Jun 30, 2013

Happy Fourth of July Week and Welcoming a New Puppy

During the past several weeks, I have (obviously) not been posting as often as usual. The month of June has been very busy at our house--in the last 30 days, I have planned and presented a mini-lesson for my monthly critique group, worked at and/or attended many swim meets and practices, organized a baby shower for a friend, hung out with and chauffeured my wonderful boys to various activities, planned for and taught Vacation Bible School, created a book of poems and led a poetry workshop for elementary kids, taught a group of lively preschoolers about rhyme scheme, gotten a new puppy, had my house painted, completely redone one of my boys' rooms (my husband painted the room and built the bed, I sorted and organized), cleaned three closets, made two trips to Good Will, and I know there is more but I can't remember...I am too tired! Although I have been working hard, I've had LOTS of fun, but I'm definitely ready for my "summer break" to begin. And it officially starts tomorrow! = ) 

I look forward to returning to blogging regularly in another week or so when I am rested and restored. Until then, I wish you all a very happy Independence Day week! Just for fun, here is a picture of our sweet new puppy, Gracie--we adopted her from the Greater Charlotte SPCA last Saturday, and we already love her so much. Gracie is an 11-week-old beagle mix puppy and was surrendered to the GCSPCA by her first owner, who decided that she was not ready for a puppy. Sweet Gracie spent a few weeks with a wonderful foster mommy, and then we adopted her through the GCSPCA. We still miss our Ellie, but Gracie has definitely cheered us all up! 

My husband made Gracie a new rope toy, which she absolutely loves!
If you live in or near the Charlotte, NC area and are in need of a new furry friend, consider visiting the GCSPCA website for an adoption event near you. It is a wonderful organization, and there are many animals in need of homes right now.

Jun 21, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: A Child's Poem of Thanks

Today I am sharing a short kids' poem I wrote. Enjoy!
Thank You, God
Around the world, every day,
Faithful children stop and pray.
Thanking God for all He gives,
What He does, and who He is.

Jun 18, 2013

The Summer Slide

My boys have been out of school for a week and a half, we’ve been spending lots of time at the pool, and my husband and I are finally tackling several long-overdue projects at home. Sounds like we are having a relaxing, go-with-the-flow summer, right?

Well...not really. The hours at the pool are mostly swim team related—lots of morning practices and evening meets. My boys love being a part of our wonderful neighborhood team! And the projects we’re tackling involve building, painting, shopping, sorting, cleaning, organizing, etc. Add to this all of the writing-related things I have going on, plus planning lessons for my church’s Vacation Bible School next week and preparing for an upcoming conference where I will be working with kids (mixing books, Bible stories, and writing—sounds fun, doesn’t it?). It's no wonder that I am feeling a bit crazy these days. It’s all fun stuff, though!

So while I am not writing as much as usual these days, I am most definitely gathering life experiences to use in my writing one day. And when I do find a few hours to work, I make it really count. In July, things *should* settle down a bit, and I’m looking forward to catching up on my writing, reading, and relaxing. Until then, I am going to "just keep swimming," like Nemo's friend Dory so wisely says. 
Go Barracudas!
Happy Writing!

Jun 14, 2013


A few weeks ago, a friend showed me the book MATHEMATICKLES, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Steven Salerno. 
MATHEMATICKLES is a book of math poems--words arranged in mathematical equations to create poetry. This is a concept I had never heard of before, and I absolutely love it, so I wanted to share it today. I would have had SO much fun with this when I was teaching!

A big THANK YOU to my young friends Oliver and Sophie, who wrote several of their own math poems for me to share today. Take a look at Oliver and Sophie's wonderful poetry below, and then try writing your own poetic equations--I will be trying this fun new format soon! 

sand + pail + shovel = sandcastle

lilypad = 1/2 lily + 1/2 pad

chrysalis x time = butterfly

                                  maple keys                                           sugar
                                  x        wind                                        +    ants
                                  helicopters                                        disaster

Jun 11, 2013

Young Reader Review: SURFER CHICK

Our Young Reader Review today comes from my (very thoughtful and articulate) little niece, Sophia. Sophia lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where her parents are missionaries. When I started this series, I began it with the intent of including all children’s books—from Young Adult down to the very youngest readers. With her mother Laura’s help, Sophia has given us a fabulous review!

Hi Sophia! Thank you so much for talking with us today. Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Sophia.  I am 3 years old.  I am big sister to Jessie (9 months old). I live in Brazil.  I like to play princess and play with my friend Sara Joy.

I know that you love to read—and that you love your books so much that you sometimes sleep with them! What is your very favorite book right now?
SURFER CHICK by Kristy Dempsey.
I love SURFER CHICK! Can you tell our readers what this book is about?
The book is about a girl learning how to surf. The girl is a chickie.  She’s so cute!
What is your favorite part of the book?
I like it when the daddy is so happy and says “I knew you could do it!”

(From Sophia’s mom, Laura: I can tell this is Sophia’s favorite part because every time we get to this part she always smiles and giggles.)
What other kinds of books do you really like?
DORA THE EXPLORER books, Karen Katz books, SNUGGLE PUPPY by Sandra Boynton, THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and any books with songs.
Laura, as the mother of a three-year-old AND a former teacher, why do you think reading to very young children is so important?

It is essential to encourage kids to read and to cultivate a love of reading early in life. When I taught first grade, I would always tell the parents of my students, “The more you read with your children, the stronger readers they will become.” 

This is so true. The more children have contact with literature, the better, even at a young age. The first step in preparing a child to become a strong reader is helping him/her realize how fun and wonderful reading truly is.

Books are also excellent teaching tools. At the moment, Sophia and I are reading books focusing on the letters of alphabet. Through reading these books I am able to reinforce to Sophia the names of the letters of the alphabet and sounds they make. 
Last, but certainly not least, reading together with your children is a great way to spend quality time together. Sophia loves having focused time with Mommy to read. Reading together has become a special part of our day.

Do you think there are any holes in the market for kids this age? What kind of books would you, as a parent, like to see more of?
Well, since I live in Brazil it is hard for me to answer this question. I wish there were more books written in English accessible where I live. I stock up on children’s books when we visit the USA and bring them back to Brazil with us. I am super happy to see a growing market in e-books, as I can now download e-books onto my I-pad and thus read more of a variety of books to Sophia using this great tool.

Thanks again for joining us today, Sophia and Laura! HAPPY READING!
Laura and her husband Felipe are missionaries in Brazil with YWAM (Youth With A Mission), where they work with children in one of the largest slums in the country. If you would like to learn more about their lives in Brazil, Laura would love it if you would stop by her blog: http://thematiasfamily.blogspot.com/.

Jun 7, 2013


Today is my boys' last day of fourth grade. Both Will and Ben had phenomenal teachers this year, and they both learned and grew SO much! Although they are thrilled that their summer break officially started at 11:30 this morning, they are both sad that the school year is over. I am, too, because the end of fourth grade means that my "babies" only have one year left until middle school.

Shel Silverstein has a wonderful poem about endings that I think is especially fitting for the last day of school:

Happy Ending?
From Shel Silverstein's EVERY THING ON IT

There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.

Thanks so much to Ms. Campbell, Mr. Czapla, Mrs. Hunt, and Mrs. Given for a very happy fourth grade year, and to all of the teachers and staff at Orchard Park Elementary School in Fort Mill, SC. Our children are BLESSED to have you in their lives!      

Jun 4, 2013

Celebrating the Great Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen is one of the most prolific American authors alive today. He has written more than 175 books (including three Newberry Honor books: HATCHET, DOGSONG, and THE WINTER ROOM), and has published over 200 short stories and articles for children and adults. Although he’s been writing for publication since the 1960s, Paulsen is still going strong; his latest novel for kids, VOTE, came out on May 14th of this year—three days before his 74th birthday!
My fourth grade sons Will and Ben discovered Paulsen’s books this year, and have been voraciously reading as many that I will allow onto their Kindles. We will definitely be visiting the library often this summer—there is no way I can buy all of Paulsen’s books for my boys, no matter how fabulous he is! Will’s favorite so far is ROADTRIP, the crazy-fun story of a father and son on a mission to rescue a border collie (this is just the tip of the iceberg—but I don’t want to give too much away!). His class did an author study on Paulsen a few weeks ago, which culminated in a party celebrating the author’s birthday on Friday, May 17th. The kids loved it, and Will thought this was a fun way to honor his new favorite author!
Ben’s favorite Paulsen book is HATCHET, about a boy’s survival in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. When I asked Ben why HATCHET is his favorite, he said that he really likes the adventures in the book, and is especially impressed with the main character Brian’s survival skills. Both of my boys have read the entire HATCHET series and love it. They are Webelo Cub Scouts and enjoy anything to do with the outdoors, and these books have been perfect for them!

Paulsen is also an avid dog lover, and many of his books feature special canines. In the opening to MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS, he remembers Cookie, a sled dog who saved his life. Each chapter in the book tells the true story of a special four-legged friend, in poignant prose that will touch the heart of every dog lover.

I decided to focus on Gary Paulsen today in part due to his love of dogs. On Sunday evening, my family and I said goodbye to our sweet dog of 14 years, a Brittany Spaniel named Ellie. Ellie was my first “baby.” My husband and I adopted her when she was only 5 weeks old. Ellie was thrilled when we adopted a rescue Brittany, Sam, when she was 1 year old, and then together Sam and Ellie patiently survived the arrival of our twins several years later. When the boys were big enough to play, the four of them had lots of fun together.
Ellie had a spunky, funny personality, and the demeanor of a tolerant princess. When Sam died in August—on my boys’ first day of fourth grade—Ellie helped us through our grieving process with her sweetness and love. Without her in our house today, it is very, very quiet. One day, I will finish reading MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS, but not yet (I know from what I have read so far that some of the chapters are real tear jerkers). It is nice to know that this wonderful book will be waiting for me when I’m ready, though.
So make a point to read a Gary Paulsen book soon; you can chose from funny, adventurous, poignant—whatever you are in the mood for. And if you have a sweet dog of your own, go give him or her a big hug because dog years go by way too fast for us humans. 
One of Ellie's first pictures...seems like just yesterday!