Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baking with friends - take two!

My apologies for yesterday's post (a classic example of telling, not showing).  Here's my writerly attempt to "show" the events of this special evening, a revised slice, served up again on this Boxing Day morning.  Thanks to my fellow bloggers who encourage my writing life at  Two Writing Teachers

My son-in-law dropped by my classroom with the words, "What time are you leaving today?  Sara wants you home as soon as possible."
I glanced at the clock and replied, "I'll try to leave by 3:30."
What had I been thinking?  An evening of baking cookies after a full day of teaching! Sometimes I question my own sanity.
A full hour later, pealing bells (my Christmas ring tone) announced my daughter's call.
"Mom, where are you?  Someone's in the driveway, and you're not even here!"
"Sorry, Sara, I was working on flipping the Newbery books for tomorrow.  I'm headed out the door."
I locked my classroom door, prayed that no one would see the complete chaos I left behind, and berated myself for planning such an event on a school night.
As I walked in the door, Patty and Karen were already working on the pretzels topped with kisses and soon to be adorned with Christmas M&M's after a quick warm-up in the oven.  Sara was mixing up the dough for press cookies while my friends noted my vintage cookie press in its original box, with the recipe torn from Mom's vintage Betty Crocker cookbook .  As soon as I open this box each year, I'm a little girl again in the kitchen on Tyler Street baking with my mom.
I start the Marshmallow Creme Fudge.  I stir the mixture constantly with the wooden spoon, softball stage arrives quickly, and we add the chocolate chips and vanilla.  Then it's time to fold in the marshmallow creme, add the walnuts, and pour the warm chocolate into the buttered pan.  Everyone gets a spoon for a taste of warm fudge.
Patty and I quickly mix up a double batch of Molasses Crinkles, Sara starts the Hello Dolly bars, Amy mixes her Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Nancy melts white chocolate for dipping her Oreos.  Kay offers her help to anyone in need of an extra hand.

Around six we gather around the table for a bowl of steaming soup and cheese bread before heading back to the kitchen for a few more rotations of cookie sheets and cooling racks.  Thank goodness for double ovens (a luxury this baker loves)!
My daughter offers to clean the kitchen while we play a few hands of chicken foot.  Everyone leaves with a green Glad container filled with goodies to share.
My first evening like this was over 25 years ago when I joined my fellow teachers from Monte Cassino at Sharon's house for an evening of baking.  Every year, I've longed to do the same thing with my friends.  I hug my daughter whose gift of time made this dream evening a reality for me and my friends from IMS.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Baking with Friends

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

This past week, I finally enjoyed an evening of baking with friends from work.  This was a tradition at the school where I taught in the early 80's.  It wasn't a cookie exchange, and there was no need to do anything ahead of time.  We just showed up at Sharon's house and baked all evening long.  We made several kinds of cookies and candy, ordered pizza, and enjoyed lots of fun and laughter.  At the end of the evening, everyone went home with a plate of home-baked goodies to share with friends and family.

It's hard to believe that I've spent more than 25 years hoping to host a baking party.  This year with a lot of help from my daughter, we managed to replicate this lovely tradition.  She sent out
e-vites, and friends were welcome to arrive as early as 4 p.m. I received a frantic call from her at 4 to come home from school because people were starting to arrive.  Friends were welcome to bring favorite recipes and some staple ingredients.  We baked for several hours, enjoyed soup for dinner, and ended our evening with a game of chicken foot.  Everyone left with a container of goodies.  It was a delight to share this evening with my good friends.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Baker's Dozen

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

I have shelves of Christmas books! I know it's a strange obsession, but I scour half-price books and the after-Christmas sales each year in search of books to add to my collection.  For today's post, I wanted to share my top ten favorites, then I decided it would have to be my top twelve, and finally settled on a baker's dozen (since I also delight in baking during this season).  A favorite memory of this season was sitting with a friend,  looking at her basket of Christmas books, and discovering books that were new to me.  I hope that you too might find a Christmas book new for you from my baker's dozen of favorite picture books.  

Christmas in the Stable - Poems selected and illustrated by Beverly K. Duncan

I love Jane Yolen's poem "The First Morning" about the rooster who decides he must sing a gentle tune when 
"...He sees the babe on Mary's knee-
And now must wake Eternity."

Ruby, the Christmas Donkey by Mirabel Cecil and illustrated by Christina Gascoigne

When you read this with a child, you'll linger over the picture of the animals clustered around the window watching the Nativity play.

The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom and illustrated by Jane Dyer

Beautiful poetic language and exquisite illustrations fill me with longing for just one snow day this year!

A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and illustrated by Mary Azarian

I purchased this one because I love Mary Azarian's woodcuts.  It's a wonderful depiction of Christmas long ago and a perfect book to pair with All the Places to Love.  

Little One, We Knew You'd Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jackie Morris

A perfect gift for any new mother, this book celebrates the birth of the Christ child and indeed, the birth of all children.  The illustrations will take your breath away!

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote and illustrated by Beth Peck

This classic short story celebrates the enduring friendship between Buddy and an elderly cousin with the words, "We are each other's best friend."

The First Christmas by Tomie de Paola

This pop-up book autographed by the author in 1991 is the book we always shared with our young children to tell the story of the first Christmas.  My son loved the arrow which pointed the innkeeper's finger to the stable and my daughter loved the small star which became large and filled the night sky for the three kings.

Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki

With the words "Each brought back a memory...", the reader is transported to the "...good beautiful memories..." behind each ornament hung on the tree.  

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney

My copy, purchased at a Houston library book sale for $1 is priceless.  Don't miss this story of "... the Christmas of the heavenly angel and the perfect balsam Christmas tree..."

I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

With these words, "...'Climb aboard,' the driver said.  'I know the way'..."  Toot makes it home in time to spend Christmas Eve with Puddle.  

My Prairie Christmas by Brett Harvey and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

A new discovery from last December's used library book sale, this book celebrates a family's first prairie Christmas.  

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilmer and illustrated by Elisa Kleven

I recently purchased a board book version (in anticipation of future grandchildren) of this favorite alphabet book illuminated with Kleven's exquisite illustrations.

The Story of Christmas words from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, pictures by Jane Ray

Jane Ray's luminous illustrations paired with the immortal words from the King James version make this the perfect book for sharing the glorious story of this season.  

For years I've longed to invite friends over for cookies and milk, with a favorite Christmas story in hand.  This may be the year that I finally do that!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My heart sang!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Last week was a busy one.  My students revised their personal narratives based on formative feedback from the rubric and my comments.  We revisited favorite mentor texts to examine powerful leads and endings.  Everyone wrote a new beginning and a new ending.
Then it was back to the computer lab for a 4th draft amid groans from my students asking, "Isn't this our final copy?"  One teacher and 29 students in a computer lab - this is the time I long for the ability to clone myself.  I learned long ago to have students list their names on the board when they want my help.
I worked quickly through the never ending list of student names.  Most of the questions centered around computer issues and earlier drafts that had mysteriously disappeared from the flash drive or Schoology file.  I had little time to provide real student feedback.   Usually it was a quick glance to check the formatting before I gave them the nod that it was okay to print.  Occasionally I scanned a beginning or ending and gave a quick comment.
On Thursday, I read an ending that filled me with delight and brought tears to my eyes.  I turned to the student, "You nailed it!"  We high fived as my heart sang!  With his permission, I'm sharing this powerful ending to his story detailing the arrival of Joy, a new kitten, in his family.
"As night crept upon us, we all gathered on the couch like exhausted little monkeys.  We ate cookies in the nighttime silence.  The only thing we heard was cookies crumbling and the soft purr from Joy."
I want more moments like this, but for now I'll savor this moment when the stars aligned and one of my students got it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanks to my blogging friends!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

In an earlier post and as part of Poetry Friday, I tried my hand at thankus.  I wanted to share the thanku that I composed with each of you in mind.  Thanks for joining me on this incredible journey.

Friends in cyberspace
Companions on my journey
Fire my writing soul.

My Month of Gratitude

I joined Stacey Shubbitz of Two Writing Teachers in a challenge to participate in a month of thanks.  I posted my thankful notes on Facebook, but wanted to put them all in one place here on my blog.
Today I'm thankful for rainbows! They always fill me with wonder!  I was at a meeting and would have totally missed today's gorgeous rainbow except for the fact that I stepped to the window to look at the fall color!

I'm thankful for the weekend! Always a treat to get to the end of a week and have a weekend to renew my energy before facing another week.

Today I'm thankful for beautiful music and today's opportunity to attend the concert of a talented colleague and his wife.

I'm thankful for The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor which brings a poem and a touch of trivia each day via email!  Today is Will Roger's birthday. I remember Daddy taking us to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK  several times.

Today I'm thankful for my citizenship in the United States of America and the opportunity to vote. I have so many memories of election day! To read some of my memories, check out this week's post on my blog.

Today I'm thankful for hot water. I know it sounds crazy, but every morning when I hop in the shower, I'm happy that with the turn of a nozzle - I can enjoy a hot shower. Hot water for washing dishes - hey that's good too, but definitely not as fun as my hot shower!

Tonight I'm thankful that my job as a classroom teacher allows me to share my passion for books with my students. We're currently reading books selected by KCLS as possibilities for this year's Newbery Award. It's so fun to see the excitement of my students and hear their enthusiasm as we meet in small groups to discuss the books. A giant thanks to the MISF for funding this project for me and my students, and to the parents who helped cover books and are leading discussions with my students! There's no better reward than hearing my students say, "This is the best book I ever read!"

Thankful for two things tonight - lunch from the PTSA moms and Will's willingness to help out! We get the most delicious lunches periodically from the moms at our school. Today it was panini sandwiches, soup, salad, and homemade buttermilk lemon sorbet! Yum, what a treat! 
Then after school I decided to do a bulletin board that I'd been putting off doing. Will brought the papers to me at school since they were at home on the dining room table (procrastination central). He also cooks dinner every other night. We're totally enjoying him. It's great to have a son-in-law who's helpful and so much fun to have around.

 Tonight I'm thankful for my siblings. I was lucky to grow up in a home filled with love. I still love talking to each of my siblings and staying connected with them. Saturday morning is my favorite time to talk to Karl, Kay and I talk mostly in the early evening (she knows not to call me after nine), and Velma and I often chat on my way to school. I'm so lucky to have a brother and sisters who are not only my siblings, but also my close friends! I'm truly blessed!

Time for my thankful thoughts. I've been thinking a lot of my sweet mom. She was such a generous, loving, and hard-working woman. I've never felt that I could measure up to her. This point was driven home to me the summer that she sewed my wedding dress and I took on the other chores so that she could sew. I fell into bed bone weary every night.
She always made every one of us feel so loved. Going home was pure delight! My post about the election made me think of her beans and cornbread. So I'm thinking of two dishes that she made that I can't replicate, and I'm really hoping that there's food in heaven because I hope my mama has chicken and dumplings and blackberry cobbler ready for me someday! Love to my sweet mama and gratitude for all she taught me!

Time to squeeze in another quick thankful post. On this Veterans Day I think of the sacrifices made by so many to keep our world safe. I'm thankful for every veteran who has served or is currently serving in the military. My daddy was one of those men and women from the greatest generation. He was captured as a prisoner of war and was listed as MIA. My mom says the day she got a letter telling her he was alive was the happiest day of her life.
I learned so much from my dad - how to have an optimistic outlook on life, how to be totally honest (he taught me that an uncancelled stamp had served its purpose and should not be reused), how to work hard, how to enjoy life in many little ways, and how to wake up early and happy every single day!
Thanks for all those great lessons. Dad, I love and miss you so much! -Nubbin
Today I'm thankful for a day off work, a pajama morning, pumpkin chocolate chip bread in the oven, the Today show on the TV, and time to read the paper! Life's little pleasures are the best!
My Tuesday slice of life is all about library love. The short story is I'm thankful for libraries. For the long story, check out the post on my blog.
 Tonight I'm thankful for my book club. I hadn't read the book, but had listened to a bit of it on CD. It's fun to spend an evening with this group even though I hadn't read the book. Some of us have been together since 1998! And before that, I was in a great book club in Houston for about ten years. Some of my happiest memories are the times spent with these book loving friends. I started my firstbook club out of fear. I heard a woman say she hadn't read a book since she'd had kids. As a young mother, I feared turning into a woman like that. So my book club kept me in touch with the world of books and connected me with adult friends who loved to read - books and friends - definitely a winning combination! This thankful post tonight is for all my book loving friends.

Tonight I'm thankful that a parent at our school found his lost son! Turns out the activity bus was just 30 minutes late, but there's something about darkness that arrives way too early in the NW and lost children that scares me to death. It was only a little after five, but already pitch dark. There were just two teachers at school when the dad showed up, but we did our best to check around. Had the student gone to homework center after school? And in the middle of checking, the dad received a phone call from his wife. All was well!

So tired tonight . . . skipped school today to attend a national Social Studies convention right here in Seattle. What am I thankful for? Not my 12 hour day which started at 7 a.m., but for public transportation which got me there and back without having to fight the traffic or the rain. I love riding the bus! And the best bonus - seeing my cousin Darrell Thompson at the World Book booth! He let me eat lots of Tootise Rolls and watched over my very heavy book bag while I walked around the exhibition hall. Don't ask how the book bag got so heavy!

Leaving at 7 a.m. for another day of professional development. I love attending conferences and workshops. Today I'm thankful to be a teacher! I'm so glad the NCSS is in Seattle this year so I can enjoy the conference each day, and come home to my own bed each night.
I wish my beautiful niece, Kara, were here to enjoy the day with me.

Just getting ready to do my post and saw that my brother, Karl and I are on the same wave length. I'm thankful for Sundays, a beautiful day for worship and rest (my Sunday afternoon nap is sacred time at my house). Today we sang, "Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning" and it made me think of Sundays in McAlester branch, the congregation where I grew up. I remembered Edna Wilson, our SS chorister, who always made us memorize the words to the practice hymn, Hazel Duff as my SS teacher, Billie Thompson as my Beehive teacher, Donna Marchant as my seminary teacher, Aunt Edna as my Primary teacher and many more too numerous to mention. Happy times growing up and learning the gospel in that small congregation filled with so many extended family members!

My Tuesday Slice of Life is about my gratitude for newspapers.

Tonight I'm grateful for sixth grade students who are improving every day! Tonight I got to make eight "good news" calls. When a student scores a 100 on a test, they get a good news call at home. It's fun to see the progress they are making. Here's the chant the counselor taught my class this year: "Little by little, bit by bit, we're improving every day!"

Happy Birthday, Lance! Today I'm grateful for my husband who introduced me to so many of the finer things in life - foreign flicks, art museums, Great Courses, Masterpiece Theater and travel. I like to think that our dual personalities complement each other - his sense of humor, my serious nature; his owl tendencies (although less than in the past), my morning lark tendencies; his the glass is half empty outlook, my the glass is half full outlook; his man of few words disposition, my let's talk every issue to death disposition. Our greatest accomplishment - two wonderful young adults (more on them later this week)! He's a great dad! I count myself lucky that I said yes to this giant of a man when he asked me to share his life.

Just finished first shift in the kitchen - poured cranberry salad into the mold (fresh cranberries and oranges), made another pan of cornbread for the dressing, and boiled the yams (peeled and ready for cooking). I love that we share the cooking at our house. Shared tasks make for a fun day for everyone.
Today I'm especially grateful for a mother who was a fantastic cook! I'm trying out a new poetic form, a thanku, that I learned about from Teaching Authors blog. It offers thanks in the form of a haiku with three lines, composed of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables. This thanku honors my mom and the place where I feel closest to her.

I don my apron,
Retrieve treasured recipes,
And feel Mom's presence.

Tonight I'm thankful for leftovers. I love a day with no cooking and good food in the refrigerator.

Tonight I'm thankful for my daughter. Long before she left home, I realized that she was more organized than me, more dedicated than me, more focused than me, and definitely smarter than me. I laugh at students in my classroom who recognize my scattered tendencies and help me out (usually because they have moms who are just like me). Today Sara cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. She knows
just how to take everything out, let me see it, and gently persuade me to release it into the circular file or drop it off at the thrift store. With some extra time coming up at Christmas and no grades due the week after, we might make some real progress around here.
I'm amazed at how efficient she is and how much she can accomplish in a short time. Thanks to her I got lots of grades entered today, we made our turkey sugar cookies (a Thanksgiving tradition), and cleaned the kitchen together several times. How does it get messed up so quickly? I'm grateful for this beautiful daughter who is always so willing to help me, even when she has lots of her own stuff to do. I'm one lucky mom!

Tonight's thank you goes to Ken Burns who teaches us so much history through his documentaries. We've been watching The Dust Bowl, but have enjoyed many of his documentaries through the years. I wish Mama and Daddy could sit and watch it with it us, so we could hear their stories of this time as they experienced it. I do have Mama's story of how they went on the road to pick crops in New Mexico and Colorado and didn't make it home until December. That's how Grandpa was able to buy feed for his cattle that winter when so many lost their cattle.

Tonight I'm thankful for bookstores. That's the short version. If you want to stroll with me down bookstore lane, check out this week's blog post.

Tonight I'm grateful for crisp, fall weather, beautiful sunrises, and the past few days without rain. This morning we enjoyed a walk to QFC to purchase food for holiday baskets, a fun yearly tradition at IMS. It's amazing how fun it can be to shop with sixth graders! They are just learning about unit prices and how to shop for the best value. It was a great morning and they managed to complete the task without purchasing anything for themselves. Way to go, Fantastics!

Tonight I'm thankful for my favorite son! Blake always makes me laugh! When he became much taller than me, he loved to stand in the kitchen, peer over me, and call out, "Where'd you go, Mama?" He likes to shop, but only with a very focused plan. He's not agreeable to an afternoon of browsing, but is always willing to accompany me to Costco, his happy place. Everyone loves Blake and it's fun to be his Mama. I loved making chocolate chip pancakes in his apartment at the Aston and meeting all his law school friends. He's a hard worker, loves people, and enjoys traveling, hotels, and finding the perfect gift. I love his sweet wife, Stefi, and I'm glad that she loves Christmas, cupcakes, and Blake! Blake is super organized. He can call from DC and describe the exact bin where I can locate the item that he wants me to retrieve and mail. He's easy to please, and as long as I can keep making chocolate chip pancakes and chicken casserole, I think he'll keep coming home occasionally. I love to pick up the phone and hear him say, "Mama Bear, what's going on?" And the best news I've gotten recently is when he told me he would be coming home in March. I saw him in September when I went to DC for the National Book Festival, and I've been trying to be stoic about the fact that I probably wouldn't see him again until his graduation in May. For now I'm counting down the days and weeks until I get to see Boo Boo again and looking forward to phone calls from the other Washington.

I can't believe that I've posted my gratitude all month and not one mention of my favorite indulgence - chocolate! My current fave is Ghiradelli intense dark sea salt soiree singles! So thankful they come in singles and go on sale periodically.

I’m thankful for two things today: the newest member of our family, and my friends.
My daughter-in-law, Stefi, is a delightful addition to our family. I love that she adores baking, traditions and blogging! I gave her an apron for the official, “Behnke Woman Welcome.” I simply must love a girl who can cry over sprinkles and baby cupcakes, and chooses to share her life with my adorable son!
I’m also thankful for my friends. I have a favorite quote, from the book, Creeker: A Woman’s Journey by Linda Scott Derosier. “… I have left no one behind. Instead my sense of family has simply expanded to include a lot of folks I have met along life’s way. …Indeed if you are ever in my life, you are always in my life.” And that sums up how I feel about my friends.
I love this time of year when I come home on a dark December evening and open my mailbox to the warmth of “real mail” from friends far and near. I’ll even count your greetings sent over the internet as real mail because I’ll print a copy to put in my red Christmas basket. I like to linger over the cards, the photos, your notes. I often wait until I’ve made a cup of tea to open the envelopes and savor your updates. It’s truly one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.
Finally, thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog who suggested this journey of gratitude and to each of you, my friends and family, for putting up with my daily ramblings.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bookstore Love!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Today I'm thankful for bookstores!
The first bookstore that I frequented was Bill Edward's Bookstore in my hometown of McAlester, OK. It was really more of an office supply, but Bill carried a few books, and since my brother and I loved school supplies too, we spent many a wishful afternoon in Bill's store.
When I married and moved to Tulsa, a favorite Sunday morning activity was watching Lewis Meyer's Bookshelf on TV.  His bookstore was in Brookside, next to the old Brook Theater.  His signature sign-off for the show still rings in my head - "The more books you read, the taller you grow."
When we moved to Houston, I was fortunate to be within walking distance of Half-Price Books, and two wonderful children's bookstores, Munchkin's Mablies and Stop, Look, and Learn.  It was at Stop, Look, and Learn that I met Tomie de Paola, one of my favorite children's writers!
Our next move brought us to the Seattle area and my favorite independent bookstore, Island Books.  I know the owner and most of the booksellers.  Island Books hosted an evening at the bookstore for my former students who shared their genre brochures and ideas for reading by genre with my current sixth graders.  After the event the bookstore carried my student's brochures in the children's section of the bookstore.
When I travel, I love to spend time in bookstores.  I'll never forget the rainy afternoon I spent in Paris at Shakespeare and Company, and my discovery of Blackwell's in Oxford where I spent several hours exploring new (to me) authors in the children's section.
While the internet has made procuring books from the comfort of my home a breeze, I make time to support my local independent bookstore.  It's a treasure that I don't want to lose in my community.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Trio of Thankus!

Thanks to Teaching Authors for inspiring me to write thankus, a thank you note written in haiku form.  

My first thanku, composed on Thanksgiving Day, is written in honor of my mother and the place where I feel closest to her.

I don my apron
Retrieve treasured recipes
And feel Mom's presence.

My second thanku is for Kristin Levine, author of The Lions of Little Rock.

Thank you for Marlee
Who bravely took a stand and
Heard the lions roar. 

My third thanku is for my fellow bloggers from Two Writing Teachers.

Friends in cyberspace
Companions on my journey
Fire my writing soul.

Thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for hosting Poetry Friday Roundup.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Passion for the Newspaper

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Thank you, Stacey, for encouraging me to use the month of November to see with fresh eyes and write daily about the things for which I'm grateful.  It's a wonderful journey.  
I'm beginning to recognize that I'm joining the ranks of the old folks!  When I mention the PWOW (personal word of the week) assignment and suggest that my students find their word in the newspaper, they immediately comment, "Can we find a word in an article on the internet?  We don't take the newspaper."
It saddens me to see the demise of newspapers and yes, I fear that someday they will be a thing of the past.  But for now, I'll cling to my personal love of the printed paper.  
So here's my Facebook post:  "Today I'm thankful for newspapers.  In this age of instant news on the TV, internet, and Twitter, I still like to hold a newspaper in my hands.  I love the act of picking it up from the front porch, taking it out of the plastic bag, discarding the Sports section (a sacrilege for some of you), and laying aside the rest of it to savor later in the day.  I like to follow favorite columnists and stumble across my own serendipitous finds while browsing the daily paper.  I like the travel sections, the living sections, the art scene, the local events, everything except the real news!  And I love the luxury of reading the Sunday paper.  
So while I can, I'll savor this daily ritual of reading a newspaper and hope to delay its demise by my continued subscription."    

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Library Love!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Today I'm thankful for libraries.  I love that this incredible resource is available to everyone.  I think back on my own library history beginning with our public library in McAlester.  I loved walking up its staircase.  It somehow prepared you for the knowledge that you would find once you entered its double doors.  It had high ceilings and the children's section was off to the right.  I can recall the exact shelves where some of my favorite series were shelved - Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew.  I remember summer reading programs - especially the year when each book you read was represented by a brick on a picture of a library.  My friend Dortha and I walked to the library almost daily during the summer.  It was with great sadness that I said goodbye to this magnificent brick edifice when our home town decided to build a new library.  

The new library was modern and close to the high school, but lacked much of the architectural charm of our old library.   Significant libraries in my children's lives were the Looscan branch of the Houston library system and the West University branch of the Harris County system.  When we moved to the Northwest, I was delighted to find our local library was open until 9 in the evening Monday through Thursday.  I love the King County library system.  I visit our branch several times a week since it's on my way home from school.  I often have books on hold to pick up for my classroom.  The bunny sculpture out front with a boy reading a book is a favorite of children.  I love the beautiful blossoms that greet us in the circle drive when spring arrives each year.   More than the physical facility I love the people that work in the libraries.  It's such fun to share favorite books with the librarians and get their recommendations.  I like to invite the librarians into my classroom so my students will recognize familiar faces when they go to the library.    

I'm so grateful for this resource that is available to everyone in our community.  I can't imagine my life without the blessing of a public library!  Take the time this week to thank a librarian for the services they provide for us!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day Memories

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Today I'm thankful for my citizenship in the United States of America and the opportunity to vote.  I have so many memories of election day!
My childhood home in Oklahoma was a polling place for many years, and preparations for election day began many days in advance of the election.  Dad always brought the plywood voting dividers down from the attic, Mom cleaned and cooked frantically, then went to the courthouse to pick up ballots and required materials, the flag was hung from the front porch, the required number of workers arrived to staff the election, and then neighbors arrived to vote.  My mom provided a pot of soup or beans simmering on the stove for the workers.  She took her job as judge quite seriously, and more than once chased away folks who were handing out campaign literature too close to the polling place, and even advised husbands that wives should be allowed to vote in private.  She didn't like it when men told their wives how to vote.  I believe I may have inherited some of her independent nature.
In Washington all votes are now cast by mail-in ballot.  I miss chatting with neighbors as I stand in line, looking for my name in the big book, signing on the dotted line signifying I was there to cast my vote, and proudly wearing the "I voted" sticker.  I remember many polling places.  One very vivid memory was standing in line outside a small residence in Stillwater, OK to vote in my first presidential election in 1976.  Polling places were often my children's elementary schools (Roberts in Houston and West Mercer on Mercer Island).   I frequently took my children with me to vote so I could share this important process with them and sneak in a mini civics lesson.
Our modern age of convenient mail-in ballots leaves me feeling oddly disconnected from the sense of shared community and patriotism that I felt when I cast my ballot in person at the polling place.
What memories come to your mind when you think of election day?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall's Splendor

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

I love fall and always find myself smitten by the colors of the season.  I snapped this  photo on Saturday as I left school after grading papers for several hours.  I quickly phoned a friend and asked her to join me for a walk.  I think that we caught the only hour on Saturday when it wasn't raining (it started to sprinkle as we ended our walk).  She's used to me and indulges me in this quest for perfect fall colors.  In the spring I snap pictures of new growth and blossoms, and in the fall I capture these wondrous bursts of color. 
All the pictures you see here were taken on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday as I walked and soaked up these colors.  Heavy rains and wind may soon whisk the leaves away, but the pictures allow me to revisit the images as often as I like. 

I love the contrast in this picture of the bright green, the red, and blue of the house in the background.


A perfect fall bouquet of orange, yellow and red!

              A friend's home with a burst of orange and the glow of a welcoming lamp!

Monday, October 22, 2012

All in a morning's work!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

3:15 a.m.  Wake up and mind begins churning . . .
Grab the pad beside my bed & empty my mind onto a paper list in hopes of getting back to sleep.
3:45 Decide to get up because mind is still churning and sleep is nowhere in sight.
Pull out late work folder from school bag and begin processing the work.
4:45 Hubby leaves for airport (I don't do airport runs on school days).
Head downstairs for my plan book and grade folder.
Get sidetracked by book review from WSJ, cut out the picture, & rearrange text so it fits on one page (front and back) in preparation for using it for a context vocabulary lesson.
5:15 Phone rings, who is calling at this hour?
It's hubby who has discovered he has no wallet.
Run upstairs to check for wallet on bathroom counter - not there.
Run downstairs to look beside computer -not there.
Ask hubby if it could be in the Prius, "No, I'm in the cab."
But remember, we were in the Prius last night when we went out to dinner.
"It's not in the car, check my black pants."
Run back upstairs to check black pants, not there.
Check bathroom counter again, no wallet.
Check by the bathtub, no wallet.
Wait, there's something on the tile by the closet door!
Your wallet!
Decide to meet at the church, he's a few miles away.
Throw on a bathrobe & my slippers, grab my wallet, my phone, his wallet, and the newspaper (can't bear to wait without something to read).  Did not brush hair or put on lipstick.
Arrive at church, phone hubby, what if I meet you at the Park & Ride?
"No, just stay at the church, but wait on the opposite side from where we usually park."
Change sides, read article in newspaper about historic Columbus Day storm.
Cab pulls into parking lot, I jump out, hand over the wallet, and saunter back to the car.
Superwife to the rescue.
Will he make his flight?
Drive home, head to shower at 5:45.
Good thing I'm easily distracted (the WSJ article) or I would have been in the shower when he called!
And yes, he did make the flight!

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Choose the Next Newbery!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

My students have been chosen as participants in the You Choose the Next Newbery (YCTNN) program.  Librarians from King County Library System (KCLS) selected six titles this past week.  

The YCTNN @ KCLS ballot titles for 2013:

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead
I am so excited with this list.  I've already read The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, and Three Times Lucky (

We discuss these titles in book clubs.  Parents join us as participants in our book clubs.  I love the community connections that are forged by this program.  Students need to read four of the six titles from the list between now and Jan. 12 in order to participate in the online voting offered by KCLS.  I participated in this program with my students in 2010.  It's a great opportunity for students to become familiar with the criteria established by the Newbery Committee and to read books published in 2012 that may be considered for the Newbery Award.  
In order to make the program work for my two classes and 56 students of sixth graders, we need eight titles.  I know that I want to add One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt.  What do you think, fellow bloggers?  Which title do you think we should add to our reading list for next year's Newbery?  If it wins, we'll be sure to mention in the blog that you suggested we add it to our list.  An added bonus for us is that the Newbery winner is announced at the ALA midwinter meeting in January, and this year the meeting is in Seattle.  We'll be listening and hoping that one of our books (or your suggestion) makes the cut!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Counting myself lucky!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

As the last word faded away, I knew I'd discovered another favorite book.  This book by Sheila Turnage soared to the top of my list and landed right beside One for the Murphys in my Newbery hopeful pile!  Anytime I read a book review that sparks my interest, I request the title from KCLS.  By the time it arrives, I'm not sure if it was a fellow blogger, the NYT Book Review, or the indie bookstore newsletter that prompted the request.

Regardless of how I lucked into this book, my first piece of luck was receiving this audio version narrated by Michael Friedman.  It was so fun to hop in the car and follow the adventures of Mo LoBeau and her friend, Dale.   My second piece of luck was finding another great middle grade novel featuring the friendship between a boy and girl who are best friends and "rising sixth graders" to boot.  And my third piece of luck was discovering this writer who captures so well the Southern voice that I was surrounded by growing up in Oklahoma.  The book was set in North Carolina, but the setting could just as easily have been my home state and the small town where I grew up.  Reading this book was like going home for a brief spell!

So find yourself a rocking chair and prepare to fall in love with Mo LoBeau, Dale, Miss Rose, Lavender, Miss Lana, the Colonel, and Tupelo Landing.  Maybe you'll be Three Times Lucky by the time the mystery is solved!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Lois Lowry

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

When I saw Franki Sibberson's post this morning regarding The Giver and the publication of The Son, I realized that I had discovered my slice for today.  My slices are often prompted by things I read from other slicers and writers.

What a gift Lois Lowry is to our world!  I remember finishing Number the Stars on an airplane as tears streamed down my face.  I recall reading The Giver as I stood in an interminable line to get something (driver's license? passport?) after our move to Seattle.  I read The Willoughbys with delight and loved that she wove elements from Victorian stories that so many of us grew up with into this book.  One of my favorite books to read aloud is Gossamer.  There's so much in this book about the power of memory.

I read two biographies of Lois Lowry one year in preparation for modeling how to become the subject of your biography for an oral presentation.  Those biographies prompted me to follow her blog and from that time I was hooked!  Her blog was one of the first blogs that I regularly visited in the blogosphere.

Imagine my delight when she visited Seattle in 2008.  Here's are the notes that I kept from her presentation and shared via email with my colleagues.

  • Notes from Lois Lowry presentation – March 15, 2008 
  • Reconciliation – (one of the great themes) requires coming to terms with something that has made you uncomfortable.  
  • When Lois visited with her dad (who had Alzheimer’s?) and had conveniently forgotten his daughter, Helen, who had died – Lois began to think . . . What if (which is what writers always do) everything bad could be taken out of one’s memory?  What if we could manipulate human memory?  This led to her book The Giver.  
  • She put Gooney Bird in 2nd grade because she never went to 2nd grade.  She went to school knowing how to read and skipped 2nd grade.  
  • Lois is very visual, studied photography and the visual aspect always ties in with her writing.  Many of the covers of her books feature photographs that she has taken.  
  • What character would she most want to have lunch with?  The blind character, the seer in Gathering Blue. 
  • Why does she read poetry each day before she writes?  It gives me a feeling each day of the eloquence and lyrical effect of poetry.  
  • Do you believe that there are different expectations for adult literature and literature for young people?  No!  While there are those who believe that all literature for children should be uplifting and happy, I think children’s literature should be honest about reflecting life.  Reading about things that are different is how we practice and rehearse our own lives.  
  • What tips do you have for the wannabe author?  Focus on the writing, how you love language and how words are put together on the page.  The real way to learn the most about writing is by reading! 
  • (interesting side note – she rarely reads children’s literature.) 
  • Why are your books based on secrets?  Lois thought this was a good question and gave it some thought.  All serious books have secrets, something that is unknown that keeps you turning the pages.  Probably all serious literature deals with secrets.  She said I need to think about this some more.  
  • In responding to a question about current culture (I didn’t get the question down), she replied that writers have to pay attention to today’s world and make things move along.  
  • What advice do you have for young people troubled about today’s world?  We can’t flee a society that is repressive.  Educate yourselves and vote for leaders who will serve us well.  
  • What is the main message that you want to send through your writing?  This question made her cringe because she doesn’t like books with a message.  The thing that is most important is the way we as human beings are responsible for each other and are connected to each other.  It is time to stop thinking of ourselves as alone in the world.  

When I reread these notes, it made me glad that I'm a notetaker and a notekeeper. Unfortunately, the clock beckons and I must end this post and get myself to school.  So look for a future post with more notes about her presentation at the National Book Festival.  

I'll close with this quote from a favorite post about teachers on Lois Lowry's blog. 
“Down those treacherous bright streets and the dark paths today’s children travel, they need our companionship, our respect, our outstretched hands.”

Click here to read her entire post about teachers -