Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Ideas - part one

Just a few holiday ideas for you! If you are looking for book recommendations, check out my Bring on the Books blog entry for November 29th.

Today I want to focus on some Lego options. 

One of the best "decorations" I bought for my new job as an elementary librarian was the Lego Brick Calendar. The bricks are pre-printed with date numbers and months. Each month you re-assemble the calendar to reflect the new month. I thought that my students would get used to it after a couple months, but four months into the school year I am still getting comments from my kids each week about the calendar.

Along the same line, Lego puts out an Advent Calendar each year. We are itching to crack ours open - the Star Wars one - on Thursday this week.

Finally, stores like Walmart and Target - as well as The Lego Store - often have small bagged Lego sets for sale this time of year. These, as well as the mini-figure packages, make great stocking stuffers.

Come back Thursday for some more holiday gift ideas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cherish and Be Thankful

Tis the season for thankfulness. I'm going to take a blogging break to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be back after Thanksgiving with some holiday gift recommendations in case you are looking for some ideas. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lead Me to Rest (part 2)

Last week, I caught myself saying, "It's been a bad week." This wasn't at all true, though. I had one bad day last week. Just one. It was a doozy, but it was only one day. The rest of the days were pretty good, if not great. Why did I keep saying it was a bad week? 

It's easy to let the dark moments overtake the good times. It's too easy to let one bad day - or one bad moment - corrupt the days around it. I had to keep reminding myself that every time I did that, I gave that one day way too much power.

I mentioned on Tuesday that I spent a recent Saturday at a Sabbath event. The point of the day was to rest and to reconnect with ourselves and with God. And I did that, not by engaging in the wonderful experiences the planners spent weeks designing but by curling up in a chair and writing, writing, writing. It was something I easily could have done at home. But I wouldn't have. I hadn't. I needed to put the time in my schedule. I needed to set aside the time and walk away from my to do lists in order to do something my soul desperately needed.

In the course of my writing, writing, writing, I realized something about this year - this crummy, sad, grief- and stress-filled year.

It hasn't all been bad. Yes, the bad parts have been deeply disturbing. But there have been a lot of great moments in there, too. I started to think of those great moments as "Sabbath." This fall I started a job that has kept me running harder than I have for a job in a very long time. And I have loved it more than anything I have ever done in my life. This job is an emotional Sabbath from the grief of this year.

Every December I put together a huge poster of pictures from the year. I have it printed up with the year and then "A Year to Remember." I've had a hard time thinking very positively about that poster for this year. 2011 will always be the year of 3 major family deaths in 9 months. How could I possibly find 10 pictures to celebrate this year, much less 30?

But there is plenty to celebrate this year. Plenty of joys to off-set the pain. I'm trying to see those moments as gifts from the Lord. Times of rest to help me reflect, recharge and refocus before dealing with whatever comes next. I am so thankful for that gift of Sabbath.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lead Me to Rest (part 1)

The Women's Ministry group at church planned a Saturday Sabbath event recently. We have been so disconnected from church this year as we have been away so much, I felt like it would be a good way to reconnect.

But I had to wonder about the wisdom of taking four hours away from my to do list. My house is a mess. I have piles on top of my piles. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. Up until I locked the house behind me, I wasn't 100% sure I would go. I finally decided that it was because of my mess and my piles and the trials of this year that I needed to go. And I'm so glad I did.

The ladies who planned the event did a really nice job of creating a guided experience for the day. There were multiple stations that participants could walk through at their own pace and in their own order. Some stations were visual while others were tactile or auditory. It was well designed. And I ignored every part of it.

Honestly, I just needed a good chunk of time away from my piles and my to dos and my distractions to process life. I needed time to journal and put my churning thoughts down on paper so I could get a handle on them. I needed quiet. I'm starting to wonder if this sort of personal time needs to be just as much a part of my to do list as household chores and work tasks.

I'll write a little more about my Sabbath experience later this week.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bad Book Seller

I learned at my recent school book fair that I am a bad book seller. Here are my reasons:

1) I told families not to buy a certain series if they did not care for books like Harry Potter.

2) I told families who weren't sure about a particular book - or its price - to try it from the public library instead.

3) When one father choked on the $30 price tag for Wonderstruck, especially when I explained that one of the two story lines is told completely in gorgeous illustrations (something I thought made the book kind of cool), I told him I was buying a copy for the library, so his daughter would be able to just check it out from there.

4) I could not generate enough enthusiasm about a couple of my preview books to sell any of them. Of the 8 or so that I read and shared with my students, two of them did not click for me. I told my kids about them, but I know my heart wasn't in it. I did sell a couple copies of the picture book anyway, but NOT ONE copy of the chapter book. The sad thing is, the story is fine - just not a great fit personally. Hopefully some kids will discover it on our library shelves and read it anyway.

5) When we had a book in paperback and hardcover, I assumed the buyer wanted the cheaper paperback.

I'm really not sad about my lack of sales skill. I felt like the store manager in the new Miracle on 34th Street when Allison Janney pokes her finger in his chest because Santa is telling parents where to get toys for the best deal. She says the store putting parents ahead of the "almighty-dollar at Christmas time" has made her a Cole's shopper for life. I figure if parents know my goal is more to get kids reading rather than making as much off them as possible, everyone wins.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bring on the Holidays

And by "holidays" I really mean Christmas. I know, Thanksgiving is still a couple weeks away, but I am ready to start the Christmas preparations NOW.

Sure, I am one of those people who starts thinking about (and shopping for) Christmas in September (and then chewing on my nails, trying to keep from spilling all my Christmas secrets in October). But I usually want to get through Thanksgiving before starting on Christmas. Not this year. This year I want to start now. I want to draw in and pour on the magic of Christmas. 

This year has been emotionally horrible. I am perpetually aware that a year ago we were prepping for a trip home for Thanksgiving to see Dad in person for the first time since he started his chemo regimen. So much has happened since then, and so much of it sad. 

I am ready for some happy. 

I am ready for some magic. 

I am ready for some Christmas.

So, don't judge me if you hear me humming Christmas carols two weeks before Turkey Day, or snuggling under a blanket watching Christmas movies on my day off. I am so thankful our family calendar ends in months of birthdays and holidays because 2011 really needs to finish strong to balance out its beginning. 

Merry Christmas season to you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Fair Update

Book Fair is complete - and it was a BLAST!

This is my first year serving as an elementary school librarian. I have been a parent helper with the Fair before, and last year I was the volunteer chairperson, working with two librarians. This year, I was on my own. Thankfully, I had an amazing group of parents step up and volunteer. This was especially important as my husband's grandmother passed away right before the Fair started, so I had to turn things over to a substitute just a couple days into this major event. My volunteers really came through in a spectacular way.

My students seemed to have a great time. Scholastic sent us a TON of books, so we had plenty of things for families to choose from. The three classes I have had so far have all given the fair a thumbs up, although my 6th graders wanted a few more titles for older students. While Scholastic sent us a fair number of chapter books targeted at 4th through 8th grade students, I have several strong readers who wanted things geared to teens in the 6th grade+ range. We'll have to see what we can do for them in the future.

I've already been making lists of things to do again next year (tag books for AR, post my "Five Favorites from the Fair") and things NOT to do (like tape the hall display so that the topmost layer is bearing its own weight as well as that of the layer below it).

Here are a few pictures from one of the best weeks of this school year!

The theme was space.

We did the teacher wish lists next to a rocket with the teacher's picture in the window. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Birthday crafts

My son recently celebrated a birthday. We wanted to have an Angry Birds party, but no one is making party supplies yet, so we had to make our own.

Our treat bag contents were a hodge podge of things - candy, a Lego Star Wars cup, Angry Bird stickers and a book mark I made based on an Angry Birds/Star Wars mash up I found here

I figure in a month or two, once I no longer need them, someone will start making cups and napkins and plates and all sorts of cool Angry Bird gear. May just have to make up an occasion to use them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I think prayer is an amazing and puzzling thing.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5). The Gospels tell us to ask, seek and knock and we will get results. I wrestle with the idea of prayer. Am I trying to convince God to do what He already is going to do? Am I trying to change His mind about something? Doesn't He already know what I'm thinking, what I need, and what He's going to do?

Sometimes I think prayer is less about God and more about me. I can be a pretty independent person. I know how I want things and I'll do them myself if necessary to get what I want, the way I want it. Maybe prayer is about acknowledging my true "power" in the universe - or lack thereof. Maybe prayer is saying, "You are God and I am not."

I am reading a great book on prayer right now called Pray Big. I don't have a picture for you because I am reading it electronically. [It could very well be the first book I finish on an e-reader (no matter how much I love my Nook, I am more of a tangible book person).] I like its message about praying specifically, praying for things that are bigger than I am, and honoring God with God-sized requests.

Recently I was reading a section where the author talked about a time when he was in big trouble. His prayer was just one word - "Help." And help arrived. Prayer doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to be real - authentic.

Last week, after we received word that my husband's grandmother had passed away, we all sat around trying to take it all in. My husband was grieving the fact that we had plans to talk with her and see her soon, but wouldn't have the chance. I was thinking through all the other things we already had going on and how to work travel and a funeral in with it all. 

I pulled my son close to me and started talking to him about my ideas - things we were going to have to miss because of the funeral and other things we would try to work out. He was understandably sad, and I pulled him close and talked softly about my husband's grief and our sadness and acknowledged how hard this year has been for all of us. Then I closed my eyes and said, "Lord, help us. Amen."

My son looked at me. "That was short." Yes, it was, but it was exactly what that moment needed. Prayer doesn't have to be long words and a formal tone. It can be a sigh, a plea, a whoop or a wail.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Picture Book Idea Month

You can say it. It's okay. I know.

I am crazy.

I am always starting new things when I have entirely too much to do in the first place. 

In the midst of starting a new job and planning Book Fair back in September/October, I signed up for two online classes.

Now, I signed on for Picture Book Idea Month. It's sort of like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where writers work for 30 days to write 50,000 words. (I did it in 2009 - follow the link if you want to know more). This time the goal is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

I love picture books. In fact, November is Picture Book Month, so the timing is perfect. I don't know if I'll come up 30, but I like the idea of giving it a try. And the resources and camaraderie online is fun.

If you want to join me, click the PiBoIdMo badge on the right hand side of my blog and check out the blog there - guest bloggers, prizes, and more.

So, do you have a favorite picture book?