Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ten Bible Verses for Encouragement

These are some verses and passages I go back to time and time again.

  • Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
  • Romans 5:3-5 - Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
  • Psalm 16
  • Romans 12:10 (NRSV) -  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (I love the whole section from vs 9 through vs. 21)
  • Galatians 6:9-10 -  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
  • Philippians 2:14-16 - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
  • John 14:1-3 - “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come backand take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
  • Hebrews 12:2 -  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • Psalm 30
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts usin all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

What are your favorite verses for encouragement?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ten Goals for this Coming School Year

I've already mentioned on this blog that I am a better starter than finisher - I do a better job of setting goals than meeting them, but here's what I am hoping for for this year.

  • I want to feel "settled" rather than pressured or hurried or "behind."
  • I want to have strong book fairs - $2000 to $3000 in sales or more for each one - so we can do some good things for the library and for our teachers (new carpet for kids to sit on in the library, maybe some more comfy seating, books for the library/classrooms, maybe some new TVs and an update of our media - we have so many VHS tapes still, etc).
  • I want to see at least 100 students meet their AR goal each quarter of the year.
  • I want to see at least 75 students meet their AR goal all four quarters of the year.
  • I want at least 80% of every class to be reading at grade level by the end of the year.
  • I want to end the year with all books cataloged, repaired and shelved (fewer loose ends at the end of the school year)
  • I want to achieve a rhythm by October than allows for personal time for reading and crafting and other personal pursuits in the evenings and on the weekends.
  • I want 100% of the third graders to pass the IRead this year, too.
  • I want to develop a regular practice of prayer and encouragement for my peers.
  • I want to recognize student birthdays all year.

I realize I only play a small part in some of these achievements, but I want to pray these things into being, I want to be part of the solution, I want to be an encouragement/facilitator for the teachers and the students as we pursue some of these goals.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ten Places to Travel as a Family

I have had some lovely experiences travelling with my family. I'd like to do it some more. Here are some places I'd like to go:

  • A cruise. I've never been on one, and the idea of traveling on all that water makes me nervous. But everyone I have talked to who has been on one has RAVED about the experience.
  • Europe. I've never been to France and I'd really like to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe some day. I'd also love to go to England (they produce such wonderful cross stitching magazines and I wonder if there are things I could find there that I can't find here) and Italy.
  • Washington DC. This was a trip we actually took this summer. We loved the whole experience!
  • Disney World. We've been twice before as a family, but it would be fun to go again - see how things have changed, enjoy it now that my son is a little older.
  • Football Hall of Fame. We are a football-loving family. I'd love to check out the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
  • Lambeau field. I would LOVE to go to a Packers game at Lambeau, but I would settle for another trip to training camp with a tour of the Hall of Fame and the Pro Shop.
  • Comic Con. We've become a comic loving family. The idea of seeing some of our favorite stars and enjoying the costumes and ambiance appeals to me.
  • Hawaii. I have a cousin in Hawaii and I'd love to go visit him.
  • Arizona. I have family there as well, plus I'd like my son to get to see the Grand Canyon!
  • BEA. Book Expo America. Not necessarily a family trip, although the conference usually takes place in NYC, which would be a great place to go as a family. And the idea of being surrounded by books and authors and publishers and booksellers and bloggers and book enthusiasts makes me giddy.

Have any recommendations for me? Good places you've been or places you'd like to go?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rules at School

There are certain things I hear myself say over and over during the school year or things I do without fail. Here are a few of them:

  • "Use a shelf marker." Nothing makes this librarian crazier than kids who pick out a book, decide they don't want it, and then they cram it in any old spot on a shelf.
  • "You don't get to ask - they ask you." When parents come in for lunch with their kids, they sit at a special table and can ask one friend to sit with them. With the younger ones, there are always a few who will stand at the table and try to make their case for why they should be asked. Sometimes they even try bribery. I try to shoo them to their seat so the kids at the parents table can make the choice without pressure.
  • "Real food first." When we pass out a treat in the lunchroom, or the little kids ask me to open their pudding or other desert item when the first sit down, this is my standard response.
  • I refuse to answer questions from swarm of students at the start of a class. This year I plan to be a real stickler about this. I wish I had a snappy phrase for them. I once heard someone say "I am not a tree and you are not a woodpecker," in response to a child poking them in the arm over and over and over. Love it! I need something clever for this, too.
  • When kids in the lunchroom want me to open something for them, but they just hand it to me, I say, "Oh, for me? Thanks, but I'm not hungry right now." Or some variation. They have to ask - and say please.
  • "Chew, swallow, talk." Kids have to raise their hands in the lunchroom to get our attention. Often, when I get to them, they have their mouths full of food and they try to ask their question. I'll either wait for them, or I'll tell them to chew and swallow and I'll come back in a minute so they can talk.
  • I will not open something that the student has already been chewing on in their own efforts to open it. If possible, I'll hold a napkin over the item to open it, but if I can't do that I tell them they are on their own. Maybe that's too tough, but between the sniffling and the nose picking and other habits, germs are rampant. I try to protect myself wherever I reasonably can.
  • I always carry a little chocolate in my apron pocket for lunchroom duty. I think every day requires a little bit of chocolate, and lunch lady duties just amplify that need.

Did you notice that most of those rules involve my work in the lunchroom? Yeah, me too... I think it's the nature of the beast!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rules/Routines at home

We run a fairly tight ship at home - at least we try. I could only come up with eight, but here are some of our rules/routines:

  • Bedtime - we try to make sure our son gets at least 10 hours of sleep a night. Some nights he goes right out. Other nights he lays in bed waiting to sleep. At his age, it is hard to know when he'll need the rest and when we can give him more leeway. The bedtime routine is a chapter or two of a book, prayer (each one of us takes a turn), and a song. We try to do the bedtime routine together as a family.
  • No TV/video games during the school week. When I work late, my son and his buddy play on the computers at school, but otherwise, we try to limit his screen time. Over the summer, when he has a lot more freedom, there are days I wonder if the computer/TV has sucked out his brain. He can't afford that during the school year!
  • Furniture is not for climbing. I find it interesting when my son's friends come over and I find them standing on a couch. It's just not something we do here.
  • In the same vein, when we are somewhere with a flight of stairs, the rule is that "stairs are not a play place." I do not understand the fascination my son and his cousins have for playing on the stairs. I don't know if that enclosed space feels like a fort or if it is a novelty for kids who live in one-story homes.
  • Family dinner - we eat together every night. During the week, we generally eat at the table. Eating in the living room is a treat (although, in some seasons of life it happens more often than others). Thankfully, my son is young enough that we can pull off family dinners with little angst.
  • Homework first. This was a tough one to sort out this summer as my son was working through a summer workbook. Over time I realized there was less hassle for me if I just made him a list of his chores and responsibilities and let him manage it. If he wants to watch TV or play on the computer in the summer, his list has to be done, first. It worked well. During the school year, since we stay after school to work most days, we try to balance school work and play.
  • Books and toys need a home - a shelf, a box, a spot in his room. My son often hears, "put that in its home." We try to weed out his things at least once a year, passing clothes and toys on to Goodwill and passing books on to the school or public library. It helps make space so new things can have a home.
  • Monday is pasta night. This gives my husband and I leftovers to have for lunches. Last year, Wednesday night was eating-out night. Wednesday was my longest day at school and the idea of cooking when I got home held no appeal. The decision to eat out simplified my Wednesday and made me feel better about the whole day.

What routines do you use at home to keep life and family manageable?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ten Things I Do Before School Starts

These are things I do every year as a mom, plus a few things I am adding now that I am teaching, too. These are in no particular order.

  • I set a budget for school supplies and back to school activities (t-shirt, pictures, year book, etc.). It keeps me from being overwhelmed by financial surprises that hit all at one time.
  • I buy school supplies for Writing Club (pencils, folders, paper, composition books) - even the things I won't use until the end of the year because the prices are better now than they will be in April.
  • I troll around on Pinterest for bulletin board ideas, school lunch inspiration, etc.
  • I clean out my school email so I have a fresh start when the new emails start rolling in
  • I organize or re-organize my spaces, in the hopes of having a good system in place when the new year starts. In my mind, nothing is worse than starting the school year with piles because I don't have a system in place to maintain all the papers and information and ideas that are churning around during those first few weeks.
  • I take notes - lesson ideas, bulletin board plans, etc. If I don't write it down, I won't remember it.
  • I keep my to do lists close by at all times. The ones I started using this year have lots of space for note taking. I staple each week's pages together and carry a month's worth with me at all times so I can write down meetings or plans as they come up. These also help me visualize my schedule and divy up tasks across the week. One day, I left my to do lists at school and I felt like I was missing part of my body. Usually I wait until late December or January to get my calendar because I want a better price, but I will likely buy the 2013 version of this calendar the minute it is out so I know for sure I will have it.
  • I blog ahead - like I am doing now - so I can focus on my back-to-school tasks without the pressure of my blog schedule or without taking a few weeks off.
  • I wait a couple weeks to start Writing Club. This helps my students adjust to their new schedule and new class before adding an extracurricular activity. It also helps me do the same. It frees up a few afternoons to do set up, organizing, and planning.
  • I try to plan out my year, as much as possible, knowing that things will come up to change those plans. I also know, from experience, that some plans are going to bomb and I will need to adapt. But it helps to have a plan to start from. My goal is to have lesson plans done for the first 3 weeks at a minimum, with at least a sketch or an outline for the rest of first quarter, by the time I show up for my first official teacher work day.

What do you do to get ready for the school year? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top 10 Sources of Inspiration

Inspiration is a big deal to me - I crave it. These are some of the things that inspire me.

10. Music - give me a Bach Brandenburg Concerto (#3 is my favorite) or an a capella performance (especially a men's quartet), and I am a happy woman.

9. Photographers - I love to look at photography blogs and the photographs of my friends. One of my favorite parts of our West Wing tour of the White House was staring at the photographs on the walls.

8. Stacy Julian - her philosophy of memory keeping, her class at Big Picture Classes, her crafting space

7. Becky Higgins - her philosophy of memory keeping, her Project Life system, her crafting space (I recently watched a video she did on managing the papers her kids have from school - I was inspired to bring order to my memory keeping chaos)

6. Ali Edwards - her photography, her transparency/openness about her journey, her love of her family

5. Fabric Stores/Quilting Stores/Cross Stitch stores - I love the potential represented by these places. The fabrics, the patterns, the finished samples. I just want to soak them in - just like I wanted to do with the photographs at the White House.

4. The zoo - Seeing different animals makes me appreciate God's limitless creativity. I am especially inspired by birds. I don't know why, but I am drawn to them.

3. Book stores - talk about potential! Words, ideas, pictures in endless configurations!

2. Magazines - just like book stores, magazines give you access to ideas and places and products you never knew existed.

1. Pinterest - every time I tell myself I'm just going to hop on to look for a minute, it turns into an hour or more. Infinite creativity of other people.

What inspires you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Top 10 Magazines

My interests are reflected in my favorite magazines. Some of these are ones I subscribe to, but the others are regular purchases every month or two.

10. Better Homes and Gardens Storage - at least, I think BH&G is the one that publishes the storage and organization magazine I like. This isn't a monthly publication, but looking at all the orderly spaces in other people's homes inspires me.

9. LEGO Magazine - Fun building ideas, cartoons, and product descriptions. And it's free! What's not to love? In fact, I like it so well, I have subscribed to it for the school and my students have gone crazy for it. In fact, I took an old issue and tucked it on a bottom shelf so my son would have something to look at in a pinch if I was working after school, and the kids grabbed it and tried to check it out. It wasn't cataloged in the library, but I let them check it out anyway. They were diligent about returning it every week, but they checked it out so much it started to fall apart. It was easily the most popular magazine in the school's library.

8. Cross Stitch Collection - this is a British stitching magazine. I don't have a local stitching shop anymore, and Hobby Lobby rarely changes their stock. This is a great way to get new patterns. I figure for the price of the magazine, I would have gotten two patterns at my local shop, so if I get two patterns out of the issue, I've gotten my money's worth. I enjoy the Joan Elliott patterns they have in this magazine.

7. Where Women Create - I mostly look at this one for inspiring spaces and crafts moreso than because I know who these women are.

6. Shop Smart - Just like Consumer Reports but has a more feminine layout. Same great ideas and recommendations/reviews

5. School Library Journal - book reviews and articles for school librarians.

4. World of Cross Stitch - another British stitching magazine

3. Cross Stitch Card Shop - this British magazine specializes in card patterns. While it is my favorite stitching magazine, it is also the hardest one for me to find. I think my local B&N still has the May/June issue on display. When I find a new issue of this one, I feel as though I've won the lottery.

2. Booklist - this is another book review magazine with a library slant, but with a full range of reviews (adults, kids, fiction, non-fiction, audio, professional) as well as a special emphasis in each issue (mysteries, science fiction, sports, historical fiction, etc.)

1. Publisher's Weekly - Week after week of book-related news. And even better? Twice a year they devote a whole issue to upcoming titles for children/teens. Perfection!

What are your favorite magazines? Ones you subscribe to or ones you treat yourself to every month?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Top 10 Kids Television Shows

Kids TV can be gross, mindless and inane. But every now and then I discover a show that is fun, witty and clever. Here are some of my favorites. (note - I had to go back to some no-longer-available series to get to 10)

10. Stanley - this was a Disney Channel show I watched with my son when he was in preschool. Stanley was a boy with a magic book. He could learn about animals by jumping into his book, and the things he learned helped him solve problems in his own life.

9. The Famous Jett Jackson - this was a Disney Channel show I would watch in the middle of the night when my son was a baby. It was about a boy who was an actor in a popular action/super hero show. Some of the show was about the boy and some was about the TV show. It was great. I wish they would put it on DVD - I'd buy it up in a minute.

8. Curious George - the new show on PBS that came on after the movie is a winner. Sweet, and educational.

7. Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - Disney has partnered with Marvel and they put an Avengers show on TV a couple years ago. Our family looks forward to sitting down every week and watching this together.

6. Scooby Doo Mystery Inc. - a new iteration of the classic Scooby Doo. New mysteries, new setting. My only complaint is the tired story line of Velma being jilted by Shaggy because of his relationship with Scooby. Otherwise, it's a great show.

5. Kickin' It - This is on Disney XD and is about a group of kids who study martial arts and find themselves in all sorts of interesting situations. Thankfully, it's low on goo and grossness, although the "stupid" factor is there a little more often than I'd prefer. But the kids are fun, their predicaments are generally funny, and they take care of one another, which is a nice quality in kid's programming.

4. Young Justice - DC Comics has also put out a weekly TV show. I am actually more interested in the Marvel heroes than the DC ones, but when I compare the shows, I'd choose Young Justice over Earth's Mightiest Heroes if I had to pick only one.

3. Kim Possible - another classic Disney Channel show. A teen cheerleader and her best buddy (and his naked mole rat) save the world from evil villains. This one I can at least get on iTunes.

2. Phineas and Ferb - Funny and smart. This is a show that adults could watch without their kids around and still be happy. The musical numbers are witty and catchy. My all time favorite episode is "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together." Probably would have been #1, but my son watches it enough that I can get tired of it. Also, the #1 show is new and has been a delightful surprise.

1. Lab Rats - this is a new Disney XD show about a kid who gets a new genius, billionaire step-dad who happens to have built three bionic kids who live in the basement lab. I can't believe how much I love this show! There is plenty of slapstick humor to appeal to the target audience (tween and teen boys), but it's another smart and witty show. The step-dad is played to perfection by Hal Sparks. This is a show I would watch, even if my son wasn't around.

What shows do your kids watch that you fine tolerable - or even fun?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Top 10 Favorite Authors for Kids

Actually, I could only find 8 authors that really stood apart from the rest for me.

8. Megan McDonald - Judy Moody and her brother Stink were some of the first books for kids I fell in love with. My favorite Judy Moody is Judy Moody Goes to College and my favorite Stink book is Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker.

7. Dan Gutman - I haven't taken to his baseball series (not my game), but The Genius Files and the My Weird School series are a hit with me and with my students.

6. Wendy Mass - The Candymakers is one of my all time favorite books for kids, but I also have enjoyed her Twice Upon a Time books and her Willow Falls books

5. Andrew Clements - Frindle, No Talking, Lunch Money, School Story, The Landry News, Extra Credit, Lost and Found... Well, you get the idea. I love the school stories this man writes.

4. Tad Hills - between his Rocket books (Rocket Learns to Read, Rocket Writes a Story) and Duck and Goose (Duck and Goose; Duck, Duck, Goose) I have become a huge fan!

3. Rick Riordan - His mythology books are engrossing. My students love them - and so do I.

2. JK Rowling - Two words: Harry. Potter.

1. Mo Willems - I will read anything he writes, and will buy a good portion of his books, too.

Do you have a "go to" author? One you go back to time and time again?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Top Ten Book Series (in process)

Since I am gearing up for a new school year, I'm going to take a break from regular blogging and post some "top ten" lists for a couple weeks until I get into a school routine. Today's list includes some of my favorite book series - both kids and adults - that are in process. These are the books I anxiously wait for, the ones I buy the second they are available. Here they are:

10.  Origami Yoda/Darth Paper/Fortune Wookie (which comes out today!) by Tom Angleberger - This is a fun series for kids about a boy who gives advice from an origami Yoda puppet.

9. NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society) by Michael Buckley - This is a kids series about a group of nerds who have enhanced abilities based on their nerdy quirks and who use their abilities to save the world.

8. Red Blazer Girls by Michael Beil - Fun mystery series for older kids about a group of girls who solve puzzles about historical objects and the people they belonged to.

7. Brixton Brothers by Mac Barnett - Another mystery series for kids. The first one involved ninja librarians, so it is obviously a favorite for me.

6. Lunch Lady/Binky/Knights of the Lunch Table - these are three graphic novel series I love. The Lunch Lady books by Jarrett Krosoczka are about a lunch lady with super hero gadgets. Binky is a cat who's best friend is a toy mouse and who thinks the outside is outer space. Knights of the Lunch Table books are about a middle schooler named Arthur whose stories mirror the adventures of King Arthur. I love all of these!

5. Starfleet Academy books - I am a Trek fan, and I have really liked the new series for teens based on the Star Trek characters from the 2009 story line. The writers do a great job of capturing the voices of the characters from the movie.

4. Meg Laslow - this is a mystery series for adults by Donna Andrews. Meg is a fantastic character (strong female character, interesting job, quirky family) and the mysteries are great fun.

3. Piggie and Gerald books by Mo Willems - technically these aren't a series in that each story builds on the previous ones, but they are one of my favorite lines of books.

2. Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan - I think these books are the best of the three mythology series that Riordan has written. Book three of the series comes out in October.

1. Alien/Katherine "Kitty" Katt series by Gini Koch - This is a fun, sassy science fiction series for adults. I have the next three books on my To Buy list already, out into 2013. I will re-read these books almost as much as I re-read Harry Potter (which, btw, is not on the list because it is a closed series).

There's my list - do you have some favorite series? Do you have authors you stalk on Amazon until it says there's a new book coming?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Empty Self

I recently read Love Your God with All Your Mind by J. P. Moreland for a work assignment. I saved the book for last because I wasn't convinced it was going to be the least bit interesting. I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I ordered my own copy so I can read through it again, more slowly, underlining and writing in the margins, etc.

In the book I came across the concept of the "empty self" and I was fascinated (pages 88-96). The empty self is defined as "inordinately individualistic, infantile, narcissistic, passive, sensate, hurried and busy, and has lost the art of developing an interior life."


Yeah, some of that won't make sense without the rest of the book, but let me tell you I felt like it nailed all the things I dislike about my life these days right to the wall.

Here's a bit I copied down from the book:  "The empty self has deep emotional emptiness and hunger and has devised inadequate strategies to fill that emptiness. Therefore, a frenzied pace of life emerges to keep the pain and emptiness suppressed. One must jump from one activity to the next and not be exposed to quiet for very long or the emptiness will become apparent."

Oh my gosh, that's my life. Especially my life for the last year. I have to wonder if that is part of the reason I am questioning what I did last year in school as if I've never done this teaching thing before. I threw myself 150% into the school year last August, on the heels of a season filled with hospice/dying/funeral/estate business/estate sale/saying goodbyes/etc., because I didn't want to deal any more than I had to with the pain of grief. I went crazy, trying to do every idea I came up with, planning grandiose reorganizing for summer vacation, buying books for myself and my students as if we were starting a library from scratch. It was frenetic. It was frantic. It was obsessive. It was like an out-of-body experience, like someone else was living those experiences so I don't have them to draw on this year.

I don't want to live that life, that pace any more. I don't want to be empty in that way. It's leaving me a little lost regarding the start of this school year and how it's going to look, but I have faith that things will all come together. The larger battle will be not falling back into that trap, that pace, that emptiness again.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Banishing Dread

I have had plenty of experience with dread over the last couple years. Dread when the phone rings (what's wrong now?). Dread about upcoming events (funerals and estate sales, family reunions without the family you love most, trips "home" when it isn't home anymore). Dread about what the future holds or what might happen next. 

I can remember clearly my feelings leading up to the estate sale last summer, for example. My stomach was constantly in knots. Just remembering it, my stomach clenches. I had to remind myself to breathe. I would lay in bed, thinking, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this." I had to keep telling myself, "By Sunday it will be over. No matter how it goes, by Sunday it will be done."

And that's the thing about dread. Eventually, the thing you are dreading is going to happen and then it is going to be done and then you are going to be past it. Your dread will have little impact on the event itself. The event may be as bad as you imagine - it may be better or worse. But then it's over. Period. You are free of it. But your dread had a huge impact on your attitude and your health during the anticipation. 

I guess I'm not sure I want to give dread that much power over me anymore.

Knowing me, that will be much easier said than done. I am a future-oriented person with an excellent imagination. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios for what's coming - or what might be coming. If I let my imagination get too far ahead of me, I'll pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed in the morning.

Yes, the last two years have been hard. But I am done living in reaction to them. I'm ready to try something more proactive. I'm ready to put that imagination to work thinking about how things can go well, about new and creative ways to approach the tasks of life. I'm ready for more optimism.

I'm ready to banish dread.