Sunday, October 21, 2018

It's the perfect weather for reading

I'm a summer kind of girl but I love much about spring and fall as well. I always hope for a bit of Indian Summer to hold me over so I'm a bit sad that we've jumped head first into winter-like weather. First, it rained a lot (way too much for fall) and the fall leaves are suffering (and the farmers). It's been very windy this weekend. Our rivers and lakes have flooded across bike paths and over roads which pushes people from their homes.


The only silver lining is staying inside and reading.  I finished The Maze Runner, which has been on my to-read list for years.  I really enjoyed it and am very curious about the next one in the series. James Dashner created a unique and weird dystopian world and I'm invested to know more about the maze and how it all came into being.  I want to watch the movie and I brought the second book home from school.  It's waiting, taunting me, but I have other books to read first.


One of my best readers at school showed me the book Hideout by Watt Key and told me he wanted me to read it when he finished. Last week he gave it to me and I promised to read it within the month. I actually skipped reading my book club book, Pachinko, to read Hideout. In my life, one thing leads to another all the time and now I want to read all of Watt Key's books. This one tells the story of Sam and how he finds a young boy, Davey while motoring his small boat around the bayou. Davey is living in a rundown shack and waiting for his dad and brother to join him. Sam agrees to help him fix up the shack and bring him supplies because it all seems like a great adventure until things become real. Sam discovers more than he needs to know about Davey's family and who they really are and once in it is difficult to get back out. I'll be happy to hand this book back to my student and help him find more of Key's books.


I started reading Jewell Parker Rhodes new book Ghost Boy, which tells the story of young Jerome as he navigates the world after being shot by a police officer in Chicago. It's a sad beautifully-told tale and I want students at my school to read it even though it is about a difficult topic. While it is sad the real message is; it's up to us to make real change. In my recent Social Justice class we discussed the importance of elementary students being aware of the real world around them. This book not only deals with death and grief but poverty, bullying, and the historical context of young black men as targets starting with Emmett Till.  I've read all of Rhodes' other titles starting with Ninth Ward (Hurricane Katrina) and Towers Falling (911).  She does an amazing job of bringing these tough topics to elementary students through her well-written books.


I just started Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, which I received as a gift when I went to hear Woodson speak at the Englert Theatre. She was amazing to listen to and I would love to have lunch with her. I'm only two chapters in so I'll give you the back blurb for this one:

Six kids. One school year. A room to talk...
Once there were six of us.
We circled around each other, and listened.
Or maybe what matters most is that we were heard. 

I hope you are giving yourself plenty of time to read this fall.  I have to head outside to breathe the crisp air and get my bones moving often as well. Our new dog Ruby loves to romp in the leaves and run freely in the green space across the street. It is a joy to watch her play outside which helps to balance how I feel about her chewing habits.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Beautiful October...

Greetings! I've had this blog post milling about in my head since October 1st and I just didn't take the time to get it down in this format. It seems that is a tough leap to make for me some months.  The ideas are there yet they stay swirling around in my head. I'm making a promise to myself to do better; my goal for the month.

This month I took a class entitled It takes a Family from the Safe Schools Academy. The coursework was great and doable and part of one assignment was video chronicling an LGBT celebration at a Quaker school in New York. What a different world we would live in if every school could celebrate diversity this way. There are other classes I want to take from this group including one, On Wednesdays we wear pink: understanding the politics of girl world. Each class is only one graduate credit yet the interesting social justice issues are more relevant than many other grad credits. Each class I take leads me to something else, some other big moment in my constant life-long learner journey.


This video by Courtney Ferrell popped up while watching the Quaker school celebration.  I want to pass it along because it is just how I feel about empowering young woman. We all need to "Girl Up" ourselves so we can pass that deep love on to others in our families and community. But we can't just "Girl Up"; we also have to Man Up because we cannot leave our young men behind allowing them to think they can make disrespectful decisions just because they are young, drunk, or just didn't know better. It's up to us to teach them to be an important connection in our community. We need to hold hands with other women to create change for ourselves. We also need to connect with men in a deeper way as well so we can be our allies.  What an amazing world we could live in if women and men learned to work together for the greater good-like real solutions for climate change instead of the male-dominated world we now try to exist in.  And it's important to always have some mad money tucked in our bra just in case...

No disservice to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at all because what she did was very brave but the girls of today need to speak up right away. Tell someone. This situation would look very different if Ford had shared this story with one adult or mentor. So women of today speak out to one adult, your roommate, someone at school so the facts are there. In this instance, the current administration wasn't looking for a real solution but if one woman did have it on record of Kavanaugh's behaviour his career would have looked very different.

This morning I shared the video with Groovy Girl and her response was "I know all that and it isn't easy"-I agree but you have to keep trying.  Here's another Courtney Ferrell TedTalk to keep you motivated and energized. I like how she empowers one person from the audience by bringing them into her space on stage. Have some kind of creative day today!



Sunday, September 30, 2018

Small thoughts

It's cold and rainy here and I miss summer already. I am taking another class which I thought would be easy to fit in but there is more to it and the homework takes a lot of deep thinking. Just like my summer classes though it will push me to be a better teacher.


It is taking me forever to finish Stephen King's 11/23/62 time-alternating look at Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination. I feel like I've been reading it for months now, really just August and September.  Luckily I found a DVD at the public library of the series which helped me when it came time to discuss at book club but I was committed to still finishing the book.  The series with James Franco was very good and I highly recommend it as I do the book-if you don't want to read an 849-page book though feel free to check out the series. It does stream on Hulu as well.

I have a lot of elementary fiction I need to get back to though as my students are serious readers and are constantly recommending books to me. I have stacks of new books from Follett that I want to bring home and read so I need to finish and move on.


I'm in shock that tomorrow the calendar turns to October, that it is already cold here, and that I have a pumpkin decorating my table. My mindset is still back in the hot days of August. At least we have baseball for a few more weeks. And we have the Cubs!

I've watched bits and pieces of the Kavanaugh hearings and am disgusted that he is still very much considered to be a great candidate for our most important court of the land. What a joke. Although when we consider that Trump is not too far from Kavanaugh's privileged and ridiculous behavior than it all makes some sort of reverse universe sense. If women have any pull in the universe this man will be done and we won't hear any more from him. Watching the hearings should give us all pause in that we are being led by many old white men set in their chauvinistic ways. We need more women, more young people, more people of varying shades of color.  Pasty old men need to go.  Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley-be gone.
And what if in time we can time-travel back to change all of this ala Stephen King-what and how would we change it?

That's my rant for the weekend. Drink more tea, take care of yourself as the weather changes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

School is in full swing and I'm spinning just a bit...

We have a new schedule this year and it makes my head spin just a little. We went from a 6-day cycle to a 4-day cycle. This means classes of students rotate into the library (or art, P.E. & music) every 4 days.  Because they are rotating quicker my days are filled with 7 classes almost every day, leaving very little prep time or time to work on library projects like processing new books.  The elementary school where I work has the most students in the district and to create balance I have two other librarians with smaller populations who come to my school for equity purposes; one teaches a solo class of kindergartners, the other teaches two afternoons of k, 1st, and 2nd grades, which does give me time to work independently sometimes.

Seeing students more frequently gives me the opportunity to explore new avenues with them. I've gone back to reading chapter books aloud. I'm reading The Map Trap by Andrew Clements to 3rd grade, Wish by Barbara O'Connor to 4th grade, Liberty by Kirby Larson to 5th grade, and Horizon by Scott Westerfeld to 6th grade.  We have book discussions and still have time to do a short lesson on a skill plus check out books. I'm enjoying my time with students and implementing some of the ideas from my summer classes- a lot of which involves bringing more JOY to their day.

The great downfall is that we've built a fantastic set of readers at my school.  They use the library when they finish a book, not waiting until their next library time, to find their next great read. I love that kids are pumped about reading. My first few days of school were filled with writing down recommendations from students of books they'd read over the summer and want to have here.  You say "what's the downfall in all that?" Well, it has two sides; I spend a good portion of my day helping students find books and checking them out in our system because I've raised readers! - usually, this is during times when I'm supposed to be planning or eating lunch so my day gets all mixed up and I miss those days when I'd only have 3-4 classes with breaks in between to get work done. I feel a little more rushed at certain parts of the day and more laid back while students in our library space. It's an adjustment and I'm adjusting.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading List 2018

I managed to do quite a bit of reading this summer and as we just turned the calendar page from August to September I'd love to share what I read.


June:

1. A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler - okay
2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan -interesting locale, predictable story
3. Real Friends by Shannon Hale - beautiful and brilliant graphic novel
4. The self-driven child: the science and sense of giving your kids more control by William Stixrud - excellent advice, easy to read
5. Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha - odd, kids may like it
6. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade - loved it and I'm going to her workshop
7. The adventures of a girl called Bicycle by Christina Uss - cool adventure
8. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova - loved it!


July:

9. The honest truth by Dan Gemeinhart - loved it as much as I loved Some kind of courage by Gemeinhart
10. The tea girl of hummingbird lane by Lisa See - really interesting story
11. The Formative Five by Thomas Hoerr -school work yet interesting
12. The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper -surprisingly good for a beginning chapter book, plus a shout out to libraries!
13. Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon - Interesting story, a major surprise, and a strong female character
14. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson -school work and I learned a lot
15. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm - great, emotional story

August:


16. All Rise for the honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Conner -loved it
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - excellent story
18. Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai - wonderful story to help anyone understand the conflict in Syria
19. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson - quirky mystery with a look at the past
20. Horizon by Scott Westerfield - twisted sci-fi and I'm now reading it to 6th-grade students


20 books in one summer is great even with all the homework I did. Hopefully, you might find something here that will appeal to your own reading tastes.







Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jason Mraz


Last weekend I took my husband to a Jason Mraz concert for our anniversary. It was simply fantastic! He and his band put on a show filled with love and joy and had us swaying our arms and dancing in our aisles. Mraz's band plus Raining Jane, an all-female foursome of talented musician/singers made it really vibrant! His opening band, Brett Dennen, was new to us and we loved his relaxed Southern California vibe. The whole night was meant to fill us up and bring us "Good Vibes" and it certainly accomplished that for both of us and the hundreds of others sitting outside with us.

{Chris Schorn Photos}

Here is a little Mraz playlist and Brett Dennen via Spotify for you to enjoy.

With all that love flowing around us it was hard to watch one woman one row ahead of us who spent the concert alternately flipping through Facebook posts and videotaping whole segments of the show and then listening to them right after. Peace, love, happiness and all that; I know she has the right to watch the show in her own way. It was distracting and annoying and yet just a small blip of an otherwise magical show. We left singing and smiling...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back to school


The end of school vacation is here. {try not to sob} 

Summer remains-I prefer a long summer. This summer was the busiest I've had in a long time. Two grad classes to spark my imagination and recreate my classroom and two lovely vacations to relax my brain and prepare for the year ahead. I'm ready to celebrate more JOY at school and at home. I've finally fallen head first back into my yoga practice and feel ready to keep that going every day with intention.  Today as I practiced my mind took me back to Loon Lake in Northern Minnesota. A perfectly calm place to be.


Groovy Girl is back at the dance thing and we'll spend 4 nights at the studio each week. We've picked up a small batch of school supplies here and there. Today she managed to choose a new backpack (difficult b/c of ALL the choices) but she prefers to wait until her classes begin to see what she really needs. I'm freaked out about the need for a $180.00 graphing calculator...?   I'm also shocked that my baby is a junior in high school and my firstborn is about to graduate from college! My - how time flies. It seems like yesterday that I was rocking my way through library grad school with a 6-year-old and a baby. And now I'm in my 16th year of teaching.


This past week I've made new binders for myself, got a little organized, mentally prepared my brain, and made a new batch of my homemade salsa.  My mom has huge batches of tomatoes and I wanted to remind myself of all the steps so I did it alone one night this week; chopping onions, banana peppers, jalapenos, and skinning 20 cups of hot tomatoes while listening to music. It was magic in motion and a whirlwind of hot, spicy, and a few tears shed to get to the final-6 jars of salsa!


I made a simple dinner tonight with farmers market fare and I've had a lovely glass of pinot noir. I ate an amazing dark chocolate bar with blackberry sage and I shared with G, J, and K. In a few minutes, I'm going off to do a little bedtime yoga. This year is going to fly by and I want it to begin (and end) with flare. Are you ready for school?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Slow August Day in Fertile

{Cloth napkins-YES!}
We had an lovely vacation getaway in Northern Minnesota the past long week. It was spectacular and I have many stories to tell but on the way home, we stopped at an amazing restaurant, Cafe Mir, in the small town of Fertile, IA. Honestly, I'd never heard of Fertile before today. Now I'm a fan and I will be back. I was impressed that they have their own small public library.

My mom's garden provides swiss chard to the chef and they use sustainable, local ingredients when possible. Not hard to do when you're in Iowa; we have so much produce and organic farmers raising sustainable meat. While many restaurants are on this bandwagon not always is the food as amazing as the concept. Everything we ordered was delicious. There were 5 of us and we ordered a sauteed eggplant dish as a starter, and as meals, we had a pork and beef lasagna, a braised leg of lamb, Hrbek's ribeye steak, and a wood-fired Margherita pizza for Groovy Girl. I had a "cornucopia salad for dinner, the lighter eater that I am, which is roasted sweet corn, feta, mixed hot and sweet peppers, cilantro, and lime.  It was such a refreshing combination and a perfect amount. We had rhubarb pie for dessert and they make their own fresh bread as well. 

{rhubarb pie}
The table was interesting with a lot of mismatched glasses, plates, and bowls giving it an authentic old farmhouse appeal. Also, they used real cotton napkins which just warmed my heart. I don't know when I'm going to take the time to drive an hour and a half north to dine again at Cafe Mir but I know there are other treats on the menu I want to try. Road trip anyone...?  I'm also curious to see what they will change seasonally. 

{unassuming front of Cafe Mir}
After being on vacation I am realizing that my need for real food, homecooked, slow-cooked grub plus my natural inclination to eat small meals is often confounding to people. I just like to know where my food comes from and I've purposely spoiled myself. I like real greens not iceberg lettuce in a salad. Why bother? I'm not a meat eater and I prefer small batches of food compared to large platefuls. I'm not trying to be a pain; I just like what I like.