Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's an Award...

The fabulous author behind Life Inspired by the Wee Man passed along an award to me!  How exciting!  I know there are some bloggers who don't accept awards, possibly because of the "rules" that go along with them, but I think the awards are fantastic.  Every blogger appreciates knowing that someone out there is reading, and enjoying, what we write.  I also enjoy passing the award along to other blogs that I read!

So according to the guidelines of acceptance...I will share 7 things about myself and share the award with 7 deserving bloggers!

* I love Star Wars!  I remember seeing the first movies with my dad at a drive-in and when I first met my husband, Star Wars was one of the first things we had in common.
* One of my favorite elements in a movie is the "Hero Walk".  You know, it's the moment when the heroes of the movie walk into the unknown to save the day.  It gives me goose bumps every time.
* My Silhouette is my all-time favorite toy ever!  It's amazing and I love finding new crafts just so I can play with all the design elements.
* I not-so-secretly think that Spring Break is more for teachers than it is for the kids.  I am exhausted!
* When I was young, I overheard my mom talking about my Aunt Jeri's penmanship.  Ever since, I have focused on penmanship styles, and I love that I am able to write in several different fonts.
* I adore daisies! I have several varieties in my garden, so that there are daisy-like flowers blooming from Mother's Day through September.  They make me happy!
* Both of my tattoos have daisies featured :)

And now...bloggers deserving of the Versatile Blogger Award! Check out their blogs and send them some "Comment Love"...
Shopper Gal
The Abshires Wild and Crazy Journey...Called Life
Midwest "Mom"ments
Work, Wife, Mom...Life!
Blooming on Bainbridge
3 moms in 1 (a balancing act)

Thanks again for the fun award!  Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

Do you bring your work home with you?
When I first started teaching I worked for a tiny private school whose mission was to have an individualized program for every student.  Wow...I worked sixteen to eighteen hour days regularly and at least a full day on the weekend.  The question was more like, "Do I take home to work with me?"  They were crazy long days, but I learned a lot about education and a lot about how to differentiate for various kids.

After my first son was born, I started working in a public school but it was a parent-choice program and the days continued to be very long.  I became more efficient about keeping work at work, and usually only worked a half day on the weekends.

My second son was born after I made the shift to the school in which I currently teach.  When I made the shift, I consciously decided that I needed to draw clearer lines between home and school.  Here's the thing about're never done.  You can always do more...add more detail to a lesson plan, search for a more engaging way to launch a lesson, labor over the accessibility of the text you'll be using.  You can always add more feedback to student work, call more parents, spend more hours analyzing data.  I finally realized that I need to have clear boundaries between home and school.  I learned to be more efficient at work and to bring less home with me. 

Today I usually check and reply to email in the evenings.  If there is something pressing, I will take care of it but if it can wait I let it wait until the next morning.  I frequently text with teachers who are burning their own midnight oil, and offer feedback when I can.  For the most part though, I don't bring home tangible work with me.  Here's the other thing about teaching...there is always a kid, usually more than one, who lingers with me.  A kid who I can't get off my mind...wondering what more I can do to help him be successful.  Those kids are always in my head...they always come home with me at least mentally.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Things they Say...

I keep a small journal by my bed and in it I record the things my kids say.  I don't catch them all, but I have a great collection of their thoughts, their curiousities and the things that just made me laugh.  As my babies get older, I also love to read about the way they used to phrase things and the questions they would ask.  I was feeling reminiscent so these are all from 5-year-old Connar:
  • Black helicopters are never a good thing.  They always mean bad guys!
  • I want to be a real Jedi.  I need to go into outer space and find Yoda because he only trains younglings and I'm a youngling now!  Maybe you can find a Jedi store online and they can send me a practicer, a helmet and a light saber...a real one. I promise not to wreck our house.
  • This is a science discussion.  How can you be all the way downtown and I'm still at Grama's and we can still hear each other over the phone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reflection Journal...

When I first started working as an instructional coach, there wasn't a blueprint for how to do the job.  It was fairly new in education, to work with instructional coaches, so I really didn't know what I was getting into.  My first couple of years was the definition of on-the-job training.  One of the best things I did was start a reflection journal...

It's a simple spiral notebook.  Inside I have collected articles, quotes, notes from workshops & conferences and my thinking.  It's sort of become my text book for Instructional Coaching and I read through it frequently.  I have gotten into the habit of putting new entries on the left side and writing the reasons I included on the right.  When I reread the journal, I often add thoughts and ideas that are newly relevant.  In this way I have also reflected on and learned from my coaching experiences.  One of the best things I have included are articles that I don't agree with.  It's been valuable to record my thoughts about why I don't agree with something and then read that thinking later.  My professional reflection journal has had a tremendous impact on my work as an Instructional Coach so...

... I recently decided to start a personal reflection journal.  I decided that it would work better to use a 3-ring binder, so I found one that was pretty and added a quote to the front in vinyl.
I also put labeled dividers into the notebook.  My categories are: Inspiration, Ideas, Family, Triathlon, and Journal.  I had lots of things that fit into these categories already strewn through my desk.  Now they are all in one place, and I can reflect on what's there, set new goals and continue to add things that are important.   Just like my professional journal, I am anticipating watching my thinking change and evolve over time.
I think it's so important to remember where we've come from and enjoy the journey to where we find ourselves.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Club Friday...

I read a really good book this past week, and I've been looking forward to sharing it with you...

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Why did you pick up this book?  A Facebook friend suggested the title, saying that she couldn't put it down.  I'd seen it on a couple of book lists and had already been considering it, so with her recommendation I read it.

What kept you reading?  I enjoyed the voice of the storytellers.  The story is about three adult sisters who, for a variety of reasons, have returned home.  The story is told in plural first person, as though all three sisters are telling the story.  It's an intriguing way to tell a story and I don't remember having read anything like it.  I was completely pulled into the story of these sisters as they uncovered why they were home, how their relationships worked {or didn't} and the way they dealt with their mother's cancer treatment.  There were also some great lines..."We were fairly certain that if anyone made public the various and variegated ways in which being an adult sucked eggs, more people would opt out entirely."    "Because despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a ready, and, well, let's just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put"     "We have always wondered why there is not more research done on the children of happy marriages...How can we ever hope to find a love to live up to that?"

What stayed with you?  I have always been curious about the realtionships between adult siblings.  The sisters stuck with me because they weren't perfect, in fact they were very human.  Their past was very much a part of their present, and in some ways they were stuck because of that.  Once each sister realized her potential, separate from the other two, she was able to move forward into something new.  It was interesting to read and very well written.

What's next?  As I was closing out this book, a new book popped up on my Kindle's home screen.  I preordered, The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen  quite a while ago and I get to start reading it tonight!  I loved the author's previous books and I am imagining a delightful read.  Of course, I will share it with you all next week.

Your turn...what are you reading?  Have you read any of the Book Club books?  I love to hear about all the good reads out there...leave a comment and share.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fun with Silhouette...and Connar...

Can I just say it again?  I love my Silhouette!  This machine has to be my favorite toy of all time and I just keep finding new ways to use it...

It happens to every mom doesn't it, the last minute request for something huge.  Ok, Connar's request wasn't exactly at the last minute, but pretty close.  He decided to organize a team for the 3-on-3 tournament sponsored by a club at his school.  On Monday, with the tournament being on Friday, Connar asked me to make jerseys for his team.  Oh...hmmm...well, uh...  {Lightbulb}  Yes!  Silhouette and I can make that happen.

Connar and I made a quick trip to buy inexpensive black t-shirts and I had everything else at home...
Connar prepped the fabric, ironed on the fusible material, and cut it all out so that I could put it into the Silhouette...
...he chose a basketball image that he liked and we cut it about 5"X5".  The Silhouette iron-on adhesive was perfect for this project, and it's the first time I've used it.  The cuts were perfect and it was really easy to manuever the elements once they were cut out.
Connar also chose a flame to iron onto the basketball.  He did all the ironing while I was cutting elements for all the shirts...

...we also cut letters for everyone's last name to iron on the back of the t-shirts.

Don't these look great?  They were pretty easy to make, didn't cost much overall and the best part...Connar is thrilled with how they turned out...

I hope his team plays as well as they will look on the court!
Serenity Now Crafty Cutter Party

I am linking up with the party over at Serenity Now, pop over and check out some other great projects!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jobs for the Kids - Revised...

I have talked before about Jobs for the Kids and how I organize weekly work opportunities for my boys.  Lately, they have been more and more reluctant to get their jobs done and I have gotten a lot of eye rolling from them both.  I know that there isn't a kid around who truly likes to get his chores done {myself included!} but it's important to me to teach them all the life skills they'll need.  Being good employees, doing quality work and getting the work done on time are all things they'll need "in the real world".

I decided that they might be getting bored with the same jobs week after week.  Everyone likes having choices and my boys are used to having lots of choices in other aspects of their lives.  It took me awhile to think of a new system.  I need to have something that makes my life easier and a complicated job system does not make anything easier.  I also wanted them to have choices within reason, there are only so many things around the house that need to be done.  Finally, I came up with this...
I found a small glass jar at the Hobby Lobby and used my Silhouette to add the vinyl letters {Side note...I just love my Silhouette!} 
The jar is full of clothespins.  On each clothespin is one of the jobs that needs to be done along with the value of the job.  {I also use jobs to teach my kids about money management and saving so they need to earn enough to be able to blow it all on cheap toys or be able to save up for something worthwhile in a few weeks}  I printed the jobs, cut them apart and then stuck them to the clothespin with mod podge.  This literally took about 5 minutes...I was running late, I counted...they look lots more crafty than they actually are!
Chosen pins were stuck on their clipboards so they could keep track of what was on their docket.  I set some parameters for the jobs that were chosen.  Both boys needed to choose a bathroom, both boys needed to clean their rooms, and they could each choose a vacuum/dust combination.  With the remaining jobs, they were free to divvy them up as they wished or leave them in the bucket.  In this way they got to choose which jobs they were doing and also, to a certain extent, the amount of money they were going to earn.

I am not naive enough to believe all my troubles are solved and my boys are now perfect employees.  However, jobs this past weekend went much more smoothly.  And one great day is worth it!

How do you keep your kids organized?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Time for Spring...

I love living in a part of the country that has 4 full seasons, but I will admit that Spring is my favorite.  I love watching everything turn green, seeing the days getting longer and having more sunshine.  I also love what spring brings...namely soccer...lots of soccer. 

Saturday morning I woke up, ready for my oldest son's first outdoor soccer game of the season.  It was snowing...great big fluffy flakes of snow.  The kind of snow that makes you giddy in November, anticipating a long cozy winter.  Not the kind of snow you want to see four hours before a soccer game.  By the time we were at the field, it was merely a colossal mud pit...the snow had melted.  I was left needing a little touch of spring in my house...

 I got this metal flower a couple of weeks ago at JoAnne Fabrics, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it...
I decided to cover a block with some spring-colored paper using mod podge...
I also added a bit of distressing ink around the edges of the paper once the glue was dry...
I drilled a hole in the top of the block...
...and cut a bit of the stem off the flower {actually Kyle cut the was really hard to cut!}
I used my favorite Silhouette and navy vinyl to add some letters and now I have a little reminder that it will soon be spring...for real!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Club...

I have had a really busy couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been reading up a storm also.  Reading is my escape and my when the days get long and busy, I am often burning the candle at both ends as I read {like a deep, relaxing breath of fresh air} long into the night.  I have a couple of great books to share...

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult...I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan and this book did not disappoint.  It's told in several voices which is a story telling style I really enjoy.  It gives such a deeper perspective when you hear parts of the story in the characters voice.  As with many of her books, there is an ethical issue central to the theme and I was hooked into this one.  Spoiler Alert... this story dealt with gay marriage & relationships, religious conviction & religious bullying and frozen embryos.  Wow!  I loved every minute of this story and often wondered where it was going to end.  The only disappointment for me was that the author incorporated music into each chapter...since I was reading it on my Kindle, I didn't have access to the music.  This is the first Jodi Picoult book I have read on my Kindle and, frankly, I am pretty sure I want to have the actual book on my living room bookshelf.  So, I'll get the CD when I buy the hardcover book.  I would love to hear from any of you who read this book...there are a few points that would be interesting to discuss!

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom...I found this book wandering through book lists on Amazon and it really surprised me.  The story is set in the late 1700's on a plantation.  Two voices tell the story, Belle - a slave who is the daughter of the white plantation owner, and Lavinia - a young white indentured servant who is given to Belle.  The author takes a reader through the lives of the owners and slaves over about twenty years.  Not always easy to read, the story is compelling.  I have always been intrigued by books that open a window into another life and this one does that so well.  The characters had amazing depth and I was drawn to their stories and their lives. 
I would love to hear about what you're reading, especially if you've enjoyed one of these two books.  Join me...leave a comment and share what's on your bookshelf!

Have a great weekend...Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day...

I put together these fun treat boxes for my boys...and find this morning.  I used the print & cut option on my Silhouette and I wish the lettering had printed out darker.  This is my first time using that technique, and it took me so long to figure everything out I didn't have time to reprint the tags.  Up close you can see that it says, "Love, the Leprechauns".

I hope that you have fun being Irish for the day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

Oh, it's the middle of a busy week at work!  I hope you're week is going's always fun for me to link up with Julia and the other moms at Working Mommy Wednesday.  The prompt this week...Your best advice to a new mom returning to work.

Heading back to work is hard...there are so many details to consider and so many new things to worry about.  These are the top 5 things I would consider and plan for:
1. Child Care... Before the first day back at work, make sure you know who will be taking care of the kids.  This decision will be different depending on if this is your first, and if you have school age children or not.  I would suggest employing your child care options at least a day or two prior to that first day back at work.  You're going to want to know who long it takes to exchange children, what needs to be packed and prepared ahead of time and how you'll feel when you leave. We have a sort of complicated balance between an aunt, grandmas and Daddy...who's usually home.  Since our boys are school-aged, we also share car pooling, play dates and pick-ups.  Our Cozi Calendar helps us keep track of where the boys are.  And...when my first was a baby, my Gram often took care of him.  She wrote a note to me each day, in his voice, recounting the adventures during the day.  It made me feel more connected to what was going on and less guilty that I was missing something.  It's ok to ask for as much information as you need to feel comfortable.

2. Routine...This is my saving grace, having a routine and making sure that everyone involved {including the kids} knows the routine.  When will you get up in the morning?  Will you have to get multiple people ready at the same time?  What can you prepare the night before?  What time do you have to leave?  How long will it take to say good-bye?  What time do you really have to leave?  A well-organized morning routine can keep everyone happy and get you to work feeling ready-to-go rather than exhausted. Since my husband works 24 hour shifts and has 3 days off in between, we have a couple different morning routines.  Regardless of which day it is however, the boys know what they need to do and so do the make sure everyone makes it out of the house happy, fed and on-time!

3. Support...Do you have a go-to friend at work?  Someone who has kids and understands what you're going through?  I strongly suggest finding someone either at work or available through text/email.  You're going to need someone to chat with and share the joys and frustrations.  I am so lucky to work in a school with a young, family friendly staff.  In the 10 years I have worked there, at least two babies have been born to teachers each year.  No matter what is going on with my kids, there is someone who has insight to share and is willing to listen.

4. Organized...Babies and children at home increase the need to be well-organized at work (and probably in other aspects of your life too!)  I was willing to work longer hours before I had babies waiting for me at home.  By creating to-do lists and being effiecient in how I spent my time, I was able to leave work when I was supposed to.  I sometimes bring work home, and finish up after the kids are in bed, but I try very hard to make my job fit into the hours in which I am paid.

5. Fun...Working mommy-hood is hard.  You have to be organized, detailed and work hard to keep all the balls in the air.  The first part of fun is to cut yourself some slack...all those balls won't stay up in the air.  Know this, as you go back to work and don't expect yourself to be perfect.  Another part of fun is to make sure you have some new things for yourself...a couple of new outfits that are just for work can go a long way to making you feel better about going back to work.  Finally, take time to relax and play.  Whether it's on your own, on a date with your significant other or with the whole family...have fun! This isn't always easy for me...I want everything to run smoothly but that's not reality.  My husband and I love movies! And when I am taking kids to practice...I always take my book along with me :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday...

We don't have an imminent birthday...our next family birthday is in about four weeks...but I have wanted a Birthday plate for a while.  I think it would be fun to have a special plate for to use on our birthdays.  I've also been wanting to try glass etching, so I decided to combine the two...
I started with a plain glass plate that I bought at Hobby Lobby.  Using my Silhouette, I cut a Birthday cake shape for the bottom of the plate.
I also cut out the words "Happy Birthday".  This is the second vinyl cut...I was so busy making sure I had the arch of the words correct, that I forgot I needed the mirror image. 
Once I had all the vinyl applied and I made sure there wasn't any glass exposed, I put on the glass etch...
I tried to get the material evenly distributed across the vinyl.  As it turns out, I should have used a thicker coat and worked a bit harder to make sure it was evenly distributed.
It's a little hard to see, but here's our Birthday plate.  I am really happy with the design, and for my first time using the glass etch, I think it turned out pretty well.  I can say that my boys are really excited to use the plate on their birthdays.  My son and I share the next Birthday, I wonder who's going to get to use it first!

How do you make birthdays special in your house?

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Pi Day...

I know it's a bit nerdy, but who doesn't love a little nerdiness now and then?  It's pi day...March 14 or 3.14!  Pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle.  It's a mathematical constant and is also known as an irrational number (how fun is that?)

We're celebrating with pie at work today...and probably at home too.  Go on, surprise your kids with your mathematical stylings and celebrate pi day!

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

BWS tips button

My oldest son was born almost 12 years ago.  One of the lessons I learned while I was pregnant...everyone has an opinion.  Apparently my pregnancy ushered me into a circle of sharing that I didn't know existed.  For some strange reason pregnancy and motherhood seems to invite everyone's opinions, ideas, and suggestions. While some of the advice and suggestions were welcome, some of it was just mean-spirited and hurtful. I soon realized that the best thing I could say sometimes was, "This is what works for my family.  Thanks." 

There are as many ways to raise babies into wonderful children as there are moms.  We rely on our friends to help us through the tough times and get over the frustrations.  What we don't need as moms, is to have other moms tearing us down.  Some of us have careers...some of us stay home...some of us use formula...some of us breastfeed...some of us employ daycare...some of us have other options...some of use put our kids in sports...others are more focused on arts...some of us think private schools are the only answer...others believe in public education... You know the list goes on and on!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share some of the tips & tricks I have learned as a mom of boys.  I also hoped to meet other moms and learn from them.  I am curious about how and why other people make the parenting decisions they make.  When our choices as moms come from the heart, from keeping the best interests of our children in mind and from a desire to raise a happy healthy child...we won't be wrong. 

This pledge is about respecting the choices of other moms.  It's about putting positive energy into the world and supporting the choices of other moms.  It's about creating a world where children don't learn about bullying by listening to the conversation of moms.  I take that pledge!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking of you...

I just couldn't publish the book club today.  I heard about the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific when I was at the gym this morning.  My thoughts are with all of those in Japan and their friends and relatives around the world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Professional Development...

Happy Wednesday!  You know that today I am linking up with all the wonderful working mom's I've "met" through...

Today's do you stay current in your field of expertise?

I love that word...expertise!  In the education world, staying current is called Professional Development.  It's interesting because in the job I have, my responsibility is helping teachers stay current.  I may have shared this before, but I am no longer a classroom teacher {I was for 8 years} I am now and Instructional Coach.  The best way to describe this role is to have you think about the coach for any athletic role is pretty varied.  I coach teachers, usually around personal goals they have set.

In order to be an effective Instructional Coach, I really have to be on top of my game.  There are a few ways that I stay current in educational research and practice...
  • Workshops and Conferences...whenever I can, I convince my principal to send me to a workshop or conference and sometimes I send myself.  This doesn't always involve travel though occasionally I am gone for a couple of days.  The best part about a workshop or conference is devoting some concentrated time to a new idea or refining a current practice.  I can then take what I learn back to my building and share it with the staff.
  • Reading...I belong to a couple of professional organizations and receive their monthly journals which I read, though usually not cover to cover {I do read the articles that are most relevant and save the journal}  I also read a crazy number of professional books each year.  Administrators and other coaches frequently recommend books or I pick new ones up at workshops.  Typically, I am involved in a book study where a group reads the book and together determines how we'll use the new information.  It works well for me to read a book with the teachers I coach, because we are able to implement new ideas together.
  • Collaboration...In my school district students arrive at school an hour later on Thursday mornings.  Pair that with the staff arriving a half hour earlier, and we have time to collaborate weekly.  Often I faciltiate these collaborations...since I'm the coach...and we try to be very specific about how we use the time to maximize the benefit to students.  If you were at collaboration tomorrow you would learn all about formative assessment, how we are using our current resources to formatively assess our kids and what pieces we're going to add.
  • New Degrees / Certification...this is much bigger than the previous categories as it's a huge time commitment.  However, I believe that we're always learning and growing.  I got my Masters degree 9 years ago and complete my National Board certification two years ago.  I am doing the research now to decide which university/program I want to attend for my doctorate.  {I'd really like to complete my doctorate before my oldest is in college...I can study and watch soccer games...right?}
This is an interesting prompt to think about because staying current in our field is so important, but for most working mom's is another ball to add to the juggling.  I'm do you allot time to staying current in your field?  Let me know...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Soccer Bag Tags...

It's hard to believe, but my family has already started the spring soccer rush.  In reality, my oldest never stopped playing as he's participated in two sessions of indoor soccer.  Spring and fall are always busy seasons for us as both boys and my husband play soccer.  My oldest plays for a club team and they started regular practice last week...fortunately they're practicing in a gym until the fields thaw!

Since spring sports are starting, it's time to get us all organized.  The boys need to have all their equipment in one spot, so that it's easy to get ready for practice and games.  My youngest son, wanted a new soccer bag just like his brothers for this season.  So I needed to come up with a tag to label their bags. 

I got this great idea from Karen, over at Sew Many Ways.  {I tried to find the actual post to link to but I couldn't track it down...sorry Karen!} 
I started with large washers, ball & chain key chains and my metal letter stamps...

...each letter gets stamped onto the washer individually...'s a bit hard to see the letters once you have them all on the washer...

...I used an antiquing gel and slathered it onto the washer, over the letters...

...and once the excess antiquing gel is rubbed off the letters are much easier to see.  I threaded the washers through the  ball & link key chain and attached them to the soccer bags.

It's a perfect way to tell the soccer bags apart and the boys loved their tags.  One bit of spring organization gets checked off the list!

How do you help your kids get organized for spring sports?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Club Friday...

Happy Friday everyone...I hope you have all had a great week with great books!

This week:  I am so excited to talk about...

This book just grabbed me and I felt like it was written for me.  My favorite aspect of this story is the blending of science and mythology.  The main characters are a witch and a vampire, living in a modern world that also includes daemons and humans.  The witch, Diana, has chosen not to use her powers in order to excel in her career on her own merits.  She's a Scientific Historian with an emphasis on Alchemists.  The background on alchemy and early alchemists that the author brings to this story is fascinating.  The vampire, Matthew, is 1500 years old and a doctor several times over.  He's currently studying the DNA of vampires, witches and daemons in order to understand their evolution.  The references to Darwin along with Newton and other scientists are perfectly intwined with the notion of vampiric evolution.

The heart of this story is Diana and Matthew's introduction and thier journey to learn about a book, about each other and, of course, to save their world.  The story has all the best elements of a good, well-told story...believable, rich characters, romance, heroism, a secret capable of destroying their world and a rush to save the world.  There is nothing trite or 2-dimensional about this's an epic told in the best way.

The only disappointing thing about this book is the fact that it is the first in a trilogy...there is no conclusion, merely the end of a chapter and when a reader turns the page there is no more.  I hope Deborah Harkness is writing quickly!

I also read & enjoyed:
Room by Emma Donoghue me on this one!  It came highly recommended from a good friend of mine and I nearly gave up on the first chapter.  Keep's worth it!
Magic Hour by Kristin was interesting that I read these two in this order.  Magic Hour has some similarities to Room, that make them an intriguing pair.

Next Week: I will be sharing my thoughts on Sing Me Home by Jodi Picoult...actually I will be curling up with that as soon as I post this to my blog!

Now it's your turn...what have you been reading?  Have you read this book?  I would love to hear about all the amazing books on your end table!

Disclaimer:  I get no compensation from the author's, publishers or Amazon.  The links are merely to make it easier for you to visualize the book.  I have purchased and read all the mentioned books on my own, and the opinions are all mine.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss...

National "Read Across America" Day was yesterday but I felt the celebration could be extended one more day.  I love reading...all of you know that...and I don't just love reading personally, I love reading out loud.

When I was in third grade, I had a life changing teacher.  You know the type...she loved teaching, she was infectious in her enthusiasm about learning, and she taught me something about myself.  I will never forget her!
One day I came home from school extolling the virtues of Ms. Luden, and I remember telling my mom that I wished I could read just like her.  My mom gave me the best piece of advice...practice.  That afternoon, I lined up my dolls and started reading out loud to them.

Reading out loud is so much's the giggle in your voice that hooks kids on reading, it's the voices for different characters that bring a new element to the story, it's the way a book can come to life in your hands.  In honor of "Read Across America", I wanted to share with you some of my all-time favorite read aloud books.  {FYI...there is no kid too old to be read husband often sits inside the kids bedroom door to listen, my oldest will climb out of bed to come and hear one of his favorites in his brother's room and the most apathetic, disrespectful middle-schooler can be hooked by a good read-aloud!}

  • The Cassowary's Egg by Gary Fleming...the rhythm in this story is perfect for reading out loud, and there is a delightful use of kids love the line  "I'm arachnophobic, where?"  and my favorite is, " was quite a good impression from a desperate, flightless bird!"
  • Skippy John Jones by Judith Shachner...these books are hysterical, and tell the tales of Skippy John Jones, a siamese cat who really wishes he was a chihuahua.  The stories beg to be read in a terrible Spanish accent and the capers of this kitty will keep your kiddos laughing.
  • The Lorax by Dr a gift to a friend, I once memorized this story!  While I can't recite the whole thing any longer, there are large chunks that still flow quite easily.  Story-wise, this is one of Dr Seuss's best and in terms of a read-aloud the Lorax provides a wonderful voice.
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling...even if kids are too young to truly appreciate the richness of the story line, these books make for amazing read-alouds.  There are so many characters that your voices will get a work out and the language she uses has a wonderful cadence.  It's also fun to have a story going on for a while.
I also love to pick up whatever book my kids are reading and just read a chapter to them.  It's relaxing for them and hearing fluent reading is important for children at all levels of reading development.  For kids who are more reluctant readers, I like to read three chapters to them...really get them hooked and then hand the book back to them.  

What are your favorite read-alouds?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

I am excited about the prompt for this week...Social Media, the good, the bad and the opinions!

The Good:  I like's been a great way to stay in touch with family who live out of town and I have reconnected with friends from high school and other times from my past.  It's fun to see what people are doing and hear what their kids are up short, it's like a game...good fun.  There are a variety of fan pages that I have "liked" and provide information that interests me.   I don't Twitter and there are many more other ways to socially network that don't appeal to me.  

The Bad: For me, there really isn't a bad in terms of social networking.  I'm an intelligent, reasonable adult and I engage in social media in a responsible manner.  The bad really occurs when those things aren't taken into consideration.  It's so easy to be reckless and irresponsible...and so difficult to take back things that are said or pictures that are posted.  I'm a teacher and I have long believed that I am responsible to a slightly higher social moral.  It wouldn't be appropriate for me to be publicly drunk, especially in the neighborhood in which I work...likewise it isn't appropriate for me to be "Friends" with students.  I even carefully consider "Friending" parents of students.  While there isn't anything within my social network that I think people would consider irresponsible, it is also important to remember all the roles we play...and who should have what kinds of access!

The Ugly:  Far too often social media is abused...people act irresponsibly and are later surprised that there are consequences for the irresponsibility.  Angry words can't be erased easily...ridiculous pictures and videos are long-lasting...children (and those that should know better) use social networking to bully and intimidate, to lie.  I was recently a part of an eye-opening simulation using Facebook.  The class of middle school students I was working with was given a student's name and access to her Facebook page.  Through her page, links to friends and families pages and links to Twitter and other networks, we amassed a large amount of information in a very short time.  Information like: her school schedule, her car and license plate, her address, the dates of cheer camp, the location of Friday's party...  Even when we are careful about the information we post, there is more information about us through the postings of our "Friends".  Are we as information savvy as we think we are?  Are our kids?

The Rest of the Story: I have said this before...I believe we need to teach our children to manage the world that is, not the world we wish it was!  That includes teaching them how to use social networking responsibly.  My kids don't currently have Facebook accounts (or MySpace or Twitter...) but they do access online games and other sites like Club Penguin.  We have rules about how they engage in chats (they don't!) and what types of information they share.  We are also pretty open with our kids that their text history and online history are an open book...I look through backpacks and cell phones.  I want to know what information my kids are putting online and into the world, who they're talking to and what's being said.  I am not naive enough to think that my kids will always tell the truth and will always be open to me looking through their cell phones.  However, I am hopeful that starting that habit young means it will be easier when they are teens.  Social media, like anything else, needs to be taught to our kids.  We need to be their first teachers, we need to teach them how to apply the family's morals and values to this resource and we need to monitor their attempts to do so.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Scary Stories...

The other day, my kids were watching some paranormal, ghost hunting show on TV.  They were really engaged in the story line and were having fun scaring themselves with the idea of ghosts.

I wasn't excited.  In the past couple of months I have had teary kids at bedtime for all manner of things that go bump in the night.  There are some situations in which they clearly know the difference between real and not real, but they are also at an age where sometimes the possibility of something is scary.

When I realized what they were watching, I asked them to turn it off.  Of course, I got the sad puppy-dog eyes. I got the, "Mommy it's not scary!"  "Mommy, we know it's not real!"  I said, "There won't be any sympathy at bedtime for boys who scare themselves on purpose"  "Oh sure Mommy, it's not scary!"

Who is surprised that at bedtime I had tears?  Not me...I knew it was coming.  My oldest admitted he was a little scared but managed to tough it out and fell asleep without any problem.  My youngest came into my room about 2 seconds after he'd been tucked in..."Mommy, are you sure there isn't any sympathy?"

I wanted to be the tough love mom...I wanted to remind him that he'd chosen to watch the show...I wanted to send him back to his room...

"Hey you want to fall asleep here?  There's nothing to be afraid of.  I love you!"