A book is a friend for life. The words stay with you, even when you put the book down.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Strange Way to Spend a Holiday

This weekend was supposed to be my big Christmas celebration with my Kansas family. The plan was that we drive to my cousin's house Friday and spend the night, then have a huge celebration at my brother's house on Saturday, then drive home Saturday night to get ready for Christmas Eve at home.

Well, that certainly was not the way the weekend went.

It all went well, to begin with. We had an uneventful trip from Oklahoma, a nice 7 hour car trip. We arrived just on time, Friday afternoon, at my cousin's house. We got to spend some family time together. My aunt and uncle brought my grandma over to visit. That was so nice, since grandma lives so far away and, at 92, it's difficult for her to travel. We got to see my cousin's three little kids, and I was very excited to meet the youngest, just 6 months old. What a cutie!

But then, things went all wrong. I felt sick, thought maybe it was my cousin's spicy chili soup that was responsible. I should have known better. It was really a kidney stone. Great timing. My cousin the nurse helped diagnose, and she helped Hubby and I get to the ER.

Yep, that's right, I spend the majority of my Kansas Family Christmas in the hospital. I was there all day Saturday waiting for my turn in surgery to get the stone removed. I got a good night's sleep Saturday night at my cousin's, before we set out Sunday morning to pick up the kiddos at my brother's.

My family is so amazing! While I was in the hospital, they all made sure the kids still had a good Christmas time.

Friday night, the kids stayed up late at my cousin's house playing with the baby cousins and (hopefully) not worrying about mom. They slept well, then they got picked up Saturday by their grandparents to go eat lunch and spend the rest of Saturday at the Big Family Christmas. All the cousins were there, as well as Great-Grandma. They had a really great time! Then, they got to spend the night (with the twin cousins) and wake up to mom & dad's arrival for the trip home to Oklahoma.

I do feel better now, and I am certainly thankful I was near the hospital not on the road! I am especially grateful for the doctor on call Saturday, who not only operated quickly and efficiently, but gave me dietary tips and hope for the future for maybe not so many kidney stones in the future!!

After all this, I got to thinking. Maybe I read this somewhere, I can't remember, but the gist is this: The first Christmas didn't go exactly the way Mary had planned. She certainly didn't plan to give birth in a stable, surrounded by shepherds, with only Joseph for help. But that was God's plan. No matter how our Christmas events turn out, God is there.

That, to me, is the true miracle of Christmas.

Christmas Eve picture at Church! (notice the big bruise on my arm from the iv!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Rush

The rush of December is upon us. It seems that there is no rest until the new year begins. Each day is full -- rushing to and fro from one busy event to the next.

This weekend, we're having our second family Christmas celebration. Two down, two to go. We've also had several Christmas plays and programs, as well as basketball games and dance practices/recital.

With all the busy-ness, we haven't finished our shopping. We're just taking things one event at a time. Therefore, we have finished shopping for the kids' gift exchange taking place tomorrow. We have NOT, however, finished shopping for this weekend. Or any of the future Christmas events. Procrastinating? Not really. We just haven't had the time.

Somehow, it will all be accomplished. It will! And then we can slow down and breathe -- but not until after the 28th.

If I had time to read, I would curl up with a good book. Guess I will have to do that after the 28th. When I have time, I think I'll read Stealing Air by Trent Reedy. It just came in at my library, and looks interesting.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Wonderful Rat

Everybody knows the movie It's a Wonderful Life. You know, everything goes wrong in the guy's life, and he wishes his life could be over. Then, miraculously, he sees what the world would be like if he could wish himself away. It's a poignant holiday movie that seems to be always playing during the Christmas season.

I just finished a great kids' book that tells the same kind of story. It answers that age-old question: what would you do if your life could be completely different?

In When You Wish Upon a Rat, the main character gets a chance to find out. Ruth is unhappy with the way her life is going: she's lost her favorite relative, her family is a bit bonkers, and she no longer has any close friends at school. All she really has is a stuffed rat that her aunt gave her before she passed away.

This was a fun story, a unique interpretation of that classic "give me a different future" story. Ruth gets to try out three different versions of her life, before deciding that her "real" life is really the best one. She also finds a friend along the way (not just a rat).

Tweens will love reading this book. I bet my daughter will love it, if she can get past the beginning sad part, where the aunt is dying from cancer. The rest of the book is fun, even though it teaches an important lesson about loving your life just the way it is.

Monday, November 26, 2012


What a wonderful Thanksgiving this has been! First, Dad got to come visit. Then, we spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home. And then, Saturday.

Saturday was a great day. The kids' little cousin got to spend the night on Friday evening, and they got to spend the day Saturday running around together. Then, lunch on Saturday became our big family Thanksgiving celebration! All of my husband's family came for lunch. We made brisket, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing. Everyone else brought sides and dessert. The meal was fantastic, and it was so fun to share our new home with the family!

After the meal, we cleared off the dining room table and played Apples to Apples. (This is a fabulous game that you simply must try! Easy enough for young kids, but hysterical when played with sisters-in-law!) Later, we moved the game to my father-in-law's house to "supervise" the kids.

All the grandkids went down to PaPa's house to decorate his tree and hang up their ornament wreaths. This has become a yearly tradition, and the kids have so much fun. The wreaths are a tradition that my mother-in-law began with her children: each year, a new ornament is added to each child's wreath. My father-in-law has continued the tradition with his grandkids, adding new ornaments to their wreaths every year. And they get to pick the ornaments (fun). The funniest part is that PaPa always leaves the tree decorated in whatever way the kids make it. Here is this year's effort:

In the evening, just as everything was settling down and everyone was departing for their own homes, my daughter's friends began arriving for a sleepover. (I know, what was I thinking, right?) My son fled to PaPa's house for the night, smart boy. The girls had a great time! This is the first sleepover my daughter has ever hosted -- we'd never had the space before! She had a great time, and her friends had a great time, and I had a great time too! Imagine my surprise at being asked to participate in a game of Apples to Apples with the girls! :) My poor husband hid in our bedroom the whole night.

All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving. A memorable holiday, to say the least!

Prepping for Christmas? Try reading some of the great Christmas books by Richard Paul Evans!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Relatives Came

My dad and his wife spent the weekend at our house! They arrived on Friday evening, and left this morning just after breakfast.

It was a great weekend! We ate together, laughed together, walked together, played games together, and just generally enjoyed each other's company.

We bought a new game, Disney Apples to Apples, which we played several times throughout the weekend. It was a great way to spend time together and laugh and laugh and laugh. We discovered that "bugs" are "icky" but not as bad as "dirty dishes"! And that Snow White is beautiful, but not as beautiful as Sleeping Beauty! :)

I had to leave Saturday afternoon to take my library certification exam, so my husband and the kids were left to entertain the company. They decided to load up on the Gator and explore the pasture and surrounding countryside. I'm glad the weather was warm enough for this expedition! It was also warm enough all weekend for us to walk every evening!

I am so blessed to have a husband who is a good cook -- and who doesn't mind cooking for a "large" crowd. We ate well! Saturday evening, we had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving! We enjoyed a feast of ham, scalloped pototoes, corn, and pumpkin pie. Mmm-mmm! Sunday evening, we had an Oklahoma dinner of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and pumpkin roll!

On Sunday morning, I pursuaded Dad to sing with me in church. That was probably my highlight of the weekend! It was a great moment, one I will not soon forget. I'm so glad he agreed!

So, the house will be empty when we come home after school today. Although it will be nice to have a quiet house, I think it will seem empty without them. But I think we successfully encouraged them to stop over on their way home after Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Father is Coming!

There's a little chant repeating in my head: "My father is coming, my father is coming!"

I'm so excited! My father is coming for a long weekend. He and his wife will be here in just a few hours. I am having trouble containing myself.

We cleaned the house yesterday in anticipation of their visit. The kids were great help, even helping clean the bathroom!

We also baked cookies, and shopped for groceries (including an early Thanksgiving of sorts with ham as the main dish).

Now all that's left is the waiting. Hope I can make it until 6:00 tonight!

My father is coming!!

Here are the kiddos raking leaves! They had a great time getting ready for Grandpa's visit!!

A great book about holidays and what it means to be a family: Family Dinner by Jane Cutler.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Speeches, Basketball, and Dance.. Oh My!

Yesterday was one of those overly busy days. I'm reminded of Dorothy's famous line about lions, and tigers, and... Yep, it was a walk-in-the-woods kind of day.

During school, both kids attended the 4H speech contest. My daughter got a red ribbon, and my son got a blue ribbon. I'm just proud that they wanted to participate!

Right after school, my daughter had a basketball game. The school buses were being used on routes, so no buses were available to take the girls to the game! My husband volunteered to use our church van, so we took half and coach used the school suburban for the other half. (Hubby's logic: the pastor's daughter and the youth pastor's daughter are both on the team, so why not?) Actually, I'm glad our church can reach out to the community when there is a need!

To top it all off, my daughter had dance class last night too! She was tired for sure, but she wouldn't have it any other way. It's a good thing she's taking this all in stride, since nearly every Tuesday until mid-January is going to be basketball/dance day!

To be honest, I am glad my kids like to be involved in school and extracurricular activities. I just really wish (for my sake) that the activities didn't happen all on the same day!

A quick read, a novel in verse, for grades 6-8: Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes. The main character is a middle school basketball player, and her struggle during her first year of middle school is actually a great (and quick) book to read!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

18 Dreams

I recently read a blog post asking how life is different than you expected it to be when you were 18. (at

Well, I sat and thought about that for awhile. And here is what I discovered.

My dream at 18, headed to college, was to grow up to be a teacher. I wanted to marry a farmer, but not have any kids, and live near my family.

Hmm, much of that sounds oddly like my life today! I did grow up to be a teacher (though I'm working as a librarian now). I married a small-town boy (and although he is certainly not a farmer, we live in the country). I have two amazing children, and can't imagine life without them. And I live near my husband's family -- still near "family", just not "mine".

My life certainly isn't fairytale perfect, but it's real and it's mine. That's more than I could have ever dreamed when I was 18!

For a fun read about family (and an odd farm) pick up Dither Farm by Sid Hite. Enjoy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

"These People Are My Bones"

Sometimes when reading a book, a passage just pops off the page. The words and meaning resound deep inside, making the book more meaningful than it had been.

The book I'm currently reading is Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson. It's a unique retelling of the Peter Pan story. Like the Peter and the Starcatchers series, this book goes its own way, developing a story line all its own. The story is fun, but also dark. Anyway, I've been reading it just for fun, not studying it for a class or anything "studious" like that.

Then, out of the blue, this passage strikes me. Suddenly, the book resonates in a new way, and I find I'm having trouble putting it down (even to write this post).

Here's the passage:

" I could never leave," Pine Sap said.
"Why?" she asked.
Pine Sap shrugged, and gestured in the direction of the village. "Because I think people must be the same everywhere. Only these people are my bones."

It's true. People are people wherever you go. But your family, your village, are the ones in your heart, in your bones, that you carry with you. No matter how far you roam, your small town family is still with you.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dance Your Heart Out

My daughter loves taking dance. Her favorite is tap, but she really loves all styles. Last night was her annual Halloween Dance Party/Recital at dance class.

She had to miss her very first 6th grade basketball game to make it to dance. She chose dance (no surprise). She always has such a great time with all the girls at dance class, even though most of them attend a different school and participate in different events than she does.

Her favorite part of the evening was taking pictures with her dance teachers. These two ladies are so special, and such an important part of my daughter's life. So blessed to have such great Christian dance teachers as mentors for my daughter!

Here's a reading idea: I just finished reading Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina with my daughter. It's a biography about a famous dancer from Oklahoma. My daughter loved it, and the artwork is outstanding!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creepy Creek Halloween

I am not usually that excited about Halloween. It's not my favorite holiday, and probably will never be. My kids like it, but don't get overly jazzed up about it, either.


The girls in my daughter's class are very Halloween-crazed. They love everything spooky, from Monster High (my daughter) to ghost stories 24/7 (the rest of her class). So I should not have been too surprised when I got a call from one of the moms asking for help taking the girls to the local spook-fest, Creepy Creek.

If only she had known how much she was asking of me! I don't like anything scary. I try not to watch tv in October, just because there are so many icky things on. I don't even watch creepy commercials or read books that I think might be frightening. (I blame all of this on a childhood friend who made me watch "Lost Boys" twice when I was a teen. Yep, this is all her fault.)

However, I am a sucker when it comes to my kids. So, reluctantly and with great trepidation, I said okay. We ended up with 13 6th-grade girls, two moms, and a college girl who (thankfully) came along to help us. Once we got to the trail, we were split into three groups. Then, each group departed for the unknown.

Let me be completely honest. I was scared. My throat was sore afterward from screaming. I'm sure everyone in a 5-mile radius could hear me. And I feel sorry for the girls in my group. I kept stopping in the middle of the trail, with the girls pushing me from behind! And jumpy? Why yes, yes I am.

The worst moment happened right at the end of the trail. Our "guide" said we should choose which way to go to get back to the campfire. Well, we didn't know what to do, and ended up running around in circles, going every way except the right way. All the while being chased by "zombies", a guy with a "chainsaw", and a ghost of some kind. Oh, and our guide was chasing us, trying to get us to go the right way. Eeeek! (And, I fell down just as we crossed the creek to safety. Nice.)

Even when the trail was over and we were sitting around the campfire with the entire group, enjoying hot dogs and cocoa, I still caught myself looking over my shoulder for creepy creatures who might be jumping out from the shadows at me. Nothing did, but still...

I did not sleep well that night, but thankfully, I was okay by the next night. (I'm not sure my daughter slept well, either.) However, the girls seemed to have a great time just being together, so it was worth it.

I don't believe that I will willingly volunteer for this again, however. I will just politely say no. (Okay, maybe not.)

What's an interesting Halloween book -- that isn't too creepy? Perhaps Save Halloween by Stephanie Tolan. A unique perspective on Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family Landmarks

This weekend was full of family landmarks.

We moved into our new home over Fall Break. It took a lot of work, to move in our furniture, but it's accomplished! The best feeling in the world was being able to sleep in our own beds in our new house. This morning, making coffee in my kitchen, I'm thankful (even for a Monday morning)!

I love watching my kids grow into young adults. They have become so responsible, putting away dishes without being asked, helping to cook dinner, and putting up their clean clothes. I love how much hard work they are putting into the new house.

A wonderful moment occurred on Sunday evening. My nephew was baptized!
It brought back some great memories, of my own baptism and of my kids' baptism just a few years ago. The preacher asked for a show of hands of people in the congregation who had been baptized. Such a moment to watch my kids, smiling, raise their hands in acknowledgement. That moment was real, deep in their hearts -- just as it was in mine. What a great landmark to celebrate as a family!

Can't wait for Thanksgiving in the new house, making more family memories and family landmark events!

A great read about family life and family landmark events: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. (a classic Newbery and worth the while)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Author Discovery

Sometimes it happens when you least expect it ... that discovery of an author. Maybe you've just picked up a book because of the cover. Maybe someone has recommended a title. Maybe it just arrived across your desk, and you were bored so you picked it up.

However it happens, you find yourself devouring the book. Then looking for another by the same author. Then scanning online for a list of all the books by that author. And reading as many of them as possible. You find yourself waiting anxiously for the author to write a new book so you can read it as soon as it hits the shelves.

This scenario has happened to me many times before, and yet I'm always amazed at the process.

Today, it's been about Sarah Dessen, author of many chick-lit teen titles. I have enjoyed all of her books, but haven't read any of them in awhile. Today, I picked up What Happened to Goodbye, and I can't put it down. I'd forgotten how much I loved her books. I now remember why teen girls love her novels so much!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

House Work

We have been working hard at our "new" house to get it move-in ready.

We had an extra-long weekend last weekend, so we spent nearly all of our time working on the house. (Note: when I say "we", I do indeed mean myself, my husband, and both kids.)

Here's a list of tasks we have accomplished:

*Sacking up all (bags and bags and bags) of Grandma's clothes and delivering them to Goodwill
*Sacking up trash (cleaned out from drawers, shelves, and closets) and taking to the dump
*Removing old, broken, and unwanted appliances, dishes, pots, and pans from the kitchen
*Moving and removing Grandma's furniture to make room for some of our own, while utilizing the furniture already in the house
*Washing load after load of laundry, including but not limited to towels, sheets, curtains, furniture covers, and blankets
*Eliminating decor (knickknacks, bric-a-brac, odds and ends) left over from the 1980's (all in gold and dusty rose, if anyone is interested)

Okay, so not everything on the above list has been completed. But we have certainly made a dent in the daunting task.

Every afternoon this week, we will be working more. Tired, yes. But it's all worth it.

For some "light" reading about making a house a home, try Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. Actually, anything by Jan Karon will make a reader feel right at home! Or pick up any of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Noisy Library?

Actually, my library is a lively place. If you walk in expecting to hear a pin drop, you'll be highly alarmed.

I think a bustling library is a sign of a useful library. Is it quiet in here? Not if it's being used!

The elementary library is a good example. Especially during last period. During last period, I teach a class of 4th graders for Library Skills. Also, during this same time, I have 2nd graders coming in and out doing AR tests and checking out books. Often, the herd of 1st graders come through to check out books during this last hour of the day, too. And on really busy days, I will sometimes have the 5th & 6th come in for books, and the Kindergarten if they were running late. No, it's not quiet. It's busy. That's how I like it!

Sometimes the high school library is WAY too quiet. That's because it's not being used. Today, I'm enjoying the noise. 8th graders have been in to type essays, and now I'm hosting a group of students who have discovered the high school iPads and the learning games. Nope, not quiet, but that's all right with me.

Although the clucking chickens on Chicktionary are a bit much.

Reading suggestion for today: with thoughts on the farm (inspired by the never-ending chickens mentioned above) try the Dairy Queen series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reading for Class Assignment (and for fun)

I am really enjoying my grad class this semester! I'm taking Children's Literature, and although there is a lot of reading involved, I am having so much fun!

I'm enjoying the lively discussions with other classmates from around the state, via the college discussion boards. One particularly lively discussion centered around The Giver by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed reading the book, and its sequels, and I relished the responses given by other students about their interpretations.

I also had to read a couple of books from this year's Sequoyah reading list (available here:
I read Strange Case of Origami Yoda and reread Moon Over Manifest. Comparing the main characters in each, and then creating cross-curricular lesson plans, was an enjoyable task!

We also had a couple of great assignments that involved writing. Each assignment involved reading something from a selected list, and then writing about it by following the course rubric. The hardest thing about these assignments is learning how to pare down my writing. For example, one assignment called for a ONE-PAGE paper about an illustrator; however, the instructions also called for us to become an expert on that illustrator by reading several of his/her works and research him/her on the internet! Let's just suffice to say that my paper was actually 2 pages, not one. I used Chris Van Allsburg as my illustrator, and discovered so much about him and his unique books.

Another assignment asked us to suggest a poem for class study and for a detailed plan to teach various skills (not just poetry) in a cross-curricular format. I really enjoyed that assignment! I used the book Whiff of Pine, Hint of Skunk as the basis for my lesson, since there are so many ways to connect it to science curriculum (and much more)!

Most recently, we were given an assignment to read two different children's books that re-imagined a fairy tale. There are so many great ones out there, I had trouble deciding. I ended up going for a Gingerbread Man retelling, by using The Sugar Child and The Stinky Cheese Man. These two books are roughly based on the same story, but are polar opposites in reality. It made the writing so much easier, and the reading so much more fun! (Of course, this paper was supposed to be 1-2 pages, and ended up 2 1/2. Proud of myself for keeping it that short!)

Can't wait to see what the next assignment will be!

Reading suggestions? Well, any of the above, obviously. And dive into the above assignments on your own! You never know which book will spark your enthusiasm until you try!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Home Sweet Home

What makes a house a home?

This is the question I've been pondering lately. My family moved a lot when I was a kid, and it really never seemed like we put down roots. The only place that ever really felt like "home" to me is the Stone House, on the farm where my grandmother still lives. Though my family only really lived there 5 years, it still is the place my heart calls home. Now, the family uses the Stone House as a retreat, kind of like our own personal B&B, a place to stay when visiting Grandma.

As an adult, I've moved quite a few times, too. I find it hard to accept any living quarters as a "permanent" home. We've always rented -- why buy a house when you expect to be moving? Though we've lived in our current place for something like 6 years, it's never felt like home.

Well, we are getting ready to move again. This time, it's a welcome change. We have outgrown the house we currently rent. And the house to which we are moving is perfect. Perfect size, perfect location, perfect for us.

So I'm wondering. What makes a house a home? How long must a person live in a house before it starts to feel homey?

A book to read at home: Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Serious Reading Endeavor

I've been reading again.

I didn't really stop reading. But sometimes I just read for fun, just frivolous little fluff bits that entertain me.

Not this time. This time, it started as a serious endeavor.

It began with an assignment for my class. I'm taking my last master's class, Children's Lit. We were assigned to read Lois Lowry's The Giver.

I've read the book before. Apparently, it was so long ago, I'd forgotten most of it. Or maybe reading it again with new eyes caused me to see it differently.

What an amazing book! It is well-written, chock full of foreshadowing, symbolism, and vivid imagery. This imagery despite the fact that no one can see colors or have feelings!

I was so impressed, I had to read the sequels! The only one our school doesn't have is the finale, the fourth book. So I'll have to check it out from the public library.

Our assignment for class was to read The Giver. Next week, we will have a class discussion (via messageboard) about the novel. I can't wait to see what my colleagues think about the book!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Autumn Weather

I love this season! I love fall weather, when the temps start cooling down to livable levels. I love the seasonal rain showers and cloudy mornings. I love the fog just barely lingering when I head out to school in the morning. I love the turning leaves and the leaf piles that spontaneously appear in my yard. I love the way the air smells after a fall shower.

Last week was unbearably warm, even for Oklahoma. It was so nice to wake up to cloudy skies this morning. And then the beautiful rain shower this morning! It's still gently sprinkling outside. I love the high school library's bank of windows that let me watch the rain falling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

More About Grandmas

This morning, my husband's last living grandparent passed away. Grandma had been sick for quite a long time. She had recently been moved to the nursing home, but due to cancer in several areas, she was in a great deal of pain. The past couple of days had been very hard. So, while the call this morning wasn't really a shock, it's still hard to say goodbye. It's hard to imagine life without her.

When I first met her, I thought she was the most genteel Southern lady I had ever met. Her favorite color was dusty rose -- and as a widow with a house all to herself, the entire house was decorated in that color. I had never met anyone who had done that. (I thought she was probably exceedingly rich; she wasn't.)

I never really told anyone that until the past year or so. Everyone got a kick out of it, and once I heard her tell about her life as a child, I understood. Her family was dirt-poor. She told great stories about picking cotton and tending chickens. It was a harsh life, far from anything I can imagine. My favorite story was of the large family (she had 8 siblings) moving to a new house, but not having room for grandma in the truck; she had to ride in the back with the chickens.

To me, though, I will always see her as that proper, stately Southern belle that I met the very first time. I hope the family finds items the proper shade of dusty rose to use at her memorial service.

It also occurs to me that now my children have just one grandmother left = mine. And my grandma is 92. That thought has made me suddenly sad.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And so it goes...

So, my final (I hope) grad class is back in session. It's not a difficult class, but it will involve LOTS of reading and writing.

I started a bit later than the rest of the class, so I've been doing catch-up work this week. I'm all caught up, and I've started to work on my MAJOR project that's due at the end of the semester.

What does this project involve? LOTS of reading and writing! (Surprise.)

The class is Children's Literature, so I'll be reading children's books. Thankfully, that fits in well with what I do every day. It just involves doing MORE.

Which means less time to do the other tasks I have to do at work. It's going to mean more hours at work, and fewer hours with my family.

And so it goes...

Here is one of the children's books I just finished reading and reviewing for my class: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Great book, fun read, and my son loved it too!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Grandma

My grandma, 92, is in the hospital. She had a heart attack on Monday, stints put in yesterday, and is doing better today.

My grandma is my rock. Since I lost my mom, and my mom-in-law, who were huge in my life, I have relied so much on my grandma.

I don't get to see her too often, since she lives so far away.

And it's very difficult to live so far away now, when she is in the hospital. I can't go see her, reassure myself that she's going to be okay. Or reassure her that she's going to be okay.

Grandma lives in Kansas. Kansas is very much a part of who I am!

Books about Kansas? Try Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, or May B by Caroline Starr Rose. Different takes on historical fiction, but both are great reads.

Maybe I'll read a little to take my mind off worrying.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Building Fences

I've been watching a homeowner in a neighboring town building a fence around his yard.

We drive by this particular suburban area every time we go to McDonald's or Sonic. So it's been interesting to watch the fence-building project.

Originally, the home had a typical contractor-constructed wood fence. I assume the homeowner was unsatisfied with the workmanship or the look of the fence. At any rate, soon the fence came down.

Thus began the never-ending fence-building project. Several large brick "posts" were built at intervals all along the yard edge. Then, a brick ledge appeared, followed by wooden fencing.

Still, the homeowner wasn't satisfied. The next time we drove into town, he was demolishing some of the brick pylons. Soon, only the corners of the yard had their brick structures still standing.

Now, the fence is completed (again). It is a wooden fence (much like the original fence) spaced between brick posts anchoring each corner.

Yes, it is a nice fence. Was it worth a year's work? I don't know.

This process got me to thinking about how many things in life that are perfectly fine the way they are. Yet somehow, I feel the need to change them. For change's sake, I suppose.

Guess I will have to keep this in mind next time I'm thinking of changing...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

To Excite...

This morning is an example of why I truly LOVE my job!

A very excited young lady just bounced into the library to say that the book she checked out yesterday is "amazing"! Then she proceeded to ask me questions about it, and she continued to rave about it. And THEN she says, "I'm only 3/4 of the way into it!"

Yep, that's what I needed to hear first thing this morning. :)

I absolutely LOVE getting to recommend books to students. And I love it even more when they come back LOVING the book.

Perhaps the best part of my job is getting to pass along my enthusiasm, my excitement, my LOVE of books! I really enjoy seeing students come in to ask for a book the SECOND time, knowing I can help them find something they'll enjoy.

Why do I LOVE my job? My work is never done! :)

Oh, by the way, the exciting book she was reading? Au revior, crazy European chick by Joe Schreiber!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Doing the Right Thing

I enjoy working with kids. I think it's fascinating to watch them grow up into young adults, to watch the workings of their minds as they mature.

The hardest thing to instill in our children, I think, is the power to do the right thing. Sometimes, it seems we encourage them to make their own decisions based on what we (the adult world) want them to do. I'm always proud (and a little amazed) when kids stand up and do what's right. Without being pushed. But just because it's the right thing to do.

It's hard to be brave, no matter what age you are, to stand up for what you believe. I'm proud of all my students who wake up in the morning and come to school. It's not always easy to face the world, and it definitely isn't always easy to do the right thing.

But your efforts are appreciated. Your good deeds are seen. I am proud.

A book about doing the right thing, even if it's the hard thing: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Technology Leadership Differences

As a Library Media Specialist, I think somewhere along the line, I heard I was supposed to be a technology leader.

As a person who knows just enough about technology to be dangerous, that call to be a technology leader seems a bit daunting. And yet... Maybe my own struggle to learn and keep up with technology can mirror my students' struggles to learn something new. Although it seems that anything "tech" comes easy to today's young people, many struggle in school. As a leader in education, I should be able to guide kids toward tools that help (and to empathize with their struggles).

I currently serve two libraries, one at elementary and one at jr/sr high school. Here is where the strangest dichotomy exists. Our elementary school is led by a strong administrator who acknowledges the need for technology in education, and who encourages all of us to expand our boundaries and think outside the box. Her attitude is one of excelling as champions in all areas. Our principal's enthusiasm is contagious, and as we learn new things, we pass them on to our students. The atmosphere at the elementary school is one of optimism as we eagerly embrace the future today.

The atmosphere in the junior/senior high school is a bit different. The teachers are not pushed to try new things, but they can if they are willing to do so on their own. New technology is not on the "high priority" list.

Where do I fit in here? I think I sort of fall in the middle somewhere. I try to keep up with new things (being married to the computer tech guy at the elementary helps), but I admit that it is sometimes difficult to try new things.

Here's the point: no matter where you work, no matter your own ability or comfort level, step out of the box once in awhile. Anyone can be a technology leader. It may take a bit of effort, but aren't our kids worth it?

How about a fun read for elementary kids? Dan Gutman's Virtually Perfect is a great choice!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Fun with Technology (and Scrapbooking)

That's right, I've found more fun with technology!

I know I'm married to a technology guru, but it's so much more fun when I "discover" things for myself. I often say I know enough about technology to be dangerous! But trust me, my new fun technology is safe for all users!

This new, fun aspect of technology combines several of my "favorite things".

Taking pictures

Combine all those together and presto!

Photo Books from the Walmart Digital Photo Center!

There are several neat aspects of the Walmart online site, but I love the photo center. We've known for a long time about the ease of using the online photo center to send pictures to be developed. If my order is under $20, I can just send them the photos, then go pick them up and pay for them at my local Walmart! I have 2 Walmart stores close by, and it's easy to choose which one with just a click. So, no matter what town I'm in, I can go by and pick up my pictures.

The "new" part of the site that I've "discovered" is the photo book section. Basically, it's like online scrapbooking! I can upload my pictures from my computer or camera card . Then I choose from a PLETHORA of backgrounds and themes. I can also choose what size I want the album to be, whether I want it hardbound or paper, and even if I want a picture cover, standard cover, or cover with a picture window.

The best part is, I can make the books however long I need them to be (with a minimum of 20 pages -- but that's hardly a "minimum", right?) and add as many pages as I need. Not only do the pages allow me to put in pictures, but I can also add journaling. Which, as any ardent scrapbooker will agree, is a vital part of any photo album!

I can take as long as I want to create a book. I can save at any point along the way, edit and undo wherever I need to, or even discard the whole thing if I want! Best of all, I can order the books sent directly to my local Walmart for me to pick up. No shipping charges! With the photo books, I usually use my handy Walmart gift card to pay online, so all I have to do is drop by Walmart in about a week and pick up my books!

Believe me, these books are quite nice. I've made 4 so far! Can't wait to get together with my family this week to share the books I've made, and to take more pictures to use in creating more masterpieces!

As a book recommendation, I suggest the scrapbooking tools from Creative Memories! The company has local representatives that sell everything from paper and stickers to organizers and books. I love the idea books, like the one below. Or explore the website at! (ooo, more technology!)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Logistics of Family Togetherness

It's no secret, I love getting together with my family! I have a very close family, and we love spending time together. The problem is, we live very far away from them!

It's hard to get together very often when you live 8 hours from the people you want to see. It's actually a major undertaking. Thankfully, my kids are good travelers; but getting everyone else together is like organizing a small army. Make that an army of cats!

Usually, we manage to get together only twice a year -- Christmas and summer time. Sometimes, it's closer to Thanksgiving, or Fall Break, or Spring Break. However we can manage it, we get together when we can. We especially love heading out to the farm where my grandma lives. The kids love running around the wide open Kansas plains, and the cousins love coming out and running around with them! It's just difficult to get all of us in one place at the same time.

Most difficult of all is having to change plans. Yes, making the plans initially is tricky. Carrying out the plans is even more dicey.

As you can tell, I am experiencing this plan-changing right now. Because my son is sick, we are unable to get together with my herd (hmm, I mean family) when we originally planned. Hopefully everyone will be flexible and we can try again when the little guy is feeling better. Nothing like a long drive in the car with a sick child! And he would have NO fun out at the farm if he had to stay inside the whole time!

So, family, be patient. We'll try this again.

In the meantime, I'll be indulging in some light reading. To cheer myself up. I miss my family!

Light reading suggestion: Hester Browne's Swept Off Her Feet. I plan to enjoy it this weekend!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Design Therapy

I love watching HGTV. And now, I'm pretty sure my daughter is also hooked!

The premiere of the new season of Design Star was last night, so we spent this morning enjoying the show on, as well as the "extras".

You know, the extras: behind the scenes, expert advice, the whining, and of course, the sneak peak of next week's episode! (Which is the white box, by the way -- my favorite of each season.)

Then, we discovered a cool extension -- HGTV Color Schemes and Paint!

We started with the really cool Style Quiz at

I think it's pretty accurate, considering it nailed me, my daughter, and my son. (I'm "Global Spice", daughter is "Color Pizazz", and son is "Rustic Refined".) Even the names are fun! The kids had fun looking through the color combinations, seeing if they could find the color styles that matched other people we know, like Aunt Teri ("Coastal Cool") or cousin Heidi ("Traditional Twist").

There is also a cool section where you can "Picture it before you paint it" -- click on the colors you like, and use coordinating colors to decorate sample rooms!

My book suggestion for the day is Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. This amazing book was given to me several years ago, and works really well for people with small houses as well as city apartments. It takes you step-by-step through your living space to take you from hating your home to loving it! Apartment Therapy has a website, too, with lots of blogs and shopping. Great book, and great website!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Musings

This Memorial Day weekend really made me reminisce. It was just one of those weekends.

We took flowers around for my husband's grandma, to all the gravesites she usually visits. Good thing my father-in-law took us. It was a bit of a wild good chase, and I will probably not remember where they all are, but it was quite interesting. Lots of my husband's relatives that I didn't know much about. I also got to sit with his grandma and talk to her for awhile about her life. I learned so much about her childhood that I didn't know before. The neatest story was about when she moved when she was 2. She had to ride in the back of a pickup with the family's chickens!

We also went out to Mammaw's grave. The kids and I go out there several times a year, but it was neat to see it decorated with beautiful flowers from my sister-in-law and a wreath from PaPa. My husband also found the rock that my daughter had put out there when the headstone first arrived. It had been "lost" under a bit of grass and dirt. (PaPa said he'd been asking everyone about who had put the rock out there in the first place -- not knowing it was his own granddaughter!!)

I have also ordered a spray of flowers to take out to my mom's grave. We usually don't get there during Memorial Day time, but we will be there next weekend! My sister-in-law the florist designed flowers just for me! It will be beautiful: sunflowers, orange lilies, and white roses.

On Sunday, the family all gathered at PaPa's house. The men grilled burgers and steaks, and we had asparagus and cheese! The hardest part of the day, though, was that my son was sick. So hubby and I "tag teamed" to get to spend some time with the family. Everyone was there, but not all at the same time! My daughter had fun playing with all her little cousins.

Check out some great Memorial Day "reading": cookbooks! Get out the grill!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Arrows in the Air

My son is wanting to learn to shoot a bow this summer. Since he isn't playing baseball, and since my daughter is doing lots of activities like tumbling and dance, I don't begrudge him learning something new.

What has brought about this sudden interest in bow shooting? I blame it on the movies.

He has always been a fan of Legolas (of Lord of the Rings), but the new Avengers movie has brought back a bow-weilding superhero (Hawkeye). And add to that the popularity of Hunger Games heroine Katniss and super shot Merida in Disney's Brave.

We are surrounded by bowmen (and women) of many sorts. So, it's no wonder he wants to learn. He really wants to be like the guys on Top Shot -- who can shoot guns and bows!

Hmm. An interesting summer is shaping up here!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cleaning House

This week is all about cleaning house. Not actually my own house. I'm cleaning the libraries.

You see, school is out, and I'm using this week to clean, straighten, dust, and organize at the school libraries. These are all the tasks that just didn't get done during the school year. The final month of school is a bit like a foot race -- a mad dash to the finish!

So, today I'm dusting. It's not that I haven't dusted all year. But you'd be surprised how much dust accumulates during a busy month of school! I believe the elementary computers were attacked by monster dust bunnies!

It's a time-consuming process, to be sure. Sometimes, I will finish an area, move on to the next, only to discover the first area looks dusty already! (Insert huge sigh here.)

I think I know how Cinderella felt. Or Snow White. I may be a princess inside, but today I'm just the library maid.

Covered in dust.

Please pardon my sneezing.

For a fun read about a princess doing manual labor, try Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl. A neat take on the "goose girl" fairy tale!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



The next few weeks are very busy. School is almost finished for the year, and we're filling every day with as much as possible.

It's almost time for my daughter's dance recital -- one week away. So LOTS of time is being taken up with that (rehearsals, pictures, hair appointments, and on, and on). Her piano recital is in just two weeks, so we are trying to prepare for that, too.

In all of this busy time, it's been hard to find time to read for myself. It's been incredibly busy at school, and it's been busy at home, so I try to steal a few minutes for myself.

That hasn't really been working. Anyone have ideas for stealing a few moments for one's self during times that are especially busy?

Know what? I don't even have a book recommendation for this week. When I have a few minutes to myself, I might get to reading something!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Music of Movies

We recently went to see the Hunger Games, which my husband describes as "Lord of the Flies" meets "Survivor", with a little "Most Dangerous Game" for good measure.

I enjoyed the movie. Like most movies that are based on successful novels, it was impossible to include all the detail of the book. Naysayers, please realize, if the director did that, the movie would be 13 hours long. The movie really did a great job portraying the events of the novel without messing it up too much. (Here, I must refer to the disasterous job movie makers did with The Lightning Thief!!)

However, what I really appreciated about this movie was the music. The under-running soundtrack is amazing! In many places, the music itself is so subtle, the casual movie-goer will never notice. However, it's the music that drives our emotions through the entire movie.

For example, the emotional Rue scene near the end of the movie makes me cry every time. Yes, I read the book. Yes, I know what's going to happen. It's that the music cue is so emotionally poignant that you HAVE to cry. Well done.

Another great example is in the "finale" of the games. Yes, I know a large animal is going to jump out from the bushes. Yes, I am going to jump every time. The second time through the movie, I closed my eyes. Guess what? I jumped anyway. And that's when I figured it out -- it's the music! It rises and falls, rises and falls, each time making the movie-goer more tense. Until right at the last moment, the music drops out. That's when the main characters get attacked.

Music is vital to the movies. It's how directors get the audience to respond appropriately. Think back to your favorite movie, remember the music of your favorite moments during that movie, and you'll understand. Music makes the movie.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I have read, and reread, a wonderful book over the past two weeks. It's called MWF seeking BFF, by Rachel Bertsche. The book is about the author's search for a best friend. After moving to Chicago with her husband, the author misses her bffs in New York. She has a few acquaintances, but no one she can really call a best friend. Thus begins her year-long search for a local bff.

Rachel's stories of meeting new people, and learning to make friends as an adult, are funny and poignant at the same time. She also mixes in plenty of research-based facts that support her ideas and theories that drive her search.

The book made me really think about my own friendships.

Most of my deepest, truest friends were made when I was in school. I have often said that my best friend during my growing-up years was my brother. He was the one who always stood by me, and believed that I could do things even I didn't think I could. (This odd belief inspired me to go out for track my senior year -- which lasted for two days.) My two best-friends-from-birth (since they were born just two months before me, and I really don't remember a time without them) are still my friends, although I rarely see them and only visit with them via facebook. Speaking of facebook, I've been able to reconnect with several friends I made in my elementary years that I haven't seen since my family moved in 6th grade. I think my closest friends were made during my college years. Even though we often disagreed about a lot of things, this group of friends still remain the closest group of friends I have (though most of them I only visit through facebook).

The book also struck a chord with me in that I, too, have lived in my present location for 5 years, but have not made a lot of close friends. It's hard to make close friends when moving into a small town. Everyone already has their group or clique, many of them having been friends since birth -- or at least kindergarten. Also, it's my husband's hometown, so I get the feeling that everyone expects me to already know them. I don't.

I do have friends. Most of my friends either attend my church or are parents of kids the same age as mine. But I think I'm still seeking my bff, the best friend forever to whom I can run to or call at all hours of the night.

Let me also mention that although the author of the book talks about her brother, she doesn't have one special friend that I do have -- my sisters-in-law. No, God did not bless me with sisters. He must have known that I would need sisters later on in life! :) I have four fabulous sisters-in-law who are truly my sisters and my friends.

So, while I am going to reread Rachel's book (again) and think about new ways to make -- and keep -- friends, I feel blessed to have met many wonderful people in my life already.

And here's hoping I'm make some new friends along the way.

For more about the book, author, and her blog, check out

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I love seeing the spring grass and the rain, everyone dressed up in new clothes, and families getting together.

We all coordinated because my daughter picked out our clothes. We had a unique Easter meal after church, because my husband and my father-in-law designed the menu (and cooked it all). We did enjoy our steaks and burgers off the grill!

I think my favorite thing about Easter is what happens in the church. It certainly is a time when we are filled with joy and hope. The sanctuary fills with people, lillies, and powerful hymns that we only sing at Easter. It is at Easter than communion means more than ever, and our eyes are stung by unexpected tears at the wonder of it all.

This year, our kids (ten of them this time) did a skit of sorts to the song "Hero" by the Christian group Abandon. What a moving experience! No words were needed, they just acted out the story of Christ's coming. Yep, the kids get it, even when the adults have trouble remembering.

"There He goes, the Hero, the Savior of the world, here He stands with scars in His hands. With love He gave His life so we could be free." Powerful words. If you haven't heard this song, I heartily recommend it!

For a light springtime read, try Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. Newbery Award winner 1945, a bit like Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit mixed with Richard Adams' Watership Down. One of my favorite lines happens just before Little Georgie sets off on his journey: "As he drifted off to sleep he could hear Mother still worrying and Father talking on and on -- and on -- and on -- and -- on --" And then there's a picture of Little Georgie asleep. So sweet!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time in Trees

The kids were climbing trees this afternoon.

Now, frankly, I didn't remember we had any climbable trees in our backyard -- and I'm pretty sure the giant tree in our front yard is unsuitable for climbing. But climb they did.

My son must take after my brother. He found ways into the topmost branches of the little tree in our backyard, and discovered various ways to get down! I even heard talk of a "tree house".

They remind me of times climbing trees with my brother. He was always much braver than I was. Yes, I could climb, but not nearly as well as my brother. And I'm pretty sure he is still climbing trees!

We've also been watching the Lord of the Rings movies. It's easy to see the connection between my kids climbing trees and the pro-nature/anti-industrialism theme at work in Tolkein's grand design. I heartily endorse reading this masterful trilogy. (The Hobbit is good, too, but a bit more difficult to make one's way through.)

The timeliness of my kids' discovery of the love of trees has not been lost on me. Arbor Day is this month. I hope everyone will find time to enjoy the great outdoors -- and maybe plant a tree.

Speaking of planting trees, I just heard that my dad has been planting trees at the farm! Can't wait to see what they will look like in a few years!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Disney Challenge

My daughter has proclaimed we are going to Walt Disney World next year. My husband has confirmed it -- we're going to celebrate his 40th birthday at Star Wars Weekends. Can't wait! So unbelievably excited. And it's still a year away!

So, I've decided to challenge myself. I'm going to learn one new thing about Disney World every day until we go. That's more than 365 days, but I'm up for the challenge. I've found lots of websites, blogs to follow, and of course, I'll be listening to the Lou Mongello WDW Radio Show podcast every week.

Here's my new thing for today: the next book in the Kingdom Keepers series is out! Book 5! My family is still reading book 4 (got sidetracked by the Lightning Thief series), but you know we will be in the bookstore buying Shell Game soon!

Love the Disney magic! :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More About Dreams

♫ "A dream is a wish your heart makes..." ♪

Disney movies have some good things to teach our children. One important message that shines through is the importance of dreams -- and following your dreams. Whether you are a princess in a tower or a dented tow truck, it is of vital importance to keep chasing your dreams.

♪ "The dream that you wish will come true..." ♫

So why do we end up hijacking our kids' dreams? Somehow, through the "real world" of public education, our kids end up thinking they need to dream smaller dreams. I think the term that is bandied about is "realistic" dreams. Really? Since when is dreaming supposed to be about thinking small? Your dreams are supposed to be BIG -- as big as you can think up!

Picture this: a child enters school dreaming of becoming an astronaut. The child's teacher tells her, "There's no way you can be an astronaut. Wouldn't you like to be a ____ instead?" Fill in the blank with whatever idea you'd like. It ends up the same. We should be about the job of helping kids find ways to reach their dreams, not telling them their dreams are unreachable.

My son wants to fly fighter planes and helicopters for the Air Force. He has wanted to do this since he was quite small. We attended an air show with my father (who was in the Air Force), and my son got to sit behind the controls of a Blackhawk. That was it; that was his dream job from that moment on. His dream has adapted and changed a bit. He is now 10, and his dream now looks like flying unmanned drones and designing software to create these types of programs. He has even talked about going to the Air Force Academy and Spartan School of Aeronautics.

Now, I am making sure that his dream stays alive. As parents, we aren't supposed to kill our kids' dreams. We're supposed to help them realize their dreams. We support our kids dreams, and allow our kids' dreams to change. NOT change their dreams for them!

I've been reading (and rereading) Stop Stealing Dreams. Have a look at section 14:

14. The wishing and dreaming problem

If you had a wish, what would it be? If a genie arrived and granted you a wish, would it be a worthwhile one?
I think our wishes change based on how we grow up, what we’re taught, whom we hang out with, and what our parents do.
Our culture has a dreaming problem. It was largely created by the current regime in schooling, and it’s getting worse.
Dreamers in school are dangerous. Dreamers can be impatient, unwilling to become well-rounded, and most of all, hard to fit into existing systems.
One more question to ask at the school board meeting: “What are you doing to fuel my kid’s dreams?”

And more here in section 19:

19. Dreams are difficult to build and easy to destroy

By their nature, dreams are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. And when they’re flickering, it’s not particularly difficult for a parent or a teacher or a gang of peers to snuff them out.
Creating dreams is more difficult. They’re often related to where we grow up, who our parents are, and whether or not the right person enters our life.
Settling for the not-particularly uplifting dream of a boring, steady job isn’t helpful. Dreaming of being picked—picked to be on TV or picked to play on a team or picked to be lucky—isn’t helpful either. We waste our time and the time of our students when we set them up with pipe dreams that don’t empower them to adapt (or better yet, lead) when the world doesn’t work out as they hope.
The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen.
I think we’re doing a great job of destroying dreams at the very same time the dreams we do hold onto aren’t nearly bold enough.

Or here, from section 36:

36. Instead of amplifying dreams, school destroys them
Every day, beginning the first day and continuing until the last day, our teachers and our administrators and yes, most parents, seeking to do the right thing, end up doing the wrong one.
We mean well.
We let our kids down easy.
We tell ourselves that we are realistic.
We demand that students have a trade to fall back on, an assembly-line job available just in case the silly dreams don’t come true. And then, fearing heartbreak, we push them to bury the dream and focus on just the job.
The job with a boss and an office and air conditioning and a map of what to do next. A job with security and co-workers and instructions and deniability.
And when the job doesn’t come?
When all the dues are paid and for nothing?

Some intense reading, folks. And food for thought.

Have you talked to your kids about their dreams? Teachers, have you talked to your students about their dreams?

What are we doing to help kids reach their dreams? And how can we help them if we never let them talk about what their dreams might be? Instead of fitting kids into certain boxes, perhaps we should let them dream outside the box!

Most powerful section (at least today) --
Take a look at section 130:

130.Whose dream?
There’s a generational problem here, a paralyzing one.
Parents were raised to have a dream for their kids—we want our kids to be happy, adjusted, successful. We want them to live meaningful lives, to contribute and to find stability as they avoid pain.
Our dream for our kids, the dream of 1960 and 1970 and even 1980, is for the successful student, the famous college, and the good job. Our dream for our kids is the nice house and the happy family and the steady career. And the ticket for all that is good grades, excellent comportment, and a famous college.
And now that dream is gone. Our dream. But it’s not clear that our dream really matters. There’s a different dream available, one that’s actually closer to who we are as humans, that’s more exciting and significantly more likely to affect the world in a positive way.
When we let our kids dream, encourage them to contribute, and push them to do work that matters, we open doors for them that will lead to places that are difficult for us to imagine. When we turn school into more than just a finishing school for a factory job, we enable a new generation to achieve things that we were ill-prepared for.
Our job is obvious: we need to get out of the way, shine a light, and empower a new generation to teach itself and to go further and faster than any generation ever has. Either our economy gets cleaner, faster, and more fair, or it dies.
If school is worth the effort (and I think it is), then we must put the effort into developing attributes that matter and stop burning our resources in a futile attempt to create or reinforce mass compliance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dreaming Big

I'm currently reading the powerful e-book Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin. In this powerful work, the author talks about some important things that are missing from American education. One of these things is imagination -- the power to dream big.

We give our kids tasks to perform, information to memorize, tests to take, and then wonder why they aren't creative problem-solvers.

Picture this. A class of 5th-graders have been learning about Vikings (history, misconceptions, etc). I pass them a couple of coloring pages and a box of 24 crayons -- to create while I read (from a fiction book). The first question they ask? "Does it matter what color I use?"

Really?? Of course it doesn't matter! Use whatever color you like! Be creative! If the boat is red and pink, and the water is orange, that's great!

When have we so indoctrinated our kids that their first response is to question how creative they are allowed to be? Kids need to be empowered to make creative decisions -- to dream big!

I'm inspired by "Stop Stealing Dreams". I'd love to have a discussion with others who have read/are reading this work.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blast from the Past

How amazing it is to discover "new" novels!

Did you know that the author of the Tarzan books, Edgar Rice Burroughs, was really a prolific science fiction writer? In fact, the majority of his body of work was sci-fi. How is it that I have never heard that before?

My husband got one of these books for me on the kindle: A Princess of Mars. It's the first book in a rather long series. This first installment was originally published in 1911. How different the world must have looked 100 years ago; and yet, many of his ideas (low gravity, teleportation, etc.) are still used in many modern series.

I bring this up because we recently went to see the movie John Carter. Incidently, this movie is based on the Princess of Mars series. Many people didn't know that. I think the movie might have been more appreciated if people had known. It kind of puts in in a new perspective to realize that the story playing out on the screen was originally envisioned a century ago!

I applaud free thinkers like Edgar Rice Burroughs. And, as always, I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie. (Insert Hunger Games reference here, for all those on the movie bandwagon.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Meaning of Family

Anyone who knows me probably would tell you that my family is the most important thing in my life. In fact, just a quick glance through my blog would tell even the casual observer that my life centers around my family.

This month is a big birthday month. First, we celebrate my daughter's birthday. Shortly after that, we celebrate my niece's birthday. Finally, we celebrate my birthday! Besides just this inner circle of birthdays, I also have various uncles and cousins with March birthdays. My brother- and sister-in-law celebrate their wedding anniversary in March as well. So you can see how March, for me, is all about family.

Recently, my sister-in-law's husband decided he wants a divorce. Imagine how hard this is for her; imagine how hard it is for such a close-knit family! We are all hurting with her, and hoping and praying that she will somehow find herself during all of this.

Yes, March makes me think about family. Spring Break, the big event of the month, is usually spent with family. This year is no exception; we're looking forward to lots of family events and trips.

So, I've been pondering, "What is the meaning of family?" To me, it starts with those to whom I have been born. My parents, brothers, and children. The heart of my family is my husband, and by extension, his parents, siblings, and their children. But family is so much more than that. My family circle also extends to my church family (we're having a church family game night tomorrow, in fact) and my work family. When one of my colleagues hurts, I hurt. Might as well be family.

So, March is all about family.

I'm in the middle of reading a novel that looks at family a little differently.

In the book, the main character's parents are researchers raising a baby chimp as a family member, studying language development and chimp intelligence. What is so interesting about the story is that it seems like the teen protagonist is really the one being studied. Kind of blurs the definition of family.

Anyway, no matter your definition of family, March to me is the time to pull family close and enjoy every precious minute of time with them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing Practice

My son hates to write.

Let me qualify that statement a bit. My son loves to create stories, enjoys research, and likes using the computer. However, my son hates to write - by hand.

He has always struggled with his handwriting. His printing was nearly illegible (but has improved a bit in the past year). His cursive leaves MUCH to be desired. And he is frustrated by his lack of progress and how difficult this task is for him. He will often snap the lead in his pencil just writing the smallest homework assignment. And writing a whole story? Well, let's just say he prints it first. (Because if he wrote in cursive first, the story would be a WHOLE lot shorter!)

So, I'm always trying to think of ways to encourage him to write -- for fun. I think the dying art of letter writing is helpful, but I need something that he can do for INSTANT feedback. Maybe journaling exercises? Maybe the whole family can journal together.

I got this idea after seeing a blog post about a book called "Un-Journaling". I checked it out on and it looks neat. I also looked at some other journaling workbooks.

I just don't want it to feel like homework! I need it to be FUN! (big sigh) I need some inspiration. Hmm, I wonder how he would respond to the idea of scrapbooking? My scrapbooks always involve lots of journaling. Well, we'll see.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Just heard about the new VeggieTales DVD, Robin Good. I'm so glad they are still making movies! :) Such a great thing for kids. So glad my kids still enjoy watching them!

Heard about this great giveaway on one of my new fav blogs, Momma Findings. She's actually giving away a Robin Good DVD! Wow!

Here's where I found out about it:



Yesterday, I had surgery. Not major surgery, just an outpatient procedure. Today, I'm recovering.

Even though I have a really low pain tolerance, I always think I'm going to just "feel fine" the next day. I don't know why I think this. It doesn't make any sense, given that I've always had a low threshold for pain of any kind. I guess I just think I should be fine after surgery.

Well, it doesn't work that way. Most frustrating are all the things that are not getting done while I am stuck in bed! Two birthday parties today, for example. So dad is stuck running kids to parties, and I get to go to none. Sigh. And attending church tomorrow is out, too.

Thankfully, I stocked up on library books on Thursday! Somehow, I've ended up with not one but two murder mysteries about ladies that knit! And they aren't old grannies that solve mysteries... Weird. Two very different authors, and different takes on the stories. But how odd that the heroines of each book should have knitting in common!

Is knitting really that popular?