Tuesday, September 16, 2014

{sols} a good busy

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

9:44 pm
I know my mom and dad are waiting to read this.

You see, we touch base quite often.  (But probably not as often as my mom hopes.)  Email, phone calls, texts, and yes, slices.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.  As this Tuesday moves ahead, they are probably wondering why I haven't written yet.

9:46 pm
I am, Mom and Dad.  I'm here.  I'm finally writing.  Life is just extra busy this time of year.  When school begins again, so does every other activity, sport, and extracurricular.

There was a trip this weekend to the apple orchard.  Two words:  Honey. Crisp. Yum.  But did you also know that a trip to the apple orchard cost just under $75 for a family of four.  I continued to tell myself it was for the experience ... and memories.  I can't put a price on that.

And there was a trip to the doctor too.  M.'s cold eventually turned into an ear infection.  Two nights of complaining and I made an appointment.  Thankfully she hasn't acted sick, except for Friday night when her and her sister had a sleep over with Uncle Scott and Aunt Jen and she said, "This is a bad sleepover."  That's not usually like her.  Bad attitude explained.

And then it's treat day tomorrow at school.  Once a month we celebrate the birthdays for that month.  This year we've added a theme to each celebration.  "All about Apples" is our theme!  Perfect timing!  I went a little crazy with the Pinterest recipes.  I've even been baking and mixing and making some yummy apple creations.

And then there was tiny tikes gymnastics tonight.  Watching my four year old girls gracefully control their bodies can be quite amusing.  A little laughter is good for the soul, but probably not at the expense of my girls!  But they are too cute stretching and jumping and swinging and balancing.

9:59 pm
So, Mom and Dad, sorry I missed our talk this weekend.  Sorry I haven't responded to your texts.  But I hope this slice brings you some ease that life is good, just always, always busy.  {Hugs to you and Dad!}

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

{sols} seeds of writing

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

Seeds of writing possibilities await
as I cannot settle on a story to share.

Attending the Garth Brooks opening night concert in Chicago
The September storm that whipped through the northwest suburbs
Trees ripped, branches rested on power lines, leaves scattered
Twenty hours of power loss and the gain of imagination play
A lantern lit peanut butter and honey sandwich dinner
A cold and cough means up in the middle of the night
Holding, caring, loving with all the patience required
Rushing and late, trying to get out the door in a hurry
Yelling and then feeling the guilt because she doesn't feel well
Frightened to learn about this new virus
Wondering if she has this one and praying for her health
Too tired after five days of a busy life to cultivate an idea 

Each possibility a story to share, 
but today they sit and wait as seeds of writing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

{sols} worries

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

I snuck downstairs to change out the laundry.  The girls were upstairs playing dress up.  Tiaras, capes, dresses, and fancy plastic shoes.  I was enjoying a minute of quiet time, thinking to myself, worrying about the week to come, when M. quietly walked into the laundry room dressed to attend a princess ball.

"Mom.  Can I share something with you?" She asked.

I smiled to her as these were not the usual words from a four year old, but it was sweetness to my ears.

"Of course, M.," I responded and continued to fold the warm clothes.

"I don't want to die forever," she told me.

I wondered to myself,  "Where in the world did this come from?" as I quickly flipped through my internal files about "How to respond to the fear of dying."

I stopped folding the clothes and kneeled down right in front of her.  I turned to God for the answers.

"I know that dying seems scary.  I don't want you to worry about dying.  God is in control.  Remember that we are only here on Earth as people for a short time, but if you believe in Jesus, if you let him into your heart, we will be in heaven together forever ... "

Just as I was feeling solid about my response and was going to say more, M. interrupted.

"Mom, when is Daddy going to show us that flying helicopter?"

I looked to where she was pointing and realized her worry was gone.  She had moved on, but for that slight moment I was able to share with her about Jesus.

I hate to see my baby girls worry.  Especially worry about something that they have no control over.  Hmmm... I'm guessing that's how God feels about me and my worries.  I need to do a little more trusting and have more faith in His plans.  It's time for me to move on too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

{sols} old but new

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

I picked up the girls after school.  I asked them about their day, but P. only wanted to know one thing.

"Mommy, did you wash the clothes?"

I know exactly what clothes she is talking about.  The hand-me-down clothes the girls picked out from friends from our old church.  They generously shared two large boxes of clothes in just-the-right-size for the girls.  The other night, after the girls were in bed, I dumped out the boxes and scanned the possibilities.

Most of the articles of clothing were not my style for the girls.  In addition, my girls are currently on a "let's dress alike" kick.  I wasn't buying two of everything.  I wanted them to have some choice. In our house, we said, "similar, but different."  Perhaps the same shirt, but one in pink and one in purple.  That's what I was going for, and then mornings came with tears.  Now, every morning (for more than two years), P. picks out her clothes and M. picks exactly the same thing.

There were no duplicates in the boxes.  So I picked out a couple items that I kind of liked or I thought were perfect to add to the dress up box and set them to the side.  Our friends mentioned that we could donate the clothes that we did not want.

The next day, the box was set to go for donation.  Until two little curious pairs of hands opened up the boxes.  The girls did their own shopping.  P. loved a colorful dress while M. picked out a cute skirt with sparkles.  The girls continued to pull out shirts, skirts, dresses, sandals until they filled a laundry basket with choices of their own liking.

And they were okay with different.  Maybe this is what I needed to help them be their own little person.  I was pleasantly surprised with the old hand-me-downs.

Today she wanted those "new" clothes.

"Oh, honey.  I was at school all day too.  I wasn't home to wash any laundry," I explained when M. jumped into the conversation.

"What do you think that Mommy's an octopus?"

I laughed out loud at her very smart comment.  And yes, some days I wish that I was an octopus!

"We can wash your new clothes tonight," I told them, imagining what I'd look like as an octopus and all that could get accomplished ...


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

{sols} deep breath

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

This is a deep breath kind of moment.

Just a day before a new year begins.
Anticipation of the what's to come.

Smiling faces walking through the school doors.
A fresh start.  To begin again a year older.

Brand new clothes and shoes and backpack and supplies.
A missing tooth grin.  Fancy hairdo.  Looking too cute.

Excited to be with friends in a new class with a new teacher.
Nervous about the newness of it all.  Ready to start.

Me? I'm ready to foster new and old relationships.
To show them I care.  Wanting to make the difference.

To read and write and laugh together.
To laugh and write and read together.

Take risks, dare greatly, show some grit.
Learn from each other.  Make mistakes and push on. 

Butterflies of excitement of what is to come.
Just a day before a new year begins.

This is a deep breath kind of moment.

And I can't wait until Wednesday.  {Smiles.}

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

{sols} last days of summer

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

The last days of summer are almost here.
Soon it will be time to trade in ...

Late sleepy mornings
Busy but no-rush days
Vacations away
Play at new neighborhood parks
Swimming lessons
Trips to the library
Grandma time
Bike rides around town
Craft and project days
Movie nights in the living room
Catching fire flies
Later bedtimes

For all the back-to-school routines ...

Earlier wake ups
Lights on, rise and shine
"Let's go!" mornings
Quick hugs-n-kisses drop off
Long, long days apart
Dreaming about summer ways
Missing the small moments
Thinking about our time
Rushing home for pick up
Squeezing what we can
In the late hours of the evening
Before early to bed, again

Until next week, we'll enjoy our time together.
The last days of summer are almost here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Possibilities #pb10for10

Check out other favorite Picture Book Lists at

Every year that I have participated in the #pb10for10 -- sharing ten (yes, only ten!) picture books that I could not live without in my classroom -- I usually shared my here-are-my-now-favorite ten picture books.  My lists had some standby solid favorites sprinkled with a few newer titles.  Never once had I thought about a theme like many of the other smart picture book lovers that were sharing.  This year I thought I would stand my ground and share my right now favorites.

And then I got to thinking a little more.

Oh, the possibilities ...


What Do You Do with an Idea?
1.  Possibility of IDEA:  
What Do You Do With an Idea? 
by Kobi Yamada

Love the possibilities of ideas that grow! A gift of nurturing your dreams, being unsure to share, watching them grow!  Just a beautiful story accompanied by gorgeous illustrations.  Let the ideas flourish!  Something I want to encourage in my children and my students.

2.  Possibility of WONDER:
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert EinsteinOn a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein 
by Jennifer Berne

An important book to encourage children to never stop asking questions, wonder, think, and asking more questions about all things BiG and small.  Kids already have this natural curiosity and we need to continue to foster and encourage that wonder and questioning in the classrooms.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend3.  Possibility of IMAGINATION:
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend 
by Dan Santat

Everyone needs a friend, even an imaginary friend is looking for a friend.  Beekle courageously sets out to find his perfect match to do the unimaginable.  Loved all the imagination that Dan Santat used in creating this book.  (Fabulous illustrations!)  And Beekle is just too adorable!

4.  Possibility of HOPE:
Fly Away HomeFly Away Home by Eve Bunting

This is one book that has stayed on my list.  A touching story about a father and son living in an airport trying to live unnoticed.  This story is full of hope and a future beyond the glass doors of the airport, especially after the boy watches a trapped bird is freed.  It's sure to allow for many questions and wonderings.

The Invisible Boy5.  Possibility of KINDNESS:
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

This is one story that will never, ever be forgotten.  A heartprint book. (Oh, that would have been a great idea for a book list!) A story that needs to be shared in every classroom.  No one wants to feel invisible, especially Brian.  Yet, there are many students that feel invisible even in our own classrooms.  This is one story that tells about the power of one little, "Hello." The words and illustrations work together beautifully to tell the story about the invisible boy.

6.  Possibility of OPPORTUNITY:
Each KindnessEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Another heartprint book.  A perfect pair with The Invisible Boy.  We all know a Maya.  The new girl who wanted to be invisible because of Chloe and her friends.  Chloe wasn't an outright bully, but little things like ignoring, whispering, laughing still hurt.  A lot.  However, Chloe learned a BIG lesson about kindness, but after it was too late.  (A powerful activity to see and remember the scars of bullying: The Crumpled Paper.)

The Lion and the Bird

7. Possibility of FRIENDSHIP:
The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

I was taken by surprise by this book.  The simplicity of the text.  The unlikely friendship between the lion and the bird.  The lion's kindness.  The hope of goodness.  The soft, beautiful illustrations. So much to enjoy in this book.

8. Possibility of JUSTICE:
The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Quit 
by Drew Daywalt

If only the crayons could talk!  This book holds so many possibilities!  Every crayon shares a frustration with crayon box owner Duncan. And they are just not happy.  Quite amusing to read from their point of view.  Laugh out loud funny.  (A great mentor text too!)

Bear Has a Story to Tell
9.  Possibility of STORY:
Bear Has a Story to Tell 
by Philip C. Stead

Not your average bear book -- and there are a lot of bear books out there!  A story about Bear who is so sweet, so kind, so patient, so willing to help his little animal friends prepare for winter, even when he wants to tell his story before everyone is asleep ...

10.  Possibility of POSSIBILITIES:
The Most Magnificent ThingThe Most Magnificent Thing 
by Ashley Spires

All the possibilities are held in the creation of the most magnificent thing.  The struggles, the in-betweens, the wanting to give up, the sticking-with-it, the triumphs ... This books holds the power of teaching creativity and perseverance -- and even a little lesson about making mistakes. The perfect book for the perfect time - and I love that the main character is a girl!

*After thought:  I was amazed after compiling this list that the illustrations play such a crucial role in the power of a picture book story. (I know that's why they call it a picture book, but not all picture books were created equal.)  Almost every one of the titles I added to my POSSIBILITIES list was included because of the words and complimentary (and usually beautiful) illustrations. 

Oh, the POSSIBILITIES picture books bring into our lives.  
Enjoy ALL the possibilities today!

My previous #pb10for10 {non-thematic} selections:
2013                    2012                    2011


Be sure to check out other favorite #pb10for10 picture books at
On Twitter: #pb10for10

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

{sols} solo shopping

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

These days I never make the time to shop.  With two four year olds, slow-pace-easy-shopping is rare.  Let's just say I do plenty of online shopping.

However, today the girls and I took the fifteen minute drive to our local IKEA.  The girls have been asking to go to the play land.  Every time we shop at IKEA (again, rare), there is a long line of kids waiting.  We end up shopping together as a family.  Well, the quick version due to endless whining, "I wanna go home!" 

I thought we'd try visiting during the week when maybe it wasn't as busy.  We were sort of right: there was a wait to get into the play land, but only 15 minutes.  We sat.  We waited. We people watched.  And then finally the girls' names were called.  Shoes kicked off.  Kisses on the cheek goodbye.  And they were off and playing.

It felt strange leaving them, but I turned around acting like all was okay.   I was on the search for a few baskets, picture frames, and a lamp.  I walked away reminding myself that I n-e-v-e-r shop by myself, enjoy it.

Except, I didn't know what to do.  I wandered endlessly in this large store.  Usually, I'm eyeing cute (or practical) items for home or for school.  Filling my cart with stuff that I don't really need as my hubby rolls his eyes.

Not today. Nothing caught my eye.  Nothing stopped me for another look.  Nothing placed in my cart.

Instead, I continuously checked the time on my phone.  Waiting for my free hour to be up.  And I realized that I forgot how to solo shop. (My hubby was happy with the free shopping trip.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

{sols} similar, but different

Slice of Life hosted at the
Join in and share a slice of your life.

"Similar, but different."

We have always said that about our twin daughters all their life (all four years of it!).  In so many ways, they are similar, yet they are still very different.  That's what I love about them.  They each have their own unique qualities that make them who they are.  I want them to be their own person.  We encourage them to be their own person.

This year we started swim lessons.  P. was terrified of the water.  M. wanted to jump right in.  P. is more comfortable in the water now, and M. is more careful (she's worried about swallowing water).  P. has taken a liking to swimming and is progressing in her lessons.  This week her swim teacher wanted her to use a lighter yellow flotation device.  M. enjoys lessons, but is still building her swimming muscle memory and strength.  She was sad when she couldn't use the same new yellow flotation device as her sister.

I had to explain in four year old words why she was still using the blue flotation and why P. was using the yellow flotation.  I had to wipe away tears.  I had to encourage her to keep practicing and build those swimming muscles so that she could use the yellow flotation.  I had to remind her that they each have their strengths and they aren't the same at everything.  I had to remind her that the other little girls in the class were still using the blue flotation.  

I had to tell her that she couldn't use the same flotation as her sister, yet.  

That little word yet is so important in our house.  I want my daughters to have a growth mindset and the belief that they can do anything they put their mind to -- and not be fixed into thinking they can't do something.  With time and practice and belief, they can do anything!

So ...  Two days of tears.  Two days of lots and lots of encouragement.  Two days of convincing her to use the blue flotation.  Two days of pep talks to get her into the pool. 

We'll get through this and she will eventually be ready for the yellow flotation. 

However, my next fear?  That P. will advance to the next level of swim lessons, but M. will not!  (Yet.)

"Similar, but different."  And that's okay.   We all need the constant reminders.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild - Part 3 Link-Up

Scroll to the bottom of this post and 
share your specific blog URL using the InLinkz link.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This summer a big (really BIG!) group of educators and wild readers are devouring Donalyn Miller's newest book.   I am participating and co-hosting this year's #cyberPD event about cultivating wild readers in our classrooms.  Please join us as we read and discuss online:

Reading in the Wild: 
The Book Whisperer's Keys to 
Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits 
by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley

You can participate in the #cyberPD conversations this week too:
  • Share your thinking on your blog about chapters 5 and the appendices.  Then share your specific url link right here at Literacy Learning Zone. Scroll to the bottom of this post and share your specific blog URL using the InLinkz link.
  • No blog?  Leave your thoughts in the host's comment section on the blog.
  • Easily read through a compilation of all the #cyberPD posts on the                     Reading in the Wild #cyberPD 2014 Jog the Web

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"Dedicating time to read, self-selecting books, building relationships with other readers, making reading plans, and developing their own reading preferences, our students feel empowered and capable enough to continue reading away from school.  Their reading lives belong to them, and they don't need us.
They are wild readers now." (Miller, p.193)

My Thoughts and Reflections/Implications in My Classroom
As a wild reader, I think I know my preferences pretty well as a reader.  I know my likes (fiction/picture books/nonfiction PD) and why, my dislikes (nonfiction/science fiction), my preferences (genre/authors I love/series -- if the first book hooked me), and even my book gaps (transitional chapter books/middle grade).  As far as favorite books?  I agreed with this wild reader: "...it's often what I have recently read that stays vivid" (p.165).  Usually, my favorite book is that last book that I loved. I have many favorites, but I don't always remember why -- except that I loved it.  The story, the characters, the writing moved me and stayed with me for a long, long time.

I have been known to say (many times): "Here!  Read this!  I loved it.  Read it!"  Never mind the fact that I don't provide a preview stack or allow any choice.  I just shoved a favorite book of mine into the hands of a reader without a reason why beyond my feelings book love.  However, "we cannot let our personal reading preferences become biases that limit students' reading" (p.167).  Yikes!  This is an easy trap to fall into!  (And I'm guilty of it!!!)

SOLUTION: Continue to read widely because "reading advisors ... know a lot about books that appeal to all types of readers" (p.167).

Conversations with students need to also include discussions about reading preferences and knowing that our preferences can change over the course of a year and a lifetime of reading. This was a big aha: "Asking students to examine and share their reading preferences created a reflective opportunity that celebrated their reading accomplishments and growth" (p.166).  I can honestly say that I have never looked deeply at preferences before -- I'm usually just happy that my developing readers are reading!   

But talking, determining preferences, and being explicit about what readers prefer needs to be known by the reader too.  I think most developing readers have little knowledge about what they like and why or what they prefer to read.  However, "preferences are not always informed opinions" (p.167).  Yes, so true.  The majority of my reading conversations with developing readers are very similar to the vague generalizations examples provided (p.167-168).  I believed the readers to be reading, but in reality, these preferences really told me my students' haven't read much.

SOLUTION: Continue listening when students share about books and learn to carefully dig deeper.  Learn about their likes and dislikes.  Provide books that meet their interests.  Stretch readers beyond their comfort zone.  No more vague responses!

I appreciated how Donalyn went deeper into the power of hooking readers on graphic novels and the important role they play in our classrooms.  There definitely needs to be more discussions in our schools and classrooms about how graphic novels can support all readers.  In addition, Donalyn's explanation of why and how nonfiction reading changes through school was eye opening.  "As with any other type of text, we must look for meaningful ways to incorporate nonfiction material in our classrooms if we want children to read more of it" (p.179).  Yes, this just makes sense!  

SOLUTION: Because nonfiction is one of my areas of avoidance, I need to challenge myself to incorporate the activities suggested on pages 180-181 to increase students' nonfiction reading skills, access, and motivation for reading it.  Oh, and I need to read more nonfiction too!

The entire "Reading Habits Conference" section in my wild reading book is tagged and marked up.  Conferring isn't easy, but Donalyn's clear examples and suggestions were eye opening.  I know that I need to make my record keeping work for me noting what I see and hear about various reading habits: preferences, engagement, record keeping, commitment, and self-selection.  I will definitely be returning back to this section again and again throughout the school year.

I'm still thinking about the forms provided in the appendices.  Working with primary students, many of these forms would be overwhelming and take away from the real meaning of the sharing on the forms.  However, I do believe many of the forms can be created as anchor charts to document the reading life of the classroom.

SOLUTION:  Using a gradual release of responsibility approach, I can model and explain the genre graph and then enlist the students to help with our classroom record keeping.  The reading habits reflections can be used more as interview questions and conversation starters when conferring with readers.  Very usable forms, but more scaffolding and modeling will be necessary for my K-5 developing readers to reflect and think like a reader!

I loved these two minimal changes Donalyn suggested that make a BIG impact:  students keep reading while Donalyn reviews and jots notes about the student's reading notebook and changing the term student/name to reader and writer.  Love it!  (Easy too!)

Donalyn just gets it.  And now our mission continues:  Together let's nurture wild readers!

"Who knew, Mrs. Miller? Who knew that reading would be something I was good at?  Teary-eyed, I gave her a squeeze: 'I knew, Allison, I always knew. 
And now you know it, too. (p.197)

As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share your voice!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The #cyberPD conversation is not over!
Join us on July 30th @ 7 PM (CST) Twitter Chat with Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks)

Read.  Reflect.  Share.  Respond to others.  Then repeat.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Click "Add your Link" button below to share the specific blog URL for your #cyberPD 
Reading in the Wild - Part 3 reflections.