Thursday, September 19, 2019


I've been into listening to podcasts for awhile. Our oldest daughter Kaylee works for Gimlet Media and had us listening to Reply All early on. Now she is the producer for Heavyweight hosted by Jonathan Goldstein who gets involved with a "heavy" situation; like one episode about Skye who was bullied  by her own group of friends in high school and she wants to find out why. The stories are good and I always feel completely drawn in.

I still listen to Heavyweight (their 4th season is about to drop) and I also listen to The Yarn hosted by Travis Jonker, an elementary librarian and Colby Sharp, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire. I love their banter and they interview some of my favorite authors like Kate DiCamillo.  I love Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert because he seems to be talking off the top of his head for most shows. I loved his interview with Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen.  I've listened to Goop's podcast and I spent several road trips listening to many episodes of Oprah's Super Soul Conversations which have the tendency to really move me to tears. I'm not very good at listening to audible books because I lose track of the story line as my mind wanders but podcasts seem to work. My commute is super short though so I have to fit them in at other opportunities like cleaning the house.

Because I listened to so many this summer I decided to make this happen in the library as well. I charged up a small handful of iPods and mini iPads that were gathering dust in my backroom after I'd received an official cart of kid-friendly iPads for student use. I downloaded about 15 kid-friendly podcasts and set up a table station with headphones, iPads, iPods and a charging cord. Students seem excited about it and rush to finish check out so they can get one of the iPods (which are popular b/c at first they thought they were phones). There are so many podcasts for kids out there that talk about books, science, stories, animals, travel adventures, and meditation activities; something for everyone!

Also major kudos to all the students willing to take a stand tomorrow and walk out of school for climate change!  Use your voice. Thanks to Greta Thunburg.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Happy Birthday Baby!

(Upside down in Maryland)
(In Virginia)
My youngest child turns 17 yo tomorrow!  I truly can't believe it. This is her senior year and after that she will fly the coop and I'll have to find new things to do with my time. I've been chasing after her for so many years I won't know what to do with myself.  I mean I will but it just feels so lonesome to contemplate.

(in Central Park)
She has always been full of positive energy with a quick laugh. She also can be brutally hard on herself especially when it comes to her dancing skills. She loves to be in motion, dancing, yet she pushes herself and still never feels like she gets to where she wants to be. I say let it go and enjoy the beauty that is you. She gets a little tired of my ability to spin everything to the positive saccharine. level. Each and every one of us has our quirks and at some point in our lives it's best just to play to your strengths and let go of what isn't working. I wish I could give her a boost of real confidence for her birthday gift so that she would truly believe in her abilities and help her move forward when things are rough. I think it has to do with developing resilience. We could all use a little dose of that right now in our world- that and patience. And those skills take time to develop...

Groovy Girl was a beautiful baby and she is a stunning young woman; I love snuggling with her at any time of the day.  She has always loved baking and creating in the kitchen and now her "concoctions" are delicious Indian dinners that we can devour together. She is thoughtful and insightful, a champion for all kinds of inclusive causes. 

(Look at her beautiful tiny face)

Happy birthday my dear little one!  You are greatly loved and appreciated. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

School Bells are ringing...

My seniors!
As August draws to a close I’m celebrating not only the beautiful summer I had but the new school year that is upon us. The happy small faces filled our clean hallways last week on Backpack Night and you could feel their excitement. Hugs were tossed about like confetti, hellos and high fives passed up and down. They were ready to be back in their routines. Students were happy to announce all the books they read and I had about five former students stop by to say hi and get a quick hug.

Now we’ve had a full week back and it’s been the same excitement level as that first night. Students were thrilled to be in the library, checking out books, and seeing some changes. I purchased a large colorful story carpet from Scholastic, I’ve created a puzzle corner, and added an iPod/iPad corner so students can listen to podcasts. Our TedTalk Wednesdays will begin again next week. Lots to look forward to in the year. There’s a lot of fun mixed with important messages. Our school theme is “Adventure Awaits!” And my library theme is manners. We’ve already had one very telling conversation about cell phone use and how hard it is to get a parents’ attention away from their phone. We’re going to delve into all this deeper as we go about our regular library business. 

Our 5th and 6th graders are soon to begin a collaborative graphic novel project between the library and the art room. We are super excited to start this first time project and the students have no idea yet! Our graphic novel section is popular and I’m thrilled to be able to introduce this project to them. 
What has you excited for the coming year?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Democratic candidates

On Friday I was lucky enough to be able to go to Clear Lake's annual Democratic Wing Ding event which featured almost all of the 2020 hopefuls. We have a Mayor Pete staff member living with us and he encouraged me to go and I brought along two friends.

We spent two hours cheering for our candidate on the street in front of the famous Surf Ballroom.  While Elizabeth Warren's team was the largest and matching in a light sea breeze color t-shirt with some even sporting tutus to match other groups had fun vibes as well. Tulsi Gabbard had drumming and Hawaiian music from her stand, the #YangGang had their math signs, and the Mayor Pete group had an amazing high energy dance crew!  Delaney's group left us all with an unfortunate sadness as they kept driving their large bus up and down the street; waste of gas and energy! 

We have a lot of serious problems here starting with climate change, racial tension, and women's rights.

My favorites:

Mayor Pete - He just sounds so intelligent, self-assured, and knows we need to start over on many issues facing our country today.  We need different not the same old...
Plus he really, really enjoyed the heck out of our state fair! And Pete with Trevor Noah

Kristin Gillibrand - I appreciate that she's been a leader in getting things pushed forward in Washington. She's lead the fight for veterans, gun violence, women's rights, and human rights. I think she is feisty and interesting.

Steve Bullock - This guy reminds me of a Western Montana Kennedy! He was very real and positive about all the change he's been able to make in the RED state of Montana. He was enjoyable to listen to on stage.

Elizabeth Warren - I've liked her for years! She is intelligent, has a lot of history of getting things done, and would make a great president if elected as would everyone else on my list. I especially appreciate when she keeps it positive. I'm tired of people just reminding us how awful DT is; we already know that, really. We want you to tell us about what needs to be done differently in our country. Trevor Noah with Warren

Andrew Yang- he does make so much sense about money. Why are we spending so much money on Amazon and they pay no taxes?  Our downtown and mall stores are closing as we spend more money online and this affects our communities! It's kind of ridiculous. Andrew yang makes sense and I hope someone gives him a cabinet position. Andrew Yang on gun violence

I was not excited by Joe Biden who rambled, John Delaney -too full of himself, Joe Sestak, or Kamala Harris. I know I live in LaLa Land or a big let's get along bubble but I think these Democratic candidates need to get together, decide who is TRULY electable, pick a vice president from the group and then make everyone else (except for my list above) cabinet members/advisors. The good ones all have wonderful ideas and clear paths to getting things done.  Let's move forward by working together.

Who are your favorites? It's time to start looking at the candidates and find out more information. We love to caucus in Iowa but we need to be ready to pick the right candidate, the one who will excite the rest of you to get out and VOTE!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

How is it August already?

This summer is flying by...

Even when I was a young school girl I knew that as soon as August rolled around it wouldn't be long before school started again. I love summer.  I like to have equal time to relax and get things done in a very balanced summer way. This summer I've not had as much downtime as I would have liked. The one day I had time to lay in the hammock and read I broke the hammock trying to get Ruby the dog in with me! Luckily the crash was soft as the tree trunk timbered slowly down and didn't hit me.

I spent my birthday weekend with Groovy Girl, her BFF Katy and Katy's mom, Beth in St. Charles, IA for Hinterland Music Festival. We saw Hozier, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, The Wood Brothers, Jade Bird, Maggie Rogers, and St Paul and the Broken Bones just to literally name a few. I had so much fun listening to music under the sun and the moon.

We camped and thankfully it didn't rain. Camping in the rain is just not fun yet the weekend was super sunny and we all about suffered from heat stroke. Sunday afternoon we took a little break and headed into Winterset for a little lunch and a lot of air conditioning. We found a wonderful Mexican restaurant open and then found the Winterset Cidery where we relaxed with a flight of delicious ciders and a game of cards with the girls. Once we soaked up enough cool air we headed back to the festival to hear the last 4 musical acts. Maggie and Brandi were the last two singers and they were both amazing performers. Brandi is a natural storyteller and I love how she openly shares about her family.

I've had two teacher-librarian meetings this week and have a bunch of projects to work on before school begins.  I'm going to have to cut out my summer naps from now on I guess. I still have a lot of books on my to-read stack (but really - who am I kidding-that stack grows more than it dwindles!)

Happy last weeks of summer..

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wish you were here...

Right now in my kitchen. I'm making lemon poppyseed muffins and I just made a batch of cold brew. The smell is pretty great! I'm listening to India. Arie and the feeling in my kitchen right now is fairly groovy. I also have a wine glass of sparkling crisp apple cider (Loon Juice from 4 Daughters Winery).  It's been a good day.

All the above recipes are from Cookie + Kate, a vegetarian blog that I keep bumping into and finding amazing recipes there. Find the cold brew tutorial and the lemon poppyseed muffin recipes and then poke around her website to find many more delicious things to make!  Her videos and her writing are very professional yet fun. I can feel her personality come through and would love to share a muffin and some cold brew with her on this lovely summer afternoon.

I made myself a very Iowa, summer friendly-brunch this morning and ate it while listening to a tech presentation. That is a (very) fresh egg on sourdough toast with goat cheese and spinach and yes, an ear of corn.

I'm participating in an online tech conference-Teach with Tech Conference 2019 and I love it. I can watch in real time FB videos and comment and ask questions all in my summer pajamas. I can also go back later and re-watch something I've missed. I've learned more about Google, FlipGrid, Bee-Bots, Teaching with Tolerance standard ideas so relevant for today, and how to use Google Earth and Maps to connect my students to the world they live in. It was not expensive ($30) for three days and I have access to the videos for a year. My favorite so far was Gary Gray, a teacher in Singapore at an international school who spoke on using technology to teach social justice. He was an out-of-the-box presenter and I'm sure his students love him.  He has a new YouTube channel-check him out.

Yesterday I drove to Kalona, Iowa en route to Fairfield, IA to meet my husband for an Indian dinner.  Kalona is known for it's creamery and I needed a driving break so I went in and browsed. I ended up with a "calf-sized" ice cream cone of vanilla swirled with expresso and caramel. It was amazing-the creamiest ice cream I've had for years.  It was worth the trip- so was the Indian restaurant.

On a funny note; this morning while reading in my favorite hammock (taking a break from the tech presentations) I tried to pull my dog Ruby in with me and the tree snapped and Ruby and I (pretty gently) landed on the ground.  That is my knee, the tree stump we had it tied to, and the corner of the hammock. Luckily I was not injured in the fall. 
I'm still reading Aru Shah, Brene Brown, Eat to Beat Disease, and Sharon Draper's Blended.

That's all the news from here.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

What a crazy summer!

This feels like the middle of summer; it's hot and the sweet corn is up and being sold on street corners all over the Cedar Valley. I've packed in a lot over the summer but I need a few more slow days reading in the hammock (when it's not a 100 degrees out) and relaxing with friends.  It's been so busy writing hasn't happened as much as I like; I dream up blog posts but they stay there in my mind.

I did make a big batch of yogurt at the beginning of July. Delicious and creamy, mixed with fruit preserves and pumpkin butter it is the best start to my day. When I make it I don't use the cream in the recipe-I just used good quality, local 1% milk. I recently found a easy (two ingredient) coconut yogurt recipe from Minimalist Baker that I want to try for my dairy-free Groovy Girl.

My husband and daughter have been very busy with our summer musical production of Beauty and the Beast. She's had a great time as an ensemble character; she dances, she plays a wolf, Maria, the baker's wife, and a townsperson.  It has been quite a run, with sold out performances, and today the run is done so life might be a tiny bit quieter. (maybe)

I have made it to yoga more than a handful of times which was on my summer plan. I've recently read several articles talking about the importance of meditation on our brain.  It's a matter of settling our brain from 5-50 minutes; the more we let it rest, the better our mind functions. It makes sense of course just like sleep for our bodies. I've added that to my day even if it is just 5 minutes of quiet breathing in the car before I get out.

I've read quite a few great books already and I still have a full basket to go. Every summer I bring home a crate of books to read. Some are books that students loved and it's my turn to try them and some are books I read to pre-choose the Iowa Children's Choice Awards. I love doing this as I like to make sure there are a lot of well-rounded choices; books with diversity, books that take kids out of their small-town Iowa world, books that expand their minds, books that tell amazing stories.  I've read a few that fit this description:

1. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan - As a Pakistani-Muslim girl in American Amina struggles to mix her family's culture while blending in at school. Luckily she does have one true friend in Soojin who seems more adept at understanding people.  This is a rich story filled with family, food, and new beginnings but also devastating vandalism of her beloved mosque.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is from her brother Mustafa - "It's just so freaking unfair. What kind of person would want to destroy a place where people gather to pray and learn?"  My thoughts exactly.

2. Bob by Wendy Mass - This story is a bit of magical realism more than fantasy to me. Livy and her mom come back to visit her grandmother in Australia 5 years after their last visit. When Livy explores her mother's old room and the room she stayed in when she was little she finds a young greenish creature named Bob in her closet.  Bob remembers everything from her last visit but Livy struggles with these same memories. She makes it her duty to figure out how to get Bob home (wherever that might be?) while her mother is off visiting old friends for a week.  I had trouble getting into this story yet I liked the conclusion of Bob's story.

3. Merci Suarez changes gears by Meg Medina - This excellent title won the Newberry medal this year!  This story resonates with her family's rich family culture as Merci navigates her private school surroundings as a scholarship culture. Eventually she learns that if she stays true to herself all will work out. Her grandfather plays a large role in her life and his world is changing as he ages and this affects the whole family as they learn to deal with his aging mind.

4. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed - Amal lives in Pakistan with her family and she loves going to school and being in her village. Her only dream is to become a teacher. One day she has a heated encounter with her village's horrible landlord and her dreams are quickly disrupted as she learns what it means to have an enemy. I loved this story and learned a great deal about Pakistani culture. I hope she is working on a second book of Amal so we can see if she realizes her dreams.

5. Aru Shah and the end of time by Roshani Chokshi - I'm only about 5 chapters in but am in love with this fast-paced fantasy book about spunky Aru who has awakened a demon in her mom's Indian museum.  This is one from Rick Riordan's new imprint and it is excellent.

I've also read Helen Hoang's two books; perfect, quick summer reads and sexy-not for the prudish. These are modern day romance novels even though the covers do not feature bodice-ripping of any kind. I like the characters which feature people on the autism spectrum. I read this fantastic Washington Post article about Hoang and her desire to write romance novels.  Very sweet, super sexy, and I will read every book she puts out...

How is your summer?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July!

I'm not a fan of our flag yet I am a happy to have the right to voice my opinions about our country and it's love of symbols. While I'm spouting off about unpopular concepts I am also not a fan of fireworks-especially the kind sold in every parking lot across America leading up to this holiday. They are loud and intrusive and dangerous.

I didn't come here just to complain about holidays though; I thought I'd share some of my top books. Litsy, the book site I play with other than Goodreads, has a thing right now to post your top reads from January to June and these are mine. All excellent reads if you are in need of a new summer title.

I've had some time to enjoy real summer days after my trip to Colorado and yesterday I spent a couple hours reading on our patio. I also was in my pajamas until about 1pm. It rocked. I even had a friend show up with lunch and a cold coffee brew and I stayed in my pajamas.  It's a joy to unwind and take a break. I am taking one class right now about gender and while it is a lot of work to type out the papers I am enjoying the readings that go with the class.  

Take it easy today, remember what our country should stand for and that it has been GREAT for many, many years and spend time with family and friends. Be careful with your fireworks and be kind to the environment~it's the only one we have.