Saturday, December 27, 2014

#celebratelu Game Day

You know the feeling.
Kids feel it on the eve of the first day of school,
Teachers get year after year, on the eve of the first day of school.
It's a butterfly-like excited,
Yet unsure of what is yet unknown feeling.
It's filled with anticipation, hopes, dreams, and yes,

Kids get it on Christmas Eve,
And on the Eve of their birthday,
Even if they are confident they have been good,
That their gifts will be plentiful.
It's the nervousness singers, musicians, actors feel
As the show is about to begin,
It's the anticipation athletes, their coaches, and even their fans feel
As they prepare for the big game.

I suspect the feeling is amplified
If you've worked for months or even years,
Stitching together a framework,
Honing skills,
Practicing songs, moves, plays,
Building resources,
Solving problems along the way.

I've got it,
The bride-to-be has it.
The groom-to-be has it.
The flower girls have it.
Their moms and dads have it.
The long awaited game-day is finally here.
We have a lot to celebrate.
 That butterfly-like excited,
Yet unsure of what is yet unknown feeling
Is just perfect this morning.
It's filled with anticipation, hopes, dreams, and yes,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TIs the Season Spelling Quiz from Google,

'Tis the season!
I still have 2 papers to grade and the pressure is on to also prepare for Christmas, but like my students, I have been known to "escape" to some computer surfing as I settle into this final phase of the semester. 
Clicking on this morning's Google image takes you to this "Tis the Season" spelling quiz! 
Back to grading, now. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Elkonin Boxes

We learn from our students if we are listening and reflecting! One of my grad students shared this FABULOUS link for DIY Elkonin boxes!
Check it out!

@grammarly A gift that keeps coming and coming

This weekend is a busy one for most of us.  I'm nestled between my stacks of grad school papers, bags of unwrapped presents, glancing at the tree awaiting decorations, and praying my mother is better this morning; so, my guilty pleasure is hopping over to Twitter-Facebook-Amazon when I log on to post grades! 

The folks over (up?) at Grammarly have also been busy this weekend! Every time I check my Twitter feed, they have posted something witty and worthy!  It's a "free" gift that keeps coming and coming.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Almost Forgotten Pre Holiday Post" Keep Calm and Enjoy the Show

During the bombing of England,
Way back in WWII,
Someone in Barter Books of Alnwick 
Created the now famous poster
Keep Calm and Carry On
While they were not Churchill's words,
The strong spirit was attributed to him.

Back during that week of untold excitement,
Back when a much anticipated holiday break was near,
Back when I was so busy I forgot to finish / post this,
Back when Hanukkah, Christmas, Pageants, Parties, Concerts
Excitement filled the air,
There were many, many concerts
Attended by many, many doting parents, adoring grandparents, 
Loving aunties and caring cousins,
There were many, many calm students on the stages 
Waiting patiently for their parents to finish 
Their cell-phone-photo-capturing of the moment.

I watched and reflected, 
Of concerts attended long ago, 
Of standing on both sides of the stage.
I wondered, hoped and prayed
The throngs of fans would heel Churchill's spirit:
I hoped they would let their anxious offspring sing,
I wondered if I should call out,
"Keep Calm, and Enjoy the Show."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#sol2014 I thought about Finkelstein's

We drove past Finkelstein's on Sunday.
It was not the grand building that lives in my memory, 
but, it still took my breath away.  
I used to love going to the dentist, 
despite that awful drill and the pungent smells, 
because it meant a coveted trip to the library 
(across the street).

I thought about the dusty shelves in Finkelstein's
as a reluctant reader told me how much he enjoyed   
Red Fox and His Canoe
I hesitantly introduced the classic easy reader last week
aware that it's depiction of Native American's was cliche.
He read it again and again this weekend,
a predictable tale of a bear 
who learns that more is not always better
reminding me that books, in spite of cultural differences,
reflect timeless messages.

I thought about the dusty shelves in Finkelstein's
as an avid reader told me how much she enjoyed   
I probably wouldn't have picked this graphic novel it for her
aware of it's topic and depiction of 
how our society responds to those who are different.
Yet she devoured it's message that we can
overcome challenges and find joy,
 imploring me to pick up another children's book,
making me think of those dusty shelves in Finkelstein's,again.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#celebrately2014 It will come without packages, boxes or bags.

This week, I could feel the stress building in the kids as the immense potential for food, family, time and gifts associated with Hanukkah, Christmas and a looming two week vacation converged in their minds. 

I could feel it in the office and hallways as my colleagues bemoaned the need to file report cards, shop for gifts, clean homes, bake cookies, and prepare end of the year budgets converged into the reality of the date.

I could feel it in my grad students as they begged for one more day to finish an end of the semester looming assignment.

I could feel it in my family as the reality of shopping, packing, and preparing for a major-life event seemed to get closer and closer every hour.

I could feel it in my heart when I realized I needed to do a time-consuming alteration (because I had rushed even though I know better) and when I decided I was the only person in North America without a tree or decorations (just kidding, I know I am not and I know that I feel this feeling every year). 

So today, even though I should be cleaning, shopping, sewing, and decorating, I am taking a moment to write and reflect.  Today, I am celebrating what I know in my heart, the words Dr. Seuss so powerfully penned:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

I am 100% sure that the Theodore's central message generalizes to Hanukkah, holiday events, unfinished craft projects, unfinished baking, and even weddings; however, we all need to remind ourselves of this (at 15 minute intervals) in the days ahead! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pinterst Worthy Trees from the IRA

IRA staff are feeling festive and crafty! How do you like our Pinterest-inspired project?
Sometimes, I think, "I dislike Pinterest."  All those ideas.  All those images of perfection in homes, sewing, crafting.  All that comparison to my less than crafty, even if full and wonderful life.  All those images that settle in my heart and head.  All those images that I cannot fulfill.  All those projects that if I ever have time I certainly won't have the money to do.

Yet, this morning, there is an image from the International Reading Association.  Yes, the MOTHER SHIP of literacy specialists posted this image.

My bah-humbug self cannot help but smile.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

#sol2014 The offering from Nordstrom

"I was in Nordstrom's picking up my dress and I saw this potential dress," I began cautiously knowing that even if the Fashionist sitting in the chair was a bit frail, she still had STRONG points of view about clothes! I purposely did not pull it out of the bag.  Instead, I waited for her response (knowing full well the potential of wait time to soften a response)!

"It has to be a good dress or I won't go.  I know just what I want.  I want long sleeves, all the way to here (points to wrist) but they cannot be tight.  They can't be all loosey-goosey either.  You know, with those sleeves like you have that make you look like you have thunder-thighs on you arms," she said confidently as if she had long ago decided my own propensity towards loose sleeves was a plan to make my arms look more flabby.

Meanwhile, my mind was racing.  How long WERE those sleeves? How loose were they?

"I am not shopping on that computer like you suggested either, so don't bother to go get it.  I want to see and feel and try things on to see what I look like," she added.  I haven't bought a dress in years!" she said sadly. "You got me that blue polka dotted dress for your father's funeral and I got rid of that a long time ago."

"I want a good-for-me neckline, not a low cut plunging one. I do not want to look like an ol' prude either.  I am not wearing pants or a pants-suit like Hillary Clinton!  I want a dress that is easy to put on without raising my arms above my head. I want a color that will make me look alive, but no red.  I'd really like it to be blue like this (pointing to a nearby blanket).   I'm not going to be able to wear heels, so the dress must cover my shoes, but it can't be dragging 'cause I don't want to trip on it. I'm not going looking like I'm old but I do not want to look like a lady of the evening either!" she said sternly.  "I really want to get out and look for dresses myself because, don't take this the wrong way, but you really are not a stylish dresser."

But," she added sadly, "I can't walk that far so I am not going to the mall. Where is this Nordstrom place of yours?"  

I listened to her requests, smiling to myself as I thought about the dress in the bag.  It was aqua blue, not sky blue, and I thought it might even be comfortable, but I wasn't sure I was even going to open the bag at this point.  Then, my mind raced to how I would hypothetically do a Google search for a dress with her requirements!   I suspect too many moments passed as my mind raced and I prepared, at least mentally, to exit with my potential offering.

"So, are you going to show it to me?"she asked.

I slowly pulled it in all its aqua loveliness from the bag.

"That is not going to work," she responded confidently. "Those sleeves, the top, they are all wrong."

I slowly returned the aqua Nordstrom offering to its bag,

"I'll try it on tomorrow," she said confidently, "when I am less tired."

"Ok," I said, surprised, but not surprised at the same time.  Meanwhile, my mind was wondering aabout how many trips to Nordstroms were in my immediate future?  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

You develop fluency and speed in reading by reading, not timing.

This morning, I read this series of tweets.  
I am with TCRWP
I don't focus on "fluency" 
as I teach.
I teach 
TO the fluency obstacles
(laborious word ID, syntax, phrasing, meaning)
Fluency comes with strategic teaching
and lots of meaningful reading practice.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

#celebratelu: I Celebrate Advent

Long ago, when my kids were young and the the hype-stress-frantic pace of the holiday season got out of hand, I put four candles on a plate and surrounded it with some greens from the shrubs in front of my house. It was not fancy, the candles were the wrong colors, but it worked magic, in my home, refocusing our energies on the season (such as fighting over whose turn it was to snuff out the candles) rather than on its "accouterments."  For some magical reason, it didn't matter that the house was not decorated (it wasn't, it's not) or that the presents weren't wrapped (or even purchased, not now either) or that the tree was not purchased or up (it wasn't, it's not) or that there were still papers to be graded (there were, there are), if the wreath was found (it was always found, but sometimes we started with a substitute wreath or candle).  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were busy days spent on the road and filled with family celebrations.  Usually, although not always, our tree was up by then and the presents were wrapped ready to go.  But in our little house, in the weeks leading up the the main event, our nuclear family prepared by lighting our mismatched candles of Advent whenever we were lucky enough to be together.   

Over time, there were some magnificent wreaths gracing our table, with three fresh purple and one pink candles (the way it is supposed to be).  To be real, most years, like this year, Advent sneaks up on me and I am filling in with whatever candles, in whatever colors, in whatever level of freshness happen to be in the house!  

Fortunately, I've realized that the colors, length and freshness of the candles as well as the "realness" of the greens really doesn't matter at all.  It it the opportunity to take a few minutes each day to say a prayer, make a wish (even when you don't see a shooting star) and to prepare my heart.

My perfectly good, even if totally imperfect (like me) wreath.
(This year, it's three old reddish brown candles,
and one faded, light green candle,
nestled in a recycled "faux" wreath!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Old School Ideas: Holiday Greeting Cards

I was doing a bit of morning "reading" over on Twitter when I found the link to a Grammarly blog article about abandoning paper holiday cards in favor of digital greetings.

The "old school" part of me is a bit nostalgic about those cards. I never just "did" them, I found personally connected cards that people would KNOW were from ME, like the "Dr. Suess, Grinch inspired ones I found last year.  If I cared enough to SEND a card, I included a NOTE with highlights of my life and family. Truth be told. sometimes, those cards went out after Christmas.  Sometimes (most of the time) I focused on the "good times" rather than our struggles when I shared our family news.

Yet, I still, even as an adult, love to go through my mom's basket of cards to "catch up" on my friends's parents (from the growing up era of my life) I still get a bit excited when a card, with its unique squarish shape, shows up in the mail rather than the usual proliferation of rectangle shaped bills and junk. 

Yet, I know the practice is "old school" for sure and in this era of vibrant social media, most of my "friends" already are more connected than I could have ever imagined!  Going to the post office is a CHORE and buying stamps is EXPENSIVE.  So, I certainly see the handwriting on the wall on this one (pun intended).  I guess that we'll all soon be moving away from this old school holiday ritual.  Part of me will feel relived and grateful that I can focus on parts of this holiday season that are most important (like giving of time and energy). Still, a part of me will feel sad about the loss of that time of reflection and connection. Somehow, posting your family photo on Facebook will never be the same!   

However, in an acceptance of 21st Century living, perhaps, then, we should COLLECT those cards and save them.  Someday, they might be valuable vestiges of American culture, antiques, and collectibles?   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Signs: A Single Shooting Star

I was headed home, late, thinking about the full, but very good day. In school, one of my students jumped "two levels" indicating he is starting to read texts with more than one line of print per page!  My mother is finally taking/responding to her medicine and is "back."  I was infused with "hugs and kisses" after an evening with nieces.  In my head, I was planning the remaining hour of the day before heading to bed.  Then, straight ahead, out over the water, a single shooting star moved at lightning speed across the sky.
(picture from Google images

At first, I was not sure what I had witnessed.  Was I dreaming?  Had I fallen asleep at the wheel?  No, the truth was, sure as could be, I had seen a shooting star descend from the heavens and sweep across the darkened winter sky above the reservoir.

I've written about signs before (about a year ago).  Tonight's sign took my breath away.  It was the first time I had ever seen this sight.  Yet, I've read enough stories about them to know I had just a few minutes to decide on a wish.  

The brief battle that ensued inside my head was intense.  How do you choose the one thing you need/want the most? Do I make a wish for the world, such as for resolution of the racial/cultural strains that permeate the news?  Do I think "smaller" and wish for health for family/friends?  Relief from financial strains? Happiness for those I love? Peaceful settlements to one of many disputes?  Diet successes? A book to be published?  Jobs for those I care about?

I think my heart was pounding.  My mind raced to the tale told long ago by the Brothers Grimm about about the fisherman and his greedy wife  What if I were greedy?  What if I wasted my wish? It might be a long, long time before I ever saw such as sight again.  In fact, this opportunity might never come by my way again!  I had to make my "wish" the right one!  It seemed like minutes; yet I suspect it was merely moments when my thoughts crystallized and I verbalized to the dark December sky a prayer of gratitude mixed with a single wish!

As I headed home, I sighed, audibly, thinking about how HARD it was to make a single wish when there is SO much at stake.

Monday, December 1, 2014

#sol2014: Thankful: Even for that snow?

Last week, a snowy storm blew up the east coast after days of unusually mild weather.

Many of us, left our homes Wednesday morning watching a balmy 45 degree day drop to freezing temps and a raging storm.

Many of us were not really thankful for the slip-slidey-white stuff that descended making driving difficult and shopping unlikely.

Many of us, did "without" stops for holiday goodies (we did without seltzer here) in order to get home safely.

Many of us were grateful we had already picked up a turkey ahead of the No'Easter that blew up the coast.

Many of us did without power on Wednesday and Thursday as well while dedicated power magicians from near and far worked on dangling lines.

Many of us found it necessary to find boots and gloves, attach plows and locate shovels in order to make the old family homestead accessible.

Yet, if you look at the heavy, pack-able snow that fell unexpectedly last week, there was some magic associated with it as well.

Men resorted to playing in that white stuff as if they were boys.

Dogs reverted to their puppy-like behaviors.

Children abandoned their warm homes to make snow-people of great magnitude.

Afterwards, those with two legs who had consumed too much tryptophan, those with two and with four legs who had played hard in the snow, performed that age old Thanksgiving ritual: they fell sound asleep!