Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Pool is Open!!!!

The pool is now open! We spent the weekend floating around in our floating chairs as the weather turned hotter and hotter. We didn't mind the 90 degree heat. We just floated and floated. This was the earliest we have ever been able to enjoy the pool. Never before have we spent so much time in the pool on a May day.

We do have a May tradition. We always jump in the pool and get completely wet and even try to swim at least one time in May. Usually, Darrell dives in and swims under water to the steps on the other side. I stand there with a towel ready to wrap him up and keep him from freezing. I am not that brave. My usual idea of a May swim is to get in gradually. Yes, I do know that it is torture, but I can't help it. I then get up to waist high and just plunge in. I then rush back to the steps and grab a waiting towel. I always feel proud that I make the plunge, but as I am chattering and turning blue, I wonder what in the world was I thinking.

This year it was different. The water was 80 degrees...just right. The air was in the 80's also. So when Darrell did his dive, it wasn't such a brave feat. Then it was my turn. I actually pushed into the water and swam to the side steps, turned around in the water and swam back. It really wasn't that bad!  Not that big a deal to be in the pool in May this year!

In the pool last year with Audrey!

Monday, May 28, 2012


Today is the day that is set aside to remember those who have served to keep us free. One day to thank those men and women who put their life in harms way so we can enjoy the freedoms of this country. There are flags on graves, parades in many towns and cities, and even some fireworks to remind us of what they have done. 

Is it really enough to just set aside one day to remember?  Is it really enough to have one day of fireworks to remember? What about one day to stop and thank those service men and women?

In World War II, my father served along with his younger brother, Aaron. They were not even too far from each other, but didn't get to see each other. That is when my dad received the news that his brother had been killed. This was, of course, before I was born. I heard the story many times and it always made me sad. How unfair. But my dad never complained. It was his duty and he did it willingly and proudly.

This last week our town lost one of their own. Even though I did not know this young man, many people I know did. How difficult it must be for that mother. How difficult it must be for that wife raising a little son. My heart goes out to them all. But even more than that, my gratitude goes to them. They sacrificed something so I could have my freedom. Saying THANK YOU just doesn't seem to be enough.

No, maybe we should have fireworks every night to thank these troops for what they are doing for us. Maybe every day there should be parades shouting our thanks to them. But, the very least we can do is not forget on this holiday weekend to stop and thank these heroes!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Decoration Day

Grave site of my grandparents

Grave site of my parents

It is now called Memorial Day, but before that it was known as Decoration Day. Every year my parents would gather peonies, irises and lilacs. We would put them in large tomato soup cans filled with water. We had been saving those cans for weeks and weeks. Then we would load them up in the truck of the car. We had several cemeteries to travel to that day. We would spend time at each one, getting those cans of flowers placed just right. Those memories have lasted with me over the years.

This year, just like I have done for many years, we made our rounds of several cemeteries. Instead of the live flowers in tomato soup cans, I now purchase artificial flowers from Walmart. I make sure I have red, white and blue individual flowers for my grandparents' big urn on each side of their stone. I make sure I have something that says MOM and another that says DAD for either side of my parents' stone.

This is a tradition that I look forward to every year. It helps me keep memories alive and feel closer to those I've lost. I have been asked, "What are you going to do for the long weekend?" When I answer, "Well, one thing I will do is visit the cemeteries." I hear a version of this reply: "Why?" 

My hope is that this tradition does not get lost. The reason for this special holiday does not get forgotten. I want to be sure to take Graham and his little sister with me someday as we make our rounds of the grave sites. I want to tell them the stories of how as a little girl I would visit with my grandparents these very same cemeteries. I want them to have memories to keep.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dave's Swimming Adventure!

What a silly dog!
Tonight the weather was perfect to be outside. I was watering our flowers around the pool in our backyard. I always take the hose and pull it as far as I can. That way it doesn't get into the flower beds and disturb the plants. Dave, the dog, was keeping out of the way of the hose and water. He is not a fan of the scary water spray!

Darrell was cleaning off the cover of the pool cover. It protects the pool solar cover when it is rolled up so it doesn't get too hot and dry up. The solar cover was on the pool so perhaps the water will get warm enough to let us swim this weekend! As I was helping him, he would use the brush after I sprayed the cover. All of a sudden, Darrell yelled, "The dog's in the pool!" 

Sure enough when I turned around, there was Dave struggling to swim through not just the water, but also the pool cover!  He was headed for the middle of the pool. We yelled for him to come to the side where we were.  He turned and paddled over, looking scared and confused. I am sure he thought that cover would hold him. It had been holding the birds all day!

I reached down and grabbed his front paws as he gripped the side of the pool.  I pulled his 104 pound body as far out of the water as I could. Darrell came over and lifted the heavy rear end completely out and sat him on the ground. Dave ran to the grassy area and began to shake off the water and roll in the grass.  He was not a happy camper!

Hopefully, this will keep him out of the pool for another summer season!
No more swimming pools for me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Professional Develpment With Voices in the Park

The Redford Girls from Haley
On Tuesday I was able to do one last Professional Development at Haley Elementary. This is where I did my very first P.D. for FWCS. The staff was wonderful back then and still is great. They were welcoming and friendly. I felt at home immediately. The building coach and I had been planning this event for a few weeks. We wanted to do something fun and yet educational.

For several  years I had been wanting to do an activity that I had seen Frank Serafini do in a workshop. This activity involved the book by Anthony Browne---Voices in the Park. With the new Common Core Standards focusing on complex text, I needed something that would stretch the teachers and still let them see what is meant by that term. This activity did that! I read the book while the building coach showed the pictures on the document camera. The staff then discussed, with a partner, what they were thinking. We then had four teachers who had been previously chosen, come up and do a reader's theater with that book. They did a great job with inflection and personality. Next, the staff was invited to interview any of the characters. What a great job they did! You would have been sure they were the actual characters up there. The staff then shared how they would use this activity in their classrooms. The most important part was the discussion of what made this a complex text.

I did get a picture taken of the building coach and interventionist with me. We had shared a room for several years in that building. The unique thing that made us special was...we each had ties to Detroit. Jamie had lived on 5 mile, my aunt lived on 6 mile and I used to visit her, Jan lived on 7 mile. These were all in Redford Township, so we called ourselves The Redford Girls!
My first retirement gift!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Didn't Know it Was Going to Be This Hard!

I started the day at one of the schools that I have worked with for a couple years. They had a professional development and I got to be part of it. The teachers listened, they asked questions, they took away information to help them be even better teachers. As they walked back to their rooms, a few of them came up to me.

"Is it true you are retiring?" they would say.
"Yes," I replied with a smile.
"That is good for you, but not for us. We are going to miss you!"

I didn't know it was going to be this hard.

Later, I was visiting another one of my schools. I was invited to go with our language arts coordinator to watch the IREAD3 intervention. On the ride to the school, we had a chance to chat.

"We have to go to lunch soon," she told me.
"Okay, I can do that, " I told her.
"The only thing is, I am going to really try not to cry," she sniffed. "I just don't know how I am going to do this job without your help next year."

I didn't know it was going to be this hard!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Today I just want to say thank you to my wonderful mother...Ida Mae Parkison Brand. Even though she is not with me physically, she is always in my heart. I learned so much from her and gained so much from her. She was always there for me, encouraging and cheering me on to become the person I am today. Because of her challenging me and pushing me to do things I never would have done without her, I am who I am today.

I am also so thankful for the chance to be a mother to the most amazing son. I am so proud of  him and his family. My life is better just because I have them in it. He is everything a mother would ever want. I could not love him more than I do. Thank you, Todd, for being a wonderful son!!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flowers Are Ready For Summer!

The flowers on the deck are awesome!
This weekend was spent buying flowers and working in our yard. We always wait until Mothers' Day weekend to put our flowers out, thinking the frost is surely done by now!
So, I took Friday off to do some personal business...flower business! 

We started out at our favorite greenhouse north of Leo and bought most of our flowers there.
The flowers were awesome. We were lucky enough to get what we wanted. We even tried something new thanks to one of the workers. I haven't had much luck with the impatients for the last few years. I know that where I put them is just too sunny, but I really like them there so I keep trying.  This year we put in wave petunias...red ones. We were assured that these flowers stand up straighter than other colors so I should get the height I want in that spot!  We'll see.
This is the south flower bed
We got the normal things for below the deck. I like the blue bedding plants that make the outside border. I add the wave petunias in a variety of shades of pink. Last of all, I put marigolds along the edge of the deck to keep those rabbits out. There are two sides I do almost exactly alike with this combo. I also did four pots of flowers for the deck. Those were full of two types of the waves again. Now I can just sit back and enjoy them. Oh, yes, there is the watering and weeding, isn't there?

This is the north flower bed                      

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Anna Viola Parkison with oldest daughter, Zilpha

In 1888 on May 9th, Anna V. Deardoff was born. She married Harry E. Parkison and they had four children.  The youngest girl was my mother. Today, May 9th, is my grandmother's birthday. She had nine grandchildren: four girls and five boys. We were a close set of cousins even though we were many years apart.

My grandmother made everything fun. She would tease us, play with us and keep us all in line. She was the best grandmother any girl could hope for. She taught me how to crochet, cook and tie a string around a horsefly and make it a "pet". I still remember her stories she told about my older cousins. We would beg and beg for her to tell a "Joanie" story.  They were the best. SHe taught my first Sunday School class and was a wonderful Bible teacher. She loved kids, flowers, and cooking. She made the best hamburgers ever!

Today I remember  her and miss her. I only hope I can be as good a grandma as she was to me. Happy Birthday, Grandma!  I love you!!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday's Slice of Life: My List of Favorites

Today the three of us who are retiring this year received a message. It was a message from someone who is hosting our Open House Retirement party. She asked us to send her a list of our favorite story books. We wrote back and asked: "Our favorite books from when we were young, or our favorite books when we were in the classroom?"  She said...BOTH!

Now I need to make a list!  Where do I start? As I look at my two bookshelves loaded with books, my tubs along the floor with books lined in them, and as I look at my favorite books nestled in a basket by my overstuffed reading chair, I think....how can I make just a list?

Well, here goes:
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary because I always read it to my second graders
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White I would also read this one
  • Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Pollacco I first heard this read by JoAnn Portalupi and loved it
  • Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant I have heard Katie Wood Ray read this many times and always hear her voice whenever I read it
  • Shortcut by Donald Crews one of my favorite books to teach in writing workshop
  • My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel another writing workshop book
  • Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant one of my favorite dog books
  • Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran because it makes me feel young again
  • Saturday and Teacakes by Lester Laminack because I love Lester and it is about a grandmother
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson because it gives me hope
Naturally, I could pick out every book on my shelf, in my tubs and in my baskets. I just absolutely love ALL books!!!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Graham Loves Numbers!

No one would be surprised to know that Graham likes books. Being his grandmother, I naturally encouraged this by getting him books and reading to him whenever I could. He now can pick out colors...especially BLUE!  He can find the letter K. And he loves to find Mickey and the gang!

I doubt if anyone would even be surprised to find out that Graham likes to write. He has markers to use in his bathtub which he uses to "write". He has window crayons to write on grandma's patio windows, which he does but gets most of it on him! Our only worry is that he might not realize that he is not supposed to write on the walls! (He hasn't done it yet!)

But what people might be surprised to find out is that Graham LOVES numbers! When looking at a book the thing that he always goes to first is the number on the bottom of the page. He points to it and says in his Graham-language: "What's this?" Today I brought him an old book that used to belong to his dad. It was a Richard Scarry book called: One, Two, Three. He look at the cover, pointed to the numeral 2 and said, "Two".  Then pointed to the numeral 3 and said, "Three".  While looking through the book, we got to the page with an eight on the top. He pointed right to it and said, "Eight!" How did this happen...me with a grandson who LOVES numbers!!!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Memoir: Cinco de Mayo in Douglasville

Another memoir from Douglasville.
Every May Douglasville turned into a Spanish town. We studied the Mexican culture, learned lots of Spanish words and phrases and celebrated Cinco de Mayo!  We would read stories about Mexico and their culture, history and children in that part of the world. The thing that made it the most fun, though, was the celebration.

For the whole month we played mariachi band music, learned the hat dance and could even sing some of the songs. On the day we chose to celebrate, we would decorate the room in colors of the flag of Mexico. We would do Spanish games. We really felt like we WERE a Spanish town. Having Mexican food was a big treat, too.

I was always proud of the Douglasville citizens as they left our classroom at the end of the year knowing how to count in Spanish as well as knowing all the colors and other familiar words. I wonder how many today can still count in Spanish because they spent a year in Douglasville!

If you are wondering what cinco de Mayo is, here is a little bit of history for you!
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “Fifth of May”) commemorates the Mexican army’s unexpected victory over the French at the 1862 Battle of Puebla. While the event is still celebrated in Puebla, it isn’t a significant holiday in the rest of Mexico. That doesn’t stop us from partying here!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry Friday: First Haircut

Snip, snip, snip
Baby fine hair
Falling piece by piece
Feather light
Sitting so still
Snip, snip, snip
First Haircut

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hooked On A Really Great Book: Defending Jacob

Sometimes you pick a book because of what a reviewer has said. Sometimes you pick a book because of the blurb on the back. Sometimes you pick a book after reading a few pages. For our Book Club which will be in June, we picked this book because of what people were saying.

It seemed that people in our office were reading this great book. Judi said, "I can't wait to get home tonight. My book is on the counter and I only have 50 pages to go and I still don't know who did it."  Later, Barb said, "You ought to read this book. It is amazing. You can't put it down."

That's when I suggested it to our book club. Since no one had any other ideas, we chose Defending Jacob as our June book.  I went home and immediately bought it. However, I had a couple other books to finish, so I didn't get right to it when it came in the mail. 

In the meantime, Connie joined our book club and purchased the book. She DID start reading it right away.  She would say things like, "I haven't read a book just for me for a long time. I have just been reading professional books for work. This is great!"  The next day she came in and said, "I feel like I'm doing something illegal. I can't stop reading." Then she came in and said, "Wow! That book is great. I need to talk to someone who finished it, right NOW!" And off she went to talk to Judi and Barb.

I couldn't wait another day. I went home and started the book. The next morning Mary said, "I'm going to get that book, too." Sure enough she did and began reading after I had a few chapters read.

I am now only 150 pages shy of finishing the book. I can't stop. When I am not reading it, I am thinking about it. I wait for the news to start talking about it because it seems so real. Oh, by the way, Mary finished the book last night and now Tammy is reading Mary's copy!

If you haven't read Defending Jacob, don't start unless you want to get hooked on a really great book.  See you later...I'm going to go read!!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Getting Ready for the Common Core

Tomorrow I am doing an in-service with another district instructional coach. This is the first of two workshops on the topic of Common Core State Standards: an Introduction.  We are starting the one hour session with an introduction to the standards. As we go over the purpose and goals of the standards along with how these standards are different from the old state standards, the teachers will be involved in the process by working through what they feel is important in this introduction.

The teachers will also investigate the bands of the standards and how the change over the grade levels. They will be grouped into multiple layers of grades. This gives them the opportunity to see and hear what their peers feel is important in their grade levels. It is a way to allow educators to get the "big picture" on what our goals are for children across their school years.

Next week we will take it to another level. This time we are using the book Pathways to the Common Core published by Heinemann.  In chapter five, the authors have shared a way for the teachers to actually feel what it would be like to walk through a unit of study in the reading informative pieces. The bar has been raised and the way we have been teaching just isn't going to cut it any more. We will go through the first three standards in the area. Teachers will talk with their partners and work through how reading at a deeper level actually looks.

Our in-service is to give teachers a taste of what is ahead for them. We will be also giving them the websites for our state DOE as well as the PARCC website. We hope by doing this work, they will be  encouraged to investigate what is ahead for them in the coming year!