up the candy aisle. Who ever finds the most misplaced objects at the end of the shopping adventure, wins!! It is fun to keep score and see who can ask the funniest questions. Usually I end up thinking he is serious about his question and simply say: "No, I don't think we did."

Anyway, it passes the time. Another week of grocery shopping is over. AND we laugh at all the weird places people try to get rid of their mistakes! Try it and read Star Girl, if you haven't already!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Does Age Have To Do With It?

Today was one of my busiest days. I started out with a collaboration meeting at 8:00 with first grade teachers. I ended the day at IPFW taking my college class and got home at 7:30. Long day! I am tired. I just want to curl up on the couch with Murphy at my side. Instead, I feel I must reflect on this day or at least a part of it.

As I was making my way through the parking lot of the college, I was upset with the long walk. It again is the beginning of the semester and all the students feel the need to be in class. My professor assures us that it will only last for a few weeks and those new students will soon come late, miss class or drop out. It just happens. So, I trudge on through the cold biting wind, taking that long walk and get to class.

I sometimes think: what in the world am I doing taking a class at my age? I have been teaching longer than most of the others have been alive. I will retire before many of them will have tenure. Is it really possible to teach an old dog new tricks? I guess I must think it is, otherwise, I wouldn't be putting in these long days.

Actually, I love the class. I love learning and renewing things I already knew. I love being with the other teachers who share their ideas and view points so readily. I love simply being on the campus and seeing all these young kids with books under their arms, phones to their ears and a look of utter abandonment about them. They make me feel young! I am glad I am not their age. I am glad they are there learning.

I guess that is why I am still up, blogging when I could be cuddling my favorite doggy. I feel so blessed to be able to continue to learn and then have the chance to pass that learning on to others. Hopefully, that love of learning will inspire some kiddos tomorrow to want to have that same love in their lives. One can always hope!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Time Waits For No Man

That is the phrase that my aunt used to share with me many times when we would have our Sunday morning talks. Time waits for no man. That has been bouncing around in my head over and over again this last week. Americans in general seem to always be rushing somewhere--fast! Being on the road for at least an hour and 1/2 each work day, I have the opportunity to see cars speeding along the major highway in record number. The price of gas it NOT slowing anyone or anything down. I know in the morning, when I merge onto the interstate, I pick up the pace and fall into line with all those other people rushing to work. The merging is not an easy task. I say a prayer every time I fall into that traffic pattern. My question day after day is: Where in the world do all these people work? When I used to drive north to Hamilton, I would wind around country roads past corn fields and woodlands. I would see deer in the distance...unless one or two would try to cross the road in front of me, and see those creatures in their beauty, peacefully standing at the back of the field. The trees in the fall were my favorite part of the trip. I would slow down to just enjoy their beauty. Now I see cars, trucks, semis and asphalt. I am turning into a dynamic driver, too. I don't like it. Time waits for no man.

My work schedule changes from day to day, week to week. I am in a different school, different classroom daily. My duties change, my work load changes and my opportunities change. It goes back to the word I am focusing on this year: flexibility. With my schedule I have to think ahead...far ahead. I work out lesson plans at the beginning of the week for the classes and teachers I will be working with at that particular school. However, once I get there and actually talk to the teachers, it could be totally different and I would need to change everything I had planned. I work out collaborations with grade levels as well as individual teachers. I plan out presentations for schools or even the entire district. Then add to that the class I am currently taking from the university twice a month and the assignments that I have there. My schedule leaves little room for flexibility. Then agian, maybe that is exactly what I do have to survive. Rushing to get it all in and fit it in comes right back to: Time Waits For No Man. I wake up in the morning tired and go to bed at night exhausted. Again, I question: What am I doing here that is making a difference? I love to be busy, but when it changes from rushing to the point of frustration, I don't like it. Time waits for no man.

When I was growing up and in high school, my family listened every morning to "The Little Red Barn" on WOWO. Many families did that. There was a farm director who also was a poet of sorts. He would read his poems every once in awhile. For some reason, even back then at that age, I remember one that he read. It was called something like: The Leaky Bucket. It talked about how this person was hurrying and scurrying because the sand was going out of his bucket slowly. Leaking, not pouring out. He kept rushing and rushing to get somewhere...he didn't know where, but he didn't want the sand to run out. Well, he was talking about life. We rush and rush and rush but our sand is still running out. Where really are we going? Where really are we trying to get to? Time Waits For No Man.

I didn't really make any new year resolutions this year. I always break them anyway and then feel guilty. I need no more guilt in my life. But one goal I do have is to try and slow down and enjoy every minute RIGHT NOW! I need to see those deer again. I need to take time to stick my head into Murphy's fur and smell his dogness. I need to read a book just for the sake of reading a book. I need to sit on the couch and cuddle with my husband while he watches sports or the news. I need to enjoy every minute as if it is my last. You never know when that sand in the bucket will run out. TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN. Those Sunday morning calls with Aunt Zip were educational!

Monday, January 7, 2008

One Little Word

Today was our first day back at school. It was so hard to get up early: 5:00 a.m. and then walk in the dark the two miles we promise to walk. I made it down I69 to Fort Wayne without any trouble. The weather was fine. Soon, I was back in the groove of contacting teachers, answering emails and running of papers for the day.
I did get an interesting email. Jen, a fourth grade teacher friend, said she gave her cherubs the assignment of coming up with One Little Word. They will be doing things with that word and taking it further, but for me, I thought WOW, I want to do that.
So, I got busy and thought about it. Here's what I came up with: FLEXIBILITY! I heard so many teachers today talk about how they had to change plans, or work with kids differently. I also was thinking of how coming back to school reminded me of how busy I am each day. Teachers get schedules changed, so I have to change. Teachers ask for something that just came to mind, so I change. Kids show in their work where they need to go next and it is not where I was planning on taking them, so I have to change. That is called FLEXIBILITY!
Now, that I have me word, I have to go back to Jen and see where I go next with this! I'm just happy to have a word to focus on right now!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Favorite Places

Last night we went to Wal Mart. Yes, I know, it's not the most exciting place to spend a Saturday night, but really, I love that store. First of all, it is absolutely the biggest store in my small hometown. There are more people gathered in that one building than anywhere else in town. Well, unless there's a high school ball game. Do you have any idea of the treasures you can find in that store? Why just tonight I found restickable Glue Sticks. They turn regular paper into sticky notes. For a teacher, that is a treasure. I have found all sorts of gizmos and gadgets among the aisles of that store. I have bought clothes for a price that let's me feel okay if I only wear it one season and then it is out of date. I have found clothes that are right in style and fit me perfectly...all for a low amount. Who can ask for more than that? I've often thought this would be the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon. I'd start in the cosmetic department and check out all the latest nail polish colors. Then I'd head for the video displays, just to see if there are any oldie DVD's that I can get at a bargain. I love to look through the yarn and dream of scarves or afghans I could make on snowy evenings. There are always the aisles and aisles of food that, when I am not trying to diet, looks very appealing. I would finish my day in the bakery department drooling over the cakes, cookies and fresh breads. However, my favorite reason for loving Wal Mart is the people you see there. It never fails, I always see someone I know. It must be like the town square years ago. My mom would talk about how they'd walk around and around just to see their friends and neighbors. Just tonight I saw a young man about my height walking towards me with a smile. Taking a good look, I realized it was a former second grader of mine, now in high school. You just never know what treasures you'll find in Wal Mart! Try it sometime!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What Do You Think?

Last Saturday we traveled to the big city of Fort Wayne in search of a big purchase for us. We decided we were going to take the plunge and get a t.v. for the living room. I am not so much a t.v. watcher. The big D isn't really either. We are Sports, News and Weather sort of people. I must admit, I did get hooked on Dancing With The Stars this year though.

So, why the new t.v.? We have found that we like staying on the ground floor and not making the trek to the basement to watch our family t.v. therefore, another one. The basement will be turned into a full-time gym and exercise area with that t.v. for videos and DVD's and a place to get away.

We made the purchase, traveled home with it in the blazer and sat it up the next day. Now the problem is, our cable is on the opposite wall. So, instead of watching the new television in all it's glory we simply watched the blank, dark screen and pretended. Today the electrician is to come and drop a wire down the wall so we will be connected to the world. We'll see.

That, however, is not our problem. You see we are trying to decide if we should stay with cable or get satellite. We took a survey on our walk this morning, of all the houses in our neighborhood that have dish contraptions in their back yard. It was overwhelming. I never knew there were so many around. But is that enough to prove it is best? I'm not so sure. We are investigating and researching the best we can. We just aren't sure! So, I thought I would post a blog and see what you all thought. Which is best in your opinion and from your experience? Just wondering!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Snow, Murphy and Me

The days have been cold and windy, but those are the types of days Murphy loves best. So, being the good doggy-parents we are, we took him for his favorite walk. We trudged through snow and ice at the back of our housing addition. He ran ahead and sniffed and pawed as he enjoyed the white stuff. We were bundled up so much it was hard to get the camera out of my pocket to take a picture. As we got to the end of the mile walk, he began to slow down and walk behind us. We would walk for a while and then turn around to be sure he was still there. It can't be too cold for this old boy. He loves rolling in the snow and comes in looking like an ice dog. We rub him off with towels and let him loose to shake the final bits of snow from his heavy coat. This is the part of winter I love...taking Murphy for long, snowy walks!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Gift of Problems

Here I am at home counting the days until this wonderful, peaceful time comes to an end. The time called Christmas Vacation. I have been able to read at all times of the day and read whatever I like...not just professional books. I feel like I can finally get a taste of what my newly retired friend, Marsha, is feeling each and every day. The book I am currently reading was a Christmas gift from my good friend...and long-time friend, Jean. She told me it would change my life. I haven't finished it yet, so I can't say that. The book is The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall.

In the book I found this quote: "If we are not allowed to deal with small problems, we will be destroyed by slightly larger ones. When we come to understand this fact, we live our lives not avoiding problems, but welcoming them as challenges that will strengthen us so that we can be victorious in the future."

That quote was like a light bulb for me. When I see parents handling problems for their children no matter how old they are, I had always thought that was wrong. This quote gives me the reasoning behind why I thought that. I wish I could tell all parents that one piece of advice. Don't solve your children's problems. Let them fail. It is better to fail while you are there with them, than to fail when they are adults and have no clue as to how to survive a failure. It is not bad to fail, it is bad to not learn from that experience.