Musings from a K-5th Reading Specialist. I encourage my students to think, speak, read, and write, with my support.
I parent two amazing young adult daughters with my husband of 28 years.

March 31, 2016

Future Slices #SOL16 31/31

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Wow.  March is over!?!!?  

I've enjoyed reading slices from everyone.
Your comments mean the world to me, even if I'm not so great at replying.
I tried to visit lots of blogs over the month,
yet I know I missed a whole lot of your writing.

I hope you will continue to slice throughout the year on Tuesdays.
I try and write when the muse moves me (or Michelle nudges me)
But sometimes my slices sound like the same old things...
family, chocolate, books, chocolate, funny stories, teaching.

I'm think my future slices will be about ...
  • Daughter #1 continuing to be successful in her studies and finding her new roles at college (orientation guide and resident assistant)  not too stressful
  • Launching daughter #2 out of high school and into college where she will make good decisions (getting to class on time!) and continue to grow as a young adult
  • Husband #1 (LOL) will stay his course of eating well, exercising and being an all around awesome guy
  • Teaching and learning with my students 
  • Funny stories about the above process
  • Books, books, and more books (maybe more nonfiction!)
  • The Little Free Library I hope to install in my yard this summer and maybe one at school, too!
Thanks for coning along for the Slice of Life Challenge ride!

March 30, 2016

Passion for positive changes #SOL16 30/31

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It's election day at the University of Iowa.  The students are deciding who will run their student government today.  My oldest daughter, Lindsey, has been a key part of getting her candidates elected.  When she started college, it was as a business major.  Then she figured out that her passion is more about people and policy.  She then changed to a double major in communications and political science.  She's drawn to others who want to create positive changes for people, the environment and life in general.  

This campaign has been a learning process.  Lindsey has figured out what's important to her, and she inspires the people around her to stand up and speak up for what they believe in.  She and the rest of her party have made solid decisions about their platform: support for students (especially mental health care), safety, diversity, inclusive initiatives, and more.

I know this campaign has been time consuming, stressful and lots of hard work.  I know my daughter has grown emotionally and figured out more of her strengths.  I've worked hard to keep myself from checking in with her constantly and making sure she's eating, sleeping and doing her homework (#teachermomproblem).

I couldn't be prouder of this kid.  I wish her BLOC party (Better Lives on Campus) much success in their endeavors to win the election and make positive changes to the university.

I am running for UISG senator because I see this opportunity as way to ensure all students' concerns are being heard and needs are being met. I hope through this position I will be able to work towards a more inclusive and supportive university.  I'm ultimately working to give back and better the Hawkeye community, a community that has already given so much to me.

March 29, 2016

Happy birthday, dear friends! #SOL16 29/31

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Today I celebrate Michelle and Karen, my dear friends and fellow book pushers!  
Today they both celebrate their birthday!!!!  How special for my kindred spirits!

Dear Michelle (Piggy to me, Gerald),
When I was hired at Frost, I got a call from our boss.  He wanted me to call and introduce myself to you because he knew you needed a partner-in-crime/reading.  I could tell we would be friends from the first time we talked.  Our strategies might be different (mine more circular, yours linear) but we have the same goals for our kiddos and students: to become independent thinkers who love to learn.  We also share goals for our fellow teachers:  walk the walk as readers and writers!

May you see this birthday as just a number.  You will continue to refine your beliefs and stay on the path to greatness.  You will always be my mentor, and of course, I will lend you an ear anytime you need to vent your frustrations (you are also such an awesome listener to my stories).  May we continue to share lots of laughs, books, daughter talk and trips that include books!  (Eric Carle museum is on the bucket list!  One day!)

Big hugs, 

Dear Karen (Ivy to me, Bean),
When we first met, I envied your binder.  It was a Title I meeting, and you had everything at your fingertips.  I quietly watched as you shared your opinions and data with a firm, clear voice.  I loved to hear you switch into Spanish and greet all your friends with a hug.

When you came to Frost, I remember welcoming you and feeling like you were home.  Your selfless kindness and willingness to listen and share has been so valuable to me.  It's been "fun" to shake our heads at our teenage daughters' "adventures."  May we stay strong this fall as we send B and A to college (WAHHHH!) Keep up your tireless crusade for kids and continue working hard to push our fellow teachers to be their best.

Big hugs,
Made with Vanilla Pen app

March 28, 2016

Many feelings #SOL16 28/31

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That's how I felt as I walked behind Allison, my high school senior, today.  I watched her long strides, walking with purpose, talking with our friend, Kelsey, talking details about college life at Illinois State U.


I stayed quiet as Allison met with an advisor about accommodations.  She asked the questions and got the answers.  I politely answered direct questions and made small talk with the advisor about iPad apps.


I feel proud of my daughter.  She's overcome some challenges to get to this campus.  She will have to work hard to keep up with studies, social life and time management.  I think she can do it and so does her dad and the rest of our family and friends.


I'm grateful for friends that will hold me up as I send my baby to college this fall.  


We walked 6 miles around campus today! I can't wait to soak my feet tonight!

March 27, 2016

Together #SOL16 27/31

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This year

I missed the egg hunt, the lamb cake, the kielbasa.

I missed having my nephews run around the yard.

I missed cleaning the house (not really) and hiding the baskets.

I missed helping Jeff cook and mess up the kitchen.

*** yet***

I gained an opportunity to be with my whole family, in one town, spending time together.

I gained a chance to see my oldest, in the middle of a stressful week.

I gained quiet time with my youngest.

I gained good conversation with my husband.

It was worth it

This year.

March 26, 2016

Road trips! #SOL16 26/31

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The laundry is done, the bags are being packed.

We are heading out on a mini road trip!

This weekend we will visit Lindsey in Iowa City.

On Monday we will visit Bloomington to take an closer look at Illinois State U.

Can I limit what I pack?  


Games, computer (MUST SLICE), two pairs of shoes, comfy clothes, dress up clothes, tooooo much!

Gotta run and hit the road!

March 25, 2016

Learner Supports #SOL16 25/31

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My husband, Jeff, comes from a long line of teachers:  both of his grandmothers, his great-grandfather, his mother, and his sister.

Jeff works as a management consultant.  His forte is food and beverage distribution.  While working with a client, he realized that the warehouse managers were having trouble visualizing product movement.

As a consultant, Jeff is there to help the client improve their business operations and bottom line.  He is there to make his clients successful.  To make them successful, sometimes it takes some specialized tools.

Imagine my surprise when the coffee table was covered with a mini warehouse one evening.

"Did you get my nephews a new toy?"  I asked.

"Nope.  The warehouse guys needed to see and touch the warehouse.  They don't get it," replied Jeff.

He had ordered a forklift, a worker, pallets, boxes and a telehandler in miniature.

"This is way too CUTE!" I exclaimed.  "You a such a teacher!  It's manipulatives for your kinesthetic learners!

"It's important for them to figure out how to scan a pallet full of mixed products.  They need to see it.  It's not cute, it's a tool!" was his answer, with a smile.  (He is one goofy guy!)

Jeff spent a few hours that week creating slip sheets from paper, cutting a variety of boxes from wood and painting them different colors.  This was all to help his client visualize and better solve their issues.

Today we visited his office and I had to snap a picture and tell the story of his miniature warehouse.  I'm glad my husband is willing to get (cute!) tools and help his clients be successful.

March 24, 2016

Staff meeting fun #SOL16 24/31

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Working at an elementary school can be lots of fun.  Besides the fun quotes from the kids, the grown ups you work with can make your environment enjoyable. (See Sloth Week Silliness).

Our principal is a great guy - he tries to keep our staff meetings moving along.  It's best if he can get someone to keep the notes while he talks because it's tricky to do both.  I usually volunteer to take notes so I can keep my brain from wandering off.  I like to keep in the conversation and have some fun, too!

Today I created a Google doc and our principal displayed the doc from his computer on the smartboard.  Someone asked me if the Google doc showed live updates, I replied with, "Hi Stephanie!" on the doc.  Later I was changing line items as we went along, adding smiling faces and symbols for a bit of fun.  When we talked about signaling your class for attention, the 4th grade team suggested "BooYah, Grandma!" so I made sure that was in big print on the screen.

Another way to have fun at a staff meeting is to have a book giveaway.  For our reading night, we spent some building funds on books for our students who attended.  I brought a pile of books to our staff meeting today.  It always makes me smile when people get excited about a $4 Scholastic paperback.  

My favorite way of having fun at staff meetings is to play Kahoot!  I've made little silly quizzes at during the meeting (as a review).  Then we all pull out our cell phones at the end to play.  It's always surprising when some of our quietest staff members become the most competitive!

March 23, 2016

You have touched our heart #SOL16 23/31

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One of our first grade teachers went on maternity leave in January.  Her long-term sub, Mrs. M., is just lovely.  She's organized, kind, and very patient with the kiddos.

Tomorrow is her last

Today I walked into the first grade room (I pull groups three times each morning - I'm a regular visitor) and told Mrs. M.  that I would be taking her friends.  I told her she would understand later.

I beckoned to a few friends that I usually don't take, and whispered to them in the hallway,
"Today we are making a secret surprise for Mrs. M.  Tomorrow is her last day."

They beamed and made "Os" with their mouths.  (Six and seven year olds are usually not trusted with secrets.)

I walked each group (this took 30 minutes!) to my room, explained the project, helped them make their mark, then walked them back.  They all assured me they would not tell Mrs. M about the project.  (I saved the usual announcer for my last helper.  Smart, right!?!?)

Later, I brought the project back to Mrs. M and the kiddos helped present it to her.  There were hugs and happy tears and shouts of joy.  Of course I don't have a picture - this morning was all about getting Mrs. M her present.  (Here is a pic from Pinterest to give you the gist.  I had the students put their fingerprints in a heart, then sign their names on the bottom.)
Image from Pinterest Link
We will miss you, Mrs. M!  
Please take care! 
We hope to snatch you up to teach in our building soon!

March 22, 2016

Chocolate #SOL16 22/31

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Ask anyone about my favorite sweet (family, students, strangers) and they will tell you it's chocolate.

My favorite holiday is the day AFTER Valentine's Day when the chocolate is on sale.  (No, not really.  I will pay full price chocolate any time).

I've become a bit of a chocolate snob over the years, but I've always preferred dark chocolate.  Semi sweet chocolate chips do fine in a pinch, but hand me some Dove Promises, and I'm your BFF!

My students think it's especially funny that I admit to loving chocolate so much.  They expect grownups to tout the benefits of vegetables and fruit.  "Chocolate grows on trees," I tell them.  Then I explain the cacao bean and tell them I dream of planting a cacao tree in my yard.

Sandra Boynton is one of my favorite illustrators and authors.  I have loved her work since I discovered a button in college with a hippo trying to hug a cake ("I never met a carbohydrate I didn't like!)  I was SO excited to order her new book, Chocolate: The Consuming Passion.  My husband laughed when he saw it in our online bookstore cart.  "The kids will love that one!" 

Well... this book will not be going to school.  It's for grown ups, and it's all about chocolate, so I will be keeping it for myself.  Unless you want to read it, but then I need it back!  It really is a sweet read!

Image from
All this writing about chocolate is making me crave a bit of dark chocolate.  You, too?

March 21, 2016

It's Monday #SOL16 21/31

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It's Monday.  My students were pretty calm today.  I got some of my toughest customers to read today.  I had a great conversation with my 4th graders, activating their schema on U.S. monuments and symbols (kids were leaping out of their chairs!).

It's Monday.  My youngest daughter doesn't feel well.  She was on an emotional roller coaster yesterday.  Up early, didn't sleep.  I'm almost as tired.

It's Monday.  I got up a tiny bit late (see above), but I left the house near 7:00 a.m. and flew past two high schools, their parking lots completely empty.  The local schools are on spring break.

It's Monday.  I had to go to the grocery store after work.  Must. Get. Coffee.  I look up and see that the moon is full.  "It's a silly wives tale," you say.  Perhaps you don't work at an elementary school.

It's Monday.  A beautiful pot roast was in the oven when I got home.  MMMMMMMM.  So grateful for my Chef Jeff!

It's Monday.  My students requested books from the public library.  I spent 30 minutes browsing the non fiction section.  Who knew there were books on zombies in 001.49??

It's Monday.  I'm finished with my slice.  Now I'm off to read and comment on other slices.  Not a bad way to end a Monday!

March 20, 2016

Focus, learn, do well #SOL16 20/31

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I told my dad that I am taking more grad school classes this spring.  I plan to get my ESL (for sure) and special ed (maybe) endorsements in addition to reading and elementary teaching licenses.

"I wondered if you were going to start a doctorate program," said my dad.

It's not that I mind taking classes to improve my teaching.  I don't.  I just don't think a doctorate is what I need.  I'm come to the realization that teaching reading in elementary school is right where I want to be.  To better serve my students, an ESL endorsement is key (many districts agree).  Special education courses will help to become more responsive to students' needs.

Right now I want to focus on what I can do to make a difference for my students.  One grad school class at a time hopefully won't take away from my family and fun time.  I do wish a class would require little less time on the computer (oh, my neck!), but I have to be smart about stretching!

I have lots of room to grow as a learner, teacher and colleague.  I have lots of skills and strategies I can share.  Right now, that's what I'll focus on.

March 19, 2016

Slow Saturdays #SOL16 19/31

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Saturdays start when I wake up and decide to venture into the kitchen for breakfast.  I make a coffee and froth the milk so it's fluffy and scramble some eggs.

I open the blinds and read Friday & Saturday's newspapers as I listen to the birds chirping.

As I sip my coffee slowly, I take note of all the fun things to do in the paper, wondering what I should put on the calendar.  (We should get tickets for Aladdin the musical!  I must tell Allison about the Family Pet Expo!)

Laundry is started, sports scores are noted, and Twitter is checked.  Today I ran some errands and cleaned out my car.

Jeff likes to get lunch out on Saturday, and then we'll take a drive somewhere.  Today's adventure took us to the outlet mall (purses!!!) and then a side trip into Geneva.

Snack time!  I enjoyed a decadent mocha and a few bites of apple pie at the All Chocolate Kitchen.  We won't need dinner until much, much later tonight.

Now that the girls are grown and managing their own calendars, I relish my slow Saturdays!

March 18, 2016

"I got a BOOK!" #SOL16 18/31

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Last night was my inaugural family reading night at my new school.  Yes, I've been a raving lunatic leading up to the event (can you spell S-T-R-E-S-S?) and I appreciate all the help and support from my students and fellow teachers and staff.

Today we tallied up the punch cards turned in during the reading night.  Then we counted up the books I ordered (thanks to my principal who spends money on books!).  Yes, it was going to be an exciting morning.... there were enough books for every student who attended the reading night to receive a book to keep!

My coworker Jill and I set up the classroom like a bookstore.  Mo Willems, chapter books, books in Spanish, and nonfiction titles were spread out for easy browsing.  We had the fourth graders come first (pickiest readers - I get it!) so they had first pick.

During little commercials in the classrooms yesterday, I told students they had a chance to win a book.  Today I wish I could have snapped a picture of their faces as we told each group that all of them had won a book.  It was magical.

Kids spent time just walking around and staring at the books at first.  I then told them they should pick them up and browse - just to make sure.  Some friends made deals to read their books, then swap so they could read another new book.

Giving books to kids will never get old.

March 17, 2016

Celebrate Reading / Celebrar la Lectura! #SOL16 17/31

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We did it!  A little idea of a reading night to celebrate reading turned into the real deal.

Many staff helped before, during and after the event to make it run smoothly.

Parents and kids had smiles as we punched holes in their "reading passports," keeping track of what rooms they visited.

Read alouds, book browsing rooms, Book Flix in the computer lab, create a bookmark and become an author.

73 families attended!

My feet are sore, my cheeks hurt from smiling, but I'm so very grateful to all my coworkers and students.

The celebration finishes tomorrow morning as I pull passports from each classroom and students win A FREE BOOK!


March 16, 2016

March Gladness #SOL16 16/31

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Even though it was pouring and windy and gross this morning, I don't mind March... that much.

Of course, it's busy - this week includes lots of student meetings and family reading night on top of my regular schedule.  Does that stop me from getting way too exciting about basketball and competition?


We have a family competition connected to the March Madness basketball games.  Each member of the family picks one team per region to win.  The person who picks the team that goes the farthest gets a restaurant gift card.  If I'm the winner, I usually make the kids read a book (tee hee) or deep clean their rooms.  

This year Lindsey is away in Michigan on a service trip with spotty internet service.  Since she was not able to participate, I asked her friends, Mikayla and Emily, if they wanted to be part of the fun.  
We decided to make our team picks on Monday night.  Jeff was in charge of making Skype work  to chat with the college girls.  Allison called from her boyfriend Eric's house (just across town) and they joined the process.

It was a blast chatting with Emily and Mikayla.  We had tours of their rooms (unexpected!) and made snarky comments about Emily's beloved Spartans.  Allison relished in picking teams that weren't quite the tops seeds while Eric tried to overrule her decisions.  Mikayla and Allison were bummed that their current and future schools didn't make the cut.

Need to find a reason to chat up your kids and their friends?  A friendly competition does the trick. 


March 15, 2016

Friends #SOL16 15/31

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This week, more than usual, I'm realizing how incredibly lucky I am when it comes to friends.

Friends are checking in with me to make sure I'm not too stressed.

Friends are offering to bring extra snacks when it's my turn.

Friends are writing super sweet comments and slices.

Friends are bringing coffee to class.

I'm surrounded by wonderful people that I'm proud to call my friends. 


March 14, 2016

Life's Little Problems #SOL16 14/31

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Today's slice is inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal's book, This Plus That:  Life's Little Equations.

From Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Alarm clock + dark = "It can't be time to get up!"

Toe + shoe + dark = ouch

Cold floor + feet = brrrrr

Warm shower + (shampoo x 2) + soap - soap = squeaky clean

Cheerios + milk = breakfast

Headlights + rainclouds - rain = foggy drive

467 students ÷ (2 buses + 100 cars + lots of walkers) = traffic

Smile + "Good morning" = coworker

Daylight savings time change + first graders = tricky

Read alouds + all intervention students = all better

Clock + 3:15 p.m. = guilty

Clock + 3:20 p.m. = over it + get in car + drive home

Husband cooking + snack break + comfy clothes = pure happiness

March 13, 2016

Fashion #SOL16 13/31

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Today I spent a fun day with my youngest daughter, Allison.  We had a quiet morning until we realized we had lost an hour of our shopping day due to Daylight Savings. (Grrr - tomorrow will be rough!)

We snarfed down some crackers and cheese to hold us over and headed to the shop full of prom dresses.  Yes, it's only March, but it's fun to get to the shop within a week of its opening.  The selection is great and it's not terribly crowded.

I was amazed (as usual) at the vast variety of shapes, styles and colors.  It would shock me if anyone left empty handed.  There were rows and rows in all sizes, every color of the rainbow (plus all the metallics), and styles including mermaid, a-line, trumpet and ball gown.

Yup, I'm one of those people.  Addicted to the fashion shows, especially on TLC.  I will not say no to watching "Say Yes to the Dress" or "What Not to Wear" or my new favorite, "Love, Lust or Run."  I'm by no means a fashionista.  Allison thought about majoring in fashion merchandising or purchasing for awhile, but to us, fashion is a hobby.  One we watch and find interesting from our couch!!

I think the most intriguing aspect of fashion is the psychology behind it.  Perhaps people feel like it's important to look like a fashion model - thin, angry, angular.  Then we have more curvy models (hooray!) featured.  Women especially are caught up with the size printed on their clothes, and we can't help but feel inadequate when the number is two digits.

The good news about today is that I saw more smiles than frowns.  Even when girls tried on a dress that wasn't the style or color they wanted, the salesgirls and moms were all smiles.  The music was upbeat and the lights made the sequins sparkle.  The salesgirls were complimentary with every single dress my daughter and the girls around us tried on.  When some girls didn't want to step out of their dressing room, the salesgirls went over and provided positive feedback.

It's all about feeling your best and wearing clothes that you love.  If you're into fashion or fashion psychology, I recommend Stacy London's book, The Truth About Style.  She is so supportive of women wearing clothes that accentuate their positive attributes and make them feel good.

from Amazon

March 12, 2016

Volunteers #SOL16 12/31

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The text message read, "I'm basically visiting for spring break!  I'm in Illinois right now!"

My oldest has a keen sense of humor.  Lindsey is traveling from Iowa to Michigan to spend her spring break in the service of others.  The U of Iowa has eight Hawkeye Service Teams across the US providing manpower to local nonprofits.  I'm proud of Lindsey for giving her time this week.  I think she will benefit from the week even more than the people she will assist.  I can't wait to hear all about it, especially the work she will do with a group who works with children to help them publish their stories.

This morning Allison and her friend, Jillian, headed to their high school to work at Cupcakes for a Cause.  The special education department holds this event each year to benefit a local foundation. As someone who is usually dragged out of bed each morning, Allison surprised me by getting up early (!!) to set up the event.

I'm very proud of these two.  They both chose to help others.  I sometimes feel like I could give more through an organization, but I can also forgive myself for taking time to know my students and figure out my new job.  Serving others comes in waves and should be one of our priorities.  So many people benefit.

(Hmmm.  Maybe I should write up my Little Free Library plans today.  I hope to set one up in my yard this summer.  More slices to come about that process!)


March 11, 2016

Friday doodle slice #SOL16 11/31

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Today is Friday!  Since I'm still pretty wiped out from this week, I decided to slice with a doodle.  I had a pretty full day, now that I look back at it.  Wishing you a relaxing evening and productive (or restorative) weekend!

March 10, 2016

Toast #SOL16 10/31

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I'm thankful it's Thursday.

At 12:00 a.m. took a call from the oldest (she's feeling overwhelmed)

At 5:00 a.m. the birds were happily chirping.  Woke up.  Draggggggged out of bed.

Arrived at school, taught, ran around, read, wrote, updated Google docs


Hosted afterschool club - couldn't find snack, one crying child, nine excited newbies

Dinner, groceries, Twitter chat, laundry.

Time to SLICE!

I will catch up on comments tomorrow... I promise!

(Thanks for letting me vent.)



March 9, 2016

Sloth Week Silliness #SOL16 9/31

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I work with two self-professed, Disney-crazed special educators.  30-something Michelle,  "Mickey," and 20-something Michelle, "MZ"  are my partners in crime.  They are a great team, and I'm happy to pop my 40-something head in their room for a laugh.  They keep me centered, lighthearted and sane.

The reason I mention our decades is that I've found that fun has no age limit. This is important to note when looking for friends in the workplace.  

Last week, Mickey was carrying around a small stuffed animal sloth.  She encouraged me to watch the Zootopia movie trailer featuring the sloth that works at the DMV.  Holy cow.  Hysterical!  We lovingly joked that one of our students moves at the same pace as a sloth.

From this website

Since we started talking about sloths, I now see them everywhere!  I've been a bit frazzled this week, so I started searching memes and GIFs of sloths.  There was even one on TV!

From this meme website

I dubbed this week Sloth Week (move over Shark Week!) and I've been sending sloths to Mickey and MZ all week.  When will Sloth Week end?  Maybe when I run out of pictures of this smiling, fuzzy, tree-dwelling mammal.

The moral of the story is.... find something each week to help you smile, even if it's something... very... silly!

March 8, 2016

More Love Letters #SOL16 8/31

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It started with me stumbling on this Ted Talk:

Hannah Brencher: Love letters to strangers

I shared it with Lindsey, my oldest daughter.

Who spent time on the More Love Letters website and 

noticed that Campus Cursive groups were encouraged on college campuses.

Lindsey wrote an email, was accepted

to run the UIowa chapter

with the help and support of her friend, Rachel.

Letters have been written by their fellow res hall residents,

and the Campus Activities Board.

The world can always use more love letters, so

maybe you will be inspired to write a love letter 

to someone who needs one,

perhaps a person you know or

someone you don't.

Student leaving a note of encouragement
on UIowa campus.

March 7, 2016

The Real Adult is Home #SOL16 7/31

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My husband usually travels each week for work.  This week he will be at home.  My 17 year old daughter is beyond stressed.

When Dad is home, Alli is highly encouraged to get into the shower before 9:00 p.m.  Then she is strongly encouraged to get out of bed in the morning the minute her alarm goes off.

Yes, executive function tasks are strengths for my husband, but they are not a strength for my daughter.  He has a linear sense of time, her sense is circular, wavy and spiral!

She is looking forward to leaving home and attending college this fall (go, Redbirds!) where she can be on her own schedule (hope she realizes freshmen are more likely to get 8am classes) and make her own decisions about food, sleep, showers and level of mess in her room.

Will the next few months be rocky for all of us as we try not to tell her when to wake up, go to sleep, and highly encourage her to get to school on time?


Will she be successful this fall? 


March 6, 2016

Pizza of Life Doodle #SOL16 6/31

It's the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Yesterday I wrote about my new Sharpie pens, drawing pad and inspiration from Carrie.  I got SO much encouragement, so I started my doodle in the car on the way to my in-laws for dinner.  When we returned home, I added some finishing touches.  

For my first piece in the Slice of Life Challenge started, I wrote about slices, and how I encourage my students to create a pizza of their life for writing inspiration.  I decided my doodle would be an overview pizza of my life.  Now I think I'll make some "personal pan pizzas" of some of the slices for my next doodles.

How did I feel about doodling?  It was so much fun, but I think I need more pens!  The Sharpie pens come in five-packs, and I need some bolder colors.  (Oh darn, a trip to the office supply store, SQUEE!)

May my doodle inspire you to jump into something new and be brave.  Sure, there's lots of bumpy lines and mistakes, but that's what doodling is all about!

March 5, 2016

Creative Tools #SOL16 5/31

It's the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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I'm in awe of anyone with the ability to draw.  I can do a pretty good stick figure, and I learned how to make bubble letters in 7th grade, but I'm no artist.  Many of my students are incredible artists, and some of them tell me all the time, "I can't draw!"

A couple years back, I met Carrie at my first EdCamp.  She's a super cool special educator who digs tech.  She's also realllly good at drawing and doodles.  (Check out her website here!)  Her enthusiasm inspires me!

In order to get better at something, you have to practice.  (I tell my students and daughters that all the time.)  So this month, I will be practicing a little bit of doodling myself!

I decided that I needed some new tools to practice drawing, so I bought a pad of plain white marker paper and a set of Sharpie pens.  (Ooooohhh pretty colors!)

I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough to share my doodles, but I'm ready to put the pen to the page and see where it takes me! 

Thanks, Carrie, for the inspiration to doodle, and thanks to all the Slicers for writing alongside me!

March 4, 2016

Reaffirming my reading beliefs #SOL16 4/31

It's the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Today was a professional development across the county, so we could choose what PD we wanted to attend.  Thankfully, a colleague sent out an email to that Dr. Steven Layne would be one of the presenters.  (I almost missed the deadline!)'

Dr. Layne is a literacy advocate from Judson University.  I read his professional book, "Igniting a Passion for Reading" many years back, and his passion for reading is clear throughout the book.  I remember nodding my head and marking lots of pages with sticky notes to share with my coworkers.  
Today I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Layne in person.  He spoke about reading aloud to students, K-12, and shared the big ideas from his newer book, "In Defense of Read Aloud:  Sustaining Best Practice."  Even though I'm a staunch supporter of read alouds, spending the day listening to Dr. Layne simply cemented my reading beliefs.

As I looked around, I could see many people nodding.  A few middle school and high school teachers asked some great questions like, "How can I fit in read aloud at my level?"  and "What if I'm in the library?"  Everyone wanted the magic formula for how many minutes per day, per week, per month they should take away time from the curriculum to "do" read alouds." 

I was pleased as punch to hear Dr. Layne clearly explain to them that read alouds ARE instructional time.  Read alouds should be chosen with intention and planned for like any other lesson.   

YES!  Read aloud time is precious - it allows us to take our students out of their small town and into new cities, times and dimensions.  We can use read alouds to tackle important topics in society or small conflicts at recess.  Books are really important instructional tools.

My little notebook is teeming with quotes from the day, and I used my Twitter feed to broadcast my favorites.  I left the session feeling energized and proud.  I even talked my hubby into a library visit tonight so I could grab a pile of books that Dr. Layne recommended!

March 3, 2016

Twitter, slicing, paperwork... OH MY #SOL16 3/31

It's the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Most people like to be busy, we like to be involved, and some of us thrive in the chaos!
Some of us think we thrive in chaos, but really, we are simply surviving.

I'm #NEW (only 50-some days left of that hashtag!) to my school and district.  I've taken on a few too many initiatives this month.  Then I added slicing and a twitter class.  Yup - rolling in the deep chaos.  I slipped and missed a bus request.  I apologized profusely, but it's still a slip.

In two weeks, we will have a schoolwide literacy night.  I have shared some of my vision with the staff, and they are completely on board.  Now I just need to convince the linear thinkers to help me make a project plan.... then we will be all set!

In the midst of all this busy-business, I had a pretty productive day at school.  One of our fave subs covered for my colleague.  He ran a few reading groups, and I had some precious time one-on-one with some first graders with high needs.  I could not be more at peace to see the steps and jumps of progress they are making.  

I tried to focus on doing one thing well today.  It worked with lots of support and a good system of piles.  Hahahahaha - you can always count on me for a decorated desk

My usual decorated desk.  On this day, a student REALLY needed me to bring a book.
 He used sticky notes to help me remember!

March 2, 2016

Stuffed Animals #SOLC 2/31

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I'm a sucker for stuffed animals.  The fuzzier, softer and bigger the animal - the crazier I am about it.  When I was little, I carried around Cottontail (a bunny puppet) for years.  It was thrown in the wash, lost one eye, and looked like a dishrag.

Cottontail was my first stuffed animal (even though she wasn't stuffed!).  I remember receiving LOTS of bunnies and other animals over the years.  At one point, there was barely any room for me in my bed at night.  Since my bed was against the wall, I would line up my animals oldest (against the wall) to youngest (next to me) as I laid at the edge of the bed.  I could not bear (tee hee) for any animal to fall on the floor.

My current favorite stuffed animal is named Snuffles.  He's a Gund polar bear that my boyfriend (now husband!) bought for me in high school.  I worked at the candy store in the mall, and Jeff was a stuffed animal aficionado as well.  That polar bear was pretty pricey for a high school budget.

Over the years, Jeff has become to resemble Snuffles.  Since Jeff travels to work each week, I tease him that Snuffles is his stand in.  He listens quietly to my rants and doesn't mind if I squeeze him extra tight.  If I'm feeling silly, I'll send pictures of Snuffles doing things that Jeff enjoys.  When he's home, Jeff likes to toss Snuffles on the floor and tease me about liking Snuffles better.  (Hmmm, we've been married for 25 years... I think the bear is more patient!)

Stuffed animals are better than pets - they listen, they aren't too messy and they don't mind if they end up on the floor.

March 1, 2016

What's a "Slice?" #SOLSC 1/31

It's the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Two Writing Teachers
Many years ago, I joined Michelle Nero in a classroom during our days of push in writing instruction.  The mini (maxi!) lesson was creating a narrative about a small moment in time ... just like a slice... of 

The metaphor Michelle used was that life was a pizza.  You have good and bad experiences (mushrooms are good for me, maybe yucky for you!) and they all combine for your pizza of life.  You can't write about the whole pizza for a narrative - you just need to write about one slice!

Fast forward to 2016.  I'm in a new school with a fresh batch of elementary students in many intervention groups.  All of them have writing books, and I have a variety of writing tools.  When I hand them their writing books (simply a pile of copy paper sandwiched between two pieces of cardstock), I guide each group of students in making their pizza of life.
"What do you like on your pizza?" I ask.
"Sausage!  Pepperoni! Cheese, lots of cheese!" they exclaim.
"Do you ever put mushrooms your pizza?" I ask.
"Why not?"
"I don't like mushrooms.  Ewwww," is the usual response.
 (Maybe someday, someone will like mushrooms like me!)
The purpose of this discussion is to have my students write words or draw pictures of people, places and things that are important to them and their life.  This pizza becomes a source of inspiration to them when they need ideas about what to write about.  When students get stuck, I guide them to their pizza.

What will go on your pizza?  What slice will you serve up each day of writing?

(Yes, you're right, food can be found on my pizza!)

Happy writing and happy slicing!