Sunday, May 31, 2015

Digilit Sunday - Creating Invitations

      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
     Margaret is starting something new on her Digilit Sunday posts.  She's going to challenge us each week with a creative and digital task.  This week, it's an INVITATION.  As many of you know, this is wedding week!  (I promise I will quite talking/posting/writing about this wedding soon - ha!)  Therefore, of course, my INVITATION is wedding themed!  I used Waterlogue and AfterPhoto to create this INVITATION.  Libby has chosen the sunflower as a central image and flower for her wedding.  I love that it symbolizes happiness, warmth, adoration, and longevity.  Don't you love that?!

     I'm also excited this week because summer started!!  Here is another INVITATION to enjoy reading and writing with more free time!
Thanks, Margaret, for INVITING us to play with apps!


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Celebration Saturday - Graduation, Showers, and End of School, Oh My!

I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
I'm sure there will be lots of celebration blog posts about the end of the year today!  Here is mine.

This was an especially difficult ending this year because I've taught my sixth graders for three years.   What a wonderful three years we had.  They grew and learned so much!  I loved my white board on the last day of school:
Some highlights:


Sigh.  I'm so lucky I do what I do!!!  I'm also celebrating the fact that I get to keep my fifth graders another year!!
I love our school tradition of making a "tunnel" on the last day of school, high-fiving every exiting student and cheering them on.  We have a loudspeaker and music, and all the teachers come out.  The buses make several rounds as the kids wave and cry out the bus windows, and we wave back.  Oftentimes I get teary-eyed on the last day of school, but this year, as the last bus pulled away, I sobbed!  I had to go back inside the building really quickly and hide in my classroom!

This was a week of high emotion and other things to celebrate.  My best friends gave Libby (they call themselves the "honorary aunts") a bridal shower at my house over Memorial Day weekend, and one of my best friend's daughter, Shannon, graduated from high school and had her party.  Here are our honored young women:
Shannon and Libby

Me with the Honorary AUnts
Other pictures of the festivities:
Shannon designed the cover!

She was also recognized as a National Merit Scholar!

The three stooges - Ellie, Shannon, Katie

The Honorary Aunts with Shannon, the Graduate

Shannon opening our gift with a hug from Annie
Annie and me at graduation dinner

Katie and me at graduation dinner

Shower goodies

Proud and excited mother-of-the-bride and the "Queen" bride-to-be

Libby with some of her bridesmaids

Three generations

Libby with Grandma Mueller

Maid of honor and bride
Now there are only 6 days until THE WEDDING!!!!! 
 Front of the ceremony program
SO much to celebrate!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - The Sound of Silence

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme topic is MOMENT OF SILENCE.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. - Psalm 62:5
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. - Habakkuk 2:20
     Earlier this week I realized Thursday was fast approaching, and I didn't have any ideas for a theme topic.  I was completely blank, so I tweeted out to the Spiritual Journey Thursday community asking for help, and the first reply that resonated with me was Amy Smith's (@JayhawkTN) idea, Moment of Silence. 
     I had to laugh.  That morning, my husband came down to the kitchen and jested, "Hear that?!  The sound of silence!"  I laughed and told him that my ears were ringing from all the talking over the weekend.  I enjoyed all the talking - my mom, mother-in-law, and one of my best friends, Annie, were all in town for the Memorial Day weekend to celebrate a bridal shower given by Libby's "Honorary Aunts" (my best friends).  We also celebrated another of my best friend's daughter's high school graduation.  There were multiple, large gatherings that involved A LOT of talking, laughing, and overall noise.  My husband says we all talk so much that he can't imagine anyone is listening.  He might be right!
     As much as I loved it ALL, the silence afterward was a welcome relief.  I have to admit, I craved it, and a little solitude as well.  I tried so hard the whole weekend to stay FOCUSED and to enjoy the moment, the people, and the overwhelming blessings, even though it was filled with preparations, busy-ness, and clean up.  I did pretty well - there was a moment during the shower when I stopped to take a deep breath, look around at all the friends and family who had gathered to celebrate Libby and Jamie's marriage, and paused with gratitude before everything passed in a frenzy.  Time goes so fast.
     I know God loves us all to get together, talk, and have fun, but I also know that He, too, wants our company.  When we spend time with Him, He wants us to stop talking all the time and be silent.  We can only commune with Him and listen to what He is saying if we're quiet.  In the midst of all that is happening in my life right now, I need to take the time to do that. 
     And when my friends and family gather again, I'm sure my husband would appreciate it if we all talked less and listened more!
I know it's not December, but this is my favorite spiritual song about silence:


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nonfiction Wednesday

  Join Alyson and others at Kid Lit Frenzy for a nonfiction picture book bonanza each week!
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France
I love that we can STILL learn new things about Ben Franklin! I didn't know that when he visited France, he was asked by King Louis XVI to investigate a Dr. Mesmer, who was supposedly hypnotizing people and curing their illnesses. Doctors were furious with Dr. Mesmer, but people flocked to him for their miraculous recoveries. Using the scientific method, Franklin proved that Dr. Mesmer's patients got better just because they BELIEVED they were cured, inadvertently discovering the placebo effect. I really enjoyed the illustrations and the magic show tone the author created.
Sleepy Snoozy Cozy Coozy Animals
Fun word play and rhymes accompany sweet illustrations of sleeping animals and lots of fun facts about the nocturnal habits of many animals. This would be a great bedtime book for kids - relaxing AND informational! Interactive questions are asked at the end of the informational paragraphs. I love the last pages of a child sound asleep: "A silky puffy/Toasty Fluffy/Comfy dreamy/Warm moonbeamy/Sleepy snoozy/Cozy cozy/Place where you might lay your head/For you're a child and it's your bed."
The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist
I LOVE birds, so when beautiful books come out about them, I'm very happy! I also love art, so this is the perfect combination. Through Margarita Engle's masterful poetry and Aliona Vereghici's gorgeous illustrations, we learn about Louis Fuertes, who was a bird artist and conservationist. Unlike his predecessors, Fuertes learned to draw birds alive and in their natural habitat. Because of this skill, he is known as the Father of Modern Bird Art. I read a library copy, but I will purchase this one for my own classroom library.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Alpha and Omega

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme topic is ENDINGS and BEGINNINGS.

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:18-19

"I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." - Revelation 22: 13

     It's funny that May, a season of new life and an abundance of spring growth, should be punctuated by graduations, which seem like endings.   Tearful goodbyes, reflective speeches, scrapbooks full of memories, and wistful songs permeate the occasion.  High schools and beloved universities become alma maters, and students become alumni.  Fight songs are played one last time while best friends sway and sing,  already missing each other.  

     My husband and I sat in the stands (in the rain) of Yager Stadium at Miami University last weekend, watching our daughter and friends end their four years together, hardly believing that this era was closing.  How could the end come this fast?  It seemed like yesterday that we were moving her and Hannah into Tappan Hall, and a couple of the girls in her corridor came to her room bearing bags of "puppy chow" to share.  One of them, Katie, said her mom told her it would be a good way to make friends.  Well, right she was!  Those girls, and four others, became Libby and Hannah's best friends, guardian angels, and lifesavers at Miami.  They ended up living together again in Scott Hall the following year, and continued to live together in an apartment on Sycamore Street for their junior and senior years.  How could it be that all that was over?

      But then, at the apartment after the ceremony, one of the girls said she heard someone say that graduation wasn't the end of those friendships, it was just the beginning, and I started thinking about that.  Well, of course!  God has designed everything in our lives to be new beginnings.  Jesus made sure of that.  When everyone at the cross thought that an ending had occurred, Jesus knew it was just the beginning of something greater.  Gold DOES stay.  While graduations mean things are changing (and that can be hard), they don't mean the end.  They mark a beginning.   God has already started working in all those kids' lives to bring about a future of great things.  Those friendships will strengthen and grow and will continue to thrive.  We already know they will all gather again for two weddings in June (wonderful celebrations of beginnings), and they are planning to continue the tradition of Friends' Thanksgiving.  I'm sure they will plan many reunions. They may be going their separate ways soon, but they will continue to add new dimensions to their friendships because of their future experiences.  Because of God's promises, the circle is unbroken and our endings are beginnings.  What a wonderful assurance!

I love this quote because many times we DO get caught up in endings, but God is already creating a new beginning:

"And because it's all that we can see, the ending becomes an end in itself when directly ahead of us new beginnings are being forged and fresh byways are being laid out from the very ending we're caught up in." - Craig D. Lounsbrough

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slice of Life - Goodbye, Sixth Graders

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.


Poster can be found at Etsy, here.

     As many of you know, I began a new phase in my career in 2012 when I came to Kings Local Schools as the 4th grade reading gifted intervention specialist.  Kings has three elementary schools, K-4, so I traveled to each school every day to teach reading classes.  Even though the daily travel was not ideal, I knew I had found my dream job.  

     When I got my gifted endorsement in 2008, I had dreamed of being a gifted teacher.  I was able to teach gifted clusters in the regular classroom, but my former district had cut their pull-out program, so there was no way to do what I really wanted to do.  I was so fortunate that the Kings position came open and that I was hired.  I could not have been happier to meet my students that fall.  It was so fun to get to know each one.  We did some very unique things that year.  I was able to incorporate technology, so we made Animoto book trailers and enjoyed Skype visits from Kate Messner, Tanya Lee Stone, and Laurel Snyder.  We went to the Cincinnati Zoo for a parent/student book club over The One and Only Ivan.  We loved read alouds like Wonder, Capture the Flag, and Bigger Than a Bread Box, and read countless picture books for a Mock Caldecott unit.  I organized a Mock Newbery Club, also, and we met over the summers at my local library.  

     Miraculously, an opportunity came open at the intermediate building in my district the following year.  That meant I would teach gifted language arts (expanded from just reading) to 5th and 6th graders as their teacher of record.  It would also mean no more daily traveling, and I would get to follow my 4th graders!  I snapped it up (after an interview and offer).  It was overwhelming at first since I had to teach both grade levels and all the language arts.  I increased my number of students to 105, which was also daunting.  However, after working countless hours last year, I have my program much more organized and manageable.  I also got to teach the same original kids for three years in a row.

     Now, the year is coming to a close, and my sixth graders will be leaving for the junior high.  As my fellow teachers know, some years are more emotional at the end than others.  This one trumps them all.  I really can't imagine saying goodbye to these kids on the last day.  I've read many last Kidblog Slice of Life posts by my 6th graders expressing the same thing from their perspectives.  They've had the same language arts teacher for three years!  I'm sure some are looking forward to moving on to a new ELA teacher. ;-)  However, for many of us, it's going to be sad.  I'm going to be excited for them, though, and plan on following their junior high and high school journeys as much as I can.  I hope they are prepared for all the reading and writing that will be required of them, but more importantly, I hope they will continue to love learning and be kind, generous, and excellent in all they do.  I'll be rooting for their successes and will always remember this very special class of 2021.

     A little trip down memory lane...

4th Grade - 2012-2013

5th Grade (with some picture of that year's 6th graders) 2013-2014

6th grade (with some of this year's 5th graders) 2014-2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week.  I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.
The Martian

A winner of the 2015 Alex Award, the award for adult books that appeal to young adults, this story is a totally unique survival tale. Mark Watney is left on Mars when his crew, thinking him dead, leaves during a dust storm evacuation. But he's not dead. He's very much alive, and due to his "pain in the ass" disposition, he's determined to stay that way. As I was describing this story to someone, he said, "Oh, it's like a sci-fi Hatchet. Yes, exactly. This book was lent to me by a couple 6th grade boys. I was a little shocked at the language since they're the ones who wanted me to read it, but I totally get why they loved it (they're gifted readers and love science). I probably wouldn't recommend it to 6th graders, but it's perfect for teen boys. I didn't love all the science and engineering, but plenty of boys would (not that girls wouldn't like it - there are a few good female characters, too)! Quite a yarn!  I'll definitely go see the movie starring Matt Damon coming up in November!
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
I am obviously in the minority, at least in my friends' community, in giving this book only 3 stars, but it was just too weird for me. While I appreciated the wise and witty discussions about feminism and the visions of a futuristic world, the drinking of the petrified bat, the commune, and the oven-painting was over the top for me.
"Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed." I listened to the audio production of this masterful novel, which begins and ends with a fairy tale. In between are three stories that are interwoven in a beautiful and amazing way, all connected by a harmonica (reminds me a little of the 1999 film, "The Red Violin"). I would highly recommend the audio - various narrators tell the story, and it includes the actual music from the book. I'll read the print version, too, though, to fully appreciate the lyrical language used to tell these tales. I LOVE the way the stories come together in the end, and I love the messages of hope and love. Brilliant!  This is one to watch as a Newbery favorite.

 Bone Gap
At the Water's Edge 


Friday, May 15, 2015

Poetry Friday - Ode to Miami University

     This weekend, my daughter, Libby, will be graduating from Miami University.  Miami is very special to our family.  My mother graduated from there, my best friends are Miami U. graduates, my husband and I met and married there, becoming Miami Mergers, and now Libby and her fiancĂ© will become graduates of M.U., as well as Miami Mergers in June (her fiancĂ©'s parents are also Miami Mergers).  We've grown to love Libby's friends and will miss them as they scatter around the world.  This is an end of an era since our youngest daughter, Katie, chose OSU and just finished her freshman year there.  We forgive you, Katie. ;-)  In honor of Miami and graduation, I wrote a poem.


In the summer of 1975,
when I was nine,
my father and I drove through
the cobblestone streets of Oxford, Ohio
on our way to Brookville Lake
to fish.
I gazed through the
car windows
at the red brick buildings,
the early morning summer fog
resting serenely on the emerald
Multi-hued flowers
danced along the
sidewalks and along stone walls.
Oaks, maples, and magnolias
created long shadows,
the sun just beginning
to rise.
I thought,
as Robert Frost once did; this is
the most beautiful campus
that ever there was.

In the fall of 1985,
my parents gave me
one last teary hug,
leaving me in a
second floor corner room
of the stone and ivy covered
walls of The Pines
in East Quad
with two of my best
high school friends,
becoming my college roommates.
Smiles spread wide across
our faces, eyes glistening
from goodbyes.
Here we were, at last.
It was the college
of our dreams,
full of possibilities.
Four short years later,
after a kiss and proposal
under the Upham Arches,
a marriage was sealed
at Kumler Chapel.

In the spring of 2015,
another four short years
after we dropped our own daughter
off at Tappan Hall
with her own high school best friend,
my goodbye eyes glistening
a new generation will gather
in Yager Stadium
for final words of inspiration
and the turning of tassels.
More dreams will swim
in educated minds,
memories weaving in and out
of the throngs of students.
In June, a wedding will again
take place,
another Miami Merger,
friends gathering to celebrate
before scattering around the world.
To think that in such a place
I lived such a life...
Adieu, Miami University.

                                                              Libby's Graduation Cap
                                              (Take a look at Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day")

Join the Poetry Round-up at Diane Mayr's blog, Random Noodling.