Thursday, October 27, 2011


I had planned to take a step back from writing for a few days because I am hosting my first Scholastic Book Fair as the school librarian this week.

But my husband's grandmother passed away early this week, so we are dealing with that on top of the other busy-ness of life. So, I will be away from the blog for a few days, but for different reasons than I had originally planned.

This year has been so hard. In our household, we have lost my husband's two grandmothers (the only grandparents he has had for the last 20 years) and my father (the only parent I've had for 20 years - and my grandparents have been gone for 20 years, too). 

I have a friend who lost her mother a few weeks after Dad died. Her mom was a friend of mine, too.

Another friend, who is RVing around the country with his family this year, lost his father unexpectedly this summer.

Another friend lost his grandfather this summer, and his wife lost her grandmother a couple months later.

Dad's college roommate and his wife came and did Dad's service for me in June. This summer, the wife's mother passed away and a few weeks ago their oldest grandchild died after an illness.

I know death is inescapable - it is a part of the course of life. In my experience, though, at times it really bunches up. Loss after loss after loss. I often find myself looking Heavenward and asking, "Really? Now? Again? Couldn't You have waited a little longer?"

So, I'll be away for a few days, unless the urge to write is too strong.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading Levels

It's no secret to people who know me or follow me on Facebook or Twitter that I am a fanatic when it comes to books, especially books for kids.

I recently signed up for a reading instruction class online through the American Library Association. I didn't expect it to be as much work as it is, or to enjoy it as much as I have.

Our primary tasks were to research one method of teaching reading and to practice different leveling methods. This last one has been the most fascinating part of the whole process.

I had no idea there were so many ways to level a piece of reading material! Our school uses Accelerated Reader and I have come to appreciate it in part because it puts our whole school on the same page regarding reading. We all have a common language that enables us to talk about helping our students improve their reading skills.

For my online class, though, I have sampled a variety of methods. For one, I had to pick some passages in a book and count how many 3+syllable words were in the passage. I used Rick Riordan's new book, The Son of Neptune because my students have been asking what its level will be for AR, but it is too new to be leveled yet. This first method - based on the passages I chose - came up with 7.1, or seventh grade, first month.

The AR system has a few ways for you to get a rough level estimate, so I tried that with the same book. I had to type in three 150-word passages and estimate the number of words in the entire book. It came up with a 5.9 level.

Our other assignments were to level a kid's magazine passage and a kids website. While it might have been self-serving, I did the latter on my own reviews of kids books. I got a reading level of 8th grade. (Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to blogging!) We also noted that publishers will list their own opinion on the back of books.

All this got me wondering how "regular" parents, who don't read kids books - or read about kids books - 85+% of the time,  help their kids choose books that will be a good fit for age and maturity.

So, parents, chime in! How do you help your kids choose books?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite Places - part 3

It seems odd, but "potential" plays a big part in my favorite places. I already mentioned that in regard to bookstores and libraries. I also love craft stores. I love thinking about all the projects that could be made with those supplies!

We have a needlework store about 45 minutes from the house. I don't go there often, but when I do, I love to linger. The shop models make me want to stitch 24/7. I spin the display racks and try to remember what I already own but haven't had time to make yet. I think about people in my life and how they would love this or that.

We used to have a couple scrapbooking stores in the area, but we are down to one shop from a large chain. Again, it is 45 minutes away, so I don't go there often. But when I do, the sample projects inspire me - to buy as well as to create. I think about cards I could make or scrapbooks. I think about papers my students would enjoy if I put them on a clipboard for school.

I will visit our local chains for quick fixes or for cheaper supplies/better deals. The most tempting for me is the fabric shop. For a person who hasn't used a sewing machine since the 7th grade, I buy an awful lot of fabric. It inspires me. I want to look at it and touch it and imagine it making something useful like a dress or a quilt.

While I haven't had much time to be crafty in the last year or two, the desire is still there. Walking into a craft store tugs at that part of me. Seeing rows of supplies or patterns or bolts of fabric makes me think of all the potential creations, potential gifts that could be made. My fingers itch to create something.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Favorite Places - Part 2

In the last year or so, we have done some redesign to our bedroom. We reconfigured the furniture, added some shelves, replaced our comforter. 

Now, our bedroom is one of my favorite places to relax. I'd rather work on the checkbook there than at the table. It's a comfortable setting for a not-so-fun chore.

I love to open the blinds in the summer and read or just hang out in the room in the natural light. On quiet days, my son and I would both hang out there, enjoying the sun, snuggled on the bed reading. 

It has become a sanctuary of peace, and it is one of my favorite places.

What are some of your favorite places?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Favorite places - part 1

This week's writing prompt is about three favorite places. I am going to write about one each day.

1) Library/book store - I know, I talk about books ALL the time! But I love them. I can't help it. I love walking through the library to see what's new. I love wandering the shelves and discovering a little gem I would never have known to even look for. I love the freedom of checking things out knowing I can just return them if I don't like them. 

I love the potential in a book store or a library - the stories, the information, the ideas that are waiting to be discovered. I love the peacefulness I usually find in those places.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How you see me

Writing prompt - How do you think people see you? How do you want people to see you? How does God see you?

This one was hard for me. I have no idea how others see me. I'm often afraid people see me as someone who talks too much, someone who takes charge too much, and someone who doesn't let others in very easily.

I want people to see me as compassionate, competent, and approachable. 

I think God sees me as a flawed child who wants to get everything right but rarely does.

So, how would YOU answer these questions?

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Writing prompt - What does marriage mean to you?

To me, marriage is forever. Marriage is companionship, commitment, and sacrifice. Marriage is putting someone else's needs before your own. Marriage is partnership. Marriage is communication, especially about your expectations. Marriage is ups and downs. Marriage is hard work and great bliss. Marriage is being known. 

So, what does marriage mean to YOU?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Happy List

Today's writing prompt is - 10 things that make you happy and why?

1. My son - He's an interesting boy with a lot of interests and great conversational skills. I love talking with him and hearing what is on his mind.
2. My husband - I enjoy talking with him and spending time together.
3. Kindergarteners - In general, I am not a "fan" of young children. I thought my son's kindergarten class was okay, but once he moved on, I was ready to leave kindergarten behind. This year I have two kindergarten classes that come to the library and I adore them. They make me smile. They are fun, excited about things going on in their lives, and they want to read books.
4. My work - I can't imagine what this fall would have been like if I hadn't had this new job to throw myself into. I look forward to going to school every day, eager to see my students.
5. Book release Tuesdays - I love going to the bookstore on Tuesdays and checking out new books. I keep track of when new books are coming out and I love to see those books in person.
6. The Green Bay Packers - I love cheering for my Packers every week!
7. Talking to people about books - I love when kids come into our library and tell me what they thought of the book they read. I love talking to strangers in the bookstore about books. I love talking with the tweens at church about favorite series like Harry Potter or 39 Clues or Mysterious Benedict Society or Heroes of Olympus.
8. New cross stitch magazines - Honestly, I love most crafting magazines - quilting, card making, scrapbooking, etc., - but cross stitch is my current favorite. 
9. Psych - Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster are my favorite fellas on television. I love watching them banter on TV and reading about them in paperbacks. The gang from Big Bang Theory are a close second.
10. Laughing with family and friends - I spent a lunch hour at school the other day laughing. We laughed about 80s fashion and things we did as kids. It felt great. Fellowship and laughter make me happy.

So, what makes YOU happy?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Another writing prompt today - What did you want to be as a child? How does that fit with the person you are today?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. 

I always thought I would be a teacher. I hit a snag in those plans in college, and went a different direction. Here I am, though, almost 20 years later, and I am teaching. So, I feel like, in a way, I came back full circle, although not in any way I ever considered as a kid.

I wonder why it never occurred to me as a child to be a librarian. I have always been a book freak yet "librarian" was never a primary plan for me. I do wonder if my university had a library program when I knew I wouldn't be a music teacher if I would have put 2 and 2 together and tried a library career.

During the book festival I attended recently, I was reminded that I said I wanted to be an illustrator for awhile when I was a kid - maybe even an author, too. I wonder, though, if I really wanted that sort of job or if I just liked using the word "illustrator" in conversation.

What did you want to be? How did those aspirations work out for you?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

10 Things

I've got another writing prompt for today - What are 10 things you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

Wow! The end of the year is less than 3 months away! I can't say I will be sad to see 2011 move behind me. This has been a cruel year.

Okay - 10 things

1. Add at least 30 new books to the school library's catalog and shelves.
2. Clean and organize my house so that I feel like I could have someone over without embarrassment.
3. Hold a book fair at least as successful as last year.
4. Clean out the magazine box of "new" magazines I haven't gotten around to reading.
5. Clean off crafting table.
6. Move scrapbook albums into new shelves (which means the new shelves have to be built)
7. Finish a cross stitch project started already
8. Organize enough of my work to be able to take most of Christmas break "off."
9. Finish a book on my Nook
10. Survive the rest of the year's estate activities for Dad.

So, what 10 things (or 5 things or 3 things) do you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Children's Literature Festival

A couple weeks ago I was able to attend a free Children's Literature Festival. It was a great event and I left inspired.

Two sessions were led by Bryan Collier, the illustrator of books like Martin's Big Words and Dave the Potter. Mr. Collier is also an author. I loved listening to him talk about art, about history and about his research process.

April Pulley Sayre also did a session about non-fiction picture books that was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. She had a great sense of humor.

I hadn't planned to buy any books at the festival, but after each of the authors spoke, I just had to have something they created for our school library or my personal library.

The fourth session was about book collecting, which wasn't as good of a fit for me but it was cool to see some of the books from the local rare book collection. 

The whole thing renewed my desire to some day attend the National Book Festival in Washington DC. I love the idea of being surrounded by books and other people who love books as much as I do.